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Older and wiser…again

24 January 2018
Posted in: Books, Gaming, Reviews, Scratchpad, TV, Web design, Writing | No Comments

It’s stock-taking-of-the-year time and the only thing I can think of is, 2017 was the year I discovered Berena!

Well, in the larger scheme of things, the year that just went by was a horrible one. Right-wing bigots continued to be in power, the digital enslavement of Indian citizens went on, the economy remained effed, human beings found new ways to hurt, kill and maim each other…if I go on in this vein, I’m going to have to crawl back into bed and cry myself to sleep. Thus, I’m choosing selfishness, and will look inwards into the tiny confines of my own life for the moment.

From a personal perspective, fortunately, the past year has been pretty decent. There was reading and writing, travel to old and new destinations, the discovery of new TV content, and there was chocolate. Of course, there were troubled times, but one lived to tell the tale, so let’s chalk all that down to life experience.

How did I do on my to-do list from last year? Let’s see:

  1. Writing:Yes Though I didn’t exactly stick to my resolution of finishing a fantasy novel, this was a good year for writing. Also, Hit for a Six came out almost on the dot of the year end, while the US edition of Eat the Sky, Drink the Ocean was published in March. A short story of mine was also accepted in Harper’s Flipped anthology. Finally, I submitted two other shorties for anthologies—one a spec fic collection on India in another 70 years, the other a volume on the theme of exams—both of which have been accepted.
  2. Fitness: Yes Late in 2016, I discovered FitnessBlender.com, and rebuilding my fitness regime ensued with great success.
  3. Gaming: Yes Could have gone better, but it wasn’t too bad. A brand new game, Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition is lying in wait for me to inaugurate (early birthday present from Marie). Oh also, a couple of weeks ago, after almost two decades of gaming, I finally managed multiplayer. The grand plans didn’t quite go as anticipated, but still, I’m not hard to please. Sometimes.
  4. Travel: Yes In June 2017, we were invited to the wedding of some friends in Germany. With them, we visited Rathendorf, a village in Saxony; Leipzig; and Mecklenberg, the German “lake district”. On the way back to India, we popped into Prague too.
  5. Website redesign: No Oh, shut up. x-(
  6. Blogging: No Well begun but not even half done. Sigh.
  7. Self-publishing: No To be fair, this was a good year on the writing front and not the right time for self-publishing.

So now on to the list of things I intend to tick off before I turn 43:

  1. Write aforementioned fantasy novel: I wrote a short story in late 2017 that I’m keen to flesh out into a novel. Since the story is already there, I’m hoping this will actually work out pretty quickly. Just the little matter of a publisher saying yes…
  2. Keep up with the fitness regime: Not expecting a problem on that front.
  3. Take up drawing again: Well, yes.
  4. Redo the website: Don’t laugh. I’m really sick of the design.

Check back here in 365 days to see how I did.

~PD

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No. 1 of #52Stories: Limbo

16 January 2017
Posted in: 52 stories, Gaming, Reviews | No Comments

52 Stories 2017You know that feeling of being in a dream, where the world feels a bit out of focus, where everything is just a little out of reach, and where you have a sense of knowing that you have to go on but no idea why? Well, Limbo is sort of like that. I would go so far as to say that it’s a work of art, one whose its strength lies in its simplicity.

The surreal world of Limbo

Limbo dates back to 2010, developed by the independent Danish studio Playdead (who have since brought out another, very similar game called INSIDE in 2016). It is a puzzle platformer, but nothing like you’ve ever seen before. In Limbo the player controls the protagonist, a little boy who wakes up on the floor of a forest. You don’t have any information about who he is or what he is supposed to do; you can’t even point and click at things. All you have are the arrow and alt keys to make him move, jump and interact with his environment, that is, push and pull.

The gameplay takes place in the aforementioned forest, a vile, menacing space. The forest is full of dark shadows and blurry shapes. As the boy goes deeper into this nebulous, murky world, he confronts untold dangers and seemingly insurmountable obstacles. But he must keep going—who knows where and why. This incongruity of a seemingly innocent little boy along among the concealed dangers of this surreal world is what gives Limbo its edge and you, the player, a chill down your spine.

The surreal world of Limbo

The artwork is hauntingly engaging—silhouettes in shades of grey, used beautifully to convey a sense of depth. The cute-creepy little protagonist is but a solid featureless figure with two bright spots as eyes. The foreground in which the action takes place is also in dark silhouette, and lighter greys are used to convey depth and layers, while light streams in to create soft shadows and highlight dust motes, and underline that sense of dreaminess. But the softness of the environment is skin deep, for you don’t need to go too far to find the menace in Limbo. You must steel yourself to watch the little boy fall, and by that I mean die, and die in gruesome ways. There’s no blood, no mourning. He just gets up and tries again.

Death is serious in Limbo. Timing and the environment are all you have to bridge unpassable terrain, to keep going, to defeat the vile creatures that bar your way, and to bypass the deadly traps that will sever your protagonist’s limbs. Yes, the deaths can be grisly—you watch the kid getting snapped in two, decapitated, skwered by the legs of a giant spider; you watch him go limp when he falls into water, you watch his body crumple when he falls from a height. You don’t need graphic imagery to recoil when steel traps squelchily snap the little body into pieces or when all sounds stop as water engulfs the boy and he stops moving.

Gameplay-wise, there’s a fair bit of trial and error to get past certain sections, made a little bit harder because you know that every failure means you have to watch the grim death scene again. And, of course, the puzzles do get harder as you go on. Thanks to the short chapters, there are frequent autosaves, meaning that you don’t always have to redo a really complex bit that you just about managed after many tries.

Since I have yet to get to the end of Limbo, I don’t yet know what the story will unfold. It’s already one of my favourite games of the year and it’s still the first half of January.

~PD

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Book review: Come, before Evening Falls

29 July 2016
Posted in: Books, Reviews, Social issues, Writeside | No Comments

Yesterday, at the Scholastic Writing Awards ceremony in Delhi, I ran into the author Manjul Bajaj. We were only introduced to the each other just as we were leaving, but we had a nice walk down the stairs talking about a mutual writer friend, Monideepa Sahu. Anyway, I digress…

Meeting Manjul reminded me of a book of hers that I liked very much and had reviewed, but in one of the design updates, it had got culled from the reviews section. So here it is again, a review of Manjul Bajaj’s Come, before Evening Falls, a haunting story of forbidden love, set in the Rohtak in British India. Though the story takes place in the early 20th century, what is terrifyingly disturbing is that, take the dates away, and it would ring just as true in the present day.

Click here for the full review

~PD

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