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Hugh Likes Fiction: River of Teeth

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River of Teeth
Written by Sarah Gailey
Published by Tor

In a lot of ways, River of Teeth is your typical western, you have your wronged hero out for revenge, the manipulative riverboat gambling entrepreneur out to fix the system, and of course, a lake full of hungry feral hippos. A clever and unique alternate history, Sarah Gailey’s River of Teeth consistently surprised me.
The basis for the story is an attempt by the U.S. government to import hippos as a food source in the early 20th century. While that plan fell through, Gailey took the idea and ran with it, pushing the setting back in time and populating her world with colorful Western archetypes. But Gailey made these tropes her own in a way that made me stand up and take notice.
This is a very queer book. Protagonist Winslow Houndstooth is unabashedly and unashamedly gay. Another character, Hero, is given neutral pronouns throughout, and these are accepted as given, as entirely mundane by the characters. Gailey writes these characters, their motivations and their reactions with a deft hand and clear understanding. There is no justification, there is no unnecessary explanation. She presents us her rich palate deep characters, and gets to the good stuff: Hippo cowboy antics.
The caper, or operation as is repeatedly corrected by the main character, is worthy of a big-budget heist. The weirdness of the concept, and the fact that it is based on equally weird historical fact, adds to the richness of the story, rather than detract from it. A stampede is exciting and dangerous. A 3,000 lb. bull hippopotamus is something else altogether.
River of Teeth is another outstanding novella from Tor’s line. You can find it on their site, or from Amazon and other online bookstores. I recommend picking it up before the sequel, Taste of Marrow comes out next month.

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Hugh Likes Video Games: Downwell

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Downwell
Created by Ojiro Fumoto
Published by Devolver Digital
Played on PS Vita
Downwellgame.com

On the surface, “Downwell” is a very simple game. The Japanese indie shooter/platformer has very simple controls, a limited color palette, and low-resolution sprites. But there is something very charming about the mashup of ideas that comes together elegantly to make an experience that his easy to pick up, and extremely challenging.
The player controls a figure who jump into a well full of monsters with only his ‘gun-boots’ for protection. He can shoot monsters below him, and landing on ledges reloads. The randomly generated levels stretch down, with a few side caverns full of upgrades or shops to try and reach. Like in old-school shooters, the gun-boots can be upgraded to a number of different weapons, from spread-guns to shotguns, to lasers. Players also can snag upgrades like jetpacks and health refills between levels.
Even with these bonuses, the difficulty is very high, although not really cheap. Monsters such as bats and ghosts fill the well, and they all have their own patterns the player can learn. Sections are split into three levels each, but there isn’t really any save system, so players are booted back to the top with each death, which is a bit disappointing.
The player unlocks new palettes and slightly different game modes based on cumulative score, but most of these are just slight variations or aesthetic changes.
“Downwell” is a clever mashup that will certainly fill your time on the train, without sucking you in to a 100 hour adventure. But you may be surprised how long you think “Just one more run,” while playing. You can play it on Steam and a variety of platforms. It’s also available in Playstation Plus this month.

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Podcast: Nostalgia Pilots 04: Get The Space Laser!

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Nostalgia Pilots Episode Four

We’re back! And this episode we’re finally introduced to the series’s breakout stars, Lt. Noin and Lady Une!
Meanwhile, Zech’s does the half-cape walk of shame, Wu Fei hangs out in the worst subreddits, and both Relena and her dad have insufficiently dramatic outfits.
Plus, Trowa and Qatre share the flute and violin duet that dares not speak its name.
This podcast originally appeared at NostalgiaPilots.com on August 3rd, 2017.
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Hugh Likes Fiction: Rencor

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Rencor: Life in Grudge City
Written by Matt Wallace
Published by From Parts Unknown Publications

“Rencor: Life in Grudge City” is the Luchador Superhero Detective novella you didn’t know you needed in your life. The eponymous setting is a U.S/Mexico border town founded in the 1950’s as a sort of hometown for luchadores. But like all things, time moves on.
Ten years ago, Technico El Victor III and Rudo Mil Calavaras III fought their last, epic match in the ring at Coleseo Rencor. The climactic battle saw the defeated Calavaras banished from Rencor, a place where the rules of the ring and the rule of are one and the same, forever. It was the beginning of the end for Luchadores in Rencor.
Now, El Victor is scraping by in a world that doesn’t hold the enmascardos in the same esteem anymore, and Mil Calavaras works as a ‘reformed’ consultant to the FBI, successful but denied his home and revenge. But an unusual break-in at Museo Rencor will bring El Victor back to hero work, and Mil Calaveras back to his hometown. Will the former rivals solve the case, or kill each other first?
Rencor: Life in Grudge City is another fast-paced, inventive, and supremely entertaining novella from Matt Wallace. Steeped in the unique lore of the lucha libre and populated by his usual eccentric and elegantly sketched characters, the book draws in the reader and gives them everything they need, even if they’ve never heard of the likes of El Santo before. Wallace’s deep knowledge and abiding love of old-school wresting shines through in every page, and the work is elevated by it. His embrace of the super-heroic and mystical bits, in a graying world that is leaving such things behind makes for a not only entertaining read, but a moving one.
While Wallace’s action scenes are outstanding and for the most part easy to follow, I think a glossary for some of the more technical moves and terms would have been helpful. I was never really lost, but Wallace throws out a lot of wrestling terminology throughout the book. That’s honestly the only criticism I can say, although I will add that the novella ends on a hell of a cliffhanger. Hopefully Matt will return to Rencor soon.
Rencor: Life in Grudge City is available in print and ebook. You can buy it via Amazon, or order it from you local bookstore.

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CCRC26: Dungeons & Dragons S1E1

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Watch along with the Chrononauts as they roll to hit with 80’s animated commercial “Dungeons & Dragons.”

Click HERE to listen

And HERE to watch the episode on Youtube!

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Hugh Likes Movies: Spider-Man: Homecoming

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Hugh Likes Movies
Spider-Man: Homecoming
Sony/Columbia Pictures/Marvel Entertainment

Having finally ponied up to see Spider-Man Homecoming, I have some thoughts on Sony’s third launch of the character, and I must admit, I was pleasantly surprised by it.
Spider-Man Homecoming is a fresh take on the character, and it does a lot of things right that the previous movies have avoided.
The most obvious change is that Spider-Man is now firmly hooked into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As the previous reboot was an attempt to keep the character walled off, the movie’s open-armed embrace of the setting was surprising, and cleverly done. Having an ongoing narrative to hook into also gives the movie the additional leg up of not having to retell Peter Parker’s origin! Director Jon Watts does everything he can to avoid it, in fact.
We get a short origin of the villains, small-business construction contractors who turned to a life of crime when they were pushed out of the cleanup of New York from the aftermath of “The Avengers.” From there, we have a short sequence of video footage showing his cameo in “Captain America: Civil War” from Peter Parker’s point of view. Not only is this everything the audience needs to be up to speed, it also highlights the other great change about this version. This Peter Parker is a dork.
The previous franchises paid lip-service to the idea, but never fully embraced this aspect. They try very hard to impress a faux-cool onto the character, either through The Amazing Spider-Man’s self-indulgent skateboarding sequences, or the best-forgotten dance sequence in Spider-Man III. Those versions of the character are still hard-luck heroes, but they try and put a gloss of hollywood polish where it simply doesn’t belong.
This character is as young as he was when he first appeared in comics, and at age fifteen, he still makes all the mistakes you would expect. He tumbles awkwardly to a stop at the end of his swings, and he bites off more than he can chew, a constant irritation to his at-arms length mentor, Tony Stark.
Spider-Man Homecoming is the best version of this character by a long shot, but the movie does stumble here and there. The soundtrack is possibly the laziest of its kind that I have heard in a long time. Composer Michael Giacchino even records a cover of the 1960’s cartoon theme song in booming Marvel brass. In a previous movie review, I made a joke about him doing orchestral Ramones covers, but I never thought I’d actually see it happen. There is also a lot of teen drama in this movie, which can drag the film down, but is brightened by co-stars Jacob Batalon and Zendaya, who fill these scenes with teen-like enthusiasm and cynicism respectively. Also, well-done on the casting director for filling Midtown High with actual teenage actors. This is the first one of these movies in a long time that felt like a real place, and the spot-on casting had a lot to do with it.
“Spider-Man Homecoming” is a refreshing swing through new territory that brings the MCU to life in ways that Marvel’s own properties have failed to do. You can catch it in theaters now.

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Podcast: CCR38: Nosferatu (1922)

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Tonight your hosts, Hugh, Rich the Time Traveler, Opopanax, and Jurd, sink their teeth into a silent classic.

Click HERE to listen.

And HERE if you haven’t seen the film!

Chrononaut Cinema Reviews is presented by http://skinner.fm and http://hughjodonnell.com, and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Thanks for listening to this podcast! If you enjoyed it, share it, or leave a review on iTunes! You can also support Hugh on Patreon for more goodies!

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