Feb. 24th, 2010

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Planescape Torment Planescape Torment by Rhys Hess (compiled by)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
The Nameless One awakes on a mortuary slab in the city of Sigil, the nexus of all of the planes of existence. He does not know who he is or how he came to be there, only that he can not die. His body is covered with strange scars and tatoos that may be a clue to his true identity and purpose.

This is something of an odd book to review. The author Rhyss Hess has taken the text from the computer role playing game 'Planescape : Torment' as written by Chris Avellone and Colin McComb, and added linking sections to combine it into a continuous narrative, with mixed results.

The game is widely regarded as a classic of the genre. It is certainly a long way from the traditional Dungeons and Dragons world, being set in a strange city that is riddled with portals to every part of the multiverse. Each portal has a key, that may be an object, a word or a memory and it is the task of the protagonist to explore this maze and find the clues that he has left himself to try to recover his memories.

If the setting is strange and baroque, that is nothing compared to characters that you meet. Morte the floating skull who still has an eye for the ladies, Ignus the burning man, a fallen angel and a mechanical creature from a plane of pure logic. The strangest of all is the Nameless One himself, and the reasons for his immortal, tormented existence.

If you have not played the game, then this book may be difficult to get into. There are sections where the gameplay imperative requires fetch quests and combat challenges that do not translate particularly well to a linear form. However, certain sequences really do stand out as masterful pieces of writing. The back stories of each of the Nameless One's companions, the stories in the Brothel of Slaking Intellectual Lusts, the maze of the night hag Ravel where the mystery starts to be resolved and the final section in the Fortress of Regret are all well worth reading.

If you haven't played the game, then you really should try to get hold of it, and read this book in conjunction with it. The narrative follows only one particular path through the game and there are other possibilities to explore.

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Foggy, damp and cold this morning, with just a hint of slush on the roads to make things interesting. A very slow commute into work, with time to listen to nearly all of a Collings and Herrin podcast whereas my usual journey is less than a Collins and Herring. At least it brightened up towards the end of the day.

My work laptop was on a go slow too, taking ten minutes to boot up and start Outlook and the application that I needed to work on. Oddly enough, after a warm reboot a bit later on it was much better, so it was probably one of those mysterious downloads that Microsoft and/or the IT department insists on shovelling on without any notification or choice as to when it might be convenient.

We celebrated our ninth wedding anniversary last night with a quiet night in, a nice curry and one or two drinks whilst watching something on the telly. It seems that anniversaries come around too quickly these days to want to make too big a deal of them, although we may well push the boat out a little for the tenth next year.


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September 2010


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