Death Stranding and Other Stories

Death Stranding ate my November. It ate my 2019 Nanowrimo attempt for breakfast, my short story deadlines for lunch, and my sleep cycle for dinner. It is a frustrating, gorgeous, brilliant, extremely pretentious showcase for one man's ego and his many famous friends, and yet it's probably the most interesting game I've played this year. Visually, it's stunning. The motion capture looks like you're watching a Hollywood blockbuster. The details in the world are beautiful. I'm playing the Star Wars game now, Fallen Order, and it feels like I've gone from a retina display back to normal. I miss being Sam Bridges. I miss the weird world Kojima made with all the weirdly literal names (Beach Things? Die-Hardman?). If you have time, if you have a PS4, play Death Stranding. It's such a trip.

And yes, Mads Mikkelsen definitely stole the show.

The Japanese Film Festival

Caught Kingdom and Saint Young Men at the 2019 Japanese Film Festival in Melbourne. If you haven't heard of Saint Young Men, I recommend trying the manga – it's hilarious. Basically, Jesus and Buddha decide to take a vacation in Tokyo, sharing limited expenses as they try to make rent and living expenses. The live-action film has great casting, and the low budget adds to the charm of the short stories showcased in the film. Highly entertaining, incredibly funny slice-of-life absurdist humour.

On the other end of the budget spectrum is Kingdom, a beautifully shot live-action of the manga of the same name. I wasn't aware of the existence of this manga and didn't really know what it was about until the title sequence rolled – at which point I started to laugh. It's Warring Kingdoms Qin Shihuang fanfiction. "History will remember you as a tyrant" indeed – for good reason. Still, it was entertaining.

Cake Bake and Sweets Show

Found my life motto at one of my favourite events of the year in Melbourne, the Cake Bake and Sweets Show. Sadly, the sweets shop I went to the show to see, Dickin's Delights, had some last-minute issues and pulled out. It was still a fun if much smaller show than last year. Managed to see the incredible Kat Sabbath in person. If you're not following her on Instagram, please check her out. Highlight shop for me this year: Yasmin's Apples. Chocolate covered deliciousness.

Speaking of sweets, I'm still waiting for Kaneffi in Prahran to open. I love Knafeh / Kanafeh / Kunafeh, and I'm hoping the one it sells is awesome. The place where I get my usual Knafeh fix, Mama Rumaan, sadly closed due to safety complications in the Central Pier. Hoping they'd be back.

Things Read in November

Life stalled this month because of Death Stranding, but I still got a bit of reading in.

The Secret Commonwealth / Philip Pullman Northern Lights is one of my favourite books of all time. While I wasn't as big a fan of Subtle Knife or Amber Spyglass, I loved the first book of His Dark Materials. I read it late – as part of a Modern Literature elective in university – but I was hooked. I was disappointed in the film, but I like the new TV show. I was so excited to read TSC, the continuation of Lyra's adventures. That's possibly why I'm sort of... disappointed? Lyra and Pantalaimon are profoundly unhappy in this book, and things don't seem to get better – worse [ SPOILERS! ] the Usual Thing that People Do to Make Adult Fantasy Books Edgy happens to Lyra. Sigh. The worldbuilding is as compelling as ever, and the world is more fleshed out in this book, but I don't know if I'm going to read the next.
The Water Dancer / Ta-Nehisi Coates This book was gorgeously written, beautifully realised. It captures the horror of generational slavery and the wonder of magic, and the struggle that still continues. One of the best books I've read this year.
David Mogo, Godhunter / Suyi Davies Okungbowa A rollicking read about a demigod in Lagos, hunting down Gods and Godlings for hire. Highly entertaining Nigerian modern fantasy.
Dragon Pearl / Yoon Ha Lee I loved this YA science fiction fox spirits book. No romance. Highly focused, competent, if very chaos main character. Great meld of mythical fantasy and science fiction, as could be expected from the author of Ninefox Gambit. A page-turner to the end.

I can't believe it's December already. It's been another strange year.