[Camestros] Welcome back, loyal viewers!
[Camestros] This is the second episode of the Book Club Roundtable Review Club Non-Audio Podcast Club. I have to say people, lots of positivity about the last one. I think our innovative features were very welcome among the podcast community.
So Susan, nice you could return for part two. How have you been? Are you staying somewhere locally?
[Susan] I’ve been sleeping in the Bortsworth Museum of Intelligent Design in the Noah’s Ark replica. Fairly cosy and I just stand very still and pretend to be an exhibit when the security guard comes round.
[Camestros] Does that work?
[Timothy] Well I’m the security guard and it fools me every time.
[Camestros] So you finally convinced the local council to keep that place open?
[Timothy] Oh yes. It brings in the tourist money – mainly ironic atheists dropping by to feel superior.
[Camestros] A niche market?
[Timothy] but a growing one.
[Susan] Richard Dawkins came to visit yesterday and called me “implausibly inaccurate”.
[Camestros] So back to the business at hand: Run Realms: Rescue Star. Did we all finish our homework.
[Susan] Well what with giving rides to P.Z.Myers at the museum and trying to get Sam Harris to acknowledge the fundamentally reactionary aspects of his anti-Islamic stance, I’ve been a bit busier than I expected.
[Camestros] So you didn’t finish the book?
[Susan] I’m just at the start of Chapter 6.
[Timothy] Oh! Me too! But my book was broken.
[Timothy] Yes! I’m quite disappointed. If you remember, at the end of Chapter 1 Joan, our hero, had infiltrate Balabibabbab station. Then, in a HUGE cliffhanger it turned out it was all a trap! She got guzzahed by two Star Empire soldiers!
[Camestros] Thanks for the recap but how is your book broken?
[Timothy] Well I went to Chapter 2 hoping to find out what happens next – is Joan OK? How is the hatch in her aft? Is her tummy safe from dinosaur bites? But, NOTHING. No Joan, no soldiers, no belly eating dinosaurs. Instead, it is some other story about a guy in a suit. So I skipped that bit. The actual books starts again in Chapter 3.
[Susan] I think you will find that Chapter 2 is introducing a second point of view character: Dario Anazao, a manager at Regency Biotech on Mars.
[Timothy] Well he isn’t on the cover and he shouldn’t be in the book. Seriously? A business man? Business men don’t run, they don’t rescue, nor do they realm. When was the last time you saw a business man fighting a dinosaur?
[Susan] Well there was that one time I got into a bar brawl with Elon Musk after I said that battery storage was a pointless investment as humanity was all going to be wiped out by a zombie-fungus plague anyhow.
[Camestros] How did he respond to that bombshell revelation from the future?
[Susan] Not well, I can tell you. I think it wouldn’t have turned violent if I hadn’t then said that his hyper loop plans were a glorified train set for a man with more money than sense.
[Timothy] Can we PLEASE focus our attention on what is important here? i.e. ME and my opinions? Hmm? We can? Thank you. As I was saying, there are only four places I want to see business men: 1. in business 2. at expensive dinners raising money for reactionary causes 3. on reality TV shows shouting at celebrities and 4. Bumbling about in the Whitehouse wearing funny hats and shouting at journalists. There is a time and place for business men and that time and place is a. not in a space-opera and b. not fighting dinosaurs.
[Susan] Well I agree partly with homicidal hair brush here – Musk has zero fighting technique when it comes to dinosaurs. What I would recommend is that he spends some time training fighting emus and then maybe move onto wrestling alligators before trying to take on actual dinosaurs. Also, belly armour. Don’t even THINK about taking on a dinosaur with adequate protection of your soft mammalian bellies.
[Camestros] So to recap – Rescue Realms: Run Star has an alternating chapter structure following two different PoV characters: Joan Shengtu and Dario Anazao. So Dario, is he dreamy?
[Susan] Well I’m not one to judge human aesthetic standards when it comes to personal attractiveness but he is the son of the wealthy and handsome Kostas Anazao and shares the same “toned build” and has the same “gelled hair” and is the “spitting image” of him. Also his surname itself name garners “respect, fear, awe, envy, and any combination of them.”
[Timothy] Wow, that’s a lot of combinations.
[Camestros] Fifteen to be precise.
[Susan] Really? I make it 64.
[Camestros] That would be permutations surely? I’m not sure the order matters.
[Susan] I’d think it does matter. What if you hear the name and first you feel envy and THEN you feel respect. That’s not the same as feeling respect and then feeling envy.
[Camestros] I assume they meant you feel the emotions at the same time, not one after another.
[Susan] Like envious-respect or respectful-envy? I mean, those two things don’t sound like the same emotion AT ALL.
[Timothy] Does this matter?
[Susan] Well a hard working writer has taken time and effort to tell us this piece of background about the character. I think we owe them the due consideration to consider the ramifications of what they said.
[Camestros] OK but by that token the author clearly said COMBINATIONS not PERMUTATIONS.
[Susan] Sure but if they meant it in a strict mathematical sense they would have indicated how many of the set were being selected. Also you didn’t include C(4,0) presumably because you realised that in context, the author didn’t want to include the combination of a person not feeling anyone of those emotions.
[Timothy] Oh look at me I’m Susan and I can say fancy words like combinobipermubobulations oooooh.
[Susan] In my day we used to play “squash the tiny mammal” as a way to pass the time on long summer evenings.
[Camestros] Can we get back to the story? So Dario is a business guy with a famous dad?
[Susan] Sure. Anyway his dad comes to visit and tells Dario he’s got a promotion.
[Camestros] Typical nepotistic capitalist oligarchs.
[Susan] No, no, Dario has done it all through his own hard work and performance metrics, He also gets a new assistant.
[Camestros] And is he dreamy?
[Susan] You really are looking for the romance angle, aren’t you.
[Camestros] Well I’m not seeing much romping or intriguing in this chapter. Come on, dreamy or not?
[Susan] Well the new assistant is called “Jake Dylan” and is described as “about Dario’s age with an oblong scalp-mod. He had deep blue hair, frozen as a wave crashing against the shore and wore a proper suit as Dario’s father had. The oddest part about him was that he didn’t have oculars, but an antiquated pair of glasses that rested on his nose.”
[Camestros] YES! I win oblong bingo!
[Timothy] He shouts that whenever he hears the word “oblong”. Ignore him for five minutes – he’ll calm down eventually. So, deep blue hair – sounds a bit social-justices.
[Susan] We’ll see. In the meantime let’s just dwell on a guy with a ocean themed haircut.
[Timothy] I’m going to call him surfboard head.
[Susan] OK, that’s all I’ve got on Chapter 2. How about you take a turn on Chapter 3, oh scion of the theriodonts.
[Timothy] OK, ok, ACTION time! This chapter is called “A New Mission” and the location is “Location Unknown”! My paws are sweating in excitement!
[Susan] Hold I forgot to say that at the end of Chapter 2 it says “Instead of grilling Jake, he handed him a glass of water” implying that Dario rejected ritual cannibalism in favour of basic hydration.
[Timothy] You’ve had your turn! Anyway. Joan is in a cell on an unknown spaceship and then a woman turns up and then some guards and then they grab and they take her to a big room and its full of politicians and they want Joan to do something and Joan’s like “what the flip” and the politicians are all “who is this bozo” and Joan is like “who are these bozos” and they tell she has to join the military again and Joan starts laughing “ha ha ha” like that – I guess, it doesn’t actually say “ha ha ha”.
[Susan] Your pores are sweating?
[Timothy] No, my paws.
[Susan] Isn’t that what I said?
[Timothy] I have swear pores on my paws.
[Camestros] Ha, ‘oblong’ – it gets me every time. OK Chapter 4. My turn. ““Mr. Anazao, sorry to wake you. We have a crisis,” Jake said. The man stood in front of Dario’s apartment doorway, primed and ready to go in a fresh suit as if he were naturally up at this hour. His thermal signature appeared in Dario’s retinal view, heart racing, especially for someone who had just woken from sleep.” Wow, things are getting literally racey.
[Timothy] Oh a crisis. If I’d known there was going to be a crisis I’d have read this chapter.
[Susan] It’s right there in the chapter title “Crisis Management”.
[Timothy] Yeah but “management”, that kind of dulls any word that comes before it. Management makes any word dull.
[Camestros] It’s a kind of anti-adjective.
[Timothy] Yup take an exciting word like “fire”. Now add “management” to make “fire management” – instantly dull, dull, dull. Try “megadeath awesome rollercoaster”, now add “management”. Instant snoozeville.
[Susan] Have you two finished? I have to say that I’m not seeing the romantic or erotic elements that you seem to be seeing in this chapter?
[Camestros] Whattttt??? Seriously. OK, ok a few sentences later: ‘He realized he wore his typical night attire—a fitted tee and silk shorts, as underdressed as someone could be in Jake’s presence. Dario felt his face flush. “Ahh, give me a second to get some clothes on, okay?” ‘ Dario is there in his bedroom, when dreamboat Jake arrives in his sharp suit and oceanic hair.
[Timothy] Susan, accept my apologies. A certain someone is overcompensating after being called an emotional illiterate who couldn’t spot a romantic theme in a novel if it stepped out of the page and hit him in the face with a cow’s liver.
[Camestros] I’m just trying to be more aware of relational subtexts in stories. And look, it says it right on the cover: ‘a touch of romance’.
[Susan] Doesn’t mean it will be Jake and Dario. I’d have thought Dario and Joan would be more traditional.
[Camestros] That’s very heteronormative of you.
[Susan] Not at all. They are the two PoV characters – the obvious romantic narrative arc is bringing these two characters together both dramatically and romantically.
[Timothy] There’s the computer as well. Maybe that’s who will have the romance.
[Camestros] Fair point. So we’ve got Joan, Dario, Jake and GOD. That makes six possible pairings.
[Susan] Well that’s very something-normative of you – I don’t know the word, whatever ignoring polyamory is.
[Timothy] Also, as Whitney Huston told us “to love oneself is the greatest love of all”.
[Camestros] OK so, if we count a self-relationship, pairs, triples and quadruples that makes fifteen possible relationship scenarios.
[Susan] Does the order matter?
[Camestros] Like Dario fancies Jake but not vice-versa or not as much?
[Susan] Exactly! So that’s like 64 possible relationship scenarios.
[Camestros] More even. As each connection between any given individuals can have multiple states (from ‘curious’ to ‘infatuated’) that is asymmetric. Hold on, I’ll need some paper or maybe several balls of coloured yarn.
[Timothy] Look, I’m a cat, Susan is a dinosaur and you are a figment of your own imagination – I don’t think any of us are qualified for to analyse the possible emotional elements of this otherwise perfectly serviceable story of a woman avoiding a t-rex eating her innards.
[Susan] The hostile cushion creature is making more sense than normal. Triceratop love is a beautiful thing but not something that translates into the intricacies of human fiction. However, to prevent us becoming once more diverted by speculation, I declare that the two Star Empire soldiers in Chapter 1 were deeply in love with each other but neither had told the other one.
[Camestros] Moving on. Jake wakes Dario because of a crisis – there’s a riot on worker level 3!
[Timothy] Send in the riot cops!
[Camestros] Nope they gas them but only to send them to sleep. The other managers want to leave the sleeping rioters where they drop but Dario makes sure they get moved away to safety.
[Susan] So sort of nice at heart?
[Camestros] He wants to show his sensitive side to Jake. Which is nice because I was worried this was going to be Donald Trump Junior in space.
[Timothy] Is that it? My Turn again now, yes? Yes?
[Camestros] I guess so, yes.
[Timothy] Chapter Five – Our best hope. Joan is still laughing.
[Susan] I checked and she hadn’t started laughing at the end of Chapter 3.
[Timothy] I’ll just check…oh, ok. The two bits had merged together in my head. It’s better this way as otherwise she’d have been laughing all the way through that riot on Mars.
[Camestros] I don’t think each chapter represents the same passage of time between events, Timothy.
[Timothy] So Joan starts laughing at the politicians because they want her to work for them. She laughs so hard until she buckles over.
[Susan] Is she still wearing that belly armour?
[Camestros] Was she ever wearing it? I know it is on the cover but we don’t know when that bit takes place. Do you think those two guys on the cover are the two soldiers in the story?
[Susan] The ones with the guzzah guns and the unexpressed feelings for one another?
[Camestros] Yes, I call them Bipp and Boop. Bipp and Boop the Space Marines.
[Timothy] Could Boop be called Sharlene so that they are Charlene the Space Marine.
[Camestros] So be it.
[Timothy] Charlene just wanted a quiet life of space adventure and she’s got a partner who she has like a major crush on and just doesn’t know what to say. Yet they do everything together. Patrol corridors. Shoot their stun pistols together. Rough up prisoners for politicians together.
[Camestros] If she could only work up the courage to express her feelings!
[Susan] We may be getting distracted again.
[Camestros] So, putting Charlene the Space Marine aside for a moment…
[Timothy]… the Star Empire has two enemies and one is the scary aliens called the Lyl’bra and the other is the Trade Federation but probably not the one from Star Wars. Anyhoo – during a sort of battle with the Trade Federation the Star Empires best general got kidnapped! The Star Empire needs somebody to RESCUE the general but it can’t be a military operation because of reasons. Only Joan can save them!
[Camestros] Is rescuing generals her sort of thing?
[Timothy] Not really but the Hyrades Cluster is her home too.
[Susan] Is that the same as the Hyades Cluster?
[Timothy] No, different I think because of the ‘r’.
[Camestros] Couldn’t they get Charlene the Space Marine to do it with her sidekick Bipp?
[Timothy] Not really their style – they basically do hench-person level work. Roughing up prisoners, patrolling corridors, that sort of stuff.
[Susan] Still, she should at least haggle.
[Timothy] Oh, you bet she haggles! She gets a sweet deal out of this! She shakes on it with Minister Jaileen.
[Susan] Charlene’s boss is called Jaileen?
[Camestros] To be fair we only just made up the name Charlene.
[Timothy] I guess she puts people in gaol so she is Jaileen.
[Camestros] OK and that’s as far as we all read? Any other comments?
[Susan] I feel Timothy rushed us through Chapter 3.
[Timothy] Camdenmarket Flightpath interrupted me.
[Susan] I have trouble visualising this scene: “Joan entered the room with tables set in a horseshoe shape, filled with at least thirty different older people of all genders, races and creeds. All wore formal wear.”
[Camestros] Hmm another combinatronic problem?
[Susan] Well, I assume that it is not every instance of each possible combination of gender, race and creed – just a single example in any one of the given categories. No, my issue is how would Joan know they were of every ‘creed’.
[Camestros] The way they are dressed?
[Susan] They are all wearing formal wear.
[Timothy] Like tuxedos.
[Susan] I assume so – or at least space tuxedos.
[Camestros] So this is like the whole space cabinet on one space ship, just to hire one operative?
[Susan] I assume they have to have very direct oversight of off-the-books covert operations.
[Timothy] Well maybe that’s just how they do things in the future. Also, they probably had little Wikipedia-page like bios floating over their heads in hi-tech semi-transparent holographic panels stating their creed, race and gender.
[Camestros] Yeah let’s go with that. OK final ratings!
Final score: Star Rescue: Running Realms Chapter 1
Combinatronics: 5 stars
Space armour tummy strap thing: Still only 1 star as it hasn’t prevented any T-Rex disembowellings yet
Cloacas as a sensible evolutionary adaptation (as a general principle – not actually featured in the book): 1 star (on-going)
‘Guzzah’ sounds: 0 stars
Stars: 4 stars – there was a whole cluster
Realms: 3 stars
Rescues: 2 stars – Dario rescues those workers I guess
Running: 1 stars – we assume the rioters did some running
Non-sparkly vampires: 0 stars