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Duciris

Novellas, Fiction, and the Investigators of Arkham

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We've all read and had mixed feelings with the novellas packaged with special investigators.  As the fiction has no open community section and the LCG's community section has become the de facto space for its discussion, I am desiring this topic to follow views, reviews, and desired future releases of the fiction itself.

I'm rereading over the synopses of the different novellas and I feel that To Fight the Black Wind has the plot that appeals most to me.  It looks to feature an investigator working at the local Sanatorium - always a plus - and features the investigator's efforts to help a patient who is suffering visions of, or journeys to, the Dreamlands.

As an aside on To Fight the Black Wind, I am hopeful that inspiration was drawn from the Fergus Falls State Hospital.  Now closed, it was one of the largest asylums in the world, and two-and-a-half hour drive from Minneapolis/St. Paul.  https://substreet.org/fergus-falls-state-hospital/

Edited by Duciris
Evidently I am unaware that "now" contains a w.

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Ire of the Void wasn't bad.  I always wonder how it is that things like gravity and atmosphere and ambient temperature are always adequate for human life in these other dimensions, but that's fine.  The bizarre behavior one of the Hounds was satisfyingly unsettling.

I'm curious about the creation process.  How much are the authors given to work with?  Are they told to incorporate the concepts from the cards or are the cards developed from the story?  Etc. etc.

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I think your mileage will vary. I actually really enjoyed To Fight the Black Wind but it is about the Dreamlands which is a very beloved location in the Mythos and some people will have different expectations. Overall, I think it was a favorite to be honest. I just read another review where someone said it was the worst book so far.

Fair warning, you will notice typos here and there. Understand that first printings of books that are not edited via a traditional major publishing house are likely to have a few typos and really are not a reflection on the writer's ability. The FFG investigator books seem to have more typos than the usual mass market book but many of the writers have very prolific backgrounds and have even won some awards etc.

What I liked best about To Fight the Black Wind was that the ending glossy pages added more to the story and sort of opened doors to possible future situations or plots. A lot of the other ones that I read didn't seem to do this well and it mostly seemed like a rehash of events in the book.

The signature assets always show up in the books (default and replacement it seems), but I'm not sure whether the replacement cards come first, or the book does. Either way, I really enjoy them even for a nice palette cleanser between heavier reads.

 

EDIT: There are mentions of the investigators' background and related characters that you would be familiar with if you had followed all of their character cards throughout the various games. I would recommend looking at the wiki entries for the relevant character prior to reading their book because there are certain things that go unexplained in the text. For example, Carolyn frequently mentions Malachi but they don't really go into detail about what happened to him or the impact it had on her.

Edit 2: Sorry for all of the typos! I was in a rush and updated just now for clarity.

Edited by Soakman

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17 minutes ago, WillemTCG said:

I wish FFG would print more of these books they are so hard to get here ;(

These first five were a test.  They had the first book on reprint very quickly after its release, which I take as a sign that both the product received much higher demand than expected, and also that FFG was attentive to the problem.  I am optimistic that they will up the quantities for future products.

I am interested to know how the new L5R line of novellas will fair.

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16 hours ago, Duciris said:

 

These first five were a test.  They had the first book on reprint very quickly after its release, which I take as a sign that both the product received much higher demand than expected, and also that FFG was attentive to the problem.  I am optimistic that they will up the quantities for future products.

I am interested to know how the new L5R line of novellas will fair.

Ah ok i see didn't know it was a test, i hope they do step up their game as of now i still dont have a single book but i want to collect them all.

EDIT: And btw this is not only these books all of FFG's stuff is hard to get here Mansions of Madness, Descent, AH:Card game etc etc  Why they print/supply so little ? it's like every print is a limited edition or something.

Dont get me wrong i'm huge FFG fan and love almost their whole range of games but man their supply/demand is terrible (at least here in EU/NL)

Edited by WillemTCG

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On 4/12/2018 at 10:18 PM, Duciris said:

 

These first five were a test.  They had the first book on reprint very quickly after its release, which I take as a sign that both the product received much higher demand than expected, and also that FFG was attentive to the problem.  I am optimistic that they will up the quantities for future products.

I hope that the books will be offered in some stores which don't have shipping costs on the "do you accept kidneys as payment" level as well, otherwise I'll have to skip them.

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I am so glad this thread exists! I was just wondering why I couldn't find the forum for the novellas. :D

**minor spoiler alert**

I recently bought and read Ire of the Void and I really liked it. Of course, the basic flaw still exists: It being a story with a "Lovecraft-ish" background, with  somewhat happy ending (kind of have to be, since.. well, we play them as investigators XD). But I think the book really lets you explore Norman's background. I felt like I was watching the story unfold (like a prologue in a game) and then I can take control of the character (when I play as him in the game). Of course, the story also provides reasons for his signature cards - which I assume all the other books do, too.

I have not read the rests yet, but I do plan to get them 1 by 1 (Hour of the Huntress is still on the boat... :() But I am looking forward to to the books! :D:D

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16 hours ago, Val_Varis said:

**minor spoiler alert**

I recently bought and read Ire of the Void and I really liked it. Of course, the basic flaw still exists: It being a story with a "Lovecraft-ish" background, with  somewhat happy ending (kind of have to be, since.. well, we play them as investigators XD). But I think the book really lets you explore Norman's background. I felt like I was watching the story unfold (like a prologue in a game) and then I can take control of the character (when I play as him in the game). Of course, the story also provides reasons for his signature cards - which I assume all the other books do, too.

I could see Lovecraft writing the second act by itself.  Imagine it told in the first person, with the other character talking in a multi-page monologue, and the narrator fleeing at the end, fearful of what may be hunting him.

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Hey so I'll jump on/in.

First off, I view these novellas as more of character studies and world building exercises than I view them as short stories like say "The Whisperer in the Darkness".  Most of these characters I have "known" for 10 years and I have opinions on what they are like and like seeing them "in character" a lot.  In most of Lovecraft's stories I am only vaguely interested in the main character, I am more interested in their journey and what they encounter.  In the novellas I am more invested in the characters themselves.

Anyway, in no particular order and avoiding major spoilers:

Hour of the Huntress:  I love how they wrote Jenny, she is very likable.  I loved her interactions with others, even the others who dislike her.  The story was quick and snappy for me.  I liked touring Arkham with her.

Ire of the Void:  I think this may have the strongest story so far, or rather I enjoyed it a lot.  Norman could have been more curmudgeon-y and more wither-y.  eg I think he was a bit to optimistic and a bit to physical.

Dirge of Reason:  Moved slow, but it gets points for making me get mad at the main character.  Its odd as it provoked the strongest emotional response but I felt the story was a bit draggy.  I guess the payoff was worth the doldrums.

To Fight the Black Wind:  In progress, but strong so far.  No way does Carolyn only have a Will of 3.

The Deep Gate:  I am hoping it opens with: "Call me Silas."

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One thing I liked about the books, especially with the established investigators already in the meta is that they go explore their signature cards.  Not in great depths, mind you, but we get to see the signature assets and events come into play and why they are signature in the first place. Minor spoilers ahead.

In The Hour of the Huntress we see how Jenny obtains her twin .45 calliber guns.  We also get a better understanding why she is searching for her sister, Izzy. In The Dirge of Reason, we see the straight laced Roland Banks favored use of his standard issue weapon, the .38 calliber special.  We also see why he would cover up unexplainable crime scenes.  I want a sequel to this book.  I cannot wait for the cycle the Norman is planned for (please FFG, don't make us wait too long), so I can see what his weakness looks like, because I have a guess already.  

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On 4/27/2018 at 3:56 PM, Turtlefan2082 said:

One thing I liked about the books, especially with the established investigators already in the meta is that they go explore their signature cards.  Not in great depths, mind you, but we get to see the signature assets and events come into play and why they are signature in the first place. Minor spoilers ahead.

In The Hour of the Huntress we see how Jenny obtains her twin .45 calliber guns.  We also get a better understanding why she is searching for her sister, Izzy. In The Dirge of Reason, we see the straight laced Roland Banks favored use of his standard issue weapon, the .38 calliber special.  We also see why he would cover up unexplainable crime scenes.  I want a sequel to this book.  I cannot wait for the cycle the Norman is planned for (please FFG, don't make us wait too long), so I can see what his weakness looks like, because I have a guess already.  

The standard signature assets and weaknesses are already listed on the card. Norman's are

 

 the Livre d'Eibon and The Harbinger.

 I like seeing those specifics addressed also in the fiction. They're definitely fun reads.

 

As for what they actually do? I have no guesses. What are your thoughts? If this is straying form the fiction discussion at hand, just message me, but I think it's appropritae given it would be a reflection on the hints in the text.

Edited by Soakman
Additional Question

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Just flew through Silas Marsh's The Deep Gate.  Loved it.  Whoever thought, "Let's get a guy who has decades of experience with boats and actually knows how to sail to write a book about the sailor."  I bloody love you!

I loved the book for the ease of the nautical prowess and descriptions.  At the end of the book, the author commented that he held back to avoid alienating his audience.  I think the balance was just about perfect.

 

I loved the cameo of the Esoteric Order of Dagon.

I love Abigail Forman.  I really want her as an ally in AH:LCG.  Truly, she is the Research Librarian.  I wish like heck the art were a little closer to my imagination of her.  A pity no realistic version of Abigail will be available to Survivor/Innate/Neutral restrictions of Silas' deck.

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I love that the glossies at the back of the book all serve as various epilogues for the characters and events of the book.  In The Dirge of Reason, all the shiny pages were backstory and evidence for the investigation.  It's been really neat to see how they use those pages.

Edited by Duciris

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On the lines of this topic, L5R's The Sword and the Spirits is excellent.  It's how to imagine them starting their novella run with a better story.

If you're remotely interested in the read, start with the free story Risen from the Flame.  It serves as the intro for the Phoenix Clan Champion, Shiba Tsukune and the Phoenix.  The novella takes it from there, and then there is a story Repentance Does Not Come First which serves as a continuation of the characters after the book.  All 3 are written by Robert Denton III, so the characters and tone are very consistent.

Just like The Deep Gate, do not read the glossy pages at the back of the book, as they all contain deeper looks at the hidden themes (revealed in time) of the story.

Any and all reading of the goosy pages will spoil the mystery of the book.  As for a light spoiler and a general enticing notion of what to expect and why an Arkham player might be interested (beyond it being really good):

 

Robert Denton III has a nickname in the OLD5R community, of "Spooky."

Edited by Duciris
Testing the spoiler

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On 4/11/2018 at 1:26 PM, CSerpent said:

Ire of the Void wasn't bad.  I always wonder how it is that things like gravity and atmosphere and ambient temperature are always adequate for human life in these other dimensions, but that's fine.  The bizarre behavior one of the Hounds was satisfyingly unsettling.

I'm curious about the creation process.  How much are the authors given to work with?  Are they told to incorporate the concepts from the cards or are the cards developed from the story?  Etc. etc.

If I remember correctly Norman wonders the same thing in the book and theorizes it's the spell that is conditioning him to survive beyond our dimension.  Though then later we see it's not just him who can survive there.  So that throws that theory out the window.

 

14 minutes ago, Moon-beast King said:

read and loved the older novels like the Dark Waters Trilogy. got Sign of Glaaki and will probably read it next. Of the more recent stuff I could only afford to get Hour of the Huntress. Will probably read that after Sign of Glaaki.

I also really liked the Dark Waters Trilogy.  Though I was already a fan of the author (Graham Mcneill) and his other licensed works.  I have not read Sign of Glaaki.  The novellas are much smaller stories than the Dark Waters Trilogy.  They basically feel like an expanded version of that back of card investigator flavor text.  An intro adventure to get them familiar with the mythos prior to the events of the game.  That said I enjoyed them all.  I think Dirge Of Reason was the one that left the least impression on me.  It was fine but a bit unexciting.  I enjoyed To Fight The Black Wind and Ire Of The Void the best I think.  Hour Of The Huntress was fun but definitely the most pulpy.  Don't expect much horror in that one.

Edited by phillos

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Even for pulp horror they are bad. Poor writing, tired plots as well as basic grammatical errors.  

Let’s be honest: most people who buy them will buy them for the cards. 

There’s so much better pulp, horror and weird fiction out there.

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11 minutes ago, zeromage said:

Even for pulp horror they are bad. Poor writing, tired plots as well as basic grammatical errors.  

Let’s be honest: most people who buy them will buy them for the cards. 

There’s so much better pulp, horror and weird fiction out there.

I agree most people buy these for the cards, but I didn't.  I don't even like Roland and Jenny's replacement cards so they've been sitting in my binder.  Now that Carolyn is out her replacement cards also are stuck in my binder.  Though it's fun that they gave us in game representations of stuff from these books.  You can read the book then slot them into your deck if you are excited about it. 

I'd put this at the same level as listening to an actual play of a Call of Cthulhu RPG group.  It's fun to see what they do with the characters and it's nice to get some explanation to key character elements like Jenny's guns or Roland's weakness.  I'm not expecting them to blow my mind.  Just hopefully give me some fun things to chew on.  I'm not going to complain if they choose to improve the quality of these books going forward, but I also don't think there's anything really wrong with them.  I do feel bad for anyone who paid over retail for them.  They are pricey already for what they are and paying twice to three times as much for them will only make them seem that much poorer a product.

Edited by phillos

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1 hour ago, Carthoris said:

I enjoyed the Lord of Nightmares books more than Dark Waters. My detailed reviews of every book in the Arkham Files fiction line (except The Investigators of Arkham) can be found here:

https://boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/238813/arkham-horror-fiction-reviewed

I haven't read those, but have been meaning to for a while.  Alan Bligh and John French are both also some of the stronger 40K authors, so that is encouraging.  I think you've tipped me over to picking them up.

I read you reviews of The Dark Waters trilogy and your criticism of Graham's writing style is fair and one that's been talked about in 40K circles.  He spends too much time on setting and scene description.  It balloons his page count and often can feel tired and repetitive.  In the 40K stuff that tends to make more sense since you might need help appreciating the more alien setting presented.  In the Arkham Horror novels I think most people are familiar with the historical elements of the setting so it can feel unnecessary.  I've learned to skim through that stuff since I find when he does get into his character stuff it's usually pretty rewarding.

Edited by phillos

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Posted (edited)

I really enjoyed Blood of Baalshandor.  The dynamic between Molly and Dex is fantastic.  It's nice to have a protagonist pair coming into the novella in the middle of a relationship already.  In alot of the other novellas we are introduced to a secondary protagonist in the first few chapters and I feel like there's not enough time to really flesh out the relationship in 100 pages often.  So having Dex and Molly already established as professional and romantic partners was a smart move since we didn't need to spend time with "getting to know you" dialogue.  They really get right into the plot of Blood from page 1. 

To compare I liked Deep Gate, but part of my issue with it is it took a while to get going and then was over really quickly.  I feel like it was on a pace for 200 pages in the beginning and then hit the fast forward button.  In Blood it felt like enough time was given to climax and resolution at the end of the novella so it didn't feel like an abrupt end.  Otherwise Deep Gate was an enjoyable novella.  Once they get established Silas and Abigail make a nice investigation team.  Ire of the Void feels kinda the same way.  It takes a while to get going then it's over very quickly.  I feel like Blood shows it might be more effective to start these things in medias res.  First chapter in Blood Dex is already harassing Armitage to gain access to the restricted section of the Orne Library. 

I still think Dirge was my least favorite, but that might be because I find Roland to be a bit of a flat protagonist.  The story itself was interesting.

Edited by phillos

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I too just finished Blood of Baalshandor which I thought was really well done. Trying to decide which to read next (the only 3 I haven't read yet) between The Dirge of Reason, The Deep Gate, and To Fight the Black Wind. I'm leaning toward The Deep Gate. I have enjoyed reading them but if I had any complaint at all it is that things end on a little too happy of a note but they are fun reads that I find to be good entertainment value.

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Posted (edited)

It's worth noting that this is the author's second book in the series.  He also wrote Ire.  That's the Norman book.  Between the two I like this one better, but that said I did enjoy Norman as a main character.  I did have two gripes with Ire though.  One was that I wasn't liking a character choice he makes for Norman later in the book and two I thought the pacing was slightly off.  In Blood I had neither complaint.  He also wrote Undercity for Netrunner.

Steeljaw I think you'll probably have that complaint for all the books.  While I agree the source material usually features darker endings those same stories usually ended with a protagonist dying or going insane.  These protagonists need to stick around to start an AH:TCG scenario.  So they need to still be in the middle of their horror story development somehow at the end.    As far as which one to read next I think I liked Black Wind the best, but I really like Dreamland stories and Carolyn.  I think people tend to rate Deep Gate higher though.   I do like Abigail and Silas.  Dirge has some fun cameos and it is the most like an actual horror investigation story.

Edited by phillos

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Posted (edited)

Black Wind I really didn't like, despite loving everything Dreamlands, mostly because it... didn't do much with the Dreamlands. Everything felt quite small scale and not very fantastical, and more than any of of the other stories, it felt like not a complete story, but a prologue to a proper novel.

Blood of Baalshandor, I think is probably the best.  Molly and Dexter are lovely together, both competent at what they do and feel quite fleshed out for a story that short.

Hour of the Huntress is okay. Very pulpy, but it features a bit of investigation, an action sequence, likeable enough characters.

Dirge of Reason... didn't really stick in my mind? Neither good or bad. I remember what it was about, but I can't really remember a single scene.

Ire of the Void was interesting, but really fell down in the second half for me. I was kinda enjoying the idea of reading one of these stories about an elderly academic instead of, you know, young investigator with a gun, all ready for action and violence. And then he literally goes out and gets guns and explosives. Norman.

Edited by Eldan985

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