However for Arcane I have to say this is one of the best series and story I have enjoyed in a long while. It’s obvious that a lot of effort was put into all aspects of this series and it shows (well).
First thing to address is the League of Legends link, and how does the show line up with the video game? In my opinion Arcane is the epitome of game adaption, in that I’m sure that there are plenty of Easter Eggs and relevance for fans of the game, but for me, who is familar with the genre but almost completely ignorant of the game I didn’t need to know anything to enjoy the series.
More broadly Arcane did a very good job with an ensemble cast of characters, managing to flesh out and develop to a surprising detail especially the ‘villians’ (no-one really felt totally evil or good tbh). I never felt bored or bogged down with uninteresting arcs, nor did I feel like anyone wasn’t done enough justice.
The final thing I’d like to praise about Arcane is the depth of themes. Given that a major conflict point is the division between the wealthy ‘topside’ and the deprived ‘undercity’ obviously politics, power, and wealth inquality are major themes. But somehow Arcane fits more into the roster of themes, including disability, mortality, science ethics, family, yet never feeling too packed.
I really don’t have anything bad to say about this series, only that I find it hard to believe that the creators are going to be able to maintain the quality, because it is good.
I’m always a little worried about ‘listicle’ type books, e.g. whether they will be informative, consistent, will the focus be on quantity or quality?
For Cursed Objects there was absolutely no need to worry. Not only is there plenty of quantity and quality, Ocker has a clever knack for organizing the categories into useful and interesting ways; initially hitting us with different sorts of objects (e.g. specific items, tombstones, books…) Ocker moves onto to summarizing collections, and even has a section on “should-be” cursed items which are essentially some ghastly items that are oddly not cursed despite links to tradegy or horror.
In terms of tone I love Ocker’s approach which is a good balance of tongue in cheek, some reverence and a good amount of thoroughness. Given the topic some of the items are downright ridiculous, some are actually quite tragic and some just plain weird, and I always thought Ocker captured this sensitively.
So overall Cursed Objects is a little silly, spooky and sad but always interesting. Definitely a good book for insipiration for a spoopy tale or a scary tour (assuming you can travel safely at present!). Highly recommended.
John had been sweating for three hours in the Warehouse before he realized Arthur hadn’t shown up for work. Shit. For a few moments John worries less about his friend and more about the fact that John was so focussed on his KPI targets and blinking salt from his eyes that he’d not even noticed his friend’s absence? Arthur’s ramblings were coming true, things needed to change. Then again maybe it was talking like that which was why Arthur wasn’t there today. John mopped his brow. Still 30 minutes till a Closet-Break. Couldn’t afford to look around.
Finally the quiet ticker strapped to his belt signalled break-time. John set himself up in the Closet, but instead of sitting down, he propped himself up on the walls and looked out the vents. After seeing the same sight for so many years it was strange to actually look at theWarehouse with a purpose. Endless grey shelves, infinite cardboard boxes, an army of faceless workmates John barely knew.
“Hey, hey, Jane!” John opened the closet and waved.
“What? What!” Jane looked back at John like she was being terrorized. “You tryna get my pay docked?” Jane kept walking.
“No, wait.” John gasped. He was going to regret not using his break to catch his breath. “Have you seen Arhur today?”
Jane’s expression changed from angry to worried for a moment. “No. He alright?”
Jane’s gaze snapped up to the massive clock hanging from the ceiling beams. Without another word she ran.
John’s lungs screamed at him the rest of the afternoon shift, he thought about Arthur the whole time and missed his daily KPI. Couldn’t even spare time to think in this place. John clocked out of the warehouse and took the Conveyer-Cart around to the sleep pods. The unit next to John’s was empty. So Arthur hadn’t been left in bed on quarantine. They hadn’t filled his spot though, so he was still employed.
After wolfing down his Pro-Meal John climbed to his pod and lay looking out over the Bay. It really wasn’t much different from the Warehouse, just lines of Eating-Stations of folk filling their stomachs and walls of Sleep-Pods. At least there was less running. Usually John passed out within a few minutes, tonight his mind felt like it had been set alight, burning. All the questions Arthur had been throwing around were dwelling deep in John’s head and not going anywhere. Surely there was more to life than this? How had it ever gotten this far, where people had nothing to their lives except staying out of the slum?
Arthur had been telling John crazy stories. Ideas about groups called Unions, Movements, Strikes, Class Action. He said that many people in the past had tried to organize to fight back, but they had always been shut-down before they even started. Like somehow history itself was against them. John thought that Arthur was crazy, but staring out across the Warehouse and the Bay and seeing all these people, all these workers, made John wonder if Arthur wasn’t onto something.
Work was going to be hell tomorrow if John didn’t sleep, but his head wasn’t going to let him. He found himself leaving the sleep pod climbing down the ladder and walking out into the night. So strange. It felt like there should be some alam, security, or something. Obviously the proximity scanning chip would show that John had left the premises and would automatically disallow any consideration for a wellbeing day, not that those ever got considered anyway.
The Slums were literally only a block away. John had never set foot in them before.
They were both everything and nothing he’d been warned about. As he strolled the road and pavement changed from straight lines, into flowing gravel and dirt. The houses didn’t look like a strong breeze would topple them, they looked like they’d already been toppled and the people living their had just continued. Every few blocks a foul smelling pit would dominate a sector, and every other corner had a water-well – straight out of olden times.
That said, the place wasn’t full of monsters and waifs. There were plenty of people about, grim and thin, yet they smiled at John as he passed and no-one seemed to be sizing him up for a robbery.
“Excuse me.” John approached a group of men and women sitting around a fire burning within an upright metal drum. “I’m looking for a friend of mine?”
“Another worker?” An older woman asked.
John looked down at his bright orange overalls. “Yeah I guess.”
The woman shrugged. “We see quite a lot come down through here, but no-one for a while.”
“Hey, cheer up Working Man. What’s your friend’s name?”
One of the group – a younger woman with hair in dreadlocks that reached to her ankles frowned. “Arthur. Well haven’t seen him for a while but we had an Arthur come here regular for a while, wanted to listen to our stories.”
“Stories?” John stepped a little closer to the fire and crossed his arms against the cold.
The group shared looks at each other until turning to the original older woman, who nodded. “Not much else to do around here, other than survive and talk about the People’s History.” The woman paused and drew in a breath. “Your friend Arthur wanted to here all about past movements, rights strikes, rallies and the like.”
Nodding John replied. “That is definitely Arthur. But I don’t understand. All these groups and movements, they never lasted or never did anything. Why was Arthur so interested?”
There was a long silence. The old woman stared at John. “That’s because they were always stopped, crushed before they even started.”
“But thats not what history says. These things always fell over because they didn’t have enough local support, or never really took off, or came to pieces because of infighting.”
“That’s true, in a fashion of the truth. We think there is more to it. Haven’t you ever wondered, how the Companies control your life so completely? How there isn’t a single piece of your life you can’t give them just in case? We have a theory.”
John was practically grabbing the woman now. “Tell me.” He whispered.
“The reason that The Labour Movement never happened is because someone went back to stop them.”
“I’m talking about someone equipped with the hindsight and the history books and all the power in the world went back in time and changed history to give themselves more power.”
“Time-Travel?” John eased back on his feet. He rubbed his forehead. He could remember distantly in the few snippets of stories and movies he’d been allowed growing up, tales about time-travel. It seemed impossible then, just made-up for stories. Seemed just as impossible now.
“I know, I know. Foolish, to even think it. But look at the patterns. Dozens, hundreds of movements, workers rights, civils rights, women’s marches. Somehow mysteriously never quite getting big enough to have an effect, and no reactions from the governments to cause more fuss. Almost as if someone read through history and planned just how to change things to benefit them.”
“But, but- what about time travel, surely that would be impossible to hide. Wouldn’t we know about it?”
“You really think they’d let us know about it?”
“Worker!” A buzzsaw of a voice rang through the darkness. A drone hovered overhead and shone a light in John’s face. The rest of the group scattered.
“You are 3 hours over recommended sleep for a productive tomorrow. Recommend returning to Recreation Bay.”
“Yeah fine.” John waved the drone away and trudged back through the broken streets to his sleep-pod.
He did not get any sleep.
The next day was a hell of missing targets, dropped boxes and blurred vision. At the end of the shift John received a memo informing him that due to his “sudden departure from expected outcomes he was being offered respite in Sanitation duties.”
At least he still had a job.
Walking back to the Recreation Bay a sudden idea possessed John. Taking a few more steps beyond the ladder to his Pod, John climbed another ladder and entered Arthur’s Sleep Pod. It was of course identical to his own, but John found himself bending and twisting in the narrow space to examine every surface he could reach. About to give up and ready to slide himself out of the pod, he found something. Arthur, the sly dog, had pulled the stitching from his pillow surface and stuffed all manner of papers in there. John flicked through trying to make sense of it all. Much the same as what Arthur always went on about, with notes scribbled on margins reading much like what the slummers spoke about.
John shoved the papers back into the pillow and slid out of the pod. He looked around guiltily as he switched ladders and got back into his own. No-one even spared him a glance.
Through sheer sleep deprivation John won an entire nights sleep. Sanitation wasn’t as bad as he thought it would be. Yes the constant transport of fecal matter and vomit reeked and John suspected the smell would stay with him permanently. And following the Porters around like a dog with a disinfectant wipe was demeaning. But the KPIs were very basic and the tasks required a lot less concentration.
It was about halfway through afternoon shift when someone leapt out at John as he emptied sewage.
“Arthur.” John gasped his voice croaky with foul air.
“Quick come with me.” His friend beckoned wildly.
John looked at the empty tanker in his hands and back at the Warehouse.
“We’ve got worse shit than that to clean up.” Arthur grabbed John’s arm. He dragged John down some blank corridors and stepped through an odd wedge in a concrete wall, pulling John into a small bunker.
“This room isn’t on the floor-plan. It’s some sort of construction error so the drones and cameras don’t scan it.”
John found a cold sweat was forming across his hairline. “What’s happened Arthur, where have you been?”
Arthur pulled John further into the room and gestured to a figure lying propped up in the corner.
“Are they alright?” John stepped forward then immediately jumped back. The right edge of the man’s head was like a deflated pastry. Blood crusted his face.
“Arthur, what the hell have you done?”
Arthur held his hands up. “Let me explain.”
John backed up to the furthest edge of the room.
“You know how I’ve been looking into getting organised? Trying to get The Company to listen to us and give us some rights?”
John nodded slowly.
“Well, I was getting close, put together some plans, got hold of a pretty big part of the Warehouse crew.” Arthur started pacing a bit and shaking his head. “Then out of nowhere this guy appears.” He looked at the far edge of the room where a wide scar was carved into the concrete. “For some reason he swung to the right with the shotgun and missed completely. Gave me a chance to-to.” Arthur drifted into silence and waved at the dead body.
John swallowed and stepped closer to the dead man. “Is that. It can’t be?”
Arthur nodded. “It is.”
“You killed the Owner of The Company?” John leaned closer to the dead body. He didn’t believe it but there was no mistaking it, John had seen the Owner’s image a thousand times, on stickers, posters, the side of trucks. And here he was, Samuel Devine, just like on the pictures except with half his skull caved in. “What the hell happened?” John muttered.
“Well obviously I hit a nerve with my plans.” Arthur said, sounding anything but proud.
John’s gaze fell to the firearm flopped across the man’s lap. “Why would the Owner of The Company come to shoot you himself?”
“Well, this is going to sound unbelievable.”
“Time travel?” John countered.
Arthur paused. “Look at this.” Arthur crouched and pulled open the Owner’s shirt. There was some sort of machinery embedded directly into his neck and shoulder. “The only possible reason I can figure Samuel Devine himself would come to shoot me was that he didn’t trust anyone else with time-travel technology.”
Shaking his head, John paced around the room. It didn’t make any sense. Except it did.
“I don’t know. I don’t know.” John noticed Arthur had developed a twitch in his right wrist.
“So, in theory, Mr Devine is alive and well right now, but at some point in the future he is going to go back in time to kill you and will never come back?”
Arthur rubbed his face and stared at the dead body. “I have no idea how it works, what if Devine finds out I killed him so uses time travel to do a better job next time?”
“Well wouldn’t that have already happened then?” John replied.
“I have no damn idea!” Arthur’s face was red from his stressful rubbing
“Alright, alright. I have a plan.” John touched Arthur’s shoulder and pulled his arm back as Arthur flinched away. “Look, you killed The Owner, whether from now or the future and I think that means a lot of trouble. But maybe I just happened to find him here while on Sanitation, maybe it could help the situation to alert the authorities.”
Arthur started at John. “You can’t, they’ll crucify you.”
“It’s better than what they’ll do to you.”
Arthur stared for a few moments longer. “There’s isn’t much else for it is there?”
John nodded. “Get out of here, I’ll give you a few minutes then I’ll call security.”
Breathing heavily, Arthur gave The Owner’s corpse a final look, then dashed out of the bunker-room without looking back.
John quietly counted the seconds as he walked around the room. He ran his hand over the bullet holes in the far wall. He scanned the low ceiling looking for the hidden cameras. Finally he adjusted the The Owner’s shirt and stared at the mechanical lump installed in his shoulder. As if staring long enough would reveal what was real.
“Alright sir, here we go.” John covered up the perhaps time-travel device and lugged the body out of the room. Human beings were often a lot heavier than people expected – but for once a lifetime of hefting packages at high speed served John well. He hauled the body out into the main corridor only breaking a sweat due to nerves.
“Help, someone. Call the police!” He yelled. The few other workers that spotted them quickly dashed away like he was last night’s bad date. John remembered that emergencies weren’t covered in KPI exceptions.
When the police did show up John was not surprised to see them resting their hands on their tasers. He was surprised when they started with: “We had a call about someone disrupted productivity on this floor. Sir would that be you?”
John flicked his gaze to the body and shrugged his shoulders. “I’m more concerned about this.”
The police person’s eyes widened and one of them started unclipping their weapon. Beforethey could make a move, a pair of hulking Company Security Guards appeared dressed all in black. “We’ll take it from here.”
The police immediately cast their gaze down and left like punished school children.
One of the guards hefted the body as if it were nothing, the other glared at John. “Come with us, now.”
John felt his mouth lose moisture, all he managed was a nod. The Security led him through the warehouse to a steel door opened by a fingerprint scan, which took them to a travel-ator which pulled them all the way to the edge of the Compound. Once there they shoved John into an unmarked black van with completely concealed windows. John sat in a backseat and tried not to sweat. The drive didn’t last long before John was pulled outside and then into another building. Blinking against the brightness, the best John could tell he was in a tower. Then they were back in an elevator flying upwards.
John’s eyes finally cleared up and he took in his location. A wide concrete roof, the city laid out all before him. The vertigo hit almost immediately. Where they going to throw him off? His legs jellied and he started to fall against the guard. A hand like a lump of metal clamped onto John’s collar and steered him towards a helicopter.
The flight was a blur to John. He spent most of it staring at the floor of the vehicle and trying not to puke.
Eventually the helicopter settled, God only knew where, and John was dragged through a series of glass corridors until he was unceremoniously dumped on a chair.
“Thank you gentleman. You may excuse yourselves.”
“Sir?” Suddenly the guard’s voice sounded like a child’s.
“Leave now.” Samuel Devine’s voice sounded utterly ridiculous, he was so powerful he didn’t have to bother actually sounding authoritative or anything in particular, his voice squeaky and warped.
The guards looked at each other then made a quick exit.
John looked at The Owner. He looked pretty much as he had before except alive. And staring darkly at John.
“So I understand you found my dead body.”
“It is extremely in your interest to give me as much information as you have. You’re a Warehouse Porter yes?”
“Actually, just moved to Sanitation.”
Samuel’s face wrinkled. “Tell me everything and you’ll never have to work again.”
John looked around. As much as he could tell, the building was just as big, if not bigger, than the Warehouse Cpmpound, and nestled in the middle of a lush forest. It appeared to be entirely devoted to Samuel, who presumably did not have to sleep in a pod among two hundred other workers.
“There is a hidden room in the Warehouse, a small concrete bunker where a friend of mine was planning some sort of workers’ movement.”
Samuel seemed more disgusted than the thought of sanitation. He leaned forward. So, I must have gone to prevent that happening, tell me how was your friend was able to kill me?”
John looked around the glass palace and back at Samuel Devine, the man responsible for it all. The Owner. The One-Man Economy. Functionally Limitless in Wealth. And a Time-Traveller.
“I’ll never have to work again?”
Samuel nodded slowly. “Not another day of your life.”
“Arthur said that you swung left. If you’d just swung right and fired immediately he’d be dead now.”
Samuel leaned back on his chair and looked thoughtful. “This is going to be a tricky one for the paradox algorithm. I’m going to have to stick as close as possible to the current timeline to make this work. Come with me.” The Owner withdrew a familiar looking shotgun from under his desk and loosely pointed it at John. “Just in case. You know you’re the only non-security personnel to have ever set foot here?”
John nodded mutely. He let Samuel lead him through the palace until he entered a machine room, the centre-piece which looked like an upright coffin with dozens of tiny laser and radar dishes lined up and down its sides. Samuel busied himself with the controls all while muttering to himself.
“Yes?” Samuel did not look up.
“How will I, aren’t you concerned about me seeing this. What happens after you?”
Samuel stood up and looked at John directly. “I’m hugely sorry, uh, whatever your name was. Truth is once I enter that machine and dispose of your friend then it will be as if you were never here. Without my unfortunate demise you will never set foot here at all. It’s probably better than being gunned down immediately though correct?”
John felt his heart pound strangely. “What will happen to me?”
Samuel shrugged. “I have no idea what its like for people like you. I’ll shoot back a couple of days, and well, also shoot your friend and will wake up back here. Not dead.”
“Does anyone else have this?”
Samuel shrugged. “There are a couple of other machines in the world, we have an agreement not to interfere with each other’s interests.” The Owner stepped towards the machine, plugging something into his shoulder and stood in the chamber.”
Concise Laws is a strange piece. Part psychology, part psycho-analysis, and somewhat philosophical the book is neither too heavy nor too light. While claiming to be ‘laws’ its more of a series of discussions of internpersonal and self-focussed strategies across a variety of topics including relationships personal and professional, leadership, emotional wisdom and death.
It’s kinda hard to summarize the work as the range of topics are so different, some chapters are more about bird’s eye perspectives, others are more specific a categorical in advice. For example the section on Gender Rigidity was surprisingly inisghtful, and the section “law of fickleness” was a simple but wise perspective on leadership. Whereas “law of repression” felt a little bit shakey from an evidence based point of view and a bit dabbly in the woowoo.
Overall a really straightforward matter-of-fact book about being a successful human, not too sunk in academics, but neither too flightly or ‘pop’. Recommended.