For those of us who can measure our early childhood years by the seven Harry Potter novels, it might seem a bit shocking that JK Rowling could move on so quickly from the series, as just shortly after the seventh Potter book was published she began conceptualizing and writing The Casual Vacancy.
However, for fans that are still reeling from nostalgia after the Potter films concluded, do not expect relief from her latest adult novel. The Casual Vacancy is a completely other kind of book that substitutes witchcraft and wizardry with the harsh reality of a life with which many more of us can relate.
It would probably make most us much more comfortable if Rowling just never wrote another book as even she would concede that nothing can top the multi-million-dollar series she created. What we all as readers need to do is approach The Casual Vacancy as a novel without a mega successful predecessor. Stripped of all the cheeky Potter comparisons, Rowling’s new book essentially reassures us that the creative genius that brought us the boy who lived was no fluke.
The novel begins with a death: Councilmember Barry Fairbrother collapsed and died while on his way to celebrate his wedding anniversary with his wife Mary. His death rocks the tiny town of Pagford and serves as the starting point for the unraveling of its deceivingly close-knit inhabitants.
As it turns out, Fairbrother’s death is more exciting than it is tragic for those citizens that are eager to fill the casual vacancy left by the deceased on the city council board. With tensions rising between the little town of Pagford and its dreaded neighbouring city over the hill, Yarvil, the vacancy is a powerful position for change and everyone feels entitled to a piece of it.
The Casual Vacancy highlights many of Rowling’s writing talents, one being her ability to create tangible, three-dimensional characters. The inhabitants of Pagford are complex and layered: there’s Kathy, the overtly sexual troublemaker with a prostitute druggie mother; Simon, the abusive father who shouts “Pauline’s got her fucking period again” to his nosebleed prone son, Paul; and Kay, the single mother who uprooted her daughter Gaia to Pagford in order to chase after her boyfriend who has obvious commitment issues.
Rowling is incredibly thoughtful and intricate about developing her characters. In each of them you find something deplorable, yet they each beg for your forgiveness. As you learn more and more about the residents of Pagford, you get a look into the incubator lifestyle that develops in a small town. Their obession over a blip in the town’s borders has ironically become a physical representation of their boiling hatred and judgment.
The only downside to the book is there are too many personalities to follow. A large part of the first half of the novel is dedicated to introducing characters and then as the story slowly unfolds Rowling scatters clues about how the characters are related to each other. It can be hard to follow especially since each chapter alternates between the perspectives of the different Pagford citizens.
Also, too many characters gives the novel a very slow start. The book does not pick up until just a little over half way through which makes the first half feel like a bit of a confusing drag. This is characteristic of Rowling going back to her Potter days: she is a steady, patient writer who likes to casually sprinkle plot secrets and then go for the big bang all at the end, leaving the initial impression a bit wanting.
The novel can seem a bit scattered, but it still keeps your interest. At the end you are not quite sure what you read, but you are strangely glad you did. It is a surprising adult novel debut and some parts can seem a bit uncomfortable only if you cling to Rowling as the Potter writer and not The Casual Vacancy writer.
In the end, Rowling delivers a compelling novel with hints of her Harry Potter style, but it might take a bit of a commitment to get through the beginning.
Games : FTL: Faster Than Light
Imagine you’re on a spaceship with just enough fuel to get to your next destination. All of a sudden, you encounter a hostile extraterrestrial group. You power up your missiles and lasers and do battle. Already your ship has received extensive damage from previous encounters with rebel groups and pirates. Still, you carry on and battle as hard as you can. You realize your aggressors have sent aliens to invade your ship and damage your weapons and shield systems. Then, as if things weren’t already bad, the room with your oxygen system catches fire because you’re too close to a sun-like star. Ah, the life of a space traveler. This is just one of the few scenarios that occurred to me during a playthrough of FTL: Faster Than Light.
Developed by a couple of dudes who call themselves Subset Games, FTL is one of the first notable Kickstarter successes. Just looking at the game probably wouldn’t provide enough information for you to actually understand what it’s about and how it plays. No, FTL is one of those rare games that requires you to play it to really understand what it’s all about. And after that first play session, it goes from being just a game to being a wonderfully addictive gem that will have you coming back for more and begging for mercy every time.
The crux of the gameplay relies on spaceship management. You take control of an exploratory ship, its crew, and its various offensive and defensive systems. FTL is special because it can be complex, but it’s still very inviting. You need to be constantly aware of the status of your ship and its crew, and at first this can be fairly daunting. After the first few play sessions, which are likely to take anywhere between 20 and 40 minutes, it all becomes second nature. That said, FTL is never a breezy little game. It constantly challenges you, but the more you play, the more you actually learn about how the game works.
You’re presented with an overworld map of sorts. At the far end of the map is an exit that you must use to leave your current sector and enter a new area. To get there, you need to select from open areas on the map, represented by beacons. Oftentimes you’ll have multiple open areas, but you don’t need to visit every one. In fact, because you spend one fuel point for every jump, it’s best to proceed as smoothly as possible. Along the way you encounter a myriad of situations. Many of these repeat, but they still feel fresh every time because you’re often tasked with making decisions that directly effect your ship.
Upon visiting the beacons on your map, you’ll come across aggressive pirates, enemy aliens, greedy mercenaries, or even shops. Each of these scenarios allows you to obtain resources to continue on your quest. Winning a battle or forcing your aggressors to surrender can result in new weapons, crewmates, and scrap, which is the currency in FTL. You can use scrap to upgrade your ship’s systems, reinforce or repair its hull, purchase drone parts, and buy fuel. Managing scrap is simple enough – you basically spend it on what you feel you may need for your journey. That said, sometimes it’s best to hold on to scrap so that you can save up for a major ship enhancement, fuel, or other resources.
Practically everything on your ship can be upgraded. You can enhance your shield, oxygen, and weapons systems among other things. After you spend some scrap upgrading a system, it’s important to also invest scrap into purchasing points that you can allocate into the various upgrades on your ships.
To add to that sense of immersion, you need to constantly make sure that your systems are in proper working order. More often than not, different systems within your ship will take a beating during shootouts. This results in the inability to use those systems. So if your health regeneration system takes damage, it may not work as fast or at all to heal your crew after they’ve taken damage from invading enemies or a lack of oxygen. It’s up to you to send your crew around the ship, fixing up any systems that may have been damaged. You can also install a drone to do that for you, but it’s always safer to be prepared in case you can’t afford such a luxury.
Repairing systems is an integral part of space travel, but it’s those moments when your ship is badly damaged during battles that you realize how essential maintenance really is. It’s one thing to win a battle and then have your crew make necessary repairs afterward. It’s a completely different story having to maintain your systems, all the while being under heavy fire from an enemy carrier. Suffice it to say that it’s during these particular moments that the tension amps way up, and FTL truly shines as a worthwhile interstellar adventure.
You have to travel through eight different sectors to reach the endgame. You can save and pick up right where you left off if need be. Because FTL is a roguelike, however, don’t expect an easy ride riddled with extra lives and continues. You’ve got one shot to get through the eight sectors – you either reach the end of the game, or you falter and start over.
At the start of the game, you only have access to one ship with some very basic systems. As you progress, however, you can unlock stronger ships with varying weapons, built-in drones, and systems. FTL reveals minor hints on how to unlock stronger ships, though it never gives anything away, adding to the mystique, and really making you want to explore deep space like you’ve only dreamed you ever would. As if the game wasn’t already addictive, having that added incentive of obtaining stronger ships really ups the replay factor.
FTL features a visual style that’s simple but not bland. The whole thing is easy on the eyes, and the various icons for your systems make it so that you never have a hard time figuring out what you want to upgrade or repair. Perhaps a bit more charm could’ve been added to the game’s graphical style, but that’s a personal gripe that’s really miniscule. The soundtrack in FTL really shines, though, and you’re treated to some catchy, melodic, and spacy themes.
What you get with Subset Games’ roguelike spaceship sim is an addictive mix of strategy and management gameplay. The game starts out a bit complex, but it only takes a few play sessions to really get a good grasp of its various mechanics, all of which are remarkably deep yet still intuitive. FTL is a brilliant example of simplicity being turned into a complex art. This is quite possibly the most addictive game I’ve played all year, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a game that both rewards and challenges you the more you play the way this title does. The addictive factor in this ambitious endeavour is practically hypnotic, and the moment you get into FTL – and I mean really get into it – you’ll find a hard time staying away from it. If you play FTL, you’re probably going to return to it time and time again, because it really is worth experiencing multiple times, regardless of whether you ever complete it or not.
Game Rating: 9.0
Beauty Tips : Make-up tips for Durga Puja
1. Clear your face and apply the right primer.
2. Hide all the ungrateful spots with a concealer.
3. Dust your face with loose powder using a thick brush.
4. Keep your hair open and give it a wet look.
5. Tie your hair in a messy braid to one side of your head. It looks gorgeous with traditional and western look.
6. Smoky eyes go well with the messy side-braid.
7. Bronzer and gloss will add finesse.
8. Tie up your hair in a bun and add some sparkle to your hair with flowers and jewellery.
9. Eyes should be highlighted with black kohl.
10. Go for soft colours for the lips.