nostalgia and big stories

There’s lots of talk about Dragon Age: Inquisition this week, and while I don’t anticipate playing that particular title, it did get me thinking about video games, and every time I think about video games, I think about the Final Fantasy series. It usually happens that I want to immerse myself in an RPG when the weather gets cold, and right now, I’m thinking of Final Fantasy XII. It’s not a perfect game, mostly because SquareEnix made the choice to tell the story through another whiny teenage narrator (paging Tidus from FFX) instead of one of the real hearts of the story, but the trappings of it are still so full of imaginative potential that I’ll forgive it most things.

It was, too, one of the games that I think wrung every drop of the PS2’s graphics ability from the system, and it had a marvelously expansive world. Many people don’t want to sink a hundred hours into a video game, but I definitely do, when I play. The difference may be that I don’t play often (and I don’t play often because I want that expansive, all-encompassing experience, which is completely incompatible with the semester-as-usual + writing a novel). But a well-envisioned world—complete with a thousand side-quests and a well-defined map—is something I will always love. (And, Square, if you’re listening, I’d still go see the movie version, from the Fall of Landis all the way through the game’s end, at least a dozen times, so you know. And Chris Hemsworth will soon be the right age to play Basch. Just saying.)

Maybe that’s why I finally picked up Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries, which I got for Christmas last year. I’m not terribly far into it, but I’m already feeling the insulating fiction of it all wrapping around me. Quite a bit of that, I’m certain, is due to the really excellent deployment of an omniscient narrator that has effectively sold me on the 1866 setting. The omniscient narrator, too, has revealed itself as a we, the full identity of such we remaining to be seen. The world of the novel is unfolding slowly and deliciously, and even where some of the character dialogue is predicated on them drawing stories out of each other, it feels appropriate.

I feel awed so few pages in, and I hope the feeling continues.

I’m not sure it was a great idea to start a book of more than eight hundred pages when I’ve got a Thanksgiving break coming up with a very tall stack of grading in it coming up, but I’ve made worse decisions.

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