Cloud Atlas 05 - Half-Lives: The First Luisa Rey Mystery

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I found this story quite different from the others. There were quite a few things: a female protagonist, a different narrative voice, multiple narrators, or perhaps a narrator who could read minds ... I enjoyed the suspense of following the efforts to reveal the cover-up, and found the character's motivations were more believable than the first two stories. In general I found the character's motivations easier to understand as the book went forward. Anyone else find this?

In terms of gaming, due to the narrative voice I found it easier to imagine how PCs would make these decisions. Sloosha's Crossin' An' EV'Rythin' After was similar. The other stories were more intimate, and so seemed to me less playable for a group.

Comments

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    I liked this one on both readings. A classic thriller, could easily have been its own movie. Bill Smoke - great name!
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    edited September 12

    This is where I decided that a big part of the book was Mitchell just showing off that he could write well in a range of styles. Whether that was because he wanted to show off, or because he just enjoyed the challenge, I don't know. But I think that exercise in using the range of styles is a big part of the motivation for the book.

    As for the story itself: it was a decent pulpy thriller, full of ridiculously narrow escapes and coincidences. As such, yes, it's closer to a typical RPG session than the other stories. But it does run into the same problem of adapting many of these stories to RPGs: the story is a person alone, while RPGs typically have teams of protagonists. Who would the other PCs be, apart from Rey?

    Oh, and in terms of oppression. What are we to make of the clothing sweatshop in the story's conclusion? Or is the "oppression" the more general capitalist one of profits over people (even for a decent wage) or profits over environment?

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    @NeilNjae said:
    This is where I decided that a big part of the book was Mitchell just showing off that he could write well in a range of styles. Whether that was because he wanted to show off, or because he just enjoyed the challenge, I don't know. But I think that exercise in using the range of styles is a big part of the motivation for the book.

    I had much the same sentiment. I understand from the internet that he has written a least a couple of interlocking narrative books, so I assume he likes it. Speaking cinematically, it reminds me of some of Christopher Nolan's story tellings, which when it works is fascinating, but I'm not sure how it holds up. Or maybe M. Night Shyamalan.

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    @Apocryphal said:
    I liked this one on both readings. A classic thriller, could easily have been its own movie. Bill Smoke - great name!

    Or its own book. I think each of the stories would have made a good novel, and I think that I would have appreciated the expansion. But did the combining of the stories add something better than different books? And if so, what couldn't have been included in a more typical novel format?

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    The combination of stories, especially when combined with the ring structure, forces you to consider interconnections, both those which the author draws overt attention to (like the birthmarks on particular characters) and those which are left in the background (like shared themes or locations). It's difficult now to think how each story would stand up on its own, but I'm inclined to agree that some would, including this one.

    As it stands, it would need a lot of padding out to convert into a novel, and maybe would be better left as a short story. But again, some things in it would be (I think) needless detail or distraction in a short story, where the convention is that you put exactly and only what you need, rather than padding with stuff that is interesting or curious rather than essential.

    @NeilNjae wrote

    the story is a person alone, while RPGs typically have teams of protagonists. Who would the other PCs be, apart from Rey?

    A good point. Other people interact with her, for sure, to help or thwart her actions, but they don't seem to have enough depth of character or choice of motivation to be a PC. To me, that's a sign that this is at most a short story rather than novel - nobody else is given enough narrative space to develop.

    Another point of difference is that this story is the first and only one which shares characters with another, viz Sixsmith. Luisa also interacts with the previous (next outer) ring through personally meeting someone from that tale, as well as the music which she tracks down and the letters. I'm not sure that she realises, until right at the end of this portion, that the connection is so very close.

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    > @NeilNjae said:
    > the story is a person alone, while RPGs typically have teams of protagonists. Who would the other PCs be, apart from Rey?

    This comes up a lot as is a fair point. How important is it to the question of whether a story can inspire a game? Of them many things a story can inspire (setting, theme, characters, situations, plot) it seems like recreating the plot/situations is the least likely outcome, but the one we spend the most time thinking about.
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    I guess for me simply having several different narrative voices is enough to create a possible tabletop RPG. We don't all talk at the same time when playing either. However the journal and letter format is for a group of two. The interrogation and storytelling format (Sloosha's Crossing') could go either way I guess. But these narrators lacked the confidence to create and play other characters, because they were interested in a particular kind of truth.

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    What you could do with this is rotate GMs, so let’s say you have a group of 4 people, each runs a different scenario for 3 players. And each player carries their basic character from one to another. The name changes, and the occupation. But the general characteristics stay the same. You could even have the players sometimes reference the other sessions.
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    @Apocryphal said:
    What you could do with this is rotate GMs, so let’s say you have a group of 4 people, each runs a different scenario for 3 players. And each player carries their basic character from one to another. The name changes, and the occupation. But the general characteristics stay the same. You could even have the players sometimes reference the other sessions.

    The alternative to ditch the idea of "party" and have multiple protagonists connected to the same situation, each telling their own story. You do scenes with each in turn. The outcomes of each scene affect the central situation, and that in turn affects what happens to the other PCs. I've done a bunch of games like this; when it works, it works well.

    For the Rey story, the protagonists could be Rey, Napier, Fay Li, Smoke, and Sixsmith. I think all of those could have interesting stories to tell from their viewpoints.

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