Review: Fugue   Leave a comment

Emily Short has posted about a new short work, and I have decided to review it. It is short -– as in two minutes or less short -– so you may want to play first and then read this after.

“Are thoth thnailth?” the man asks, craning his neck past the bulk of his wife, looking at your escargot. (They are served in a dish, concave in six places, whose sole purpose is the conveyance of a half-dozen gastropods. This dish is the crowning achievement of civilization.) “Groth.”

It’s difficult to review the avant-garde, especially when it goes into the surreal.

(But in the breakdancing tortoises scene, the inclusion of salmon was all wrong for the symbolism, it should have been trout instead!)

Fugue doesn’t reach that far, although through my first playing I did have absolutely no comprehension whatsoever of the text. Things became clear on subsequent tries, so perhaps the work can be considered a success in the manner of Deadline Enchanter — where the reward is comprehension.

The work is part of the larger collection Up Right Down, and to be frank none of the pieces are strong on their own; it doesn’t help the common plot sounds like it was made by randomly scrambling refrigerator poetry magnets. Where the interest comes about is in the different artistic stabs at the same ideas.

In the case of Fugue, we get culinary fixations, and attempts at characterization in a few strokes. One of the obese couple has a lisp, one has a stammer; it’s almost like the symbolism in a arty French movie.

I did step away disappointed. I have difficulty expressing why.

Actions are so dictated the entirety of Fugue could be rendered as a 40-section CYOA book, and while I realize that was intentional, I felt like I was being led by a transcript just like in Deadline Enchanter. However, my emerging understanding of the text was enough to feel like I was not merely a passive observer, so this wasn’t the central source of disappointment.

I think it’s more the proceedings seemed so unnatural. I was never convinced by the verity of the universe, so no piece of it lent me an emotional effect. I had no reason to care about the pregnancy, or the varying advice of the friends. Perhaps it was the remove of world-modelling which caused this difference.

For future Up Right Down premises, I might suggest more generality. I believe the exactness of the plot resulted in weaker artistic statements than the individual authors were capable of.

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Posted February 23, 2008 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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