New: Book Report: The Nautical Chart

You may recall that a few weeks ago, my simple plan to play the excellent game PsychoNauts hit a snag when I failed to rent an XBox machine. This weekend, I tried again. I'd asked around about XBox rentals. No-one knew of a place that rented any. So yesterday, I decided to buy an XBox. I shoveled big fistfuls of cash into my pockets and walked over to the local Toys 'R Us.

It was closed. I mean, it wasn't just closed for the day. This store was closed forever. It's like there was some malign cosmic force which had determined that I was not going to play the excellent game PsychoNauts, and that force was snuffing out businesses to thwart me.

I was feeling pretty shaken. My "Plan B" for XBox acquistion had failed. The whole point of "Plan B" is that it's not supposed to fail. "Plan B" is the plan where you buckle down and do things the safe way. I went over to the local Peet's to have some coffee and steady my nerves. Then I walked home.

I looked at the CompUSA web site. They said that they sold XBox machines, and that the downtown San Francisco store had them in stock. I called up the store and navigated some voice menus to hear... that they sold XBox machines and the downtown San Francisco store had them in stock. I wanted to talk to a human, to gain some reassurance that the malign force would not thwart me again. But I got over it.

CompUSA was still there. They did indeed have XBoxes. I bought one, hooked it up. My television did not catch fire.

Soon I was playing the excellent game PsychoNauts. It really is excellent. At least up until the point where there's a Psi Blast training level. I haven't got past that. I don't think I can get past that level on my merits. My merits as a video game player are pretty sparse. I tried looking up a cheat code, and couldn't even figure out how to enter that.

Meanwhile, I've had a fun time kicking virtual rocks, punching virtual hay bales, and looking at pretty glowy figments. But I think I'm stuck until I can get in touch with someone who can tell me the right way to enter a cheat code for this game.

But there are plenty of video game review sites out there. You didn't come here for video game reviews, did you? You came for the book report. OK, let's step away from this game which is excellent, but hard for me to access. Let's look at a book that's accessible, but not so good. Let's look at The Nautical Chart.

Take a simple piece of noir crap.

Dress it up with themes. The main character is a sailor, skilled at navigating. He thinks about objects to use as landmarks, to take bearings from. At the start of this novel, he gets rid of his sextant. He starts taking orders from a femme fatale. Towards the end, he gets some new navigation equipment, and takes control of his life back.

So navigation is a theme. And there are other themes. And so the reader can feel all proud of himself as he checks them off. I spotted that, he thinks to himself.

So reading this book was kind of satisfying in that I could go back and write an essay about it for a college-level course. But that doesn't change the fact that this book stunk on ice, and had the plot of a basic piece of noir crap. Not to say that all noir is crap. I'm just classifying the exact kind of crap that this book is a piece of. You understand.

It was translated from the Spanish. Maybe in the original Spanish, the language is more amusing? There were some passages that seemed like they were trying to be funny.

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Posted 2006-04-23