Book Review: Secrets of the Old Ones

Secrets of the Old Ones by Blaise Corvin.

…I’d have to rate this one a 3. If it hadn’t involved a setting related to the Cthulhu Mythos, I think I would have dropped it after the first 20 pages. I read it through hoping for some interesting twists on the Mythos, but… not really.

The book does have interesting gameworld features, including one spectacular use of maps near the beginning to gain elemental magic. That was one of the best-written parts of the book; the main character honestly seemed worried that what he was risking might not be worth it, and his relief when the gamble pays off seems plain.

Unfortunately, that is one of the best-written parts of the book when it comes to characterization.

The characters just don’t seem to have any depth to them. Vale is “badass explorer gamer”, who apparently will spend weeks on figuring out a quest, barely a few minutes poking possibilities for the nifty elemental magic he has, and not one minute wondering about the motives of people around him. Everyone else is worse. It – well, it reads a lot like someone transcribing chat logs of a game. And yet this is supposed to be Full Dive, full-immersion environments, which at times are lovingly described. If the author put that much work into character motivations, instead of just “those two are having sex off-screen”, it’d be a very rich story.

What’s worse is the treatment of the real-world the story’s supposedly set in. It’s as if the writer didn’t think about the real world besides “someplace for the characters to keep their stuff and sometimes get shot at.” Which I find particularly egregious since one of the game features is that if you know how to do it in real life, it’s easier in the game. If so, you’d expect to see some of the characters practicing their real-life skills do they can play the game better. There’s more than one point where the main character (Trent IRL, Vale in-game) notes that none of his party have any practice sneaking around. So… why didn’t they spend some off-line time getting some?

So – eh. It’s not the worst thing I’ve read – mostly because there’s no gratuitous sex or betrayals in it. Just… the cover art is a lot more promise than the book delivers.

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23 thoughts on “Book Review: Secrets of the Old Ones

    1. Don’t know if you’ve read any of Lovecraft’s works but they aren’t, actually, that terrifying. Particularly those in which he applies the sciences of his day, which is largely hopelessly outdated now. Often to hilarious effect. (One man of science was attempting Frankenstein-ish type resurrection of the dead. He makes the incredible breakthrough of maybe not using bodies that are weeks old.) Maybe it could be used as desensitization by immersion?

      Scariest thing I came across was how often I had to hunt down a dictionary to figure out what X word meant. I consider myself to have a good sized vocabulary, but Lovecraft seems to delight in hunting down the most obscure words possible to use in his stories. OTOH I usually don’t scare easily, so, best judgement I guess.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I have– they feed my existing issues with dark rooms, inability to see behind myself, creepy what-ifs, etc.

        The hilariousness effect doesn’t come through when I read it.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Market research: Would a story about motherless orphans piloting giant meat robots that eat Great Old Ones work for you if it were military sci fi or used Shonen Jump’s storytelling techniques?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Probably not, I’m a pretty strange demo. I THINK about the philosophy involved, and meat robots seems very unlikely to be ethically sound. (Look, when ya look at Star Wars and have to restrain yourself from lecturing your kids about how the robots are treated immorally, you’ve got an issue!)

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      2. The meat is synthetic (I’m pretty sure natural sources didn’t have the needed properties), and most of the robots will either predate humanity or have been created by one of the more ethical human powers.

        But the setting has some very bad humans (and other people), historically had some very desperate people, and there are a fair number of influential adults who should not have access to children. So just because the robots may have been ethically created (and I’m not sure they all have), does not mean that they are always used to moral ends.

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  1. I rather like a lot of Lovecraft’s stuff(the peril of reading him, Alfred Hitchcock’s collections, and wierder stuff at 13), but oddly enough, this reminds me a bit of the Lovecraft ReRead over at Tor Books. I don’t always agree with the people commenting, but it lets me see a quite different take on the stories.

    That and hey, it pulls up a lot of the obscure ones that it seems no one remembers too, and his influences/influenced.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Myself, I’ve always preferred Lovecraft’s concepts and worldbuilding to his writing. But then, I’ve never really been a fan of *horror,* as it’s usually defined. Still, the idea of Eldritch Beings who aren’t benevolent *or* malevolent, but just “giants in the playground” (to abuse a B5 quote), and possibly insanity-inducing just by being seen… on the one hand, I like it. OTOH, I want to whip out my Peril-Sensitive Sunglasses and pull off a Humanity-F*ck Yeah! moment. I guess I just want to have my cake and eat it, too. 🙂
    OTOH, sometimes *we’re* the Great Old Ones — “Newton’s Wake” takes place in a post-Singularity world where, it’s implied, *we* are actually seen as the Incomprehensible Elder Things by the ascendant AIs that have taken over Earth and are mostly chasing off the last human squatters to the interstellar colonies. It’s an interesting idea, though sadly not the main thrust of the novel. And the ongoing web serial “Heretical Edge” has an interesting spin on the concept — I’d go into details, but (River Song voice) *Spoilerrrrs.* (/voice).
    On SpaceBattles, there was a (sadly, long-moribund now) story someone was writing where it turns out that Earth was (eons ago) a *munitions dump* for Shoggoths and other ancient weapons that were too dangerous to even destroy, and humanity (descended from those weapons) is the most dangerous thing in the universe, because we’re so squishy, and yet, if squished the wrong way, might wake up the Old Ones. And humanity *won’t stop poking* at Alternative Physics, which makes them an *utter nightmare* for the remaining elder races that know how dangerous it is…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sic Semper Morituri.

      The vast majority of the events take place in a universe created in an incident that caused a temporary cease fire in a war between universes which was the combatants’ cognate of WWI.

      The humans have just finished the literal WWII, Japan surrendered after America nuked a Great Old One and it didn’t work. Humans have dug up pre-human terror weapons, and are just barely able to get them working cargo cult style. The coming conflict is expected to be for all the marbles.

      (There’s one or two stories about what happened to the character of foreshadowed doom after he was killed. I understand that one of them has something like this: ‘There is only one god, me and my friends killed the others.’)

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    2. It’s not exactly what you’re talking about, but you should check out Roommates – https://asherhyder.deviantart.com/gallery/ – a fancomic on deviantart. It’s basically what happens when you take all the characters and throw them in the same apt building. Actually it’s exactly that. But the most recent arcs use the anthropomorphic manifestation of the concept of ‘story’ as a villain. Definitely not a terrifying but just there kinda thing, but the whole thing is really well done (author simultaneously plays with and conforms to tropes simply by having the characters be aware of them) and the way that Story is drawn is creepy enough to give the readers the spine tingles sometimes.

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  3. Ok so i am not much one for horror(no seriously, the brandon fraiser version of the mummy is as horror as i go) but i found a pretty good gamer style book. Ascend online. Its got good plot, challenges, characters that think. Overall i would recommend it. I only found one point of annoyance, if you are falling off a cliff into water that freaking hurts. Which the book says it doesnt. Now maybe thats game mechanics or something but until the second book comes out….overall i will read it again.

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