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Month: March 2016

Book Review: PAPER TIGERS by Damien Angelica Walters (2016)

by Christopher M. Novas
PAPER TIGERS by Damien Angelica Walters
Published by: Dark House Press
Release Date: February 29, 2016

This is the debut novel from author Damien Angelica Walters, and goddamn, what a debut.

Our protagonist is Alison, a woman who is terribly disfigured after an accidental fire takes everything from her: her beauty, her husband, her hope, her love, but most importantly, her normalcy. She is all consumed in her trauma, becoming a recluse, mostly abandoning the outside world in favor of her apartment where no one sees our Monstergirl. One of the only people she truly allows to come into her life is her mother, exerting Alison to do her upmost best to return to society, to try to be the normal daughter she’s always known, but Alison’s trauma is all too powerful as it is personified into three emotions: Red (anger), Purple (fear), and Yellow (sadness). They are the voices that coax her into her recluse, voices she cannot escape. She instead chooses to walk the empty streets of her town in the witching hours, covered in scarves, gloves, and long coats as to avoid any person that may cast their judgmental eyes on her. She is fascinated with collecting photo albums, living vicariously through the fictional lives she imagines for these people. This is her thread to normalcy, a hope found in old picture books, and beautiful, whole people.

One night, Alison stumbles upon an antique store which curiously opens at 3AM. She is entranced by the old photo album displayed on the windowsill, and although she is terrified to interact with anyone, she steps in and hurriedly buys the album. Safely at home she finds that the book only opens to the first page, with all the other pages stuck. The picture displayed is of a singular man, George. She imagines his personality, and his favorite drink. From this moment forward, weird events start to happen surrounding the photo album from smelling tobacco smoke, to hearing music coming from the album, evolving and morphing to the point where Alison is sucked into the photo album itself, into a house she doesn’t recognize. There, she is whole — the missing digits on her right hand are miraculously all there, her right eye and right breast are no longer missing, and her skin…her beautiful, beautiful skin is back glowing in its normalcy, not the ruined mess of burnt skin plastered together by skin grafts. When she manages to leave the photo album, the miracle is still there, albeit momentarily. The scars and missing parts return, her trauma comes back more powerful than ever, and her only solution is to return to the paper world again and again, gorging on the possibility of being whole permanently, feeding the paper tiger all along the way.

This novel is beautiful in its restrained, yet lyrical voice, not a single word is misplaced or misused. Walters makes Alison’s despair and pain vividly real, depressingly so. It eviscerates you from page one. Alison is the most haunted person in the entire novel, tied to her desperation to escape her identity as a Monstergirl. Walters does a masterful job of putting us in the forefront of what it means to be a survivor, with all of its crushing ugliness.

More than a horror novel, more than a haunted house novel, this is a novel of survival. A novel filled with real trauma. A novel of someone pushed to the brink of existence, broken and lost. This is a novel filled to the brim with the absence of the things we take for granted in our every day lives: our sanity, our immersion into the world, our lives filled with the love of others, but mostly our self-love.

When you have lost everything, what lengths would you go to have it all back? Would you open the tigers cage?

Buy PAPER TIGERS from: AmazonBarnes & Noble, Books A Million, Books Depository, Curbside Splendor, or find an independent bookstore near you with Indie Bound.
You can find out more about Dark House Press: Here
To find out more about Damien Angelica Walters, visit her website.
Follow her on Twitter.

*I received an ARC of this book in return for a review.
**Editors note: as is our policy, we will be posting this review on Amazon & Goodreads in the following week, as those platforms help authors reach wider audiences.

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Editorial: The Satisfyingly Addictive Nature of Dota 2


Dota 2 is one of the three premier MOBA games on the market right now, with League of Legends, and Heroes of the Storm, respectively. It is currently the highest paid game in eSports history with last year’s tournament, The International 5, having a prize pool capping at a whopping $18 million dollars. Its daily active player base hovers around 600,000 to 1.3 million at its peak. What makes players continue to come back?

For one, the variety of heroes is enormous — 111 different heroes, each with unique abilities and different play styles. Each hero has a different role, those roles being carry, support, and jungler or any combination of those three. A carry hero needs a lot of farm (gold), but is very strong, hard to kill, and carries the team to victory; a support hero sets heroes up with easy farm, requires good decision making and buys items that highly support the team as a whole such as animal/flying courier, and sentry/observer wards; junglers are heroes that can focus on stacking gold in the jungle, but can also act as a support as needed.This makes for an incredibly diverse lineup and depending on how you set up your team, and some have the capacity to have dual roles throughout the course of a match. For example, I’ve seen matches where players use Omniknight who is a support hero that focuses on healing his allies, warding (giving vision throughout the fog of war). At the mid-match point, with the right items, the player can change her or his role to that of an carry, steamrolling the enemy with overwhelming strength using Omni’s slowing skills, and shielding skills effectively in team fights. The flexibility and inventiveness of a competent player can bring a team from the brink of utter defeat to an incredibly satisfying win.

Omniknight

In addition to the vast amount of heroes, there are easily over a hundred items to pick and build depending on what hero you play, and how you’d like to counter the enemy team. What best counters a magic damage based hero, do you want to go for a damage build or a defensive build, do you build an item that increases your critical percentage? All of these elements factor in creating an incredibly layered gameplay, and builds upon the flexibility of the heroes. It gives way for experimentation, seeing what best works for your play style and what helps lead your team to victory.

The skill involved in playing Dota 2 effectively at a competent level (and at high, professional levels) is what makes the game truly shine. The learning curve of the game is incredibly steep; mouse control, when and where to use your skills, laning properly, stopping the creep wave at the right juncture, even the minutia of when to run away from an enemy vastly helps your chances at playing well. Some would argue that the game’s steep learning curve drives accessibility out the window, but that is simply not the case. More and more players have come to enjoy the challenge of a difficult game, if Dark Souls and Bloodbourne are any indication of that.

Communication is a key part of playing well. This is simply not a game where you alone are the light to victory. Whether you have a headset, or simply want to type out to your friends or allies, it would do you well to not stay silent. Coordinating attacks, suggesting items to build, or simply complimenting a person’s play, all of this is necessary to win matches, and have a good time overall. Bringing all of these elements together make for an incredibly satisfying experience that many games claim to make, but never live up to the hype.

If you’re looking to get into Dota 2 and don’t know where to start, I highly suggest you to check out Purge’s vast informational guide website: Welcome to Dota, You Suck, and check out his YouTube channel. Personally, I’ve learned a lot watching his videos, and reading his guide. Pyrion Flax is another player that is just hilarious to watch on Twitch, and his YouTube guides to heroes are one of the funniest things I’ve watched. Watch pro-level matches, and really get a feel for what high level gameplay is.

Dota 2 is such a rewarding gaming experience; you would do yourself a favor to download the game (it’s free) play with bots, invite some friends, play a few matches in and join in on the fun. It’s worth it, I promise.

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