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Book - "Never Coming Back" by Tim Weaver

TITLE:          Never Coming Back 
AUTHOR:      Tim Weaver
GENRE:        Murder/Thriller
ISBN:           0525426868
PUBLISHER:  Viking Adult


This is the best book I’ve read all summer. Weaver is a great writer and can reveal twists and build suspense in a way that is fresh, but recognizable. Reviewing the book based on female representations, though, points to where he needs a little work.


Now I was on the brink of returning to my old life, to the world of the lost. Somehow I expected to feel conflicted about it; instead all I felt was a subtle, magnetic pull.


David Raker is a missing persons investigator who has been on sabbatical in his family home in Devon, England after nearly dying on his last case. He’s still not sure he’s ready to get back into the game when an old girlfriend asks him to find her sister’s family — husband, wife, and two daughters — who simply vanished from their home.


Having an equal number of male and female characters in a story is not what defines equality for the sexes. Such a simplistic measure would kill the creative process of storytelling (e.g. “Stand By Me” and “Little Women”). Representation is defined by the creator’s world and the audience’s reaction to the world* which is much more complicated than counting characters.

In a story that spans several decades and two continents, and weaves an intricate and page-turning mystery like Never Coming Back, there have to be characters that simply and effectively move that story along. The majority of the main characters in Never Coming Back are men. It is a story of men set on protecting their crimes so they can have an elitist life style. There are almost two dozen men and women in the story whose purpose is to move the plot along for the main characters.

Of the two women I consider main characters, Weaver held back or missed defining their agency, which could have resulted in an even more intense ending to the story.

Carrie Ling is the missing mother, wife, and student in the story. To figure out why the family has gone missing, Raker learns about Carrie in flashbacks and recollections by other characters. For a writer, this is a difficult way to develop a character, but what we do learn gives you a great deal of respect for her and a desire to know more. Weaver has to handle Carrie delicately but I think giving her more would have significantly punched up some of the reveals.

Emily Kane is Raker’s hometown girlfriend from his teens. Her main role is to tell Raker the details behind the disappearance of her sister’s family and give him a new purpose. She’s timid, shy, and needy. Without Raker she has no other meaning. Every time we meet Emily, she is sitting around waiting for Raker. Again, I think a little more work on Emily would have only made the reveals even better.  

I look forward to reading more Weaver novels in the future and shiver at the possibilities if he ever gives those female characters more of his attention.


Carrie and Emily could represent the two sides of Raker himself, which is interesting considering they are both women. (Talk amongst yourselves.)


* For now, let’s assume the audience is not a bunch of easily offended trolls just like we assume a creator is not a misogynist.


Episode 126 - A Tribute to Robin Williams

Williams gaming with his daughter, Zelda.

This week, we remember comedian and actor, Robin Williams. Mark and Ryan join us on the show and we center our discussion on a favorite scene from movies and his stand-up routines. As a warning, one clip has quite a few not so nice words. :)

Rhonda: from 22:30-23:44

Mark: NSFW

Ryan: 0:49-1:13


What are some of your favorite Robin Williams movies, shows, or stand-up routines? Did you know he was an avid gamer and played World of Warcraft? Share your thoughts in the comments. 

If you are experiencing hopeless or suicidal thoughts, please seek help. Call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK. Please remember, your life is valuable and worthwhile!

Until next time, game on!
Regina & Rhonda & Mark & Ryan 

Episode 126


Famicom Females: Princess Peach

peachPeach/Princess Toadstool (Super Mario Bros.)
Release Date: October 18, 1985
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Format: Cartridge
Role: NPC (Damsel)
Any Subsequent Appearances: Yes


Princess Toadstool, or Peach as she is known nowadays, is possibly Nintendo's most prominent female character in their line-up. She has been in the most games out of any Nintendo woman by far, and I'd have to imagine she's the one that leaps to mind for most people when they think of a female Nintendo character. In her very first appearance in the seminal Super Mario Bros., she is relegated to the very last moments of the game as the damsel in distress trapped by the villainous Koopa King Bowser.


Character Design and Personality

Princess Toadstool is curiously shorter than Mario in this game (that would change in the US Super Mario Bros. 2), and her sprite does not match the concept art for her at all; she has red hair, a white and red dress, and tanned skin. This color scheme is unique to this one appearance, as she adopted the pink dress and blond hair (and a fairer complexion) in Super Mario Bros. 2 (USA) and would stick with that for the rest of her appearances. Even the Japanese boxart includes her more conventional look:


To be honest, Pauline had more personality in terms of debuts. Peach has no animation, and after this brief message, she vanishes from view. Not the most becoming of introductions for such an iconic character, I'd say.

Impact on Narrative

Here, Peach is the definition of the “damsel in distress” trope. The point for playing the game is rescuing her. So... she is the narrative force, which is not a great motive in theory.

Positive Aspects

She has become one of Nintendo's female stalwarts. She became playable in several Mario titles (mostly in outliers like the Mario Kart series, Mario Party, and the RPGs, although Super Mario 3D World is an excellent return to her being playable in the main Mario platforming line), and was the second woman added to Super Smash Bros. (behind Metroid's Samus Aran). She has, when given the opportunity (typically in the Paper Mario series), a fairly strong-willed personality that shows that she can be quite capable despite her imprisonment. She is often featured in Super Mario merchandise, making her the most marketed woman in Nintendo's stables.

Negative Aspects 

Peach (along with Pauline and Princess Zelda) helped establish the long-running, and frankly repugnant, industry standard for women as gaming characters. Peach continues to be featured as a damsel in most of the key Mario platformers, limiting the positive agency mentioned above. Outside of the Paper Mario series, Peach is very much a stereotypical princess in the Disney mold, with a high-pitched voice and a vapid demeanor towards the action going on around her. She embodies feminine tropes (liking pink, using hearts in her attacks in certain games, utilizing her emotions to solve puzzles in Super Princess Peach, etc.).

My Reactions

Peach has never been a favorite character of mine. She's so entrenched into the damsel/princess ideal that her characterization rubs me the wrong way most of the time. Super Mario Sunshine is probably the biggest offender in marking Peach as an insipid character to me. However, I do support her Paper Mario appearances, as Intelligent Systems added some awesome depth into her personality, and gave Peach some much needed agency. On the whole, though, I'm not her biggest fan. Her flaws stick out more to me than her strengths.

Future Appearances 

Listing Peach's future appearances would be a mammoth task, so I'll touch on the three that I think made the biggest improvements to her. Super Mario Bros. 2 (USA), where Peach became playable for the first time, is #1. Her abilities were among the best in the game, particularly her floating jump, and made her a viable (and at times vital) choice for progression. The second is Super Mario RPG, which gives Peach a chance to serve as a character in Mario's three character party. She fills the role of healer, an unfortunate trope of women in RPGs, but at the very least she served a key component of many of the possible teams in the game. It gave her some characterization outside of being a damsel as well, which Intelligent Systems would expand upon in their RPGs to come. Lastly, I would argue that her addition to Super Smash Bros. Melee was her grandest hour. Being able to fight on even ground with many of Nintendo's other iconic heroes and villains was a huge increase to her agency, and she has been considered one of the better fighters in the series.


Personal experience


episode 125 - Swordsman Review

This week we review the new free to play MMORPG from Perfect World Entertainment, Swordsman. 

This epic MMO is inspired by the novels of Louis Cha and is set in the Ming Dynasty. We talk about avatar development, graphics, gameplay, Group play, story and the game interface.  

We received copies of the Heroes Pack from Perfect World which included a mount that looks like a fiery dragon and lots of other little goodies. 

We wrap up the show with another set of summer game recommendations. Have you played Swordsman? We would love to chat with you if you've played the game at the higher levels. 


To play Swordsman, download Arc here.


Rhonda's QA review of Swordsman

Doxie One

"Life After Beth"

"Legends" on TNT

DragonCon Schedule

Otaku Recon in Guam



Get Bit


Mario Kart 8
Defenders of the Realm


Words with Friends
Glass Bricks, iTunes, Android, Kindle 

Until next time, game on! 
Regina & Rhonda

Episode 125


namsdrows - qa review

There are two things to be aware of while reviewing Swordsman by Perfect World: they put an emphasis on authenticity and they originally developed the game for the Chinese market. Gamers will love the authenticity but the fact that Swordsman was developed for the Chinese market first is behind a lot of the marks I have against the current beta.

Click to read more ...