29 March 2014

Final Fantasy XIII : Lightning Returns (lots of spoilers for FFXIII series)

To those unfamiliar, Final Fantasy is a series of games linked generally by concepts, monster types and combat systems, but with each iteration featuring different characters and often very different worlds.  They tend to be very long games (100+ hours of gameplay) and involve a lot of running around vast maps, working through various beautifully animated cut scenes between randomly encountering monsters and levelling up enough to face the final, epic, multi-stage battle with a god or near-god.

The stories (primarily focused on spiky haired brash young guys carrying oversized swords) are usually both convoluted and quite emotional.  Happily for me, the rapidly-increasing collection of characters you can include in your combat party generally includes at least one female character who interests me.

The most recent games have tended to include sequels continuing the stories of some of the characters or of the world, and so it is with Lightning Returns, the third in the even more convoluted than usual story of Final Fantasy XIII.  It's one of the rarer games that focuses on a female main character - and indeed the core of this trilogy is two sisters - Lightning (stoic and guardly) and Serah (syrup sweet).  Although they start out slightly at odds because Lightning is not much impressed by Serah's new fiance Snow, there is never any real drama between the two in the whole trilogy - instead they act as each other's plot motivation.  Lightning is trying to rescue Serah, or Serah is trying to find Lightning.

Blah blah Backstory

In Part 1, Serah is almost immediately turned into crystal and Lightning and Snow reluctantly work together to save her (and, not incidentally, Cocoon, the floating habitat they live on).  They end up succeeding in one of these things, but not the other.  Additional party members are Hope (bratty, resentful and newly orphaned), Sazh (single dad to Dajh), and Vanille (more syrup) and Fang (awesome) who are never outright stated to be but are widely presumed to be lovers.  The story ends with Serah recovered, Fang and Vanille now crystal, and the floating habitat crashed, but loss of life minimised.

Part 1 had issues with the "on rails" gameplay (most FF games give you a lot more freedom of choice), and I'd say the plot was okay without having as much impact as the average FF game.

Part 2 makes Serah our main character.  After the fall of Cocoon, Lightning vanished from everyone's memory but Serah's (who has developed an ability to see/travel through time), and she teams up with Snow, Hope and a newcomer called Noel to go time travelling in search of the sister only she remembers.

I found the gameplay of this story (which encourages you to replay segments of the game you've already played to see what your time-travelling interference has caused to change) so off-putting I gave up on the game about a third of the way through.  From what I gather, the ultimate plot revolves around a constantly reincarnated seeress named Yeul, who has powers similar to Serah's, but dies from time shock every time the timeline changes (Noel is in love with one of her incarnations).  This has driven her immortal guardian Caius mad, and he is going to unleash the Chaos to stop time to stop Yeul from suffering.  Lightning has been off fighting him.  The story ends with Lightning in crystal, Fang and Vanille rescued from crystal, Caius defeated (but his death causing the release of the Chaos).  And then Serah drops dead (from the same time shock cause that was killing Yeul).

I'm kind of glad I gave up on that story early on.

Lightning Returns story

Anyways, that was a long introduction to the game I just played, Lightning Returns.  The release of Chaos has stopped people (including children) from aging, and five hundred years later one of the remaining gods, Bhunivelze (I shall call him Bunny), has decided that the best way to fix this is to completely destroy the world and start over.  Lightning has been sent as the Saviour, tasked by Bunny to rescue souls and preserve them for the new world.

People are oddly calm about this whole world ending shtick, but I guess if you'd lived for five hundred years, the ennui factor would be high.  Bunny has promised to bring Serah back to life (presumably in the new world) as a reward, and so Lightning runs about either killing things/people who attack her, or trying to bring them to some kind of emotional fulfilment so that their souls are fit to be salvaged.  [Bunny only wants balanced souls, y'see.]

Unlike most FF games, Lightning does not gain a whole bunch of party members to help her in fights.  Instead she keeps encountering allies from the first two games, most of whom try to kill her for various reasons.  Most of the time she's running about solo until eventually she figures out the bits that Bunny hasn't told her, and saves the souls that Bunny wasn't going to be bothered to save.  All the major characters from the first and second parts are reunited, and reborn, white light, the end.

It's an okay story, again not nearly as compelling as other FF outings.  While I like stoic characters such as Lightning, she really didn't have a strong emotional arc to go with the story. The most she changes is from not liking Snow at all, to deciding that maybe he and Serah will work out after all.  Indeed, Lightning's stoicism is presented in-game as being a problem, and in theory she's reunited with her 'inner child' at the end of the trilogy (but I think behaves much the same).


The gameplay of Lightning Returns doesn't have the irritating "do over" structure of Part 2, and is considerably less "on rails" than Part 1 and I would call it the most enjoyable to play except for the stupid and bizarre decision to add a time limit to the game.  Instead of freely running around doing side quests and exploring, you have a pointless count down ticking away, making you constantly feel rushed, and having to choose whether or not it's worthwhile doing certain things.  One of the stupidest design decisions I've seen for ages, and I really wish they hadn't included it.

The Dress Up Doll

But that's not the main thing that bugged me about this game and brought it down as a whole!  As I mentioned, Lightning doesn't have an ongoing party of friends to fight with her in this game, so to make up for it the designers included lots of different outfits and accessories to keep the players entertained.  Amusingly, one web site I was reading talked about how they decided on the outfits and what they thought Lightning would wear - there was evidently some consideration of the outfits matching her stoic, guardly and rather humourless personality.

Outfits like this...

The left is a Miqo'te costume from FFXIV.  It came with an end-combat bent over, ass in the air pose.  Super in character for the stoic, humourless guardswoman heroine.  The right is...well.  Something. 

Still, at least there were options that weren't all bare flesh and cleavage.  I quite liked the middle outfit (the costume is called 'Velvet Bouncer') and had Lightning running around in a black and white version of it much of the time.

You could also get a whole host of extremely silly accessories to wear, from sunglasses to an umbrella sprouting from the top of her head.  That really livened up a few cut scenes.

So, Lightning Returns is (as usual) one of those games where you have a lot of good stuff (stoic female lead kicking everyone's ass!) and pretty cut scenes, and pretty engrossing combat.

And...Oscar worthy costume design?

26 March 2014

A Week of Me Wrap-up

I've had a great time this week reading all the posts and comments over at Rachel Neumeier's blog. For those catching up all at once, here's the me-centric reading all in one shot:

- Estara on Re-reading Touchstone.
- Chachic on the Romance in my books.
- Rachel on Champion and Bones.
- Flannery on the sheer concentration of awesome in Touchstone.
- Rachel on the heroic tradition in my books.
- The Book Smugglers break down the reasons they loved Touchstone.
- Sherwood Smith on discovering and enjoying my books.
- And finally a post by me, on the joys of being read.

Let me take the opportunity to thank all the posters and commenters, and especially Rachel for making this a special week for me.   I hope everyone is handed such an enormous compliment at least once in their lifetime - it's definitely great for the warm and fuzzies!

21 March 2014

Things I Bounce Off Of: Hyper-aggressive Posturing

I rarely read urban fantasy, even though I keep thinking I should.  Most urban fantasies use detective tropes, which I love, and many of them feature interesting female leads (or at least women not stuck only in the roles of tavern wench, princess and prostitute).  So what keeps me away?

I just bounced off another today.  I'd picked it up because I was impressed by what I'd seen of the author online, and because bunches of people who like some of my favourite books seemed to really like it.  I'd waded through chapter one a while ago, before returning to some 1970's espionage books, then gave it another shot and bounced again halfway through chapter two.

And I should like this book.  Original and complex worldbuilding and a juicy main female character and a big sprawling city setting and...all the speaking parts so far except the main character have been male.  And all of them have been aggressive males who might kill you at any minute if you look at them wrong.  And one of the team we're going to spend the most time with has lots of history with the main character that is surely full of trust broken and hatred born of wounds, and she wants to kill him, and he mocks her a lot.  While another of the team is so immensely powerful that there's a lot of time given to "I could hardly be bothered to kill you but don't push me".

And, yeah, I know my books are overfull of stoics, and this is also a character type that exists.  But I just can't read this book.  I can't bring myself to spend time with these people.  I far prefer the courteous, the quiet, the contained, the ineffably polite, the impish, the dreamfilled, the tongue-tied, even trickster types.

So...does anyone have recommendations for urban fantasy that doesn't revolve around, essentially, two rams butting their heads together?  I really liked how Neumeier's Black Dog took us through how difficult it would be the live in such a culture, and how it's something to work away from, but I wouldn't be sad to see a complete absence of "say one wrong word and I'll take your head off" characters.

17 March 2014

A Week of Me

You know when you get a compliment so amazing that you have to get up and walk about for a while to process it?  And then you spend the next couple of days wandering about grinning?  That's what happened to me when awesome author Rachel Neumeier told me she'd enjoyed my books so much she'd decided to host an Andrea K Höst week, and had invited a bunch of equally awesome people to tell the world how wonderful I am!  Well, even better, to talk about my books!

So if you're curious about my books, or just want to chat about them, check out Rachel's blog this week.  There'll even be a post from me, discussing among other things how I came to write the Touchstone Trilogy.  And there's a giveaway!

And...and...I got to get up and walk about for a while. :D

21 February 2014

The erasure of high fantasy and space/planetary adventure

In one of the more recent rounds of the perenniel "women don't write..." discussion came this post by Foz Meadows discussing a Waterstones (British book chain) guide to fantasy and SF that listed 9 women in 113 authors.  This was related to a discussion of Juliet McKenna's about the invisibility of women in epic fantasy, and how very unlikely it was that any women would be included on display tables of "like George RR Martin".

Of course it's complete nonsense to say that women don't write epic fantasy, or fantasy like George RR Martin, and that was easily and immediately rebutted by various lists popping up.  This is pretty much business as usual in this discussion.

What interested me was the sub-genres listed on the pamphlet:

  • Space Opera
  • Hard Science Fiction
  • Time travel, steampunk and alternate history
  • Military science fiction
  • Near future and future noir
  • Classic science fiction
  • Heroic, epic and high fantasy fiction
  • Urban fantasy
  • Classic fantasy
  • Comedy science fiction & fantasy

Now although I've read and enjoyed books in every one of these sub-genres, the vast majority of books I read fall into two sub-genres: space/planetary adventure, and high fantasy.

So, high fantasy is actually listed in the "Heroic, epic and high fantasy fiction" group, but a quick scan of the books and authors reveals a great mass of epic fantasy and a couple of outliers.  The Lies of Locke Lamora is what I think of as 'caper fantasy', in the vein of Fritz Leiber, but also appears to cross into the epic fantasy genre.  Scar Night appears to be a secondary world angels novel, and is also called 'epic fantasy' on the back cover blurb of book two of the series.

So every single book listed appears to be fat, multi-volume epic fantasy.  Some of it is gritty epic fantasy and some of it is heroic epic fantasy, and technically all of it is high fantasy since 'high fantasy' just means 'secondary world fantasy'.  Yet high fantasy is clearly listed here as a third point along with "Heroic, epic" because 'high fantasy' also stands for 'secondary world fantasy that is not epic and not comedic'.

And by that definition there are no high fantasy books on this list.  Hell, there are no standalone books on this list.  There is no room made for Robin McKinley.  No space for Patricia McKillip.  Because 'secondary world fantasy that is not epic or comedic' is apparently not a genre needing any representatives, despite high fantasy most often being that rare place where the 'numinous' resides.

Space/planetary adventure doesn't even rate a mention.  Space/planetary adventure is not space opera.  Troy Horan's stiffbacked search for a job, and attempts to solve the problem of a trade in intelligent animals, does not even come close to space opera's usual themes.  Do Melissa Scott's SF books fall into the "space opera" category?  I don't think so.

The closest I could find to my favourite sub-genres came under "Classic fantasy" and "Classic science fiction", and obviously a new book is going to find it difficult to fit itself into "books that helped form and influence modern fantasy fiction".

I read a fair whack of epic fantasy back in the day.  I only very very rarely pick it up now.  Space opera is fun, but I love space/planetary adventure more.  And a lot of my favourite female authors may as well not exist if their sub-genres are not considered worth reading.  [Much as this booklet not only fails to list female urban fantasy authors, but doesn't even mention paranormal romance.]

Is it a coincidence that the sub-genres not listed have a strong showing of women?  Not to mention that books by women are often pushed out of the epic genre by narrowing the definition of epic to equal 'fat, gritty fantasy'?  Or is this erasure of the sub-genres something that comes along with the dominance of series books, which epic fantasy and space opera are far more inclined to indulge in?

The lack of space/planetary adventure cuts out almost all my favourite science fiction novels.    The erasure of high fantasy means no The Last Unicorn on this list.  No The Blue Sword.  No Forgotten Beasts of Eld.  Books I would take over every single fat fantasy series out there.

For me, these sub-genres are the heart of SFF, not something to be left off the list.

14 February 2014

The Pyramids of London - Cover reveal and genre questions

I've been looking forward to this cover for quite a while!  Another gorgeous Julie Dillon piece that I'm totally going to have to have as a print on my wall.

In a world where lightning sustained the Roman Empire, and Egypt's vampiric god-kings spread their influence through medicine and good weather, tiny Prytennia's fortunes are rising with the ships that have made her undisputed ruler of the air.
But the peace of recent decades is under threat.  Rome's automaton-driven wealth is waning along with the supply of their power crystals, while Sweden uses fear of Rome to add to her Protectorates.  And Prytennia is under attack from the wind itself.  Relentless daily attacks destroy crops, buildings, and lives, and neither the weather vampires nor Prytennia's Trifold Goddess have been able to find a way to stop them.
With events so grand scouring the horizon, the deaths of Eiliff and Aedric Tenning raise little interest.  The official verdict is accident: two careless automaton crafters, killed by their own construct.
Nothing could convince the Tenning children, or Aedric's sister Arianne, that the deaths were anything but murder.  They will stop at nothing to uncover what really happened.
Not even if, to follow the first clue, Aunt Arianne must sell herself to a vampire.
Here's the full image.  It's my first wrap-around cover (which I wanted because I wanted that sweep of city with the pyramids rising above it).

The genre of this one is going to be super tricky and I imagine a lot of people will pick it up thinking it's one thing and find it's another.  A lot of my books feature both adult and child POV characters, and this is no exception, swapping between Eluned (at the front in the picture) who is fifteen, and Arianne, who is in her thirties.  I don't consider it YA because it doesn't involve moving from childhood to adulthood in any particular way.

It's also not Steampunk, in that it's not a Victorian setting, and does not use Victorian clothing or social mores, but the tech level is similar.  It's both fantasy and science fiction, since the main plot of the series revolves around awakened gods and scientific change.  It is certainly alt-world, in that it started with our world and then had increasing points of divergence - and it's involving such an enormous amount of research, even if all I can research is the starting points before the divergence - so I'm going to think of it as alt world kitchen sink.

The release date will maybe be at the end of this year (all that research is slowing me down, although I'm collecting some lovely books like one which is maps of London through history).  If not this year, then early next year.  It's very hard to tell since I'll be overseas from August - November and expect that will impact my output rather significantly!

07 February 2014

Poisoned Wells

There's been a bunch of articles lately about how the vast morass of terribly written self-published books on the market poison the well for all self-published authors.  Readers are being tricked by untrustworthy reviews into paying good money for incompetent work.  The dreckworthy quality of these books causes the reader to swear off self-published books, and Something Must Be Done.

These articles primarily come from trade published authors who claim to support self-publishing (while proclaiming the majority of it dreck), and usually produce irritated/angry responses from self-publishers (along with many reasoned arguments pointing out that bad videos haven't killed off YouTube and Snooki hasn't killed off trade publishing, etc, etc), which are then used as evidence that self-publishers are delusional, hostile and crazyballs and overreact so much when people tell them what's wrong with them.

It's not a particularly productive conversation.  Self-publishers are able to impact the quality of their own work, and maybe give some helpful feedback on the work of others if and when asked.  But the truly incompetent either never ask for feedback or (as I've seen) simply don't care even when a forum full of self-publishers point out that they have a dozen typos on their first page.  There already is a strong culture of "make your books better" among some self-publishers, while others are more interested in the latest trick for discoverability, and others still don't talk to any other self-publishers, but do their own thing.

The Borg has not yet gotten around to assimilating self-publishers.  There is no hive mind here.

Nor is this an argument anyone's going to win.  Some people won't read self-publishers.  Some people will.  Some self-publishers will put out good work.  Some self-publishers won't.  Some trade published books are good.  Some trade published books are used as the fall-back example of "trade publishing puts out bad books too!".  Some of those books make trade publishing millions of dollars.

One person's dreck is another person's doradango.

The majority of the books I read are trade published, but I'll happily buy self-published if I'm drawn by the cover, the blurb interests me and the sample's good.  I've never chosen books to read by who published them.  I'm undisturbed by the idea that some readers will never touch my books because I'm self-published.  They can join the readers who won't read my books because I'm a woman, or because they contain swearing, or the occasional bi-normative world.

Long story short: wow, there's been a lot of Chicken Little posts about self-publishing lately.

28 January 2014

Don't Starve

Don't Starve is Civilisation's gothic second cousin twice removed.  The game presents (on an individual rather than nation basis) much the same situation - increase your technological sophistication while exploring, setting up a base, fighting off attackers (or attacking) and, most critically, not starving.

You start out knowing nothing.  The game does not come with a  manual, or handy help tips.  You explore, and you click things, and you work out the most efficient steps for taking the randomly generated resources and getting through the night (and, worse, winter).

I haven't beaten this game.  I've died a lot.  And it's permadeath.  Starting over and over is frustrating, but I've improved (and expanded the selection of characters I can play), and I even made it halfway through winter once!  The sly dark humour is a lot of fun, and the game is challenging but pleasingly replayable.  It's also very cheap!  [I got it for $15 on Steam.]

Officially adding this one to the Excuses for Maybe Not Getting A Book Out This Year List.

14 January 2014

From the shelves

I've a guest post over at The Book Smugglers today, where I recommend women writers by listing all the ones on my shelves.

11 January 2014

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

I generally don't watch Ben Stiller movies - I don't enjoy humiliation comedy at all - and so approached this movie a little doubtful of whether I'd enjoy it.  And, indeed, if it had kept to the tone of the original story I don't think I would have enjoyed it particularly.

But Stiller's Mitty is not a cringeworthy comedic humiliation magnet, nor a Mr Bean-type oblivious disaster, but a more rounded and functional person in an invidious situation.  He has been worn down into meekness by an imperative need for money - someone who gave up his real dreams at seventeen in order to deal with sudden debt - and so the movie is a journey to finding that person once again.  And it's a very enjoyable journey, a little surreal in places even when not in Mitty's dream world, but definitely worth watching, and populated by people who (the three 'beards' aside) seem quite real and ordinary and relatable in a way that few movies actually succeed in doing.

It also has some of the best use of music I've ever seen in a movie.  Watch it for Major Tom alone.

27 December 2013

The Desolation of Smaauwwwg

Just as with the first outing, the middle of part of Peter Jackson's extended The Hobbit fanfiction is visually awesome, has great action scenes and is about as tightly focused as a ball of wool after a kitten's been at it.  By adding all the stuff Gandalf is off doing, the story reads far more as Lord of the Rings: The Prequel, and while it's still fun that way, it takes away quite a bit from the story.

The introduction of Tauriel, with an entirely irrelevant plotline about the need for the elves to involve themselves in the fight against the dark, only emphasises this prequel feeling - though on the whole Tauriel's story is one of the most interesting in this particular segment of the trilogy and she's a lot of fun to watch and almost manages to ignore the half-formed suggestion of a love plot wedged in with her "we are part of this war" theme.  I was sorry to see that while Tauriel was introduced so that there could be a female character doing stuff, Bard's two daughters are used for screaming and hiding under tables.

Smaauwwwg himself was all kinds of awesome, as was the humungous piles of gold scenes.

24 December 2013

Year's End and Side Projects

Happy end of year break to those who enjoy it!

As a side project (since I have my end-of-year break from work) I've started a tumblr called Hugo Eligible Art(ists).  This is related to the earlier discussion about the scarcity of female artists nominated for the Hugo Awards.  Since I'm nominating and voting in the upcoming Hugos I figured the simplest way to decide who I'm going to nominate is to collect All the Art! :D  Not just limited to female artists, but any artists eligible.  It's a really interesting project for me, because I love SFF art, but usually don't have the faintest idea who is behind the illustrations.

I've been having fun emailing lots of publishers and artists (and the Hugo Committee), but the project is still in its early stages and could always use more publicity if you want to share the link.  It should be an _enormous_ collection of art if it gets off the ground, particularly including nominees on the Best Fan Artist category (I'm still trying to work out precisely what's eligible there).

01 December 2013

Bones of the Fair release

Bones of the Fair has now been released into the wild!  Hope you all like it. :)

I'll add links as it promulgates across the various platforms.

As a promotional extra, Champion of the Rose will be $0.99 during December.

Those who follow the blog will notice I've changed the cover - I decided I wanted to see more of Julie's art, so got rid of the frame concept.

This was a fun book to write - mainly because of Aspen, who is one of the most relentlessly upbeat characters I'm ever likely to produce, and has the funniest way of describing people.

Next up for me is some time working on the various books I've started more recently, along with The Sleeping Life (and maybe Wellspring).  Because I have so many books on the hop at once, there's a good chance that I'll end up not releasing anything at all next year, or at least not until the very end.  It rather depends on how I divide my time.  I expect to have a lot of fun fooling around with all those different worlds, though!

27 November 2013

The Artistic Superiority of Tits Out

Recently Julie Dillon, the first female artist to be nominated for a Best Professional Artist Hugo in close to 30 years, posted on Tumblr a gigantic compilation of pictures by women artists, stating:
This year, I was incredibly honored to be nominated for a Hugo award in the Best Professional Artist category, but I was a little shocked to find out there hadn’t been another woman nominated in that category since Rowena Morrill in 1986. That’s more than a little ridiculous, considering there are so many women artists out there, they are all amazing, and they all need more visibility and recognition.

And the question of course is, how is the disparity in nominations possible?  There are clearly a ton of female artists out there.  Quite a lot of them are working in the SFF field, producing covers that would come to the attention of the SFF community.  Why then are so many male artists being acknowledged, and female artists somehow failing to exist when award season rolls around?

A couple of years ago I joined the Tumblr crowd, mostly as a lurker, and one of the accounts I followed was an art reblogger.  Every day without fail gorgeous art would appear in my Tumblr feed - a selection of representative works duly accredited, with a link to the artist's site.  And it was awesome!  Lovely art, very impressive.  I've discovered tons of awesome artists through Tumblr. (Euclase, I am in awe).

But as a side-effect of this particular Tumblr feed my dashboard was suddenly full of half-naked ladies.  Tiny, cutesy women defying the laws of gravity.  Curvy women with their asses in the air.  "Strong" women in that weird pose where you can somehow see their front and their back at the same time.

Now, there are plenty of women out there who like a fine pair of breasts.  And professional artists are generally working to some sort of order - a request from an art director, a specified scene from a book, a strong imperative from marketing to match other covers that work.  Artists don't all get to decide what they depict, and how they depict it.  So a percentage of "tits out" poses are to order.  But I started looking at the names of the artists behind all those sexy sexy ladies and noticed a distinct correlation between (my guess at) author gender and amount of nakedness, and type of pose.

When the statistics regarding the Hugo artist nominations were raised these last few months, a  connection formed for me between that Tumblr feed featuring so many naked ladies, and also with this rather awesome cartoon of Batman drawn for the female gaze.  And when I saw Julie's incredible compilation, I could not help but notice a rather outstandingly small percentage of asses raised in the air.  There was certainly the occasional breast, but vastly more complete coverage or restrained cleavage, and far fewer women in invitingly submissive poses.

Now it would be ridiculous for me to say that the sole reason for the disparity in Hugo nominations is the presence or lack of tits in a particular artist's work.  There's clearly a lot more going on here than (het cis-)gender preferences impacting on voting (just as I cannot overlook the from-the-beginning presence of individuals attracted to men in the science fiction community, with their own preferences where art is concerned).

All I can really do is point, ask the question, and hope in future we see more female artists on the Hugo ballot.

17 November 2013


Contrast is a puzzler/jumping game which - while quite short - is definitely recommended.  Particularly because although challenging in places, I could get through the puzzles without resorting to a walkthrough!  The sign of a good puzzle.

In Contrast you play Dawn, an acrobat who exists in a curious in-between world, visible only to the child Didi, whose life is complicated by family money troubles and a dad trying to make good.

Didi fearlessly sneaks out at night to poke her nose into all the things her parents are trying to keep from her, and happily calls on her not-quite-imaginary friend to get her into places she can't reach herself.  The gameplay involves Dawn's ability to shift in and out of a shadow realm, which turns light, dark and shadow into a mechanic where a staircase can be created by a lantern, and a merry-go-round a spectacular and ever-moving jumping puzzle.

Along with some lovely visuals, the Torch Song soundtrack adds a gorgeous, floaty noir background to what proved to be an excellent game.  [And at a mere $15, well worth the money.]