Redundant! by Alessandro Viola
Warning! Review may contain spoilers!
Redundant! is a dark sci-fi set on an industrial planet. You are a worker living a menial existence consisting of unrewarding work and sleeping. It’s an entry for the 2013 Windhammer Prize.
Face covered in blood, eyes wide open and full of rage, mouth bent on a side (did he dislocate his
jaw already?), bloody foam in his mouth (bitten tongue?), punching the ceiling over his head (did he
break his knuckles?), he kicks aimlessly in the small space. You hear his bones crack, his joints pop, his
swearing blur into a primal scream, bubbling through the foam in his throat, eyes upturned.
In few seconds, he’s on the floor, muscles flexing randomly like ropes under the skin.
Another one “snapped”.
Good morning! Yes, this is your wake-up call and so the book introduces you to the rules. You manage two stats, Rage and Frustration. If your rage score ever becomes twice that of your frustration score, “snapped” (see above) happens to you. On the other hand, if your frustration equals or exceeds your rage you “leave”. This is when your brain burns out and you lose control of your body and flop to the floor. Thus the game encourages you to keep your frustration and rage low, or, strangely, presents an alternative to managing your existence by steadily raising both your frustration and rage stats.
And this is where one of the book’s problems lie. It’s almost impossible to keep your stats low. Pretty much everything annoys your character – being spoken to, touching one of your Lettered-Numbered colleagues, being late for meetings, existing. He’s just an angry man. The game offers no clues to the best path at all. At the beginning you are given an agenda for the day listing the meetings you are supposed to attend. Well, if you follow this agenda you will quickly lose the game, even if you hit all the meetings on time. Perhaps this is intentional by the author. By taking away the reward mechanic there is no fun to be had here. It fits in well with the theme.
Because the theme is the fatal problem with the book. This is a dark and unhappy book. You play a nameless worker drone, frustrated with his job and life and dreaming of light and freedom. I know the author is trying to draw parallels with reality, but I think we read for escapism. The material here is not absurd enough to work as parody, and does not go deep enough to work as an effective satire. We’re left with a big ball of depressing mess.
I was in a meeting with my manager and being yelled at for something or other. My frustration rose, and luckily my brain burnt out and that was the end of the adventure.
There are more entertaining entries this year.