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The ultimate prey being man is such an old chestnut of satire that most people wouldn’t know where it originally comes from – the 1924 short story The Most Dangerous Game, by Richard Connell. Sir, You Are Being Hunted certainly has its origin in that trope, but the spin this time around is that the hunters are robots. You play a hapless inventor who has accidentally teleported himself to an archipelago of grey, rainy islands and must attempt to recollect the pieces of his device to send himself safely home.

This is a humourous game that doesn’t take itself too seriously. The robots are clad in tweed and top hats, spouting off radio-warbled English pleasantries, and the islands are modelled after a certain concept of Britain – drizzly, bleak and industrial. The food that you scavenge to stay alive includes jars of marmalade, fruitcake and Stilton cheese, and you’re guided by the distinguished voice of your overly polite scientific assistant. In the sense of creating a unique atmosphere, Sir, You Are Being Hunted is certainly a success.

As a game? Not so much. Traditionally stealth games put you in the place of the silent killer in the shadows, from Splinter Cell to Metal Gear Solid to Dishonored – you’re toast if you face the enemy head on, but if you do things properly you’re the hunter, not the hunted; the terror in the night, the stalker in the grass. Sir, You Are Being Hunted obviously flips that on its head – it’s right there in the title – and while the concept is good, the execution is poor. You have a meter in the bottom left-hand corner which shows how visible you are, much like Metal Gear Solid 3, and much like Metal Gear Solid 3 this means the most effective way to get about unseen is by slowly wriggling your way through the grass, inching across the landscape. Sir, You Are Being Hunted has a procedurally-generated environment, with structures which can be looted for supplies but not actually entered, and after a while it seems to feel a bit pointless. It’s quite difficult to  find the missing pieces of your teleportation device, even after you locate the scanner, and the ultimate feeling is one of slowly turtling your way through a repetitive countryside looking for a needle in a haystack.

The game also suffers from a few glitches; more than once I found myself suddenly stuck staring at the sky, able to do nothing more than fruitlessly discharge my revolver. And it would have been quite spooky the first time I encountered The Landowner, and heard his eerie hooting cries, were it not for the fact that he was stuck in a tree and kept stubbornly trying to run through it.

Sir, You Are Being Hunted is a laudable attempt at a creative and original indie game, both in terms of atmosphere and mechanics. But for me, it fell flat.

Sir, You Are Being Hunted on Steam

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Schindler’s Ark by Thomas Keneally (1982) 429 p.

This is not a book which can be approached uninfluenced in the modern age, because everybody has heard of Oskar Schindler now. Apparently the book was popular enough, but I have no doubt it was the Spielberg adaptation which truly made Schindler a household name. I haven’t seen the film, though, apart from a few scenes I recall being shown in fifth grade. On that topic: does anybody else remember having the Holocaust included in their primary school curriculum at age nine? I mentioned in my review of Maus that it’s probably a misguided idea to introduce an event like that to young minds (not out of fear of scarring them, but because it’s too weighty a subject for them to properly appreciate) but I’m starting to realise that maybe my own education was an outlier; the influence of a single teacher or the ping-pong nature of politically-motivated public school curricula between left-wing and right-wing state governments.

In any case, I began this book knowing full well the rough outlines of the story of Oskar Schindler, and I was somewhat surprised to find, in Thomas Keneally’s introduction, that he was a relatively unknown figure until being brought to greater light by the book and the film. Keneally was in a luggage store in Los Angeles in 1982 and fell into conversation with the owner, Leopold Pfefferberg, a Holocaust survivor. Upon finding out Keneally was an author, Pfefferberg told him about Oskar Schindler and begged him to write a novel about him, after years of unsuccessfully attempting to interest Hollywood producers in his story. Keneally had never heard of Schindler, but after reading the records Pfefferberg gave him and conducting research of his own, he decided to write a novel about him. As Keneally put it, Oskar was witness to almost every step of the Jewish ordeal: “the confiscation of Jewish property and business, for the creation and liquidation of the ghettos, and the building of labour camps, Arbeitslager, to contain labour forces.” As we all know now, Schindler would go on to become a great saviour of the Jews, preserving over a thousand lives by sheltering them as skilled workers in his munitions factory. Much of Schindler’s Ark is about the deception, subterfuge, bribery and greasing of wheels Schindler had to undertake to keep the whole edifice running under the noses of the SS for the duration of the war.

There is obviously no doubt that this is a powerful subject matter, that Schindler was a man who deserves to be remembered as a hero, and that it’s a good thing that Pfefferberg finally managed to find somebody to immortalise him. Whether Schindler’s Ark is a great novel is a rather trickier beast. Keneally mentions from the very beginning that he has “attempted to avoid all fiction, because fiction would debase the record, and to distinguish between reality and the myths which are likely to attach themselves to a man of Oskar’s stature.” He accomplishes this goal rather admirably, never allowing the reader to forget that this is a fictionalised account of a very true story, in which the author undertook meticulous research, interviewing dozens of Holocaust survivors scattered across countries all over the globe. He nonetheless treats his principals as characters, with the reader privy to their thoughts and feelings and motivations, and for the most part Schindler’s Ark reads much more like a novel than a historical book.

Where Schindler’s Ark falters, as a novel, is the areas in which it brushes against a more academic work of fiction: the profusion of foreign names, foreign places, a desire to trace the chronology of this story all the way to the end, concluding with an oddly dry epilogue which traces Schindler’s life from the end of the war to his death in Frankfurt decades later. It ultimately leaves the book in an odd place; a work of art which is worthy for what it covers, what it brings to light, rather than its inherent value as a novel. For me, at least, Maus is undoubtedly superior. I’m glad that Keneally wrote this book, glad that the heroism of Oskar Schindler was finally brought to a broader audience, and I can’t say that this isn’t a good novel. But – without having seen the film – I suspect this may be one case where the movie is better.

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