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  1. - Top - End - #151
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    BlackDragon

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    Default Re: Schlock Mercenary X: The Mundivore, or, "Eat it"

    This would not be the first time that we've seen a writer who could do excellent "small scale" stories fall apart when trying to do "large scale".

    It's like trying to show the affairs of two people, trying to sneak into an enemy fortress, while at the same time showing the movement of massive armies and the affairs of the heroes leading the armies of our side.

    (I found the two far more understandable and relatable, and if you had to ask me what happened with the armies I could not tell you.)
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  2. - Top - End - #152
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    Default Re: Schlock Mercenary X: The Mundivore, or, "Eat it"

    Quote Originally Posted by keybounce View Post
    This would not be the first time that we've seen a writer who could do excellent "small scale" stories fall apart when trying to do "large scale".

    It's like trying to show the affairs of two people, trying to sneak into an enemy fortress, while at the same time showing the movement of massive armies and the affairs of the heroes leading the armies of our side.

    (I found the two far more understandable and relatable, and if you had to ask me what happened with the armies I could not tell you.)
    Not only are 'small-scale' (group-based, primarily character driven) and 'large-scale' (society-based, primarily story driven) very different approaches to storytelling it is particularly hard to transition from one mode to another within the context of the same story. Essentially, in order to do so, you need to have planned it out from the very beginning, so that you can pre-position your characters such that they transition seamlessly from one scale to another. A very good example would be Aragorn, who shows up as a 'ranger' but turns out to be the destined king who ends up leading the forces of good in the big climax, and Tolkien had all the relationships planned out before he even started writing LotR.

    Howard clearly didn't plan everything out in advance, and it's also clear that of the characters he developed who managed to transition to the upper-managerial level necessary for framing epic-scale discussion like Breya and Petey, he just doesn't like telling stories with them nearly as much as with Schlock and Tagon. The very fact that the highest-ranked person sent on the mission to contact Boloceade was Sorlie - when Breya or Petey could have easily sent a version of themselves along instead - is indicative of this.

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy
    Part of that is trying to tell a story of this scale with this many events and this many players, in a daily comic strip format.
    Definitely agree with this. Classically, an epic involves a lot of scenes of high-ranking people (who may or may not be interesting characters in their own right) standing around and pontificating on the circumstances in order to provide context and story framing. This tradition goes back all the way to the Iliad, at least. It is, however, tricky to do is visual media because you can't just throw a few thousand words out. The more complicated the story becomes, the harder it is to compress this necessary contextual exposition. OT Star Wars, for instance, actually has quite a few expository scenes (ROTJ, most notably, flat out opens with one on the second Death Star) despite having one of the most deliberately generic epic storylines it is possible to have based on the whole 'monomyth' concept.

    Schlock Mercenary, by this point is exceedingly complex, and contains multiple issues - superhuman AI intelligences, transhumanist mind state mobility, and lifeforms formed of a completely different material physics, among others - that have absolute no analogue in human lived experience, so explaining what is going on would require a metric ton of exposition that the comic doesn't have any easy ability to handle without getting extremely bogged down. Book 20 opened with a week-long prologue and that was barely enough to minimally set the stage. There's no way to take the month or more necessary to properly frame the 'Baryon Wars' as a conflict.
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  3. - Top - End - #153
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    BlackDragon

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    Default Re: Schlock Mercenary X: The Mundivore, or, "Eat it"

    Can someone remind me, did we actually see Cynthetic Certainty get destroyed, or was that another off-panel thing?

  4. - Top - End - #154
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    Default Re: Schlock Mercenary X: The Mundivore, or, "Eat it"

    Quote Originally Posted by factotum View Post
    Can someone remind me, did we actually see Cynthetic Certainty get destroyed, or was that another off-panel thing?
    Sort of? We see Ventura presumably about to copy/ extract her, but never actually see the ship go boom.

    IDK, I can't help but compare this with when schlock died on the Gav planet. Then we got an interesting multi strip view of it happening and the post death recovery scene. The Audience got to SEE everything. It was great, maybe a few strips too long at the time, but the action was there. As opposed to just, you know, skipping everything and talking about it after.

    In the last thread, I doubted whether Howard could end this, in his words " It will end with closure, resolution, satisfaction, and a big, all-caps “THE END.”".
    I'm doubling down on my Princess Bride feeling of: I don't think those words mean what you think they mean.

    I could write a lot more, but would be the point? I'll finish this book, wish Howard well on his way with the next project. But I wont be reading it.


    EDIT: It's been 5 days since a war 99% of Galaxy wasn't fighting ended. How the frick has 'Peace' been wonderful? Don't even give me BS about redirection of resource. That's not even enough time for budget committee to schedule the meeting to contemplate the font for the schedule to discuss reductions or new priorities.
    Last edited by Thomas Cardew; 2020-07-20 at 06:50 AM.

  5. - Top - End - #155
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    Default Re: Schlock Mercenary X: The Mundivore, or, "Eat it"

    The Oafans basically faked their own deaths, left all their stuff lying out, let people think that taking it was a salvage job... and are now taking it back with everyone feeling guilty for having salvaged it as if they had stolen it.

    Thanks for reminding me of that, Howard.
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  6. - Top - End - #156
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    Default Re: Schlock Mercenary X: The Mundivore, or, "Eat it"

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    The Oafans basically faked their own deaths, left all their stuff lying out, let people think that taking it was a salvage job... and are now taking it back with everyone feeling guilty for having salvaged it as if they had stolen it.

    Thanks for reminding me of that, Howard.
    I thought they had promised to let the Toughs keep Breath Weapon if they saved the Galaxy.
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    Rockphed said it well.
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  7. - Top - End - #157
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    Default Re: Schlock Mercenary X: The Mundivore, or, "Eat it"

    Quote Originally Posted by Thomas Cardew View Post
    EDIT: It's been 5 days since a war 99% of Galaxy wasn't fighting ended. How the frick has 'Peace' been wonderful? Don't even give me BS about redirection of resource. That's not even enough time for budget committee to schedule the meeting to contemplate the font for the schedule to discuss reductions or new priorities.
    The comment is being made by someone who was actually fighting the war. Let the 1% enjoy their respite man.

  8. - Top - End - #158
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    Default Re: Schlock Mercenary X: The Mundivore, or, "Eat it"

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    The Oafans basically faked their own deaths, left all their stuff lying out, let people think that taking it was a salvage job... and are now taking it back with everyone feeling guilty for having salvaged it as if they had stolen it.
    That's not quite what happened. A single Oafan AI forcibly imprisoned their entire civilization in an infosphere it controlled, stole everything that belonged to the Oafan civilization, and then faked his own death. When found, said AI gave essentially all of those stolen goods to the Toughs (and some other entities like the hive mind). When the digital Oafans were finally released from imprisonment they placed a claim on all the goods that belonged to them. Generally, under most legal schemes, if you purchase stolen goods and the theft is later identified the police just take those goods back and given them to the original owner and you're out of luck (this is why pawn shops try very hard to avoid purchasing stolen goods, it's a way to lose serious money).

    In this case, because the Oafans essentially outgun the entire rest of the galaxy, especially with Petey's fleets blasted apart, they're able to act as police on their own behalf and claim all their stuff back if they want. This is kind of uncharitable of them, but I honestly don't think the comic has shied away from that. There was a whole bit about Chinook's resurrection that cast the old-school infosphere based Oafans (or at least their AIs) in a rather poor light.

    Quote Originally Posted by Thomas Cardew
    EDIT: It's been 5 days since a war 99% of Galaxy wasn't fighting ended. How the frick has 'Peace' been wonderful? Don't even give me BS about redirection of resource. That's not even enough time for budget committee to schedule the meeting to contemplate the font for the schedule to discuss reductions or new priorities.
    The 'peace' is being conducted by a pair of ascended superintelligences in Dark Matter Schlock and Cephalopoid Ennesby who are playing with functionally limitless energy and processing at something like 1,000,000x human speed. If you adjust the timescales, they've been able to do decades worth of restructuring in that timeframe.

    This is part and parcel of having high-level Culture Mind style intelligences in a story, the way they operate simply breaks human-storytelling scale if it's not managed very carefully. Banks was careful to insure that while ships could move around the Culture universe version of the Milky Way quite rapidly, they couldn't do so instantaneously and therefore they could only hijack the narrative in one location at a time. The nature of the tereport obliterates that limit, allowing the superintelligences to act literally everywhere at once.

    Scale mismatch is a big problem in story development. Schlock Mercenary isn't the first, and it won't be the last, science fiction epic to lose itself due to the scale of the plot exceeding the grasp of the characters. It's fairly obviously Howard knows this at least intuitively and he's rushing towards the end in the hope of getting back to smaller scale stories.
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  9. - Top - End - #159
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    ElfRangerGuy

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    Default Re: Schlock Mercenary X: The Mundivore, or, "Eat it"

    I feel like today's strip might be particularly aimed at this thread...

  10. - Top - End - #160
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    Default Re: Schlock Mercenary X: The Mundivore, or, "Eat it"

    What bugged me wasn't the fact that the Oafans wanted their stuff back. It was the fact that it kept getting emphasized that this somehow made the Toughs filthy thieves, obligated to pay back their debt to society via community service.

    Quote Originally Posted by FLHerne View Post
    I feel like today's strip might be particularly aimed at this thread...
    Yes... I felt like that was aimed at here as well.

  11. - Top - End - #161
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    Default Re: Schlock Mercenary X: The Mundivore, or, "Eat it"

    Quote Originally Posted by JavaScribe View Post
    What bugged me wasn't the fact that the Oafans wanted their stuff back. It was the fact that it kept getting emphasized that this somehow made the Toughs filthy thieves, obligated to pay back their debt to society via community service.


    Yes... I felt like that was aimed at here as well.
    And yet he seems to have completely failed to grasp our frustrations.
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  12. - Top - End - #162
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    Default Re: Schlock Mercenary X: The Mundivore, or, "Eat it"

    I'm not terribly convinced he reads THIS thread in particular. But I think the criticism is more widespread than just here.
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  13. - Top - End - #163
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    BlackDragon

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    Default Re: Schlock Mercenary X: The Mundivore, or, "Eat it"

    Yeah, hanging a lampshade on it by saying "Whee, isn't this epilogue terrible?" doesn't actually improve it any...

  14. - Top - End - #164
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    Default Re: Schlock Mercenary X: The Mundivore, or, "Eat it"

    Quote Originally Posted by factotum View Post
    Yeah, hanging a lampshade on it by saying "Whee, isn't this epilogue terrible?" doesn't actually improve it any...
    Eh, I got a chuckle out of the meta-humor in this one.
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  15. - Top - End - #165
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    Default Re: Schlock Mercenary X: The Mundivore, or, "Eat it"

    Quote Originally Posted by FLHerne View Post
    I feel like today's strip might be particularly aimed at this thread...
    I came here to say basically this.

    I don't think it was actually aimed at this thread and this thread only (it was probably more inspired by stuff like mail the author got) but it sure feels that way.
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  16. - Top - End - #166
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    RedWizardGuy

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    Default Re: Schlock Mercenary X: The Mundivore, or, "Eat it"

    So how many plot threads are left?

    There was Dr. Lazarus, who the kit didn't revive for whatever reason despite having a backup of his memories, and was missing important bits when his corpse was delivered.

    I assume he was executed, but we were never explicitly told whatever happened to Doyt. Neither of these threads are hugely important, I assume they won't come up again.

    Did we ever figure out why the Oafans were soul ripped? Was it just paranoia over someone else finding their city, taking down teraport denial, and doing the same thing?

    I guess the biggest unresolved thread would be the Schuul.

  17. - Top - End - #167
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    Default Re: Schlock Mercenary X: The Mundivore, or, "Eat it"

    The 'peace' is being conducted by a pair of ascended superintelligences in Dark Matter Schlock and Cephalopoid Ennesby who are playing with functionally limitless energy and processing at something like 1,000,000x human speed. If you adjust the timescales, they've been able to do decades worth of restructuring in that timeframe.

    This is part and parcel of having high-level Culture Mind style intelligences in a story, the way they operate simply breaks human-storytelling scale if it's not managed very carefully. Banks was careful to insure that while ships could move around the Culture universe version of the Milky Way quite rapidly, they couldn't do so instantaneously and therefore they could only hijack the narrative in one location at a time. The nature of the tereport obliterates that limit, allowing the superintelligences to act literally everywhere at once.

    Scale mismatch is a big problem in story development. Schlock Mercenary isn't the first, and it won't be the last, science fiction epic to lose itself due to the scale of the plot exceeding the grasp of the characters. It's fairly obviously Howard knows this at least intuitively and he's rushing towards the end in the hope of getting back to smaller scale stories.
    Howard did do an awesome job. One he deserves a lot of credit for.
    But yes in the end i think the hyper-AI's kinda broke the framework of the story.
    Making the main cast increasingly less relevant. And making more and more stuff happen off frame.

    I do look forward to what Howard comes up with after a vacation.
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    Default Re: Schlock Mercenary X: The Mundivore, or, "Eat it"

    Quote Originally Posted by lord_khaine View Post
    Howard did do an awesome job. One he deserves a lot of credit for.
    But yes in the end i think the hyper-AI's kinda broke the framework of the story.
    Making the main cast increasingly less relevant. And making more and more stuff happen off frame.

    I do look forward to what Howard comes up with after a vacation.
    Honestly, I really liked everything up until the end of "Can Full of Sky", liked the book where they were in Dom Atlantis, and have mostly shaken my head at the last couple stories. I think the biggest problem is shown by the difference between rescuing Tagon after time-travel and the battle in Dom Atlantis. In the first we got a wonderful splash page showing Elf using a Chain Sabre 3000 to eviscerate a corporal Oleo, in the second we get told how awesome Schlock is, but never get to see him exacting chainsaw justice on his enemies.

    I hope that after a vacation we get to see more "the Toughs do some violence" stories and less "the Toughs are present when the universe changes".
    Last edited by Rockphed; 2020-07-21 at 12:38 PM.
    Quote Originally Posted by Wardog View Post
    Rockphed said it well.
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  19. - Top - End - #169
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    Default Re: Schlock Mercenary X: The Mundivore, or, "Eat it"

    Quote Originally Posted by JavaScribe View Post
    What bugged me wasn't the fact that the Oafans wanted their stuff back. It was the fact that it kept getting emphasized that this somehow made the Toughs filthy thieves, obligated to pay back their debt to society via community service.
    Same thing here, I found it aggravating to the point where I tend to overstate the grounds for my rejection of the whole "stolen property" thing as a pushback.

    The Toughs were not thieves, nor did they knowingly receive stolen property... and yet everyone in the comic acted like they went in and robbed the Oafans at gunpoint, and we didn't see a single character object to that.
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    Default Re: Schlock Mercenary X: The Mundivore, or, "Eat it"

    That was certainly a convenient conclusion. I assume the exact details are beyond our comprehension, but I do hope we at least get the simplified reasoning for it.

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    Default Re: Schlock Mercenary X: The Mundivore, or, "Eat it"

    Quote Originally Posted by JavaScribe View Post
    That was certainly a convenient conclusion. I assume the exact details are beyond our comprehension, but I do hope we at least get the simplified reasoning for it.
    Schlock - even Dark Matter Schlock - is fundamentally a fairly altruistically minded and non-ambitious creature. 'Make Friends With It' is one of the points of his morality, remember, and he's moved away from 'Kill it and/or Eat It' as a response to problems with sentient beings. He also doesn't really give a crud about anybody's politics, and as a supermassive Dark Matter being holding the keys to the core generator it would be very difficult to find any leverage on him to force him to use that power to do something he doesn't agree with (and while he doesn't want to do unnecessary harm, he still doesn't have many reservations about delivering swift and violent ends to things he has identified as enemies.) And he has the Pa'anuri ship which still has the regeneration/re-creating a Dark Matter mind capability, so even if somebody is bold enough to come in and try to destroy him he'll just respawn.

    So.. he's unlikely to use the core generator for his own purposes, because it can't actually do anything he wants (until somebody figures out how to make Dark Matter OvalQwik, I guess.) And anybody wanting to use it for a potentially galactically-destabilizing project would have to convince him that it's a good idea or at least non-harmful, and he hopefully would be running those requests by the same megabrains and multitude of probability matrices that determined he's the best caretaker. If they say no, there's not much way anybody can try to force him to employ the generator for them anyways.

  22. - Top - End - #172
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    Default Re: Schlock Mercenary X: The Mundivore, or, "Eat it"

    Today's update makes it clear that Howard is well aware of how much he's abused the "tell" function in his storytelling.
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  23. - Top - End - #173
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    Default Re: Schlock Mercenary X: The Mundivore, or, "Eat it"

    How is Dark Matter Schlock doing OK in a galaxy dominated by tear apart?
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    Default Re: Schlock Mercenary X: The Mundivore, or, "Eat it"

    Quote Originally Posted by keybounce View Post
    How is Dark Matter Schlock doing OK in a galaxy dominated by tear apart?
    As long as they don't teraport near him he's fine. Though "near" is relative given his dramatic size increase.
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    Default Re: Schlock Mercenary X: The Mundivore, or, "Eat it"

    Quote Originally Posted by tonberrian View Post
    As long as they don't teraport near him he's fine. Though "near" is relative given his dramatic size increase.
    He's still got the Pa'anuri rebirth ship. As long as that's functional, destroying the Dark Matter construct doesn't do any long-term harm. Almost nobody in the Milky Way has the firepower required to seriously threaten one of those ships.. And he just offered the Toughs lodging on/within that same ship, so there's a decent chance they become a garrison in residence to help fight off any attacks. Plus potentially being able to call for aid from the returning worldships, who have pretty much all agreed that Schlock should be overseeing that generator, and may be inclined to provide significant help in making sure their best predicted path stays that way.

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    Default Re: Schlock Mercenary X: The Mundivore, or, "Eat it"

    Quote Originally Posted by JavaScribe View Post
    So how many plot threads are left?

    There was Dr. Lazarus, who the kit didn't revive for whatever reason despite having a backup of his memories, and was missing important bits when his corpse was delivered.

    I assume he was executed, but we were never explicitly told whatever happened to Doyt. Neither of these threads are hugely important, I assume they won't come up again.

    Did we ever figure out why the Oafans were soul ripped? Was it just paranoia over someone else finding their city, taking down teraport denial, and doing the same thing?

    I guess the biggest unresolved thread would be the Schuul.
    From what I can tell the Schuul were
    (Gav incident) and (Guy on the Moon station)->(Dom Atlantis incident) and then it ended there, with the Schuul being in the same thread as the Redhack incident.

    I think the Oafans were forcefully uploaded because they recognized that something caused the galaxy to end every bundle of million years, and then they decided to stay put to last beyond it.

    Dr. Lazarus is probably dead. I don't remember what happened to Doyt, but if he's still out there it would have been as an emergency plot hook instead of a loose end in dire need of tying.
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    Default Re: Schlock Mercenary X: The Mundivore, or, "Eat it"

    The end apparently.

    Is it just me, or does it really feel like Howard Taylor just got sick of it all and wanted to get it done.

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    Default Re: Schlock Mercenary X: The Mundivore, or, "Eat it"

    Eh, I dunno. Could pretty easily have waffled on for a while yet, but from my POV, it's as good a stopping point as any; the majority of the really big plot threads are wrapped up, and the mental image of Schlock riding a fluffy T-Rex is a good one to go out on (as Charles Schultz famously said of the Little Red-Haired Girl of Charlie Brown's affections, 'nothing I can come up with will be as good as what the audience has imagined', and I think this might be a case of the same thing). I'm satisfied, I think, and thankful for the slightly over 20 years worth of fun and good reading.

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    Default Re: Schlock Mercenary X: The Mundivore, or, "Eat it"

    Quote Originally Posted by JavaScribe View Post
    The end apparently.

    Is it just me, or does it really feel like Howard Taylor just got sick of it all and wanted to get it done.
    If that's actually the end, then oh yeah.

    I mean, it's one thing to not want to talk about the large-scale implications of this suddenly realized peace. That's frustrating, but I get it, but if this is the ending there's hardly any resolution for most of the major characters. I mean, outside of Tagon none of the members of the Toughs who were in Andromeda have had any lines following the cessation of hostilities. Major characters like Kevin, Elf, Commodore Tagon, Flinders, Bunnigus, and appear only in background shots. Other characters of some significance like Liz or Ebby don't show up at all. Petey's new status sans-generator is left completely to the imagination, as is the resolution of control of the Oafan infospace and whether any significant fraction of the infogees decided to stay there.

    Ultimately, the entire epilogue is 8 strips long, out of over seven thousand strips in total. It's remarkably meager.

    Bottom line: this doesn't feel like any sort of ending, it feels like the story just stopped.
    Resvier: a P6 homebrew setting

  30. - Top - End - #180
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    RedWizardGuy

    Join Date
    Mar 2012

    Default Re: Schlock Mercenary X: The Mundivore, or, "Eat it"

    Quote Originally Posted by TeChameleon View Post
    Eh, I dunno. Could pretty easily have waffled on for a while yet, but from my POV, it's as good a stopping point as any;
    I'm not just referring to the lack of closure, it feels like the narration itself is hinting at it.

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