Sometimes, when we read a book we get a dreadful sense of deja vu, almost like we’ve read the book before. After a brief desperate hope that we’ve developed some kind of psychic powers or perhaps have discovered Time Travel, we succumb to disappointment (and check that the Doctor isn’t in the next room. Just in case) and realise nothing supernatural is afoot - what we’ve got is another book that has been Written-by-Numbers.
Yes, like those paint by numbers kits we all did as children, it’s a book that feels it’s been written following a pre-set pattern. At each stage the same old clichés are faithfully followed more rigidly than any fundamentalist ever adhered to his dogma. The result is often called a rip-off by some critics but I have to disagree - it’s just that so many books are following the same rigid patterns that they feel like they’re copying each other. Not so, they are merely all worshipping at the altar of the same tired clichés and flogging the zombie horse of overused tropes.
So how to get through one of these books that, while not bad enough to DNF, does feel like a reanimated Frankenstein’s monster of old tropes sewn together by an inept hand?
We propose a drinking game! And this week, it’s for Dystopian. Grab your bottles, folks and prepare the stomach pumps (we are not responsible for any alcohol poisoning that may develop)
The Setting +1 drink if:
- The action happens around an easily recogniseable land-mark so we can see how everything is broken
- The action starts AFTER the collapse. We never actually see the collapse except in flashbacks
- The time-lines are dodgy - what feels like weeks of action apparently only takes 3 weeks
- Despite nearly everyone being dead, everything is looted. Everything.
- Despite shortages, the group can still be picky about what they eat
- Despite shortages, there will rarely be a lack of hygiene products, or seasonal clothing
- Food doesn’t expire. Canned goods last forever, chocolate bars are still good for months.
The Group +1 drink if:
- There has to be a leader - no council or co-operation, there is a boss, even in a group of less than a dozen people.
- +1 drink if we get a clumsy lesson on why the leader is right and everyone else is wrong
- +1 drink if we have a big epic speech on why everyone should do what they’re told
- Empty the damn glass if the speech is so overdone it sounds like he’s quoting the Nuremburg rallies
- +1 drink if anyone disagreeing with the leader is a complete and utter fool who suggests hugging zombies or something similar
- +1 drink if there is no challenge to this dictatorship
- +1 drink if there IS a challenge but the challenger is quickly proven wrong
- +1 drink if the challenger is presented as silly/weak/naive/emotional for daring to challenge the leader
- empty the damn glass if we have a whole story arc around the challenger being wrong and it ends with;
- a grovelling apology +1 drink and/or;
- dying (that’ll learn ‘em!), empty the damn glass and/or;
- the challenger being outright evil, empty the damn bottle
- The leader of the group is a cis, straight, white man
- +1 drink if he is the leader despite others being more qualified
- +1 drink if he’s also the protagonist
- +1 drink if the protagonist rises to become the leader
- Empty the damn glass if the protagonist rises to become leader after surpassing the ineptitude of a woman/POC
- Empty the damn glass if everyone follows and respects him for no damn good reason.
- Fill it, empty the damn glass again if they have very very very good reasons NOT to trust him
- All/most “domestic” tasks are performed by women
- +1 drink if none of these women have any experience cooking over open flame or washing clothes in rivers
- Empty the damn glass if there are men in the group who are campers or survivalists or otherwise probably WOULD have experience of cooking over and open flame/roughing it in general but the women still do the work.
- All the women in the group are partnered or love interests
- Empty the damn Glass if there are no POC in the group
- Empty the damn Glass if there are no GBLT people in the group
- +1 drink for each volume/season/book that is released that continues said erasure.
- There are minorities who either a) disappear into the plot box for several episodes, or b) stand around silently in the background
- Empty the damn glass if the group are in a place that had a huge minority presence pre-dystopia who have all, apparently, been wiped out with unerring accuracy.
Villains +1 drink if
- We get a big dramatic story arc proving to us that the REAL ENEMIES ARE HUMANS! *gasp*.
- +1 drink if the villainous humans are over-the-top-supervillain to prove their evil
- Empty the damn glass if this WILL include rape
- +1 drink if the villain’s villainous actions are pretty similar to the “necessary evil” of the protagonist
To Battle! +1 drink if:
- Despite a shortage of people and danger around every corner, few women carry weapons or fight
- Empty glass if no women carry weapons or fight
- Empty the damn bottle if male children are armed and fighting but there are women who aren’t.
- Protagonist is a Big Damn Hero killing machined
- +1 drink if nothing about his pre-dystopian life would have justified that
- +1 drink for each person he heroically rescues single handed
- Empty the glass for each foolish, suicidal thing he does that he somehow manages to come through unscathed
- +1 drink for each impossible battle he manages to win
- +1 drink if he gets really beat up and then pulls out a win in the last few seconds, surprising no-one
Death! +1 drink if:
- Anyone can die (+1 drink for every character death. Actual character death, not extras) Empty glass if show/book/comic writers have used the phrase “anyone can die”
- +1 drink if that’s a dirty rotten lie and you know that some characters simply will not die (+1 drink per invulnerable character in “anyone can die” setting”)
- Empty glass if the creator has said “anyone can die” and you have invulnerable characters
- +1 drink for every instance those invulnerable characters SHOULD have died but miraculously manage to survive
- +1 drink for every invulnerable character who is a cis, straight, white man.
- +1 drink for each invulnerable character that ISN’T a cis, straight white man, but is the protagonist’s love interest
- Awww, it’s sweet that you maintain such hope! Empty the glass when said “invulnerable” love interest dies to cause the protagonist epic man-pain. (That’s one glass PER fridged love interest)
- +1 drink per POC who dies
- + 1 drink if they die at a higher rate, proportionally, than White characters
- Empty the glass if more of them die than White characters, despite White characters outnumbering them
- Empty the Damn Bottle and toast T-Dog if the character-less token POC dies to be replaced almost instantly with another character-less token POC.
- +1 drink if you know this token is about to die because he suddenly starts talking to remind you all that he actually exists