“Daisy Chain” Review
There’s a Chinese story about four monks who earned legendary status, back when you had to earn it and not have it thrust upon you. The three were supernaturally remarkable; the final markedly un – so. When he meditated, he could not for more than twenty minutes. When he preached, his sermons did not make sense. When he fasted, he gave up in the evening. He was a monk that, for not determination, would go unknown.
For every day at sunrise, he would walk to the vagrants outside of his village, pick them peaches and wild fruits, tend to their wounds, and tell them stories. Every sunset, he would leave. He had done this every day for forty years — and the son of one of the vagrants asked, “Why is it that you dedicate your life to us?” And the monk said, “I have been given this gift of life by our maker. What more can I do but to give it back?” And so the Gods revealed themselves, no longer vagrants, but as deities. For though he was not remarkable, he was the only monk who was devoted enough to do his job every single day. And so they sent him on a long and perilous quest. He did this job, as well.
Talent is a good thing to have — if you’ve got it. But sometimes all it takes to be somebody special is to spend more time doing something than anybody else. To show up every day, put in the work, put in the hours, and be the most consistent man you can be. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have any remarkable traits, or a lucky gift from the Chaos which made you. If you care enough to work every day, then you can become more important than those who don’t. In essence, hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.
Reading this novel reminded me a lot about that. It lacks remarkable traits. It’s story isn’t thrilling. All the characters are averagely – written and not much else, reacting to the mundane mystery as casually as one does their laundry. The art style is okay in that cartoon way, but isn’t exceptional. Its tone is flat all the way through, neither going high nor low, nor boring nor joyous, though sometimes I did laugh. It is unexceptional. A down – the – middle straight – line split. But it is made, and the artist cared enough to make it and share it to the world. I believe in the artist enough to continue doing this, for though the work shows no special talents, if it will care enough to improve and one day be remarkable, then I will be happy to indulge in it further.
There’s a bunch of stock high – school seniors: you’re two of them, being Darcy Daisy and Lester Leaves, and everyone is named like this. You are called down to a mystery, where a girl’s art project is smashed, and it’s up to you to saaaave the daaaay. Listen, you’ve played Phoenix Wright? Imagine that but without as much energy, humour, or characterisation. In a Dirk Gently novel, this set – up would involve someone getting decapitated by a demon, which is actually how the last one went. Dirk Gently this is not. I could tell because there’s no overt secularism.
Of course you save the day — this is a detective novel. What novel doesn’t? I must have slept on what this game was going on about, because even I couldn’t figure out what clues I was supposed to be presenting, which must be due to my surprising lack of investment. Surprising because everyone is furries — or bunnies, rather. It’s an entirely inexplicable thing as to why that is, beyond being trés kawaii. Not that the characters got to me either; they’re distinct and recognisable, to be sure, but I wouldn’t want to talk with them.
It’s clear the author has personalities in mind for all of them, but reading their dialogue, one never gets the feeling they have some. I find the strongest characters are those who show a few prominent traits, rounded out by a lot of hidden ones you only get to know through experience. Think Phoenix Wright: a nervous git in over his head on the outside, and on the inside a honourable and devoted man. But only through playing do you understand that he is that way. He’s an extremely memorable character. Do not be afraid to make your characters memorable, out of fear of polluting their hidden depths; you must make us care about those depths first.
One of the characters is nonbinary, also inexplicable. Like the furries, it requires no explanation. It’s clear to me that this trend of passive diversity, a far cry from the obviously forced diversity that was enshrined by Saturday morning cartoons (which was your favourite stereotype? the smart Chinese girl, or the black kid in a wheelchair?), is here to stay, and that we all benefit from its inclusion. The fascination and wonder one gets from seeing someone different from you, whether it be nonbinary, trans, queer folk, or just old – fashioned different races, is cast aside by knowing they have the right to exist; one can only understand this through being exposed to them.
I recall at least one best friend who was nonbinary, and indeed just like me, autism and all. They called gender a game that they were forced to play, and chose not to. I miss them. And though I still do not understand for what reasons someone chooses to forsake such a thing, the same as I am sure few of them understand being something they are both acutely aware of and yet passively are, I understand that an enby character appearing, without explanation or celebration, is a sign of a positive culture to come. When young people see media like this, they learn about the things that I did not just a generation ago.
As Seth Godin said, school does not keep us informed about our culture. Television does. Now it’s the Internet. We need more independent artists, more queers and enbies and people of all different types, to spread the simple message of their existence, and the less simple message of teaching about it. Though the schools were keen to teach me about racial discrimination, I heard barely a word about orientations; I spent my childhood thinking I was straight. I heard no words about transgenderism — not through high school, from neither teachers nor students. It was only through the Web that I knew about such things at all; for the septic tank that is Tumblr, it is diverse.
The novel is most notable in my mind for causing me to think about my own work. I did not identify with any of the characters, as little character as they had, but I thought about how my own ideas could be done better. This is so average that I had spent the majority of my time away from it, thinking about how I could avoid being average. Note that average is neither good nor bad, and never reaches peaks nor troughs. But it is an opportunity to improve; if you don’t make bad work, then you have to make good work someday.
My rating method goes like this: you earn the stars you deserve. A game with bad design decisions is much more bearable than a game that goes out of its way to annoy you. A short game is better than one which overstays its welcome. Flaws are acceptable if they are surpassed by better design. For a novel which is middle – of – the – road in every aspect, I am more inclined to believe the artist sincerely tried her best rather than be apathetic. Clearly, she is proud of what she has done. I would be too. But for all her pride, she must improve, and I believe in her capacity to. You earn the stars you deserve.