Muse: An Autumn Romance

by Christopher Huang


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Number of Reviews: 4
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful:
Unique, November 3, 2008
by Pavel Soukenik (Kirkland, WA)

Muse is taking place in a French coastal village in 1886 and it tells a story (in the first person, past tense) of a 59-year-old English clergyman encountering a beautiful young German lady. As such, it is a unique title in the world of IF, and the superbly written introductory paragraphs make you feel you are in for a great time.

The protagonist's character permeates the writing so we get his perspective, ideas and feelings. Occasionally though, these do not go deep enough or fail to feel authentic given his age and experience. The writing also captures the Victorian period well (as does the insistence on greetings and introductions). The past tense in the first person fits the story but the author could have adapted the 'library' even more ("My trusty old steamer trunk lay here," you read before the first prompt, where "lay there" would be seamless). The feel is rounded off by well-selected quotations (mostly by Lewis Carroll), although these border on a recommendation for "less is more".

The game is well hinted (although you might feel a bit lost if you are not on the optimal track) but could have used more testing. Specific problems (tiny spoilers ahead) are as follows: (Spoiler - click to show)After two turns when you were unable to do anything but look at her, the main character must not say "I wasn't sure what 'her' referred to." After the boatman tells you "We must go," the response to BOATMAN, WAIT could also have been anticipated and tailored. You can get nonsensical ending if your first two commands happen to be PUSH TRUNK TO BOAT, GET IN BOAT. And in my play-through, Mr Von Goethe did not "recognize" my referring to his daughter by her name even after he told me what her name was.

Since several appear at the very start of the story, this is distracting. Similarly distracting is the choice of the names (John Austin, Von Goethe). The otherwise very nice prose suffers somewhat by the need to include directions; to alleviate this, the direction to the "previous area" is sometimes not repeated in the "current" location. (Spoiler - click to show)(I was once "trapped" in my room: with no exit direction in the description, my short-term memory, the door object missing from inside, and the "out" and "exit" not implemented, I had to try the directions one by one.)

Despite these problems, this is a nice and emotional short story featuring several endings, and it has a unique voice which recreates a specific atmosphere and period. Its only significant flaws are that it should have more depth and breadth so that the ride would last longer.