Aug 14

A GM Reads: The Eclipse of the Century


My revised reading challenge for 2017 is to focus on what a GM can take from the books I read. I lift out characters, events, creatures, plots or themes from each book. As a GM, you still need to read the book to gain the most benefit, but each review brings a few ideas for the GM.


Here is another title from my backlog. The latest review is The Eclipse of the Century, by Jan Mark. This was published by Scholastic in 1999. The Good Reads website short description is as follows:


While recovering from a near death experience, Keith travels deep into Asia to visit a strange town he felt himself to be in whilst he was ill.


Learn more at Good Reads 


I picked up this book at a National Trust second-hand bookshop, a fruitful hunting ground for me. Thunder and Lightnings by Jan Mark was one of my favourite books as a child, and one I identified with closely. I was very interested to read another book by her.


Eclipse is a slow, strange story. The pacing was not to my taste, and I only persevered with it out of loyalty to Jan. At 442 pages, this is a big book, which today would probably be categorized under YA, although the end result is more surreal paranormal. Yet, the paranormal is such a slow burn, it is barely noticed in the first half of the book.


Overall, the story is a strange experience. The slow pacing helps to build the mystery, and sense of place. There are great characters in Qantoum, the city location for the bulk of the book, yet so little happens. This definitely builds the tension, assuming you have the patience or tenacity to keep reading.



For the GM

The city of Qantoum is an intriguing location, a small Central Asian city, abandoned after an endless conflict in the last century. There is barely any electricity, a small population of ex-colonials and a nomad tribe no longer wandering. Even the railway does not visit this state-less city, which barely appears on any maps.


My first thought was how it reminded me of Freedom City in the Over the Edge RPG. Qantoum is an odd place, with bizarre relics in the museum and no clear history. Supposedly the desert sings, and strange creatures lurk in the alleyways and ruins once the rains come.


Qantoum would also be a great city for a Night’s Black Agents game or a similar modern game of mystery and paranormal events. It is forgotten, mysterious and dangerous in places. Qantoum can be many things in your game. The text presents the Museum in great detail but also references various quarters and other abandoned buildings. It is the perfect template for somewhere the Players cannot look up on Google.



Happy Reading



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