My Delirium Alcazar
Plaire Stevens moves into her new house, which is very normal and definitely not haunted.
MDA is a genre bending exploration of anxiety, magic, capitalism, body horror, video games and what it means to dream. It's also an interactive story--the protagonist's actions are dictated by the comments section, both here on Royal Road and on the main MDA website.
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I initially read this story on the author's website, enjoyed it, then found out it was on Royal Road and popped over to leave a review.
As the synopsis says, the first thing to note is that My Delirium Alcazar was written as a 'Choose Your Own Adventure'-style story, and this has a noticeable impact on various aspects of the work. Also note the interactive aspects were one-time-only affairs: Readers would comment after the original chapters as they were being written and suggest directions for the story to lead. By the time people are reading it here, it's very much after the fact.
With that out of the way, the story of My Delirium Alcazar takes place in a world very much like modern-day Earth, but with... differences. Like buses run by sentient AI, genetically-engineered superhumans, codeworded conspiracy theories, bad parts of town being overrun by giant mutant animals, and so on. This story dumps in everything from cyberpunk and fantasy to horror and corporate espionage and shoves it in a mixer. Nothing is off the table.
The main thrust of the plot centres around main character Plaire moving to a (very) cheap and (possibly) haunted house in a small town only to experience strange recurring nightmares containing more than meets the eye. Cue the subsequent revelation of many surreal, intense mysteries as Plaire and her new acquaintances try to get to the bottom of what's going on and why.
These mysteries are my favourite part of the story. I don't want to say too much out of fear of spoilers, but they're as compelling as they are weird, and the characters' process of discovery and investigation satisfies with each new clue they uncover. There is a lot going on, and it's a good thing. The world feels vast and rich, despite its small town setting. I honestly have no idea where the plot is going, and this makes it very effective at keeping me on my toes.
That said, the pacing can be awkward at times. It wouldn't surprise me if it's a direct result of the story's interactive elements. The author does a fantastic job of keeping the plot on track regardless of what its readers suggested as the next move, but you do get long stretches where nothing much happens, characters kind of wander a bit, or people have long conversations about their everyday lives or other plot-irrelevant details.
This results in the story transitioning erratically between exciting adventure or puzzle-solving scenes and slow conversational situations where people are discussing mundane subjects like what they're going to eat for dinner or who they have a crush on. There were several instances where I found myself impatient to skip ahead to more active mystery-solving. Half of me suspects perhaps this erratic pacing is meant to be the point. That it doesn't have 'delirium' in the title for nothing.
Stylistically, the writing in My Delirium Alcazar is also very unusual. It's like being thrown straight into a peak mid-00's internet enclave, with plenty of fragmented sentences, scrambled thoughts and ever-so-slightly dated colloquialisms. The grammar is not always great, but it's intentionally not great in such a way as to pay deliberate homage to the writing style. Which ironically made me come back full circle to giving this full points for grammar. As well as downmarking the story for style, even though I can't deny it's powerful, memorable, and well-suited to Plaire's perspective. Full points for cleverness and technical skill, but it's a bit uncomfortable and abrasive for my personal taste.
I think much of this comes down to how the characterisation is handled. The story (despite being written in the rare second-person) is told from Plaire's perspective, and Plaire is abrasive. She's competent, but also anxious, fractious, awkward and insecure, and it comes across in every facet of the early story, with plenty of room for her to grow. Is this great characterisation? Absolutely. Is it a perspective I enjoy reading from? Hmm, perhaps not so much. Regardless, the characters in My Delirium Alcazar are well-written and believable. They feel like quirky, memorable people you could easily meet in real life. I feel like I know of several Plaires in my extended social circles, for example, and I'm pretty sure there's also at least one Kate floating around in there somewhere.
My Delirium Alcazar is a story I'd recommend for lovers of the dark, different and, yes, delirious. It's surreal, complex and a little awkward, and its genre-bending mysteries and discoveries are absolutely fascinating.
Really good cyoa/interactive story.
the only criticism I have is that even when writing a cyoa story it would be better if you used she/they/he rather than the 'you' that a lot of quest authors like to use because the 'you' always takes one away from the experience.
An interesting change from the usual RR fare. It looks good so far! Will update witha a detailed review after catching up.
I feel that the start is really rough. The first couple of chapters don't flow well, and there too many page breaks. It's slightly disconcerting. However the writing improves quickly and is very engaging, even though the style is unique