Neal Stephenson’s Fall is Paradise Lost with brain uploading and weaponized fake news

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The Singularity — a moment where technological progress speeds up exponentially and humanity as we know it becomes obsolete — has jokingly been referred to as the “rapture of the nerds.” Neal Stephenson’s novel Fall, or, Dodge in Hell takes things a step further: what if the nerds weren’t simply the prophets of a new order, but literally became our gods?

Over a sprawling web of modern techno-thriller, near-future sci-fi, and high fantasy subplots, Fall lays out a theory on the mind-body problem, a retelling of John Milton’s Paradise Lost, and a riff on the classic sci-fi trope of brain uploading. It’s an ambitious but massively uneven book — mixing wide-eyed wonder with a pessimism that borders on sociopathy.

Spoilers for some major plot…

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Harvest Moon: Mad Dash is a fast-paced, welcome take on the slow franchise

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Harvest Moon: Mad Dash is not your typical Harvest Moon. Instead of settling in to farm and starting a family, Mad Dash has you racing to harvest crops, catch fish, or milk cows alongside another player. It’s a frenzied version of a franchise that has long played with long-term player investments.

If Mad Dash seems outside the realm of what Harvest Moon can be, producer Yasutaka Maekawa has a counter — Mario. There aren’t just traditional platformer Mario games, he says, but also sports, racing, party games, and more. “Traditional Harvest Moon is more of a long game,” Maekawa says. “How about we go opposite, make it a really quick game, but have that Harvest Moon feel to it — the crops, watering, taking care of animals?”

In Mad Dash,…

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Magic for Liars blends magic school with a murder mystery

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Magic school clashes with a murder mystery in Magic for Liars, the debut novel from Sarah Gailey, best known for their American Hippo short stories — but with one key twist.

That’s because while the school and the murder may be magical, Ivy Gamble, the investigator hired to solve the case, is completely ordinary. Unable to sling a spell or cast a charm, she’s a far more relatable character than most other magical detectives that dot the literary landscape.

Spoilers for the book ahead.

Image: Tor.com

When we first meet Ivy, she’s eking out a living in Oakland tracking down cheating husbands, dodging muggers on her doorstep, and drinking her way through the local bar scene. Then she’s offered the chance to solve a…

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Aggretsuko’s second season introduces meddling moms and psychotic colleagues

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Netflix’s Aggretsuko was a surprise breakout hit last year, considering it was a Sanrio property that got unexpectedly real about sexism in the workplace and millennial anxieties. The second season is streaming now, and it’s as hilarious and painfully relatable as ever.

While the first season introduced us to Retsuko, the 25-year-old red panda who deals with the stress of her power-tripping boss through death metal karaoke, season 2 finds her settling into her job and being given the responsibility of training a new co-worker — who turns out to be more than she can handle.

One of Aggretsuko’s many strengths comes from its character design and the stylized animation that delightfully serve as the joke itself. Facial expressions and…

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7 new trailers you should watch this week

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Sometimes it’s nice when a film just gets your mind racing with ideas, even if what’s happening on screen isn’t necessarily the most flooring thing. That’s how I felt watching a couple of films over the past week, Funny Ha Ha and Mutual Appreciation, a pair of the earliest (and only, really) mumblecore movies.

There’s a lot I like about both films, but there’s a lot about them that’s just… kind of boring, pretty much by nature of the type of films they are. People talk, stutter, um and uh. Plots are nonexistent, goals are aimless. I love the vibe, but it’s easy to just tune out and let your mind wander as conversations awkwardly stumble on.

At the same time, that’s also what’s wonderful about them. There’s a very unique feeling of…

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Google’s loud Home Max speaker is $40 off for Verge readers

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Google’s Home Max is the biggest, most powerful smart speaker that it makes. This weekend, Daily Steals is offering readers of The Verge an exclusive deal that takes $40 off of its $299.99 price. The cheapest price is $259.99 right now, though it’s not the only retailer discounting this speaker. Google Store, Best Buy, and B&H Photo, to name a few, are selling it for $269.99.

If you choose to purchase a Google Home Max through Daily Steals, you’ll get a brand-new unit that comes with a one-year warranty. Both the “chalk” and “charcoal” color variants are available, so take your pick. Just be sure to enter the code VERGEMAX at checkout.

No matter where you buy from online this weekend, your shipment won’t arrive before Father’s Day….

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Watch the first full trailer for Veronica Mars season 4

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Hulu has released a full trailer for its upcoming revival of the cult-classic mystery series, Veronica Mars, picking up the lives of the characters since we last saw them in the 2014 movie. In it, we see that the show’s heroine Veronica is back home in Neptune, California, dealing with a new threat to the city.

This new season picks up nearly a decade after the show’s original three seasons. Veronica is back home and as cynical and witty as ever, and this new trailer shows off a bit of what to expect: Veronica returned home after being away for years, and is working as a private detective alongside her father. After a series of bombings devastate the town during spring break, they’re pulled in by one of the victim’s families to find out…

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Hot Wheels goes digital with smart tracks and NFC cars, exclusively at Apple Stores

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Mattel is introducing Hot Wheels id, which lets kids race their NFC-enabled Hot Wheels on its Smart Track, and scan their collections into a free iOS app. In the app, which acts as a virtual garage, kids can track speed and laps via infrared sensors in the Hot Wheels Race Portal, which scans in your cars and connects to classic Hot Wheels tracks. It sounds great for kids who are into obsessively tracking details, and using cold, hard, data to back up claims on whose car is faster.

Companies have tried to find ways to keep classic brands alive by bolting on digital components, but sometimes in ways that felt too forced. Anki Drive, another toy that launched as an Apple exclusive, was a smartphone-controlled racing game with a similar…

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Samsung Galaxy Fit now available in the US

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Samsung’s newest activity tracker, the Galaxy Fit, is now available through Samsung’s website for $99.99. The device comes in two colors, black or silver, and features a 0.95-inch AMOLED display; a 120mAh battery; 2MB of RAM; 32MB of storage; and pairs with phones over Bluetooth. It’s water resistant, too, and tracks heart rate.

While Samsung has focused on its smartwatches recently, the idea behind the Fit is to bring more robust tracking to the minimal fitness band. The Fit can track up to 90 exercises, including six that it can automatically detect, like walking, running, elliptical, cycling, rowing, and dynamic workouts. It’ll also track sleep and other heath goals through Samsung’s Health app and should last up to a week on a single…

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Sega does the retro console right with the fantastic Genesis Mini

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Retro consoles are bittersweet little gadgets. They pack a ton of nostalgia, must-have-it miniature console design, and properly licensed software into a mostly affordable package that will, inevitably, mostly go unused sitting on your shelf. That’s because they are often cumbersome to play, and as gadgets teetering close to the edge of becoming cash grabs, they’re not really designed to be more robust than the emulator solution a teenager could hack together on a cheap laptop.

The Sega Genesis Mini, on the other hand, is a great example of how a company can do its best to avoid those pitfalls. Sega brought the device, slated to start shipping in September for $79.99, to E3 this year, and I got to have some hands-on time with it at the…

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Final Fantasy VII Remake is only part of the game, but it’s a massive world

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Despite its title, Final Fantasy VII Remake won’t actually be a straight retelling of the original game, but instead a deeper exploration of its world and characters. During a closed-door presentation at E3, producer Yoshinori Kitase said that simply recreating the game with new graphics wouldn’t have been enough to get the team — which includes many of the developers from the original Final Fantasy VII — excited enough to come onboard. “Our goal here is to remake this genre-defining RPG for a new audience, for a new era, and not just to make a straight one-to-one copy or a remaster,” he said.

The first game is set in Midgar, a dark, steampunk-inspired city dominated by the evil corporation known as Shinra. As in the original, players…

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The Dead Don’t Die is a perfect excuse to return to Zombieland

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There are so many streaming options available these days, and so many conflicting recommendations, that it’s hard to see through all the crap you could be watching. Each Friday, The Verge’s Cut the Crap column simplifies the choice by sorting through the overwhelming multitude of movies and TV shows on subscription services, and recommending a single perfect thing to watch this weekend.

What to watch

Zombieland, a 2009 horror-comedy directed by Ruben Fleischer and written by Deadpool and Deadpool 2 screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick. Jesse Eisenberg stars as “Columbus,” one of the few survivors of a worldwide zombie apocalypse sparked by a virulent strain of mad cow disease. (In this world, the humans call themselves by the…

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Fire Emblem: Three Houses mixes classic strategy with Persona-style relationships

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In most Fire Emblem games, your biggest decisions are about tactical strategy. But in the upcoming Fire Emblem: Three Houses for the Nintendo Switch, you’ll have much more pressing dilemmas: like what you should do on the weekend.

The new game features the core experience fans have come to love for nearly three decades. That means huge turn-based battles, and units you can customize with a dizzying array of skills, special abilities, and class types. And, as per usual, those units are more than just generic soldiers; they’re characters that you’ll grow to care about over the course of a lengthy campaign, and they can build relationships with each other over time. In the standard mode the game still features permadeath, so you have to be…

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Cyberpunk 2077 doesn’t look weird enough to be edgy

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At E3 2019, there are two versions of Cyberpunk 2077. First, there’s the version that developer CD Projekt Red — best known for the Witcher series — is teasing in interviews, presentations, swag, and posters lining the walls of its promotional booth. It’s a narratively deep role-playing game set in a cutthroat world where people change their bodies radically according to the whims of employers and cultural fads, trying to survive in an economic system that objectifies and exploits them in surreal ways.

Then, there’s the thing that CD Projekt Red is showing behind closed doors: a good-looking but generic shooter-RPG hybrid with an ‘80s retro-futuristic sensibility and a grab bag of William Gibson references. The closer Cyberpunk gets to…

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Tuca & Bertie’s art director on the show’s indie comic influences

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Netflix’s Tuca & Bertie comes from the creative team behind BoJack Horseman, but the show takes place in a much zanier, more surreal world where a boob or two can be seen flopping around jovially at every turn. It’s also way easier to root for its endearing protagonists: two 30-year-old best friends Tuca (Tiffany Haddish) and Bertie (Ali Wong) who live in Bird Town, which is inhabited by animal-people, plant-people, and regular people.

The show gets into real issues, like asking for a raise at work (appropriately named Condé Nest), dealing with sexual harassment, and messy female friendships, but it balances out heavier topics with gorgeous visual imagery. A flashback to Tuca’s childhood is recreated in heartfelt stop-motion and scenes…

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Google Chrome 76 beta makes it harder to use Flash, easier to dodge paywalls

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Google Chrome’s last big feature was dark mode in Chrome 73 and 74, and version 75 didn’t bring much of note, but Chrome 76, in beta today, has some sneaky features you may want to know about.

While Adobe Flash won’t truly die till 2020 and has been blocked by every major browser in one way or another for several years now, Chrome 76 is taking it one step further. Not only are individual Flash items blocked by default, but now the entire browser feature is off by default as well. If you opt into the beta and head over to chrome://settings/content/flash, you should see the with the little “Ask First” setting flipped off instead of on, according to 9to5Google.

Another somewhat covert tweak: Google Chrome developer Paul Irish says that…

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E3 proved that video game publishers want to become Netflix

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With the first details coming out around the next Xbox and PlayStation, you might expect those upcoming consoles to be the buzz of this year’s E3. But instead, subscription services have become the talk of the show, as seemingly every console maker and game publisher looks to shift the way that games are sold.

Every major publisher is racing to offer the first real “Netflix for games,” selling games to players via a monthly subscription service. Ubisoft is launching its own subscription service, UPlay Plus, and Final Fantasy publisher Square Enix is also looking to launch one too. That’s on top of Microsoft spending millions of dollars acquiring game studios in an attempt to fill out its catalog for Game Pass subscribers; EA’s Origin…

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How to find your downloaded music in Spotify

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Perhaps I’m in the minority, but I still download a lot of music from Spotify. It’s really handy to have tunes stored locally on my phone for a multitude of reasons. I can listen without buying on-flight Wi-Fi, and every day during my commute on the NYC subway when the Wi-Fi and LTE signals inevitably cut out underground.

Having easy access to these downloaded songs and albums is important to me, but the latest Spotify update that’s rolling out now (version 8.5.9.737 for Android and 8.5.7.601 for iOS) makes them harder to find for premium users.

The “Your Library” section of the app not only looks different, but Spotify has eliminated the “Songs” section, leaving just “Playlists,” “Artists,” and “Albums.” Don’t worry, all your songs are…

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