6 min read

Introducing Alasdair Stuart

November 10, 2023 - Stone Soup
Introducing Alasdair Stuart
Photo by Kyle Pasalskyj / Unsplash

Welcome to the Stone Soup Weekly Digest! This is where I share what I'm up to and some of my favorite things from around the internet. Subscribe to Stone Soup to get this in your inbox every week.

I am still occupied with some personal life upheaval so am not spending much time online. That said, you don't need to be spending much time online to help where help is needed. If you’re looking for ways to take care of those who deeply need it right now, here’s where you can start:

Alasdair Stuart Reviews: The Excavation of Hob’s Barrow

The incredibly insightful Alasdair Stuart is going to be joining the Stone Soup Digest as a regular contributor! Check out his review of the newly released game from Wadjet Eye Games and Cloak and Dagger Games, The Excavation of Hob’s Barrow, and be sure to subscribe to The Full Lid for more brilliant pop culture analysis. 

The Excavation of Hob’s Barrow follows second generation tomb digger/robber Thomasina Bateman as she travels to the small Yorkshire village of Bewlay to excavate their local barrow. She arrives, but her equipment does not and her patron, Leonard Shoulder (voiced by Taher Chy), is nowhere to be seen. Thomasina sets out to discover the truth, her equipment and Leonard in quick succession.

Stories like this trade off unease and Hob’s Barrow has every flavour of it you could hope for. Thomasina is at the centre of a Venn diagram marked 'PEOPLE BEWLAY DISTRUSTS' and she's entirely alone there waiting for her supplies to be delivered. She's a southern woman, in what's laughably viewed as a man's profession, in a blue-collar northern village. She's younger than almost everyone in the village who isn't a child and the game gets some moments of real unease from the collision between Thomasina's beliefs, the reality of life in Bewlay, and just why she's there. Samantha Béart, who would go on to voice actual golden retriever girlfriend Karlach in Baldur's Gate 3, is superbly good here and was justifiably long-listed for a BAFTA for her work. Thomasina is by turns traumatised, furious, decisively unwilling to look her situation in the eyes and drawn to it, her armour of education and trauma slowly cracking and breaking away as the purple light of the Barrow intensifies. Thomasina's arc is John Carpenter-esque but never just plays the hits. It's a plummet into the rich and strange earthworks that pepper the country, and the slow realization that we aren't alone and never have been.

The game uses format to set the tone too. Every screen is a location, and you can move through them how you want but only ever along set paths. You'll spend the middle of the game doing a lot of walking as Thomasina tries to find her equipment, her patron and the truth about her past relation to Bewlay. The game offsets the eventual drudgery of a Pile of Quests with moments of unease that break the format and the story for you and Thomasina alike. The first time you meet the parish priest, Father Roach (played by fellow St Kildan Shogo Miyakita), he's feverish and terrified. Station Master Arthur (Philip Sacramento), your occasional foe and reluctant ally, is stopped in his tracks by the realization of something awful he can't quite see. There's a weirdly unsettling cat and a deeply upsetting goat. Saxnot, voiced by another Baldur's Gate 3 alum, the golden-voiced Dave Jones, is a distinctly sympathetic figure. He's otherworldly but strangely fallible and Jones's warm, gentle voice is both a surprise and a perfect fit.

That's Excavation of Hob’s Barrow to a tee: a surprise that fits. A village whose conservatism is a tattered fortification that may be facing the wrong way. A heroine, so determined to prove herself she can't see the trap she's walking into. A gateway to somewhere else, opened by some, guarded by others, attracting all. To quote Clippng, 'Nothing is sacred, nothing is safe', least of all Thomasina Bateman, trapped in the one life she can lead despite her best efforts. No alternate endings, no room for negotiation and no easy answers. Just the purple bloody dawn above the Barrow and Thomasina Bateman's truth revealed at last.

The Excavation of Hob’s Barrow is available now for PC, Mac, Linux and Switch.

Personal Canons Cookbook Highlights

November Editorial: Scraps in the Pot

…Some hungry travelers come to a village hoping for respite. None of the villagers—terribly hungry themselves—are willing to share their food with the travelers. The travelers fill their cooking pot with water from a nearby stream, build a fire under the pot, and drop in a big rock. The villagers ask the travelers what they're doing, and the travelers reply: we're making stone soup, the most delicious soup there is. If you contribute a garnish, you can have some. The villagers are each able to contribute a little something here and there: a carrot, a potato, a pinch of salt. Everyone, no matter how little they have, is able to put a little something in—and together, they make a rich, hearty soup, with more than enough for everyone to share. Just before serving the soup, the travelers take out the stone; then they share a beautiful meal with their new friends.

Katrina Carruth’s The Last Supper

Katrina Carruth (she/her) is a mother, wife, and writer of spooky things. She currently lives in Maine and obsesses over D&D, books, tarot cards, and cooking. She has short stories published in Luna Station Quarterly and Cosmic Horror Monthly. Find her on Instagram @katrinacarruthauthor or BlueSky @katrinacarruth or her website: www.katrinacarruth.com

Read her essay and try her recipe for a flavorful, healing meat and vegetable braise now.

New Comics Reviews from Scott Redmond

Friend of the newsletter Scott Redmond is a phenomenal comics reviewer, providing an in-depth look at current comics over at ComicCon.com. We’ve got a giant-sized list of his latest reviews this week:

Josh is Reading: Delicious in Dungeon by Ryoko Kui, Translated by Taylor Engel, Lettering by Abigail Blackman

Josh here, one of the members of Team Gailey! Sarah’s offered to let me take over the currently reading recommendation this week, so here we go: Delicious in Dungeon (aka Dungeon Meshi) is the perfect confluence of D&D-style antics, compelling character arcs, and fantasy world building by way of cooking! I’m confident Stone Soup regulars are gonna love it. 

When young adventurer Laios and his company are attacked and soundly thrashed by a dragon deep in a dungeon, the party loses all its money and provisions...and a member! They're eager to go back and save her, but there is just one problem: If they set out with no food or coin to speak of, they're sure to starve on the way! But Laios comes up with a brilliant idea: "Let's eat the monsters!" Slimes, basilisks, and even dragons… none are safe from the appetites of these dungeon-crawling gourmands!

Barnes & Noble | Bad River Website | Local Library | Find an Indie Bookstore

Mallory Viridian would rather not be an amateur detective, thank you very much. But no matter what she does, people persist in dying around her—and only she seems to be able to solve the crime. After fleeing to an alien space station in hopes that the lack of humans would stop the murders, a serial killer had the nerve to follow her to Station Eternity. (Mallory deduced who the true culprit was that time, too.)

Now the law enforcement agent who hounded Mallory on Earth has come to Station Eternity, along with her teenage crush and his sister, Mallory’s best friend from high school. Mallory doesn’t believe in coincidences, and so she’s not at all surprised when someone in the latest shuttle from Earth is murdered. It’s the story of her life, after all.

Only this time she has more than a killer to deal with. Between her fugitive friends, a new threat arising from the Sundry hivemind, and the alarmingly peculiar behavior of the sentient space station they all call home, even Mallory’s deductive abilities are strained. If she can’t find out what’s going on (and fast), a disaster of intergalactic proportions may occur.…

Barnes & Noble | Bad River Website | Local Library | Find an Indie Bookstore