This year, we finally finished Romance of the Two Networks, our journey through the best book I’ve ever read: Three Kingdoms. It’s a much funnier book than you might expect, full of outlandish characters and incredible events. Of all those amazing people, who stands above and beyond and truly embodies the spirit of the Three Kingdoms?
Zhang Fei is both the hero of China and kinnnnd of a huge piece of garbage. One of the original Three Brothers of the Peach Garden Oath, Zhang Fei swore to bring peace to China. And he WOULD have if fuckin XUANDE hadn’t gotten in the goddamn way! Very early in the book he almost nips a future tyrant in the bud but is shouted down, and EVERYTHING AFTERWARDS is because they wouldn’t let him do the right thing! He’s loud, he’s boisterous, he’s loyal. He defeated an army by shouting. He got drunk and abused his men. He PRETENDED to get drunk and ambushed his enemy. He lived large, and he died a hero.
Zhang Fei’s journey through the book, his character development, and his flaws despite his unerring sense of the right path make him the very spirit of the Three Kingdoms.
I said it in the Best Add-on category: the Three Kingdoms is the story of Cao Cao, and his legacy. There are certainly numerous other points where fate could have been diverted: if someone had stopped that GARBAGE BOY Dong Zhuo earlier, if Xuande had accepted the position of leadership he was offered early on, or hey what about that series of corrupt and incompetent Han emperors? But the fall of the Han was probably inevitable, and no one shaped the era like he did. Was he self-absorbed? Sure. But Em, Jackson, and Jen aren’t here to stop me, so I’m here to tell you he’s great.
Like, he DID suck. He’s a bad man. But what are your other choices for a horse to back in the Three Kingdoms? Xuande, Emperor Do-Nothing? The revolving door of the Suns? Or maybe you think the Han should have stuck around and kept deferring all decisions to corrupt eunuchs? Nah. Cao Cao is the best choice. He defines the HISTORY, but not as much the spirit of the era.
The thing about Zhao Zilong is, he wouldn’t want to win this category. He’s not a glory hound. The fourth of the Three Brothers, all he wants is to serve loyally and make a better future. He never falls to arrogance or vices like his brothers. To the end, he is nothing but an incredible warrior and hero. He lacks the excesses of the era. That makes him a legend, but not the embodiment of the Three Kingdoms. He’s too good for that.
I really might just read that book again. What a great book. If you haven’t, please read it, and consider checking out Romance of the Two Networks if you want four charming cohosts to go through the book with. If you want to hear our logic behind these choices, don’t forget to listen to the podcast where we discussed it over on the Scanline Talks feed! That’s it for Day 3, but we’ll see you tomorrow for more Gimmick Awards!
A big thank you to Zwimmy (@zwimmy on Twitter) for our Game of the Year art!