Monday, July 27, 2015

Led Astray by Kelley Armstrong

This is a collection of short stories by Kelley Armstrong, drawing upon her various worlds as well as several stand alones.

There are a lot of stories that draw from Kelley Armstrong’s various world series – and some of these I haven’t read. For me this was particularly a problem for the short stories based on the Cainsville series since I hadn’t read them. In some ways I think the order of the stories was off, if Devil May Care had come first rather than last, the world would have been much more explained and developed and, with that, I would have had more investment and understanding when reading The Screams of Dragons, Gabriel’s Gargoyles and The Hunt. But, if I had read Devil May Care       first, I don’t think the same sense of mystery and alienness would have pervaded these books.

Thematically and in terms of tone all of these are very good at invoke the other, the very otherworldy feel of the fae but all with a strong sense of subtlety. They are unseen and mysterious and it’s all a lot of look-out-the-corner-of-your-eye-or-you’ll miss it etherealness that really real worked. They were creepy, they were low key, they were subtle and they were about normal or seemingly normal people caught up in this mysterious place with its mysterious people who are just ever-so-slightly off. I think that wouldn’t have carried the same weight if I’d read Devil May Care first even though I enjoyed it more, since that book is very up front and clear about what Cainsville is and why. It would have destroyed the mystery and the eeriness. I do think I am missing out a lot by not recognising any of these characters and not appreciating any new angles it my bring

I also haven’t reads the Darkes Powers/Darkness Rising universe and I’m now both eager to read them and quite frustrated by having read this first.  Kat and Branded both seem to take familiar themes from The Otherworld universe but the world building goes in a very different direction – with the same supernatural creatures I know so well eventually leading to a complex and rich dystopia. In Kat we see the beginnings of this and Branded takes the extreme several years, perhaps centuries, afterwards. I’m a little frustrated in fact because I think I’d love to read this series but now I know where it’s heading I think I will miss much of the suspense of the characters facing the pending dystopia. I loved both stories not just for the world setting but also for the characters with Kat we saw strong female friendships, family and dedication and Branded showed a level of cunning and ruthlessness from a female protagonist that was absolutely applause worthy. It’s a terrible, dark, lethal world – and she does what she must to survive and thrive in excellent, terrifying fashion.

The main reason I was interested in this book was for those stories set in the Otherworld universe – I’ve read them all, I love this series and miss it now it was over, so it was nice to hark back to it. Though I have to say, in some ways, they clashed badly with the other stories in this book. The other stories have desperate, abused children, alien, cruel and downright creepy fae, several brutal dystopias and some downright disturbing standalones. Then we have the Otherworld stories which are a bit silly and great fun. I like them, but they’re theme bombs and derail the overall feel of the book

The Messengers, Season 1, Episode 13: Houston, We Have a Problem

Recap time! Introducing all the horsemen and the fact they’re going to use the shiny rock to break the 5th seal and cause all kind of badness using drones to spread them far and wide. They also realise that the whole “you can’t kill a horseman” rule came from Rose who may not be the best source given the givens.

Since they need guidance, Joshua has a vision – the city the horseman are targeting is Houston (so they can kill the Messengers as well) and Vera’s long lost irrelevant son Michael is also involved. The vision also shows them all dying which I suppose is sad.

Of course such a big ominous announcement requires some tearful goodbye scenes: Raul to Nadia (who is taking Amy Satan-Spawn away) and Nadia calls Raul “dad.” Vera calls Alan to ask him to leave town and be safe – and to take Michael with him. She’s realised she can’t be distracted from her mission to save Michael (which shows a lot of growth of her character), she needs Alan to do it. First he needs to pick up professor Leo, Michael’s father.

To Michael’s parents who are now all tormented over the evil things the devil has made them do and they’ve realised the only way they can try to make it right is get Michael (or Brian as they call him) back to Vera – because a school aged kid being taken away from the only parents he’s ever known will definitely fix everything

Said kid overhears all this and isn’t hugely thrilled by this.

It looks like Lucifer is no longer on their side because he’s working with Ronnie, Erin’s ex-husband and Amy’s dad, to kill the Fairburns (Michael’s adoptive parents) and Michael because… because he’s the devil and he doesn’t need a reason.

Joshua’s also kind of worried about Amy Satan-Spawn and contemplates some holy child murder before she turns the ultimate power of supreme cuteness against him. Fear the power of little girl hugging you and saying how nice you are!

Erin says goodbye to Amy who is being taken away by Nadia to stay with her mother in Tulsa. She then tearfully hugs Joshua about letting her daughter go – and Rose, Horseman of Death, appears to use death woo-woo. Couldn’t she have done this earlier? I mean she was with the group for so long, she could have bumped off three or four of them!

Amusingly, Raul and Zahir talk and try to present the idea that this show is totally multi-religious because of the multi-religious Messengers (various stripes of Christianity, a Muslim (Zahir), Jew (Erin), Buddhist (Koa) and an atheist (Vera)) and kind of ignoring the whole blatant Judeo-Christian mythology all through. Oh Messengers, you tried.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Killjoys, Season 1, Episode 6: One Blood

Dutch and Khylen are having tea in a very civilised tea house with Dutch making it clear from the beginning she’s not a child. She agrees to help Khylen one more time but she has provisos – she’s not killing anyone, he stays away from her team and she wants to know why he’s in the Quad.

Of course, he’s not willing to play that game (though he pretends regret) and, instead, tries to have the whole room filled with poison gas and she has to find something a man is smuggling before falling and in doing so save some of the people in the room. She grabs it and leaves, gasping for air – leaving bodies in her wake.

She returns to the ship for another recap on D’avin’s blocked memory and Dutch hinting at the relationship between D’avin and Pawter. And D’avin and Dutch flirt between D’avin thanking Dutch for her epic-too-damn-awesome acts last week

Thankfully John arrives then because this show does NOT need Dutch and D’avin in a relationship. Please don’t. They’ve got a Black Warrant – a competitive warrant against other Killjoys which John and Dutch think will be immense fun. It’s also chance for a big Killjoy reunion in Pree’s bar with lots of fun trash talk with Fancy. While they’re in the bar D’avin tries to get out of therapy with Pawter – so she agrees to use her Kreshi connections to try and find the doctor he’s looking for.

We also hear the urban legend of the mysterious level 6 – a supposed secret higher level of Killjoys.

Anyway the warrant is for a sniper who has been stealing company stuff known as “Big Joe”. And he’s a Killjoy – the youngest to become level 5 and the oldest to still have it. Not everyone’s happy to go after one of their own or believe the accusation against him – but Dutch has to duck out because Khylen has called for the case he killed people for. Inside is a chip that plugs into Dutch’s neck establishing a neural link – which is an awesome mental connection complete with hallucination data. It’s nifty – and it shows Kylen has a lot of knowledge about Big Joe and the ship he sold which no-one else does.

It also creates a link between her and Kylen which is a bad idea.

He has an unmarked ship for her to go to the stolen ship, alone, and bring back the device on it. She had agreed to help him if he left her team behind, she refuses to do so and her team are now on his radar.

Which means John and D’avin are investigating on their own and they creatively threaten a contact to get their own lead on where the ship is. That still leaves them a little lost without Dutch and an unwelcome Fancy drops in to offer them Dutch’s location in exchange for the location of the ship.

Defiance, Season 3, Episode 8: My Name is Datak and I Have Come to Kill You

Princes Bride reference! That’s got to be worth an extra fang already

We start with a flashback – to the Votan worlds when Datak was a child on Daribo the Castithan (and Indogene) home world. Child Datak postures in front of a mirror before his dad stops his kid playing with knives (though it seems less “hey kid you’ll hurt yourself” and more “you are not worthy of lethal weapons!”)

In the present and in Defiance, the Indogene spy Bebe (now disguised as a human) and his Irathient cohort see Datak being executed on the rack – they don’t intervene. He has a whole lot of men he hands out guns to.

In the Need Want, Amanda reminds us all she’s a nice person by finding kind things to say about Datak, while Nolan is less sympathetic. They’re also not impressed by Berlin leaving.

Which is when Bebe’s men attack the Need Want, in body armour and better armed they quickly take over, capturing Nolan and Amanda and separating the humans and Votans. Using a projector they pass on a deal from Rahm – drop the stasis net and the humans get to leave (while Amanda doubts his motives, there is some logic to it: Rahm doesn’t want to lose forces and wants to use Defiance as a base since it’s so defensible, which means he doesn’t want it destroyed). When Amanda refuses, Rahm orders the hostages be killed and Nolan, Amanda and Bebe kill them. Yes, Bebe is now ingratiated into Defiance.

Many hostages are, however, dead.

Bebe calls himself Chris Vackna and a mercenary passing through – and is happily recruited.

Nolan goes to Irisa who is now preparing to fight and feeling guilty about not killing Rahm even as Nolan apologises for being so harsh to her about not doing so before. He admits to dropping the fatherhood ball. Irisa joins the militia and Nolan says how proud he is of her – she doesn’t seem that impressed by this.

Amanda has one of her reassuring speeches for the town – which they place on lockdown to try and figure out how Rahm’s forces got in – that all civilians must stay inside while the militia hunts the streets, chasing sounds of gunfire as Rahm’s forces slaughter humans they find. T’evgin disapproves of this and hunts them – with his teeth. The humans he saves ask if he will kill them, referring to the stories, but he calls them “just stories.” Nolan and “Chris” arrive and the Indogene looks properly terrified. Nolan again tries to recruit T’evgin who still holds that it is not his fight.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Under the Dome, Season 3, Episode 6: Caged

Ominous bad guy shows Big Jim a video of Christine when she first touched the egg, of her and Eva being absorbed by butterflies which, in turn, set off the Dome and the mini-Dome. And Christine is an alien. Big Jim isn’t that fussed with this revelation; but evil guy still doesn’t know exactly what she is or what she wants so is going to torture her by inflict Big Jim’s presence on her

Such things should be banned by international treaty.

Big Jim agrees when threatened with medical experimentation. He’s put in an adjacent cell to her and Christine stops pretending to be human, merrily imitating various human emotions and being quite disturbing. His dog doesn’t like her either. Christine insists that the people will come for her trying to mock him with James’s loyalty – of course Jim isn’t impressed with her “preying on the weak.”

After she tries to make him feel bad and lonely they argue with her thinking humans and her beings can co-exist, all happy and peaceful (look at the peace she’s brought the town) while he thinks she’s destroying humanity and turning them into pod-people. We have a clumsy debate about individuality verses nice peaceful clones.

It doesn’t go too well so Jim has to convince the evil-doc his plan is working and he is convincing Christine they’re on the same side.

In town Barbie wants Eva to explain everything (while a reflection shows Eva made up of static). She tells him about working for Acteon and finding the egg which only causes him minor ructions, which I put own to woo-woo. She also wants him to give Christine another chance. Barbie agrees to speak to her – but wants everyone to know the truth as well.

While Julia finds the whole town standing around and acting like uber terrifying pod people. They’re stood still because they’ve finished the beds for the camp but can’t move into them without their glorious leader’s permission. Yes it’s very very creepy. Very creepy indeed. She searches Christine’s office and finds a sketch of several crystals – and her incriminating voice recorder.

She hides when Eva and Barbie arrives looking for Christine and finding James instead. When Barbie leaves Eva and James talk about their plans to assimilate the whole town. And their plans to “put Hunter down” if he is actually paralysed after his fall. All is overheard by Christine.

Norrie and Joe are locked up and afraid when Carolyn arrives – yes, she still lives! She’s also become a full kinship pod person. They take them both away and James tries to get Joe to work alone while everyone watches as some kind of punishment. Julia tries to intervene and James knocks her out.

She wakes up with James brandishing a gun and lots of town people refusing to let her leave until Christine comes back.

Dominion, Season 2, Episode 3: The Narrow Gate

I think this show has made a similar mistake to Under the Dome with it’s opening – and given us a strict time scale. This apocalyptic war with the angels started 25 years ago – 25 years ago? The culture has changed ridiculously quickly for that tiny amount of time. 25 years – a goodly portion of the population can easily remember the time before the war!

Anyway back to the plot, Alex has to prove himself to Julian by wandering into a room full of furious 8 Balls and get a shiny – after some exposition as to why some possessing angels can’t take it and become frothing feral beasts – hence the feral beast cage. Except one of them has his key. They key for things Julian deigns not to explain. Of course Alex decides to do it – and to go in alone.

He also wants Julian to tell Vega that Gabriel is still alive and their whole bombing thing failed epicly.

Alex goes into the very ominous dark tunnels fighting desperately against 8 balls in the dark until he is rescued by 2 men – one of them a man called Eli and the other General Riesen who goes by Sam now. Well that was unexpected. He was imprisoned because he killed an 8 Ball. And he doesn’t really believe that 8 Balls and humans can co-exist despite what we’ve seen of New Delphi

Alex gets his key (in a most unpleasant fashion) and performs another exorcising hug manoeuvre on one of the 8 Balls, returning him to (dead) humanity. With the key he (and General Riesen) leave, Noma greeting him with a passionate kiss. This is shortly after Alex told Riesen Claire was pregnant with his child so I can understand the stink-eye Risesen gives him.

Julian agrees to the alliance –and pardons Riesen.

In Vega, Claire finds that Zoe has escaped thanks to rebels – and her guards are dead. She goes to a contact, an old crony of her dad’s, an engineer (apparently alone – the leader of the city can just wander around without bodyguards now?) called Gates to bribe him with quality booze to help her find Zoe. He refuses, so she demands he do it (though he nicely counters with the vital work he’s doing). She warns of rebellion, he laments the lack of Michael and eventually agrees to help

He comes to her with the location (and a nice little biplay where he reveals he knows the V1s, the lowest rung if Vega’s brutal class system, siphon off power and he lets them get away with it and Claire is happy with him to keep doing that).

With the location, Claire sends in the troops who drive them out. But afterwards, Claire questions one of the soldiers, sergeant Mills, asking why he missed Zoe. Claire is dubious that he could possibly have missed at that range. She accuses him of being a traitor and when he curses her, she shoots him in the leg.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Wicked Embers (Souls of Fire #2) by Keri Arthur

Melbourne is still under threat from the spread of Crimson Death – the vampirism plague that is creating ever more monsters. The research for cure and treatment is becoming ever more in demand from various shadowy organisations all with their own purposes

And in the middle of it is Emberly, the Phoenix, who many people think has the hidden notes for the cure research. On top of that, she’s having prophetic dreams of a new monster in town.

As a private investigator I think Emberly and Jackson are also much more legitimately involved in the plot, especially since Emberly is targeted as well. While the last book she felt inserted clumsily, now she works as a much more central figure to the investigation.

And I do like that investigation. It’s a mystery with lots of questions and numerous factions and twisting plots involved. The central question is still the plague, the quasi-vampires and their terrible infections, possibly apocalyptic disease and any possible cure or vaccination that may exist. But there are so many factions looking for this cure and many motives between them – people trying to make a profit, the Sindicati, a vampire underworld organisation that is now riven in two – with both factions after the information. And being a major underworld organisation, they have their lackies and contacts who also have their own input into the story with their own agendas and organisation.

On top of that we have PIT, the surreptitious police force that challenges the supernatural with their own shady organisation complicated with Sam and his history with Emberley. There’s a lot of things going on and it works

In fact if I have any criticism of this story is that there are too many factions and independent figures. Sometimes a name will come up and I’ll have a blank moment because I can’t remember who they are, which faction they’re part of or what goal they have. There are a lot of characters here – so very many characters and I get more than a little lost occasionally.

Part of this is it actually makes the main plot line seem somewhat out of place. Why are we following this shifting creature that eats people? It’s not that it’s a bad story – it’s actually really fun and well written and interesting. It’s just that the meta is so huge that I don’t think it necessarily fits except, perhaps, to add some new shiny new creatures to the world.

I do wish we could see more competence from Emberly. Throughout the book and their investigations Jackson is the one with the ideas and the knowledge. He knows the city better, he has the contacts, he has the investigative skills. Which is fair enough in a way, she is the investigator. But she has lived for centuries upon centuries – so where is the skill set to back this up? It’s no that she’s weak or useless – far from it, she’s immensely powerful – but that power revolves around her woo-woo. She’s a phoenix and they are might, dangerous beings – and it is actually somewhat rare to see a female character be so overwhelmingly more powerful (and actively so) than her lover and partner – but I do think at times she slightly turns into a fire turret. At the same time, I quite like how she is a power. She’ facing off against all of these major, scary organisations because she is a scary person. Not overpowered and terrifying and certainly there is tension facing off against what these dangerous organisation – but still a sufficient force that they have to respect her.

San Diego Comic-Con, Vids, Teasers and Temptations!

This is one of those events we really wish we could attend but would probably be far too embarrassing and likely to be subject to several restraining orders if we ever did (if nothing else, we are likely to find writers of various shows and scream "WHYYYYYYY?!" at them over and over again. Though I think I would like to study the Falling Skies writers from a careful distance for science).

The press around the event is always fun though - and there are numerous panels and videos that are definitely relevant to what we watch:

Orphan Black

Teen Wolf


Game of Thrones