Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Angel of Chaos (Imp #6) by Debra Dunbar

First, Sam was the little imp who could and then she became the Iblis after the magical sword chose her and now, in yet another stunning transformation, she has become the first angel of chaos since the separation between demons and angels. The angels might be fascinated with her new wings but that doesn't mean that they are going to give Sam a pass at anything.  When an angel arrives at Sam's door promising three favours if she agrees to give shelter to a woman, naturally, being an imp, Sam doesn't pause to consider the old adage, if something seems to good to be true, it probably is. Sam finds herself protecting a pregnant woman who is carrying a nephilim.  Sam may be the Iblis but the angles don't take kindly at all to nephilim.  Sam quickly finds herself battling the angles to protect the woman and child she swore to protect and once again shaking up things in Aaru.

Angel of Chaos feels very much like the Imp series returning to its roots.  Sam may be an Angel of Chaos but she still manages to find herself up shits creek without a paddle pretty quickly.  Sam may now feel morally responsible for the people she has decided are hers but that doesn't stop her hilarious internal monologue.  When Sam is attacked by three angels, Gregory naturally assumes that she has been leaving fake vomit in the sixth circle or infesting the first circle with bird lice once again.  Gregory knows all to well that Sam cannot resist her impish impulses for too long.  Sam may be a cockroach but she's his cockroach and though it means risking his vibration level and opening himself up to new experiences like vodka, chicken wings, chocolate and physical sex, Gregory has decided to strap himself in for the wild ride.

Sam and Gregory started off with a very uneasy alliance and it has grown so much.  Unfortunately, it means that Wyatt, Sam's human toy has pretty much been put out to pasture. This essentially comes down to Gregory accepting at least some of Sam's impish ways whereas; Wyatt is determined to change her.  Gregory may be the archangel Michael but Sam is now clearly his partner and his equal, even if he does enjoy punishing her in Aaru. I love every single scene they share together and am excited that in the next book, Gregory will be spending far less time in Aaru.

Okay, I know I've done a lot of gushing but I love this series.  I love the fact that Angels have hangovers and the growing relationships.  These characters feel so very real to me.  I really don't want to be critical but even our favourite books have their problems.

In Angel of Chaos we meet Jaq a Nephilim and Kelly who are a couple.  Kelly is fiercely protective over Jaq and it's nice to see but we never seem them in a moment of real intimacy.  It will be interesting to see if Dunbar expands their role in the series.

Sam and Leithu are definitely bisexual, there is no doubt about that with both of them repeatedly expressing their interest in other women. This book is very good at making that clear

But after so many books now it’s a little odd that these women never actually have sex with women. Especially since this book is so sexually charged; they have sex a lot. They enjoy sex and neither has any desire to be monogamous. We see them have relationships and we see them have a lot of casual sex (including a stream of pizza delivery guys) but always always with men. Wouldn’t these bisexual women, often expressing their lust for other women, very actively pursuing their sex lives at least occasionally have sex with a woman? At least once?

Sometimes it seems almost inevitable – but when we get close another story reason arises (or, rather, is manufactured) why they can’t actually go through with it. And it feels manufactured because these reasons aren’t maintained – like Leithu is too delicate for Sam to have sex with – but not for Sam’s brother? Leithu may enthral Sam if they have sex… but that’s not a concern for Sam’s brother? Even when Leithu is about to have sex with a woman, she shapeshifts into a man to do it, despite preparing a female form.

Again, in no way can I say these women are not bisexual, that is made very clear wonderfully on multiple occasions, but why this reticence to have them have sex with women in a series that is so sexual?

Harper was dropped off at Sam's door and Sam was tricked into offering her protection. It seems that Harper is about to give birth to a nephlim and angels we have been told see them as abominations. Harper is a Native American or mixed Spanish woman.  She is fierce and is not afraid to defend herself against the magnificent odds that is set against.  Unfortunately this is where the good race inclusion ends.  Sam refers to the father of Harper's baby as racist for his treatment of nephlim who fo the record are part angel spawn and have no relationship whatsoever to people of colour.  Then we have Jaq invoking Harper's Ferry and John Brown in relationship to the big showdown.  Why couldn't we just have some good racial inclusion?  Harper may be proactive but Angel of Chaos is far too white.

I really love this series, don't let the critiques fool you.  Dunbar keeps me giggling with Sam's antics and cheer with Sam's absolute refusal never to give up no matter what she's up against.  Sam however remains and Imp and that means that even when she is trying to be good, bad things happen like her putting hallucinogenic drugs into the soup at a soup kitchen. I never know what she is going to get into next.  I love the way her relationship with Gregory is moving and I love that Dunbar is widening the world by explaining how vampires, werewolves, angels and demons are related to each other. Simply put, I cannot get enough and cannot wait until the next book in this series comes out.

The Strain, Season 2, Episode 8: Intruders

Kelly is continuing to become one of the Master’s more intelligent vampire minions with her own personality – Eichorst teaches her how to look more human, the skills she must learn and how her body will change. All so she can reach Zach and, through him, Ephraim
At base Ephraim and Vasiliy plan how to kill Palmer – and Ephraim wants a rifle to snipe at Palmer, relying on Vasiliy’s contacts to get him one.

While Nora would quite like to know what happened to Barnes, their old boss, and how he fell out of a train – the same train Ephraim was on. Oopsie! What a coincidence! He acts all ignorant and adamantly refuses to talk about what happened in DC

Ephraim takes Zach with him to buy weapons (because he’s father of the year like that) and pauses along the way to remind Zach his mother is totally dead and now a raving monster (as I said, father of the year). But the gun dealer Ephraim knows has had a disagreement with a client and is now all injured and bleeding.

Time for Ephraim to play doctor and have his son play surgical nurse. Father of the Year.

Having patched the man up they get a gun easily but co-operation between father and son ends because Zach is still sure Ephraim can save his evil mother.

At team evil, Palmer wakes up in bed with Coco. But evil mastermind business calls Palmer away – particularly he has to meet the Cardinal about his evil book. He also has to see Eichorst who Coco hates because of all the evil – and because he smells of fish. She wants to know about him and isn’t a big fan of Palmer trying to keep her in the dark. Makes me wonder if she has an ulterior motive.

Palmer meets up with the Cardinal selling the evil book – who spends a lot of time dickering over the price without closing the deal. He has another bidder – Abraham – and wants to see what he will pay. They’re interrupted by Eichorst who wants to know what Palmer is so eager to buy – and again Palmer completely fails to realise he is not the power in this relationship and throws lots of outrage at the vampire nazi. While he may not have the power and Eichorst may be dishing out the orders, Plamer still manages to twist the knife about the Master choosing Bolivar to be his vessel rather than Eichorst.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The Mark of Noba (Sterling Wayfairer Series #1) by GL Tomas

Sterling Wayfair is determined that his last year of high school will be the one where he truly defines himself – when he makes his mark and sets himself apart from his accomplished and charismatic friends

Then he meets Tetra, a woman from a whole other world who is mystically connected to him – and he realises he is far more unique than ever he imagined. And it comes with a mission far more important than setting himself apart from his fellows at school – or even finally screwing up the courage to ask Waverly, a girl he has a long crush on, out to the prom.

There’s a lot about this book I like. The concept of the book – with people from Noba fleeing to Geo to try and find sanctuary from a genocidal war that has been inflicted on their people by the Naga. This leads to two very interesting characters having to deal with this from separate angels

Tetra remembers Noba, knows Noba and is doing everything she can to preserve the last of her people, defeat the Naga and, especially, protect her bond-mate Sterling. We have some really excellent depictions of her trying to fit into Geo, a world that is pretty much a reflection of the US on Earth (honestly, you could replace "Geo" with "Ohio" and made no real difference). It’s really well done – from language mistakes, to different ideas of social taboos, to hobbies and rituals and attitudes: Tetra is a really excellent depiction of culture shock. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that so well presented a character so completely out of her depth and out of her element. It really does work well – this world is so alien to her and she often comes across as unkind simply because she is in such a different cultural context. She is a wonderful mix of extremely talented, hyper-capable and powerful while at the same time being so totally out of her depth. It’s a wonderful mix of capacity and vulnerability

There’s also her feelings towards Sterling – how she clearly cares a lot for him but she has had to separate herself from him for his own good, forcing her to face all the problems alone. If anything I think there could be more development of her pain over this.

Then we have Sterling who is struggling to get by in life as a very ordinary teenager. Struggling with romance, with school, with making his life and establish his own personality and impact in the shadow of some very accomplished best friends. On top of these very real and very well presented standard high school issues he then has Tetra come into his life, telling him all these incredible things, messing with his mind and his memory and telling him that just about everything he believed is wrong – on top of his own worries about his mental health and having to guide a rather tactless Tetra through the alien vagaries of school life.

Fear The Walking Dead Season One, Episode Two: So Close, Yet So Far

The principal is making his rounds in the empty school and the entire campus is deserted.  Alicia arrives at Matt's to find the door open and flowers strewn on the floor.

Madison, Travis and Nick speed down the road.  Nick turns the radio dials and listens to the panic. Travis is certain that they need to get away from the city and people until they know what is going on. Alicia calls and Madison asks her to pack some things and load up some groceries because they are going out of town.  Alicia however says that they cannot go because Matt has a fever of 103.  Madison tells Alicia to call 911 and Alicia says that she tries but keeps getting busy signals.  Madison orders Alicia to stay away from Matt until they get there.  Before Alicia can explain more about the sick Matt, they get cut off.

Chris gets on a full bus. When his phone rings and the ID reveals that it's Travis, Chris sends the call straight to voicemail.

Madison, Travis and Nick have arrived at Matt's. Madison again orders Alicia away from Matt, saying that people are getting sick.  Alicia however feels that this is pointless as she has already been in close proximity to Matt.  Travis moves to Matt's bedside and asks him about his parents.  Alicia and Matt say that his parents are driving home today.  Travis sends Alicia to get Matt some water when he starts to cough.  Nick heads into the bathroom and starts rifling through the drawers, clearly looking for drugs.  Travis checks Matt's shoulder and notices a bite mark.  When Alicia returns to the room, Madison tries to send her away but Alicia refuses to leave her sick boyfriend.  Matt assures Alicia that his parents will be home soon and that he will be fine but Alicia is adamant about staying with Matt because she loves him. Matt again tells Alicia that she has to go.  Matt and Alicia embrace briefly as over her shoulder, he makes eye contact with Travis. Clearly Matt knows that he is going to die and is sending Alicia away for her own good.

Chris's bus is caught up in traffic and he watches out the window as emergency services race by.  A man jumps on the bus and announces that the cops shot a homeless dude twenty times.

Madison, Travis, Nick and Alicia arrive home to see their neighbors across the street throwing a birthday party. The husband coughs into his hand and waves.  Inside the house, Nick asks Madison to tell Ms. Cruz (their neighbour) what is going on but Madison doesn't know what she would say. Nick believes that no one is paying attention. Madison sits at Nick's feet and assures him that he saved them. Nick is clearly still freaked out by everything he has seen.

Travis is getting frantic after having called Liza and Chris repeatedly and getting no answer.  Finally, Madison tells him to go and get Eliza and Chris right now.  Travis tells Madison to leave without him promising to catch up but she promises to wait.  Travis pulls out of the driveway and Madison looks across the street at the party her neighbours have set up.

Travis finally gets a call from Eliza and she is certain that he is trying to change their visitation agreement.  Travis begs Eliza to call Chris and tell him to get home.  Eliza hangs up the phone telling Travis that she will see him next weekend.  Travis gets caught in traffic. Chris has left the bus and is now walking down the busy street.

Alicia is in her room when Madison calls out that she needs the bucket. Nick is rolling around on the couch with the DT's and Madison is frantically calling their doctor trying to get a prescription to deal with detoxing.  Alicia points out that Nick is only going to get worse and will soon be unable to travel. Alicia asks if Madison has a stash somewhere in the house - perhaps some Vicodin from when she had a wisdom teeth pulled. Madison wonders if the doctor's office is closed because they are not calling her back.  When Madison hears a siren, she leaves her children, making Alicia promise not to leave the house.

Travis tries to cut through a gas station to get around the traffic but finds himself just as  stuck.  He watches as a cop loads up the trunk of his car with bottled water.

Madison makes her way to the now empty school and uses her key to enter.  Madison makes her way to an office to grab a key but starts to be suspicious about her surroundings.  Madison walks over a body outline and then uses a crowbar to pry open a locker to retrieve drugs.  Tobias sneaks up on Madison, scaring her half to death. It seems that Tobias came in search of his knife.

Falling Skies, Season 5, Episode 10: Reborn

It’s the season finale! My pain finally ends! IT FINALLY ENDS!

Matt is doing a voice over to patriotic music as the whole gang fights lots of buzzy flying Espheni. Lots of shooting and fighting and Weaver’s little servant guy gets killed. Everyone pretend to care about the dead extra.

With the attack Weaver insists that they stay one more night before the attack. So everyone gathers around the camp fire for a big inspirational Mason speech. Yawn

The next day a load of bikers arrive – it’s one of Mason’s militias. Which means we have more people to hail Tom as their leader. They also get contact from one of the other militias describing a wall around DC (where they’re headed for reasons that probably made sense a few episodes ago before my brain begged for mercy). So it’s time to strategise how to get past the wall. And new guys are playing doubters since Pope has been kicked out of that role which means we have to have a lot of the same tiresome arguments (“why don’t the volm do it?” etc etc). It gives them chance to info-dump their whole plan (get virus bomb to queen. Kill queen, end Espheni).

Weaver decides to leave Anthony behind to hold the base – this is his gesture of faith. New team will attack the wall and be a distraction while Big Damn Hero Tom puts on his plot armour and goes through some tunnels to kill the Queen.

Battle time and Tom’s team enters the tunnels with a load of the named characters. Including people you wouldn’t expect to be in a strike team (like Digaan). They also find an Espheni hatchery – full of evil Espheni eggs and baby Overlords are apparently super-duper dangerous and violent. So they have to sneak past the eggs – and because of Lexi, Anne has a complete freak out panic attack about the eggs. Because she’s also pregnant. Oh joy, another Mason is on the way. This is proof humanity doesn’t deserve to be saved.

As they sneak past the eggs we hear some of Lt. Wolf’s back story (which also helpfully tells us why he knows the tunnels) and a brief discussion about the value of martyring yourself – which Weaver doesn’t approve of. Can you not have this discussion around the sound sensitive eggs?

Of course one of the extras bursts an egg, we knew that was going to happen. Lots of gun fire but no actual enemies to shoot. They then hilariously decide to keep sneaking and whispering after lots of gunfire. At this point I don’t even feel tension. I want everyone to die so much that the whole “zomg something may eat them!” instead is more “PLEASE LET SOMEONE EAT THEM!”) Lots of firing and grenades and stuff without them using any CGI budget on actually showing an alien. Is there actually an alien here or are they just fighting themselves

Monday, August 31, 2015

Prudence (Custard Protocol #1) by Gail Carriger

Prudence Akeldama is a very special child, a meta-natural with the power to steal the powers of vampires and werewolves and child of three of the most powerful people in the British Empire – she is destined to be change the world

The first mission of which is for her and her merry band of friends to get on their new airship (the Spotted Custard) to float to India, to ostensibly discover a new source of tea.

Except quickly they find themselves in far deeper intrigue than they ever imagined

This was a very fun book. We had some delightfully amusing characters – Rue’s complete irreverence towards society, her shifting of personalities because of the many excellent influences in her life. She is skilled, capable, confident and pretty much determined to take the world by storm. I kind of love how she has this iron-hard self-assurance. In many characters it would be annoying – but it worked with Rue. Her confidence, her fierce belief in herself, her willingness to jump into any situation confident that her unique abilities, her skills and her relatives to pull her out of any problems she gets in.

We also have Gail Carriger’s excellent writing style that wonderfully uses flowery Victorian style with her humour and dash of silliness that really makes it work.

(Example: “She inspired, at even the best balls, a sensation of immanent dread. It was one of the reason she was always at the top of all invitation lists. Dread had such an agreeable affect on society’s upper crust.”)

I think the story could have been vastly improved if Rue were directing the story. If she went to India with a genuine mission rather than pretty much stumbling on the plot and then, somewhat, ineptly, then stagger around it

The book, sadly, has many problems. Above that there are two main ones. The first of which is that it is covering areas of colonialism, imperialism et al with a very shallow hand which is going to be dubious in any circumstances and I will come back to,

The second is that the Custard Protocol directly follows on from The Parasol Protectorate and it really doesn’t live up to the standards that that series set

Doctor Who: Recap Series 1

After a 16 year hiatus and one terrible terrible movie, Doctor Who returned to the air  The Doctor (9th incarnation) was played by Christopher Eccleston and his companion Rose Tyler by Billie Piper. From the beginning, the two are well matched and quickly develop a fun friendly banter.  The Doctor may be Rose's guide but she keeps him grounded. Rose meets the doctor during an alien invasion and when he offers her the chance to travel with him, she accepts after some reservation.

In their first adventure together, the Doctor takes Rose to see the end of earth.  I understand that they had to explain how the Doctor and Rose came to travel together for new fans of the series; however, it wasn't until the second episode that I truly felt like I began to get a sense of who these people are. Like Rose, we are new to everything that we are being exposed to and it's easy to see this alien world through her eyes.  The reality is that one day our sun is going to super nova and no one alive today will be there to witness it. The Doctor tells Rose that all the humans have scattered out across the universe. The End of the World encourages viewers to imagine what might be, even as the Doctor attempts to bring an end to the Lady Cassandra's evil plans.

Speaking of the Lady Cassandra, "moisturize me, moisturize me!" I love her vain and conniving ways.   It is however problematic that in discussion with Rose, Cassandra calls earth the place where she grew up as a little boy.  This means that this twisted remnant of humanity is trans*.  Had lady Cassandra been cisgender, altering her body into something completely unnatural wouldn't have made me raise a single eyebrow.  The treatment of Lady Cassandra heavily implies that only cisgender bodies are natural and that the path taken to achieve body gender alignment in the end leads to something that isn't quite human, despite the fact that  Cassandra relishes her status as the last so-called pure human. The very awfulness of Cassandra's body is realised the moment Rose stands beside her.  Rose, the cisgender woman, in this context is normal and Casandra, the trans* woman, is a freak and in complete denial of this.  If Cassandra's 708 surgeries are a commentary on societies absolute fascination with youth that's one thing but if it's a commentary on SRS, then it is most certainly transphobic.

The only character of colour to make an appearance in The End of the World is Jabe, and she plays the role of a tree. The Doctor offers air from his lungs to Jabe when he cannot find a gift for the exchange.  Jabe is the one to discover who the Doctor is and offer her condolences because he is the last of his kind. They share a moment and the Doctor's eyes water.  It's short lived because it's not long before Jabe is sacrificing herself, so that the Doctor can once again save the world. She is yet another dead body in the Doctor's wake. The 9th Doctor is still very much processing that he is the last of his kind and the weight of what he has done.

Travelling with The Doctor, means that Cassandra et al are but the first of the aliens that Rose will meet. I really do wish we had not met the Slitheen family.  These aliens are bent upon destroying the earth and because of bad gas exchange they are constantly farting. I know that Doctor Who was originally intended to be a children's show but farting aliens? Really?  It was just so puerile at times that the three episodes involving the Slitheens did not capture my full attention, even if I was amused by the Doctor's date with Margaret Slitheen. Talk about a terrible first date.  

In the Daleks, we meet the Doctor's enduring enemy for the first time.  The Dalek, just like the Doctor, is the last of its kind and without any commands, it follows it's prime directive (yes, I know that's a Star Trek reference shut up!) to EXTERMINATE.  It gets DNA from Rose and begins to terrorize the underground bunker where it has been held captive.  Rose at first sympathises with the Dalek's loneliness, until it shows her why the Doctor had been so adamant that it must destroyed. No other creature rises the ire of the Doctor like the Daleks and it is quickly evident in the way the Doctor immediately calls for its destruction. With other alien antagonists the Doctor at least tries to reason and negotiate  as can be seen in The Unquiet Dead  for example and this is quite different than his approach to the Daleks. When dealing with the Slitheens, the Doctor is quick to reject a gun but when offered a gun by Adam when facing the Dalek, The Doctor readily accepts.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Dominion, Season 2, Episode 8: The Longest Mile Home

Alex and Noma are all ready to face off against 8 Balls when Michael arrives scaring them off. After a brief check to see if Noma is dying (she isn’t) he lays out the situation – Gabriel is alive (which he presents as a good thing) and Julian is about to invade Vega for spare bodies.

They walk off and return to the place where the random guy last episode nuked a lot of 8 balls to save Noma and Alex – Michael remembers it as being a similar affect to what the town of Mallory did to approaching 8 Balls.

Michael does talk to Noma about her epic sacrifice, but it’s only a brief reference towards further helping Alex. She also tells him about the man who could burn 8 Balls who told her to bring Alex east.

Devious David and devious Arika communicate by radio – Arika isn’t happy; though they both want the war to keep going she wanted the negotiations to go ahead without the sniper messing things up. David is happy for the war to keep flaring and they end on a decidedly uncooperative note.

Except seems to catch David talking – and Gates is listening in on the conversation as well.