Thursday, April 27, 2017

The Handmaid's Tale, Season One, Episode One: Offred


Hulu's The Handmaid's Tale is an adaptation of the Margaret Atwood book by the same name.  The source material is now 32 years old but never has it felt so relevant.  With the shit stain occupying the oval office, plans to defund Planned Parenthood, the denial regarding global warming and Americans running across the Canadian border for safety and the chance at a better life, it's hard not to feel as though this is more than a simply dystopian story with elements of the world we now live in and instead a chilling foreshadowing of what could be. 

It's fitting that the first episode entitled Offred, is based on our protagonist.  We know that Offred's real name is June, though it's a name that she is forbidden to go by now.  Women take on the name of the commander of their household and therefore the name Offred quite literally means of Fred.  Offred is not a person and she does not have feelings. Offred has one job and that is to bare children for the new regime while being as modest and invisible as possible. 

June lives in what was once the U.S. which has now, over run by Christian fanaticism, is called Gilead. We follow June as she, her husband Luke and their daughter Hannah, try to escape into Canada, only to be caught.  Luke is murdered and June and her daughter are seperated. Thus begins Offred and the end of June. We follow as Offred goes about her daily tasks of getting the shopping done for the household, accompanied by Ofglen, whom Offred believes to be a pious spy. Offred is all to aware that she, as a handmaiden is always being watched.  They (read: the government) look for subversiveness and they look for any attempt to escape. Offred already knows that with so much already stacked against her, the only real escape is death and the powers that be, know that as well. 

Offred's downcast eyes are always obsequious because she has learned through her time in a re-education camp that punishment is swift and merciless.  She's learned that if a woman is raped, she's responsible for it.  Offred has learned from the Aunts, women dressed in brown who responsible for the indoctrination of the handmaids, that in the old society (read: U.S.A.), pollution was poisoning everything.  When the birthrate started to decline, the women were so stubborn and unfeminine that they kept taking birth control and having abortions. Women like Offred are supposedly blessed because they have a chance to redeem themselves and erase their former slutty ways through strict dedication to God and fulfilling a woman's true purpose in life - giving birth to children for their commanders. Though the Aunts have power over the soon to be Handmaids, they speak in envy of their lot in life. 

Discount Armageddon (InCryptid #1) by Seanan McGuire




Verity Price’s family is not like many others. She grew up dodging her sister’s habit of booby-traps and ambushes and dealing with her grandmother’s regular visits into hell to find her grandfather. Oh and her cousin isn’t human.

Her family has worked with monsters, protected humanity from them – protected them from humanity – and generally tried to keep things in balance. Unlike the Covenant of St George which is determined to kill anything they don’t consider human or right.

So when one arrives in town, completely derailing her dancing dreams, Verity is not happy.


Some books just make me smile. I just read them with a big silly grin on my faced because they’re so much fun and I’m enjoying them throughout and I get all kind of sad when it ends.

But this is the first book of an entire series so I have so many more fun books to charge through which I’m really looking forward to: book one has definitely got me hooked in here.

The world is fascinating – not because it’s supernatural beings in a modern world (there are no shortages of those these days), but the way they’re integrated is fascinating. Not by being open and revealed and being part of the human political world (which they’re not), but by having them part of the greater global ecosystem. After all, we have these worlds where the supernatural is part of the world, then why wouldn’t they be part of the food chain, part of the environmental structure, part of the general mess of myriad interactions that all creatures in nature go through?

This is a world where Cryptozoology is still, basically zoology. The studying of supernatural creatures – Cryptids – is, at the beginning, the study of creatures and beings. Intelligent cryptids have histories and societies and cultures. The non-intelligent cryptids have instincts and territories and are basically animals like any other

I love how this is explored. And I love how it is examined in far more detail than simply “are these evil”. A creature that hunts humanity is not just inherently condemned by Verity and her family – after all in a world where the supernatural exists “endangered big predator” or “giant lethal monster” are pretty much synonymous.

There’s also real ecological considerations – which affects humanity as well. If you wipe out a species that normally changes an ecosystem drastically. I really love how the whole concept of supernatural beings is addressed by in a very scientific, naturalist way which is truly excellent.

iZombie, Season 3, Episode 4: Wag the Tongue Slowly



The characters are beginning to split up to various plot lines this episode. Ravi may be the only one who dodges between the different storylines

But only because he doesn’t actually do anything but mope. And mope. And mope some more. And he still doesn’t really seem to grasp that he’s done something wrong so much as just wallow in big pit of self pity. I am really not a fan of what Ravi has become this season, I’m really not.

He does join Major occasionally but only so he can mope in a corner and distract us. While Major is faced with a lot of conflicts – he’s dying. He has the cure that will save him but in doing so he will lose all of his memories. That’s a damn hard decision to make – and he is running out of time to make it.

And in that time he’d like to find Natalie, the suicidal zombie he froze when he was a fake-serial killer and now wants to rescue but she has been sold, possibly, as a sex-slave to a vicious dangerous mobster zombie and his zombie dangerous men with guns who are quite willing to threaten him with guns.

Perhaps because there is a sense that he doesn’t have so much to lose with him having to choose between death and amnesia; Major isn’t deterred despite the death threats being thrown at him. He does track down Natalie – and she is terrified. She doesn’t think she can run away, she thinks they’re far too dangerous and there’s nowhere she can run to – even with Fillmore-Graves as an option. And if this guy is too dangerous for a legion of zombie mercenaries then that’s a bad sign

Major gives her one out – the zombie amnesia cure. Allowing her to escape being a zombie and, presumably, be controlled in exhcnage for losing her memory

I’m not sure how this is an escape? I mean, sure, if they were controlling her solely by controlling her supply of brains this would make sense. But she was just offered an infinite supply of brains by Major and an army to keep her safe – but she’s too afraid. So how does amnesia humanity help? She will be physically more fragile and would have no memory of even needing to escape. Maybe it’s because it’s all Major felt he could possibly offer her?

Speaking about that serum – Ravi tests this on Blaine and that brings Blaine and Peyton into a huge amount of complexity between them which is really well done. Peyton is very attracted to – and very much likes – this Blaine. The good, brave, genuinely decent man he has become. She is not looking forward to him being replaced by the Old Blaine who could be an utterly different and horrible person

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Apocalypse: Underwater City (The Hope Saga #1) by Chrissy Peebles

Image result for Apocalypse: Underwater City (The Hope Saga #1) by Chrissy Peebles

The world as we know it is gone.  Who would have thought that humanity would suffer the same fate as the dinosaurs? When a huge asteroid hits the earth, only a small group of people saw it coming. Armed with the knowledge that the surface of the earth would no longer be habitable, they built a dome under the ocean as a sort of ark in the hopes of saving as many as they possibly could.  They watched in horror as the asteroid made it's way towards the earth and people studiously ignored or denied the implications. 

It's been years since the asteroid hit the earth and sixteen year old Sky Hammons is desperate to join the small group of humans who are attempting to repopulate the land.  Even though the small dome proved to literally be a life saver, Sky is desperate to leave and sees herself as little better than a rat trapped in a cage. Unfortunately, it seems that the leader of  humanity may not necessarily believe that everyone should have the right to feel the suns rays on their skin.

I'm truly thankful that Apocalypse is only a novella because I don't think that I could handle a full length book. This short entree was absolutely riddled with grammatical mistakes causing me to re-read portions of it continually trying to divine the meaning of the text. I'm not one to complain about mistakes in a self pub if I can understand the authors meaning but when it becomes a reoccurring problem and detracts from my enjoyment of the story, it's absolutely worth mentioning. 

We are told repeatedly that people who complain about the ruler simply disappear without explanation and so what does Sky do? Well, she's constantly running her mouth about how something just doesn't feel right and questioning if they've been lied to about the condition of the surface.  If people are suddenly disappearing because they are too vocal, the intelligent response is not to boisterously complain but maybe to investigate quietly and perhaps question even more quietly. Furthermore, if people are disappearing for being vocal or resisting authority, why is Sky still strolling around growing pansies and sparring with her bff?  The disappearances of people speaks to authoritarianism but beyond Sky's continually blather about something not feeling right, we were not given any evidence to back up her suspicions.  If her government is so evil why are they allowing the people to train with weapons, thus gaining the skills to revolt if necessary? 

Then we have the murder of two young women who we are told are innocent by Skye but the government doesn't seem interested in investigating. Here's a question, why should a sixteen year old, known to have a big mouth be privy to the inner workings of any investigation? In fact, what investigator runs around telling the populace what they've learned before establishing who the guilty party is? If that were not enough, Skye takes objection to the removal of the body. Should the authorities have just left the body to rot in a small enclosed public space?

Shadowhunters Season 2, Episode 4: Day of Wrath



Jace, our tragic traitor of treachery has now been locked up in the City of Bones – which contains lots of medieval decorating, some nice flickering torches (you know they’re gas and just pretending to be fire) and someone’s even pulled out their sound track of ominous screaming

Y’know, the Shadowhunters may actually have a better job of selling themselves as good guys if they don’t have a torture dungeon.

There we run into Hodge who is also imprisoned and tries to make common cause with Jace as they’re both evil traitors of treason-ness but Jace isn’t having that because Hodge is totally a worse traitor (and no, I’m not arguing Jace’s innocence. By all interpretations Jace has supported Valentine).

In between the spooky Silent Brothers torturing Jace while he sleeps (even before he’s been tried because these are the good guys, folks!) and him suffering still further when Clary visits and attempts to act. Jace would like her to stay away from him. I can understand that – the only thing worse than Clary’s acting if Jace and Clary trying to act together – please, please bring on Magnus. He’s been to drama school!

Anyway time for Jace’s trial where he holds the big scary sharp sword of please-don’t-murder-the-prosecution aka the-sword-of-my-gods-why-does-our-court-rely-on-violent-criminals-being-given-fucking-huge-weapons (deployed before the Hand Grenade of Plea Deals and the Bazooka of Self-Advocacy). This sword prevents him lying when Victor, incompetent and more than a little evil head of the Shadowhunters of New York (this character needs a moustache to twirl because he’s such a caricature of incompetent evil) starts questioning him. About wanting to fuck his sister

No, really, most of Victor’s questions are about how Jace totally gets all hot and bothered about Clary, his sister-but-he-didn’t-know it. Nice to see Victor has his priorities in order. He also asks whether Jace can fully pledge himself to the Clave… which Jace can’t. He can’t because he’s not sure whether the Clave is doing enough to take down dangerous Downworlders. He is sentenced to life imprisonment with lots of torture.

While I want to point to all the evil torture and killing is another good reason to not want to pledge. I’m picky like that.

While he’s being sentenced Valentine moves in to “rescue” him, in the process killing lots of the torturing Silent Brothers (should I be sad about this?). Hodge also dies but Jace refuses to leave with his evil daddy because, y’know evil. However when given a choice between stopping Valentine portalling out (he still has a pet enslaved Warlock) with the Special Sword or saving Cartoon-Villain Victor’s life he chooses the latter

Oh Jace, that was a bad decision on so very many levels. Even Clary would have difficulty beating that one and her decisions in the book were so poor that we named a trope after her.

Let’s drop in on the oh-so-hyped relationship of Alec and Magnus. They actually talk about Jace
About how important Jace is (but Alec kind of remembered you Magnus, sort of)
Yes Jace is very important
Shall we talk more about Jace?
Hey, how about we get coffee some time?
Yes. Then we can talk more about Jace.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Nice Guys Bite (Elemental Assassin #15.5) by Jennifer Estep




  
The foreward of this book says it’s for Silvio fans. Which was a hook for me because I’ve been desperate for Silvio to be developed in this series for some time.

Silvio is an interesting concept – the admin support for the criminal empire. The PA for the mob boss. A man – well vampire – who lives in a city that is so corrupt and so overtaken by criminal gangs that it needs its own bureaucracy.

And Silvio has been such a blank slate for a long time which is a shame and deeply problematic. He’s a skilled administrator who likes order and values Gin –but that’s not exactly a personality, it’s a series of quirks that just make him useful to Gin. Which is basically what we see of him – an admin assistant who is there to, in Gin’s words “mother her” without actually having anything in the way of his own life.

This was a chance for us to see a lot more of him, his memories, how he feels about working for Gin. Also what it means for him to be a vampire, what blood he drinks, how he gets it, how he feels about that. This series often treats the various creatures that inhabit the world somewhat casually – “Fred is a Giant”, “Latoya is a Dwarf” without much looking through the eyes of them. So seeing Silvio talk about his blood drinking, think about it and relate to it is an interesting expansion not just of him but the entire world.

This story gave Silvio a relationship, opinions, nice quirks like his sweet tooth and generally made the first steps towards turning him from a random extra who existed to serve into an actual character.

I do have issues though. Firstly, my issue is that this is a short story. Silvio has, since his introduction, been a blink-and-you-miss-it LGBT inclusion, as well as a Latino character (though we do have other latino characters as well) There are several books with Silvio in them which you can read and you won’t realise he is a gay character at all. So this definitely needed expanding and developing to actually make his inclusion more than the very thinnest of tokenism – but this doesn’t do that. This is exactly what we talked about in our post of Quite Portrayals of minorities. Rather than having Silvio’s relationships, sexuality and character development happen as part of the main plot line, it’s relegated to a side-book, a short story, a fluff piece that has no real connection to the main plot line. More, the story is even set up so Silvio doesn’t tell Gin, Sophia or anyone else what happened so they will never bring it up again. Sophia, Roslyn, Finn, Owen all had major books devoted to their personal storyline and trauma – and the whole cast were involved in it. They reference it because of that (I am currently reading Snared in which Gin refers to Sophia’s past as a perfect example)

Silvio’s story has been put in a short story aside from the main plot, ensured it’s completely separate from the other characters and generally has the feeling of box ticking; like “damn we’ve only had one LGBT character in 18 books and short stories (just the ones I've read - there are several short stories I haven't. Which is kind of my point, I'm not the only one who doesn't read short stories for series), and single mentions don’t cut it any more” so this book is released and lo, problem is solved. Now Silvio can go back to “mothering” Gin as her gay latino assistant while having no story or life of his own all without a single ripple in the main plot line.

The Leftovers, Season 3, Episode 2: Don't be Ridiculous



Like pretty much every episode of The Leftovers, this episode exists to show us he mental states of people

Which are pretty much obvious anyway, but hey let’s have an entire episode of random encounters and mood music so we can emphasise what these emotions are all so we can have an hour long episode in which virtually nothing substantive happens so we can say, yet again, how the Depature left everyone in emotional pieces. Again.

This is what we’ve been doing for 2 seasons and barring a whole lot of Kevin hallucinations, not much has happened

This episode is all about Nora. Nora, she who lost nearly her entire family to the Departure and has now become a hard nosed fraud investigator for the Department of the Departed, ready to cut through all the myths and legends that have risen up about it

So when the old guy who has been up a tower since the Departure began finally falls off that tower and dies she and Kevin are quick to investigate. His wife, clinging to her faith and desire to believe, insists the man Departed. Kevin is happy to leave it at that because it makes everyone happy and peaceful while she gets right in there, forces Matt to admit he helped the wife cover up the death and they buried the body in secret. Then she has that body dug up and takes photos of it

She’s also pretty good at shooting down any of the other fictions that are rising up. Including the idea that Kevin is a messiah which she mocks gloriously (much to Kevin’s discomfort) and even has an awesomely effective moment when she praises John for the book. But she praises it as “exciting”. She’s praising it as a work of fiction.

Nora has no time for fiction and lies and even self-delusion around the Departure. This is underscored when someone contacts her offering her a means to contact her departed children. She’s furious and gets her boss to fund her to follow this up intending to expose it

While still hoping. This tiny, desperate hope that maybe this would be true – that tiny hope that keeps hurting her.

She follows it up and finds a man who is very like her. He lost several members of his family as well – and he looks like he’s a true believer in this method even as Nora believes he is a victim of a fraud. He angrily shoots her down when she tries to psychoanalyse him – because he lost all those members of his family and it was completely arbitrary. This is a major element of the Leftovers and the Departure – there’s NO REASON. It’s completely random and there’s apparently nothing you can possibly do to avoid it or figure out why. He angrily tells her that what he’s doing is to try and gain some control

Once Upon a Time, Season 6, Episode 18: When Bluebirds Fly



It’s a Zelena episode so it’s time for a flashback to remind us of some of Zelena’s founding motives and introduce us to the tin man

When Zelena was a shunned child – because she had magic – a boy called Stanum recognised she was a good person because she used her magic for good. Awwwww

Fastforward to when Zelena is an adult, all green, mean and in charge of Oz (and very very very bored) and Stanum catches up with her asking for her help. He’s cut down the wrong tree and another Wicked Witch, this one with Views about Sustainable Forest Management has cursed him to slowly turn into tin and he’d quite like her green-ness to come with him and get a magical heart to stop the whole thing

She is all “I totally don’t care” while obviously she does so they go on a little forest trek, fight off the Cowardly Lion (who isn’t all that cowardly) and find the magical heart – only to find it sucks magic. To cure the tin man, Zelena would have to give up her power, otherwise he’s going to be stuck in the forest and oxidise away (pedantic nitpick: rust specifically refers to the oxidisation of iron. Tin does not rust. I know, nitpick but it bothers me. Also pure tin can tarnish – but a few days exposure to rain isn’t going to do it; tin is even used to coat other metals to preserve them. And while we’re geeking “Stannum” is one of the latin words for tin, hence Sn on the period table).

My that made the review boring.

Anyway Zelena isn’t thrilled at the idea of giving up her magic. While he pokes her plan to go back in time and prove to her mother (Cora) she’s the most powerful and how Cora totally gave up the wrong daughter is a really really convoluted way to not be alone when she could just not be evil now and actually make friends- with him, for example

And I get what he’s saying, but can we peel this back? Not that Zelena could not be alone by not being evil, that’s true. But shallow. Zelena has been shunned for her magic. She isn’t alone for being EVIL, she was shunned long before she turned to the dark path. And while, yes, he could be her friend if she saves him that means giving up the very thing that had her shunned in the first place. I think there’s a really toxic message in the idea of “you’re a special person with this special trait that people unfairly hate you for” and then having her find friends by REMOVING that special trait. There’s parallels there, let’s be honest.

I’m also growing leery of Once Upon a Time’s use of POC characters – they tend to be in side-roles that don’t last more than a few episodes: perhaps more so in the last few seasons where there have been more, but those characters have less impact than, say, Sidney Glass and Henry senior: Stanum, Rapunzel, Jasmine, Aladdin, Lancelot, Mulan, Merlin – these characters appeared but not for long or for long term, meaningful roles.