Friday, July 1, 2016

Canada Day!

Since one half of our blogging team is Canadian, she is going to be spending the Holiday riding moose and waving hocky sticks and doing... Canadian stuff. Possibly with beavers.

I am sad that this is as close as we'll get to a werebeaver

While the other half of the blogging team is going to make wintry Canada jokes (of course)

Happy Canada Day North of the Wall!

Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Magician King (The Magicians, #2) by Lev Grossman

Quentin Coldwater has what he always wanted, he's a king of Fillory. He no longer needs to read about the Chatwins and their adventures because he is part of the story now.  Sure, it means hunting trips, staging tournaments and leading a life of excess but that's the life of a king right? The problem of getting everything you ever wanted is that it gets old fast.  Quentin decides to go on a small adventure to collect taxes from a far flung island for something to do and it leads to the quest he didn't know he wanted.  Quentin only wanted a break from the mundane role of being King but quickly finds himself on a quest to save magic altogether.  It's a clear lesson of be careful what you ask for.

I didn't like Quentin as a protagonist in The Magicians and nothing has changed. Absolutely nothing makes him happy.  He had the perfect life as King of Fillory. This was supposedly his dream and yet Quentin just had to poke the bear.  It costs him of course and he ends up back in front of his parents home with Julia and vows never to take Fillory for granted again.  That lasts about a hot New York minute because now he has to play the hero and save magic.  Quentin just has to be special even though he's a weak ineffectual asshole, who's completely wrapped up in himself.  As I said in my review of the first book, a protagonist need not be likable; however they should at least be interesting and I found that throughout The Magician King, I simply wanted Quentin to go away and never come back.

When The Magician King shifted to Julia, I actually became hopeful for this book. Women really didn't fare well in The Magicians and I naively thought that Grossman was attempting to redeem himself. Quentin can see that Julia is the shadow of her former self and his solution is for them to have some torrid affair. Yeah, he's the Magician King, so I suppose his penis is magical now.  When he and Julia get shifted back to earth, they have to depend on the skills Julia picked up as a hedgewitch.  Julia took a very different path to magic than the safe Brakebills version that Quentin did and while she's prepared to navigate earth, she wants to get away from it as fast as possible because it is fraught with too much pain.

I love the idea of Julia joining up with a group of hedgewitchs who have mental illness to finally learn not only about magic but the source of magic altogether.  Julia's quest for magic costs her even before she meets up with Murs, because she has to give up her family. By the time Julia realises that she doesn't actually need more power and has everything she needs, having created a new family with her fellow hedgewitches, it's too late to stop.  For her trouble, Julia is raped by a trickster Fox God and has her humanity ripped away from her.  We are told that the rape lasts for ten minutes and how expert the Trickster God is at rape because he kicks her legs open before penetrating Julia from behind.  But wait, there's a pay off.  When the God empties his semen into Julia, she actually receives an increase in power and it feels good.  Sure, she has to suffer the loss of that which makes her human but hey more power right.  Grossman then doubles down because losing her humanity makes it possible for Julia to become a demi Goddess of sorts - a dryad.  It's all good and the rape is forgotten because now Julia gets to babysit a tree.  What the ever loving hell.

Wayward Pines, Season Two, Episode Six: City Upon a Hill

From the very beginning, the fact that Pilcher named the devolved humans aberrations, set up a way which is reductive in terms of how the abbies are viewed.  In a flash back, we learn that the abbies have familial groups and care for each other.  Pilcher arrives with a helicopter and shoots a community of abberations in order to clear the valley for habitation by humans thus striking first blood in what is to become a war between humanity and the abberations. We watched as the Abbie worked togetehr to get the injured to safety. Clearly, the abbies aren't just animals. When the abberations pulled away after being set on fire to protect the crops, humans viewed this as a success, never understanding that they were handing the abbies a new war tactic.

Jason and Kerry are having a rare moment of intimacy and it seems that Jason has decided that they need to do their part as members of the first generation and reproduce.  Kerry isn't down for this and points out that the town isn't exactly secure. Right so everyone else must be a child mother but Kerry gets to avoid that responsibility.  Theo and Rebecca also have a conversation about reproduction because Theo wants to know if she tried to have a child while he was a sleep.  Neither couple gets to resolve their reproductive issues because the alarms start going off.  The abbies have set fire to the crops and every adult male is forced to rush outside to fight the fire. Theo heads to the hospital to set up for incoming injuries. Rebecca rushes off to see Xander, who asks for access to the Mountain so that he can grab a gun to defend himself outside the walls.  Unlike the other citizens, he's not willing to trust the soldiers to protect him as he fights off the fire.

Even as the abbies attack both the field and the new food settlement that the residents of Wayward Pines are trying to create, inside Megan's lab, things take an interesting turn.  The male abbies are extremely agitated but the female is giving Megan some creepy ass cut eye.  Yep, Margaret is more than sentient, she's clearly controlling the males.  Isn't it interesting that in Wayward Pines, the women tend to have to take a back seat; whereas the abbies seem to be a matriarchy?

The battle goes in favour of the abbies, who not only manage to burn all of the crops, they kill half of Jason's soldiers.  Adam and Theresa are brought into the hospital and she has been injured to such a degree, that her collapsed lung is the least serious part of her injuries.  Theo tries desperately to get the Wayward Pines pseudo doctors to understand triage and actually be useful for a change.  It's a mark of his professionalism that he didn't immediately smack Oscar because I sure as hell wanted to. Jason waltzes into this medical emergency situation and demands to know why the first generation aren't being given priority treatment.  Is this douchebag for real?

Once again, Theo shows diplomacy by not responding thus forcing Jason to head elsewhere and mope about his ineffectual leadership.

Zoo, Season 2, Episode 1 & 2: The Day of the Beast/Caraquet

A year has passed and everything is still bad. Which may get even worse as Reiden Global’s plan to wipe out all animals and then try and rebuild the population afterwards

The gang thinks this is a bad idea because it would be “murder.” I think it’s a bad idea because there’s absolutely no way humanity could survive the global ecosystem collapse that would be brought about by mass animal extinction. Besides, how would it even be done? If would could wipe out rats we would have done a long long time ago.

Still irrational people don’t always think clearly – and following the end of last season. We had a vast stampede likely to make things unpleasant for everyone and stopped them going to get Jaime and her bad CGI leopard (is it just my memory or is the CGI definitely worse this season?). We have a whole lot of action while everyone is split up and faces off against various monsters before reuniting at the International Animal Defence Group to join with new Official Ally person, Eleanor Lewis.

It’s all bad news – cities are being attacked all over, people are being moved into safe zones (including Mitch’s family) and it’s all very dramatic and scary. Resources are stretched thin and there’s even more push for global suicide by wiping out all animal life unless their intrepid team can somehow make the cure work. Though even if they do, the fact insects have started to be affected by the virus means the plan to spread it via mosquito bite seems unlikely.

Still they need that leopard cub – so everyone’s going on a helicopter ride (except Chloe) and being treated like heroes on the cusp of victory (their reputation precedes them) to go rescue Jaime

Except in Canada, Jaimie has been driven out (and her friendly First Nations plot device has been killed) and is running through the woods chased by wolves, bears and buffalo. The gang find the leopard she hid – but not Jaime. Mitch (as Jaime’s designated love interest) is desperate to stay and look for her despite them being surrounded and eventually Abe has to bodily drag Mitch back to the helicopter

This now begins a terrible sub plot in which Mitch stomps around like a child snarling and insulting Abe and genuinely blaming him for Jaime’s loss. This almost has a good moment when Mitch admits he’s acting like a child and that they’re all family – but then he continues to go on stomping and snarling and Abe and generally being an arsehole.

Containment, Season 1, Episode 10: A Time to be Born...

Raise your glasses, it’s time for another episode of Containment!

So Alex and Sabine are released from quarantine to find a lot of angry protestors upset that the National Guardsmen who went into the Quaratine zone are all being hidden from them. Sabine takes over, is very gracious to Captain DamnFool ad very honest with the press, showing them the guardsmen are infected

Wow, awesome, Sabine is actually acting competent! I’m shocked shocked!

Of course, to Alex and Leo this is just further proof of her evil evilness. See, a CDC official who knows how to dispel panic during a crisis is just evilly manipulating the press! Evil!

Alex has a highly improbably memory of what looked like a corporate logo on some blurry papers in a corner of the photograph of Leo’s dead friends. CONSPIRACY. They send in Jake (who totally has nothing better to do being the only cop in the cordon and pursuing the dullest of romances with Kate) who finds all “evidence” destroyed. CONSPIRACY (or looting). This leads to a rapid chain of presumptive leaps in which the side I’m supposed to be rooting for decides that officer Meese who fell in the Cordon is totally evil and so is the Chief. Everyone is evil who actually focuses on curing the plague!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Demonists (Demonists #1) by Thomas E. Sniegoski

John and Theodora are television psychics. Who actually find the thing that goes bump to the night – and destroying them, banishing them and removing them.

Until they find a well of darkness that is way way worse than anything they had encountered before. New dark forces are rising with both them personally under attack – and the entire world in the balance.

John and Theodora make an awesome team, backed up with John’s deceased, ghostly, yet still effortlessly awesome nana, these TV paranormal investigators are actually the real thing. Their battle against the darkness – along with the parallel story of a whole new dark force rising are both immensely creepy. The sense of this book – the darkness, the grief, the horror and (I’ll keep saying this over and over again) the overwhelming creepiness are really well done. It’s thematically excellent. So very very excellent – the whole feel of this book is perfect.

I love Theodora’s storyline the most. The way she was almost destroyed by the demons, saved only by her husband’s dedication and devotion – and new allies – and then turned it into an immense strength was excellent. I don’t want to spoil this which makes it so so so hard to adequately describe the awesome here – but she goes from bed ridden and helpless to the one leading the charge, telling the darkness who is boss and embracing a whole new existence of possibilities. She is awesome and her power is book changing.

The plot has lots of excellent action, twists and feel and is excellent to read.

I have that issue that keeps coming up a hundred times in the books I read – a kind of unsupported middle. We kind of waffle for a bit and lose any forward momentum. But as I read the words I’ve just written, I realise that it’s less about the middle of the book and far more about the whole book and the lack of coherent world building

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Divine Descendant (Nikki Glass #4) by Jenna Black

Nikki and Liberi face some of the biggest threats to their existence – a furious and vengeful Olympians and a genocidal campaign of actual gods. Which is a big step up from the descendants

And Anderson, their own god on side, is absent, leaving everyone with unanswered questions and a sense of betrayal.

In this book Nikki really steps up as a leader of the Liberi – and it’s really excellently done. She doesn’t demand, she doesn’t start dishing out orders. But she steps up. Anderson is missing and also heavily discredited; everyone is confused, betrayed and sad and kind of lost. Someone needs to step up, someone needs to take over. Someone needs to stop the Olympians from crushing them now their protector who has gone missing. Someone needs to have difficult meetings with Cyrus, head to the Olympians. Someone needs decide what to do about Niobe and her potential world ending campaign. Someone needs to try and find a solution that is both morally acceptable and will save humanity and get some sense of justice. And that someone was repeatedly Nikki. It was excellent to see her becoming leader because she truly earned it. She’s a leader because she showed leadership, she’s a leader because she led when everyone else was hiding and backing down and panicking – she rallied them, made them put aside their differences and kept many disputing factions together to address the actual problem.

I can’t stress enough how pretty awesome she was in this – this book was not about her special powers or her relationships or the world setting – this was about Nikki taking an absolute dog’s dinner not of her making, being surrounded by terrible options and finding a path through them for everyone to follow. She was good and unlike so many leaders in the genre, I am 100% behind Nikki

The whole plot excellently showcases this with great pacing and well conveyed confusion and uncertainty without the plot being either

I do like her relationships as well. Her relationship with Anderson is excellent – she is both in awe, and angry, she is respectful but disappointed, she both demands him being more human while recognising how alien he is. There’s a lot of layers to that

Preacher, Season 1, Episode 5: South Will Rise Again

Jessie is now a lot more popular after his impressive conversion of Odin Kincannon last episode – he’s popular with the whole town (though Emily is definitely suspicious that something is going on) and the most boring kids in the entire world invite him to play “who is your favourite gospel?”. He’s using the word of god over and over again

I don’t think this will be the show to examine it, but it’s grossly not right what Jessie is doing. Even if he thinks he’s doing the right thing, he is completely removing the choices of many of these town folk to make them conform to what he thinks is right.

An example of this? Eugene – Eugene comes home to find “finish the job” and an arrow pointing to a shotgun in his room. This to a man who tried to kill himself with a shotgun… that’s… cold. His dad is clearly cracking desperately and while Eugene desperately tries to be the nicest man in the world – and his dad snaps and basically repeats “finish the job” to him.

Ouch… all the pain

Eugene is duly upset… because his dad is suffering. He still hates himself, thinks he deserves everything he gets – but his dad doesn’t deserve to suffer. Jessie decides to deal with this by taking Eugene to see Terri Loach and her comatose daughter, Tracy Loach (who Jessie helped wake with his god of voice). Terri promptly loses her shit – screaming at Eugene as a murderer and trying to kill him – before Jessie uses the word of god on her and making her forgive Eugene

Ok… I just can’t imagine what Eugene has done to deserve the level of revulsion he faces and, given how earnest he is, it’s hard not to feel sorry for the guy. I’m not full on Team Eugene because I really need to know what he did. But whatever he did it’s not ok to force someone to forgive, no matter how much it brings peace to other people, no matter how much it will protect, help and heal clear innocents – you don’t get to force someone to forgive. Not even if you think it’s good for them. It’s not ok to forgive

But it’s clear this isn’t the only time Jessie’s abuse of power is going to backfire – one thing we can see if Odin Kincannon. Now serving god, decides to do so by meeting with the company he refused to meet last episode by urinating in the mayor’s briefcase – and now decides to shoot them