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Friday, August 26, 2016
American Vampire, Vol. 2 (American Vampire #2) by Scott Snyder, Rafael Albuquerque (Illustrator), Mateus Santolouco (Illustrator)
It's been about ten years since Pearl and Skinner last met. Las Vegas used to be a sleepy little town but with the building of the Boulder Dam (Read: Hoover), Las Vegas has seen an influx of people. With drinking and prostitution now legal in order to amuse the workers in their off hours, police chief Cash McCogan wonders if Las Vegas well ever return to the town he was raised in. When members of the consortium responsible for the building up the damn show up dead through exsanguination, McCogan doesn't have time to engage in a stroll down memory lane. The monsters have crawled out from under the bed and he is ill equipped to deal with them.
Once again American Vampire splits the story between Skinner and Pearl but in the section that deals with Skinner, the story is largely told from the point of view of Cash McCogan. There's a part of me which is highly cognizant of the fact that Cash's story is predictable. Good guy finds out vampires exist and it doesn't end well has been done before but I found myself drawn in. I felt for Cash when he learned that his adopted father was a vampire all along and how it nearly shattered his world view. For all of Cash's life he has been lied to. I sincerely hope that we aren't done with this character. I want to know what he does with his vampire baby and if he seeks revenge against Skinner.
At this point, I believe Skinner to be just straight up evil which is actually a relief. We've had an onslaught of anti-heroes recently, so it's weird to have a straight up evil protagonist who isn't troubled in some way or experiencing something which humanizes them to make people find the character empathetic. There's absolutely nothing redeemable about Skinner. He kills for the fun of it, betrays his allies and is generally unrepentant about anything he's done.
The thing`about Skinner is that he keeps making enemies. He seems to have more lives than a cat, making it that much more satisfying when the slightest thing goes wrong for him. Because he is so unrepentant, it's easy to want to see him get his and I cannot help but think that when this series finally comes to and end, it will be with Skinner getting everything he has coming to him. Pearl may not be actively chasing him, or ready to betray him because he is her creator but others have no such reason for loyalty.
Pearl's story is quite separate from Skinner. She's settled into a happy life with Henry, but worries about the darkness in her soul. She wonders if he's content with the life they are living given that she's pretty much immortal and he only has so many days in front of him. For his part, Henry thinks about the day he will ask Pearl to make him like her and is certain that when it's time to make that decision, he doesn't want to make it from a position of fear.
Since Jackson has gone berserk, been shot in the shoulder by Dariela he now does a runner. Abe and Mitch decide to give chase – despite Alison deciding she has much better plans for Mitch (a love triangle! Oh and Russian politics).
They don’t just want Jackson for their fun friendship, but also because they really need an infected human in which to infect the cure made up of fossil bones, jellyfish and extinct sabre tooth tigers (we’re not going to go into this this episode thankfully because I want to get through one of these episodes without being drunk)
So after a long hunt through a hospital (where we find that Mitch apparently has an ID card which gives him super powerful influence in Finland?) that and elderly Finnish woman’s house followed by a car chase using a parakeet
They don’t find Jackson but they get a consolation price in the form of an elderly Finnish lady who is unnecessarily invested in Mitch and Jamie getting it on. I’m really trying to avoid the Alison/Mitch/Jamie love triangle as each side decides to nobly let the other woman have Mitch because they both have a thing for passive aggressive sarcasm. Far more amusing is Mitch’s terrible attempts to comfort Abe over Jackson which is both awful and full of hypocrisy since Mitch has pretty much carried a storage container of his own angst around since the first episode.
Anyway, elderly Finnish match-maker lady is also infected so can be used to brew the jelly-fish/sabretoothtiger/earthquake sloth cure.
Jackson has a higher priority – SUICIDE!
For far too many years now, we have had the various Repellent Puppies doing everything they possible could to keep the Hugo Awards whiter than a Trump Rally, more male than a Catholic seminary and as welcoming to minorities as a UKIP convention. While much has been said about Vox Day, he’s only the most repellent, reeking eruption of the whole festering mass.
Which it is why with great joy that The Hugo Awards this year celebrated, POC, Women and women of colour. In the face of an active campaign to suppress marginalised voices, marginalised work and marginalised stories, we saw those very people and those very stories celebrated. With N.K. Jemisin, Nnedi Okorafor and Hao Jingfang all winning prestigious categories and “no award” being voted for when a category had been stuffed with Puppy choices (and so many of these books were nothing about celebrating an author - but desperately using these books to slap people who dared to want to see themselves in stories).
We have spent so many posts writing about why this inclusion is important - but we don’t have to repeat them because N.K. Jemisin’s acceptance speech makes it clear why this matters to women, POC and women of colour specifically
This is good news for everyone. Yes, even cishet, white able-bodied men who don’t have enough empathy to care one iota
There is no upper limit to the number of stories there can be out there. This is Speculative Fiction, of every genre of media out there, this is where imagination lives, this is where creativity thrives in all it’s massive, incredible variation. This is what this genre is. Let others have their Literary fiction with carefully crafted elaborate text to sooth the insomnia of the pretentious, we have the huge vistas of human imagination to dance through, wallow in and be amazed and moved by the awesome vastness of this genre.
That is this genre. It is imagination. And even if you think diversity is some evil plot by those nasty nasty social justice warriors, the very idea of limiting the inspiration of this genre should outrage every fan.
No-one is going to stop cishet white, able bodied men writing books or being protagonists in books or TV shows. And I can’t even imagine any possible way that anyone could possibly think this was under threat or that cishet, white, abled bodied men didn’t dominate both as writers and characters to an overwhelming degree (and if you do think that and that the evil minorities be destroying your fiction, then I have a special token I can see you that will totally protect you from our evil ways. I might as well profit from your nasty and you’re clearly disconnected enough from reality that my sales pitch may have a chance). You will still have these stories - we’re not taking your stories, hell we enjoy many of those stories ourselves!
We’re adding to the genre, not taking away. We want more - more characters, more stories, more different stories, more richness, more breadth, more imagination. We want more from this genre and these Hugo Awards have proven that so do many more. Many of us see this genre’s potential and we should all be celebrating any sign that it is reaching for that - that this amazing playground of imagination isn’t building unnecessary walls or driving out inspiration.
Thursday, August 25, 2016
Al Hamblyn is a lawyer on the edge of complete failure until he gets the strangest case of his career
A man has been arrested for a series of attacks. Attacks in which he drunk blood
He is representing a vampire on trial – and trying to prove this revelation not guilty in the middle of a media storm.
This book brings us a court case with a vampire accused of assault and drinking blood
That alone is an excellent twist as we see the whole concept of vampirism and drinking blood actually being out on trial
It also brings us a really fascinating concept of vampires – as a separate species evolving alongside humanity and slowly being wiped out by humanity’s numbers. Not because of hatred, or persecution or murder (except way back in out history where, thought provokingly, it points out that the lack of other subspecies in the homo genus does suggest that ye old homo sapiens did not adapt well to competition) but through simple environmental devastation. It’s a very original concept
The problem is that I find myself being distracted or becoming disinterested in a lot of this book. Many times I kept questioning why I was being given various pieces of information – almost from the very beginning this book introduces me to Al Hamblyn, the main character and Dragul’s lawyer and we get a mini biography of him. Or a not so mini biography. And it’s not bad or even badly written – but who is this guy and why do I care so much about his life? This happens several times in the book, we get more snippets of Al’s life and I’m just not really sure why I know
And it’s not like Al is a bad character. He isn’t – far from it. He’s intelligent, driven, far from perfect, with good flaws even though he tries. He has some great friends and some great people in his life who really make up a really fun legal team. This is not a bad thing even by close – it’s not a bad story I just don’t really know why I’m reading it
In some ways it feels like Dragul is almost tangential to the story
There’s also a surprisingly smooth pathway. Everything just seems to go so well. The court case, their life after the court case. It also does the annoying thing of introducing the middle of the book as a prologue so the court case fails any attempt at tension because we already know the result of it. I find myself fighting not to skim this book simply because I know exactly what is going to happen for so long.
Oh layers upon layers upon layers, it keeps on coming – all against a backdrop where a teacher being brutally arrested and kids beaten because they were being taught Fahrenheit 911.
And one of those cops was Broussard – resistance fighter.
Because nothing is ever simple.
And Kate ends up right in the middle of a hot mess of complexity and difficulty. Part of the various complicated plans going on with Kate involves having the resistance staging a fire bombing of her home. I’m not entirely sure how it’s supposed to help the cause because this being a brutal police state it just ends up taking the excuse to search the house from top to bottom. Which ends up with mastermind Phyllis having a drawer full of illegal Geronimo tapes from Will’s son.
Ooops, this has Will even further under Phyllis’s control. And she’s good – while Shnyder (and, presumably, the aliens) picture a great big conspiracy with a mastermind she more accurately sees lots of independent cells because that tends to be how it is.
Phyllis is dangerous. Even more so because while Will is busy questioning his son and trying to track down Geronimo, Phyllis has recognised the real resistance fighter in their household – Kate
Yup, her super super super super creepy filing system has finally turned up that Kate is one of the insurgency which firmly puts Kate under Phyllis’s thumb. Because she’s just that terribly good at her terrible job (though I do wonder why she keeps harping on about cheating on their husbands). We also see from here that she’s clearly aware of what a terrible world they now live in – she has no illusions
Kirstie gets into a bath outside and then promptly has a vision of how she died.
Maria gets into Vic's squad car and he suggests that they (read: the returned dead) need proper medical attention away from town. Maria points out that Elishia has been taking care of them but Vic suggests that this is only because Elishia wants to be responsible for the scientific discovery which explains why everyone came back from the dead. Maria brings up the barrier which is keeping them in town but Vic says that Elishia could have been the one to make her sick. Vic then pulls his trump card by saying that if the right doctors and scientists can figure out why Maria came back, then maybe they can bring back Anna. A guilt laden Maria agrees with this but says that she needs to speak to someone first.
Okay, so Vic got into a car accident and has been acting weird since. Does this mean that he's dead? Are they ever going to explain why he is so determined to find out why exactly he is so desperate to find Elishia and all of the other dead people?
There's a party going on in the woods and Kirstie encourages Charlie to join it with her. They grab a beer and when the music starts, Kirstie begins to dance, drawing the attention of the local boys. Kirstie then starts to grind against Charlie and he is not at all cool with it. When Kirstie kisses Charlie, he tells her to stop, so she makes her way over to another guy. Charlie is approached by a girl who is happy to call Kirstie a slut after first learning that Kirstie is not in fact Charlie's girlfriend. I guess we can add random slut shaming to this stellar show now. The girl asks Charlie if he wants to smoke a joint in her car but he turns her down. While Charlie was distracted with the girl, Kirstie disappears.
James and Kate are back at the hideout and Kate invites him in. Because it's pretty late, James decides that he needs to go home instead. That doesn't stop them from sharing a passionate kiss which is promptly interrupted by a panicked Charles, who cannot find Kirstie. Kirstie has made her way down to the lake with a guy from the party and she entices him to go for a swim. When Kirstie jumps into the water, she remembers being drowned and so she entices the guy she is with now to pretend to drown her as a form of sex play. At least Glitch bothered to get the guy to ask for consent before he started to choke her. I suppose that's something. It's James to the rescue and he pulls the dude off of Kirstie, as said dude tries to explain that this is what Kirstie asked him to do. Once Kirstie affirms that this is the case, James sends the guy on his way and Charles back to Elishia's. Once alone, Kirstie explains that she was murdered, so James says that if that is what happened, then they can chase down police records.
Later, Elishia calls to report that John took off and that Maria is missing. James brings up Kirstie's murder and his plan to look into it but Elishia wants him to prioritize finding Maria and John Doe.
John Doe is walking through the street and he enters a market and grabs a box of cereal. John then finds some milk and it first he seems confused but he opens it up and takes a big swig. A worker catches him in the act and tells him to leave the store, causing John to go on the attack once again.
James is back home and explains his absence by claiming to have to deal with a domestic. Sarah brings up Vic's visit and the fact that someone had been interfering with the graves. James explains that Kirstie's grave was disturbed and of course Sarah has heard of her. Apparently, Kirstie was found naked after being strangled down by the lake. Sarah asks James to come with her to her last ultrasound appointment and James agrees but asks her to return home afterward so that they can talk. With everything going on, are we really supposed to care about this damn love triangle?
Beau is at the police station and he is told that he is lucky that the Fitzgerald's aren't going to press charges. The cop then brings up the supermarket being robbed but when Beau says he knows nothing, his mother encourages him to speak up. Beau tells the cop that he won't believe him and then says that the person who robbed the grocery store was Paddy. Speaking of Paddy, he's in the woods trying desperately to get his box opened.
James is at the police station on his day off and he's looking through Kirstie's case files. He's told about Beau, who was caught in the old Fitzgerald house and that Paddy is behind the robberies. Apparently, Beau revealed where Paddy was camping and so James agrees to check it out.
Wednesday, August 24, 2016
Gord collapses to the ground and Frannie cradles his head. Hearing the gun shot and the screams, Wiley, Liam and Chuck rush outside. A tearful Frannie tries to explain that Renee thought that she killed her brother. They help Gord into the clinic and work feverishly on Gord, as he tells Frannie that he's sorry and that he tried. Gord adds that she needs to be strong and then dies on the table. A crying Frannie begs Gord to wake up. I knew this character was destined to die.
It's apparently been 53 days since the town has been closed down. In a voice over, Adam talks about reaching a point of no return and no longer recognizing their former selves. Adam has determined that he cannot live like this because there's nothing left. He feels they are like helpless caged animals. Adam wonders what they have become and explains that this justifies his actions.
On his SAT phone, Liam receives a message informing him that his identity has been compromised that that they will be extracting him at 19:00 tomorrow. Liam is stunned.
With gun in hand, Adam confronts Liam about his identity and wants to know why Liam lied about working for the pharmaceutical company. Liam remains calm and orders Adam to put the gun down.
Renee returns to the compound and Ronnie immediately confronts her about why she went to Pretty Lake. Renee isn't playing though and is quick to tell Ronnie that it's none of his business. Renee tells Ronnie that he doesn't matter on the compound and calls him a little bitch. Renee continues to get in his face and Ronnie actually makes a fist, forcing Lamar to tell him to back down. Renee orders Ronnie to get out and he actually complies. It looks like Ronnie has finally found a woman he cannot bully. Nope, I haven't forgotten about Ronnie trying to force himself on Wiley.
Liam admits to working for Horatio, claiming that he is only doing the contract work that Adam's father couldn't finish. When Liam notices Adam's STAT phone, he tells Adam that he has no idea what he has done, adding that he now has less than 24 hours to find someone who is about to turn 22. Adam keeps pointing the gun, demanding to be told the truth and Liam makes it clear that if he cannot prove that he has a cure, their only hope is gone. This time the government will finish what they started. Wiley finally has to get between Adam and Liam and makes it clear that no one put Adam in charge. Adam frames it as a choice between him and Liam and Wiley says it's Liam or death. When Chuck throws his weight behind Liam, Adam leaves the room.
Frannie is now at the orphanage and when she sees something in the window, she calls for Harrison. Harrison and Frannie wonder if the CCTV is still working because she wants to get to the bottom of what happened.
Stacey still has Mark locked up and when she refuses to release him, he points out that she barely knows him. Stacey however is adamant that there's something between them. Mark thanks her for looking out for him but is adamant that he knows what he is doing. Stacey refuses to comply saying that she cannot lose him. Yes, more boring relationship possessive drama.
Harrison starts rewinding the tape and rushes through the attack on Gord and Frannie. Finally they get to the point on the tape where Mark is dropping off the backpack. Frannie doesn't immediately recognize him though.
Liam and Wiley decide to look through the files at city hall to see who has a birthday coming up.
Renee unlocks a trailer on the property unaware that she is being watched by Ronnie. She heads inside and closes the door.
Harrison leads the charge into the bar screaming for Mark. Stacey is quick to say that Mark isn't there and that she hasn't seen him for awhile. Harrison however is not buying that and bashes a bat against one of the tables. Harrison orders a search of the property which Stacey tries to block but it's all for naught because wouldn't you know it, that's when Mark calls out for Stacey.
Chuck is starting to lose it as he wonders around in his blood stained clothing. He hallucinates Gord telling him that these deaths are on his hands. To try to block the pain, Chuck starts to drink and turns on music loudly.
Things are not going well for the Bureau of Paranormal Investigations in Chicago. Not only are young people being kidnapped by a Shade (read: Vampire), several agents have lost their lives trying to fight them. The government has only been studying vampires for two years and so far they really aren't equipped to deal with them. Alex McKenna takes the job no one wants and becomes Special Agent in charge of the Chicago bureau. Now that he has the job, he has to figure out a new strategy for dealing with the Shades and this might just involve finding himself someone on the inside.
Nightshades is clearly a novella and meant to start off a new series. I've never been a fan of beginning a series that way because I don't feel that novellas offer enough room for character or world building. I'm sorry to say that Nightshades didn't buck the trend on this, though it was a fairly good attempt.
Nightshades is as much a police procedural as it is a a vampire story. In the last ten years, vampire stories have been so widely produced and distributed, I for one have given up on the idea of anything new being added to this particular supernatural lore. Olson does include a few differences from traditional vampire lore in that her vampires can go into the sun and are said to by symbiotic with humans because their saliva can heal. Vampires do need human blood to survive but the feeding of a vampire benefits a human because it boosts the immune system. Granted, it's not the first time we've seen vampires heal but for me at least, it's the first time it was described as symbiotic and explained that the reason we are having so many problems with diseases is because the vampire population is too low to counteract it.
One of the things I like about Alex is that he fought for his new position to prove himself. I like that Olson had him trying to escape his mother's legacy as the first head of the FBI. That's a bit of a gender bender there. None of this however stops Alex from pulling rank and hiding vital information from his team. Alex reminded me of Picard and Kirk in the sense that he damn well should have stayed with the ship but then came up with a B.S. excuse to put himself in the line of danger. Like any good captain, it looks like he's going to get the girl at the end of the day.
Lindy is a 1000 year old vampire and she actually reads like one in many respects. Lindy speaks multiple languages and constantly has to work to make sure that she keeps up with things like human slang. She studies her coworkers to learn about how to be more human. When she learns that her coworker has a cat for instance, Lindy adopts one. She even goes as far as to stain tupperware and leave it in the office to give the impression that she consumes food. Lindy is both smart and capable.