Saturday, July 2, 2011

Review: Bullet by Laurell K Hamilton, Book 19 of the Anita Blake series

Yes. I read it. I know I know, reading Anita Blake at this point redefines flogging a dead horse. But I feel compelled to finish this hot mess – and it's like a trainwreck, you just have to keep watching. So here I am, suffering through book 19 of the series. Book 19! Ye gods, who would have thought it would last this long

On the actual plot (let's cover it quickly since it's a relatively minor element). And there's some sorta there, carefully sandwiched between the drama, angst and random ongoing side issues.

It would appear the Mother of all Darkness is not dead. Though her body got all exploded, her spirit live son, possessing... the vampire council! And with this power Mother Dark can rule the world (dramatic laugh) and do deadly dark, evil things, using the power – political and metaphysical – of these mighty vampires to feed on death and destruction and raise up to new and greater powers until the earth is swallowed under a tide of badness.

Jean-Claude, Anita & the ever expanding posse will oppose this – by setting up a new Council and becoming a new pre-eminent power and part of this involves binding more power to them – especially the tigers – all the colours. The red and yellow and pink and green, purple and orange and... no, wait, that's Sing a Rainbow. Anyway, Anita & JC must bind to themselves to be the new Master of Tigers and Lord of the Day. Since (if you've been keeping up from the last book, or the one before. I forget, they all involved humping) Mother Darkness' arch-nemesis had these powers before Anita killed him after performing a sex show for him (yeah, I know, I know).

So, anyway. JC & Anita (and the posse) need to gather their power and their multi-coloured day-glo tigers (gotta catch 'em all!) and become the overlord of all Masters in the US to protect everyone from Mother Darkness.

That plot summation could probably have been done with little more attention. Probably. Sad thing is? The plot idea I liked. I was intrigued and the idea of again being forced to gather power to protect themselves and again facing a danger so epic and completely terrifying in scope as this was presented. And it was presented as that – it was literally a “oh shit” moment when you realised what the antagonist was. But it's so damn hard to be engaged in this series now with all the endless sex and utterly pointless angst that get in the damn way. I think the actual plot made up about 20% of the book, if that.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Laurell K Hamilton interview at Barnes and Noble

When I first started reading urban fantasy, one of the authors that I was widely recommended was Laurell K Hamilton.  I will admit that when I first started reading her books, I really liked Anita Blake.  Okay, so she was another of those protagonists that is supposedly bi-racial, but has no connection to her ethnic culture, but she was a tough kick ass woman and I liked that.  I especially liked Eward and was willing to ignore Richard and his angst, because at the time, there was a plot involved, that is, until LKH lost her damn mind and the story became nothing more than one long fuck fest.  I have seen porn with more plot than the books LKH is writing now.  Even with all of that said, Sparky, who must have a touch of masochist in him, is STILL reading these books.  I figured that there might be a few other fans out there, and so have I decided to share an interview that she did for those who have not seen it.

PGA: Hit List is your 20th Anita Blake novel – that is a remarkable feat! Aside from Chelsea Quinn Yarbro’s Saint-Germain sequence, I can’t think of a [paranormal fantasy-powered] series that even comes close to Anita Blake in terms of longevity and popularity. Why do you think this saga has had such an amazing run?

LKH:  Fans tell me that my imaginary friends have become their friends too. I also think the fact that I'm still having a blast writing the books shows. You can always tell when a writer has grown bored with her world and characters. The series continues sometimes, because the writer is too popular to stop, but the heart goes out of the world and characters. I still put my heart, mind, and body into my books, and the fans give that same level of devotion.

PGA: After finishing Hit List, it’s apparent that Anita is still growing and evolving – and there is still plenty of room for her  “to play” in this realm. Do you have the overall story arc outlined or is the saga open-ended at this point?

LKH: It's open-ended. I honestly hate over-arcing story lines in my own writing. I much prefer writing Anita more like a mystery series with every book as much of a stand-alone as possible, except for ongoing character development.

LKH: Yes. In fact, when I started the next book very recently I was having trouble getting the book off the ground. I tried several opening gambits, and nothing made me happy, and I've found when I'm not happy I haven't found my beginning. So, I threw out all my preconceived notions of where I thought the book would go, what had to happen next, logical progression, etc. . . .and thought what interests me? What sounds fun to me? I made a list of the characters, ideas, and unexplored avenues in the world that intrigued me. Suddenly I had the opening and then as I wrote the first pages, the rest of the plot just formed. Now, I may still not have the whole plot done; but then again, maybe I do. I'll find out somewhere between 50-150 pages into the book on average. 

PGA: We’re in the midst of a glorious Golden Age of paranormal fantasy. It’s the fastest growing category in all of fiction and is continually redefining itself with new releases that explore and expand its boundaries – in my mind, it’s nothing short of a genre fiction revolution. The potential for this fusion of genre elements – fantasy, romance, mystery, horror, etc. – is just limitless. Is there a sense of motherly pride knowing that your Anita Blake sequence primed the pump for all of this?

LKH: Motherly pride? Hmm, I hadn't thought about it like that. *laughs* I am certainly astonished that a type of book that I was told would never sell back in late 1980s/early 1990s has become the genre that, arguably, saved publishing in these rather dire times. The first Anita Blake novel, Guilty Pleasures, was rejected over 200 times. Editors told me the vampire genre was dead, or that mixed genre didn't sell. They had no idea how to market a book that mingled so much in one package.

Finish reading here

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Review: Storm Front by Jim Butcher. Book 1 of the Harry Dresden series

Oh I like this one. And the ooooh means I mean it!

No, I really do. The main character is awkward enough, clumsy enough and generally human enough to appeal. And I like how he is both an awesomely powerful wizard capable of so much, while at the same time being several kinds of dorky and human.

I also love the little tricks of world building like electronics not working near wizards. Little things like that make a world :). Which is big and rich – but I haven't seen it all. Which is good – I'm on the first book and I shouldn't see the whole world in a several book series yet. This is how world building is done – in increments not info dumps, in lots of showing not long lecturous tellings

And I love the magic system, I love the system of imagery and symbolism that makes it up. I like it a loooot :)

But above all I like the story. And I didn't think I would. I'll be honest, the supernatural consultant to the police isn't something I dislike, but it is something that has been done a whooooole lot and it's beginning to feel just a tad tired to me. However Harry Dresden is a police advisor in a Masquerade world that is a little bit of a twist and it was done well enough that it didn't bother me :). I think it also got the right balance for a crime mystery – complicated enough that the detectives don't look like fools for not getting it right away without being so convoluted that the whole thing just didn't make any damn sense at all.

There's a wizard out there and he's killing people. Killing people in big, nasty messy ways. Harry has to find them. He also has to make rent, which is overdue, complete work for one of his few paying clients (being Chicago's only public wizard doesn't pay well – not with most people not believing in magic) and deal with saving himself from the attentions of the same murderous wizard. As an added bonus, the White Council, the wizard ruling body, thinks he's done it and is willing to execute him unless he proves otherwise. On the side he has to deal with a cynical police force that doesn't believe in magic and a curious journalist who very much does.

It's a complicated life, and a fascinating story.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Thoughts on Season Four of Buffy the Vampire Slayer

As I have previously mentioned, for a project that I am working on, I have to watch all seven seasons of Buffy.  I have written a review for each season that I have watched thus far:  one, two and three respectively. In previous seasons, the teen angst has certainly been an issue for me.  I know that it is to be expected with a teenage protagonist; however, that does not mean that I have any real tolerance for it.  With Buffy and the Scooby gang in college, and Angel across the country, the angst level finally began to tone down, and I began enjoying it somewhat. 

From a social justice perspective, by far the most troubling episode that I have viewed to date was episode 8 of season four entitled Pangs.  It begins with Willow quite matter of factly stating why she and her mother have a problem with celebrating Thanksgiving.  All of the guilt however, is quickly overshadowed when the Chumash warrior Hus runs amok in Sunnydale -- after their grave site is disturbed, because of an attempt to build a Cultural Center at UC Sunnydale.  The Chumash warrior Hus rightfully want revenge for what was done to their people, but all Buffy can do is respond with White guilt and angst.  When she finally gets her slayer on, they sit down at a table to have Thanksgiving dinner, thus proving that they didn't learn a damn thing.  Whedon made a point of having Willow explain why Thanksgiving is a problematic holiday at the beginning, but dismissing that, after once again letting the White people defeat the supposedly bad Native people, and then eat a meal in celebration, was disgusting to say the least.

After being unable to control himself around a female werewolf, Oz leaves Sunnydale.  During his absence, we begin to see a budding romance between Willow and Tara.  Of course, it is all rather chaste and other than some hand holding, the audience is left to assume there is more going on.  If Whedon can film Buffy making out and having sex with both Angel and Riley, why is a kiss between Tara and Willow forbidden?  It hardly feels progressive when straight characters are highly visible and LGBT characters are not.  I know this was made in the 90's, but I am not going to give it a pass on that basis.  Whedon had a chance to be progressive and he blew it big time.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Teen Wolf's Dylan O'Brien "In real life, I'm the werewolf."

Dylan O'Brien in "Teen Wolf." | MTV
Dylan O'Brien in "Teen Wolf."

Dylan O'Brien recently sat down to do interview at Teen Television so I thought I would get you started and then you can read the rest of the interview over there.  What I did find interesting about the interview is that comedic element is a tribute to the original 1985 Teen Wolf movie starring Michael. J. Fox.  It is nice to know a little bit behind the decisions that have gone into producing this show.

On “Teen Wolf”, Cute Dylan O’Brien, yet another star who got his start on YouTube, plays Stiles, the smart buddy who tries to keep werewolf Scott (Tyler Posey) from chewing up his friends and enemies.  When we were in L.A. dishing with the rest of the cast, Dylan was off shooting his first film, a funny teen romance called (for now) The First Time.
Dylan defends the comedy/drama mix in the show that some fans are loving and others, not so much.

TeenTelevision: What is your comeback to the fan critics who are saying they don’t know what the show is yet.  Is it funny or scary? I say, why can’t it be both?
Dylan: Yeah. We get criticized for being too “Twilight-looking” when we’re advertising the show then the show is on and now they are criticizing our comedic element. We put a little bit in the show for everybody. We have that forbidden love and that “Twilight-esque” romance. We’ve got that dark factor; that action-packed thrill and we also pay homage to the original movie by adding that comedic factor, that fun, quirky element.

It’s cool to add that to this supernatural genre that’s been a craze over the last five to ten years. A lot of it has been done without that comedy element; like “Vampire Diaries”, Twilight and “True Blood”. Those are very drama-oriented shows. It’s cool to implement that comedic factor. It gives the show a sense of humor about itself and makes it more relatable and more real. A character like Stiles grounds the show, I think.

TeenTelevision: What is your favorite werewolf film or just general horror film?
Dylan: American Werewolf in London. It was funny and scary and you were totally relating to these guys every second of the way.

TeenTelevision: I love that movie! Ever snuck into a buddy’s room at night only to be caught by their parents (like in episode 3)?
Dylan: (laughs) No, never.

TeenTelevision: Sneaking into a girlfriend’s room?
Dylan: Uh (pause)…no comment.

TeenTelevision: Uh huh. ‘Nuf said.  How did you get into show biz and how did you get the part as Stiles?

Finish reading here

Black Dust Mambo by Adrian Phoenix

Mild spoiler warning. I don't think much is revealed and I've tried not to but I don't guarantee it.

I liked this book. Yes yes I know, if I start like that you know I'm trying to lay the groundwork against a lot of fuckery to follow. But, no, really, I like this book.

The story follows Kellie Rivi̬re, hoodoo practitioner who has gone to visit a magical carnival run by the Hecatean Alliance, kind of international magic police/UN. It's a time to party and play with your fellow magical practitioners and Kellie has a blast Рuntil she wakes up and finds the guy she slept with last night is now dead in her bed. And worse, the magic seems to have been aimed for her.

She now has to deal with her dead lovers surviving friends and family, the Hecatean Alliance officials and the shadows of her own traumatic past while trying to find out who is trying to kill her, her friends and her family in the name of an ongoing vendetta.

I think one of the things I love about this book is the variety of magic. We have a lot of supernatural worlds in urban fantasy where you have a thousand different magical creatures, such diversity is common. But far too often we just see “witches.” And that's it – they're witches. Magic is magic. But here we saw wiccans and hoodoo and voodoo and more formal Hecetean magic – it's interesting to see the variety of magical traditions there and the promise of more to come in future books. It interests me it does.

It was also fairly new to focus on voodoo and hoodoo as the primary characters' magical tradition. Too often these traditions are the antagonists, the evil darkness, the unknown, the scary. It's nice to see the change.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Fangs for the Fantasy Podcast! - Episode 21

This week we talk about the return of TRUE BLOOD! AT LAAAAST

We also discuss Black Dust Mambo by Adrian Phoenix as well as swipes at Anita Blake and plans for next week when we will be reading Storm Front by Jim Butcher and Changeling by Yasmine Galenorn

True Blood Season Premier: She's Not There

Spoilers Ahead.

Last night was the long awaited season four premier of True Blood.  From the moment I woke up, it was all that I could think about.   Perhaps it was all of the expectation of what was to come that left me so completely disappointed in the first episode.

When Sookie is with the fae, she quickly learns that their goal is to gather up all the humans with fairy blood. She escapes with her grandfather, who promptly dies because he ate the magic fruit.  Upon returning to her home, she learns that Jason sold her home because she had disappeared for over a year. I have to say that this new look that Jason has taken on really works for me. Maybe it's the man in a uniform thing, but he could give me a pat down anytime.   The responsibility of taking care of the people of Hot Shot, seems to have had a really good effect on Jason's character.  He seems to have given up chasing tail, and has become authoritative to the point of reeling Andy in.  I must admit that I was quite shocked to see that Alan Ball has made Andy a V addict. I suppose it is a matter of escalating his drug usage, because in the previous seasons, Andy clearly had a problem with alcohol.

When Andy assaults Lafayette looking for drugs, it is Jason who stops the confrontation.  Andy dismisses it as saying he got his "drag queens mixed up".  Given Layette's previous responses to homophobia, it kind of disturbed me that he was silent.  The fact that his silence was followed by Jason saying that he didn't see anything and that nothing happened, very neatly coincides with the treatment of marginalized bodies by the police. Even in the fictional town of Bon Temps, the blue wall must descend.