Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Walking Dead: Season 1, Episode 6: Ts-19

We begin with a flashback. Shane (who isn't dead and wasn't then either, alas) is in the hospital where Rick was when he was shot. It's in chaos, being overwhelmed by Walkers. I loved this scene simply because it showed us a hint of how great the chaos was at its peak when the Walkers were coming, people were running – apocalyptic rather than post-apocalyptic. There's gunfire and panic, people screaming. He tries to get Rick out but he doesn't know what to do, how to disconnect him, how to move him. The power goes off, and the machines – it seems that Shane can't find a pulse (you'd think he'd have better training) The building is becoming overrun by Walkers – he blocks the door to Rick's room with a bed and runs. He isn't eaten.

Back to the present day – the gang runs into the CDC compound. The contrast is stunning – the building is in good repair, unworn, not covered in corpse and jury rigged repairs – it's untouched in a world that is ruined. A wonderful symbol for hope.

They meet Jenner and he asks what they want – A chance. An awful lot to ask these days. He demands they all submit to a blood test (pointless but its a procedure they cling to) then locks the place down. And they learn that he's the only one left.

But there are a lot of supplies – and copious amounts of red wine. Which means, since they haven't eaten in days they can have a party. It's probably the first time we've seen them all together happily and it really stands out because of it. In some ways this party communicated more about how hard their lives had become more than anything else by showing this rare moment of joy.

Of course it can't last, not only is Jenner silent and broody in a corner but Shane just cannot let the happiness stand (pouting over partial success of Rick's plan?) and asks where the doctors are – again it seems less about curiosity and more so he can say how wrong Rick is. (Did I mention how much I hate this guy? Something needs to eat him). Jenner reveals that most of the doctors ran – or committed suicide when all seemed lost, leaving Jenner as the last one

They head to the showers and it's like a recap to episode. Hot water – something we take for granted has become such a luxury to them. Everyone enjoys the showers except Andrea in her grief and Shane in his petulance (he still didn't get eaten). Andrea is sick and Dale is there to comfort her. She is utterly depressed with everything lost, nothing to cling to. I really love the bond developing between them – I have seen father daughter teams in other shows that didn't have half the bond as these 2.

Rick decides to thank Jenner some more by making the extremely depressed doctor a little more depressed by telling how depressing and desperate it is out there. He then unloads his bottled up worry and despair on the doc. Which, y'know, fair enough Rick has kept moving kept things together and maintained a perfect aura of confidence for so long now and in such extremely situations of fear, grief and loss – and when you consider that because of his coma he's had far less time to come to terms with all this than everyone else. So yes -0 he's more than due an unload and I'm glad to see it, this takes its toll. But I think Dale or even Jacqui would have been a better confessor (I'd suggest Lori but he's got too much of a protection thing for her and she's got too much of a guilty “I slept with someone else must be perfect to make up for it!” problem). I think unloading to the Doctor with the dead “it's all over” eyes isn't the best bet even if you are drunk on the CDC's infinite supply of red wine (and how much does the CDC have do you think? I mean these are top notch doctors so you know it's not the cheap stuff! Do they always stock it or when the world was ending where the scientists doing Supermarket Sweep in the local off-licence?).

But I digress (it's the booze). Dr. Jenner tells him it'll all be ok in a deadpan “there is no hope” kind of voice before panning back into the depressing and desolately empty main room (I think “it'll all be ok” is probably a lie).

Last Chance To Enter To Win Volume 1 and 2 of The Walking Dead Graphic Novels

Are you counting down the days until the second season of The Walking Dead starts? Last year when AMC first aired The Walking Dead, I wasn't sure that I was going to like this zombie show, but each episode drew me in as I realized that this show is about so much more than supernatural beings.  It's about how you survive when everything that you know is gone.  In fact in volume one: Days Gone Bye, the author writes:
To me, the best zombie movies aren't the splatter fests of gore and violence with goofy characters and tongue and cheek antics. Good zombie movies show us just how messed up we are, they make us question our station in society ... and out society's station in the world. They show us gore and violence and all that cool stuff too ... but there's always an element of social commentary and thoughtfulness.

With The Walking Dead, I want to explore how people deal with extreme situations and how these events change them.  I'm in this for the long haul. You guys are going to see Rick change to the point that, when you look back on this book, you won't even recognize him. I hope you guys are looking forward to a sprawling epic because that's the idea with this one.
This is why The Walking Dead sums up some of the best that urban fantasy has to offer.  It's not just about woo woo; it's about the human experience.  If like me, you have become a fan of the series, I am sure that the chance to own:


Is hard to pass up.  This month we are giving away volume 1: Days Gone Bye, by Robert Kirkman and Tony Moorem as well as Volume 2: Miles Behind Us, by Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard and Cliff Rathburn of the Walking dead graphic novels. The lucky winner will receive both volumes.
Click through to the post to enter the contest.  Please remember to leave your contact details. If you don't want to make your details public, feel free to email us at

The Vampire Diaries Season Three, Episode Five: 'The Reckoning'

The writers really should have titled this episode, "It's All About Elena Again."  It galls me that this irritating character is the center of this show.  At any rate, for the first time this season, the kids all show up at school. Nope, they didn't actually attend a class -- school after all is only about having a center for some sort of event.  The kids are there to prank the school as part of a high school senior tradition. This involved gluing toilet seat lids and leaving mouse traps all over the school gym.  Matt is the only one not into this, and all he think about is his dear departed sister.  I think that this just smacks of attempting to make Matt's character relevant.

After much ridiculous high school pranks, Klaus shows up and sure enough silly Elena tries to run away.  Hello, if you cannot outrun a vampire, you cannot possibly outrun a hybrid. Klaus is absolutely determined to find out why he does not have the ability to make more hybrids.

Katherine and Damon continue with their little road trip and after flirting, Damon kisses Catherine and then pushes her away.  He wants it to be clear that he no longer has feelings for her.  Okay, he pined for this woman for 150 years, and I don't understand how this love dried up and died so quickly -- though Katherine is conniving. Just last season, Damon's heart was broken when Katherine told him that she  only loved Stefan and that it was always Stefan.  Yes, his kiss was supposedly about dealing with the sexual tension in the car.

When they pull into a truck stop, Damon throws the keys into the woods and refuses to leave until Katherine tells him what she is up to.

Rebecca and Stefan have a tussle when he tries again to convince her that his allegiance is to Klaus.  Rebecca tells him petulantly that he might as well stop lying, because she knows how he feels about Elena and they know that Elena is still alive.  When she threatens Elena's life, Stefan launches himself at her only to be stabbed in the stomach.  Okay, am I the only one that said what the hell is he doing?  Vampires gain their strength over time, and since Rebecca is an original vampire, how the hell did Stefan think that he could defeat her?  Oh I know, he was overcome with rage at the thought of anything happening to his self involved love Elena.

Back in the high school, Klaus kills Tyler and feeds him his blood, in an attempt to turn him however, this is a death sentence, because every single were that Klaus has turned has died.  Klaus tells Bonnie that she had better find a way to break the original witches curse, if she wants Tyler to live. Bonnie and Matt rush off to find Jeremy, because Bonnie's grimoires don't go back a thousand years and she needs Jeremy to be able to contact the ghosts of the dead witches.   

Back on the road, Katherine asks Damon if he wants to see Klaus truly dead and not just with a stake in his heart.  When he responds yes, Katherine tells him that he has to be willing to do anything to make this happen.  When she opens the trunk, Jeremy is curled in a fetal position.  Katherine wants Jeremy to contact the dead, so she can find it out more information about Michael, the vampire hunter. It's her plan to try and stay one step ahead of Klaus.

Looking through the pictures on Caroline's phone, Rebecca finds one of Elena wearing her necklace.  She charges into the gym and demands that Klaus make Elena return it to her.  When Rebecca attacks Elena, Klaus stops her from killing her, but Rebecca manages to throw in a barb about the original doppelganger being better looking than Elena.  Okay, if Elena really and truly is a doppelganger, that means that they she is literally the twin of the first one. Why can we not have at least one intelligent woman on this show?  All Rebecca has done since her rebirth is snipe about nonsense.

When Matt goes into the gym to pack up, he finds his stuff all over the floor. What he does not know is that his sister is behind him begging him to see her.  When Bonnie calls and tells him that she has tried to find Jeremy a few times and that he won't answer, Matt tells her that he is going to get his car and that they can head over to Jeremy's place to look for him.  Okay, so Elena is in trouble, but he takes the time to follow a trail of clothing to the gym?

Back in the gym, who should show up but Stefan.  He tries to pledge his allegiance to Klaus, claiming that he no longer has feelings for Elena.  Yep, a smart hero Stefan is not.  When Klaus commands him to kill two humans in the gym, Elena interferes and Klaus responds by backhanding her. At this point my internal monologue was just screaming eat Elena already. Stefan attempts to confront Klaus again, cause he clearly still has not figured out that attacking an original will get him nowhere.  Tired of Stefans resistance, Klaus compels Stefan to kill the two humans as Elena watches. Klaus then sets the gym clock for twenty minutes and informs Stefan and Elena that if Bonnie does not return with a spell in that time, that Stefan is to kill Elena and break her back if she attempts to run.

Back on the road, Jeremy tries to contact Anna, but she doesn't want to help either Damon or Katherine.  This is completely understandable, because in life, they caused nothing but problems for her. Damon takes matters into his own hands and attacks Jeremy, thereby forcing Anna to talk.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Lost Girl Syfy press tour 2011

One Foot in the Grave, by Jeaniene Frost. Book 2 of the Night Huntress Series

Cat is back. Now at the head of her own government established force to police and hunt down vampires. 4 years have passed since the last book and she's grown to a powerful, confident leader and a lethal warrior.

But 4 years have also passed without Bones who she can't stop thinking about. As is almost inevitable, he finds her. But he's not the only blast from the past that shows up on her doorstep – her old boyfriend is leaking information about her too assassins and her father, the vampire who raped her mother, has finally raised his head on the scene and it doesn't look like a happy reunion.

And one of her targets got away – well she let him get away. And now he's intrigued and curious and wants to add Cat to his collection of toys. He's unwilling to accept no for an answer and is quite happy to target her colleagues and family to make it happen

And through all this she has to reconcile her old love with her new job, convince her vampire hunting work mates to accept Bones or to decide whether she should leave the job or again deny her lover – to say nothing of her mother who still carries a bitter hatred for all the undead.

The Walking Dead: Season 1, Episode 5: Wildfire

Rick is trying to contact Morgan on the Walkie-talkie to try and warn him from Atlanta. At the camp there's a clean up going on – bodies to be burned and buried and their brains destroyed to make sure they don't rise as Walkers. Andrea is grieving over Amy's body and won't move – won't talk to anyone. She even pulls a gun on rick when he tries to reason with her. She won't let anyone touch the body but they need to stop her rising. Glenn angrily refuses to burn their own people – burn the Walkers but not their own people, meanwhile Daryl still has his anger about his own brother. It's a profound and powerful scene of grief and loss

And Jacqui discovers that Jim has been bitten in the attack. He's infected – and doomed to become a Walker. There then comes a debate on what to do – Amy's body needs to die and Jim has to be stopped from rising even if it means killing them. Rick and Shane end with different plans – Rick wants to go to the CDC in Atlanta believing that if there's anything left of the government that's where there'd be – as well as any possible cure (especially for Jim). Shane (who isn't dead) wants to go to an army base 100 miles in the opposite direction.

Vampires and Impossible, Timeless Beauty standards

'IMG_0321' photo (c) 2006, Joy - license:

When vampires first entered folklore they were physically described to look like bloated leeches. When you think about this, it makes perfect sense because their entire diet is based on drinking the blood of others and the creature most associated with that in nature is of course a leech.  Overtime, vampire folklore began to change.  The modern vampire looks nothing like its predecessor. Today, vampires all have hard lean bodies, twinkling eyes (that is when they are not glowering and trying to look dangerous) ridiculous hair (think R. Pratz in Twilight) and are disarmingly gorgeous. This is true of both male and female vampires.  With few exceptions, like vampire Eddie in True Blood and Tony, in Karen Chance’s Cassandra Palmer series, no matter how long they have been alive they are gorgeous. And those vampires that aren’t thin are clearly not intended to be beautiful.

In Twilight, Meyer went to the point of saying that vampirism brought out the most attractive physical aspects of the individual in question.  Even Edward’s smell was designed to attract Bella, though his superior speed and strength made such enhancements unnecessary. In the movie Interview with the Vampire, Claudia’s change occurred on screen, and she went from a dirty waif, to a gorgeous girl with beautiful curly hair. It has been suggested in several vampire novels that for the purposes of creating new vampires, only the most physically appealing are chosen. The problem with this assumption is that beauty standards change over time - so whether vampires are chosen from beautiful people or simply transform to become beautiful, that beauty ideal should become out dated with the passing years.

Even the richest human alive 500 years ago would look nothing like the poorest human today.  Slim vampires make absolutely no sense because the height of beauty is what we would today describe as plus sized.  Women were celebrated for being round and having curves.  This symbolised the wealth to be able to eat full meals. In Venus and Adonis, Shakespeare wrote, “My beauty as the spring doth yearly grow; My flesh is soft and plump, my marrow burning.”  I have read and watched a lot of urban fantasy and I cannot think of a single fat female vampire.  

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Vampire Diaries - The Reckoning Episode Preview

‘Soulless’ by Gail Carriger, Book one of the Parasol Protectorate series.

Miss Tarabotti is a proper Victorian lady. The daughter of upper class, proper British society with all the refinement, expectations and proprieties that entails.
She’s also a spinster at the grand old age of 25, cursed by her Italian father to be too dark, have too bold a nose and far too bold a tongue to ever fit in proper, elegant high society. Miss Tarabotti is also Soulless. Soullessness is a trait that she inherited from her Italian father and like everything derived from him is considered without doubt to be a negative.

Unlike vampires and werewolves who have an overabundance of soul which grants them numerous special abilities, Miss Tarabotti’s lack of soul causes her touch to counteract their abilities, rendering them no more powerful than a normal human being. It should be noted that soulless people are far more rare than supernatural creatures, in fact she is the only one in Queen Victoria’s London and, at one time, were used to actively hunt down paranormal beings. 

Review of Jabril by D. B Reynolds

Having read Raphael, I went into Jabril with extremely low expectations.  I must admit that I was mildly surprised with Jabril; however, Cyn, the protagonist, once again found herself mixed up in vampire intrigue, but this time it was at the behest of the master vampire Jabril.  Cyn was initially hired to search for a missing girl, not because Jabril believed in her prowess as an investigator, but to irritate his rival Raphael.
Jabril Karim Al Subaie was the scion of a very traditional and conservative Arab family who'd been allies of the Saud dynasty for centuries, longer than even Jabril had been alive.  He demanded respectful and submissive behaviour from his servants ... and his women. (page 19)
Those scant few sentences should have served as a warning of what was to come in this book.  Of course, being an Arab man, Jabril was not enlightened enough to see women as his equals.  He had no female vampires in his guard and abused and raped all those he used for the purposes of feeding.   To make sure that the reader was appropriately horrified, Jabril spent the entire book either abusing White women, or trying to abuse White women.  Two beautiful young blonde haired blued eyed young girls absolutely needed to be saved from this man.

Of course Cyn saw how wrong this situation was right away:
The young woman was treated like an ill favored pet and made to dress as if her femininity was something shameful to be hidden.  Cyn didn't care how old the vampire lord was or where he he came from.  That kid was young and scared, and those big, blue eyes had been born in America, or Cyn would eat her boots. (page 25)
To ensure that Mirabelle, the only female vampire on Jabril's compound did not create undue lust in the male vampire population, she was forced to dress in black and wear an "ankle length skirt, t-shirt and loose black sweater, even a scarf to hid her long blond hair.  Her shoes were black Nikes, and she wore black old lady socks that rose above her knees."

The Walking Dead: Season 1, Episode 4: Vatos

We open with Andrea and Amy on the lake, fishing and reminiscing over the old times. We learn a lot about them, their relationship, their age difference, how they're differences and how their father treated them differently – and how their father knew how different they both were. Either way their father taught them they manage to pull back quite a haul of fish

Meanwhile Dale keeps watch and Jim... digs holes for no apparent reason. He keeps digging holes in full Georgia sunlight without pausing even to drink. Dale is concerned and calls Shane (who isn't dead) and the other refugees. Jim points out he's not hurting people so why do they care – and he challenges Shane, saying he thinks Shane attacked Ed to establish his power and control. Jim tries to hit Shane when he tries to take the shovel, but Shane quickly physically overpowers him. It's interesting to look at because while we can largely agree with Shane's actions (if not his motivations) he has assumed defacto leadership and control over the other refugees by being bigger and stronger than them. We also find that Jim has lost his family to the Walkers. Jim is tied up until he settles down.

Later he wakes up with sunstroke and apologises, not even remembering why he was digging – just that he dreamed and felt the need to.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Richelle Mead's Bloodlines Book Club

Venom by Jennifer Estep, Book 3 of the Elemental Assassin's series

Gin's retirement doesn't seem to be sticking. This time Roslyn comes to her with nowhere else to turn, the vampire is being stalked by one of Mab's minions. The giant Elliot Slater. Her chief enforcer, he is a dangerous opponent with all the power of Mab behind him, the most powerful figure in the Ashland crime world. The authorities can't help her, justice and safety can only come from the Spider's knives.

And there's a new cop in town – honest, true, trying to do as much good as she can in a system that is corrupt and compromised to the hilt. Detective Bria Coolridge – Gin's long lost sister. Gin has to decide what to tell her sister, how to help her, how to protect her from Mab and her minions – while at the same time risking her profession as an assassin driving her away just as it drove away Caine.

And there's Mab. Mab who is looking for the person who killed her associates, who lurks behind everything in Ashland and who Gin has more than a few reasons to kill herself.

Lover Revealed, by JR Ward, Book 4 of the Black Dagger Brotherhood

Our latest adventure with the Black Dagger Dudebros follows Butch, the human ex-policeman who lives with the Brotherhood and his long distant love affair with Marissa, King Wrath's ex-shellan who he first met in Dark Lover

After months with no contact during which they mistakenly think they both hated each other, Butch is forced to share a long quarantine with Marissa after a painful encounter with the lessers and the Omega himself. They rekindle their old love, but Butch is permanently infected by the darkness of the Omega and fears endangering her and the Brotherhood.

Butch also has to wrestle with his own demons – his past, his family and the problem with being a human living with the Brotherhood. As he increasingly feels himself as an outsider and an interloper in the lives of the Brotherhood who, as a human, cannot aid them in their war against the lessers, he questions his place, his continued living with them and even his continued purpose and existence.

He certainly questions if he can be good enough for Marissa, pure blooded aristocrat with impeccable lineage and station. But Marissa herself has to find her own place with Butch, overcome her deep sense of inadequacy and faces vampire society's push to sequester all unmated women for their own protection

An old prophecy has also arisen – the legend of the Destroyer – no, sorry, the Dhestroyer (no, really) – which may be the key to ending the lessers - and the Omega – entirely. But with the darkness of the Omega help Dhestroyer kill him, or lead to Dhestroyer himself being consumed

The Walking Dead: Season 1, Episode 3: Tell it to the Frogs

We open with Merle sadly not being eaten by zombies, restrained on top of the building still. Because the corridor to the roof is narrow and the door was chained by T-Dog, the Walkers can't get out to him (alas). He manages to pull a hacksaw from the tool kit T-Dog spilled to him.

Meanwhile, Rick, Morales, Glen, T-Dog, Jacqui and Andrea return to the refugee camp. Morales says the only person who'll miss Merle will be his brother, Daryl. We have a reunion when they return and Rick finds Lisa and are still alive (his wife and child) and we have the big tearful reunion. We have more development of some of the refugees, we see Morales and his family (I don't think his family ever gets names or speaking parts), Andrea's sister Amy, Dale, Jim – and another arsehole for us to wish death on, Ed with his abused wife (Carol) and child (Sophia). There's also Shane of course (who isn't dead).

Rick and Lori cuddle up, Rick saying how he knew they were alive because of the albums which they then go through. It's a very touching scene and we begin to see fragments of Lori's problems considering her relationship with Shane (who isn't dead). It's a sweet reaffirming scene with an edge due to the love triangle. Especially when we see Shane outside, in the rain on watch, while Lori and Rick get all cosy together. The next day we see them working to live in the camp – cannibalising the sports car, washing on a washboard (and it's noteworthy that all this washing is done by the women in the camp) boiling water before using, foraging and hunting. And even up here – the constant threat of the Walkers.

And we meet Darryl. Darryl is an odd character – unpleasant and deeply loyal to Merle who is an arsehole, yet at the same time extremely capable, skilled and useful. He has poor impulse control yet never feels irredeemable.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Alexander Skarsgard in OUT Magazine

Alexander Skarsgård vs. Jonas Åkerlund

The star of True Blood and Lars Von Trier’s upcoming Melancholia talks with the filmmaker about the Swedish conquest of Hollywood, national differences in etiquette, and why Swedes get so much sex.

What is it about Sweden that is making this far-flung country of less than 10 million people so culturally relevant right now? From Robyn and the Knife to the The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Sweden has leaped ahead of its European neighbors and infiltrated America’s mammoth entertainment machine. We invited Alexander Skarsgård, best known for his role in HBO’s lusty drama True Blood, to sit down with director Jonas Åkerlund — whose seminal videos have included Madonna’s “Ray of Light,” Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful,” and Lady Gaga’s “Paparazzi,” (which starred a then–largely unknown Skarsgård as Gaga’s paramour) — to help answer the question.

Out: As Swedes abroad, both working in the entertainment industry, you must feel like the go-to spokespeople for Sweden.

Alexander Skarsgård: I love my country. I always love talking about it, especially as an expat. When you live there you bitch about everything, but when you move away, all you remember is how amazing and wonderful it is. You remember all the sunny days and forget the rainy days.

Jonas Åkerlund: It was very rare to hear about Sweden, period, when I moved to Los Angeles in 1996. You were still mixed up with Switzerland. Now there’s Swedish music everywhere, actors and directors, everything, everywhere. And it didn’t used to be like that. You were very happy and proud when you heard Ace of Base on the radio.

Skarsgård: Not to mention all the songwriters and producers, as well as the musicians. Every other song on Billboard seems to be produced or written by a Swede.

Åkerlund: The one profession that was left behind was filmmaking, which is now catching up a little. Music and fashion has been out there for a while, but lately I’ve also begun to notice Swedish co-producers and directors working abroad.

Skarsgård: The reason I went to L.A. a few years ago was because the young interesting filmmakers didn’t get a chance to tell their stories or do their movies because the older generation, who were pretty mediocre filmmakers, were the only ones making movies in Sweden. That’s changed so much now. I’m excited about going back to Sweden to work with young, cool Swedish filmmakers. It’s really a vibrant industry. And now, for the first time, there are a lot of Swedes working on Hollywood projects, often on super low-budget films.

Åkerlund: But it becomes a trend — everyone wants a Swede now. Getting that opportunity is one thing, but living up to it or holding onto it is another thing.

Skarsgård: Exactly, we’re like the flavor of the month. Next month it will be Finland.

Åkerlund: Oh, never say that. Never Finland. It’s interesting, though, Alex. I met you at the Chateau Marmont. We looked around and there were, like, 10 Swedes around us, and not one Finn, no Danes. Wherever you go there are Swedes. But I rarely meet other Scandinavians.

Out: Is there anything that helps define a Swedish sensibility or identity?

Skarsgård: I think it has to do with minimalism in terms of everything. There’s a lot going on under the surface. It’s something hidden. And that’s always interesting to me. You have to dig deeper. It’s like a duck — calm on the surface, but paddling like a motherfucker underneath.

Åkerlund: It all depends on where you are in the world. It’s easier for a Swede to stick out in America than, say, Italy or France, because their personalities are so different. The one thing we learn is we don’t really talk much about what we’re doing — we just do it. And that’s the biggest difference between us. In America, people talk a lot. I never talk; I just work. To me, to be on time and to deliver on time and stay on budget, and not just say, “Let’s do lunch,” but actually call up and book a lunch — that makes you different.

Skarsgård: There’s something about the sincerity that I miss in America. When someone asks, “What do you think of this painting?” or “How do you like these shoes?” I would take a second and actually look at the shoes or painting and say, “I like it.” Some people are kind of uncomfortable with that. When you ask, “How do you like my shoes,” they say, “I LOVE THEM.” They say, “YOU LOOK AMAZING; I LOVE IT!” At the same time, the reason Swedes can hold back is just because they don’t want you to think that you’re special or great or better than they are. At least when people in the U.S. like something, they say it.

Read the rest of the interview here

Side Jobs by Jim Butcher, Short Story collection from the Dresden Files

I approached Side Jobs with a degree of caution and a firm determination not to let my own biases sway me. See, I don't like short stories. I don't. I don't even like stand alone novels all that much. I like great big epic series with huge great meta plots and development and drama and on the edge of your seat excitement.

And while all those are possible within the confines of a short story, they're usually not there. I was especially leery of reading a Harry Dresden short story simply because the best thing about these books is the epic within. I don't think I've read an author that can match Butcher for the epic – but nor do I think you can build up to good epic in a short story.

And there was some mixed quality here. The stories were from every period in the series and while most of them were a hit (above and beyond what I expected), some missed badly. Restoration of Faith was pretty dull and clumsy and the second story Vignette isn't even a story. I actually wasn't too fond of many of the short stories that had Harry as a main protagonist because they kind of involved Harry just, well, doing what we've seen him do throughout the books but generally a bit more casually because this is his daily bread, as it were. And while it's nice to see his daily bread, it's not exactly a revelation – and with a good maybe 7 out of 11 of the stories being these daily bread style tales? None of them really adding development to the world, story or characters?

I think I'd have greatly enjoyed them in anthologies of other books where they were originally – if I was new to the Dresden Files they'd give me a sense of the world and intrigued me more – but put together we just get a series of “and this is a day in the life of Harry. And this is another day in the life of Harry” stories.

Review of 'Touch the Dark' by Karen Chance, Book 1 of the Cassandra Palmer series

Though Karen Chance is quite prolific, I had not heard about her until I came across a post on Tumblr raving about her Cassandra Palmer series.  I can't say what exactly spurred me to read one of her books, but  I didn't go into it with great expectations, and so I suppose that there was nothing to let down by.

Touch the Dark, is the first book in the Cassandra Palmer series. Cassandra is a time traveling, clairvoyant, and as you might imagine, time travel lends itself to various timelines.  When a writer chooses to go down this road, the plot must be clear and easy to follow.  At times I had to go back and re read because I lost the thread of the story entirely. To give you an idea of the potential to be confused, take a look at the time line created by Chance, to help the reader follow her story.

I suppose time travel encouraged Chance to introduce historical characters in her fiction.  So far we have met Baby Face Nelson, Jack the Ripper, Vlad the Impaler, The Man in the Iron Mask and Rasputin.  Of all the historical figures mentioned, I think that Rasputin makes the most sense, as he was notably hard to kill; however, it quickly became laughable, as I found myself wondering if Chance planned on making every notable person in history a vampire.

As protagonists go, Cassandra was not prone to spunky agency, and seemed to determine to hold onto what was in her best interest, despite the pressure to choose sides in a war she wanted no part in. However, she is yet another protagonist with dead parents. I simply do not understand why urban fantasy writers cannot allow their main characters to have normal childhoods or parents. In Cassandra's case, her parents were killed when she was four years old, and she was raised by Tony, a vampire mobster - the same vampire who had her parents killed.  Tony keeps Cassandra a virtual prisoner in his home, because he wants to use her talents to his advantage. When she does finally leave him, we learn that her life on the streets was rough, but no great details are given.

The Walking Dead: Season 1, Episode 2: Guts

At the refugee camp we see people foraging and scratching an existence and discover that Lori (Rick's wife) is having sex with Shane (who isn't dead) therefore setting us up for a love triangle the idea of which makes me cringe (I do tend to find love triangles are a distraction in most plot lines).

Meanwhile in Atlanta, Rick is saved from hiding in the tank by Glenn who uses the radio to guide Rick to safety while the Walkers are distracted eating the horse. Glenn's one of my favourite characters – plenty of humour and sarcasm and he leads Rick to the rest of his group – foragers from the refugee camp. But things are not good – Andrea in particular is furious because Rick's actions have attracted so many Walkers who are now battering their way into the building.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Fangs for the Fantasy podcast, Episode 36

This week we discuss the Vampire Diaries, Lost Girl, The Secret Circle, the role of WoC in urban fantasy series, the Parasol Protectorate series and JR Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood

The Dead Girl's Dance, by Rachel Caine, Book 2 of the Morganville Vampire series

At the end of the last book, Glass House, Shane called in his father in a desperate attempt to save them from the wrath of Morganville's vampires. Of course, they managed to escape that wrath by earning the support and protection of Analee, the Founder of Morganville who had enough clout to keep them safe.

The problem is, Shane's father and his vampire slaying biker gang still arrived. And they're still looking for blood and they don't intend to leave without slaughtering as many vampires as possible, preferably all of them. In fact, it seems this was Shane's reason to return to Morganville anyway – to gather as much intelligence as possible in the eventual attack.

Shane's father instantly launches a path of destruction, killing vampires wherever he can. Worse, he has no concern for collateral damage and his gang does not hesitate to kill humans who look like vampires – even resorting to kidnapping humans to follow their plans.

And worse still, Shane is quickly implicated in the killings. The penalty for vampire slaying in Morganville is being burned alive. Claire, Michael and Eve must find a way to convince the vampire authorities that Shane is not guilty and they should spare his life.

The Walking Dead: Season 1: Days Gone By

With the Walking Dead second season about to start (which we intend to do weekly episode reviews on) we're doing 6 recaps of the previous series to bring us up to date

The opening scene of this pilot is one of the best I've seen. We see the protag in an obvious disaster zone, surrounded by wreckage and scraps of people's lives – including children's toys. He is carrying a petrol can, looking for a resource most of us today take for granted. It is eerily silent except for the buzzing of insects clinging to the corpses of the dead. And then we see the Walker – a child, a little girl (evocative of all what we're supposed to protect) even carrying a teddy bear. And he shoots her.

A perfect introduction to the world of the Walking Dead..

Which is followed by a rather pointless scene with Shane (thus beginning my series long dislike of Shane who never has the decency to be eaten which I just call rude) complaining about women and Rick complaining about his relationship and relationships until Rick is shot in a shootout (Shane, alas, is not shot).

Rick awakes in a hospital bed – and the dying flowers next to him show he's been unconscious a while – and after it quickly becomes clear the hospital has been wrecked and he's all alone – except for the bodies. And we're treated to one of the most on-the-edge-of-your-seat filming I've seen in a long time. I kept screaming at the screen “don't go in there! Don't open that It's dark! Get out of there!”

The Secret Circle: Season 1, Episode 4: Heather

Well we open to see that Melissa (Doormat) and Nick (Hot Guy) seem to be having a much healthier relationship. I bet it can't last – more angst is needed. Meanwhile, Cassie is looking up Heather Barnes (her mother's old school friend) after Zachary mentioned she wasn't dead and that Cassie's mother did far worse than that to her. Cassie is looking her up because... because... actually I don't have a clue, maybe she's chronically bored or needs to top up her angst levels or something. Anyway she's googling. She does her best to find her, but her cyberstalking skills are sadly lacking as she tries to trace where she lives, what family she has and their contact details (she turns up a brother). Not perturbed, she goes to school and enlists the aid of Diana (Chief Scooby) to go on a happy stalking field trip! Yay!

But alas, Diana can't go but she nominates Adam (Adam may not make decisions, Chief Scooby decides!) so we can have more puppy dog eyes between Adam and Cassie. And here I side-eye. After last episode Diana admitted she thought there was something going on between Adam and Cassie, it's obvious they're both into each other and fine, she trusts them – but then decides to all but set them up? Really? Go take some Mean Girl lessons from Faye!