Monday, December 31, 2012

Review: El Mosaico: Scarred Souls, by Michael Panush

Clayton Cane was not born, he was created. During the American Civil War, in a plantation house a scientist used the darkest of arts to try and create a new source of soldiers for the beleaguered south by stitching together and animating the corpses of the fallen. He was destroyed before he could produce more than one – but Clayton Cane, with the memories of dozens, if not hundreds, of soldiers, was born.

He is now a bounty hunter. Reviled by most because of his heavily scarred appearance, he is exceptionally good at his job, hunting and killing people and monsters no matter what arcane arts they practice

But he is more than just a hunter and more than a monster, as we follow Caine through his adventures that take him across the United States and far beyond, there is definitely more man than monster to him. A man that can be moved by compassion, a man that won’t tolerate the victimisation of the innocent – and a man who is becoming tired of the trials of his life.

I really like Clayton Cane as a protagonist. His monstrosity of both creation and appearance often separates him from humanity. A separation that is only increased by his job – bounty hunter, killer for hire – and his extreme skill at it. And he is good at his job and works to be this cold hearted, ruthless gun-for-hire. Yet he is human, he has a heart of cold, a conscience and a powerful sense of compassion that constantly drives him to help those who deserve it. His ruthlessly efficient dispatching of the guilty instantly melts when facing the innocent. Together it not only creates an awesomely complex character but also a character with a lot of pain, especially in the later stories where Cane is, more clearly, feeling the burden of living the life he does.  Just by showing these conflicting sides and the constant rejection he faces, we have a far greater sense of his pain than we would have got from pages and pages of angsty whining.

The setting was also intriguing because it was so wide. We have the character and we have the time period – in the 19th century. But Cane can be called not only across the United States and Mexico, but to London and Egypt as well – he roams to follow his work ensuring a great diversity of settings

I have said it before and I’ll, no doubt, say it again – I don’t like short stories. I find they’re usually very badly rushed to cram everything in, contain info-dumping, have little character development and either needed to be part of a greater story or didn’t need to exist at all. Which is why I was quite pleased to read this book because all the short stories in it did it right. Each story carefully contained, there were no loose threads and they were clearly more than prologues for a greater series or novel. They didn’t contain any irrelevant information, they didn’t pad and they didn’t rush. They’re wonderful little stories and they all stand on their own – with stories like these I could grow to like the short story format.

The problem is that I am nearly sure that each of these stories did stand on their own in separate publications. In these separate books, they would have been excellent. But they don’t work nearly so well in one book.

Firstly there is a lot of recapping of Cane’s creation. Every short story has it, sometimes in a rather convoluted manner, and by the 5th story it’s starting to look a little ridiculous. The stories all had a similar structure as well: Cane is hired to face a threat. He does some minimal investigating (usually he’s pointed straight at the enemy), then he faces a horde of monsters – cultists, undead, jotun, whatever – then he wins. This isn’t a vague summary of one of these eight short stories, this is a summary of all of them. While there were certainly different elements to each story, I still felt vaguely like I was reading the same story 8 times. Even the writing in the fight scenes is very similar. The book just felt very repetitive.

We also had some repetition of powerful themes – the most common of which being the humanity of Cane compared to the monstrosity of the people he was facing. From the first story with Cane, Alligator men and Loup-Garou all being more human than the rich, racist plantation owner to Dead Man’s Band and Monster Men of Malachite Flats where Cane refuses to accept being a novelty to people who will offer him pretend respect in exchange for his service.  They’re excellent themes of humanity and judging based on appearance.

Similarly Red Blades in Whitechapel, Ghost Dances and Tomb of Kings say a lot about not trusting those in power just because they’re in power – and “civilised” authority doesn’t necessarily mean good or decent people. We have themes of heroism in Monster Men of Malachite Flats, Tarantula and Valiant Dead with both the cost and burden of it – as well as the rewards.

I love all of these themes and I think they are done excellently well conveying messages without being preachy and truly fleshing them out with some great characters. But, again, we have the repetition, the same message told repeatedly because these short stories were never intended to be together.

Inclusionwise, these short stories have 3 women in it – but 2 are capable, handle themselves better than any of the other side characters in a crisis. They are more than just weapons, having ties –or severed ties – to family that matter to them. They’re not perfect or amazing – they’re human and competent and they’re not damsels to protect. The third is a victim to protect – a pregnant Black woman giving birth who is being hunted, I did rather feel the protection and value of her applied as much or more to the child than she herself.

We have a number of POC who are dismissed with slurs and contempt of the time – but that is repeatedly challenged. The Arabic and Black “savages” in Tomb of Kings are far more informed and sensible than the white British lord. The Lakota man in Ghost Dance is far more human and morale than the brutal, evil cavalry trying to hunt him down. These are just some of many instances where were have the bigotry against POC – but the bigots are evil, cruel, savage and callous while the POC are good, human, honourable and kind.

There are no GBLT people in these stories.

In the end, I liked this book. It was interesting, had some great stories, a really intriguing protagonist, some excellent themes and was generally really well written, well paced and a whole lot of fun. But the repetitiveness means that towards the end of the book I was rapidly beginning to lose interest.

 A copy of this book was provided by Netgalley

Terra Nova: Season 1, Episode 9: Vs

 We open with an odd twist – it seems Mira, head of the Sixers, is using giant dragon flies to spy on Terra Nova.

Boylan, the naughty barman, is being held by Taylor and questioned about what he did for the Sixers, Boylan insisted that it was just trade – medical supplies, never information. He continues to claim ignorance about everything else – Taylor’s son, how Mira communicates with the future etc. Taylor leaves the prison – and turns on a siren, preventing Boylan from sleeping. He’s torturing him with sleep deprivation.

In a pleasant domestic scene, Elizabeth, Josh (who hasn’t been eaten), Maddie and Zoe are preparing for the harvest festival – the day they use to celebrate Taylor coming through the portal. They even have a Harvest Play in which Zoe has won the leading role as Taylor himself (almost like kids playing a nativity – yeaaa).

Josh, in a move that makes me not want to kill him for once, asks his dad to check on Boylan, since no-one has seen him since Taylor took him for interrogation (loyal lackey Jim disapproves of not using the Supreme Leader’s full title and further objects to the word “interrogate” don’t be silly, he’s just being questioned! Alone, without any oversight. That’s fiiiiine! Someone better start challenging this dictatorship, I’m running out of sarcasm). Jim agrees after making it clear that rule breaking just isn’t allowed (well, except by him. He’s special).

Taylor takes Jim to see Boylan where we find him not only sleep deprived but also zonked by the drugs Taylor gave him (Jim is concerned that Taylor may have given him a little too much – not the drugging, just the EXCESS drugging, you understand). Jim points out that Boylan did actually save Taylor’s life once – but Taylor thinks it’s all good, after all, even if he isn’t the spy he may give the real spy false confidence by holding Boylan. And he doesn’t need any silly grounds to hold people! Drugged and confused, Boylan babbles something about a secret buried under the pilgrim tree, something that will make it “all over for Taylor.”

The Pilgrim’s Tree is apparently the tree that Supreme Leader Taylor lived in when he first arrived (as such gets a special revered name – which is totally not creepy and not trying to form his own cult, honest). Jim, being the only person allowed to question the Supreme Leader, decides to go to this tree (apparently at night and beyond the fence, which are big no-nos) and, laughably start digging. This tree is huge – as in Redwood huge – and Jim just takes a spade and starts digging at some random point around its trunk. He gets lucky (surprise surprise) and unearths… a skull! (Dramatic music time!)

Jim takes the full skeleton back to Elizabeth to examine who says it’s a middle aged man with an arm missing at the elbow (though she doesn’t know if it was done before or after death or whether it was animal activity. It has to be said, she’s not the most insightful of pathologists). She thinks he’s been dead for 4-6 years and he may have been shot – there’s a hole in one rib. He asks Elizabeth to do more investigating – without telling Taylor.

Jim tries to get more out of Boylan but Taylor hovering around makes it difficult and Jim has to make excuses. And at the Worship-the-Supreme-Leader play with the kids, one of the soldiers smacks Mira’s spy-dragonfly and Maddy notices it has a microchip on its leg. Taking the chip to Malcolm and Taylor they realise the Sixers and their spy are using the dragon fly as a kind of carrier pigeon.

 Meanwhile a Terra Nova patrol is ambushed by Mira and the Sixers. They injured soldiers return to upset Taylor, especially as Washington points out that she put together the team after Taylor locked up Boylan – he can’t have leaked the information but Mira clearly knew all the details of the patrol. Taylor agrees to let Boylan go (don’t mind the torture and drugging, bygones!)

Elizabeth continues her investigate the dead man and pulls up a mystery – not only is his DNA not logged in any pilgrimage, but the special molecular imprinting time travel causes shows he arrived between the second and third pilgrimages – when pilgrimages are supposed to be the only way to travel back in time.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Review: Fragile Eternity by Melissa Marr, Book 3 of the Wicked Lovely Series

 The fae courts stand on the cusp of conflict – conflict brought by Bananach, ancient faerie of war who longs for the courts to march against each other.

But her machinations are finding success not because of the fae’s bloodlust, but because of the conflicted emotions and jealousies of the fae rulers. Niall, holding grudges for Summer’s failure to protect Leslie is looking for an excuse to slaughter in revenge. Aislinn is torn by her love for Seth and her powers as Summer Queen drawing her towards Keenan, the Summer King. Keenan’s relationship with Donia, the Winter Queen is rocky and difficult – perhaps even impossible. And, again, he is drawn to his Queen and jealous and angry with Seth – who is best friends with Niall and gives him another excuse to strike against Summer.

As the emotions become more volatile, more and more foolish, rash actions follow, raising more tension between the courts and threatening Summer just as it should be resurgent. Desperate to be fae, Seth turns to the 4th court, the High Queen Sorcha and potentially drags them into the ensuing conflict as well with his new, powerful links to Sorcha and his long separation from Summer and the Dark Court.

This is a book that is all about character interaction. Which, to me, makes it a book that is very much down to personal taste. Personally, I am not generally a big fan of books that have lots of sitting around and talking and not a whole lot of things actually happening or people doing things.

I was left with some feelings of disconnect with some of the characters though, mainly because they felt so transformed from what they were for the sake of extra conflict. I didn’t expect Niall to be Keenan and Ailing’s biggest fan after Leslie (but the blame for that surely falls on Irial’s shoulders?) but the level of antipathy in this book is extreme. Similarly, the hostility from Donia seems to have reached unexpected heights. For that matter, the depth of the friendship between Seth and Nial (to such a degree that Seth is willing to overlook Niall’s treatment of Aislinn) seems to have suddenly peaked without a full foundation. This all cumulated by Sorcha, immortal, unchanging, unemotional, eternal Sorcha deciding to form her bond with Seth.

Terra Nova: Season 1, Episode 8: Proof

Let us begin with a nice “rawr lookit our CGI!”

They should begin more episodes like that.

It leads to Jim – aww, damn, can we go back to the CGI? No? Damn it – anyway, Jim and Taylor playing with bows proving that they are, indeed, accurate enough to hit the sea. I feel a more challenging target may be in order.  Apparently it’s a lazy way to fish. Jim is nearly killed by a giant prehistoric monster fish but, alas, Taylor saves him.

Back at Terra Nova, Maddy is all gleeful because her scientific hero, Ken Horton, is returning from an expedition. The doctor himself (oooh English accent, 60% chance of being evil!) brushes past and dismisses Malcolm before going to a full range of check ups with Elizabeth. Maddy gushes all over her hero, gets his autograph and is taken on as his assistant. Yet he’s not everything what she expects – there are things he doesn’t seem to remember. She also reveals she wrote a fan letter to him which he replied to – he wants to see the reply so he can keep a copy for his archive.

When she goes home she talks to Elizabeth about her misgivings and notices that the signatures between the letter she received and the autograph don’t match – but Elizabeth points out Horton had a stroke that could have changed him and warns her that heroes often disappoint – before going to stop Zoe overflowing the bathroom.

The longer Maddy spends with him – including looking at the blighted apple crop – the more Maddy becomes suspicious of his lapses in memory. She becomes ever more suspicious as Horton doesn’t hand in his report of his trip to an irate Malcolm. Horton goes on to lose her letter which she is convinced is part of his secret – and she sneaks into his house to take it back, but only finds fragments of it, burned in his bin. When she hides under his table to avoid him, Horton enters, leaning heavily on his stick, which he casts aside and walks without a limp as soon as he thinks he’s alone.

She is convinced Horton is an imposter and steals his coffee cup to compare his DNA against the DNA on the envelope of the letter the real Horton sent her. She compares it in the science lab but Malcolm catches her and points out what a serious violation of privacy it is. Learning that she suspects Horton, Malcolm agrees to help – though it seems more to do with professional jealousy or dislike of the man than

However, the DNA is a match – it seems Horton is legit. This doesn’t stop Maddy and she wonders if Horton had a research assistant who mailed Horton’s post and then stole his identity. She researches the research assistant, Andrew Fickett, in the super-future-wiki and finds that he is the same age, height and build. Checking out crimes for the area she also finds an unidentified male murder victim who had his eyes and hands mutilated so he couldn’t be identified. She believes Fickett murdered Horton (told you, evil) – which is when he pops up behind her. He tries to menace her but she easily escapes

But when she goes to pick up Zoe from school, the teacher tells her that Horton has already picked her up. Maddy finds them at the apple fields and sends Zoe back to her dad, staying with Horton. He ties her up and tells her that Horton was far from a great man (and doesn’t believe her when she promises not to tell anyone, of course). He has a clever way of killing her – forcing her hand into a cage with a poisonous spider… until Jim arrives and rescues her, summoned by the secret panic words Jim taught his daughters.

That night Elizabeth admits that she didn’t listen to Maddy but insists that Maddy force them to listen rather than deal with something like this on her own. And Jim praises her for trusting her gut even when all the evidence was against her. WHY!? Why is this even remotely laudable?! Someone who sticks to their guns when everything proves them wrong isn’t praiseworthy – they’re foolish and stubborn and 99% of the time completely and utterly wrong! Ugh, I hate hate hate hate hate hate the media’s worship of “gut” or “instinct”.

What Will You Do In a Dystopian?

'The Wastelands' photo (c) 2008, LudwigVon Wolfzahn - license:

The world as you know it has come to an end. The dead have come back as zombies, plagues has wiped out half the population, aliens have invaded, the power has gone out, vampires have taken over the world - something terrible has happened and the world as you know it is over. We now live in a darker world, a grimmer world, a world where everyday is a fight for survival in a harsh and unforgiving society. You are living in a dystopia - an imperiled dystopia where every day is a battle for survival.

What will you do? After all, as one of the few survivors, every person counts - so what will your role be?

If you are GBLT? You will rot. Or possibly groan if you’re a zombie. Alas, the grim darkness of the future is extremely cis and straight. It’s is beyond exceptionally rare for GBLT people to survive apocalypses. Revolution, The Walking Dead, Falling Skies, The Strain Trilogy, Terranova, Fringe (season 5) - GBLT people are dead, dead and more dead. It seems most desperate scourges that wipe out mankind are run by the Westboro Baptist Church. It’s possible GBLT people may serve as canaries or early warning systems - straight, cis people if the GBLT folk start dying in droves, it’s time to stock canned goods and get yourself some weapons.

If you are a straight POC then some of you may have survived - but you will have died in disproportionately large numbers. Zombies seem to like the taste of melanin. You’re role is to be the support staff. Don’t trouble yourself talking much - like Dai on Falling Skies or T-Dog on The Walking Dead, you’re there to just stand in the background while the straight, White guy speaks to ensure that there’s important diversity on screen. Tread carefully though because you’re much much more likely to die than the more numerous White folk - the grim dark future is even more dangerous for you than any other. It’s vitally important you split up - the closer you are to another POC, the greater your chances are of dying until there’s only one. This may be why the Morales family decided to take off all on their own in season 1 of The Walking Dead, they realised how little chance they had of surviving if they stayed in such a diverse group. It’s a lesson T-Dog and Oscar should have paid attention to. Sadly, if (hah - when) you do die, there’s a good chance everyone will forget your name soon after - as T-Dog, Oscar, Jackie and Dai have discovered. But they were really sad about that alien.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Review: Dead to the World by Charlaine Harris, Book 4 of the Sookie Stackhouse Series

Sookie has a new year’s resolution – no more violence, no more being beaten up, no more dangerous situations

Until she finds Eric, the ancient vampire Sheriff, running half naked down the road without his memories. This rapidly leads to her harbouring the ancient, but clueless vampire from the attentions of a vicious and lethal witch who not only has the vampires in her sights, but is also kidnapping the local witches and killing off the local werewolves as well.

As if keeping an ancient – and beautiful – vampire safe wasn’t enough, her brother has also gone missing. And it’s not like she can rely on any of the supernatural community to make finding Jason a priority at the best of times, let alone at the cusp of a war against invading vampire blood drinking werewolf witches. Which leaves it to her to investigate.

The story in this book is well done, paced and revealed. Starting from a basic standpoint – Eric being targeted and Sookie’s accommodating that was slowly expanded as we saw Hallow and her forces having a wider and more all-encompassing agenda. It wasn’t a story with twists – we had a clear enemy from the very beginning, a clear goal and the only thing that really changed was the scope of the enemy’s focus and the abilities she had in which to pursue her goals. But it wasn’t a story that needed twists, beyond a second parallel running alongside – it worked on its own back by expanding the world considerably with the witches and the werewolf pack. These new threads being drawn into the story to face off against Hallow added depth to the plot without the need for twists, turns and surprises.

I do also like a story that has multiple threads running through it, even if they act as red herrings. It makes it clear that just because something is the primary issue in Sookie’s life, doesn’t mean it’s going to be the all encompassing issue in everyone else’s and there can be several actors, with their own agendas, their own threads and their own drives. It’s good to see that not all issues are resolved with just one battle, one enemy defeated.

One thing that works well in this book and in the series in general is the community ties. I can really get a sense of Bon Temps as a real place. Everyone knows everyone else, Sookie can track relations and degrees of separations with everyone. She knows who is whose relatives, who is whose friend, their histories, their ties to everyone else in the town makes even the smallest characters into people.

The one downside to this is that, as I explain before, Sookie knows everyone and has nothing kind to say about them.

With the introduction of Claudine this world is expanded a little more – I think I’d like it a lot more if I didn’t know that it’s not going to be expanded much more on that. But the world still remains solid and interesting – the introduction of magic and witchcraft certainly adds new dimensions to the world.

We also have some excellent class commentary. Sookie, despite having advantages like a fully paid off home, is still not a rich woman. She lives on a waitress salary and she struggles. She loves her family home but dreams of a smaller, more modern house that is easier to heat and cool. She has to drive at night and the police lecture her for not having a cell phone – but she can’t afford it, nor can she afford to take the less-well paid and well tipped day shifts. Even buying basic clothing and blood for Eric are things she has to consider on her budget. In a genre where most protagonists just reach into their pockets for money without a second thought, Sookie’s totting up the pennies and worrying. It also adds a lot to her motivation. While we can often ask why urban fantasy protagonists don’t just leave or why they’re going through all this for a love interest, Sookie has that simple but essential monetary goal. Despite the very overtly labelled violence she faces, despite the risk, she can’t afford to turn down thousands of dollars.

But increasingly I’m finding it hard to like Sookie as a person. She’s so extremely judgemental and just plain nasty to everyone around her. I think she should be happy she’s the telepath and not everyone else because her inner commentary is toxic. She goes to ask Holly questions and randomly thinks about how stupid Holly’s husband’s cousin is. At Fangtasia, one of the waitresses is in agonising pain and Sookie’s mental commentary is full of mockery. She finds another dead and, again, comments on how stupid she was. Honestly you find a body and your thought is she was “dumb as a rock.” She hates Alcide’s secretary on sight and dubs her “Ms. Crispy” (and has to duck into her head to note she’s sleeping with Alcide’s father). Crystal Norris, Jason’s fling she considers to be “bitchy” and hates on sight. And she judges Jason for picking her up (and her for being picked up) never mind that she’s just had sex with Eric and justified it with “we’re adults, we’re not being disloyal to anyone, so why not?” This morality only applies to Sookie. When Andy gives her polite condolences about her brother being missing she thinks “liar” (gods forbid someone be polite!) She mentally attacks Portia, she even mentally attacks Claudine - she thinks of her as a “scrumptious slut” but when one of the were’s dares to call Sookie a “vamp hunter” Sookie starts crying and Eric attacks them.

The Hobbit Games (Hobbit / Hunger Games Trailer Parody)

H/T The Mary Sue

Terra Nova, Season 1, Episode 7: Nightfall

 Examining Mira’s mystery box, Malcolm tells Taylor that’s it’s linked to someone’s DNA and only they can open it (c’mon, you don’t have a blow torch? It’s like a skeleton key for the clumsy!)

Everyone is living their happy domestic lives and Hunter (that’s one of Josh’s gang of people who have one brain to share between them) has drunk something he really really shouldn’t have and is suffering in the medical bay.

Maddy and Mark go to look at flowers and try to romantically out geek each other.

Jim takes Zoe under the colony so she can see their futuristic Wikipedia with extra invasive pictures of everything and everywhere – including the house Zoe was born in. Jim tells her about her birth that they had to keep hidden since having a 3rd child was against the law.

And a meteor plummets to Earth – it smashes down near Terra Nova sending out an EMP blast that knocks out all technology and then a sonic blast to send everyone sprawling. In the aftermath Taylor and Washington gather their troops to tell them the bad news –all things electronic just got fried. First things first they need to watch out for the wildlife since their usual defences are down.

Elizabeth’s medical facility is in chaos without power and all their fancy gizmos and it also means that she has to operate on Hunter the old fashioned way, with an actual scalpel. And then pulling the parasite out and slowly winding it up. Ick. She recruits Skye to continue the rolling up of the parasite so she can treat people injured in a rover accident. Which leaves Skye holding the coil when the parasite cuts in two and begins sending Hunter into a seizure and just when he was confessing his love for her.

Jim and Zoe in the basement find all the doors locked and they can’t get hold of anyone  - but the future Wikipedia thing is still working. To get out they need Zoe to crawl down an access tunnel and come out the other side and open the door with a manual override, something which takes lots of convincing.

And Mark and Maddy are out in the wilderness with a broken rover and even the gun requires electronics to work. Walking back they coat themselves in stinking mud to put off the roving carnivores. Despite that, when night falls they still have to scrabble up a tree to avoid Nykoraptors (hey, you’re fictional dinosaur is already established as a tree climber! Last episode in fact!)  Being stuck up a tree cove red in foul smelling mud and surrounded by predators is apparently romantic.

But worry not, Macolm has a solution! Terra Nova predicted this and has a Chip Fabricator that can make any chip in seconds and with it Malcolm can easily churn out replacement chips. Except the chip that make the Chip Fabricator work has been fried. As far as contingency plans go, this one doesn’t seem very well thought through. Who can fix the chip? That would be Boylan.

What, really? A full colony full of people from the 22nd century and there’s only one – ONE – person capable of fixing microchips? Boylan’s haggling for hefty rewards is shortcut by Taylor threatening bodily harm if he doesn’t fix it. Ah he knows how to motivate people.

To make matters worse, the Sixers realise Terra Nova is dark and Mira plans an attack. To overcome Terra Nova’s alertness and greater numbers they herd a giant Spinosaur towards Terra Nova

Jim gets out and commandeers a soldier to take Zoe to safety while he, without equipment (unlike the soldier) joins Taylor in looking out the fence where the Spinosaur is coming. Taylor’s plan is a fire arrow – and gives the second bow to Jim (why not Washington or any of the other soldiers? Because Jim is the special protagonist!) they shoot at a moat of flammable liquid Taylor had dug around the fence when he realised the power would be down for a while – clever forward thinking. But wouldn’t it be better giving the bow to someone who knew what the plan was? The fire turns back the Spinosaur, but Taylor sees the spears in its legs and realises that it was been herded as a diversion. Leaving Washington on the fence, he takes Jim to go check on the box.

Time for a fight over the box with Jim and Taylor against several Sixers. Jim chases after the box while Taylor fights the remaining Sixer until Boylan intervenes with an old fashioned 6-shooter – and kills the Sixer. But Jim fails to catch the box thief and it ends up in Mira’s hands. In the good news, Hunter is saved when Elizabeth gets the chip for the bio-bed replaced (the EMP only fried one teeny tiny chip in the whole man-sized machine). Taylor reiterates his determination to find the spy.

Mark and Maddy wake up in their tree, having survived the night and manages to get home before anyone notices she’s gone. And Elizabeth plots to set Josh up with Skye.

Mira goes out into the jungle to pass on the box to a young man with odd scars on the back of his head. He has little time for her and less manners. She tells him her job was to pass the box to him – but doesn’t know what it’s for and he doesn’t tell her. He opens it and the hologram of angles and equations appears. He starts to leave and Mira tells him to be careful – Taylor knows he’s getting close to an answer – and yes, this is Lucas Taylor, Commander Taylor’s son. And he won’t stop unless his dad kills him.

I can't say I didn't see the big surprise coming - but still, it's nice to see some weighty meta-plot, I'd like to see how this develops

Same problems - I'm just not that interested in Jim. Really, this episode didn't need him at all - but we had to fill up with him singing a ridiculous song about spiders. Would the episode have changed even slightly if he and Zoe remained stuck until someone freed them?  And he escapes, doesn't have a clue what's going on and is instantly moved straight up to the front. I'm tired of his super-special-protagonist-ness.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Six Gun Tarot by R.S. Belcher

Summarising this book is a difficult task because there’s so much going on.

At the dawn of creation, god built the world on the bones of the defeated darkness. Step by step his angels drove it back, but there was one, the leader, the first, the source of the darkness that could not be stopped, could not be killed and instead had to be chained and buried in the Earth itself.

And now, those chains are loosening. The town of Golgotha in Nevada, a town that already attracts all things weird and bizarre, becomes the sight of the battle for the end of the world, a battle to keep the darkness chained. With powers from so many sources, under the eyes of the angel guardian and the best people Golgotha can throw against it - it's a diverse and powerful group, each with their own story and stake in the battle

This book is huge.

Not just in length – the world is vast and complicated with the story going back to the very creation of the universe, to a small town in Nevada where the strange and the unusual walk. There are a vast number of different powers and forces to incorporate into this small town, each of them having a massive effect of the overall story. The story itself is huge, with lots of different stories, lots of individual threads all coming together to form the whole.

And that’s told with a huge number of characters, each bringing more information, more world building, more angles and opinions and each being an essential part of the overall battle and progression. But each isn’t just a tool – they’re not just there for world building or to add their special powers or special resources or special insight – they’re all fully fledged, powerful characters in their own right. They all have histories, they all have links to other people, they all have their own wishes and desires – each of these many stories doesn’t just add to the whole, but they’re all deeply personal stories of the characters. They don’t just tell the story, they tell their stories.

The angel Biqa, at the dawn of creation conflicted and upset by God’s plan and his methods. Jim, the 15 year old boy running away from his past and that haunts him. Mutt, the Native American rejected by his people and facing resentment in the town. Maude, in an unhappy marriage for the sake of her daughter and trying to reconcile her current life with the teachings of her childhood that she intends to pass on. Mayor Harry, trying to reconcile his place as a pillar of the community and his Mormon faith with being gay and having found a man he loves. Augustus Shultz, still hurting and grieving from the death of his wife, caught between trying to hold onto her memory and finding love again. They all have their own, powerful stories to such a degree that I simply cannot pick out one protagonist because it’s all of their stories.

Even characters that are more referenced than having their own story told – like Sheriff Highfather- are still extremely rich characters with their own back stories, personalities and presence as full people in the book.

Terra Nova Season 1, Episode 6: Bylaw

 Foster is our extra of the week going to check on an isolated outpost – which he finds empty, except for the dinosaur that leaps on him and eats him. Tasty extras are an essential part of a dinosaur’s diet.

Time for Malcolm, Jim and Taylor to check out the body – a nykoraptor (yes have a Dino Geek Grumble for fictional dinos) which doesn’t usually hunt in the area but since there are Ankylosaur nests nearby it’s not unusual since they go for the eggs.

Jim has Elizabeth autopsy the dead extra anyway (and brings along Zoe because she’s feigning illnesses to see her mother) and they find blood on him that belongs to a gallusaur – the nykoraptor’s favourite food. Jim declares it to be a murder and calls in Taylor. Someone used the gallusaur to lure a nykoraptor into the shed and locked it in (covering the back of the door in scratches) so it would kill Foster the minute he opened the door. Taylor wants the murderer found and assigns Washington to Jim to investigate.

To Boylan’s (the corrupt Sixer agent) bar where Foster’s friends are drinking after his death who reveal he had an unknown girlfriend (and that future dogtags double as Ipads). Checking Foster’s personal effects they find no tags at all (also that future land not only still uses metal currency but the coins are ridiculously huge). Since the tags have a locator on them, they track it and find it’s probably been eaten by the nykoraptor.

It takes Taylor, Washington, Jim, 2 extras, 2 bikes and 2 rovers to track down and hunt the nykoraptor. Despite climbing a tree, Taylor shoots it and Washington, being an awesome combat medic, cuts it’s open, removes the tags then sews it back up. Uh…. Why? Since when is it good procedure to leave vicious predators that have realised man is a tasty and easily killed treat, alive?  Are they endangered or something?

From the tags they see the picture of a woman – Washington recognises her as someone who works at the mess hall. Going to see her, Rebecca Milner, she denies and relationships – she’s married (possibly to get on the pilgrimage). Her husband arrives and he reveals he knows about the affair – and confesses to the murder. We have a scene where he describes the elaborate process of murdering Foster and how much he loved Rebecca but she was using him.

Taylor is not amused – and not amused with Foster, his men getting involved with a married Terra Novan is a big no-no, but not worth a death sentence. He talks about their graveyard and how this would be the very first murder they’ve had (despite the Sixers fighting and running from the compound?)  and the law says the punishment for murder is banishment (which, on Terra Nova is like a delayed death sentence) unless he commutes it to imprisonment.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Happy Holidays

'christmas bells tockholes 2009' photo (c) 2009, Jack Berry - license:

Hello everyone, the Fangs for Fantasy crew would like to wish you and yours, a safe happy and prosperous holiday season.  We would like to thank you for all of your support this year and greatly look forward to our continue shared passion of all things urban fantasy, science fiction, and high fantasy.

Monday, December 24, 2012

A Vampire Christmas by Tracey Sinclair:A Dark Dates Short Story The Cassandra Bick Chronicles

If you haven't read Dark Dates yet, (something you need to rectify right now)  this short story does contain some spoilers.  It's Christmas time in London and Cassandra is feeling down.  Christmas is a time of celebration and family but when your parents are dead and all of your friends died when you were in college, it's not hard to get a little bit depressed.  Her lover Cain is off doing his things and that leaves the vampire Laclos to attempt to gain her attentions. He is most certainly not above bringing his own mistletoe to secure a Christmas gift.

Wanting to give back to the community, Cassandra has decided to maintain her yearly ritual of working at a shelter.  Things go fine until a drunk man is denied entrance after claiming that a vampire ate his friends. Of course the workers at the shelter see Billy as just another one who has lost his way and give his tale little credence but Cassandra, with her ability to sense the supernatural is sure that Billy is telling the truth.  Determined to get to the bottom of what is going on, Cassandra enlists the help of  Medea and Katie.  Is there a rogue vampire preying on the population of London and if so, can Cassandra bring this to a stop without further endangering herself, her friends or her business? 

I kind of love that Laclos is one big walking vampire stereotype.  Seriously, a vampire who wears glitter, how can you not giggle at that?   Sinclair has once again filled her story with plenty of pop culture references and though Cassandra declares that she and her friends are not like Buffy and the scoobies the warmth and the budding relationship is clear to see.  I look forward to seeing how the relationship between Madea, Katie and Cassandra goes.  Clearly, Madea has moved from being an employ to someone Cassandra can count on.

Terra Nova: Season 1, Episode 5: The Runaway

Outside the fence the guards see warm-blooded movement which they take to be a Sixer. Patrols are dispatched lead by Lt Washington to run out into the night and try and track it down. After a lot of chasing through the woods they catch the figure – it’s a little girl.

(And yes, I had a Dino Geek grumble at the idea of all dinosaurs being cold blooded)

They take the girl to the hospital where she fights, runs and hides. Elizabeth arrives and shoos everyone out – including Commander Taylor – since the girl is terrified. Elizabeth slowly draws her out. She’s Leah Marcos and her parents are dead. She’s trying to get to see her Nana – who still lives in the future. She recognises Taylor as “the bad man” and he remembers her as a very small child and remembers that she had a brother, Sam. Elizabeth explains to Leah that the portal doesn’t go both ways – once you’re through you can’t go back. Leah’s confused - she can’t stay with “the bad man” and she can’t go back to Mira or she’ll be hurt for running away.

Taylor realises she could be a good source of intelligence, but they need her trust first. He gently suggests that Elizabeth takes her in and she instantly falls for it and Jim’s minor objections are quickly quashed. Elizabeth suggests putting Josh on the sofa.

Josh isn’t best thrilled but Maddy explains that she’s a girl and Zoe’s 6. Josh doesn’t follow this logic but Leah arrives cutting debate. They welcome her but she’s silent and very nervous. She crawls on a bed and huddles under a blanket, not even getting into the bed properly.

Lt. Washington and another soldier go looking for Leah’s lost bag – they find it. But they also find a pack of Sixers who attack them. He goes down quickly but Washington puts up a fight until Mira arrives and knocks her unconscious.

At Terra Nova, Leah and Zoe are left with Josh as a babysitter and Maddy goes to start her apprenticeship with Elizabeth and is a little squeamish at the sight of mangled flesh. Taylor and Jim discuss when it’s appropriate to start asking Leah questions when the Sixers arrive. Mira demands Leah’s return in exchange for Washington and the extra. Taylor denies kidnapping her and tells Mira the girl can decide her own fate. Mira lets Washington and the extra go (showing that Mira trusts Taylor’s word – or that she’s stood in the firing lines of Terra Nova)

Leah is brought out and Mira tells the child to say she wants to come home and tries to bully her into speaking. Leah tells her she ran away and she wants to stay in Terra Nova. As she leaves, Taylor tells Mira that since this is the second time she’s come to the gates and threatened the colony, the third time she does it, he’ll go to war. Personally I’d have opened fire on them as they retreated, but that’s just me.

Realising that the mole must have contacted the Sixers since Leah arrived, Taylor has Jim check who was outside the gates since she arrived. The whole  place is very welcoming to Leah, making her feel much more at home and Taylor discusses Leah showing them where she camped with the constantly moving Sixers.