Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Vampire Diaries Season Three: Episode Ten: The New Deal

The hiatus just seemed to fly by didn't it?  When last we left Mystic Falls, Elena had finally decided to give up on The Ripper otherwise known as Stefan, after he fouled the plans of the scooby gang to kill Klaus.  For his part, Stefan finally got proactive and kidnapped Klaus' family, whom he had been carting around in coffins for centuries. Now that is a dysfunctional family.

 Once again Mystic Falls is a hotbed of action, because Klaus wants his family back, Elena wants to be safe and Stefan wants revenge.  In an effort to find Stefan, Klaus talks Tyler into hanging out with Jeremy.  This of course concerns Elena and she attempts to forbid them from spending time together.  Jeremy rightfully calls her a hypocrite and invites Tyler in.  I don't even know where Elena got off giving Jeremy that speech, when she spent the entire summer trying to save The Ripper - a man who kills so savagely that he tears their heads from their bodies and then writes down their names in order to have an accurate record of his kills.  I think Jeremy made a great point when he suggested that they should leave Mystic Falls.  When you think about it, there is no logical reason to stay. Bonnie is a witch and Caroline is a vampire, which means that they are more than capable of taking care of themselves. Elena is staying because she likes the excitement and wants to stay in the thick of things.

In other news, Elena decides to call Bonnie to talk to her about Stefan having the coffins.  Bonnie tells Elena that she should stay out of it, but two seconds later, she is ready to do Elena's bidding.  I would like to point out that this is twice in one episode at this point, that Elena has been given perfectly good advice that she has decided to ignore.  Once Elena gets to the house, she tries to reason with Stefan, and even goes as far as to say that Jeremy is in danger, but Stefan will not budge. Damon comes up with the plan of each taking the time to deal with their own sibling. 

We learn that Stefan ended their little plan to kill Klaus to save Damon.  When Damon wants in on the plan, Stefan rejects him.  This, believe it or not is actually a sensible decision.  The moment Damon got involved, he would only run to Elena, who would interject herself into whatever Stefan is trying accomplish, firm in the belief that she knows better than anyone else.  We all know that logical planning is not high on Elena's priority list.  It was only a few weeks ago she thought it was a good idea to approach a group of werewolves on the night of the full moon in an isolated location.

Tyler finally gets around to confronting his lord and master.  Would you believe that he actually expressed shock that Klaus would kill someone to get what he wants.  I get the whole blood bond thing, but his faith in Klaus at this point is ridiculous.  If he was so sure that Klaus wasn't really all that bad, then why did he knock out Caroline and have her physically removed from the party, at which they tried to kill Klaus?  I suppose consistency is too much to ask for on The Vampire Diaries. I don't understand what they are doing with Tyler's character at all?  They went from building so much empathy around him becoming a werewolf to turning him into an empty beast without the ability to think.

American Horror Story, Season 1, Episode 12: Afterbirth

So, it is probably no surprise to anyone here that we’re not the biggest fans of American Horror Story. We’re largely of the belief that it contains a lot of unchallenged isms that serve no story purpose. So when the season finale happened we cracked open the good booze… buuut we left it unfinished! We had not reviewed the last episode… one of us had to watch it and recap it.
*High Noon Music*
Yeah, it’s me. Doubtless I shall have to think of some dreadful revenge, but for now, let’s dive in.

We begin with a flashback! Back before Ben and Vivian first moved to LA - and Vivian doesn’t want to give Ben a second chance which he combats by mentioning real estate. Yeah.. it’s you she’s not all that happy with Ben, you she can’t reconnect with – a shiny house isn’t really going to fix that. He continues to psychobabble at her to make her remain. Yeah, when the psychiatrist uses psychobabble on his family to try and manipulate them? Screw the affair, Vivian, this guy’s just not that great a catch, even if he is astonishingly in shape for a 50 year old. Run Viv, run! Don’t let the abs fool you!

Back to the present day and the house is empty (with this many ghosts!) and of course, just about everyone is dead. But worry not Ben, Constance is here to babysit your newborn child – really Constance? I wouldn’t trust her to raise a dog. However, for once Constance is right – and it’s a really bad idea to take the baby into the murder house. Ben finally starts to clue in on who Constance and Tate is and starts to blame all the bad things that happened to his family on Constance. Constance isn’t having that and says he’s paying for his sins. Damn, twice I’m forced to agree with Constance? Damn it Ben, you’re such a complete fool you make me side with Constance?

Back in the House, Moira is giving Vivien a ghostly induction (apparently the ghosts can only be seen when they want to be). Oh and Vivien finds it hardest to watch Ben – seriously Viv? Get your poltergeist on! You owe him at least a few spectral kicks to the yin-yangs. But no, she’s speaking his praise to Moira, defending him. I’m with Moira – I have no idea why she is defending him.

I have to say Vivien is taking this very… calmly. Talk about fast adjustments. But she does have a plan – get Ben and their child away from the house. We do have a good moment where Moira makes it clear that all the ghosts are equal and she doesn’t take instructions from Vivian any more. I like to see that assertion from the servant.

Ben then does an extremely neat inventory, puts his affairs in order for when Vivien’s sister arrives – and prepares to shoot himself. Y’know, I’m trying to sympathise with his pain here, especially since his loss and grief is really well displayed. But I’m having extreme difficulty not thinking “shame you didn’t care so much when they were alive”. Unworthy, unfair perhaps – but still. Vivien steps in to stop him (I’m with you there Viv, the rest of eternity stuck with him? He could at least go into the street or something to do the deed). 

Violet appears and ben has some more eye-opening about what a poor father he’s been while Violet and Vivian tell him he’s a nice guy and they want him to raise the child. Yeah, sorry “too little, too late.” But they both want him to get the baby out – every second he remains puts them both in danger.
Of course, the other ghosties, especially Hayden, aren’t letting him get away with that and hang him from the chandeliers. Now, I actually quite like that chandelier and there’s a severe chance they could damage the light fixture here. Murderous ghosties, I disapprove of your murder choice – it’s not like Ben hasn’t got out and loaded a gun for you already. Now the inhabitants of the house are officially in hell – doomed for an eternity in Ben’s company 

Moving on, the Bigot Estate Agent (hereby known as BEA) is still trying to sell the house by using lots of racism. BEA, you might want to work on your sales pitch there. Anyway, the new Ramos family is attracted by the cheap price, explained by the oh-so-romantic deaths of Ben and Vivien (hey, at least they weren’t murdered. Oh I laugh, yes I laugh) while the ghost twins through caps at the Ramos’ son, Gabriel. And it’s sold – we have a new set of victims!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Review: A Local Habitation by Seanan McGuire, Book 2 of the October Daye series

Sylvester, Duke of the Shadowed Halls has called October with a problem. His niece, the Countess of Tamed Lightning, isn’t answering his calls. He would check up on her, or send one of his top officials – but the neighbouring duchy of Dreamers Glass would take that as a move against them – and war would surely follow. Hamstrung by politics, he has to turn to October, a trained PI and his knight errant

Setting off with Quentin, a young Page from the court looking for some experience, things rapidly get out of hand. Not only are communications from Dreamers Glass being interrupted – but half of the inhabitants have fled after a string of murders.

A string of murders that continues while October Daye is there. With her PI experience and her Daoine Sidhe ability to read blood memories she’s perfectly placed to help solve the murders – as well as her duty to Sylvester. But the memories are absent and even the darkest forces in faerie won’t touch the bodies – more people keep dying. And, other than Quentin, anyone can be the killer, no-one can be trusted. And can they trust her? Especially with the dangerous politics of the County?

And, if murders weren’t enough, the people of Tamed Lightning have their own secrets, some of which could be just as dangerous as the murderer themselves.

The world here is amazingly rich with a huge variety of fae and faerie legends presented. It’s a very varied world, a very large world with, consequently, a lot of scope for different characters and abilities. I think these books are worth reading for their rich world alone and the potential of them.
October Daye is a nuanced character. She’s a Changeling in a fae society that ever treats her as less. She has her mother’s extreme reputation to live up to while at the same time she is limited to the power level of a Changeling. And this is after her last major quest for Sylvester resulted in her not only failing to rescue Luna and Rosalyn, but also being trapped as a fish for 14 years – the aftermath of which she is only just recovering from. She’s very ambivalent about being involved in faerie, but at the same time cares deeply for the people she regards as her family.

The plot itself has a lot of action – October is facing off against an unknown assailant, there’s a sense of danger around every corner, of constantly being stalked and just not knowing who or what is out there or why. The tension is very well maintained and there’s always a sense whenever a character leaves the frame that they may not be coming back. Other than October, there was a very good sense of “anyone can die” with lots of nail biting tension, head scratching mystery and occasional frenzied bolts of energy as the newest threat raises its head.

One thing that isn’t to my taste is the way October investigates – or, rather, the way the investigation is written. In fiction, I generally find there are 3 kinds of detective stories: 1) the investigator actively seeks the answer, follows a series of clues and brilliantly puts them together. 2) the investigator has a couple of clues then has a magical insight/stroke of genius/convoluted hunch that solves the puzzle. 3) The investigator does very little or her investigation turns up next to nothing, but the bad guy decides to try and kill her and eventually is caught.

October Day kind of fits into option 3. In fact, by the end of the book her suspect pool has dropped to 3 people and one of them highly unlikely. She could have flipped a coin. The problem is that it didn’t make her, a trained investigator, look very competent. Her investigation skills consisted of tasting the blood to use her Daoine Sidhe powers – and it not working. Ok, next body, taste the blood – didn’t work. Ok next body, taste the blood – didn’t work. And that was kind of the extent of her investigative skills; I think the only other investigating she does is call the Luidaeg for a ritual she repeats step by step. She also spends a lot of time being attacked and being injured - though not as bad as the last book. It’s sad because in the end October has a lot of second guessing of herself and her competence and I want to say “no, Toby, you did your best” but at the same time I’m faced with the fact she didn’t actually do a whole lot – and spent most of the book reacting rather than seeking the actual suspect.

Of course, she’s not helped by the other characters being even less competent. When January can’t get through to her uncle on the phone she just… leaves more phone messages? Really? She’s a fae leading a whole herd of other fae and one phone is all they can manage for communication? Add in that October repeatedly tells them to stay together but they continually split off. Why weren’t they all gathered in one room where they could all watch each other? Why did people keep wandering off alone? Why did October keep wandering off alone? It made no sense! They were in a desperate survival situation, they’ve been decimated, losing 3 quarters of their number and they’re still going for solo wanders?

Unfortunately, the book is pretty heavily erased with a very straight, white cast. There’s also so unpleasant hints towards the killer being mentally ill though it’s not entirely spelled out. I’m also unhappy with references to pureblood prejudice as “racism” though thankfully they’re not common

Those criticisms aside, it is a book I enjoyed. While there were actions of the characters I didn’t entirely agree with, but I didn’t find it sufficient to detract from the overall goodness that is this book, the depth of the world or the continuing interactions of the characters. It’s a series that continues to intrigue me and its potential only grows more with each new book.

Being Human U.K. Season Two Episode Eight: All God's Children

This episode opens at the institute with Kemp praying and the other priests getting up to join him in prayer.  Lucy wakes up to a vision of a young girl covered with blood who says, "it's coming."  The priest and Kemp leave the institute to preach on the streets about the agents of darkness being amongst humanity. When they return, George is getting a medical work up done. Annie tells George that the weird bible guys can't see her. Annie points out that they have found Mitchell's girlfriend, and George says "that it does not inspire confidence".  He goes on to say that he is not allowed dairy or meat because they are worried that they will strength the demon.  When Annie asks why he is doing this, he says that since he gave Nina the curse, she has asked him for nothing but this. Annie tells George that she is worried about Mitchell, and wonders what he has done.

In his office, Kemp is making a recording saying that anyone who over heard the conversation in the house would have believed that they were friends, and that their relationship was entirely human. Lucy knocks on the door and tells him that she saw Amy McBride this morning, and that she spoke to her.  Kemp says that Amy McBride came to them willingly and that she knew that her lover had died before her. Lucy points out that Amy changed her mind as they closed the door, but Kemp says that they are doing good work, and that the alternative is to allow the possession to continue.

Back in the room that Annie shares with Hennessey, Annie says that she is glad that she has him to talk to.  Hennessey asks if George knows why she is really there, and Annie says that he thinks that she is there to keep an eye on him, and that she wishes that they would hurry up, because she is sick of all this waiting. In the lab they have a collection of body bags for the type 3's and coffins.  The technician watches as Annie undresses and he begins to jerk off.  What no one realizes at this point, is that Mitchell is in the building because he doen't appear on camera.

In conversation with Lucy, George asks if they are in a bank, and Lucy says that she likes the symmetry because in the 20th century, banks became the religion, and now they are taking it back. "Faith was my dirty secret", Lucy said.  "I then outed myself by writing a book on intelligent design."  When George asks how this went down with the other scientists, Lucy tells him that they hid all of her stuff and drew a cock on the back of her lab coat.  George goes on to say that he knows about her and Mitchell.  Lucy responds, "the intention was to reach out to you. Now, given the exclusivity of your friendship, I thought that the best way to do that was through Mitchell. I fucked up, I lost sight of why I was there. It was unprofessional and adolescent".  George asks if she loved him, and Lucy shakes her head yes.  "Mitchell's gone now," George says. "You make me nervous, it's like all my senses are telling me that you're dangerous".  Lucy tells him that she is, because the creature is looking at her through George's eyes and that it knows what she's going to do. Lucy says that she wants to help and that she wants to do good work.

Back in his room, George says that he is nervous about Mitchell, but Nina points out that he is a mass murderer. Nina tells George that he has to commit to this, and when he says that he will be gone for a few days, she asks him why he even came here.  George says that he is frightened that it will work. "all that time I have been dreaming of life without this, and that might happen, and the thought of it is so exquisite, it's so terrifying."  Nina says "if this works that we will have nothing left to hide behind. It will just be you and me." George answers that she is worth a thousand of him, and that he will stay.  

George walks into the office to use the phone, but instead of dialing out, it seems to be ringing in the institute. George leaves a message on Mitchell's answering machine and says, "Where are you? What's happened to you Mitchell?  I keep dragging you from that world, and you keep sliding back.  I can't risk helping you anymore, there is Nina to think of and Annie, and I think that you should leave us alone."  George then listens to the messages on the machine and hears Annie's goodbye message, though she is still in the room that she shares with Hennessey.  "The man that came to the house to talk to George is helping me to complete my journey. For so long now, I've been tired and frightened. The prospect of this and this stream of time in front me is terrifying. Do you remember George, I was going to pass on and you asked me why if I didn't know what lay beyond? It's because this endless life, never aging, never kissing, never having a family, all of the things that make you human. Not having them is a worse hell than anything that they've got over there. Be good boys, I love you boys, because it was through you two that I've really truly lived."

Spunky Agency: Fake Empowerment and not-so-strong Female Protagonists

'Danger Bostleg Tournament - Evangelion: 1.11 You Are (Not) Alone [3h16] on Vimeo by Tim Douglas' photo (c) 2010, Tim Douglas - license:

Spunky Agency is a term that we use quite often on this site.  We have included a cursory definition in the Fangs Lexicon, but because it is in such regular usage, we thought that it would be appropriate to create a post clearly defining what we mean by this term, with an example of some characters that represent Spunky Agency..

A character possessed of Spunky Agency, is one who makes extremely impulsive decisions that often are reckless and put her in ridiculous danger. This, of course, is meant to frame said protagonist as a person of action. Quite often you see the term "strong" used to describe this kind of action when in fact a better descriptor would probably be, “does not have the sense that God gave cabbage.“

These protagonists use their agency in such ridiculous ways that it actually undermines it. Their decisions are so poor we wish they wouldn’t make them at all - these characters aren’t strong because their “strength” is so misapplied. We have so many classic examples in the genre - Sookie Stackhouse has made some incredibly poor decisions, starting with deciding to investigate a serial killing in vampire bars and just getting worse from there. Clary from the Mortal Instruments virtually embodies this trope with her clueless portal jumping without knowing what’s on the other side. Claire from the Morganville Vampires constantly makes decisions that make my head ache (checking out the curious, locked, lightproof room in the library in a town filled with vampires? Really? What did you think was hiding in there? Mushrooms?)

Of course, bad plans are not the only element of Spunky Agency. How many times have we seen a group make a plan and then the Spunky Agent decides she’s going to sneak off and do her own thing instead? Yes, I`m looking at you Elena from the Otherworld series. How many times will she pretend to agree then go against everything decided? The Spunky Agent decides she knows better than her fellows and feels she can discard their input on a whim.

Similarly, the Spunky Agent will often refuse to accept any other input. She presents a fait accompli, a “my way or the highway”. Her agency is only realised by dictating to the others - even when they are often more experienced and knowledgeable than she is. Elena from Vampire Diaries frequently forces Stefan and Damon to accept her ridiculous plans. Jayne (oh thee of faux french names) from the Blacksun’s Daughter Series knows she should not be in command and yet still leads around the experts; making reckless plans that needlessly risking other people’s lives.

Another common element of Spunky Agency is poor impulse control - or outright random violence. Keillie Riviere from The Hoodoo Series so epitomises this that we’ve actually named the trope after her. To prove how strong and confident and determined she is, she punches people. She even punches Augustin, the leader of an international police and governing body. While she may be the most in need of anger-management therapy or some jail time, she’s hardly alone. How many times has Anita Blake got up in someone’s face at the slightest provocation?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Review: Heart of Steel by Meljean Brook, Book 2 of the Iron Seas series

Yasmeen Corsair is an airship captain, unfettered, unruled, she travels the world making profits off her cargos and occasionally chucking men overboard for being silly fools. Most recently she kicked off Archimedes Fox over zombie infested Venice –but, to be fair, she did make sure he fell in a canal to give him a sporting chance. If he lived she’d even give him  part of the profits from the sale of the Da Vinci sketch he found.

But then things got complicated – starting with the destruction of her airship and the slaughter of her crew. Captain Corsair is not one to take either insult easily, fiercely loyal, she is determined to avenge them. And since they also stole the sketch, Archimedes is determined to get that back too so he can pay his debts and avoid those pesky assassins.

Of course, he has an ulterior motive, and that is to work his way into the iron heart of Captain Corsair; she’s already impressed by his silver tongue and iron balls, but he does hope for more and is determined to woo her. While she’s quite happy to be wooed – and more if she can wrangle it.
On their quest for revenge they find themselves embroiled deeply in politics, as the Horde faces growing rebellions and forces from the New World seek to return back across the ocean, they find their revenge is not so simple, or so free from political machinations and much greater forces are afoot.

After the last book, I was somewhat concerned about the romance between Archimedes and Yasmeen – but never could 2 romances be more different. Yasmeen is sexual – eager and happily so. In fact, it is Archimedes that holds out for love. There is never any pushing past reluctance, no refusals that are ignored, no reluctant woman dragged virtually kicking and screaming into a relationship. In fact, the one man who does try to rape Yasmeen ends up with his neck broken.

Archimedes and Yasmeen bounce off each other extremely well, they’re funny, they’re witty and they’re pure fun as well. They take things as seriously as they require but are always ready to have a laugh about it as well – and rarely do I find two characters who are willing to so unabashedly enjoy themselves. They spar with each other beautifully but if there is ever a dominant partner in this relationship, it is ever and always Yasmeen. Yasmeen never needs rescuing, she never needs saving, she never needs protecting. In fact, it is Yasmeen who saves Archimedes on several occasions. There is never any doubt who is the stronger and more dangerous of the two and Yasmeen remains very firmly in charge.

Being Human U.K. Season Two Episode Seven: Damage

It's London 1941, and Ivan and Daisy are in the bomb shelter.  Daisy is talking about not being able to bond with her daughter Pearl.  She says, that she doesn't understand her and that it was like she was left on her doorstep. and that at any moment, the real parents are going to want her back.  Ivan wants to know if the worst thing about thinking like this is the guilt, or the lack of guilt. When Daisy asks if he believes that they are going to win the war, he tells her, "my people have never been interested in politics.  You see, I look at the cogs not the machine, they're easy to predict like you Daisy.  What will happen to Daisy? You will become small and provincial like everyone around you. That beautiful mouth will become mean and tight.   Every human life is just another story by the same author. Somehow staying here feels like more of a risk doesn't it?" He holds out his hand to her.

In the morning, George is sleeping and Molly is watching him.  Molly tells him that he needs to wake up cause nanny needs to ask him something.  At the house, Nina rings the doorbell and Annie answers.  Nina immediately asks how George is doing, and Annie tells her that he has met someone, and he has moved out.  Nina wants to know what he's like.  Sam is charging around the kitchen and she again says that it would really mean a lot to Molly if he could be there, but George says that he can't because of his toboggan thing with Mitchell.  This sets Sam off, because to her it feels like he is still there. "It's like your hedging your bets.  It's like you're giving me mixed signals. I know that this happened really quickly, but this is what you wanted. You set the speed not me. I'm nervous now George. I'm waiting for the other boot to drop", Sam says. When George looks at her without responding she says, "fuck it, I'll see you later" and walks out the room.

Nina says that she told him to get on with his life, and Annie tells her that it's been a bit weird since she left.  Nina tells Annie that she needs to talk to George before the full moon and Annie assures her that it won't be a problem because he is always there.  It seems half of his stuff is still in the house and he treats the place like a shed. Annie gets up and offers Nina tea and stuff.  As she gets up, Nina asks about Mitchell.

Mitchell enters the burnt out funeral parlor, and finds Daisy crying over the spot where Ivan died. She runs to embrace Mitchell, and asks how he got out and he tells her that Ivan saved him.   Mitchell believes that it is payback for killing the police constable, but Daisy tells him that she was on the road when it happened, and that she didn't see any police. "This was quick and brutal but it was amateurish, trust me, it wasn't the police", Daisy says.

In George's room, Nina sees George's cage.  When she hears noise downstairs, she walks into the kitchen where George is cleaning the sink. He is stunned to see her and she tells him that the cage is a great idea.  "Annie told me that you started seeing someone. She said that you're living together," Nina says.  When George responds that she told him to move on, Nina says that it's good and that she is glad that he is happy.  When he asks Nina why she is there, she responds that she is there to see him, and that she met some people who might have a cure.  Nina says that they know about them, and that Kemp was the first person to approach her.  George is instantly distrustful and says "that this is our first conversation. You disappear for weeks and we're talking about this".   Nina asks George if three years ago someone had told him about vampires and werewolves what he would have said, but George feels that the hope that Kemp is giving Nina is cruel because he does not believe in a cure. 

In a cafe, Mitchell and Daisy sit for a coffee.  She asks him that if he watches the news and he says no. "All around the world there are pockets of vampires doing just what we do here, and there have been a lot of accidents recently - humans, they're fighting back." Mitchell responds, "this is what Herrick was always talking about, the survival of the fittest. Look, there's always going to be someone with a bigger stick." Daisy yells that her husband died in there, and that she is going to track down everyone they knew and then torture them, until she finds out who did this. 

At the house, George tells Mitchell that Nina found some people who claims to be able to cure them.  When Mitchell dismisses it as nonsense, George tells him that one of them is a scientist. He says that the vicar is coming by at two, and Mitchell says that he is leaving. Annie is concerned that something will happen, but Mitchell says that just because someone knows what you are, does not mean that they are threat.  Before he leaves, Mitchell tells George that it was a mistake to tell Lucy about him being a werewolf.  

Cover Snark: More Tattoos, Less Clothes!

Our cover snark is all about tats.  As you can see on the cover of Blood Rights, Chyrsabelle is covered with tattoos and they are a symbol of her status as an extremely valuable comarrĂ©.  My problem is not that Chyrsabelle has tats, the problem is that you can see her tats.  Throughout the book, Painter goes to great lengths to ensure that it is clearly understood that these tats are not to be seen.  They are reserved for the vampire that owns the blood rights of the comarrĂ© .  

We can only see the tats in question because Chrsyabelle is wearing a backless and shoulderless dress. Yes, this is yet another example of not matching up with the plot. While Chrsyabell does dress in all white, she certainly would never choose to wear anything so revealing and would see that dress as a complete negation of the vows that she took when she became comarrĂ©, but then why bother with a little thing like making sure the cover represents the story when the opportunity exists to show a little skin.  

This cover completely negates everything that Painter set up in her story.  It’s enough to make me wonder if the publisher even read the story before choosing the cover art. It’s all about what sells, and certainly not about what’s accurate.


Now, if I remember how Mercy is described in the book, she has 1 tattoo. A little coyote paw on her lower stomach. So this? I’ve no idea what this is, Is it adjusted to make her look sexy? Or is it blue collar coding to show she’s a mechanic? (After all, pictures of her almost wearing a boilersuit or carrying a wrench are not uncommon) Or did the cover artist escape his cage and managed to scribble random ink (and remove most of her clothing) before he could be restrained?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Being Human U.K. Season Two Episode Six: In the Morning

This episode opens with a flashback to explain Kemp's absolute revulsion and hatred when it comes to vampires.  It seems that he was a minister, and while he was standing on the pulpit delivering a sermon, a group of vampires broke into his home, and fed on his wife and daughter killing them.  He came home to find them in the act, and chased them away by brandishing a bible. 
In the morning, Mitchell wakes to find Lucy dressed and ready for work.  He asks her to come back to bed, and she says that has an early shift.  He goes on to say that he knows how confusing and overwhelming this can all be, and she simply says that they will talk about this later.  Okay, I know it's just a personal thing of mine, but who gets that close in the morning?  There is such a thing as morning breath, and no matter how attractive someone is, morning breath is still not a pleasant thing.

Instead of going to work as she said, Lucy heads to a church to pray for forgiveness, as Mitchell returns home. He walks into a fight between Annie an George, because Sam and George are viewing houses. When Mitchell does not immediately become upset, Annie says, "you two are just too gay for each other."  Really?  Right, gay as a negative descriptor on a show that has no regularly reoccurring gay characters, and the one episode that did have two gay men, one man killed his lover. Annie says she was fine with the idea when she didn't believe that it would go anywhere, but now that he is moving forward, she is incredibly upset. Mitchell finally concedes that he does not want George to anywhere either, but he says that they cannot keep him in a cage.  Mitchell realizes that this is like the end of an era, and that without them the house will return to just being a haunted house.

In frustration, Annie goes for a walk and ends up at Alan Cortez's psychic experience.  Cortez claims to be a master medium. He claims to have the gift of being able to contact and communicate with the afterlife. 

When Sam and George find an apartment, George says he finds it a bit far out, but Sam tells him that they are moving in together, and that things are going to change.  After they hug, you can see that he is still clearly overwhelmed by the prospect. He pushes forward despite his misgivings.

At the church, Lucy tells Kemp that she is sorry because she thought she could do it, but she can't kill another person.  Kemp says, "that he's not a person and that they're not people".  Lucy says that she is frightened of herself. Kemp attempts to placate her by saying, "it's understandable if you're confused, the devil was designed for temptation. He can be charming, clever and exciting and Mitchell can be those things too, because he was made in the devil's image, just as you were made in God's. But you must remain strong."  Lucy tells him that sometimes she wants to surrender to him, but Kemp continues on, speaking of Mitchell as the devil, and saying that if they don't act, they will be punished severely. Lucy ends up asking Kemp for help because she wants to fight it, and Kemp promises to help her, show her the way, and tell her what she must do.

Annie is in the audience listening and rolling her eyes.  It is quickly clear that the man is huckster and taking advantage.  Annie is loudly complaining, when she is approached by an usher, who tells her that she needs to keep it down.  She is astonished that the usher can see and hear her.  Finally, the usher asks her to follow her and when she walks through another person Annie exclaims, "you're a ghost," and the usher replies, "Of course I'm a ghost. What did you think I was?" The usher tells her that she was electrocuted and leads her to a room where a bunch of ghosts are watching the show.  She goes on to tell Annie, that Alan was really amazing, and then one day he just started ignoring them and stopped engaging with them. 

After the show, Annie is waiting for him in his dressing room. As Alan takes a sip of wine Annie asks, "What has happened to you Alan? Why aren't you listening to us? Why aren't you passing on our messages? Why are you up there on the stage lying to people?"  Alan asks what Annie wants, and she tells him that she wants him to start listening to these poor souls, and the door behind her opens revealing several ghosts.  It finally dawns on Annie that he can't hear the ghosts anymore.

Review of Hunt the Moon by Karen Chance Book Five of the Cassandra Palmer Series

Since Cassie inherited the job of Pythia, the chief seer for the supernatural community, the mages, a faction of vampire rebels and the Gods have been trying to kill her.  After finally killing Apollo, you would think that Cassie would finally be free to be installed in her office without having to worry every second about someone trying to kill her, but you would be wrong. In the scant few months that Cassie has been Pythia, she has managed to remove the corrupt leader of the council, expose the treasonous vampires, kill a God and to be within a hair of uniting the vampire councils globally for the first time ever. In the days leading up to her coronation the effort to kill magnifies and she learns that there is no place that she is truly safe. 

For everything that Cassie has been through, she has not learned to think before she leaps. Most of her decisions are ridiculous and it hard to actually support her agency when she battles to remain her freedom for the the vampire council and its senator Mircea, as well as the council of mages.  They all want to control the power of the Pythia and Cassie wants to be respected and have the room to make decisions free of influence.  She hides from her bodyguards and storms into events that she has no place being.  It disappoints me that after five books, Chance's version of a strong empowered female protagonist is filled with the much lamented spunky agency.

In the last book, we got the first real appearance of a character of colour that Chance had invested in.  Unfortunately, in this book Caleb seems to exist to serve White people.  When Cassie is forced to heal the mage Pritkin through sex, revealing that no only he is an incubus, but the infamous Merlin, Caleb keeps his secret on their request, despite the situation that he could potentially put him in with the council, an organization he has sworn to be loyal to until his death.  He is in this book long enough to save Cassie, and keep their secret.  Unlike many of the other characters that we have been introduced to so far, we know very little about him, or his motivations.

Wednesday Reboot: Underworld

Editors Note:  Underworld Awakening is due out January 20th, and to that end, I thought that everyone could use a refresher on the famous series.  For the next few weeks, Fangs for the Fantasy will be reviewing the Underworld movies in preparation for the next exciting release.  

Underworld was released in 2003 and stars Kate Beckinsale, Scott Speedman and Shane Brolly. There is an going war between lycanthropes and vampires.  In order to stay alive, werewolves have evolved to the point were there are not longer subject to the moon.  Selene is a vampire who hunts werewolves, who has been charged with hunting down the lycans, one wolf at a time until their entire race is liberated.

Underworld takes place in a modern setting, and so vampires and lycans carry out their war using glocks loaded with special ammunition.  Special bullets that introduces silver directly the bloodstream of werewolves are created to kill lycans, and vampires are brought to their end via bullets created to introduce UV rays directly to their bloodstream. I suppose this is the closest the writers could come to the original weakness of both supernatural beings in a modern setting.  Considering that Meyer introduced the world to love sick sparkling vampires, this shift is more than acceptable and respectful of the original mythos for both beings. 

The film itself is extremely dark and spartan. It moves from one dark rainy night to another with no pause to give the viewer a moment to consider the passage of time. Vampires dress completely in Black leather which by the way is a look that is fantastic on Kate Beckinsale.  The long leather coats is at times reminiscent of The Matrix trilogy, however similarities end there. Vampires cannot fly but they most certainly are extremely agile and capable of jumping from buildings stories high.  The shift from human to werewolf is seamless and I believe the special effects stand up to this day.  There lycans are huge, terrifying and suitably animalistic.

As to be expected, the vampires and lycans are at war.  The story is very convoluted but the jist of it is that lycans used to be the daytime guardians of vampires, which essentially reduced lycans to the position of slaves. Lucian the leader of the lycans was content to be a slave, until Viktor, the vampire lord kills his wife in front of him.  Viktor's greatest fear is a master race - a hybrid of vampire and werewolf that is stronger than both and since Lucian's wife, Viktor's daughter, was pregnant with a child, she simply had to be killed for the safety of the coven.  This was the beginning of a great war between both sides, as well as the start of Lucian's 600 year effort to get justice for his slain wife and child.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Is Dead Reckoning the Worst Book of the Year?

Entertainment Weekly has declared Charlaine Harris’ Dead Reckoning one of the worst books of 2011.  Dead Reckoning is the 11th novel in the hugely popular Sookie Stackhouse series.  Harris’ series is the basis of the popular HBO show True Blood.  

Well here is our review of Dead Reckoning

Obviously, we have read worse this year. Anyone looking through our 0.5 Fang reviews, or our New Year’s Day post can see that. However, at the same time I wouldn’t say that Entertainment Weekly is entirely out of line here, albeit their determination is rather exaggerated

Part of the reason we can’t just turn round and say that they’re out of line, is that we know Charlaine Harris can do better than she did in Dead Reckoning. Dead Reckoning was well below the standard she’d set for plot development, characterisation and in writing overall. As readers we felt like she’d lost interest in her series. In fact, Dead Reckoning felt rushed and churned out, without adequate checking. To be brutally frank, maybe we can say Entertainment Weekly has not given that book the respect it deserved, but I don’t think Charlaine Harris respected her own book or her own characters either.

The book contained some glaring continuity errors - not just with the other books in the series, but even internally as well.

We also have some severe out of character reactions. Eric has to beat Pam into submission in physical combat? Eric so out of control that Sookie has to calm him down as if he’s Adam Hauptman? Sookie, after 10 books of trying to absorb everything she can about vampire society, a woman who collects new information as treats, is now reluctant to listen to Eric give us massive information about the world because she’s so damn horny? Did she steal Anita Blake’s Ardeur? And then we have Bill talking about the Miss America Best Tits Competition. Really, musty, fusty Bill Compton?

Being Human U.K. Season Two, Episode Four: Educating Creatures

This episode begins with a flashback from a year ago to Kemp talking to professor Janet aka Lucy, about a paper she wrote regarding her theory about a gene that is potentially the cause of all evil.  She tries to avoid the conversation by saying that those papers were all an intellectual exercise.  Kemp reminds her that last week she received a small sample of blood that made no sense, and that the sample was evil.  He tells her that if she wishes to learn more that she should call him.

It's early morning and Annie is following the mail man as he is doing his deliveries.  In an alley across the street, a policemen walks up to a dead body and Annie follows. When Annie sees the ghost of the dead man, she asks him if he is okay, and if he understands what has just happened to him.  "They told me to wait for you", he responds, and then attempts to drag Annie through yet another door.

Back at the house, George is awake and quite chipper and making sausages.  He tells Mitchell that he has had an Epiphany - a break.  He is making a list to make order out of his life.

When Annie becomes conscious, she meets a ghost named Sykes, who tells her that he saved her from the other side.  When he starts to leave, she follows him and says that he has to help her, because this keeps happening to her.  Sykes tells her that he does not have to do anything of the sort. "There's no automatic bond between us. We're just ghosts love" he says, as he attempts to walk away again. 

Back at the house, George says this whole time I never wanted to think about what happened to me once a month.  He says that you put a big scary animal in a cage, and thus he is going to buy a cage.  "I've been treating this whole wolf thing like this big life changing thing, running around doing jobs a monkey could do, but what is it really?  When you think about it, it's one night a month.  That's no reason for me not to live a long normal full life the rest of the time, and that is what I am going to do." Mitchell asks if that is on his list as well and George responds, "yes, yes it is in fact, number two get a better job."

Annie follows Sykes, threatening to haunt him if he does not help her.  Sykes tells her that fighting the men behind the door is grown up stuff, and she tells him that he is about nine.  Sykes goes on to say that he died when he was 23, and in ghost years he is 89. Annie stops him and says, "if you don't help me, then sooner or later they're going to get me".  Sykes responds, "you have resisted deaths door three times, which is written all over your aura, which I could teach you to read." Annie asks him to show her how to read auras at least, because apparently it's not like teaching, it's a magic trick.

At vampire headquarters, Campbell brings in a young woman for Mitchell to feed off of.  Mitchell asks what part of no blood do you not understand?  It seems that Campbell found her on a website for humans that have a vampire fetish.  He believes that this is different, because the woman is volunteering to be fed on, but Mitchell tells him that it is not different, and instructs him to get the woman out of there. Ivan tells Mitchell that Campbell's suggestion is a creative reinterpretation of the rules. Mitchell tells him that there is only one rule. 

George goes into a factory to get a cage built, and he starts to stumble when he's asked what size cage and how close the bars need to be together.  The welder asks if he wants a cage big enough for a man, because he believes that George is into S&M.  George says, "I was obviously embarrassed to say that I wanted a sex cage, but now that this is out in the open, I feel wonderful."  The welder tells George that he will throw in some handcuffs no charge.  

Back at the house, George is complaining that all the tradesmen he met that day think that he is a pervert and Skyes pipes up saying,"better they think that you're a nonce, than a werewolf surely."  When George asks who he is, Mitchell tells him that his name is Sykes and that he is dead and apparently very good at closing doors.  Mitchell asks if he can teach Annie how to do this, and when Sykes says maybe, maybe not, Mitchell asks him why he is there again.   Annie drags Mitchell into the next room and tells him that he is not her father, but Mitchell is concerned because of all the things that have been happening lately. Annie reminds Mitchell that Sykes saved her, and that she had to drag him to the house, only to have him act like an over protective father. She tells him to ease up.  Before going back to the living room, Annie asks how George is doing, and Mitchell tells her that he is manic and not talking about it.  Annie says that this not healthy, and that he needs to talk about it.

When they walk back into the living room, George is telling Sykes that if he can help Annie, that he has a responsibility to do so. Sykes says, "Do you want to know why I don't want to teach you? It's because there is only one passing grade. Anything less than an A+, and they've got you, and I really don't want that on my conscience."  Annie responds, "Sykes if you don't teach me, then I'm gone anyway." He tells her that they can meet a 9 tomorrow, if it's okay with her two dads, and walks out of the house.  George says that he liked him, and then mentions that he wants to switch rooms because of the size thing with the cage. 

Review: This Side of the Grave by Jeaniene Frost, Book 5 of the Night Huntress Series

Cat is adapting to her new life as a vampire – and not just a vampire, but a vampire that feeds on other vampires and absorbs their powers – powers that she isn’t always old enough or strong enough to control. More, a newly raised vampire whose powers just killed one of the most powerful living master vampires

And this is a problem for Apollyon, the Ghoul. Or at least a convenient excuse for him. Using the image of the powers Cat has displayed, he is inciting the ghouls to raise up against the vampires, claiming they will use her powers to dominate, enslave and butcher ghouls.
Apollyon is now travelling from city to city, inciting ghouls to hatred – and it’s not the first time he’s used a half-vampire to try to start a war against vampires – last time the half-vampire was killed to placate him. Cat isn’t best pleased with this proposal.

So the hunt is on – to find Apollyon, to discredit him, to stop him by any means necessary – and before more masterless vampires are hunted down or too many ghouls are recruited to the cause.

We had plot, plot and more plot! Indeed many of the sex scenes were taken as a given rather than something that had to be excessively described, and relationship angst came in the form of long needed revelations rather than the eternal moping and misunderstanding. In fact, Cat made little breakthroughs with Mancheres so perhaps we can finally leave her constant suspicion and sniping behind. After the emotional maundering of the last book, this was a wonderful change of pace.

Another wonderful change was Cat’s actions and involvement. After the last book where she spent the vast majority of it being dragged around in other people’s plans, here she was involved. She didn’t always take charge and sometimes she had to follow as much as lead – which was appropriate all things considered (why should the millennia old Mancheres defer to Cat after all?) but she had constant input, intelligent input and was a meaningful part of their plans as well as adding her own plans and ideas that they followed. She was integral, not just for her special shiny powers, but also for her own choice of what to do and how to do it. In this book she was not just a strong, intelligent woman with her own ideas and unwilling to be dictated to, but she was also a team player – and I think that’s important. Often in Urban Fantasy “strong, independent woman” and “works well with others” are considered mutually exclusive – either she’s domineering, violent or drives people off, or she’s a passive follower. Or she refuses to work with others and insists on doing her own thing. This was one of the few times we see a character who is happy to work with others, as an equal, without having to be a complete arsehole or a complete puppet or a loose cannon. 

Monday, January 2, 2012

Being Human U.K. Season Two, Episode Five:

This episode opens with a flashback from 1969. Mitchell is lying on a bed covered in blood.  When he sits up, he finds a dead woman lying next to his bed, also covered in blood. In the hallway, he finds another woman, who is also dead and covered in blood. He hears a toilet flush and hides, only to have Herrick come out of the room.  Mitchell asks where they are, and how they ended up there, and Herrick asks if he cannot remember the party, the four hour drive, and the girls.  Mitchell says that they have to get out of there, but Herrick tells him that they have to clean up, and that he does not have people to take care of this mess, because he killed the mother of the head guy in London. Herrick leaves Mitchell and tells him to do what he can, because he has to find their car.  Mitchell straightens the apartment and washes off as much blood as he can, wrapping the bodies in sheets. He then runs down the stairs to leave the apartment, when he notices cops banging on one of the doors. Mitchell then forces himself  and a woman into another apartment, and asks if there is another way out. The police knock on her door, and ask her if she has seen anything suspicious. When she says no, they tell her to stay in the apartment, because there was a murder upstairs.

In the present time, the police knock on the door of the house and charge up the stairs.  They grab Mitchell, as he asks what he is going on, and speed off with him in their car.  When Annie asks what he has done, George responds, "how far back do you want to go." William shows him a man locked in a room and explains that he is a pedophile and that he wants Mitchell to kill him.  "I have a line of guys in there begging for the opportunity, I figured that you might enjoy this."  Mitchell tells him that he is wrong because he is clean and does not kill anymore. "But you're a vampire, is that even possible?" William asks.  Mitchell tells him that he is sorry that he could not be of more assitance and leaves.

Back at the house, George and Annie are talking about magazines, and George tells her that Sam has a daughter.  Annie tells him that she didn't know that Sam had a kid, and that it is quite the responsibility.  When Mitchell enters, they ask if he is okay, and Annie quickly tells him that Sam has a daughter.  Mitchell simply says, "figures," and George is immediately upset.  Mitchell replies, "I didn't mean anything by that. It's just the way you guys are together. Single mothers dude."  George walks out and Mitchell says that this is textbook rebound, because he is obviously still in love with Nina.  

At Sam's apartment, Molly opens the door and tells George that he has dog breath.  She is not at all impressed with George's gift. When Sam introduces George to her mother, she walks by and refuses to acknowledge George at all.  When George asks if her mother spent the night, Sam says that they share the apartment. George tries to have a seat and Molly tells him that this is where her father sits. When he shifts position, she tells him that this is where the cat sits. 

Back at the house, a woman opens the mail slot and asks if Annie is going to let her in.  Annie is shocked that she can see her but lets her in anyway.  The woman walks in holding a child and Annie stumbles and says, "you're uh a ghost." Molly learns that Sykes told Kathleen all about her, and that she is a celebrity, because she has resisted death four times.  Kathleen tells her that she has been dead for about a year, and that the baby will remain a ghost until they cross over.  She says the slum lord responsible for their death is in court soon, and if he gets sent to prison then they are out of here. Kathleen points out that Annie has her own place and seems very responsible.  She asks Annie to watch the baby, because she has met a dead fireman and does not want to scare him off on a first date. Kathleen says that there is no one else that she can ask, and that she does not have to worry about hurting him, because he is already dead.  Kathleen tells her to keep him clean and to keep him cool because ghost babies prefer it that way.  

At the funeral parlor, Mitchell is looking through paperwork and Campbell walks into the room and says that he has been dreaming about his ex.  Campbell says that he tried to recruit her, but no one would show him how and so she died.  He goes on to say that he had not dreamed of her in 15 years and that little things are starting to come back to him and he is scared.  Mitchell tells him that he has to stick it out, and that it happens, but that eventually it will stop.

In another flashback, Mitchell is back in London.  He ties Josie up after he notices that she wrote the word help on the window.  She asks him what his motive was for killing the girls, and he tells her that he did not have one. When Mitchell looks at the pictures on the mantle, he notices that she is an only child and she asks him if he killed his parents as well.  Josie goes on to ask how many people he has killed, and Mitchell responds, "more than a hundred, less than a thousand."

Lucy meets Mitchell on the street, and they confirm their dinner date for the next day. When Lucy walks away, she meets Kemp around the corner, who tells her that what is going on is an interesting mating ritual.  Lucy tells him that this will not end in mating, and that she signed on to discover the genetics of evil. Lucy asks, "if he is clean as he says he is, what's the urgency?"  Kemp responds that they have a duty to future generations, as well as to those already lost."

In another flashback, Josie asks Mitchell if he feels any remorse.  She tells him that she is not scared of him, at least not as scared as she probably should be.  Josie asks Mitchell if he wants to know her name and he screams shut up.  Mitchell says that he had to kill them, and that he didn't have a choice. In frustration he gags her.

Review of Kiss of Life by Daniel Waters Book 2 of the Generation Dead series

The Generation Dead series is about what happens to teenagers who die and come back to life as zombies. At the end of Generation Dead, Adam had been shot and killed saving Phoebe's life from his former friend Pete the night of the prom.  In the aftermath Phoebe must deal with her feelings for both Tommy and Adam as she and her differently biotic friends negotiate a world that is increasingly more hostile towards them.

Waters work continues to over written and angst riddled.  There are certain allowances that one often makes for a YA novel simply because working with teenagers as characters means that maturity of thought and or behaviour at times is extremely immature; however Waters quickly pushes through that tolerance with an angst level that is enough to drive adults to throw themselves on a bed and cry about not being understood.

As with Generation Dead Waters seeks to tackle oppression of zombies by using the oppression faced by historically marginalized bodies as a framework.  This of course amounts to appropriation and belittling of what marginalized people face on an everyday basis.  In Generation Dead Waters dealt with the word zombie as a slur and specifically discussed reclaiming this word.  In Kiss of Life Waters ups the anti by having a traditionally biotic person complaining about the inability to say the word zombie without facing retribution. 
"I got a detention yesterday for saying the word zombie.  Everyone in the room, even Tommy who Phoebe hadn't seen crack a smile since homecoming, seemed to think that was pretty funny.  Alish laughed out loud, unmindful of his daughter's warning glare." (pg 28)
Of course they laughed.  It's not like slurs hurt or stem from a historical method of dehumanizing minorities or anything right?  This is specifically why the word zombie regardless of Waters intent should never be considered a slur even in a fictional sense. Then Waters decided to double down on his error by having the character complain about losing his girlfriend because of his relationships with differently biotic people (pg28), and in response the zombies only laughed.  This is not a realistic response to this sort of appropriation and anyone who had any experience dealing with a slur would know that. 

For the first time, we have the introduction of a gay character.  Popeye is artistic and the mastermind behind the zombies social protest, though he does at time play second to Tak.  We first learn that Popeye is gay when he makes a comment about how short Karen's skirt is and Tak wonders, "if Popeye got away with his innuendos because he was gay." (page 147)  We quickly learn that not only is Popeye gay but he is in love with Tak who has hinted that he has no hope. "Popeye, he knew, wasn't really deterred.  That was one curse that didn't leave when you died. The curse of hope". (149)  I don't know about you but I am pretty sick of the trope that involves a gay character mooning over a straight character.  There is no reason why Popeye could not have been given his own love interest.