Saturday, June 9, 2012

Falling Skies, Season 1, Episode 4: Grace

They have their imprisoned Skitter that’s now active and awake – and it remembers Tom. We have some essential Bad Assery as Tom stares it down. Meanwhile Captain Weaver (who hasn’t been eaten) has been talking to Pope who knows about a motorcycle shop that may not have been picked clean of supplies yet – and he wants Tom to go check it out. Tom isn’t pleased – he wants to rescue Ben not bike parts. But as Captain Weaver points out, rescuing children who are Harnessed takes a lot of heavy drugs which, in turn, requires bikes to scout and find them. Damn it, I hate it when he makes sense. I still want something to eat him. Tom is also convinced to bring Pope since he knows where the shop is and they’re down a rider with Karen missing

Time for some emotional meetings between Tom and Ann, Tom filling her in on why he doesn’t like Harris, making it clear he doesn’t blame Mike for screwing up the mission when he rescued Rick. And it seems Ricky has been cured of his cystic fibrosis by the Harness. And Margaret tells Weaver (who hasn’t been eaten yet) that she was never with the Convict Gang and doesn’t need people watching her. There’s also the question raised by Hal and Pope both about Matt and Tom’s insistence of not teaching him to fight. Tom wants him to have a childhood, but that’s not the world he is living in.

Lourdes and Jimmy have some back story discussion, I think to remind us the characters exist as much as anything. Matt and the teacher, Uncle Scott are playing with radios and hearing static. Ann and Harris are busy trying to communicate with the Skitter. Ann by trying to offer it water, Harris by showing it dead Skitters. They argue over the best way to communicate with the Skitter – Ann for compassion, Harris for cutting it up. Even if you ignore the compassion standpoint, how does Harris intend to communicate with something by making it scream?

Ricky wakes up from his Harness/drug coma – but doesn’t recognise Mike, his father. From that Mike goes to talk to the Skitter, giving it a chance to communicate before they kill it. It doesn’t point to the pictures after hearing Mike’s English instructions, so they point a gun at it. Every time Mike threatens the Skitter, the radio Uncle Scott is using with Ann and Matt makes more static. Ann puts 2 and 2 together and suggests autopsying the dead Skitter they have to see what they can find – with Harris dripping arrogant contempt all over Ann. (what, they didn’t autopsy this thing the minute it came into their hands? Really? For all they know it could reveal some terrible sci-fi weakness like an allergy to silver or water or something. Hey, Signs got away with it)

Ricky wakes up again and sees his detached Harness – and puts it back on, healing the connecting needles. Mike, Ann, Scott and Harris run in and find they can talk to the Stirrer through Ricky – but Mike can’t stand it and rips the Harness off again - though it doesn't kill him.

While heading to the motorcycle shop, the racist Pope and Arthur argue – with Pope considering Arthur a gang member and Arthur revealing he was actually a police officer including Arthur threatening to shoot Pope for click’s death. I’m glad there was some acknowledgement and we’re not all fast forwarding the “let’s redeem Pope” story. And Tom and Dai discuss how Hal, only 16, is coping with Karen’s capture. Dai makes a good point on how he feels lucky to have had no family to worry other in such dark times.

The Almighty Johnsons Season One, Episode Four: You Gotta Love Life, Baby

This episode opens with Valerie packing lunch for Mike and Axl.  Of course she has complain about Olaf staying there, eating all of their food and not paying rent.  I agree that if Olaf is going to be staying with them that he should be contributing; however, they haven't given Valerie anything to do but complain about Olaf and cook for the Johnsons. If that weren't enough, when Axl complains about what must truly be a truly disgusting sandwich prepared by Valerie, Mike tells him to run with it because she is back on the hormone treatment and this makes her a bit more stressed than usual.  Well there, you have it folks, five minutes in and the sexism is well underway.

Before Mike and Axl can leave Rhiannon, a woman that Olaf had a brief fling with, shows up asking for him. She asks for Mike and Axl to tell Olaf that she is pregnant and asks to crash at the house for a few days.

At the job site, Mike reveals that Rhiannon is a mortal thus leading Axl to conclude that Mike and Val's fertility problems have nothing to do with the fact that Mike is a God.  When Mike tries to encourage Axl to work, he has to admit that he is hung over from partying the night before with Anders.

At the office, Rosie shows up to consult with Anders about last nights mixer. At first he tries to blow her off saying that he has a meeting to attend but when she persists and is clearly upset, Dawn encourages her to talk.  It seems that she got a bit drunk and slept with a celebrity named Mana.  That in and of itself wouldn't be the end of the world, if it weren't recorded. Now someone is blackmailing her and threatening to release the video on the internet.  This is something that Anders should handle but he passes the buck to Dawn, once again. To assure Rosie, he uses his powers on her.

Ty and Dawn meet for lunch and Ty asks why Anders is asking her to deal with a blackmail.  When she says it's normal, Ty suggests that they should call the police and that she should not have to deal with this.  The two go together to see the blackmailer.  When he refuses to hand over the tape, Ty grabs him burning his hand with the cold. When Dawn asks how he managed to burn the blackmailers wrist, he says, "four brothers, we fought a lot. It's a sort of Chinese burn."

Back at the house, Olaf is back and is waiting outside for Mike.  They tell him about the pregnancy and Mike says, "grandpa you have to learn to keep it sheathed," to which he responds, "condoms mess with my flow." Apparently this is not the first time that this has happened. It seems that it has happened 20 times that he knows of.  Instead of accepting responsibility, Olaf makes plans to leave.  Axl is shocked but before they can leave, Valerie and Rhiannon pull up at the house.

At the office, Dawn hands Anders the tape.  Of course, Anders wants to watch it.  He asks how she got the tape for free, and Dawn tells him that Ty helped. They sit down to watch the tape together.

Back at the house, everyone sits down for dinner.  When Val asks how far along she says ten weeks and that she is going to have her abortion soon.  Val gets up from the table visibly upset, as Olaf tells Rhiannon how cool babies are and that she has to love life. The two are oblivious and the kiss and make out at the dinner table.  Olaf and Rhiannon excuse themselves.  Alone with Val, Axl comforts her as she starts to cry.

At Anders office, Dawn is hard at work again, but Ty tells her that work can wait and ushers her out of the office. Rosie's phone goes off and apparently the video is on the net.  Ty asks him who had the tape and Dawn says that Anders had the tape. Ty believes that Anders released the tape, but Dawn thinks that because Rosie is his client that it would not have made sense for him to do this.  As they chat more about the business, Dawn admits that Anders is good at getting clients, but not good at keeping them. Ty tells Dawn that he does not like the way that he takes advantage of people, and in particular her.  Dawn admits to getting resentful but says that the next day she talks to Anders and its all fine again.  Clearly, Anders has been using his powers of persuasion on Dawn, on a regular basis. Ty tells her that she is too good for him and that she can get another job, or start her own agency.  She says no and that Anders is really good with people.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Review: Moon Over Soho by Ben Aaronovitch, Book 2 of the Rivers of London Series

Peter is back in another magical mystery in London. With Nightingale recovering from his bullet wound, Peter must pick up a lot of the slack on his own. And there’s some major events that call for his attention.

The discovery of vestigia on certain bodies points to a supernatural reason for the death of a large number of jazz musicians not just in the present but going back through history – and something that touches very close to his own life and family.

Or the series of men found with their penises ripped off – which in turn leads to another magical practitioner in London – perhaps even a whole cabal of them. It’s a discovery which leads to far more magical history and, more frightening, a true look at the extent of dark and dangerous magic in the wrong hands. We also see how it connects to London’s own underworld and corruption in the police.

Add in Lady Tyburn’s ongoing antipathy, Molly’s moods, a whirlwind love affair, his father’s musical come back and Leslie’s recovery and he certainly has a lot of balls to juggle

Reviewing this book is difficult for me, simply because I’m sorely tempted just to write praise after praise. It’s especially difficult after reviewing the first book because everything that book got right, so did this one. It’s a great sequel for building on that foundation and continuing the plot and the world development.

The first thing I like is that it is a continuation of the last book, the canon hasn’t reset and a lot hasn’t magically happened in the downtime. Lady Tyburn still hates Peter. Leslie hasn’t been magically healed and nor has Nightingale. Which is very surprising in so many series where people take a bullet wound then next episode/book are right as rain with nary a twinge.

We have another wonderfully real feel to London. The author is a Londoner and it shows in every word. The setting and theme are such that you could almost be there. The humour is constant, dry, wry and wonderfully snarky. You will smile. You will laugh.

The story itself twists back and forth and brings several plot lines together and they come together really well while still being separate. Sure Peter connects them and his connecting brings the storylines together. The depiction of the evil wizard is both frightening and really well described –the magical fight was epic yet the discovery of his den was truly and utterly horrific and carries the full level of that horror in the description. It was really well written and disturbing. The other storyline with the jazz musicians was a wonderful break in between, lighter but still vital and very very personal to Peter with his personal history. It also didn’t require you to know about jazz to follow, but you could feel the passion behind their music.

Falling Skies, Season 1, Episode 3: Prisoner of War

A group of Harnessed children, including Ben, are stripping the metal from a building while Tom Mason & Co watch on.  Of course, the children are guarded by Mechs and Skitters. Anthony warns Tom that they’re tried and low on ammo and it’s not wise just to rush in (I’m really glad to see this, people are happy and able to challenge and question Tom rather than him being the big hero everyone follows) but a roof tile knocked off the roof attracts Mech attention and firepower.

When they return to the school where the rest of the people are camped, they’re inundated by desperate parents with pictures of their missing children asking if they were there. Mike has to calm the crowd down and Ann suggests they use one of the school announcement boards to post pictures of their missing kids so everyone can see who is missing.

Porter, the big boss man, has arrived with news. Runners he’s sent out have found other resistance fighters across the country. They also carry news that vast alien structures – like the one over Boston – have appeared over all major cities. He has a new mission for them – information gathering and scavenging for as many military supplies as they can. Porter also takes Tom aside and asks about the Harnessed kids. They’ve been trying to take harnesses off children but the child always dies – now the chief surgeon thinks he can fix this, but, of course, he needs a child to test it on. There‘s a debate between Tom who wants to rescue all the kids, Porter who wants to save a kid for testing and Captain Weaver (who hasn’t been eaten yet) who doesn’t give a damn about the kids. Did I mention I’m not a big Weaver fan? In the end, Porter tells Tom to rescue 1 child, Ben.

More touching scenes of daily life, Matt worrying that taking the harness off will kill Ben and more family bonding. And in an ironic twist, feeding the Gang leader from last episode it turns out he’s picky with his food when he spits out the chicken and rice they serve (I admit,  it doesn’t look appetising but his complaints are ridiculous. Military food and you’re complaining about it being over salted? And the chicken bleeding isn’t pickiness – how is ANYONE eating that without risking life and limb?! Finally, there’s nothing wrong with paprika on chicken. How can someone mix such petty faffy complaints with complaints that the food is actually poisonous?) turns out, the imprisoned gang leader was a chef. Ah hell he’s going to become a character, I’m going to have to remember his name rather than call him Racist Gang Leader, aren’t I? Fine, John Pope was a chef.

They quickly consult with Maggie about the food with the Racist Outlaw Gang which was pretty good. There’s an instant push to use Pope to cook the meals since the cooking in the camp is so poor.

Tom meets the doctor (Dr. Harris) who thinks he knows how to take the Harnesses off children – and they know each other from before (something Tom doesn’t seem too happy about). The doctor was there when Tom lost his wife and we have a harrowing description of how she died and how Tom looked for him but couldn’t find him.

Time to return to the captured kids, this time they’re joined by Mike who has also lost a kid to the Harness – and he sees his son, Ricky there as well. Mike completely loses control and runs screaming to his son. Of course the son ignores him being Harnessed and a zombie – and a mech’s attention is attracted – and blown up by the explosives they’ve planted. They grab Ricky and bring him to the truck, but Tom is injured when a mech appears and they have no time to grab Ben, Dai has to drag tom to safety while Hal and Karen distract the mech.

When Tom wakes up, Karen and Hal are missing. Tom tells Dai and Mike to return with Ricky to the camp while he goes, alone, with a shotgun, a rope and a light to rescue Hal, Karen and, presumably, Ben.

Tom travels the tunnels and hears something following him – so decides to call out (not sensible) then dazzle himself turning on his torch (less sensible) and find himself face to face with a Skitter which he tries to run from (also not sensible). A dramatic struggle follows where Tom uses the advice he got from Pope last episode – attack their legs and it makes them slow (in fact, 2 legs removed makes them helpless).

Bedlam, Season 2, Episode 1: The Long Drop

Bedlam is back for another series. Prepare for much spookiness and amazing atmospherics which so characterised the first show in this story of the haunted London asylum

And we start setting the tone well with the spookiness ratcheted up to maximum levels, running through the dark, abandoned and deeply frightening building – to a man with something carved into his head.

Now there’s an introduction for you.

Back jarring to reality and in a block of flats a paramedic (Ellie) is trying to resuscitate and old lady, which doesn’t seem to work. Especially when the old lady’s black-pupil-less-eyed ghost gets up to make the tea (of course British ghosts make tea. Just because you’re stuck in the purgatory of limbo is no reason to be denied a brew). The paramedic isn’t having these ghostly tea makers and runs out of their pretty sharpish. At the hospital her fellow paramedic, Andy, advises her to go see the doctor again, presumably for seeing things; she’s not thrilled because the pills et all are doing nothing after 6 months – maybe she’s really seeing the dead

Of course, paramedics playing the “I see dead people” aren’t well looked upon (especially since they’re trying to stop the dead people being, y’know, dead) so back at the hospital it seems Ellie’s been put on indefinite leave. But her friend, Laura, knows they had a patient on the psych-ward who had similar symptoms but was discharged – if she gets the address then maybe Ellie will be able to talk to him and find a way to make the ghosts go away.

Using the door code from Laura (which could get Laura in a lot of trouble) Ellie sneaks into the records. Outside she tells Andy how amazing it is that the person in the psych-ward apparently saw exactly the same things she does. Andy, who she is marrying in 2 months, is not reassured that she is pointing out she has identical symptoms to someone who was detained on the psych-ward. Andy leaves, angry that Ellie won’t help herself, won’t get help and won’t admit that she needs help.

In tears, Ellie puts away her engagement ring and examines the file some more – it’s the file of Jed Harper, the man who could see ghosts in the first season. Lacey tries to call him but his numbers are disconnected.

We get another quick introduction to Max (the bar man in the building) and his apparent flat-mate Dan who is saying goodbye to his latest female companion and rushing out the door to Bedlam Heights (now being renamed Brightmoor) – it seems he’s the new building manager, taking over Kate’s old role in season 1. He goes to work trying to convince Lisa that there’s no-one else – shame he calls her Leanne. He runs into Kate (though it’s apparent he doesn’t know her), laden by a huge backpack who expresses cynicism at him being able to save the place with a simple re-branding.

Vampires: The Duty of Conformity

Many times in Urban Fantasy we see the various monsters and preternatural beings as a stand in for marginalised groups - and this is often extremely appropriative and skeevy in many kinds of ways as we have discussed.

But there is one message we see repeated in many of these TV series and books that certainly has parallels with both being marginalised or just different from the “norm”. The message of how to be appropriately “Other.”

So many of these stories cover supernatural beings integrating opening into a human society - and the measures they take to be accepted. In short, they are stories of how the alien Other manages to become part of society. And one message we see repeated in many of these is one of acceptability - one of conformity. The way the Other becomes part of the Mainstream is to become the Mainstream, to repress its otherness, even repress who and what they are.

We see this most strongly when there’s a romance in the air - usually with a human woman and a Musty Vampire. The Musty Vampires are nearly always contrasted against a vampire that is either evil or morally ambiguous at least - we have the vampire who is trying to be human, denying his vampirising against the vampire who embraces his own nature and doesn’t compromise to please the mainstream.

Obviously, many of these vampires have reasons to resist their nature - murder and mayhem being primarily among them - but the mustiness is taken to extremes and the contrast between them is large, almost exaggerated, to carry the full weight of the message - to be good, the Other most Conform.

Whether It’s Being Human U.S., or Being Human U.K., a good vampire is one who abstains from blood and associating with his own kind. The objective is to be as close to human as possible.  While being a vampire means a loss of control and most likely death to any human in the vicinity, to be truly understood as good one must maintain the model of conformity. In both of these series, Vampirism is an analogy for drug addiction, which in itself is problematic because of the appropriation of a human experience.

In Being Human U.K., Mitchell pays the ultimate price for his failure to conform by dying.  He commits suicide by werewolf by having his best friend George kill him.  Mitchell begs for death because he knows no matter how hard he struggles that he will always return to drinking blood and thus killing humans.  When you consider the analogy to drug addiction, what hope does this give those who suffer with the disease? It says that one is inherently damaged and that there is no hope.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Kiss the Dead (Anita Blake Series #21) by Laurell K Hamilton

On the plus side, this book managed to get past half way before the sex scenes started. Ok, once they started they were pretty much chained, sex after sex after sex, but we did manage to go a full half book without unnecessary, excessive sex scenes.

On the minus side we didn’t have much to fill in the gap. The overall plot is a group of vampires who think they can live without a master and they’re being ornery about it. But this plot is a pretty minor point. We start with one battle scene and clean up that lasts for 30% of the book – nothing is developed or even introduced there. It’s just 30% of fight followed by policey-type things and then later in the book the plot raises its head, waves, and then goes away after, oh, a paragraph until the finale when you remember that there WAS actual plot there – and that tops off the last 10%. Well, not even that.

The rest of the book? Angst, issue, angst. Asher’s angst over everything. Anita’s angst over Cynric being 18. And lots of other really pointless relationship angsts between side characters we barely know (what is frustrating is while we’ve been having new characters introduced left right and centre there are apparently new wereleopards in town – Anita’s core animal group – and we don’t even look at it).

But the main content of this book? Filler. A lot of it down to the really drawn out writing – everything is ridiculously over described, the same conversational points are repeated with different actors and Anita chases her own internal monologue down the same rather tiresome rails. In one moment of almost issue exploration Anita considers whether she is a monster and what that means – both supernaturally and morally. Then she has a conversation with Larry where he accuses her of being a monster. Then she has a conversation with Zerbrowski where she says she isn’t. Nothing’s developed beyond Anita’s first internal musings, we just go round the ride 3 times. And while I’m very happy that vampires aren’t considered the same as humans, which is a common problem with urban fantasy (especially when it comes to appropriation) at the same time, her “end justifies means” was very broad.

But the main reason I say filler is the huge amount of Chekhov’s junkshop we were treated to – in fact, some of them I’m going to paraphrase below because I can resist the sarcasm no longer:

Anita: Why hello there bit part police officer, you’re not going to play any role in this book?
Bit Part: nah, I’m just a walk on side character
Anita: Great! Let me describe you in excruciating unnecessary detail!
Bit part 2: And me!
Anita: why yes, Let us waste 3 paragraphs unnecessarily describing you as well!
Bit Part 2: Sure, but I have some relationship issues, complete stranger Anita, want to discuss them in the middle of this crime scene?
Anita: Why yes, yes I do. Let us spend 2 pages discussing your relationship with your girlfriend because this is totally relevant to the story.

Anita: And now I will telepathically talk to Jean-Claude across the city
JC: hello, ma petite
Anita: Hush JC, you’re interrupting my unnecessarily detailed description of your clothes
JC: Oh… finished yet?
Anita: Not yet. Almost. Working on it. Now working on the eyes. There, done.
JC: Can I talk now?
Anita: So long as you keep it brief. This plot thing is getting in the way of my unnecessary descriptions.

Falling Skies, Season 1, Episode 1 & 2: Live and Learn

We intend to follow, recap and review Falling Skies season 2 when it starts on the 17th June. To bring us all up to date before then we'll have daily updates of all the epiosdes of season 1 starting today.

The show is introduced by a harrowing account of an alien invasion, of the ships arriving, shutting down technology and destroying the cities before invading and slaughtering and capturing the population with the military destroyed and civilians having to fight. It’s all told through children’s drawings and child narrators for an excellently effective emotional effect.

We move to a group of fighters scavenging supplies in a ruined city (Boston) coming under fire and attack from Skitters (the aliens which are multi-legged nasty looking things), the barricades are going down, several die and they describe the city as completely lost.

When they return the first thing a child asks is who they lost – dispassionately, like it’s a daily question like asking after the weather – and he’s answered in the same way. People live in a derelict camp, scraping by on scavenging.

With the city lost there’s a war council on what to do next – move away from the city that has been stripped bare and is full of hunting aliens – or stay, the last attractive because of the number of prisoners, including children that are “harnessed” by the aliens. It’s a choice between running and hiding and staying and facing the alien garrison before it’s reinforced. The leader is Jim Porter and he lays down the law – that the move out, spread out and hide. We seem to be following Tom Mason (a military historian and father of the child who was narrating at the beginning, he seems to have an older son, Hal as well) who is second in command to Captain Weaver’s division.

We see everyone packing up and preparing to leave, soldiers, doctors, mechanics – a variety of people all packing up, loading up and getting ready to move as well as the vast pile of books they have to leave behind. There are so many people I’m not sure if this is scene setting or character introduction.

There’s a supply problem, causing Tom to take 6 fighters and a truck to go find food – the whole column being too slow (and, according to Captain Weaver, too full of annoying civilians) to go together. Tension between Tom Mason and Weaver is high and raising higher, especially since Weaver is unwilling to give Tom’s foraging team any big explosive weapons. Anne (the doctor and friend of Tom) seems especially wary of the mission.

He assembles his team of Hal, Karen (his scouts on bikes), Dai, Karen, Click, Anthony and Jimmy (who seems to be a young teen).

We have some touching scenes again showing how much they have lost when Hal and Tom reflect on how things have changed – how he wouldn’t let Hal ride his bike at night without a light and now he’s giving him extra ammunition to go scouting. We also find the body of a child with a harness on his back that has been ripped partially away (which killed the child) – it’s an unpleasant alien thing that runs up his spine to the back of his neck. Tom Mason’s son, Ben, is missing and also has a Harness.

Speaking of, Hal has a close encounter of an alien kind, hiding down a river bank while a column of big metal warriors (mechs) stomps past (stealthy things they aren’t) followed by a chain of blank faced humans wearing harnesses. Including his brother, Ben Mason.

Hal and Karen rush back with the good news – Ben’s alive! He wants to launch a rescue party right now, never mind their mission for food. While the team backs it, Tom hears how many aliens there are and knows there’s too many even with his son captured. There’s a scuffle between Tom and Hal as Tom refuses to risk everything on a half-assed plan.

He makes a better plan for getting food. Food centres – shops, super markets et al – are often traps with aliens inside (very clever) so they have to be extremely careful. Tom also takes the time to boost everyone’s morale, throwing in his knowledge of military history to show that inferior forces can defeat a powerful enemy simply by making a place too difficult and too costly to occupy – the very essence of guerrilla warfare.

They scout the warehouse, it appears to be clear so they stealthily load the truck – until a Skitter surprises Hal – tom runs to the rescue but bullets don’t seem to do a lot to it – and likely even less to the big mech that joins the party. Thankfully the mechs have slow targeting lights before their gun fires. Big fight scene and the aliens are killed by C4 and Dai’s shotgun at close range.

They return with the food, all hero like and Tom Mason has a meeting with Captain Weaver about his living son, being held prisoner and harnessed and he wants to go back for him. Captain Weaver is not taking the column back and refuses to let Tom and Hal go either – tense showdown time! But an appeal to family works, and at killing more skitters.

And they have a little birthday party for Matt Mason, Tom’s son with Ann, Tom and Hal – who is extra sweet in digging up a present for his little brother when their father worries they have nothing to give him. Awwwww, yes it’s saccharine, still, awwwww, and then he shares it with the other kids. It’s a nice scene and a very human one

Later we follow the same forward team raiding for weapons from an armoury – they find mech tracks. To draw it out they throw a ball that encourages a dog to chase it – drawing the mech out. But Jimmy runs forwards to call the dog back to safety, attracting the mech’s attention. I’m not quite sure what the point of using the dog and the ball was, if they were going to engage the mech anyway. They run and abandon the depot.

Blood Ties, Season 1, Episode 10: Necrodrome

Let’s start with more fun flirting between Henry and Vicki always a good beginning. Especially since they’re tracking down a nice, mundane cheating husband which is so often the bread and butter work of a private detective. Not sure why Vicki has brought Henry along, but it’s become the norm now.

And the case of the week – we’re in an odd funeral home were 2 odd men are doing some very odd things to a dead body. Even more oddly, an odd figure in an odd mask puts something on the corpse’s mouth which makes said body, oddly, move around. How very odd.

Mr. Olienov, runs a funeral home in which he has to explain to a woman why her nearest and dearest’s body is not actually around for her to bury. She’s rather upset, as one can imagine as corpses are not normally mislaid. He has hired Vicki to find the body (a man called Diesel – a boxing champion) at the recommendation of the awesome Dr. Mohadevan, the pathologist. Because she knows Vicki can handle the freaky cases – including the security camera which shows a strange masked man’s oddness and the moving corpse which would be hard to show to the police.

Time to show the video to Henry and some more intense flirting – he is good at it, I’ll give him that. Yes yes he is. Anyway Henry, seeing a corpse get up next to a man in an Egyptian mask declares it to be Egyptian Necromancy. Well, he’s a font of knowledge this guy. Go back to flirting Henry. Vicki concludes that the man must have known his way around the funeral home since he avoided the cameras, picked the right doors etc

Time to speak to someone who knows Olienov – the awesome pathologist Dr. Mohadevan! And as she does, she makes the fantastic and amazing sound mundane. And how a resurrection (or Easter Weekend) is just a very annoying thing to happen in a funeral home. She’s very passĂ© about it, in her work they see so many things that are strange (as we’ve seen in past episodes). Henry as one of the undead also gets a little tetchy about the use of the words “reanimated” and “resurrected” interchangeably. Vampires are resurrected – they have life and free will. The reanimated are puppets in the hands of their controllers.

At the funeral home again Vicki meets the son of Mr. Olienov who hits a solid 100 on the creepy scale. She goes to interview Diesel’s wife, Darlene, who fills Vicki in on his glowing boxing career and how it ended with an overly harsh penalty of a 10 year ban for betting on himself. Which leaves Vicki the oh-so-fun task of explaining the supernatural to Celluci again. He doesn’t play sceptic at least, but he does play “too busy to care”.  Am I supposed to like this character again?

Back to Henry for more flirting and more exposition of Egyptian belief in the afterlife, which is nicely dropped in and shows some decent research. I do appreciate that about this series, they do try to include some research into mythology.

Move on to the baddies at the Necrodrome. Yes a fighting ring where reanimated dead are made to fight each other – until one, well, dies.

Cover Snark: I See You Heroine, Shakin' that Ass.

Many covers show an engaged heroine on the front. She’s stood in an action pose (or crouched in one anyway) but there’s another trend which bemuses me - the heroine apparently losing interest and walking away. 

  It makes them highly anonymous, very impersonal and pretty hard to engage them as characters. It also means that we’re basically focussing on her ass. Yes, let’s be honest here, these covers are all about the ass.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Review No Good Deed by Bill Blais - A Kelly & Umber Novel

Kelly McGinnis was the typical suburban mother of two with a husband with Muscular Sclerosis.  On the same day that she was laid off from her job as an administrative assistant, Kelly discovered the existence of demons when interrupts what she initially believes is a case of police abuse.  It turns out the man who had claimed to be an officer was actually a member of a hyper secret demon hunting group.  When Denis, the leader of the group offers her a job, she is doubtful at first but with mounting medical bills and uncertainty in the job market, Kelly decides to give demon hunting a try.

The discovery of demons it turns out is only the beginning of Kelly's revelations.  To even begin to conceptualize how the world is ordered, she must begin to consider outside of her previous narrow Euro-centric point of view. What if the hell of Dantes Inferno exists along with several other versions?  What does one do with absolute evidence of evil but no proof of divine good?  If there is no evidence of a divine good then who do we define what is bad.  Kelly is forced from her modernist way of thinking to consider that perhaps the world really is both/and rather than either/or.

Having a husband with a disability makes medical coverage and absolute necessity for the McGinnis family and so when she is told that the group which she has joined is doing harm rather than good and that demons are not necessarily evil but acting out their nature, Kelly must weigh the needs of her family against doing the moral good.

There are a lot of large questions explored in No Good Deeds but if you have already taken a first year humanities course then you have covered all of this already.  Though Kelly was new to the concepts and questions raised, much of the time, the conflict was presented in such dry prose, I wondered whether or I was reading a boring college text or a fantasy novel for entertainment. The moments with her family were meant to add a lighter side to the story but they were so cloyingly sweet that it was impossible to see their interactions as normal.  Everyone in Kelly's life seems to live to support her.  Her sister is practically at her beck and call for her babysitting requirements and this is justified by Jen repeatedly saying that she has no life.  Kelly's interaction with Shawn, her husband, is just as ridiculous in its perfection. A supportive partner is one thing but anyone in a relationship for any length of time is aware that there are moments of irritation and even small inside jokes between partners.  None of this occurred in the book and instead we were treated to night after night on the bus cuddling over ice cream, while Kelly angsted about lying to Shawn about her new job.

Teen Wolf, Season 2 Episode 2: Shape Shifted

Isaac is meekly discussing his grades with his father, he seems very nervous and is dodging the question – finally admitting to a D grade. And his father loses it and starts throwing crockery around, guess we know where he got his black eye yesterday. He gets a cut under his eye from the thrown glass – which heals almost instantly. He runs out the house and grabs his bike and rides off, chased by father in the car. Jackson, the neighbour sees them leave but, naturally, dismisses it.

His father finds Isaac’s bike – but instead of Isaac he finds a monster. And that monster eats him. And we can rejoice, in fact we can rewind and watch the death all over again.

Isaac reports this to Derek (who has an awesome red-eyed effect going on) but Isaac claims it wasn’t him.

On to the main characters with Allison (she who has no personality) and Scott continuing their illict love affair in the woods filled full of traps. Scott is a little perturbed by the whole Granddaddy Argent hacking people in half thing and asks her some questions but Allison knows nothing (big surprise). For reasons unknown Scott decides against telling Allison about Granddaddy’s hacking and slashing while Daddy watches for funsies. She also actually believes her murdering parents have “date night”

Moving to Daddy Argent and Mummy Argent, they and their cronies kidnap the principal of the school and torture him. I think it’s to make him resign but, being Argents and all, they’re probably doing it for shits and giggles.

Scott and Styles are preparing for lacrosse and Scott is trying to convince Styles that he doesn’t need to get out the bondage gear for full moon (awwwww) Styles is having none of it (yaaaaay) in his usual, perfect, amusing fashion. And Styles tells him to shut up about Allison – thank you Styles, at last someone said it! Styles then drops his bondage gear out of his locker and the coach (who is kind of awesome himself) decides he really doesn’t want to know. While playing with the chains Scott goes all yellow-eyed (which is an awesome effect) because there’s another werewolf in the locker room (of course, Isaac is in the room).

Allison (the personality-less) is talking with Lydia who has already got her sarcasm and mean girlness back. Look, Allison the reason everyone mentions your aunt is a serial killer beyond her actually being one (and your dad, mum and granddad, uncles, aunts and probably everyone else) is that it’s your single defining characteristic at this point. I’m amazed everyone remembers her name. Unfortunately for Lydia, running through the woods naked means everyone stares at her like she’s grown a second head.

Meanwhile on the lacrosse field, Jackson is after a digital camera (and I love how his smug showing off of his wealth is so constantly shot down). Scott and Styles are planning an idea so Scott can get close to all his team mates one-on-one so he can sniff out the werewolf. Styles has a plan – which involves swapping Scott with Danny (in goal). Hijinks ensure until Scott and Isaac are golden eye to golden eye. Then the police arrive and take Isaac away because of his murdered father – which worries Styles because if he’s a suspect they can hold him for 24 hours and it’s the night of the full moon. And it’s likely the holding cell is not going to hold a werewolf – and Scott believes Isaac does have the urge to maim and kill, unlike him.

In class Styles says that as a teenager they’d need evidence or a witness to hold Isaac – but the police are talking to Jackson (who lives next door to Isaac and is a potential witness). Antagonising the teacher who loves them so much anyway, they get sent to the principal’s office so Scott can listen in with werewolf ears. Inside Jackson is talking to Styles’s father and telling him that he knew Isaac was being abused but, being Jackson, didn’t give a damn. He leaves and poor Styles tries to hide behind his magazine – I don’t know who to pity more, Styles or Styles’s father.

Being Human U.K Season Three, Episode 7: Though the Heavens Fall

This episode begins with a flashback from twenty years ago.  McNair is in a cage and in walks Herrick. It seems that Herrick put him in a cage with a werewolf, and somehow not only did McNair survive, he killed the werewolf.  Herrick begins to ask questions about his life and McNair admits that he did not escape unharmed and that the werewolf scratched him. Herrick begins to cackle because he realizes that McNair is now a werewolf. 

In the present day, Mitchell is trying to convince Annie that what happened in the tube is vampire business.  He says that if they arrest Daisy and take her photograph that she will be revealed to the world. He points out harmful this is to humans.  Annie says that vampires have been arrested in the past, but Mitchell responds that they used to have an infrastructure to get away with it.  Annie is determined that Daisy not get away with what she has done. 

Back at the police station, Nancy is telling her superior that Mitchell has told her all about Daisy.  What they don't know is that Annie is in the room with them listening to every word that they say.  When she looked up Daisy, Nancy learned that she died in an air raid in 1941. Nancy tells him that she found Mitchell's scrap book and this shocks Annie.  Her superior is more than willing to say that Mitchell is just sick. He says that they have a long list of suspects with violent histories, and that if they don't make an arrest this week that the entire team will be changed.  He believes that the clippings and talk of ex girlfriends is nothing more than gossip. He goes onto say that Nancy doesn't even have a fingerprint or anything that passes for proof, and demands that she stop pursuing it.

Back at the house, Nina is shaving Herrick and he asks her if she trusts Mitchell.  "If Mitchell told me the sky was blue", she says. "I would have to go outside to check." Herrick tells her that Mitchell told him that he is a vampire and that the people who tormented him said so as well.  He says that when Nancy came to the house that he could hear her blood throbbing through her veins, but he doesn't with Nina, George or Annie.  Nina tells him that whatever he is that he can overcome it.  Herrick wonders if he is the victim of a conspiracy to drive him mad.  She tells him that he is not going mad and that he needs to stay separate - stay appalled. Herrick admits to Nina that he showed Nancy Mitchell's scrapbook and says, "let justice be done."

McNair and Tom show up at the house because McNair has been hurt.  He notices the pinups that Annie has on the wall.  McNair says that he was injured fighting vampires and that he and Tom killed four.  McNair says that he is surprised that they have not shown up for Nina and George yet, and suggests that they are off limits because of Mitchell.  McNair goes on to say that he knows something has changed in the house. 

In the kitchen, George tells Tom that at 19 that he shouldn't be killing vampires out of the back of a camper van.  Tom says that he doesn't have a choice. George offers to let Tom stay with them, but Tom says that McNair would never allow that. When Tom and George go back into the living room, McNair announces that they are going to stay for awhile to rest his leg.  This makes me wonder if he can smell Herrick upstairs. When George mentions that it's a full moon, McNair suggests changing in the basement and points out that it is probably not a good idea to run around the forest in this state. He suggests that they stay for a few days and that Tom could watch cartoons, and that maybe George would take him for a pint.  Is anyone else confused by this?  He is 19 and a hook to stay in the house is to watch cartoons and drink beer? 

Back at the station, Annie and Nancy are in separate stalls. Annie talks herself into believing that the reason that Mitchell has the scrapbook is that he is investigating the murders as well, because he told her that vampires take care of this sorts of things themselves. She says to Nancy, "never mind what the shouty man said.  Mitchell can lead us to Daisy and there's something bigger at stake her."  This had me wondering if Annie forgot completely that she is a ghost, and that Nancy cannot hear her. Nancy leaves the stall and walks up to the mirror and announces, "John Mitchell, I'm coming to get you." 

When Mitchell comes in he sees McNair and Tom.  George tells him that they have guests and Mitchell says that it's fine and walks upstairs to see Herrick.  He demands to know how Herrick survived the werewolf attack.  He grabs Herrick and says, "I haven't got the time for this. The old Herrick has got the answers so we need to find him now." Once again Herrick denies that he knows what Mitchell is talking about and so Mitchell leaves the room.

Downstairs, Annie tells George and Nina that Daisy killed all of the people on the tube.  Nina of course asks for proof and Annie tells her that he has a scrapbook and has been investigating the murders as well. Nina once again expresses surprise that Mitchell is not guilty.  George admits that he met both Daisy and her husband and that it makes sense. Annie tells them that Nancy is on her way there.

Nancy shows up and asks Mitchell why he has clippings of the box tunnel 20 if he has no connection to the case. He tells her that there was this guy Graham who put it altogether, and he thought that Mitchell would be impressed.  Nancy says that she knows that Mitchell is lying to her and asks to speak to Uncle Billy again.  When Mitchell says that he doesn't think that this is a good idea, she says, "I don't bite." Mitchell says okay and goes up to see Herrick.

Review Snow White & The Huntsman

I went into this movie not expecting anything positive, and I must say that it completely lived up to my low expectations. With the exception of a few action scenes, Snow White and the Huntsman essentially remained true to the fairytale which we are all familiar with.  There was some money spent on a few pretty good special effects, particularly the troll and the time they spent in the fairyworld and it helped to distract from the piss poor acting on the part of both Kristen Stewart and  Charlize Theron.  Having watched all of the Twilight movies to date, I didn't expect Stewart to do a great job, but I was disappointed in Theron, who won an Oscar for her role in Monster. For her part, Stewart spent the majority of the film with her lip trembling - a slight twist on her customary lip biting, while staring all big and doe eyed into a camera.  A concussed penguin would have had more personality than Stewart on film. Much of the time that Theron spent on screen she was screaming which gave her a character a single angry note.

Snow White's mother wished for a daughter whose skin was as white as snow, lips as red as blood, hair as black as a ravens wings, with the strength of the rose that she pricked her finger on. Shortly thereafter Snow White was born.  All was well and good until the queen died during a harsh winter.  The king mourned his wife, until one day he was drawn out to war.  The forces of the opposition were magical and they were quickly defeated by the kings forces.  The king discovered Ravenna chained in a carriage, and was so overcome with her beauty that he married her the next day.  As they lay in bed, she told him about how men use women and suck the life out of them, just before she thrust a dagger into his heart. With the king dead, it was easy to overrun the castle and imprison Snow White.  In the years that followed, Ravenna consumed the youth of the villagers to maintain her strength -- until one day -- the mirror told her that now that Snow White had reached adult hood that she was more fair than her.  Thus began Ravenna's mission to kill Snow White.  

In order to add a twist to the story, Snow White's escape was wrapped around the idea of the people rebelling under Ravenna's oppression.  Essentially, Snow White became the chosen one that everyone adored virtually on sight, to the point of pledging their lives to her service. Even the vicious troll did not have it in his heart to kill or otherwise maim Snow White, so enthralled was he with her heart and her beauty. Snow White didn't have to do a damn thing to earn their loyalty, but be born a special snowflake. This is hardly a positive re-envisioning of the classic tale.  Her only personality trait throughout the movie was the pureness of her heart.  Do we really need another movie promoting the pureness and beauty of White womanhood? 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Review of Dead on the Delta by Stacey Jay: Book one in the Annabelle Lee Series

Dead on the Delta is set in a small Louisiana town, in a world in which the fae exist.  Unlike other fae stories, Jay does not actually allow the supernatural to become characters in her story.  The fae in this case have mutated and survive on human blood. One bite from a fairy can kill instantly, but in most cases it leads to insanity. Jay is not shy about using ableist language to describe this. "For seventy-five percent of the human population, Fey venom leads to insanity, with a slow build to batshit crazy that makes syphilis look gentle by comparison."[page 14] All surviving towns in the south are surrounded by iron gates to keep the fae out and people must travel in completely iron covered vehicles.  There is a percentage of the population that is immune to fae venom and that is where our protagonist Annabelle Lee comes in.  

Annabelle Lee of course has the tragic past that we have become accustomed to for urban fantasy protagonists. A night of partying with her sister leads to her sisters death from a fae bite.  For some reason, she holds herself accountable for her sister's death.  Annabelle has no relationship with her parents because they always favored her sister and supposedly would have preferred her death.  None of this by the way reads at all realistic. Annabelle is also a drop out from medical school and she has a massive drinking problem, which she is in denial about.  Her job is to pick up fairy droppings and investigate fae concentrations because she is immune.

When we meet Annabelle she is collecting a body that has been left out for the animals to destroy.  Though she is told by Cane, her police officer boyfriend to stay out of the case, Annabelle quickly becomes involved. The tension escalates when her ex boyfriend, now a member of the FBI comes out to investigate the murder.  To make matters worse, Annabelle is attacked by an invisible man. She knows that no one will believe her if she tells them.  Her body is also beginning to change and she finds that she can move things without touching them. 

Teen Wolf, Season 2, Episode 1: Omega

A new series of Teen Wolf, let the gratuitous shirtlessness commence! (Hey, I can hope)

And we start well, with Jackson, who we all wish would get eaten, crawling out of the water (dripping wet) with his shirt shredded – and a bite mark. Meanwhile Scott is running through the woods in that awkward crawling/running thing they do, looking wonderfully dramatic  And angsty of course as he remembers sitting in a car, making out with Allison Argent (the mindless daughter of the werewolf hunters) and Daddy Argent holding a gun to his head (so all last season with hum maundering on about the code and not killing the innocent? All that prating that set him apart from Kate the Evil Argent? Goes out the window if the werewolf is having sex with his daughter! Man rage to protect the family vagina!) Allison begs for Scotts life promising never to see him again (rather than telling her father he’s a murdering monster and she’ll have nothing to do with HIM again if he does – and will call the police no less). Family Vagina duly protected, Daddy Argent backs off.

Of course, telling teenagers not to meet? Yeah, that works. And Scott does his doggy run to launch himself through Allison’s window where he is most heartily welcomed (which is a nice move on from the Twilight-style “watching her sleep”. Which I’ve never really got – I mean, have they never watched people sleep? With the snoring and the drooling and the snarled hair? Sleep is not pretty).

Unfortunately they’re interrupted by her father returning early with Victoria Argent, Allison’s mother. Who is as unpleasant as the rest of the Argents – and searches Allison’s room for Scott who is half naked and clinging to the roof outside.

Time to move to Styles our most excellent (and cute) comic relief, in the hospital asleep and having Inappropriate Dreams where he has been all weekend, watching out for Lydia (who was bitten at the end of the last season. In the last episode the number of werewolves rocketed up) who has kept her powers of endless sarcasm intact.

Styles is outwitted by a vending machine while Lydia takes a shower and the hospital clearly has some very dodgy plumbing, since blackness comes up the plug hole. She examines the shower water and it’s clogged with hair – lots and lots and lots of hair (and she hasn’t lost any from her head so she must have a REALLY hairy back) and a raw, burned arm reaches out of the black water and grabs her. Honestly, hospital hygiene these days!

She screams, attracting her father, Styles and the hospital staff, they come in to find the water clear and Lydia missing. Either she’s jumped out the window or been kidnapped by possessed plumbing. Her dramatic echoing scream is also heard by Scott with his werewolf senses (who identifies it as Lydia).

They report her missing to the police (Style’s dad) who also tells him to go home. Poor Styles.

But there’s another crisis – Allison saw her father and 2 other guys leave the house, possibly to hunt werewolves. Styles gives Scott some of Lydia’s clothes to smell and track – so Scott, Styles and Allison can track Lydia down before either the police or the Argents find her. Allison is very much out of the loop with her family.

Meanwhile something with an awesome manicure is freaking out the gravedigger who is digging Kate’s (who I would call the Evil Argent, but that would require there being a good Argent) grave. I hope they remember to line it with salt and, preferably, to burn her. The werewolf knocks over the digger, dropping the gravedigger in the grave and covering the top with the machine – he sneaks a peak over the lip (oh this guy would never survive a horror movie) and sees the werewolf digging up another body in a different grave. Before he hears a roar and then some whimpering – and something lifts the digger off the grave – Derek (the new alpha) in human form.

The police (Style’s dad) interviews Isaac, the gravedigger and learns that whoever dug up the body took its liver. Chianti and fava beans anyone? All while Derek is in the background looking all menacing. Isaac isalso on the lacrosse team it seems

Continuum Season One, Episode Two: Fast Times

This episode begins with a flashback to Kiera Cameron's first day as a protector.  We watch as she is outfitted with a CRM chip which records everything that happens.  When Kiera shows up at the police station, everyone is dressed in black for the funerals.  She is told that there will be a joint task force created to investigate the new gang in town.  When she meets Betty Robertson, there is instantly tension.  I have say that I found myself rolling my eyes.  Why is it impossible for any female protagonist to have anything but an antagonistic relationship with another woman?  The moment Betty leaves, Kiera tells Carlos that Betty need not worry because she is not a threat.

In the meantime, the rebels are hatching a plan which Kellog wants no part of Kellog suggests that because the corporate rights act has not been passed that they are free to speak out without fear of execution.  He suggests that they become activists against the corporations and enjoy the freedom that they have now.  It seems that Lucas may have figured out a way to get them all back to their time but there is some doubt as to whether or not his plan will work. Kellog finally says that he wants to stay and asks that they put it to a vote but no one else sides with him.

Back at the station, Carlos gets called into the office.  It turns out that they have discovered that Kiera is not Linda Williams.  It's about time they put two and two together.  To be honest that really disturbed me last episode.  Kiera is quickly taken into custody until they can figure out who she really is. Carols questions her about her identity and she responds that this is need to know information. She instructs Alec to build a background for her that will pass muster and lead elsewhere.  Even though Carlos knows that something isn't right, he is still defending her.

Game of Thrones, Season 2, Episode 10: Valar Morghulis

Season Finale of Game of Thrones! Wow that passed quickly! Just in case you’re getting lost, here’s another link to HBO’s excellent guide to the series.

After being injured in the last episode, Tyrion wakes up, heavily bandaged and calls his serving boy Pod to tell Varys and Bronn that he’s alive (awake 2 seconds and he’s already thinking of politics). While he was unconscious his room was moved – and he is no longer Hand of the King (since he was only holding the rank until Tywin appeared).

In the throne room, Tywin rides in on a white horse (thankfully they don’t have carpets so it’ll be easy to clean up after) while Joffrey pretentiously welcomes him, thanks him for saving the city and names him Hand of the King. I’m vaguely hopeful about the possibility of Tywin – who doesn’t suffer fools easily – strangling the little monster at the earliest possible opportunity. Indeed Tywin already makes this clear by saying “ta for that” and riding out again.

To reward Baelish (oily little squit) for getting the Tyrells  on side he gets Haranhall, the big impressive dragon-fired castle. It also earns a venomous side-eye from Varys.

And Loras Tyrell is asked to name his reward for bringing his house in support – and Loras asks for Joffrey to marry his sister, Margaery.  Margaery assures everyone that’s what she wants. He protests that he’s promised to another (Sansa) – but the small council (so says Cersei) says it’s wrong for him to marry the daughter and brother of traitors anyway (and Margaery is, politically, a more powerful and useful match). Cersei asks him to set Sansa aside. Pycelle speaks up on behalf of the Septa as well assuring Joffrey he has no duty to marry Sansa (it seems Joffrey is eager to keep Sansa to abuse  after all, she has no champions. He cannot abuse Margaery in the same way he does her). Joffrey agrees to marry Margaery.

Sansa leaves the room, apparently distraught but once her back is turned she starts laughing – until Baelish turns up to offer condolences – and to tell her that she’s not safe. Just because she’s not betrothed to Joffrey any more doesn’t mean he won’t abuse her – and beat and rape her. Not being her fiancĂ© doesn’t mean he won’t touch her. As ever, Baelish is obsessed with Catelyn the Spunky and because of that he will help Sansa.

Meanwhile, Varys is meeting Ros in a brothel (it’s been a while, but Game of Thrones will always return to the brothels) and Ros begins to strip (I think the actor who plays Ros may get a reflex where she starts to disrobe every time a camera is pointed at her) until Varys tells her not to. He instantly begins to question Ros about Lord Baelish – and seeing the potential in Ros beyond just being a prostitute. He also says that he doesn’t tolerate his servants being abused (and I actually believe him, as he’s one of the few people in the show who appears to be decent and not foolish. It’s a short list.) Baelish has made a very bad enemy.

Varys goes on to meet with Tyrion and inform him that during the battle his sister tried to have him killed and that’s why he was attacked and hurt. Bron has also been relieved of command of the city watch as well, the gold cloaks are now in Tywin’s hands. The Hill Tribesmen he hired have also left. At least Varys acknowledges that Tyrion is the only reason Stannis didn’t win the battle – but no-one else will. Shea joins him to examine Tyrion’s wound- he thinks she should charge him double for being scarred and a dwarf, which offends Shae deeply because she is not there for the money. Shae urges him to leave Kings Landing since he can trust no-one there – she wants to flee to Pentos. But he won’t – he’s too good at the politics and he enjoys the politics so much that he can’t bring himself to leave. Shae refuses to go without him.

Brienne, at the behest of Catelyn the Spunky and in the absence of anything even remotely resembling common sense is escorting Jaime Lannister home. He continues to banter with her – especially sexually. They find 3 hanged women with the sign “they laid with lions” attached – probably hanged as collaborators for being friendly with Lannister soldiers. Brienne ties Jaime up, intending to bury them and three men (who will probably die soon) approach mocking Brienne. She pretends Jaime is a thief being taken to justice at Riverrun. Despite that, one of them recognises Jaime – and he has a great method for testing if they’re lying. Brienne kills 2 of them quickly – and 1 of them slowly, just like the three hanged women while Jaime looks on looking rather poleaxed. Oh I like her. Then she buries the hanged women.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Fangs for the Fantasy, Episode 69

This week we discuss our book of the week, Wicked, the Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire

We discuss the season finale of Game of Thrones (which was awesome) as well as the brand new season premier of Teen Wolf. We also discuss our ongoing shows, The Almighty Johnsons and Continuum which we’re still on the fence about.

We also discuss class and how wealth and class is depicted on television.

For the next few weeks our book of the week will be:

4/6-11/6: The Strain by Guillermo del Torro
11/6-18/6: Raven Cursed by Faith Hunter
18/6-25/6: Son of a Witch by Gregory Maguire
25/6-2/7: The Fall by Guillermo del Torro

Review: Wicked, the Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, by Gregory Maguire

This is the story of the Wizard of Oz – but told from the point of view of Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West. It’s a story of the brutal dictator, the Wizard of Oz and his coup that overthrew the old regime. It’s a story of his systematic marginalisation of the Animal population and escalating oppression

It is a story of the Wicked Witch of the East’s rising up against that dictatorship, before her reign was brought to an end by a very badly timed farmhouse.

It’s a story of the Wicked Witch of the West’s childhood – of her growing up with the stigma of her green skin and her devout father dragging them to the most obscure and marginalised corners of Oz. Of her school life, her determination to learn and rumination on the nature of humanity and evil, of the friends and allies she made.

This is a story of the Wicked Witch of the West campaigning against the oppression of the Animals, of facing off and fighting down the plots of the Wizard – and finding love along the way. And having all that crash down and seeking redemption for what she left in her wake.

In short, this is the Wizard of Oz, but from an angle unimaginable from the film.

This story raises a lot of very deep questions and issues – what constitutes sentient life and humanity and where do we draw the line. What is terrorism and what is a freedom fighter. The issue of collateral damage and the issue of refusing to face injustice for fear of the fall out, ordered dictatorship vs revolutionary chaos, autocrat vs theocrat, the nature and value of apology and forgiveness. And, always, the issue of what evil is, where it comes from and what causes it.

The problem is that, as the book passes through each stage of the Witch’s story, so too do we abandon each set of questions raised. Rather than delving into them, they’re raised, the Witch ruminates on them somewhat, and then we tend to pass away from it before bringing it to a decent conclusion or hefty examination. The questions are raised but could use more development before moving on to the next one. Sometime the questions raised are barely even touched upon (such as the nature of evil) and because we don’t have any analysis – instead the whole scene seems unnecessary and superfluous (like the adult Elphaba dropping in on Avaric and staying for dinner. Or going to see Boq and his family – in theory these scenes have been added for more philosophical questioning but because the questioning and development doesn’t really go anywhere, it feels unnecessary).

Writing wise, I didn’t find it an easy read. Elphaba spends a lot of time – especially in the latter half of the books, navel gazing and thinking. There’s lots of internal monologuing and musing and chasing their own thoughts round in circles. It doesn’t flow very well, is often repetitive. This is especially true because there’s just so much there. So many themes, so many questions raised, so many plot questions raised to be left hanging for our own interpretation. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but there are just so many of them that it’s confusing, it’s difficult and, in the end, work. With the question of Yackle, the Time Dragon, the old headmistress, Elphaba’s parentage,  the wizard, his book and his potion and their nature, the shoes there was just so much there, so many questions, so few answers and yes it makes you think and consider, but it’s also tiring.

The Dresden Files, Season 1, Episode 10: What About Bob?

Harry is lying asleep in bed with Tara. Tara decides to handcuff Harry to the bed during the night (alas, not for kinky purposes) and then sneaks out with Bob’s skull. Of course the handcuff doesn’t hold a wizard very long, but the ward she puts on the door does. In his tantrum, Harry also fries his ringing phone.

Tara reports to – surprise, Justin Morningway, Harry’s supposedly dead black magic uncle! Justin is displeased that Tara left the handcuffs behind, after all a wizard can use a possession for tracking. So he kills her – which is rather dramatic and nicely establishes that Justin Morningway is a very very not nice man. It also messes up Harry’s scrying.

In his conversational sparring with Bob it seems Justin Morningway made a copy of himself – Morningway lite(ish) and he wants Bob’s help with some black magic. He wants Bob to bring the original Morningway back from the dead. In return Bob will be returned to mortality – using the weapon that killed his lost lover, Winnifred.

Meanwhile Harry speaks to Morgan, warden of the High Council, who gives him a nifty Bob Skull detector – if the skull is ever unshielded.

Through the episode we get several flashbacks into Harry’s childhood, including when he saw his father die from an apparent heart attack. And Harry then being taken in by Justin Morningway, his uncle and the first time Harry met Hrothbert of Bainbridge (Bob) who Justin used as Harry’s tutor. Including teaching Harry the basics of black magic to defend himself against it. And that Morningway was on the High Council, that Harry comes from an extremely powerful bloodline including Harry’s mother.

Which leads us to an adult Harry, on the night of Morningway’s death, planning to go to as High Council shindig – and he sees that Morningway is wearing the ring his mother gave his father (and probably a shield), the ring his father lost before he died. Bob urges him not to act but Harry finds Morningway’s poppet. Morningway pretty much confesses – he killed Harry’s father to save him from “obscurity” and that Morningway has a plan to “clear the weeds” of the High Council and to kill Ancient Mai. Ther eis a powerful confrontation and Morningway is almost accidentally killed by dark magic.

We also have some flashbacks to past episodes – reminding us that Harry “self-defenced” Morningway to death, that Bob served him and that Bob was cursed into a skull for trying to bring his true love, Winnifred, back to life.

While we have past been dragged up, Detective Kirmani has brought Murphy a closed case – the death of Justin Morningway, Harry’s uncle. He had been listed as a heart attack but an anonymous phone call identifies Harry as the murderer (which he is, albeit in self-defence). Since both Kirmani and Murphy both know about Harry’s magic, they can look past the heart attack excuse.

Which Murphy takes to Harry, pointing out that she’s seen a lot since she’s been with Harry and knows that a crushed heart in an intact chest does not mean heart attack. Harry doesn’t want to talk about anything to do with his family history and stonewalls – so of course Murphy investigates further and a new autopsy on Justin Morningway’s body. Time for more questioning with Murphy – and the revelation that Murphy is on pills to help her deal with what happened to her when she was possessed. It also gets her Harry’s finger prints – which matches a print on Morningway’s cufflink.

Bob is made mortal with the weapon – and is physically able to pick up the skull he was trapped in – which also triggers Harry’s magic skull detector. To the old Morningway mansion! Where he finds the newly embodied Bob who uses his magic to put Harry to sleep.