Saturday, June 16, 2012

Falling Skies, Season 1, Episode 10: Eight Hours

Scott and Ben are still working on the jamming device – and Tom worries with Ann that the signal hurts Ben and doesn’t want him to go through anything else. Tom also hurries about Hal and whether Weaver’s plan will work and keep them alive. While Ann, Ben and Tom leave the room, Scott looks up to find Rick crawling up the wall like a Skitter – and leaping on him to protect the aliens.

We see Scott in the clinic being treated by Ann who doesn’t seem to think it’s serious – he was found and brought to her by Ben. Ben guesses it was Rick before being told, though he dodges how he knows – Rick has sabotaged the transmitter by stealing a part of it.

Ben goes looking for Rick and finds him and they have a big confrontation. Ben wants them out of his head, Rick wants the Harness back. Tom yells for help and Rick runs. Ben chases him yelling at people to stop rick – and one of the defenders nearly shoots Ben (though Margaret is there to stop them). Tom ends up going after rick alone (would that be a Big Damn Hero moment? Yes yes it would).

Rick runs into Megan, the Harnessed girl who was with the Sanctuary Collaborators. She’s already starting to change with parts of her skin turning green. She wants Rick to tell them everything about the 2nd Massachusetts. Tom finds Rick alone calling out that he wants to come back – Megan has apparently left him. Rick says he isn’t human or Skitter and doesn’t want to live in between any more. And Rick finally breaks down and cries – and cries for his father. Rick tells Tom he’s told them everything – including Weaver’s attack.

With the Skitters knowing where they are, Tom gathers the civilians and tells them they need to move before the Strike Team returns. He and a small group of volunteers will distract the Skitters while the civilians escape – time for a historic speech. Tom also has a bonding moment with Matt about Matt disobeying and hanging out with Pope and to make him leave with the evacuation. Ann gives Lourdes a pep talk about being a doctor and to go with the evacuation while Ann remains behind.

Tom also tries to get ben to leave but Scott and Ben points out the Skitters keep changing the frequency. They can’t use the jammer without Ben to constantly update it. And Ben wants to prove himself, wants to prove that being Harnessed doesn’t make him evil and means he can help. Jimmy and Margaret get in some bonding and reassurance. – just before the mechs arrive at the barricade.  Time for the fight – and the first mech goes down to the new ammunition.

Then a whole column of mechs arrive. They don’t have enough ammunition to take them all down, while Scott and Ben frenziedly try to find the jamming frequency. They get the frequency but the signal isn’t strong enough – while the Mechs are busy with dramatic posing (really, they spend like 20 seconds staring at the barricade) they attach the transmitter to a metal flag pole and use it as an aerial.

The firing begins. Ben is driven to the foetal position by the signal – and the Mechs retreat. Time for much cheering.

Weaver’s attack column is moving out and Hal and Weaver now have a little affirmation moment. Arriving at the rendez-vous point where they should have met the 4th and 5th Massachusetts, they find they are alone and assume that the other regiments have been taken out. Weaver pulls out the Big Inspiring Speech and splits his group into 4 squads – one for each leg of the structure.

Weaver’s squad faces a large force opposing them and smoke from the other legs suggests the other squads may have been compromised. Weaver orders Hal to return to Tom and tell them to evacuate the civilians that, the other Massachusetts regiments are gone and to tell them that the attack went ahead. He has to carry the word.

Hal arrives back at the school after the attack to tell Tom what’s happening with Weaver’s assault. They conclude that Weaver is going for a suicide attack – but Tom realises that Hal got back through clear roads – so maybe they can take the jamming device to Weaver.

He goes to Ann and asks her to lead the people to safety – and to look out for Matt and Ben. And they kiss! Actually, while, there’s been affection I wouldn’t say there’s been that much sexual tension – I didn’t see this coming, not for a while yet.

The Almighty Johnsons Season One, Episode Five: This Is Not Washing Powder, My Friend

Zeb, Gaia and Axel are cleaning the apartment because Gaia's father is coming for a visit.  Apparently he is a touch eccentric and even like to walk around naked. Zeb want to know if Gaia's father is gay where she came from and Axel repeats the question using the slur "poof."  Gaia expands on the problem to say that he wasn't always gay, but only became so after meeting Godfred.  For as much as I love this show, when it decides to fail, it's huge.  There was no reason to use a slur and then the idea of straight until turned gay is such a tired homophobic trope. 

More talk than cleaning is actually happening as Gaia tries to get Zeb and Axel to clean the toilet.  Why is it that this dirty job always falls to women? At any rate, Axel is surprised that Bryn is coming to the city considering how much he hates it.  Gaia reveals that she made a deal to move back with him as soon as she finished her nursing training, because that is the only way that he would let her leave home. Axel and Zeb make it all about them by asking what they are going to do without her.  My suggestion is that they can start by cleaning the toilet.  

Axl heads off to the hospital for a check up, because he has been told that if he does not show up that he will be charged for a missed visit. When he arrives at the hospital he parks in disabled parking and then realizing what he has done, instead of moving his car, he actually fakes a limp.  I know that this was included for the purposes of comedy, but it was not in the least bit funny.   As Odin, Axel is actually hyper able. When he arrives in the room for his appointment, no one is there so he sits and waits. Finally a nurse comes in and he is told that there is no Dr. Grey on this ward and he is sent back to reception.  Frustrated he throws out the letter.

Axel and Zeb go to a fast food restaurant and when they're short of funds they decide to check under the seat. Zeb finds a bag of cocaine and so they drive off without getting their order.  Axel says that the drugs don't belong to him and he remembers that Anders was in his car and assumes that the coke belongs to him. Zeb suggests that they sell the drugs, but Axel says that it's not theirs.  Zeb hops out of the car with the drugs, instructing Axel to wait for his call.

Axel goes to see Anders who wants to broaden the search criteria for Frigg. His suggestion is that they check out churches instead.  Axel changes the conversation and asks Anders if he left anything in the car.  When Anders says no and starts to ask more questions, Axel simply says that he would know more if he were the one that left the item in the car and leaves.

Axel then returns home to find that Zeb has not returned home yet. Gaia asks him to make himself useful and set the table.  When he asks about Bryn, he discovers that he has already there.  When Axl asks about Godfred, Bryn says that they broke up sometime ago.  Axl tries to make small talk with Brynn but everything he says is wrong. In frustration he goes to his room and calls Zeb, only to get his voice mail. The conversation shifts to the hospital and Gaia's work there and the tension rises.  Gaia asks Axel to talk privately and he calls her a wuss when it comes to Bryn and says that he doesn't have the right to tell her what to do with the rest of her life.  Axel is being just as controlling as Bryn.

The police enter with a warrant to search his property.  Bryn wants to know if this is normal and says that they see very interested in Axel.  When the police search Bryn's bag they find about a pound of weed.  The police ask Axel why he was in the hospital and points out that after he left, the cocaine was missing.  Umm since when do hospitals keep cocaine on the premises. Axel says that he tossed the letter informing him of the appointment and suggests the police check the garbage.  The police then search Axel's car and tell him that they don't actually need the drugs to charge him.  Bryn is escorted out in handcuffs and when he tells Gaia that he can explain, she says, "after I get my dad out of jail."  In the bushes, the Goddesses are watching everything.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Review: Passion by Lauren Kate, Book 3 of the Fallen Series

After leaping through the Announcer in Torment, Luce meets up with Bill, the totally-not-evil-honest gargoyle and goes for a guided tour of her past lives seeing how she falls in love with Daniel over and over and over and over again, only to be immolated horribly when she does. Then she gets to see Daniel be utter mega sad by said immolation, before finding the next Luce fire-lighter for twu-lub. During her travels she discovers how much Daniel loves her, how very sad the curse is… and not much else.

But there’s some plot tacked on the end of the book just to stop you losing all faith in literature. I’m certainly losing faith in recapping.

My main frustration with this book is that it wasn’t until 80-90% in that it actually became relevant. Before that we just get a rehashing of what we already knew.

The premise of this entire series is that the angel Daniel fell in love with a mortal girl (Luce) many many thousands of years ago (falling because he loved her) and was so cursed that when she reached her late teens (usually 17) and fell in love with Daniel she would promptly burst into flames. Then she would be reincarnated and 17 years later the cycle would be repeated. So every 17 years, she doesn’t remember him, falls in love then dies leaving him all sad and tortured. This is the entire concept of the books and something we’ve been introduced to in book one and held during book 2 – they’re in love but that love has always ended tragically over the millennia because of the immolation death thing. Very tragically romantic, I guess.

And this book? Is all about Luce going back in time and showing many many past incarnations falling in love with Daniel and dying. Yes, showing what has already been told and established. She goes back to 1940s Moscow, falls in love with Daniel, dies. She goes back to the palace of Versaille, falls in love with Daniel, dies. She goes back to ancient Egypt, to the ancient Mayans, to Tahiti, to Tibet, to ancient China, to Victorian England – to places I’ve forgotten about because they added so little. Falls in love with Daniel, dies.

Falling Skies, Season 1, Episode 9: Mutiny

While everyone is watching old cartoons and laughing uproariously (it seems they got the good booze), Ann breaks the news to Tom about the Skitters being Harnessed. Meaning Tom is faced with possibly losing Ben again. Tom is also worried about Weaver who has put his pain and issues behind him but won’t talk it out with Tom. Weaver’s also pushing Tom out and relying on career military, Lt Danners more. Tom confides in Ann about Weaver’s near mental-breakdown. Tom is torn between supporting Weaver for the sake of morale and worrying about Weaver’s decisions.

Dai returns to camp from a scouting mission, severely wounded. They get him into the clinic with a stomach wound. There’s a military meeting and Danners (may he die soon. Yes he’s already hit the die list) tries to silence Tom when he asks questions. Weaver is keeping Tom out of the loop and Tom is worried that the plan to go ahead hasn’t changed despite having no contact from the other Massachusetts divisions – or even knowing if they still exist. Tom agrees to back him – and Weaver shunts him away on sentry duty.

Ann and Lourdes come to Tom about the medication weaver is taking, prescribed by Harris (who IS dead, thankfully) which are, apparently, not great things to take together and highly addictive and that his erratic behaviour may be a result of the drugs. Tom is getting a very good “oh you are shitting me” slow eye-blink. Poor Tom.

He tells Hal and Hal is all for throwing away the sentry mission but tom speaks up for what Weaver and the soldiers have done and how undermining Weaver could rip the 2nd Massachusetts apart. Tom sends Hal and Margaret on the mission while he stays behind to talk to Weaver.

Time for the big confrontation – Weaver won’t listen to reason and has Danner (who needs to die) disarm Tom and have him imprisoned. For the sake of the ranks. Uh-huh. Tom and Danner get to argue it out in the prison – and it’s obvious Danner has had a problem with Tom for a while

Matt continues to hang around with Pope in what would be considered the worst child caring arrangement in any Dystopian if we hadn’t watched Carl on the Walking Dead.  Weaver also adjusts the plan with Pope and demands 4 bombs not just 1 - though it will result in very short fuses. Weaver, again, rejects all questioning.

Bedlam, Series 2, Episode 2: Pool of Tears

A swimming pool. Oh dear they built a swimming pool. Considering they had ghosties that could drown you in a bathroom sink last season, building a swimming pool is so very not a good idea. And yes, there’s a ghostly figure and dark shadowy stuff. Dry land! Dry land!

Ellie, our medium, is still squatting in the building (remind me again her reason for being in this place?)  And she’s still being followed by the glowing girl who drops black marbles (and gives her images of the child being carried off by a bald man with the scary symbol carved into his head).  The name of the child is Eve, or so she writes on the wall. I tell you, the youth of today and their graffiti, shameful!

At the bar, Kiera is introduced to the swimmer Cass and her trainer Dominic a former swimmer in the Commonwealth Games. Dominic leaves and Kiera starts plying Cass with vodka.  And Ellie comes down to get a drink with Max (the bar man who she’s squatting with) being ultra-ultra nice as seems to be the norm. Ellie shoots down his offer to be a friendly ear rather abruptly to be honest.  Kiera decides the best way to clear Cass’s head is for them all to go to the pool semi-fully clothed in the middle of the night. There is much slashing and ducking and Cassie gets a ghostly vision – of a woman being dragged to and thrown in the pool during the asylum days where she was held under (the asylum had a pool?) – and seeing a black clad ghost of her under water. She comes to the surface and urges everyone out of the pool (damn ghosties ruin all the best parties) using the excuse that they’ve been drinking and it’s not safe. As Cass leaves the pool, Ellie notices she has some scars on her wrists.

Dominic is passive aggressive and snippy about Cassie coming to bed late (she trains at 5:00am). Kiera and Ellie leave, with Kiera commenting on both Dominic’s control freakiness and also mentions the scars on Cass’s wrists believing they are marks of an attempted suicide – but Ellie shuts her down, disliking the assumption and the gossip.

The next day Max continues to play on the ghost hunting website and Dan walks around in a towel letting us know that while Jed has left the show, we still have some mighty nice eye candy around. We get some nice little inserted character development learning that Dan doesn’t get on with his family – and that Ellie grew up in care. Max also questions Ellie about her little freak out the night before – recognising a ghost sighting when he sees it. Being the nice guy he is, he offers to go down to the pool with Ellie to check it out. But down at the pool Ellie gets another vision of the ghost being held under the water back in the asylum days and turns and leaves, unwilling to talk.

Warren and Kiera are sorting through Kate’s things and Warren discusses how he doesn’t expect Kate to return (since she was kidnapped by the creepy bald guy last episode, this seems likely) since Kate has been so angry with him since Jed’s death. Kiera is parsing through the stuff she wants to keep when Dan comes in – they’ve lost one of their potential residents because of the Haunted in Bedlam website. But they do conclude that, given the time the pictures were posted, that they must be posted by someone from within the building (Max most likely).

Cass is back swimming and being stalked by the spooky ghost - and we get the first drowning attempt, her hair caught in a vent at the bottom of the pool after she’s lured by her stopwatch left next to it. But when she gets back to the edge – she see her stop watch hasn’t moved. She returns to boyfriend Dominic, worrying that she’s over training but he pushes her to keep going.

Anita Blake: Faux Champion of Sexual Agency

Many people, especially ex-fans of Laurell K Hamilton’s Anita Blake series have become very strong critics of the series, especially after Narcissus in Chains. Myself included. Before this point, Anita was a strong, determined female character, she made her own rules and decisions, she was the dominant actor in her own life – she had issues, certainly and was far from perfect, but she was a strong character in a rich, diverse world with interesting and often surprisingly deep issues.

And then the ardeur landed, after which opening each book came accompanied by bow-chika-wow-wow porn music. The plot and the world took a back seat to random sex scenes and unnecessary and not very edgy orgies which occasionally sprouted new magic powers (humping to level up!) and people were disappointed that such a great series had devolved into such a plotless wonder.

And in response to the criticism, the straw man was raised that the critics were prudes who were against a sexually pro-active, powerful woman and there’d be no problem if the protagonist was a man. Which is a shame because it misses the actual complaint – that the books were a really well written, fascinating series of books that had all the plot and development cast aside. I don’t actually mind Meredith Gentry – because Meredith Gentry has been squeezing plot in between the endless sex scenes and occasionally humping to a new level of magic since book 1.

But let us examine this straw man a little closer – Anita is a sexually pro-active woman. Is she? Because I question this a lot.

Now, I very much like a book that includes a woman who is in charge of her own sexuality, has sex as and when she wants to, with whom she wishes, without pressure and without shame. I love that and praise that. But Anita Blake is not that woman, primarily because Anita Blake did not choose her sex life, did not seek it out – and most dramatically, did not consent to it.

That sounds extreme, but look at Anita’s sexual encounters. Start with the more casual of them, the one offs. The vast majority of these happened because the ardeur struck and Anita physically had to have sex – absolutely had to. If she didn’t she’d literally go mad, starve or drain energy from Nathaniel and Damien and kill them. She has to have sex now to save her life or the lives of people she cares about. If she had her own choice, completely un-coerced and without these supernatural pressures, would Anita have ever had sex with London or Byron or Requiem or Graham or Wicked or Truth? I don’t think anyone can claim that Anita would have chosen these sexual encounters, but the magic forced her. Do I even have to mention the weretiger orgy that happened under the influence of the Mother of All Darkness? Anita blacked out for that one and still has no memory of what she did/what was done to her.

And they’re not the only metaphysical emergencies that force Anita into sexual contact. Channeling Raina’s Munin (magical werewolf ghost) to heal forced to initiate sexual contact with Nathaniel (twice), Jamal, Jason and Gregory all, again, at times when she would not have consented to or sought sex with any of them. Healing her triumvirate has driven her to deep ardeur feedings with the heads of different shapeshifter packs, Donovan Reece of the swanmanes, Rafael of the wererats and even tried for Joseph of the werelions (who refused due to being monogamous. She actually refuses protection for him that would lead to his death for not having sex with her). Again, would Anita without pressure or coercion have chosen these sexual encounters? Given the character, I don’t think you can sensibly say Anita would have freely chosen this and that this sex was of her own un-coerced volition.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Review of Cursed Book Two of the Alex Verus Series by Benedict Jacka

Verus is back in good favour with the light mages and has settled into a routine of training his apprentice Luna.  He still worries about introducing her to other mages, but he is determined to teach her how to manage her curse.  It seems that things cannot run smooth in Verus' life for long, because he is quickly on the hunt to find out who is draining the magic from magical creatures.  That should be enough for him to deal with, but when Meredith shows up at his door being chased by a construct and asking for help, Verus has yet another problem to deal with.  Who is this woman and what is she really after?

His apprentice Luna is frustrated at the slow rate of her training and her lack of involvement with other mages.  More than anything, Luna wants control of her curse and to live a normal life. When Martin enters her life and offers Luna her hearts by using the monkey's paw - a magical object.  Martin's pull on Luna quickly places a wedge between her and Alex.  Verus draws in Sonders for research, but can the two of them find enough reason to convince Luna that Martin is dangerous? To make matters worse, Arachne, one of the few beings he is comfortable around is in serious trouble.

Is you can probably guess, Jacka packed a lot of action into Cursed.  In Fated we got a lot of information about Alex's backstory, but in in Cursed, it felt like Jacka stopped developing his character.  Alex basically moved from situation to situation with very little insight or development.  One of the things that made him unique in the first book was his magic, but I found that in Cursed that Jacka put a gun into his hands far too often.  One of things which distinguished Alex from other male protagonists, is that he had to reason his way out of  issues, but in Cursed this was greatly diminished.

Falling Skies, Season 1, Episode 8: What Hides Beneath

Captain Weaver is having a nightmare mixed with his memories, it’s interesting to see a more human side to Weaver as the series develops and he becomes less of an obstacle everyone has to work around.

Time for a meeting with Colonel Porter and Tom, but the nightmare leaves Weaver distracted during the meeting. Apparently the Skitters are regrouping to the large structures being built over the cities. Porter thinks they can’t wait to see what happens or what their next move is and plans to send a co-ordinated attack against the structure in 4 days. The plan is to lead a unit against each leg and blow it up – despite several divisions being dead or missing.

Pope (who isn’t dead), still riding the redemption train, is put forwards as an explosives expert to help them blow up the structure. At least they don’t trust him. Pope gets to go play with Uncle Scott to make explosives (and turn on a Mech gun by mistake)

At the same time Weaver is disturbed by some of the pictures Rick is drawing as part of his art therapy. A picture of a row of houses that Rick gives to Weaver. On his own, Weaver continues to take pills and stares at the picture. Rick is worried about Weaver and whether he’s sleeping. Weaver overhears and objects – and decides he’s going to lead the scouting party as he has experience in construction and will know best where to hit the legs of the structure. Tom doesn’t like it, but Weaver has decided

Outside Hal finds ben exercising – and he’s managed to keep going for nearly 3 hours.  Ann does a medical on him and finds not only are his spikes not going away, but the flesh around each spike is so tough even a scalpel can’t cut it and Ben doesn’t feel anything when she does it. Ben and Ann also discuss how people are afraid of the Harnessed and how Rick is completely non-communicative.

At the structure Weaver can see it’s made through Earth materials and processes. And they see a brand new alien – tall, thin and bipedal that the Skitters bow to. They wonder at the implications of this – and run into some human survivors. Sonya has never left Boston and has lived near the tower months. More debate on whether to ignore her, help her or see what she knows – mission vs compassion is an ongoing theme with Tom and Weaver. Sonya was captured by the aliens but they didn’t want her and discarded her, though most of her fellow prisoners disappeared.

Blood Ties: Season 1, Episode 11: Post Partum

So, Coreen wants an advance (which Viki won’t give) which results in lots of passive aggressive stomping for the episode.

And we have a woman in a pool describing how she wants to be a mother until dark murky stuff is dropped in the water. Yes, it’s going to be a creepy supernatural pregnancy episode – it’s a trope that rises over and over again. This becomes Vicki’s case when the father turns up and describes how his wife went from talking to the foetus to conversing with it. Which lead to her being checked into the clinic full time – and he can no longer get in touch with her. She’s there of her own free will, but he thinks she’s fallen into the grip of a fertility clinic cult.

So Vicki needs to go undercover and she can’t take Henry to pose as her husband because of his whole combusting in daylight thing. So she goes to see Celluci, causing his colleague to choke on her coffee with her novelly worded request. He also shows (it contains the word “holistic” this is proof that they are devious. No-one honestly uses the words “holistic” or “synergy” it’s known). Mike seems very disturbed at the idea of Vicki being lovey and sweet – which amuses me immensely

Undercover they go and check Vicki into the clinic for a month. Which is already suspicious considering how quickly and easily they took them as patients. This involves lots of amusing awkwardness of course. Vicki gets to meet one of her fellow cultists who is so perky I’m amazed Vicki doesn’t just strangle her. She also learns that there are “Alpha Mommies” who spend all their time alone! And isn’t that just perky and super! I can’t wait for Vicki to strangle these people.

Meanwhile Coreen and Henry are interviewing previous clients (and Coreen trying to get Henry to buy her blood) of the clinic who seem fine to meet in the middle of the night. His wife has since died in an accident and it’s just him and his demo- err, child (nah, let’s be honest here, it’s a demon-child. This doesn’t like we’re going to have much of a twist here). Henry leaves quickly because he can smell blood on the demon-child that is not his. Pets are apparently missing all over the neighbourhood.

Coreen goes to check other people who went to the clinic but many won’t talk to her. Re-interviewing the father of the demon-child and finds a picture of another baby born in the clinic which looks identical to Travis (the Demon-child) when he was born (I think, anyway. Babies don’t look all that different to me anyway). And his father describes how cold and inhuman the boy became.

Disney Princesses: New Drawings, New Problems

Fairy tales are in right now. It seems more and more on TV, in books and films, taking these old classics and re-imagining them in the modern world and in modern contexts. While it’s something we like to see, we also do think it has its flaws.

Recently we came across these series of images of Disney Princesses made bad ass. And that’s definitely something we support. We’re beyond tired of heroines whose role in their story is to lie back and wait passively for a prince to rescue them. We much prefer heroines who not only can rescue themselves - but won’t be kidnapped or imprisoned in the first place, not if you know what’s good for you! So these images in fighting poses and weapons looking mean? We like.

Except... why does being bad ass mean a woman has to lose her clothes? They’ve become tough, dangerous, mean fighters - and this involves fish-net stockings (Snow White), a loin cloth (Cinderella, Belle, Rapunzel), and a bared navel (pretty much all of them). And Sleeping Beauty (ye gods). We’ve seen this time and again, when a woman goes to fight she leaves her clothes behind. Can a woman’s clothes and a weapon not exist in the same picture?

This unnecessary sexualisation of women whenever they are pro-active seems to be part of a prevalent message that a woman cannot be powerful or aggressive without it relating to being sexual; she is reduced to sex.

And these images have other flaws when we look at the WOC

 Princess Tiana

The Princess and the Frog is fraught with problems from start to finish. Unlike the majority of the Disney Princesses, Tiana did not get to retire to a castle with her princess charming, she got to run a restaurant. We see her at the end of the movie serving food to people. It is not an accident that the first Black princesses did not get the fairytale ending. If that were not enough, she spends most of the movie as a frog. A frog people. You would think that any kind of revision would be be better than the original but that is not the case.

Tiana goes from being fully clothed in the Disney version to being heavily exposed. Why does sexualizing a character which has already been othered relative to the White princesses equal empowerment? You don’t need to be naked to kick ass. Tiana is also the only princess who was given a gun.  Am I really supposed to ignore the racial implications here because some artist wants to yell rah rah sisterhood of the travelling pantsuits?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Review: Broken by Kelley Armstrong. Book 6 of the Otherworld Series

Elena, Clay and Jeremy are contacted by an old acquaintance – Xavier, the Half-Demon guard from Stolen. When she was in the compound he did her a further, the debt remains unpaid. Of course, Xavier knows better to hold the debt over a werewolf so he offers them a deal – he helps them again in finding a rogue werewolf and they help him steal a letter – the From Hell letter connected to the Jack the Ripper case that is in a Sorcerer’s private collection.

It seems like a simple snatch and grab, albeit one that requires the werewolves’ unique abilities. But when they get the letter free, they find it is far more than it seems, with portal placed within it. From out of the portal a little of Victorian London comes through – including cholera, aggressive rats, and possibly Jack the Ripper himself – and a couple of zombies. All unleashed on an unsuspecting and unprepared Toronto.

The pack has no ties here, but is faced with a disaster they are responsible – but how much do they risk to fix it, especially with Elena being heavily pregnant?

I actually like the fact that this story is based on the characters screwing up. Seems odd to say since I often rail against character foolishness. But their screw-up isn’t based on (much) foolishness, there was no way, with their state of knowledge, that the characters could possibly have known the consequences of their actions. Even if they did know about Sorcerer magic, there’s no way they could have guessed or reasonably have expected the From Hell letter to be a part of that. It shows characters who are not perfect, are faced with major consequences that are their fault – and that they have both guilt and responsibility for. And it shows that sometimes, even with the best intentions, shit happens. It shows that characters can actually get it wrong and be flawed WITHOUT being Too Stupid To Live. Even when it’s character like Jeremy, renowned for his near perfect intelligence and planning, he can still be caught off guard by his own ignorance – no character is perfect, no-one knows everything and everyone can screw up without us having to shatter believability.

I also think they did a very good job of covering both reasonable guilt and responsibility without everyone curling into a small ball and wailing at the angst of it all.

The story was well paced, which is something I love about this series. They’re never rushed but never does the down time feel like it’s dragging or dull – which is especially hard to do in an investigation. Though there are leads that don’t go as far as expected (because no investigation does) each adds its own twist to the story and advancing the plot. We were introduced to some new characters including Zoe who is pretty fleshed out – and we ship Jaime in who is always a favourite of mine. With all these books just seeing all these characters we’ve come to know interacting with each other is great fun and seeing the full story and relationships develop really adds to the world. And through their helping each other we learn more about ther abilities, more about how the structures work without ever having to resort to info dumping or lecturing.

It was also interesting returning to the werewolf pack after the break with Paige, Lucas and Eve, so much time has passed and it would be interesting to see what had changed and evolved. And I do like Elena and Clay as characters when Clay isn’t playing Neanderthal man and epitomising the Hauptman Effect, which, to be fair, he didn’t in this book beyond the hovering over Elena’s pregnancy. The problem is I don’t think a lot did change and evolve from Stolen – yes there’s a lot easier relationship between Clay and Elena but, at the same time, everything is eclipsed by the huge great spectre of the ZOMG!PREGNANCY meaning that relationship, and the wider relationship with other pack members doesn’t get much showcasing.

Being Human U.K Season Three, Episode 8: The Wolf-Shaped Bullet

Okay folks, this is it - the season three finale.  Even though I have a good idea how this is going to end I am pretty tense.

In the jail, the a police officer opens the peep through area in the door and attempts once again to take a picture of Mitchell.  When he looks he sees, Mitchell but the camera does not pick him up.  He closes the peep through and leaves.  Mitchell again enlists Annie to help him mistake saying that as long as they don't have him that they don't have proof.  He knows it needs to happen before he is moved to maximum security but Annie tells him that she does not want him to escape. Mitchell says that they are going to kill him.  

George arrives at the police station but they won't even let him in the building.  What he does not know is that Herrick is sitting in a police car watching him. In the cell, Mitchell is swearing to Annie that the man who committed those murders does not exist anymore and that Annie gave him a reason to fight it and try to be human again.  Mitchell goes on to tell Annie that he was told in purgatory that if he brought her back that he would be killed by a werewolf and that is why he kept Herrick alive. He says that he almost wanted to let fate take its course but he fought it so that he could be with her. Annie responds that she should just let him rot there alone but she won't because she loves him. Annie says that he gives humans justice that he can have her.  Mitchell asks for how long because there's a bullet out there with his name on it. 

Herrick enters the cell wearing a uniform and says, "rule one of vampire club, do not get arrested."  Herrick tells Mitchell that he is putting the genie back in the bottle.  When Mitchell gets up to leave, Annie begs him to stay but he says that Herrick has the key on how to escape the curse. Mitchell discovers that he has killed the desk sergeant.  He asks if Herrick is back and Herrick points out that this is what he wanted.  Mitchell says that all he wanted was how to survive the curse. He points out that it cannot be complicated because he got Cara to do it.  Herrick tells him to check the corridor and when Mitchell does, he hits him in the head with the billy club, knocking him unconscious.

Back at the house, Tom comes in looking for McNair. He finds McNair dead in the attack and Nina on the floor.  Tom picks up the phone and calls for help. At the jail, Annie is sitting in the cell when an officer walks in and sees that Mitchell is gone.  She follows him out and learns about all of the dead people at the house. When she hears that a female in her late twenties is also hurt, Annie realizes that they are talking about Nina.  

She goes to the hospital and sees Nina on a gurney. Behind Nina, an officer dies on the table.  Annie walks over to his ghost and promises to help him, even as he says that it happens so fast. Suddenly his body sits up and starts to sing.  The body says that Annie must come to purgatory and that everything is coming apart.  It warns her that a wolf shaped gun is coming for Mitchell. The officers door appears and Annie says that she will come with him. He says that he is scared and Annie says that she is scared as well. 

We get a flashback to McNair writing the letter.  The letter tells Tom that somewhere in the house is the vampire that McNair has always been searching for. We get a flash to McNair wrapped in white sheets with Tom holding his body.  They are lying on the grass together. Tom begins to dig a hold and we hear McNairs voice say that if he had killed Herrick that he would have been able to stop. He says that he wants Tom to lead a decent life one that is normal and mundane.  He says that he was selfish and that he turned Tom into a weapon for his own war. He wants Tom to be human now and to stop this chaotic violent life.  Even as McNair says these words, Tom is caring a stake. He asks that he not be avenged and admits his love for him. Tom scents a shirt and leaves to track Herrick.

When Mitchell comes to, he finds himself in a cage with Herrick outside of it. Herrick says that he is confused as to why Mitchell let George tear him apart to save humanity and then committed a mass murder. Herrick says that he wants to pick up where he left off and he does not now where Mitchell's loyalties lie. Herrick wants to stamp out the vein of decency in Mitchell and tells him that everyone has something that makes them vulnerable.

In purgatory, Lia approaches Annie, asking if she got her message. Annie asks what is going on and Lia brings her into a bedroom and adjusts a television.  On it we see Mitchell in the cage talking to Herrick. It seems that she has brought Annie there to watch Mitchell' death. Annie watches as Mitchell says that he will do what he has to survive and will side with Herrick for now.  Herrick tells him that he has to prove it and brings George into the cage.  Annie realizes that this means that George is the one who is going to kill Mitchell.

Mitchell tells Herrick that George won't fight him and that it's not a full moon. Herrick decides to up the ante by telling George that Mitchell is the killer of the box tunnel 20. George does not react and so it seems that he always suspected.

Back in the room, Lia tells Annie that there is no prophesy and that what is happening is what Mitchell created because he believed what she told him. Annie is horrified.

Teen Wolf, Season 2, Episode 3: Ice Pick

We begin with Allison fuelling up her car at a petrol station and giving some suspicious side-eye at the black extra on his bike. He leaves and then all the lights go off! Allison’s not one to miss a trick and hurries into her car, she can score a few tank of fuel here! (Or, possibly, she’s scared, but I like my interpretation better). But on getting in she finds she’s dropped her keys and has to get out and grab them (Allison, you fail at getaways).  Rather than leave when she retrieves her keys she decides to stay outside her car and look around in panic while the background music overdoes the violin section. Allison, you could be home by now if you’d just get in the car and drive! Alas, she does not and someone manages to sneak up on her and drop a bag over her head.

She is taken to a dark room in an abandoned building, tied to a chair and gagged opposite her father who has been treated them same way. Oooh, Argent killing? Sorry, Allison, I’m on the bad guy’s side. A spooky voice asks them to contemplate what her murderous father would do if Allison got bitten.

Her father goes all hulk and breaks the chair – and Bennett (the black extra from earlier) hands him a phone that is playing the spooky recorded message.  Yes it was all a set up by the Argents – because kidnapping and terrifying your daughter is such a wonderful bonding experience. Daddy Argent says this is the beginning of her training, that he knows she intervened to protect Isaac last episode and that they will try to kill Isaac again.

He plays the innocent card AGAIN by claiming it isn’t his decision – and he shows the progressive history of the family. Because wars are started by men, (broadly true - but Aunty Kate wasn't exactly the gentlest being on the planet) they train their sons to be soldiers and their daughters to be leaders. It’s the women who make the decisions in the family (apparently leadership training involves kidnapping. Oh and it looked and awful lot like Grandaddy Argent making the decisions last week).

As she leaves, Bennett congratulates her on how fast she managed to cut her bonds. And looo, we have a love triangle hoving into view.  She leaves and Bennett is attacked by what is clearly the lizard creature from last week – that also seems to have poisonous claws.

At school they apparently have a climbing wall and Allison and Scott are doing flirting/racing/banter thing. Next up is Stiles who is fine and Erica who panics half way up. Lydia gets to be a Mean Girl and remind us all that she’s very intelligent, Allison is concerned because Erica is epileptic… I’m not sure how relevant that is. She jumps down, her classmates mock her but Scott looks on in concern. Everyone goes to the changing room – the coach tells everyone to keep an eye out for Isaac (who is still suspected for the murder of his father) and Stiles and Scott dismiss it as Derek’s problem – which is overheard by Jackson who’s probably not best pleased that there’s another werewolf when he couldn’t change. And Erica returns to the climbing wall alone, without mats or safety harness. She starts to fit half-way up and Scott, in the changing room starts shaking. She falls but he is there to catch her. He sensed it before it happened.

Erica ends up in hospital, talking to the snarking the nurse (Scott’s mother, Melissa) and then Derek takes her, medical trolley and all. She doesn’t’ seem overly panicked about this, nor does anyone else in the hospital. What, can you just come in an pick a patient to take for a ride? She does start to worry when he takes her to the morgue. Derek has a deal for her – he can make her epilepsy go away, the seizures, the need to take pills – and make her stronger, faster, better than before. Yes, he’s still on a recruitment drive for new werewolves.

Jackson  and Mike are in a class watching a video explaining what vaccination is (really? They’re at least 16, and they’re just now studying vaccines? Maybe the school should spend less money on climbing walls and more on the science classes). Which seems to make him think about why he didn’t turn into a werewolf (he had been clawed in series 1). And Matt is irritated by his broken camera. Jackson is also irritated by Lydia and accost her after the class demanding to see her bite mark and questioning why nothing happened to her. He blames his own inability to become a werewolf on her, leaving her a sobbing wreck. Can something please eat Jackson now – here lizard lizard lizard.

Wednesday Reboot: Shaun of the Dead

Shaun of the Dead was released in 2004 and stars Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Kate Ashfield.  Shaun of the Dead is yet another zombie movie that attempts to be a romantic comedy.  Shaun lives with his three roommates.  He has a girlfriend but his life is truly disorganized.  He spends much of his time drinking at the local pub or playing video games with his life long friend Ed.  Everyone around Shaun blames Ed for his failure to get his life together and this includes their other roommate Pete. For his part, Ed does nothing but sell drugs, and play video games for a living.

After Shaun fails to make a reservation at a restaurant for  himself and Liz at a fancy restaurant.  The only future she can see with Shaun is getting drunk night after night at the Winchester.  Heart broken that he could not convince Liz to come back to him, Shaun and Ed proceed to get roaring drunk at the Winchester.  When Shaun wakes up the next morning, after stumbling around unaware for awhile, he learns that a zombie apocalypse has happened.  The news suggests that everyone should stay indoors and away from infected people but all Shaun can think about his is mother and Liz.  Ed and Shaun decide to go and get them and then head to the Winchester because Ed wants to end up some place that he knows and where he can smoke.

When they get to Barbara's (read: Shaun's Mother) place, she refuses to leave because her Shaun's stepfather Philip does not think it's necessary. Shaun tries to get his mother to leave Philip behind because he has been bitten but Barbara will not hear of it.  They get into Philip's jaguar and head for Liz's.  Once there it takes some convincing but Shaun manages to get Liz and her two roommates Dianne and David to accompany him.  Before agreeing to leave however, Shaun and David have another argument about David being in love with Liz.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Review: Intangible by J. Meyers

Sera and Luke are siblings born with odd powers – he can see the future and she has the power to heal. They don’t know where they come from but they do know they need to keep them secret – at least, so they learned when they dared to confide in their grandmother.

But some secrets can’t last forever – especially as there’s a whole supernatural world out there they never knew about that is very interested in them and their unique powers. A world that begins to intrude when Luke predicts disaster – his own sister’s death.

Sera is also dealing with her own powers, her drive to heal causes people to like her automatically which isolates her – as she never knows whether someone’s emotion is genuine or she is exploiting her power. She has earned the animosity of the vampires and their terrible queen by being a potent weapon against them – and there’s a new boy in town who seems to be both attracted to her and immune to her powers; for the first time a genuine relationship seems possible.

But very little is as it seems – and even their closest friends and family are keeping secrets from them

The world is very rich and diverse and connected nicely. We have the fae – apparently several factions, gifted humans, vampires, Lillith, magic, an entire parallel world and who knows what else. In fact the closing chapter of the book suggests there’s a lot more on the horizon besides. The information is doled out really well. No long lectures, no  convoluted info dumps, no dubious “as you know” lectures – and nothing told we don’t need to know. Every piece of information is relevant and just enough to keep you wanting more.

The pacing was really well done – the story kept both tense and interesting without having a lot of down time. We had a large chunk at the beginning where everyone was keeping their secrets, but things were still happening, plots were being advanced, characters were being developed, their powers were being show cased – the book kept moving even when not much plot-wise was happening. The story itself isn’t amazingly original – bad guys are hunting the Chosen Ones who don’t realise how special they are – but nor is it following too many old patterns and it brings enough richness, enough of a diverse world and enough original features for it not to be tired or over done. It’s an old concept but redressed nicely with unique elements.

The characters are interesting – they’re not perfect and their powers aren’t flawless gifts. They have a bit of Chosen One narrative about them which, so far, hasn’t added up to anything beyond people wanting to kill them in many painful ways, so it’s not irritating or frustrating (I generally don’t like “chosen one” narratives because it conveys a specialness on the character they don’t have to earn or do anything to be worthy of it – they just are because they’re the Chosen Ones). They’re generally, sensible – perhaps a little too much doing things on their own when unnecessary. Their relationships are real and they examine some real implications about their powers. While I think Sera angsts a little excessively about the implications of her powers she does raise a very real issue of how you can form a relationship of any kind with someone when you suspect your powers may be warping their emotions – it means any relationship, especially a romantic one, is built on a shaky foundation of coercion; I’m glad to see that acknowledged.

If I have a complaint about the world and characters is that there is an excess of secrecy going on. Given their powers, I don’t see why Fey – or anyone – could not have clued them in on their specialness a little sooner or at least given them a clue as to why they have their powers and what they mean (or even some hints on how to get the most out of them since there’s some suggestion of development). The secrecy seems more for the form than anything

I don’t find it entirely realistic that everyone just flocks around Sera in joyous appreciation. I don’t see any particular reason why Jonas and Marc should be so utterly taken with her. It’s almost on first meeting as well, they see her and suddenly they’re enraptured to the point where they’re willing to sacrifice their own lives to help her and protect her.

Similarly, after a relatively short period of association, Marc is already close enough in Sera’s affections to break her heart. The romance and friendship development seemed rushed – we had their undying loyalty before she’d really earned it

And both Luke and Sera are pretty spunky. I almost laughed (which rather ruined the tension of the book) at the big dramatic end scene when Fey has everything under control – but no, Luke is going to take a walk, all by himself and get into trouble! Don’t worry, Fey will fix it! But no, now Sera has gone off alone and got into trouble! Fey, come fix this now! I think Fey should certainly have doled out some slapping there.

Inclusionwise we have Jonas, the vampire who is black. He’s a badass which is something of a stereotype, but he’s second only to Lillith in the vampire hierarchy, he has an awesome, albeit inappropriate sense of humour. He’s quite a full fleshed out character – though he does sacrifice and risk a great deal for Luke and Sera despite not really knowing them well enough for it.

On the GBLT front we have one very minor character (who seems to be a hanger on of the siblings) who may be gay… or not. He faces homophobic bullying (which the straight protag rescues him from) but there’s no indication of him actually being gay – or anything else for that matter.

The book has made a really good start intruding this series. We’ve seen the world without being dumped on it, we’ve seen the characters and they aren’t annoying. We’re introduced to a meta plot and a concept without it being convoluted. The book, the story, the characters, the world and the pacing are all very good and worth a read – and we’re set up for the series with new plot hooks and so much more to learn. I look forward to reading the future books.

A copy of this book was provided by the author to review.