Saturday, October 6, 2012

All 4 Walking Dead Season 3 Webisodes

The Almighty Johnsons Season Two, Episode Eleven: The House of Jerome

In the last episode, Gaia was kidnapped right in front of Axl.  This episode opens with Axl running into the bar and calling for Mike.  Mike, Zeb, Michele and Bryn coming running out and Axl struggles at first to give Mike an accurate description of the kidnappers, but eventually he remembers the license plate and they hop into a van to track Gaia down.

At Anders office, a woman named Natalie comes in searching for him and Dawn says that he won't be back until tomorrow. Natalie leaves her card and Dawn realises that she works for a furniture company which is looking for representation. Dawn sits down and calls Anders, who is in bed with Helen. Anders says that he can come in tomorrow, but Dawn pushes him to get out of bed by stressing that this is a good business opportunity.

The Gods arrive at house and find the front door open and so walk right in. They find Gaia laughing and having tea. Gaia asks them if they want to see how the day can get weirder and invites them back to see Jerome. They meet Jerome, and Gaia introduces everyone by their God names.  Gaia has been kidnapped by the living embodiment of Māori Gods.

Anders walks into his office and when he doesn't immediately see Natalie, he is not impressed.  When Natalie leaves the bathroom a still very drunk Anders tries to charm her, though he cannot remember the first thing about the woman.

Back at the house, Mike wants to know why they have kidnapped one of their Goddesses.  It turns out that there are two prophesies and the Māori believe that Gaia is actually Papatūānuku. They believe Papatūānuku will rise from the earth, meet with her God Māui and they shall all gain their God powers. Axl interjects to assert that Gaia is one of them, but when he asks her to confirm this she responds, "Axl, I have no idea about anything anymore. My whole life has been a lie since the moment Bryn snatched me from my parents."  This causes the Māori to stand up in anger. When Gaia admits that Bryn raised her, George points that Brynn raised her after he killed her mother and her father. Brynn say, "I'm so sorry," before running away and George tells the other Māori not to bother with the chase. 

Everyone decides to have a drink and Axl takes Gaia to the side to suggest that they should go home. They don't get to talk long because they are quickly interrupted by Jerome, who wants to know if Axl is trying to steal Papatūānuku away from the Māui. Axl again asserts that Gaia is not Papatūānuku and is in fact only his flat mate, but Jerome cuts him off and says, "Papatūānuku is nobody's flat mate and she is all powerful."  It turns out that Jerome is only actually a demi-god and this causes Michele to ask, "if Papatūānuku is all powerful, then why is she bothering with a demi god?" Jerome does not directly answer her question and instead gives some pointless bullshit philosophical response, which causes Gaia to run.  When Axl and Jerome attempt to follow Gaia, Michele warns them off.

Mike gets on the phone and leaves a message for Olaf, though he believes that this is pointless.  George enters the room and says that they have liberated Gaia, which Mike denies. Mike says they don't even know if they are real gods and then he goes on to ask what Punga is the God of.  When George challenges Mike about his powers, Mike points out that he found them. George says that Māori Gods are very rare and Mike counters with saying that they found Gaia first.  George gets the last word by saying that they were there first. I like the fact that George pointed out that they are the people who are indigenous not the Norse descendants. They agree to hold a hui to discuss the situation and Mike et al leave.

At a bar, Dawn is lecturing Anders on how straight laced the people he is about to meet are. Anders tell her not too worry and claims to have taken appropriate steps. Natalie arrives and shortly thereafter Helen, who he introduces as his wife. 

When Gaia returns to the flat, Zeb jokes about creating a survivors of kidnapping group and points out that her father is in a bad way. Gaia says that Brynn is not her father and leaves the room.  When Zeb tells Axl that he believes this is cold, Axl responds, "it's a long story Zeb."  

At the bar, Mike and Michele walk in to find Olaf waiting. Mike tells Olaf that they met Māori gods and wants to know if Olaf was aware of their existence. Olaf says no and that he is here now to formulate the rescue plan. Michele points out that they already rescued Gaia. When Olaf says that this is good, Mike tells him that it's not because Gaia is as likely to be their goddess as theirs. Mike is pissed and says, "you are a fucking oracle and are supposed to see things coming, not wave to them as they recede into the distance. Oh bye bye prophecy, sorry I missed ya. You're always late, loaded and generally retarded when it comes to having your shit together. As far as being a family oracle goes, you're crap mate. You're a fucking waste of space and the next time you bugger off surfing when we need you, do us all a favor and don't come back." I don't know about you, but I didn't see that coming at all.  All of the Johnsons while usually irritated with Olaf, have always pretty much tolerated the fact that he is irresponsible. Also of course, I have to mention that the use of the word retarded is absolutely ableist.

Anders is at the restaurant and is attempting to charm Nicole, when she interrupts to ask about his family.   When Anders says the names of the Johnson brothers, Nicole points out that they are good Scandinavian names.  Anders says that their forefathers came for Norway in the 1870's and Nicole asks if they came on the Hofting - which is the ship that the Norse Gods left Norway on. Nicole covers her questions by claiming that she made it her business to read up on New Zealand, especially any links to Norway. Anders admits that his family came on the Hofting and Nicole adds that they were among the first Norwegians in New Zealand.  This should be setting off alarm bells for Anders, but he seems to just be blithely going along. 

Friday, October 5, 2012

Alphas Sneak Peak

Review: Into the Woods by Kim Harrison

The first half of this book contains a series of short stories set in the Hollows world. And I think they do some excellent jobs as short stories – filling in the gaps of the character’s development. They tell the story of things we know happened in their past that we’ve heard about, that has often been mentioned, but which we haven’t actually seen. Because we’ve read the Hollow’s series we know that they are pivotal moments in the character’s past and really add to what makes them the characters they are and what motivates them.

So we see Rachel when she first summoned Pierce. Her struggle in still recovering from her illness and the constant battles against fatigue which, in turn, drive her to prove she is as strong and physically capable of those around her. Her resistance to a quiet “academic” life as, in some way, giving in to that weakness. It also really characterises and adds depth to her relationship with her brother.

We see Ivy first framing Arthur, her supervisor which certainly becomes a major element in later books as well as her interviewing Mia the Banshee for the first time. I think this story is excellent not just for showing us two iconic events in the Hollows series, but also for displaying vampire culture at its most blatant. I don’t think we learn over much about Ivy, certainly not beyond what we already do – the broken, damaged person that Piscary abused and the problems that left her with – but it did really show how much such abuse fits into the vampire world and how it is an expected part of vampire politics and, through that, the IS. The expectation that a rising living vampire has an obligation to give up their blood and their bodies, and how harmful this exploitation and abuse can be to their psyches.

The stories I thought were most revealing were both looking through Jenks’s eyes – just seeing things from the point of view of the Pixie, their culture, their size, their power and seeing through Trent’s eyes as he claims his daughter back. After so long with him being the cold hard manipulator, the almost antagonist, it’s such a change to actually see who he is, his motivations, his beliefs, his worries – and through them to gain an insight into Elven culture, perhaps the Inderlander species we’ve seen the least of. The same applies to seeing Ceri first becoming Al’s familiar – these were the 3 stories that shed more light into corners of Inderland we hadn’t seen very much.

At the same time, if you have read the Hollow’s series, this book won’t add anything. Everything in these books has been referred to or inferred to some degree in the main plot line. The extra information added does nicely flesh things out and let us see their pasts rather than merely hear it reported or remembered; but it adds nothing new, nor, particularly, does it develop the characters since we know this about them. It is still nice to see these moments we know defined their lives, nice to hear it from their own mindsets and especially nice to step outside of Rachel’s POV and see what the characters around her think – gaining gems like Ivy’s respect for witch magic or Rachel’s determination to overcome her physical weakness and definitely Jenk’s pixy-eye view.

It’s also worth noting for people who have bought anthologies that these short stories appear in different anthologies Kim Harrison has contributed to. Double check if you don’t want to buy the same story twice.

Supernatural, Season 8, Episode 1: We Need to Talk About Kevin

Dean is back from Purgatory. Covered in dirt and blood, armed and ready to shoot some helpless campers, but he’s back.

4 days, a good shower, some hitch-hiking and a good sound track (don’t judge my music choices) and he’s dug up a grave. Apparently a matter of some urgency since his arm is glowing red and throbbing very nastily. He slices across it and pours the red good that comes out across the bones – there’s a flash and a man appears, a vampire. A vampire Dean’s friendly with, by the hug and the agreement to go their separate ways now they’re free from Purgatory.

Sam sneaks out of a woman’s house(and her dog) – and bed – to get in the Impala and make a trip to the old safe house – where he is accosted by Dean pouring holy water on him, borax and cutting him with a silver knife (demon, leviathan and shapeshifter testing), Sam tries to say hello (silly Sam, checking to see if you are a demon is how Dean says hello) before the exasperated Dean tests himself to prove he’s the real Dean as well.

Dean has spent the whole year in Purgatory, running for his life and surviving among the monsters. Sadly Castiel didn’t make it – though Dean is very cagey about the details (so he WILL be coming back. You hear me!? HE WILL!)

Sam has spent the year… not hunting. Alone, with his whole family killed, no Bobby, no Dean, no Castiel, Sam stopped hunting. Which Dean, after a year of fighting monsters for his life, isn’t amused by – and is even less amused by the fact Sam didn’t even look for him. Relations become… rather strained.

They become a little more strained when Dean goes through the mobile phones Sam abandoned and finds messages from Kevin Tran, (the Prophet and Sole Keeper of God’s Word on Earth) asking for Sam and slowly degrading as he was completely abandoned, eventually stopping to try because it had been 6 months without any contact. Dean says Kevin is their responsibility and is extremely pissed that Sam couldn’t even pick up a phone when he was called – something even Sam agrees to and investigates the call so they can begin tracking Kevin down.

On the road Dean smells the crime of dog smell in his car – and zones out over a vending machine and again in the hotel room. Clearly he’s not adapting well to the peace after constantly fighting for his life for a year. And things are not all rosy between him and Sam about him giving up on fighting the monsters. Working past that they go check on Kevin’s ex-girlfriend , Channing, who hasn’t seen him in a year and, since he’s not going to Princeton any more, isn’t particularly interested in him. That could be because she’s a demon who then uses her room-mate’s blood to communicate with her bosses that Dean is back.

Supernatural Season 7 Review

 I think this series started shakily. The first episode was interesting – with Castiel as the new super-powerful, but highly confused and rigid god (hey, killing hate groups and hypocritical politicians? Totally Team Castiel here) who demanded everyone kneel and love him (oh Castiel, I’m already there) who quickly succumbed to the power within him and sends all that power back to Purgatory. I was confused, they seemed to have just thrown away the entire set up of last season’s dramatic finale.

Then the Leviathan were introduced as the season’s big bad. Ancient monsters imprisoned in Purgatory to stop them taking over and eating everything. And Castiel appeared to be killed off. I won’t lie, there may have been a moment of hyperventilating panic there.
Thankfully I had reserve pictures to desperately cling to while I waited for his return
After this not only did we have a large number of episodes without Castiel (the horror! The horror!) but we also seemed to wander for a while without doing a whole lot about the Leviathan at all. In some ways this is similar to previous seasons – the meta hangs around in the background, being developed through research, 3rd parties or as they learn truly what it’s all about and find a solution – and in the meantime  they get on with killing the monster du jour

But it felt odd to me that there was so little effort to go after the Leviathans after their weakness to Borax was exposed. Does it kill them? No, but spraying them, cutting off their heads and separating them (burying them separately in concrete perhaps) would take them out of the picture for a long long time, which is a tactic they’ve used before on big-bads they couldn’t kill. Frankly, the Leviathan’s powers seem to be limited to shapeshifting, strength and near-invulnerability – they don’t even have the nifty telekinesis or pyrokinesis powers that demons have. Their invulnerability was the only thing about them that made them such a big, bad enemy compared to some of the things the Winchesters have fought and, really, spraying them with soapy water and then decapitating them while helpless makes them easier to disable than… well, just about everything they’ve ever fought ever. C’mon, that’s how you kill vampires – only they can’t be disabled by easily available household cleaning products! You’ve gone after monsters that required PHOENIX ASH before now, or Samuel Colt’s gun or even for Sam to OD on demon blood – but charging in with borax is too challenging? Get some hoses, spike the sprinkler system, grab a super-soaker, they’re a super powerful enemy that can be defeated with SOAP, get to it already!

In light of this, once the weakness was discovered, I found it odd that there was no assault, no attempt to whittle down Leviathan numbers, no real attack against the Leviathan. For many episodes they’d stumble across the Leviathan and/or Frank (their awesomely good computer expert who is extremely paranoid and an amusing character) would give them an update on the Leviathan’s plans while Sam and Dean got on with other matters. In fact, their ultimate weapon against the Leviathan wasn’t something they sought, it fell into their laps by sheer chance and coincidence which felt awfully clumsy as well.

Neighbors Season One, Episode Two: Journey to the Center of the Mall

This episode opens with a dream sequence of the Weavers walking through the neighborhood and getting along with the  Zabvronians.  When they get to the driveway of Larry Bird and Jackie Joyner-Kersee, they discover that their children Max and Abby have been tied up.  Larry says, we got we came for and Jackie adds, by that we mean your children. When Max starts to scream for help, Debbie wakes up. Marty tries to assure her that the Zabvronians don't want their children, but she insists they head over to Larry and Jackie's house.

When the Weavers arrive at Larry a Jackie's, the Zabvronians make it clear that they don't want their children and are happy to answer any questions they have.  When Debbie brings up Max, Larry says again, that they would never abduct one of their children and certainly not Max, because he cannot do math. Jackie gives her word as a mother not to harm the Weaver children.  Marty then asks a series of questions, which are clearly getting on Larry's last nerve.

Back home, Debbie sees Jackie in the window and complains that the Zabvronians are always watching them.  Marty blows it off and says that neighbors are always weird. Debbie reminds Marty that not all neighbors are from another planet.  Marty asks Max and Abby if they are excited for school and they both say yes.  When Amber makes her appearance, it is clear that she is not happy and she is very sarcastic to her mother. When asked why, Amber says, "I don't know, I don't know. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I spent the last year trying to become friends with the popular kids at my old school and now I have to start over again, all while living next to the cast of district 9."  I don't understand why she is taking her frustration out on her mother, because it was Marty who made the decision to move there without consulting any one. It seems to me to be yet another trope promoting the idea that all teenage girls hate their mothers. 

Debbie goes back to the window and once again looks at Jackie. Jackie complains to Larry that the Weavers are always watching them. Larry replies, "ignore them, they're animals." Jackie is deeply concerned that the Weavers will tell people about them. Larry admits that he is not at ease with the Weavers and finds their names ridiculous.  He also points out that the Weavers "are always yelling at their filthy children." Jackie admits that the Weaver household seems chaotic.  Larry believes that the less time they spend with the Weavers the better, but Jackie feels that it is already to late because Reggie Jackson is swooning over Amber.  Larry then admits that Dick Butkus has started following Max and Abby around.  Jackie tells Larry that the children are starting to ask to go to school and this shocks him.  Jackie wonders if they had chosen more friendly accents, if they would be less wary of them. She then goes through a series of accents which Larry quickly declares are much too sexy or annoying.  I have to admit that this scene was cute for what it was.

Dick Butkus shows up at the Weavers in full golfing regalia in the hopes of enlisting their help to talk Larry Bird and Jackie Joyner-Kersee, into allowing them to attend human school. The Weavers decide to help out but they are rebuffed by Larry, who believes his kids are getting a good education at home. Jackie Joyner-Kersee says, "husband we may be here for a long time, I think socializing with children our age might be good for our loin fruit."  Debbie supports the idea of the "loin fruit" interacting in the belief that the better the Zabvronians know them, the harder it will be for them to eat them. Debbie reminds Marty of the year they got a live turkey and how hard it was to eat him. Jackie Joyner-Kersee announces, "like it or not, earth is our home now and like it or not, our children will attend school."  It seems that we have shifted from the first episode, where Larry Bird had the final say on everything. After a moment of celebration, Reggie asks if there is something they must do at school to avoid drawing attention to themselves, and Debbie suggests some new clothes.  Debbie asks if their clothing which is meant to make them blend into the golf community, makes them look like Zabvronians and Marty responds, "no, it makes them look like nerds." Dick Butkus cries out, "but I don't want to look like a nerd." Debbie promises to help but Marty says, "honey the little Asian one maybe, but the redhead, I think he's beyond help."  Debbie counters saying that this is what neighbors do, they help one another and they do not abduct each other.  This irritates Larry who replies, "get off it, we don't want your dumb children."   Debbie replies, "they're not dumb, a little slow, not dumb. This will be a bonding experience. We'll go shopping." Debbie encourages the kids to clap and Larry Bird tries to stop them, but the kid revert back to their natural form. Marty says, "you know what? They're going to blend right in."

Submitting A Book for Review

'159/365: Books' photo (c) 2007, Magic Madzik - license:
Every week we receive several requests for book reviews by authors - which we’re always really happy to receive despite our rather huge backlog (it’s almost terrifying but we will get to them all eventually). Most of these requests are wonderful and there’s no problems but some of the pitches are... bemusing.

Lying about the Book’s Genre

The first thing that always bemuses me is people who lie to us about the genre of their book. We read Urban Fantasy. Yes, we can stretch to other speculative fiction but, for the most part, we’re really focused on Urban Fantasy. This works for the author as well - if we don’t enjoy your genre, then we’re not likely to be enthused by your book.

So I can’t imagine what would possess an author to tell us a book is Urban Fantasy when it isn’t. Do they think we’ll reach the end of the book, realise the vampire we were told about don’t actually appear, and be happy about this? If you promise me vampires, I expect vampires.

Second book in a Series

I’m reading along and I’m sure I’ve missed something. People are talking about things I don’t recognise and these characters clearly have history. Yes, the author has sent us book 2 or book 3 in a series - and not told us. At least give us a heads up and let us decide if we want to dive in.

So your book is existential is it?

One the most common descriptors that we read in pitches is  the word "existential".  The moment I see "existential" in a description I know that the book is going to be boring.  It usually reads as someone who has a passing interest in sociological theory without any real in-depth study.  Most of the ideas that they decide to include can be found in a first year sociology text book.  These ideas aren’t new or innovative and it makes it look like the author is struggling to include a concept that they themselves barely understand. It reads as pretentious.

Irrelevant Pre-amble

Recently we have received pitches where the author tries to convince us to read their work by telling us that they are donating a portion of the proceeds from their book to charity.  This normally comes along with links to an organisation. Look, we support various causes, but none of this is going to compel us to read your book and it reads as desperate. If you don’t think that your book is strong enough to attract our interest on it’s own, then you probably shouldn’t be sending it out for review. 

Similarly, authors can sometimes include epic long biographies, lots of news about their pet causes or even recent tragedies in their lives. I dislike the feeling of being “guilted” into reviewing a book or reviewing it kindly.

Editing the Finished Book

We are reviewers, not beta readers. The difference is that when you submit a book to us, is that we expect it to be the finished product. If we review a book and comment on any problems - especially  ones as major as terrible social justice fails or a plot that makes no sense - we don’t expect the author to email us to tell us that these problems have been changed and there’s now a brand new book.

What do you expect us to do? Re-read it? Edit the review? Even for minor matters like fixing the grammar and spelling issues or errata (which we understand people changing), we’re not going to go back and edit the review because you’ve edited the book. We expect the book to be a finished product.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Haven Sneak Peak!

Review: Blood Riders by Michael P Spradlin

 Jonas Hollister was a soldier in the army, having done his duty during the Civil war, he continued on with much less dangerous work – until checking some disappearing settlers leads him to Malachi, vampire, Archaic, blood sucking monster that destroys Hollister’s entire squad.

Hollister survives and makes the terrible mistake of telling the truth – which gets him thrown in military prison for several years. Until Malachi is more open and a secret branch of the government wants to recruit him – to hunt down Malachi, stop what he’s planning and stop any more towns being wiped off the map.

Shaniah is an Archaic from the old country, their leader in fact, a role she won over Malachi. Her people know how to survive – hide, hide from the humans and their numbers and their magic and their deadly technology. Unfortunately, Malachi doesn’t agree and thinks himself top of the food chain. His attempts to subjugate humanity will, in her eyes, only raise humanity’s wrath against her people. He must be stopped before the backlash destroys them.

Both Shaniah and Hollister are on the hunt to save both their people.

I didn’t expect to like this book much. A paranormal steampunk set in the old west. Now, I like steampunk and, obviously, I like the paranormal – but, I have to say, I really don’t like westerns and I have never read or watched one I’ve enjoyed. And I liked this book. The plot, characters and concept entirely engaged me despite my dislike of the setting – I have to applaud any book that can take elements of a genre I have no time for and still make me like it.

Paranormal Steampunk can be quite difficult to get right. It’s hard to set the balance between revelling in the beautiful steam-driven technical devices, the cultures and mores of the time and setting and then to insert supernatural elements. Balancing all three can be difficult to do well and usually one or other will suffer – or, all 3 will be balanced but so much effort will be spent on creating this perfect world that the story suffers.

This is one of those that hits the balance. The world is extremely reminiscent of the Old West – and not just the Old West of bad TV and Spaghetti Westerns , but the real Old West. It has the shiny brass, the nifty trains, the big, clever guns and the steam that so characterises steam punk. It has the historical references and places that mean you never ever forget exactly where it is set and who these people are. And we have sufficient attention devoted to the history and nature of the supernatural to give them weight and depth rather than them just being miscellious bad guys with fangs.

And through that we have a story. It’s not an original story by any means, human agent destroys evil monsters before they proliferate and take over the world. But it is a story with sufficient twists and with some realistic and engaging characters and enough attention to detail and setting to make it well worth the read. It’s well paced, with no deviations except what is necessary to fill the background. All the information is relevant even from the musings. There are some issues with “show don’t tell”, Shaniah in particular is prone to long internal monologues where, for narrative reasons, she decides to reflect on her history, her people’s history, her nature, her strengths and weaknesses etc which is a bit of an info dump. I always wasn’t sure that the senator as a secondary antagonist was particularly necessary especially as it didn’t actually add anything to the plot and dealing with it was so extremely anti-climactic. Still, it was interesting enough that it was a minor distraction rather than a derail and serves to put some lens on how the rest of the government and powers that be are affected by the monsters and by Hollister hunting them. As a balance, the action scenes are tight, well described, well balanced and really get the battling across.

Dark Angel, Season 1, Episode 15: Haven

Logan has a mission – to leave the city and check on some protestors who were killed and buried. To find out more he needs to talk to a source. But his usual source of passes, Matt Sung, doesn’t have the pull to get him a pass out of the city.

Max and Logan were planning a holiday in the mountains – which, as far as she’s concerned, is still on. Logan, back in his wheelchair, is not enthused with the idea of a rural trip at all. He’s all for backing out until Max reveals that she has passes to leave the city. Suddenly Logan changes his mind and he’d just love to go on a rural get away with Max. Uh-huh, you’d think he’d know better than to pull that with a transgenic killing machine.

On the way we can already see Logan’s dastardly plans, rather than going to the cabin he owns, they’re going to a completely different place in a cabin rented from a woman called Trudy. When they arrive they find a small town and we see how the pulse hit the rural areas, far from government centres and with little police force, a local militia enforces the peace and the curfews and tries to prevent the town being overrun with refugees who fled the city after the Pulse.

Max finds out what Logan is up to and they have a very predictable argument about being at work all the time and not being able to solve all the world’s problems, Logan going  off to speak to his source while Max stays in the cabin. She meets Sage, Trudy’s young nephew and they talk about their mutual nightmares of bad memories – and Max struggles to take her pills as her seizures start.

Logan’s contacts tap out, the man being unwilling to stick his neck out to come forwards and he joins Max and Sage at the local bar where Max is feeling a bit better after taking her pills and drinking lots of milk for the tryptophan. While playing pool, one of the men at the bar makes a comment about Max’s backside while she bends over the table and Logan moves to defend her honour. The man knocks Logan’s wheelchair over and Max turns round and beats the man and his friends into submission.

The next day Logan is in a snit. When max says she isn’t cold or hungry he accuses her of thinking him incapable because he’s in a wheelchair, especially after the bar fight. She angrily asks him how that was about him (they were, after all, commenting on her backside). She extends an olive branch that he stomps on so she leaves for a walk.

Logan speaks to his contact, Herman, an ex-policeman who was present when unarmed activists were murdered. He doesn’t want to talk and tries to justify the murders in the wake of the anarchy of the Pulse. People were rioting, looting and activists were “inciting” violence. He pointed out that rich people like Logan wanted their neighbourhoods to be protected during the chaos but expected them to be “nice.” While that clearly hits Logan hard but he refuses to allow that as a justification for the murder of unarmed people protesting against police brutality.

Writing Horror While Female

This is a Guest Post submitted to Fangs for the Fantasy

I'd like to thank Fangs for the Fantasy for having us.

Despite such lights as Mary Shelley, Shirley Jackson, Joyce Carol Oates, Tanith Lee and Suzy Mackee Charnas, and editors like Ellen Datlow, horror is perceived as a male field. There's even a Women in Horror month, February. But it's still generally accepted that women aren't as scary as the men.

I asked the founding members of the Literary Underworld, ( ) an independent author consortium, to talk about their experiences writing horror while female.

The three of us, Sara Harvey, Elizabeth Donald and myself, Angelia Sparrow, all write dark fantasy or horror. Yet, all three of us are consistently relegated to romance panels at conventions. Sara and I usually get the steampunk ones, but I'm always on the 11 PM sex panel, because I write erotic horror.  Elizabeth may have a zombie or vampire panel and Sara probably has a costuming one, but we almost always get at least one romance panel.

I write mostly GLBT, heavy on the paranormal and erotic horror. My gay Christmas werewolves may be peaceable pups, just wanting to be left alone and enjoy their short story series, but my post-millennialist vampires in Power in the Blood aren't averse to forcible conversions to bring about the Second Coming and their antagonists aren't shy about filling a megachurch knee-deep in blood to make sure it doesn't happen.

My first experience with the general attitude that men write horror, women write sexy vampires came at Hypericon. I stopped Brian Keene and Bryan Smith, two writers I read, who were working for a press I was researching to ask some questions. I said I had written a horror novel, with about as much sex as Smith usually had, and was interested in knowing some basic stuff about the publisher. The first words out of Keene's mouth (Smith's very quiet) were Are you sure it doesn't need to go to the romance imprint? I looked at them and said Let me give you two words: buzzsaw penis. The main character's reverse Prince Albert piercing turns into a buzzsaw threaded on a spindle of flesh. They both flinched, nodded and said, Yeah, horror.

In that instant, I felt proud of myself for making men who give me nightmares flinch, but I also felt deeply annoyed by having to prove myself and give away the biggest, baddest scene in order to do so.

But my single experience is nothing compared to what my friends have gone through in a systemic way.

Sara Harvey:

I dont necessarily consider myself a horror writer, per se.  I do like a bit of the creepy stuff and in my Blood of Angels series from Apex Publications, I definitely took things to dark places.

Two things came out of this particular experience for me.

The first was that The Convent of the Pure was reviewed by Publishers Weekly this is a really awesome step for a small-press like Apex and a relatively new author like me. I was completely thrilled to be noticed by such a prestigious reviewer.

The review was overall positive. Although I wasnt sure of the reviewer had actually read the book, all the way through, all 36,000 words of it. See, its a very dark fantasy that some might categorize as horror. There is a romantic relationship between the lead characters but sex never happens on the page, or anywhere in the book as one of the main characters is a ghost that haunts the other. I reiterate that NO SEX EVER HAPPENS IN THIS BOOK. It isnt even the least bit sensual, flirtatious, or smutty.

The two protagonists are both women.

This led the Publishers Weekly reviewer to declare my book fluffy lesbian erotica right after calling it gothic Steampunk.

Did I mention at no time is there sex in this book? For crying out loud, there isnt even KISSING. But it has lesbians and was written by a woman and therefore must be erotica, right?

Said review also felt the need to mention that Readers who aren't put off by the cheesecake cover illustration of buff, busty Portia will appreciate the mix of heat, horror and humor. So we had some fun with the cover, spoofing Penguin classics and pulp. Personally, I like it. It shows two strong women who happen to also be attractive and it illustrates a scene that happens in the book. AND no ones ass or boobs are hanging out and no one has a tramp stamp.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

George R.R. Martin Talks About Comics, Sci-Fi, & The Idea That Started Game of Thrones [VIDEO]

I found this video fascinating and simply had to share it with you.

The Legend of Rachel Petersen by J.T. Baroni

Christian Kane is a sports writer for the Pittsburgh Post Gazette and tonight is his big night.  After putting in years of work, he believes that he is going to be promoted to the new chief sports journalist.  With the promotion, he plans to buy a new home and live his dream life with his wife Shelby. What starts off as a night filled with hopes and dreams, ends when the job is given to another man.  Christian is livid and the very next day he quits his job. Shelby is naturally concerned but Christian tells her that he has a plan - he is going to write a book, but to do this, they need to sell their home and cash in as much of their savings as possible to live until he can get published.  Shelby is not excited by this idea but, decides to support her husband.

Christian buys a new laptop and sits down to write the next big vampire story, but after handing the first chapter to his wife to read, it's clear that all he has done is turn his vampire into a wide receiver.  When you have been a sports writer for years, old habits die hard. It's not until he comes across   Rachel Petersen's grave on his new property that Christian finally stumbles across the inspiration for his book.  He decides that he is going to tell the story of this young girl.

The novel then switches to Christian's book and we learn that Rachel died during the civil war. It is believed in the small Appalachian Mountain Range community where she lived that she killed herself after murdering her family.  When Seth and Thaddeus Yoder stumble onto Rachel's grave, they start a chain events which unleashes Rachel's ghost.  Is Rachel the vicious murderer, or is she an innocent victim who wants to clear her name?

The Legend of Rachel Petersen, is a scant one hundred and fifty-five pages long and I really enjoyed it.  The switch between Christian as protagonist to Thaddeus was really abrupt and I found it hard to get back into the story at first.  The setting completely changed, along with the language, and I was not prepared for this.  Similarly, the shift back from Thaddeus to Christian was also very abrupt but I found that change easier to deal with, probably because it was a switch back to present day.  The story of this terribly wronged young girl was tragic but so completely compelling.

Alphas Season Two, Episode Ten: Life After Death

This episode opens with home movies of Dani as a little girl, playing on the beach to the theme of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.  Rosen is picking out caskets.  Hicks is in his office and Bill and Gary stop by.  Bill tells Hicks that he has to eat and Gary suggests that he try screaming, the way that he does for Anna.  Bill pulls Gary out of the room and says that Hicks is going to need time.  Nina and Rachel are in the hallway talking about Dani's death and Nina admits that she felt everything that Dani felt like how precious it all is and how fast life goes. As the two are walking they meet Bill and Gary in the hallway.  Bill says that they need to get organized because Rosen's head in the organization.

As they are making plans to move forward, Clay shows up and is surprised to see them.  Clay says that Dani death is terrible, and that the DOD wants all of Rosen's intel on Parish's organization.  Clay adds that he is going to rip Parish's organization apart, so that they cannot murder anyone else. Clay walks towards Rosen's office as Rachel calls out, "Clay come on, not like this." Nina says, "Rosen doesn't trust him. He wouldn't let him go through his stuff like that." Bill adds that he doesn't like it either, but believes that Clay's team can help them get to Parish.  Bill suggests that they keep their eye on Clay et al and get back to work.

Gary walks into Rosen's office and watches as an agent snaps photos of all the pictures and news clipping of Parish on the wall. Clay enters and calls Gary by his first name, but Gary corrects him and says to call him agent Bell.  Clay asks him to download all of the digital files from the investigation. Gary is not pleased and says that this is a waste of his abilities.  Clay responds that it would take hours for his guys to do it and Gary says that it will take him a few minutes and heads for the door, but says that he won't do it until after lunch.  Nina tells Bill that Clay asked for all of the physical evidence that they have collected on Parish.  When Rachel tells Nina that she hates this, Nina suggests that it's a beautiful day and that Rachel shouldn't waste it.  As Rachel heads for the elevator, John arrives.  When Rachel asks what he doing here, John says that he was looking for her and wanted to see if she was okay.  Nina leans forward and kisses John startling him.  Rachel says, "take me home, my parents are in New Jersey at my uncles."

When Gary enters the building, he meets a woman with a baby asking for Dr. Rosen.  She asks if he works at the place that helps Alphas and then hands over a baby, saying that he is special.  She runs to the door, as the baby starts to cry and Gary yells, "I can't take this. Where are you going?"

Nina knocks on Cameron's door and says that they are gathering up all of their information on Parish to get everyone up to speed. She puts a flash drive in his computer and he downloads all of his files. When Nina asks Hicks if she can get him anything, he says no.  Nina says, "we're all here for you, whatever you need." As Nina walks to the door, Hicks stops her and asks her to push him and make him forget because he can't be like this.  Nina is horrified and says that she cannot do that. When she tries to says she knows how he feels, Hicks says, "no you don't."

Gary is holding the baby in the hallway and Bill asks whose baby this is.  Gary says that he doesn't know the baby's name.

Rosen shows up at Dani's apartment and has to flash his badge to get entrance because it is being guarded by a cop.  In the apartment, Rosen flashes back to his interview with Clay. Clay asks him who he holds responsible for Dani's dead and Rosen is shocked by the question. Back in the present, Rosen shakes his head and continues to look around the apartment.

John and Rachel are at her place and beginning to make out.  She clearly is becoming overwhelmed by the sensations in the room and John asks her repeatedly if she is okay, Rachel says yes.

Gary is taking care of the baby and tells Bill and Rachel that the woman who handed him over, said that he is an alpha. Bill wants him to track the mother, but Gary reminds him that the baby needs to be fed.  Clay enters the room and is not impressed to see the baby and asks if Gary did the download he asked for. Once again Gary says that he has to take care of the baby.  Hicks enters the room and asks for the status on Parish, and Clay responds, "the status is we're looking for him."  Hicks says, "you're probably not going to find him here."  Clay is not impressed and tells him that it takes a long time to get 19 federal agencies up and moving, but they are bringing in the big guns. Hicks starts walking towards Clay and says, "Rosen warned you about Parish a year ago and he almost killed a million people. Is this what it takes to finally light a fire under the governments ass and you think that you can come in here and start giving orders. There's no way Rosen is going to take this." Nina calls out Cam, clearly in the hope of calming him down, and Clay informs Hicks that it was Rosen who invited him.  Clay storms out when he learns that Rosen gave up the lead on the investigation.

Gary is looking for the woman who dropped off the baby and turns out her name is Magda.  Nina enters the room to say that they have found the parents. When Jane goes to take the baby, Bill tells her to hang on a moment. They hand over their ID and Brian says that Magda is so fired, but Jane sees it as a shame because she has been good with the baby.  Bill asks why Magda brought Adam to them and Brian replies, she watched the video of Rosen testifying and became obsessed with the idea that the baby is an alpha. Brian says that they found the address of the office in Magda's room and then asks where he is.  Bill says that they are government consultants.

Supernatural Season 6 Review

 Castiel! Nooooooooooo!

*ahem* Ok, that’s out of my system. No, wait NO CASTIEL! NO NO NO NO NO NO!!!!!

Ok, I’m good, the raging Castiel fanpoodle within has been calmed… for now, time for the season review.

For me this season needs almost splitting into two parts. The second half was truly epic and awesome in all the best Supernatural ways and probably a 4.5 or even 5 fang (despite what they did to Castiel…) And the first half was a 3. At best.

Why? Because we’ve had far far far FAR too many “oh my god Sam is evil” storylines. I’m tired of them. Sam may be evil because of the psychic child of Azazel thing in Season 1 and 2. In season 3 it’s demon super powers, Ruby and possible heir to Azazel making him evil. In season 4 it’s demon blood addiction, demon powers and, again, Ruby making him evil. Season 5 he’s the vessel of Lucifer. Season 6 he has no soul and, because of that, no empathy or conscience. At this point I’d actually rather Sam died already and we concentrate on Dean and, say, Castiel. Yes, more Castiel. At very least please install some kind of alarm system “in case of evil Sam, break glass” with some kind of redemption pill. Maybe Dean could store up his many many emotional re-bonding moments and pick one at random. “Oh, Sam has hit his head on the Low Lintle of Evil and is now evil again, time for my ‘I don’t trust you and you need to re-earn it’ speech or my ‘we’re brothers, family and that’s what always counts, I got your back’ speech.”

I’m not saying that any of those past moments weren’t powerful, exciting, great to watch and incredible well-acted in their emotional aftermath. They were. But they’ve returned to this well too many times.

Another major barrier for me was Samuel and the Campbell family. Yes, family has always been important to Sam and Dean, but has it really been so based on bloodlines? If nothing else, one of the themes since as far back as season 2 is that family is more than just who you share blood with – Bobby is as much or more a father to them as John ever was and you can’t tell me there isn’t a brother dynamic between Castiel and Dean (with, ironically, Castiel as the little brother). So why all this trust for the Campbell clan and dear ol’ granddaddy?

On the plus side, all of this was resolved about half way into the season, with an added bonus of killing off the Campbells so they’re not going to be lurking around as a pseudo family in the future. They even doubled down on their lessons about family – even having Bobby’s blood stand in as “patricide” for Sam in a magical spell – because even if they’re not related by blood, Bobby is still their father. But it felt like they were re-learning something that had been already established.

One we got past unnecessary family and once Evil Sam was restored to the side of good yet again, the story started in earnest –and it was, again, epic. I’m impressed by how Supernatural can continue to do this – bring out the epic on a grand scale even after the last season which was similarly epic. At what point is it going to crash into anti-climax? At what point are we going to end up with a big bad that isn’t bigger or badder? And how will the season go from there?

As it stands, it’s still strong. This time, less because of a clear target they had from the very beginning (sadly not because of the distractions) but because of the mystery to unravel and the moving goal posts. Castiel is in an angelic civil war to control heaven against Raphael. If Castiel wins it’s free will for all angels. If Raphael wins, Lucifer and Michael get released and the apocalypse is back on. No-one wants that. But Castiel doesn’t have the juice to take on the Archangel Raphael, he’s desperate and Crowley is there to exploit that desperation as both a Crossroads Demon and as the new King of Hell now Lucifer’s gone. Their plan is to get Purgatory – the realm of all monsters – and the souls that are there, the souls of all monsters, vampires, shapeshifters, wraiths, you name it all the non-human monsters they’ve fought. Souls are the big power generators of the supernatural world, something that has been hinted at before and is artfully developed throughout the season with events like Castiel using Bobby’s soul to power time travel and making it clear that it’s an immense source of power and potentially unstable if meddled with. With this vast source of untapped monster souls, split 50/50, Castiel will be able to blow Raphael away and Crowley will be able to secure his place as King of Hell.

That’s the behind the scenes, but getting there is one season long revelation with lots of hints leading you to the goal but only at the very end is the whole story shown. We know about the Civil war in Heaven and we know Castiel is the underdog, including him trying to get his hands on Heaven’s stash of weapons. Then we find out that monsters – especially ancient and powerful progenitor monsters (like the vampires and werewolf alphas) are being captured and tortured by Samuel (and soulless Sam) – which leads to finding out that Samuel is working for Crowley for unknown purposes. Eve/the Mother of all Monsters, makes an appearance because she is Not Pleased at Crowley messing with her people on such a scale – and she becomes the big bad for a while as the Winchesters have to stop her turning all of humanity into monsters in a return blow at Crowley.

After she’s vanquished they learn Crowley’s still out there and have to go hunting him. It’s during this that they learn more about Purgatory, the power of souls, the untapped resources there – and slowly begin to see that Castiel is in on it with Crowley. Until the big ending with Raphael dead, Crowley double crossed and Castiel absorbing all that power – but becoming unstable and developing a god complex at the same time.

The development and hints around Castiel in this season are well done. We can see his fear and panic over the war, we can see the weight of his responsibilities grow. We can also repeatedly see his developing more of an “ends justifies the means” mentality, reversing the humanity he established with the Winchesters. His willingness to torture, his dismissal of wasting time to save children in favour of getting on with the main goal, his using the Winchesters as a distraction while he gets the weapons of Heaven – we see him change as a person even as he is extremely conflicted with his connection (or, should I say “profound bond”) with the Winchesters and the idea of hurting or betraying them. Still, everything doesn’t fall into place until episode 20, an excellent episode that Castiel narrates and shows his path into ever greater corruption, the excuses, justifications and lies he tells himself and the constant limits he tries to put on himself and Crowley as they get deeper in. This continues to the very end, Castiel determined to continue his course and stop the Apocalypse while at the same time begging for Dean’s trust and acceptance while also trying to seek forgiveness (again, beautifully shown after the kidnapping of Lisa and Ben).

Revolution Season One, Episode Three: No Quarter

Miles, Nora and Charlie are walking, as Miles tries to convince Nora not to hand over the weapon she managed to capture in the last episode.  Nora says that the rebels need it more than he does, but Miles believes that fighting for the rebels is a lost cause and is extremely doubtful that Nora and her rebel pals can bring back the United States.

We get a flash back to Miles telling Monroe that he is leaving the base, because he has to find his brother.  Miles says that he is not going to sit there waiting for orders that are not going to come and so Monroe decides to come with him.  Miles tells Monroe no and that this is his family and his problem, but Monroe says that he is not asking him.

Back in the present day, Nora leads them to the rebel base. They are confronted by a man with a bow and arrow but before things can escalate, Nicholas recognizes Nora and they embrace. Miles interrupts the moment to introduce himself as Stu Redman and Nora says that they are friends of hers.  Nicholas says that they are in trouble and when they enter the base, they find wounded people bleeding on the floor. Apparently, they went on a raid that morning and it was trap. leaving them with twelve people dead and one person missing.  Miles wants to know if the missing man was captured because even as they speak, he could be giving up their position.  Nora tells Nicholas that they cannot stay there and must move immediately, but Nicholas replies that they are in no shape to travel.  Miles says that they have no choice because the militia could be coming for them any second.

It seems that the missing man was indeed captured. Jeremy holds the gun to his head and pulls the trigger but it isn't loaded. Jeremy asks the captured man if he knows how hard it is to find  a bullet today. Jeremy says that bullets are as rare and precious as diamonds, and that is why he only put one bullet in the gun and would prefer not to use it.  In fear, the man gives up the rebel base and is shot in the head, as the milita makes plans to move out and leave no survivors behind.

Back at Monroe's camp, Neville is reading a book as Danny sits chained on the ground.  A soldier shows up and instead of handing Danny water, he dumps it on the ground. Danny asks what his problem is, and the soldier replies that Danny shot his best friend. Danny is not impressed and points out that his best friend shot and killed his father, but the soldier believes that this was no big disappointment. Danny calls to Neville and says, "if you want me dead just kill me, otherwise, I'd like some water please," as the soldier looks on with a hint of amusement on his face.  Neville orders the soldier to give Danny water.

Back at the rebel base, Miles tells Nora that they need to talk.  He pulls her aside and says that she delivered the rifle to her "whiny ass rebel buddies" and it's time to go. Nora asks him to look around and points out that the people are hurt, but Miles does not care and believes that what happened is a kill order and that the militia is going to be looking for them. Nora is not the least bit deterred and feels that this is all the more reason to get them out of there.  Miles then reminds Nora that they are supposed to be looking for Charlie's brother.  Charlie says, "exactly, this my brother, so this is my call."  When Nora says that she only needs half an hour, Charlie agrees, which angers Miles, who points out that Charlie is the one who keeps saying that they need to get Danny back.  Charlie then reminds Miles that he is the one who said that they needed Nora to get Danny back.

Aaron and Maggie have finally arrived at Grace's house and Maggie is not impressed with the surroundings.  When they arrive at the door they find it ajar.  Aaron moves to enter the house but Maggie stops him and pulls out a knife saying that something is wrong.  On the mantel, Maggie finds a picture of Grace and her children.  When they finally make it up to the attic, they find a smashed computer and Aaron says, "if I didn't know any better, and I believe that I do, I would say that Grace Beaumont built herself a computer. I know that this is insane, but who would build a computer if they didn't have electricity."  Maggie is quick to say that they cannot stay there and asks what will happen if whoever took Grace comes back.  Aaron says that they have to risk it because if Grace really had power, how is anything more important?

Back at the rebel base, Charlie is comforting the injured. Miles tells Nora that he gets why she wants to stay.  He refers to Nicholas as Shak and says that she is fighting with the amateurs because of love for him. Nora asks him if he can boil everything done to getting laid and says that Miles is acting like a jealous kid.  It turns out that Nicholas is a Catholic priest.  In frustration, Nora gets up and says, "you're right, I'm here for a guy and it's not Nicholas so drop it."

Nicholas tells everyone where they are to rendezvous but before he can finish his speech, the militia starts shooting guns through the rebel base. The young man that Charlie was tending is wounded and Nicholas prays over him, before covering his face as he dies.  Miles sends some of the troops up to the roof to lay down some cover fire.  Charlie is distraught, but Nora tells her that she cannot lose it because they need her help.  Up on the roof, the rebel soldier manages to kill off enough militia men to get them to fall back.

Downstairs, Miles starts loosening bricks which causes Nicholas to ask what he is doing. It's Miles plan to dig a tunnel out because he believes that sooner or later the militia is going to force their way in. That night, the militia are hunkered down and Jeremy keeps ordering the men to move forward, though they are being picked off one by one.  Jeremy knows that the reason the rebels are managing to hold them off  is because of the rifle, but because bullets are rare, he tells his soldiers that the rebels will eventually run out of ammunition.

Inside, Nora is making bombs with Charlie's help. Charlies asks if  Nora thinks that she will be able to beat Monroe, and when Nora says no, Charlie asks her what she is doing there.  Nora replies that she was with Miles for awhile and then Frank, but she had no idea who she was or what she could do, until one night she went for a walk with Frank and they were stopped by militia. Frank got into a fight to defend her honor, but it was Nora who took the soldiers out. That very next day, Frank dumped her and Nora believes it's because he was scared of her. It turns out that the night she was attacked, Nora was five months pregnant and she lost her child.  Nora says, "that's why I'm here Charlie, win or loose, it all has to mean something and if I have another baby, it will be born in the United States."

Danny is sleeping when the militia soldier from earlier kicks him to wake him up. When Danny looks over his shoulder for Neville, the soldier tells him that Neville has gone into town. The man Danny killed was named Templeton and the soldier is upset that he has to tell Templeton's wife that her husband is dead.  The soldier wants to be able to tell Templeton's wife Carol, that Danny paid for what he did.  Danny reminds the soldier that Neville wants him alive and the soldier replies, "oh don't worry, you'll be alive, you'll just wish you weren't."  He starts to beat Danny with a burlap sack filled with something heavy.

In yet another flashback, Monroe and Miles are walking when they come cross a dead family laying by their camp ground.  Monroe says, "Miles we can't do anything, let's just keep walking okay."  In return, Miles asks how many bodies they have come across like this. Monroe says that people are hungry and hungry people get desperate. 

In the present day, the rebels are continuing to build a tunnel and Miles asks Nicholas how many rounds they have left. Outside the Militia continue to be picked off.  Inside, the tunnel collapses, just as they run out of ammo.  Charlie says that they don't have enough time to build another tunnel and she suggests that they fight off the soldiers.  When Miles tells her that they are outnumbered and this is crazy, Charlie replies, "you know, that's what my dad would say every time the soldiers would come and they would take our crops and our women and I bet he said it the night they came for him." In anger, Miles tells her that Ben was right, but Charlie is convinced that Ben was being a coward.  This causes Miles to get in Charlies face and say, "don't ever disrespect your dad."

Warehouse 13, Season 4, Episode 10: We All Fall Down

 Myka and Pete hurry to the Warehouse, plagued by Pete’s very very very very very very bad Vibes. Artie has rampaged through the Dark Vault, scattering the dangerous artefact looking for the Astrolabe (which Mrs. Fredericks has already given to HG Wells to take away and hide) and they find Leena’s body. It’s true what happened last episode – Leena is, indeed, dead. On the other end of her fornsworth, Mrs. Fredericks, visibly shaken, upset and grieving tells them it was Artie who did it.

Claudia, Myka and Pete talk to Mrs. Fredericks and Brother Adrian about Artie being the evil unleashed, including the history of the Astrolabe doing the same thing during the French revolution. Claudia is furious and grieving for Artie and him not being evil – just whammied – and Mrs. Frederick tells them they must find him before he hurts anyone else. She reminds them how dangerous Artie is, what an expert he is on the Warehouse and how much he knows their strengths and their weaknesses.

In the Warehouse, Pete thinks he sees Leena, but rushing out there is no-one there, causing more very well acted grief from all of them. And Artie shows up, saying he can feel there is something wrong. They see this as hopeful, but he quickly says the only thing that can fix him is the Astrolabe, he needs the Astrolabe and is quite vehement about it. But they know what would happen if Artie reset time – the destruction of the Warehouse and Pandora’s box – and they can’t let him have it. It’s then that they find he’s not there – he’s just a hologram. He says he’s not Artie, Artie is dead and was a slave to the Warehouse and he’s going to use the Astrolabe to set him free. It’s at this point there’s an explosion in the Warehouse, setting fire to the files from Warehouse 8 from the Holy Roman Empire. They contain the fire and guess there was something in the section Artie was trying to hide that may be connected to the Astrolabe.

In the Vatican, Jinks, Mrs. Frederick and Brother Adrian are researching. They find an old text that says if any man lives the same day twice they will life their life as two – a dual personality and the darkness will overcome the light, the evil will overwhelm his good, irreversibly changing him.

Pete continues to see Leena’s ghostly form, which leads him to a cabinet, hidden in it he finds papers and pictures of the knife that have been plaguing Artie’s visions. According to Mrs. Fredericks, the papers are HG’s research. She tells them about Artie’s visions of Claudia stabbing him with it, Claudia says she never would and just because Artie dreamed it doesn’t make it true – Mrs. Fredericks agrees but also says it doesn’t mean it’s not true. It could be the dagger was in Artie’s dream because his dark side was trying to push him away from it They decide the dagger is important and, looking at the research find it was Francesco Borgia’s dagger that was stored in – Warehouse 8.

Using Claudia’s computer skills that outstrip Artie they find out he is travelling to Budapest – and travelling under a false name that is an anagram of his real name, suggesting there is something in him that wants to be caught. He’s tracking down the dagger.

While Myka and Pete go to Budapest, Claudia has Artie’s fake identity listed as a terrorist so he is delayed by the police in Hungary. Myka and Pete have found the dagger – it’s in an ambassador’s private art collection that has been lent to a museum in Prague – and they follow. Claudia has done some research, Warehouse 8 had an orchid that caused a severe, lethal plague that was encased in an impenetrable box – which the dagger can open. If Artie can open the box, unleash the orchid, he can force them to use the Astrolabe because the death toll from the orchid will outstrip the damage caused by the Warehouse being blown up.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Revelations by Carrie Lynn Barker

After the death of her mother, as only as small child, Christiana Fletcher is sent to an orphanage where each week she is taken away by a member of the government to be experimented on.  Going through her teenage years, she kind of a wild child we are told, but never given any real details.  Finally deciding that she wants something different, Christiana decides to find her father, who has luck would have it is dying of cancer.  Having said goodbye to all of his friends, Christian is prepared to die and is simply counting down the hours, until Christiana shows up and heals him with her hands. The two develop a strong relationship almost instantly, until the government agents show up and run them off the road, separating them and leaving Christiana in a coma.

After waking from the coma, Christiana goes to live in the desert on a commune with others whose DNA has been manipulated after meeting Philip the vampire.  We are given no reason for her decision or why she trusts him given what she has been through.  This is yet another instantaneous relationship. At the commune she finds love with Jonas, friendship and family for the first time in her life.  Unfortunately, it is not long lived because after healing a child who has a brain tumor, the government is on her trail again and she is forced to flee. She supposedly chose this room randomly, but she had to know after being tracked down by the government after healing her father, that healing a child knocking on heaven's door was not a good idea.  When Christiana is forced off the commune after the agents show up determined to recapture her,  she decides to take the fight to the government, because she wants answers.  Christiana wants to find her father, and get to the bottom of the experimentation on people.

Revelations could have used a good editor.  There are times when the story was downright choppy and was hard to follow.  There were times when the phrasing was awkward and the wrong word was used. Barker changed POV, as well as tense a few times, which made the story even more awkward. At times, it impacted my ability to really get into the story.  The relationship between Christian and Christiana developed unrealistically fast and seemed to exist only to make her more tortured.  Christians eventual institutionalization, along with the death of Christiana's mother, served as quick, cheap and easy characterisation to establish a sad, tortured or otherwise issue-laden protagonist with “depth.”

Christiana is clearly the chosen one, but I really don't understand the devotion of the other characters towards her.  All of the women in this novel either die, or disappear without a trace.  We never learn the motivations behind the antagonist - Arturo Holt.  We know that he created Christiana and is a power hungry sadist, but beyond that, we are given no reason for the experimentation on humans, or even why he is so obsessed with Christiana, beyond the fact that she is of course a special snowflake.  Christiana spends much of the time blaming herself and wallowing in self loathing.

666 Park Avenue, Season 1, Episode 1: Pilot

 The pilot begins both darkly and dramatically – a concert violinist is playing in an orchestra when his fingers start bleeding. He grits his teeth and keeps playing as the cuts spread to all his fingers, continuing to play until the very end. When the performance has finished he hurries home and packs hurriedly, gathering his things and his passport into a suitcase – and smashing his violin under foot. He hurries down stairs with his bad to leave, but all the doors and the lift close, apparently on their own. And, in the silence, a phone rings. He answers the phone and there’s a man on the other end who tells him it’s time to pay his debts. He talks about a violinist with no talent who gave up everything to be the best – not anything, everything. He’s had 10 years and now his debt is due. He manages to ram down the doors and escape the building – but a single panel on the wood panelled door opens and sucks him back in. The camera pans to the house number – 999 Park Avenue, but as the light moves, the shadows spell out 666 Park Avenue

Ok, nice Faustian bargain set up. I’m impressed at how much it rammed into just that opening sequence.

Move to the day and Jane Van Veen and Henry Martin arriving to see Mr. Doran. They’re being interviewed for the role of Resident Manager of the apartment building. He’s not particularly impressed with their lack of experience and thanks them for their time, as they leave, Jane pulls out her architectural and historic preservation degrees and pulls a wow that makes Mr. Doran reconsider.

They’re given a tour of the building – 12 floors with the Dorans on the 13th, 203 apartments, 388 residents and a brief meeting some people around – Brian a writer (who lives with his wife, Louise, a photographer, who doesn’t seem to have a whole lot of respect for his writing as a job) and Tony one of the apartment workers. And they see their apartment – which is huge and stunning. The previous manager left to “go somewhere warmer” (Arizona, honest).

Everything is their dream except Jane does see a resident, John Barlow, with a blood stained hand that bothers her. He claims he cut it, but when we see him in his room, scrubbing the hand clean, his hand is unblemished. He goes to dry his clean hand – and it’s covered in blood again, he begs someone unknown for forgiveness.

The Dorans – Gavin and Olivia Doran are ominously plotting about the new residents – about using her to get to him. The next day Jane starts her job as building manager, getting maintenance reports, talking to Gavin Doran about the state of the building – and being invited to a cocktail party and symphony by Olivia Doran (though she and Henry have some brief consternation about how they’re going to pay for a dress – they’re apparently very short on money). During her tour of the building Jane meets Nona, another resident who warns her there’s a thief in the building.

In the laundry in the basement there are several posters listing stolen items – charm bracelets, wallets etc. While there, when she’s all alone, the lights start flickering ominously. She grabs a dusty ladder to try and fix one and during the intermittent darkness a woman, a ghostly woman in white flickers towards her, closer every time the light comes on without moving in between – and disappears when the Jane fixes the light. But from the ladder she does see the dragon mosaic on the floor which impresses her. She tells Henry about it along with her plans to do some research to show her worth to Gavin Doran, since he’s not involving her in the major renovation she fears he may not have confidence in her so is determined to prove herself.

Back to John Barlow with the Lady MacBeth hands, he is reading a paper about a murdered judge. His phone rings and he tells the man on the other end – who sounds like Gavin Doran – about the murder being in all the papers and that they made a deal – John keeps his end and he gets his wife back. He’s told to check the bedroom and there she is, Mary Barlow, apparently alive and well.

Moving back to Ben and Louise and sex that doesn’t quite hit the spot for her since she’s very distracted (they could try wearing less clothes). Her assistant has just quit on her just before a major photo-shoot for Vogue. She rushes around in a panic while Ben follows her being reassuring and promising to help however he can. They have a sweet moment where she admits she knows she’s a little difficult at times and they’re all fluffy. Ben goes back to his computer to write – so far he’s managed a title and “act one” and look over his computer to play peeping Tom looking at the woman opposite. Louise does find an assistant – Alexis, the woman Brian has been peeping at.