Saturday, November 3, 2012

Beauty and the Beast, Season 1, Episode 4: Basic Instinct

 We open to another crime – Vincent hearing a heartbeat falter and then stop. This prompts him to launch into a series of random gymnastics. Having shown off for the cameras, he finds the guy in a dumpster, drags him out and performs chest compressions to get his heart pumping again – and hustles him to a hospital where he blurts instructions to someone with a gurney before disappearing into the night – like a much more poorly equipped batman.

Catherine, meanwhile, is failing badly at baseball, which is apparently bad because they’re playing a game against the firemen and winning is Important. She would be good if she could only learn to trust her instincts (pay attention to this clumsily lampshaded message, it’s the episodes theme). Vincent’s also watching the game, because stalking her and randomly appearing any time she happens to be alone is his idea of a good time and totally not creepy, honest. He tells her about the guy he dumped at the hospital because this then magically makes it her case

Tess and Catherin meet at the police station to start with all the preliminaries. The comatose kid is Tommy, he’s 19 and still has his wallet so it’s not a robbery. He has a lot of old, healed injuries that point to long term abuse meaning they cast a suspicious eye at the father. When he arrives they do the suspicious interview but he reveals Tommy had ADHD and before he took his meds he had terrible impulse control leading to him getting into a lot of fights and got into a lot of petty crime, mainly theft. He’s worried Tommy may be off his meds because he has a new Xbox and a really shiny watch.

Case summary with Joe (what does Joe actually do all day?) reveals 3 lines of inquiry: the father who has a reputation for having a short fuse. Tommy to see if he has dipped back into his criminal ways after no longer taking his meds. And a picture in Tommy’s wallet of a pretty girl to see if there’s a relationship problem…

We interrupt this crime investigation for a sinister government agency intervention! JT reminds us (again) that Vincent being in touch with Catherine is putting them all at risk blah blah Muirfield blah blah hide, just copy and paste last week’s warning and lines about ulcers, it hasn’t changed. This sets us up for Catherine to get into a fight with some Muirfield goons and be kidnapped! She’s taken to an ominous warehouse where a Muirfield agent tries to convince her they’re the good guys. His argument is not convincing.

The man tries to convince her that Vincent is a monster, not a person. That he could snap and kill at any time – showing photographs he alleges are from a village destroyed in Afghanistan – it was blown up and set on fire (which is pretty good for a man who becomes bestial and monstrous when he loses control). Catherine tries to pretend not to know what he’s talking about but can only feign it for 5 seconds before slipping. Still, she’s disinclined to be all that trusting of the men who killed her mother. But he shows her another picture of a man called Simon with a pregnant wife who he says Vincent killed. Catherine is disturbed by this totally trustworthy evidence from this totally trustworthy source (got to admire those detective skills). And the Muirfield man asks why would they spend so much money if Vincent wasn’t dangerous (because it’s not like they have a vested interest in covering up their experimenting on soldiers, killing them like animals then faking their own death… right?) There’s some added blatant lies about not hurting Vincent, wanting to fix him (at least she challenges these) and a promise that, if Catherine hands Vincent over, they will give her all the information she wants about her mother – and show a picture of her working in their labs.

She’s released – but with a number to call which will work for 3 days, after that they will reutn to more threats and kidnapping.

In the meantime Vincent has returned to where he found Tommy to look for evidence with his super senses. And he finds a very large watch which he moves so the police searching the scene can find it easier. Uh-huh – a point of note, don’t do this. Where evidence is found can be very important to an investigation and it’s not like the watch was small or not out of place or likely to be missed without Vincent’s super-senses here. The techs would have to have been pretty inept to miss it.

Tess and Evans are trying to discuss the case. Well Evans is, while Tess is worried about Catherine, her running off on her own and being so secretive – she had hoped she was running off for quickies with Evan, but alas not. He points out the strange, circular bruises on Tommy, the cuts on his back that indicate he was dragged and a tox screen that says he was still taking his ADHD medication

Catherine returns to her flat to find her stalker, Vincent there waiting for him. She tells him he was kidnapped and that he has to go. She’s visibly shaken and frightened and tells him that she’s putting him at risk as he always said (finally she gets it!) and the safest thing for her would be if he just left and stayed away. At work, she’s still fixated on Vincent and looks up Simon, one of Vincent’s supposed victims, on the crime computer.

Alas, Tess interrupts with this pesky police case she insists they work on. The watch has been tracked down – it was bought by Lois Whitworth from the Westchester Polo Club and she also runs an organisation that helps rehabilitate troubled youth – and Tommy was one of those troubled youth. Evan also adds in that the soil found on Tommy was unique to Westchester Polo Club. Also a clue fairy came down from  the sky chanting “polo club, polo club polo club” and in his coma-sleep Tommy gasped “west…chest…er…” Beauty and the Beast is not known for its subtle clue presentation. Oh and Catherine missed her baseball practice because she was kidnapped. It matters, apparently.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Review: Blood to Blood by Ifè Oshun

 Angelika is a teenager with a dream – she wants to be a singer and she definitely has the talent to make it work. But her parents are less than thrilled with this choice of career and wish she’d do something more conservative, more academic. It isn’t just typical parental worry, though – Angelika is a Shimshana, descendent of fallen angels and a vampire, the vampires from which all other vampires spring. She is immortal, she has powers beyond imagining – and she’s just maturing into all of that.

Just when her big break arrives. Which means getting a recording contract just when she starts craving the blood of her friends and co-workers. Which means getting a recording contract when her voice becomes a weapon that could kill everyone who hears it. And that’s before considering her rocky relationship with Sawyer, the producer.

More, because of the scope of her powers she also has to master them quickly – because her Maha approaches, a ceremony in which she will be presented to the rest of the immortal community – and it will be decided whether she’s too dangerous to be allowed to live.

This is one of those books that would be extremely good as an introduction to a series and is a little flat as a stand alone novel. The main reason for this is there isn’t a lot of plot or story – there’s a huge amount of world building, a lot of character development and a lot of character establishment. In this book we learn who everyone is and why, we learn what’s happening, we learn what everyone is and the history and implications behind that.

It’s a credit to the writing in this book and the imagination of the creation, that I really enjoyed it. Usually I’m put off by books that focus more on character development than actual events – I need a reason to care about people before hearing all about their lives. But with this I was drawn in – Angelika and her world is interesting and extremely unique. The vampires, their origins, the different kinds of magic, the world, the angels – they all bring a very original perspective to some classic Urban Fantasy tropes and creatures

Her struggles aren’t especially deep, nor do they contain a lot of conflict that isn’t relatively easily resolved. Her family disapproving of her career path, the worry about containing her abilities as a Shimshana is handled well – there are dramas but they are dealt with and moved on. The tension and ramifications of her Maha ceremony are set up well with plenty of concern about the massive impact they could have – and resolved without undue difficulty. Again, this isn’t a story about epic conflict – but, really surprisingly for me, nor does it need to me. Angelika doesn’t have to endure the epic doom for her to be a fascinating character. She doesn’t have to fight tooth and nail against a rabidly oppressive family for her excitement about the band or its success to be any less true or emotionally conveyed. She didn’t have to spend months and months facing disasters and grief from her powers for the achievement of her actually controlling them to be any less of an achievement. Perhaps all of the issues being resolved relatively simply is a bit much, but it didn’t break my enjoyment of them.

Supernatural: Season 8, Episode 5: Blood Brothers

 After missing him for a couple of episodes, we finally catch up with Benny, Dean’s vampire buddy he dragged out of Purgatory at the beginning of the season. He’s a vampire on a mission, he’s trying to find the vampire that killed him – which is also the vampire that made him. he finds someone who may know the answers, but he has some buddies and poor Benny is left rather mangled after he slices and dices all of his opponents. Who is he going to call?

Sam and Dean are still tracking Kevin who doesn’t want to be found (since Dean tried to kill Crowley who was possessing his mother at the time), leading them to another dead end in another empty motel; which is when Dean gets the phone call from Benny asking for help. Leaving Sam to do some research, he leaves to go help – much to Sam’s anger since he doesn’t tell Sam why and, when pushed, points out Sam had a year off, he gets a day, damn it.

Dean travels and we’re entertained by another awesome Purgatory flashback showing how much these 2 have been through together, fighting back to back against all comers. Dean even tolerates Benny’s annoying whistling.

Dean catches up with benny and gives him a cooler full of blood bags (we’re not asking where he managed to get them, he just has them, apparently) which heals benny up reaaaaalll fast and even Deans’ surprised by the rate of vampiric healing. Time for another Purgatory flashback – Dean, Benny and Castiel (Castiel! Oh how I miss ye! Come back, try and make this season good again!). Castiel and benny spent a lot of time sniping it seems, especially since Castiel is a beacon for all the nasties of Purgatory. Castiel, doing a combination of the noble-self-sacrifice-thing and his patented tell-the-truth-no-matter-how-stark-or-tactless thing points out Benny’s right, he does attract attention and the gateway will let out Dean because he’s human and Benny can hitch along because he’s almost human – they have no proof it would let an Angel through at all. Dean isn’t hearing that at all and refuses to accept the idea of leaving Castiel behind.

The very idea of leaving Castiel behind should horrify all right thinking people

Back to the present and Benny tells Dean what the plan is and, after discovering a list of yachts and times he also reveals how his nest used to hunt. They’d scout out yachts going to distant ports then ambush them at sea in their own boat, eat the people, burn the boats. Dean instantly coins the term Vampire Pirates having a proper understanding of how utterly cool that would be – Benny is bemused by the term and Dean, rightly, is aghast that none of them thought of it.

On the trip to the island, in between Dean asking Benny not to drink blood in his car, we get some more exposition on Benny’s history. He was there, being a vampire pirate (which must involve eye liner. After all, all pirates wear eye liner now as do a sizeable percentage of vampires. Vampire Pirates would have to buy enough to support Rimmel all on their own) and he met a woman, Andrea and lo she was sweet and special and – is there any need for me to recap this? He decided to follow her around instead of eating her, his maker caught up with them and had him beheaded and tore out Andrea’s throat. It seems a new vampire tends to look on their maker as a god – problem was, Benny’s maker looked on himself the same way and had issues with his progeny leaving him.

American Horror Story, Season 2, Episode 3: Nor'Easter

In the present that has nothing to do with the main plot and whyyyy is it even here, Teresa is cowering in the cell away from Bloody face when he manages to burst open to the door and leap at her, knife slashing! Surprise! It turns out Lee (will these people die already so I can forget their names) is actually Rasputin’s great grandson and despite being stabbed by Bloody Face and having lost an arm is totally not dead! He leaps on Bloody face and does some stabbing of his own, followed by Teresa doing lots and lots and lots and lots of stabbing (she needs to not hold the weapon so far down the point – she’s not stabbing very deep at all).

Bloody Face is not tolerating these shenanigans and when they starts staggering away, they run into another Bloody face, they turn – and there’s a third Bloody Face behind them, with a gun – who promptly shoots the pair of them.

The Bloody Faces take off their masks and reveal 2 kids – one of which is very freaked out by the shooting and the stabbing and the other is revelling in random murder. They both notice Lee is missing an arm which they certainly didn’t do – and are joined by yet another Bloody Face (don’t you just hate going to a convention where everyone wears the same costume?)

Back to 1964 where the plot is. Last week, Sister Mary Wet Lettuce got demonically possessed and has now evolved into Sister Demon Lettuce and is much, much, much more fun. She goes to Sister Jude to tell her (alone with 9 gazillion over foreshadowings) that there’s a big big storm coming, be slightly disturbingly creepy, and deliver the mail – which includes a newspaper from the 40s about Jude’s hit and run. Jude questions it and Demon Lettuce becomes quite snarky in the face of Jude’s confusion and mild panic.

Later when making bread (they have a famous bakery, remember) Jude has another flashback about the hit and run – just in time for Dr. Oliver to show up to judge her on her use of corporal punishment. She protests she’s the very soul of compassion, she’s even getting a film projector to keep the inmates occupied during the storm (as a crowd control measure in case they get excitable. And this is totally a balance – beat them bloody but then let them watch movies!). Oliver also wants to autopsy report on Jed walker who died during the exorcism and cuttingly remarks on it saying “natural causes”. He also accuses her of being delusional and having a guilty conscience (accurate) which causes her to accuse him of planting the newspaper – which rather confuses him since he has no idea what she means. She snarls that she wants him gone in 2 weeks.

In the Common Room that damn Dominique is still playing – until, mercifully, Sister Demon Lettuce stops the music! In fantastic creepy style she tells everyone about the storm (and expresses her contempt for their expected reactions) and that they’re going to have a special film night (which she describes as being “in the dark with fire, sex and the death of Christians” with great joy). As she leaves, one of the inmates starts praying in Spanish and calling her Satan – Sister Demon Lettuce approaches and her eyes glow with extra creepy.

Kit and Grace are planning their escape again – the film will mean there’ll be no lockdown and the movie is a perfect chance. Grace also confronts Lana for betraying them but Kit says he doesn’t blame her – in her place, if he had believed Kit was guilty, he would have stopped him escaping as well. I’m glad to see that even if it does feel a little “too good”.

Portraying Bigotry

One of the thorniest issues when it comes to analysing media from a social justice perspective is the concept of portraying prejudice and bigotry. After all, bigotry exists, bigoted people exist, at some point we’ll expect some bigoted characters showing up.

And that’s not a bad thing - in fact, erasing prejudice and pretending it doesn’t exist is far from ideal. To not show prejudice in times and places where prejudiced would be common or rife can be a denial that that prejudice exists, especially if you are showing everyone in that area and era as gloriously accepting of all minorities. In many ways it’s a form of erasure to do this or a rewriting of the world - both present and historic. The problem is portraying prejudice in a way that doesn’t perpetuate it - and too often writers use this argument of “realistic portrayal” as an excuse to produce some severely bigoted work.

So how to portray bigotry without producing a book or show that should come with its own
trigger warning or will make the minority in question want to eat your liver?

Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, is that prejudiced portrayal really necessary? Sometimes the presence of bigotry is not only unnecessary, but it’s down right confusing, especially in speculative fiction. In an alternate world with an entirely different religion, culture even different species, is there a reason why women are dealing with misogyny? So much else had changed, why not this? Or, in the distant future, between the stars with more curiously-humanoid-aliens than you could shake a phaser at, do we still need racism? This can reach the point of almost parody - I’ve seen avatars of Greek gods - ancient Greek gods - losing their shit over men kissing. The Greeks!

It’s bemusing that, in these worlds where everything can be so different from our own, prejudice is considered inviolate. When all else in history can be changed, when the truly fantastic can be introduced, when we have magic, vampires, aliens and plot holes you can drive a bus through, it seems ridiculous to decide that bigotry is just something that must remain. And I think every social justice media critic in the world is tired of someone explaining the absolute necessity of “historical accuracy” in a series that has freaking dragons.

But even aside from fantasy worlds where you’ve decided to, bewilderingly, include real world bigotry; there is plenty of bigotry shown in works that are closer to our world and we have to ask “why is this necessary?” Does this prejudice actually add anything to the story or development or anything at all? One of the things that annoyed us so much about season 1 of American Horror Story is the amount of bigotry that was presented was completely gratuitous - it did nothing for the story to have the realtor use gay slurs to describe the previous occupants of the house, or even half of the many other problematic incidents on the show. Throwing in bigotry for the sheer hell of it, to an extent where it seems almost out of place sometimes, doesn’t help anyone.

Ok, you’ve looked at the bigotry and it is an absolute essential part of setting the world, the characters and the story. It would be wrong to exclude it - so how to include it without supporting it? Simple - by making it unsupportable.

Don’t make it funny, or casual, or accepted by the whole cast (as was the problem with American Horror Story season 1 in many ways), don’t present it as a quirk or minor issue. Don’t let it go unchallenged. That challenge is what stops a portrayal of prejudice into something that supports prejudice. Obviously that challenge can come in the form of a loud lecture or denouncement - but, contrary to what the objectors say, you don’t have to shoehorn a clumsy PSA into the middle of your story. That's a straw man, there are innumerable ways you can challenge the prejudice you've presented

Thursday, November 1, 2012

What Air Flight Safety Videos Should Be

Air Middle Earth

Grimm Sneak Peak!

Kept by Shawntelle Madison Book 2 in the Coveted Series

At the end of Coveted, Natalya Stravinsky had battled alongside her friends and fellow pack members to protect their hunting land from invasion. Through therapy, she was working through her issues with OCD and hoarding.  When a flood had wrecked most of her precious Christmas ornaments, her family came together and for the first time since having a serious panic attack at a clan event, the Stravinsky family embraced Natalya.  All in all, things were looking up. Though Coveted ended in a happy place, it was clear that Natalya still had a lot of issues to deal with.

At the beginning of Kept, we see that the family bond between Natalya and the other Stravinskys has only grown stronger. The question is, has she grown strong enough to deal with the trials awaiting her?  Natalya is determined to get back into the pack, though all of the werewolves still see her as strange. When she takes on her father's blood debt, the task assigned is much more difficult than she could have imagined.  Being banned from taking any aid from another werewolf, Natalya is once again forced to rely on her friends from her therapy group, thus bringing herself closer to Nick the wizard.  Something sparks between them, but she is not sure if she can let go of her feelings for Throne, the alpha apparent of the pack.  If nothing else, the completion of this task will ensure that the Stravinsky clan will be able to remain in the pack with honour.  As Natalya tries to work out her feelings for the two men that she loves, Thornes betrothed is not the least bit pleased that such a low ranking wolf still occupies his heart. 

Having an ass kicking protagonist is not new in urban fantasy.  In fact, it happens so often that it's almost a cliche.  Natalya has a touch of the spunky agent in her, in that she rushes off without thinking things through clearly. Her motivations are good and she is most certainly honourable, but rushing into action without any plans whatsoever is ridiculous. It puts her in a position to call for help because she is overwhelmed and not because she has wisely decided that she needs it.

One of the things that I loved about this series from the very beginning, is the myriad of disabled characters.  I said it in the last review but it bears repeating, this is something rare for urban fantasy and I absolutely love it.  Madison could have taken the opportunity in this book to show growth of Natalya's character by erasing her disability.  We have too often seen disability cast aside in the media, when it become inconvenient because it is time to see a character grow and change. While Natalya does not spend as much time caressing and loving her ornaments in this book, it's clear that her OCD is in full swing, even as she battles the bad guys and takes on difficult challenges. Natalya just doesn't play "super crip" and rise above, she still performs acts like obsessive hand washing and wiping everything down with antibacterial wipes, as she fights for her family and her place.

Dark Angel, Season 1, Episode 19: Hit a Sista Back

 Max starts her day by seeing a missing person on a milk carton – by the name of Penny Smith. But the picture is of Tinga, her sister and fellow X5 who is on the run from Mantecore and fled Portland when Zack was captured. She left a husband, Charlie, and a son, Case, behind and they’re looking for her.

Max tries to call them to tell them to stop looking, that Charlie’s wife was really Tinga with bad people after her. Naturally, Charlie thinks she’s talking rubbish and hangs up on her, returning to getting his small son ready for school and away from his jigsaw – a large and complicated jigsaw designed for adults that Case is doing on his own.

When putting Case to bed that night, Charlie tries to tell him the story “Penny” tells him – a story about a princess stuck in a castle, a princess called Tinga...

Max tells Logan about Tinga’s family and, after the obligatory warnings and “oh no don’t go!” she head’s off to Portland on a rescue mission. Once there she quickly uses her super-duper senses to pick out Lydecker’s men watching Tinga’s family – and runs into Tinga herself. She asks if Zack has come as well but he, unsurprisingly, warned her not to come back, that her family was a risk yadda, yadda, typical Zack spiel. They start to plan and spy on her family to see when it’s best to get them out of the trap – but while watching them they discover just how far Lydecker has gone.

The trap is pretty advanced – not only does Lydecker have a large number of Mantecore goons watching the family, but he is posing as a tutor for Case at his school, testing his extremely advanced abilities and telling him about all the wonderful happy fun times he could have at Mantecore. He passes on his findings to Renfro who seems to be much more hands on these episodes, lurking over Lydecker’s shoulder. She’s surprised by Case since previous offspring of humans and X5s have resulted in mundane humans.

That night everyone makes their move – Lydecker has to bring them in because he hears Charlie is planning to move to his sister’s – he’s been tipped off. Tinga and Max hit the building with Mantecore skills, setting off the fire alarm and a smoke bomb and taking down the goons with classic X5 skills. Charlie’s a little shocked by his wife ripping her emergency machine gun out of the wall, but he manages to stay with them when they collect him. More goons go down – fight scene after fight scene and Tinga certainly doesn’t have Max’s issues with guns or killing many many many Mantecore nasties. Until they’re pinned a stairwell firefight, unable to move forwards until… Zack moves in through the window with his own machine gun. Yes he’s showed up to help, yes he’s grumpy but that’s classic Zack – be grumpy and moody and disapproving while still being there to back his siblings up.

They reach the top of the building and Zack, Charlie, Tinga and Case rappel down the side, leaving Max alone to confront Mantecore’s agent in charge – Brin. She has been brainwashed and is back on Team Mantecore. After another fight scene, Brin gets the advantage (seemingly rather easily) but, since Max saved her life in the past she lets Max go. After all, she isn’t the mission, retrieving Charlie and Case is.

The gang meet up in Logan’s penthouse in Seattle, where everyone says their predictable lines. Zack that family is a vulnerability, a weakness, blah blah. Logan on how secrecy is damaging and how Charlie had a right to know what he was getting into. Max and Tinga on how hard it is to actually tell someone their secret, especially since it’s hard to believe. Charlie’s anger at being dragged into the whole thing while Logan assures him Tinga’s still the same person… (yes, there’s a lot of parallels in these conversations that I find uncomfortably close to conversations around the GBLT closet which is… inappropriate). Nothing particularly revolutionary is discussed but the emotions and the acting is good.

The collected souls searching is interrupted by Case having a sudden, severe fever and, worse, him developing a barcode on the back of his neck – only it’s 14 digits not the standard 12 of Mantecore barcodes. More arguments follow in which Charlie takes a swing at Zack for correcting his “Penny” to “Tinga” (taking a swing at an X5 doesn’t go well) and Logan interrupts pointing out that it’s a phone number – probably to Lydecker’s private line.

And sure enough, at a secret Mantecore lab, Logan is discussing things with Renfro – especially his little nano-machines that cause illness, death and barcoding. Max calls him and Lydecker gives her his terms – he’ll swap the cure for Tinga. Renfro is surprised that Lydecker is going to give up on getting Max and the boy as well, but Lydecker has dealt with max before and thinks if they over-reach they won’t get anything. Besides, Tinga is the interesting one since her DNA is the one that can be passed on to children.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

What's Halloween Without a little "Rocky Horror"?

Haven Sneak Peak!

Review: In The House of the Wicked by Thomas E Sniegoski, Book 5 of the Remy Chandler Series

An ancient cabal of sorcerers once performed an incredibly powerful, but incredibly dark ritual that empowered them all – or would have had they not then turned their great powers against one another.

Decades have passed since that moment and these sorcerers have been changed, driven by unnatural hunger – and preying on each other. The oldest and most powerful of them is plotting to repeat his ritual – but on a much grander scale, with the help of a fallen choir of angels, he can bring death on an apocalyptic scale.

But another member of the cabal, one betrayed, how has his own quest for revenge against his former associate. Driven by revenge he is willing to use any tool in his arsenal – even kidnapping the friend of an Archangel to use Remy as a tool for vengeance.

Remy needs to save his friend and to prevent untold death – but both the Sorcerers hunger, and a Seraphim may be the tastiest treat of all.

I think very few books have even close to the level of epic that this series can bring. The world is constantly in peril in grand, dramatic fashion. The tension is perfectly maintained, the plot is powerful and keeps moving and the previous books’ habit of bogging down in Remy’s personal angst is largely absent from this one. From beginning to end, from vague portents and consequences after the world came close to the apocalypse, to a steady build of power as more details become clear. It’s brilliantly paced, it’s thematically maintained, it’s excellently developed – in all, the epic sense and excellent pacing are spot on. It really reached a point where I couldn’t put it down and would have to have my hands broken to make me let go of the kindle -  this book held me. Most of the time.

I love the characters as well-  Remy is a complex conflict between his angelic side and his human side and we finally have him embracing that to some degree rather than constantly denying it that has so characterised the last few books. We also don’t have Remy’s angst – not that it was ever wrong, but it was rather all-consuming. Even Remy’s habit towards internal monologue is… well, not gone, but certainly reduced. And he’s building new relationships with Linda and Ashely adding a greater depth to both him and them and moving away from his moping.

Even the antagonists have depth to them, Stearns and Deacon have backstory, reasoning beyond mere greed and power lust with the underlying fear of mortality to give basis to their actions. And there were a number of grey characters – Francis with his newly divided and questionable loyalties, Squire with his dark depression and hopelessness and Angus who definitely has a dark path but now seems to be in Francis’s remit.

I think talking animals have become much more common in the genre – and a lot of them are fun. I do like the way Marlowe is presented, child like and fun loving – he’s not a unique presentation of talking dogs but he’s still a fun one. What I like far more is the depiction of the cats – aloof, arrogant, impatient and barely tolerant of humans at the best of times – it’s perfect.

The world here doesn’t have such vast exposition as we’ve seen previously – which is probably a good thing, time to digest all the ancient Biblical figures, the different choirs of angels etc. And still it brought an insight into the magic of the world – and a hint of more with Squire’s introduction. But the world building is at a minimum in this book – and probably better for it.

Unfortunately, towards the end of the book the whole story suddenly bloats. Everyone seems to gather together – we have Francis and Angus, Ashley and Squire, Remy, Mulvehill, Deacon, Stearns, Teddy, Scrimshaw, the angels… all it needed was the milkman and the UPS delivery man dropping by. Switching between the huge number of characters all involved – and so many of them not really adding anything – was not so much confusing as just made the whole conclusion of the story so much longer and more dragged out. This, combined with the rather over-dramatic, over-descriptive way that Remy and his powers and actions are described makes the ending drag out to an almost ridiculous degree. Figures feel like they wrestle for hours on end while other people go and have their adventures in different parts of the building. What should have been a grand crescendo became almost comic with the sheer number of bit characters who all decided to descend in force.

Misfits Season Four Episode One

Misfits has started a new season and in order not to miss talking about what is going on in season four,  every Wednesday we will have a discussion of the current episode and every Monday we will continue to run the catch ups of previous seasons. 

I am going to say upfront that I have my doubts about this show carrying on.  At the end of last season, Alisha was killed and Simon went back in time to make her fall in love with him.  Kelly, who was not written out of the episode at the time, will not be appearing in season four, due to legal difficulties.  This means that we are left with Curtis, Seth and Rudy.  They have added two new Misfits: Jess and Finn. It's going to take awhile to get to know them and care about their characters.  With so many characters missing all at once, it's almost like having a whole new show, though the concept is the same.

This episode opens with Finn running across the roof being chased by the Misfits.  They all threaten him with various weapons but Finn holds out a box cutter and threatens them right back.  then across the screen flashes the words, "5 hours and 41 minutes earlier..."

Finn and Jess are sitting on a bench chatting. They are dressed in the familiar orange jumpsuits.  In an office, Rudy is jerking off watching porn when Finn and Jess enter.  Rudy asks them who they are and Finn says that they are there for their community service. Rudy quickly turns off the computer and says that he is their probation worker and blames the porn on a spam email. Of course, Rudy pretends to be disgusted by the porn and says that it's somebody's daughter.

Seth has Michael tied to a chair and points out that he has already lost a hand.  Seth tells Michael that there are only so many limbs that a man can loose.  Seth wants Michael to hand over the briefcase and give him the combination. Michael simply says, "fuck you."  Seth gets a call from Rudy to say that they have a problem, as Jess and Finn walk out of the office.

Jess and Finn are cleaning up garbage outside and Seth finds it suspicious that they have shown up a day after they get the briefcase. Rudy tells him not to worry because Jess and Finn are under the impression that he is their probation worker and he is impressed that he is quite the actor. Seth leaves to try to get more information and Rudy tells Seth to let him know if he needs him to squeeze out more information. 

Jess goes inside the community center to get  drink when she hears a loud bang.  She goes into the room with the lockers and watches as Rudy uses a fire extinguisher to open all of the lockers.  Jess asks him what he is doing and Rudy says that he is looking for a sandwich to put in one the lockers for safe keeping. He says that he bloody hates it when he loses a sandwich. Jess says that a mouse may have eaten it because it's a cheese sandwich. Rudy says that she will have to excuse him because he has important probation worker business to attend to. 

Jess follows Rudy and he goes inside a room.  With her x-ray vision, she watches as Ruddy yells into a freezer telling whoever is in there to shut up. Jess then goes to Finn to tell him that the probation worker has someone locked in a freezer. Finn wants to know why anyone would hold someone captive in a freezer and says that there must be a perfectly reasonable explanation for this. Jess tells him to give her a perfectly reasonable explanation and Finn asks, "do we need to get involved? How about we pretend you didn't see it? That feels good to me." Rudy appears in the hallway and Finn is shocked to see him.  When Rudy walks away, Jess says again that they need to get the guy out of the freezer. 

Rudy cuts a chainsaw out of a box but he cannot start it up.  As he starts to read the directions, the fire alarm goes off and Jess and Finn see the chainsaw on the desk.  Rudy walks into the room where Seth is torturing Michael.  Seth asks Rudy what is going on and Rudy replies, "either there is a fire or someone is attempting to fuck with us."  Rudy closes the door and Seth goes back to his torture.  Jess and Finn break into the room with the freezer and it's Curtis lying inside.  Curtis is not moving and Finn suggests leaving him there.  When Jess touches Curtis, he jumps out grabs her, asks her who she is and where the briefcase is. Jess fights back and says that she doesn't know anything about any case. Curtis goes rushing out and Rudy appears in the doorway and says that they shouldn't have let Curtis out because he is a "giant shit." 

Rudy hands Jess and Finn two glasses of orange juice and says that he is going to level with them. Rudy admits that he is not the probation work and Jess sarcastically replies, "really, no shit. You should think about becoming an actor." Rudy admits that he is also on community service and says that it all started yesterday and they were all gathered around the vending machine.

We get a flashback to Seth, who says that he and Kelly were in Uganda and some kid stepped on a landmine. If the kid had moved, he would have been dead and so Kelly marched over and diffused the mine. Curtis is impressed and Seth says that the villagers love her out there and that he has returned to get her stuff because Kelly is leaving community service to stay in Africa to diffuse land mines.  This has got to be the weakest excuse for the elimination of a character that I have ever seen.  It's not helped by the fact that they have set Kelly up to play White savior to the poor Africans.  Really Misfits? Michael walks in carrying a briefcase and says that it's his money.  When Seth, Rudy and Curtis touch him, they seem to become infected, because some sort of green mist travels up their arms.  Rudy, Curtis and Seth immediately start talking about the money and how to get into the briefcase. Curtis says that if they open the briefcase without the combination that a dye pack will explode and ruin the money.  They all pounce on Michael looking for a key for the handcuffs but cannot find one.  Rudy suggests that Curtis and Seth go home and that he will stay there and take care of their injured friend.  Curtis says that they are going to stay and give him a hand and Seth says that he was trained by St. John's ambulance.  They drag Michael into the office and lock him in there.  They lie down to get some sleep and of course Rudy is jerking off. He says, "it's just a quick cheeky one to get some sleep. I have to feed the monster."  He continues to jerk off.

We are brought back to the present and Jess tells Rudy that he is going to go blind and then suggests   just get back to to telling the story.  Seth, Curtis and Rudy are in a room with Michael on the floor and Michael is missing his hand.  They are arguing about the case and no one is concerned that Michael could be bleeding out.  Curtis says, "I know what I did and didn't do and I know that I didn't take the case." Curtis grabs Rudy and asks him where the case is.  Rudy says, "if I took the case, why am I still here?" Curtis tells him that he is still there because he needs the combination to the case and Michael is the only one who has it. Seth says that whoever did take the case is probably close by waiting for Michael to regain consciousness. Curtis suggests that they search the community center and they go room to room but don't find anything.  Talking to Rudy, Curtis says that he thinks it's Seth because he is sneaky and underhanded. Curtis says that Seth makes cruel jokes about Rudy behind his back. "His cock's like a little fucking slug"?  Rudy asks if Seth has seen his cock.  Curtis suggests drugging Seth's drink and locking him in a freezer. 

Revolution Season One, Episode Six: Sex and Drugs

In the last episode, Nora had been stabbed, so this episode begins with them putting her in a wagon and racing away with her to get help because the wound has become infected. Aaron tells Charlie that it's going to be okay, but Charlie says that's just an insane lie that people say to comfort each other.  Miles has to tell her that this is enough. Charlie has clearly become incredibly jaded by everything that she has been through.

For the first time, we get a flashback for Aaron.  He is in a limo drinking champagne with his wife. She tells him he does not have to be so extravagant but he replies that this is just a perk of being married to him.  Suddenly, the power goes out and their limo stops and a truck crashes into their car.

Danny has arrived at the Monroe settlement and Monroe says that he knew Ben and that Neville will be dealt with.  He tells Danny that he is his guest and that he can have anything he wants - food, women all for the asking.  If I didn't already know that Monroe is an asshole, this would settle it for me. You don't offer people as a perk. Danny is escorted out, leaving Neville and Monroe alone.  Neville apologies for the death of Ben and Monroe tells him to drop the formalities and promotes him to major. He is now heading up intelligence and interrogation. Monroe says that this will make his wife happy because she wants to have him home more.

Miles arrives at a compound and Aaron notices a poppy field. It seems that this compound supplies the heroin for the Monroe area. Drexil comes out and says that Miles has a lot of nerve showing up there. Miles tries to explain that he has a sick friend but Drexil is not interested. He demands that Miles get on his knees, puts a gun to his head and starts to countdown.  Drexil was only playing a game and orders everyone to put their hands down, though he does demand their weapons.  Everyone is escorted inside and Drexel clearly has an eye for Charlie.  When Aaron suggests that they should all stay together, Drexel asks if they are turning down his hospitality.

Aaron is alone in his room and he pulls out a flask and takes a deep drink.  We get a flashback to him walking with his wife Priscilla.  He is telling Priscilla not to worry, though she is clearly not feeling well and that they need to get out of the city. They have to stop because Priscilla is in pain and a man named Shaun approaches asking what is wrong with Priscilla.  Aaron says that it's her stomach and so Shaun asks if Priscilla drank from the lake.  When Aaron answers yes, Shaun says that sewage pumps stopped working and it all flowed into the lake, which means Priscilla probably has dysentery.

Nora needs blood and because Miles is o negative he prepares to do a transfusion. This is necessary because Nora is in septic shock.  As the blood transfusion begins, Miles takes her hand.  Upstairs, Charlie gets into a tub and she flashes back to the day that their mother left them and her promise to protect Danny.  Charlie gets out of the tub and in a rage, rips up all of the postcards she has collected.

Back at the Monroe camp, Jason enters the room.  Monroe tells Jason that his report was great but Neville tells his son that it was light, especially the part where he was helped captive by the Matheson girl. Monroe has to tell him to go easy and asks about Nora and Miles.  Monroe shows him a picture of the pendant and Jason says that Aaron has it.  Monroe places an order for Strausser to track it down and this alarms Jason because Strausser is not known to leave people alive.  Monroe tells Jason that they don't need anyone else. Neville stares down his son and says, "dismissed." It's clear that things are going to come to a head between Neville and Jason.

Strausser is sharpening his knife and talking to a boy about how to butcher a person and praising his father. This is clearly to remind us how cruel Strausser is. He is approached by Neville, who tells him that he has a job for him. Nora is lying on a bed and Miles starts packing up to leave and get Danny. Miles believes that they shouldn't stay there too long. Drexler enters the room and is upset that they are leaving and Miles says, "we owe you one".  Drexler tells Charlie and Aaron that he met Miles when he was head of the Militia.  It seems that Miles helped him eliminate his competition and in return, Drexler filled his chest with gold.  When Miles defected, Drexler was treated poorly because of his association with Miles.  He tells Miles hat he owes him for so many things and orders him to come with him. Drexler takes Miles outside to talk about his burned poppies. It seems that Drexler wants Charlie to take out the  head of the O'Halloran family for burning his crops. Miles says that it's impossible but Drexler says that Miles won't be able to get in.  Drexler says that Charlie does it or he is going to start by strangling Latina barbie.  Charlie gives in and agrees to do it.

Charlie is an off the shoulder dress staring at herself in the mirror and Miles approaches her to say that it is his fault. Miles promises that she is not going to walk out the door but Charlie points out that if she doesn't do it, then they are all going to die.  Aaron asks if she is just going to kill some random guy but Charlie points out that she has done it before. Aaron is shocked and asks why she is talking about this and points out that this isn't some militia guy.  Aaron says that they are innocent and this murder but CHarlie yells back that she doesn't have a choice.  Charlie tells Miles that he was the one always telling her toughen up and that he is right, the world is not a bunch of pretty postcard.  Drexler enters and gives her a weapon to shove in Bill's eye and that she is to say that she is one of his regular girls and she is tried of being roughed up.  When Charlie asks what he means by roughing her up, Drexler punches her.  Miles grabs him by the throat but gets a gun pointed at him for his trouble. He pauses in front of Aaron to ask if he has something he wanted to say but Aaron is silent.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Being Human (US) Season 3 Teaser!

We still have a while to wait until January 14th for Being Human to return, but in the meantime we have this trailer to whet your appetite.

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake: Anna #1

I must admit that I was drawn to this book because of the name, title and absolutely gorgeous cover. Normally I am not one to get sucked in because this is purely marketing but Blake got me.

Often our parents life experiences influence us and that is most certainly the case with Cas.  For generations his family has hunted and killed murderous ghosts.  When Cas is only seven years old his father is killed and eaten by a ghost he was attempting to kill.  All that is left behind is a burned black voodoo cross and a knife.  He is actively discouraged to leave the voodoo the charm alone but as Cas grows he never forgets it, or his promise to go back one day and avenge his fathers death.

When he hears the story of Anna dressed in blood - a female ghost that has been murdering people, Cas feels some sort of connection and is drawn to seek her out. He believes that this kill will be like all of the others.  First he talks to the local teenagers to find out the myth behind Anna but when he finally confronts her, he finds a ghost that is stronger than any he has ever met before.  For some reason, Cas does not want to kill her though she is responsible for so many murders, including that of a local jock.  When in the course of a spell they discover that Anna was killed by her mother and step father, Cas frees her spirit.  It is only when a body turns up the next day that Cas begins to worry that this decision might not have been the right one. Has he freed Anna to have access to more victims, or has something more dangerous come to town?

I found this book to be a slow read despite the fact that it's just over 200 pages long.  At times it felt like the characters were moving in circles.  I further found the romance between Cas and Anna to be awkward.  Yes over fifty years ago, Anna was a legitimate victim, but what about all of the people she has killed since then?  I don't buy her redemption for just one moment.

Anna Dressed in Blood is essentially a story about ghosts and magic.  What irked me again was the negative painting of Voodoo.  It was ultimately Voodoo that was painted as animalistic and violent even as we are continually reminded of the supposed purity of Anna dressed in the white dress she died in dripping in blood.  Being White and female of course she had to be redeemed but the Obeahman most certainly could not be because he practiced the so-called dark arts.

666 Park Avenue, Season 1, Episode 5: A Crowd of Demons

31st October 1929
It’s the time of the Wall Street Crash and, at the Drake, Peter Kramer and his associate are travelling in the lift. They have done a ritual for incredible wealth and now they have blood on their hands and, as Peter says, they have let evil into their homes.

Peter goes to his apartment to his wife and daughter. He tells his wife that the firm has closed down – but he has found a way out. He eye starts shaking and he tells his wife “in heaven you will be truly happy” then attacks her with a hammer. In the bedroom the girl hides under the bed and her mother staggers in, bleeding. She gestures her to be quiet and pulls the necklace from her neck, telling her she needs to keep it safe and keep it in the family.

In the present day, Olivia is preparing for the Drake’s annual Hallowe’en party with lots of decorations. Jane rushes past to tell her about Henry’s TV interview – after his heroics last episode he is in high demand – and Olivia hopes he will turn it into more – and out of the lift steps Peter. Yes, 1929 Peter.

Henry has his interview, in which he is repeatedly modest – and the reporter describes him, among other things, as available since he has no ring on his finger. He quickly corrects her after the interview was over and babbles endearingly to Jane. His babble is cut off by the introduction of Laurel, a media consultant, who is already planning on how he can use his 15 minutes of fame as a lever into higher office, perhaps even becoming the mayor. He says he has no such ambitions but she gives him her card.

Olivia and  Gavin are walking down the street making their plans for the party and discussing Henry’s success and how Gavin knows how to pick them. They separate and Gavin gets a text message saying “you’re going to pay for everything you’ve done”, followed quickly by a huge car with blacked out windows nearly splattering Olivia across the pavement. As he rushes to check on her he gets two more text messages “just thought I’d introduce myself” and “next time I won’t miss, see you tonight.” How rare to see Gavin as the victim.

Time for us to drop in on the pointless ones – Brian and Louise. These 2 either need to add to the plot or stop taking up screen time, they really do. Brian comes home to find Louise with her shirt off being massaged by Scott, a doctor in apartment 4G. He’s rather perturbed at the intimate setting but Louise assures him that he’s just examining her because her ribs are sore. Before he leaves she asks him if he has any medication for a strained muscle before the party and he jokes “tequila”. He leaves and Louise tells Brian that Alexis is coming to the party – which Brian is hardly thrilled about. Louise goes into the bathroom – and takes several pills.

For the party Alexis arrives in a sexy nurse’s costume and Brian snarks at her for actually knocking this time. She apologises and makes it a full one – for kissing him and for pushing, she thought there was a connection and she was wrong. She promises to back off in future. She also talks about Scott, saying he’s examined Louise 2 or 3 times – and they haven’t just met as she thought. In the bathroom, Louise finds her pill bottle empty and is clearly bothered by it.

Henry and Jane rush for the party but find that, again, the Dorans have already provided their costumes, which Henry comments is like having a fairy godmother – Jane adds a slightly wry “who lets themselves in whenever she wants” (finally, at last some resistance to the controlling and invasive nature of the Dorans towards Henry and Jane). Henry gets to dress as a Sherriff (and looks more like Woody from Toy Story) and Jane gets to dress as Tippi Hedren from the Birds, complete with giant black birds stuck all over her. Nice. They go down the lift to the party – and they get to share it with the ultra-creepy Peter, who fixates on Jane’s necklace while the music plays ominiously.

Once Upon a Time: Season 2, Episode 5: The Doctor

Fairy Land Present
Snow, Mulan, Emma and Aurora trudge back to their island fortress, worrying about telling people about Lancelot’s death – when they find that the place is deserted. Except for the bodies many many bodies. They first think of ogres – but then see that the hearts of the victims have been removed, Cora killed them. Or nearly all of them – among the bodies is a man, Captain Hook, pretending to be a survivor.

Mulan tells Emma she’s seen him around, he says he’s a blacksmith who lost his hand in an ogre attack, but Emma is suspicious. As we remember from the very first episode of the first season, it is very very hard to lie to Emma and she is very very suspicious. So when they discuss leaving, finding a portal and getting back to Storybrooke – Emma puts a knife to Hook’s throat.

They tie him to a tree while he continues to protest his innocence – Emma isn’t buying it and whistles for the ogres. He can tell the truth or he can become lunch. He tries to lie some more so Emma is happy to walk away and leave him tied up. He cracks, admits to being Captain Hook and tells them he was left their by Cora to try and infiltrate their group, earn their trust and find out everything they could about Storybrooke. To which Mulan says it’s safest to leave him tied for the ogres – and Emma agrees (so do I, and yes, I was cheering).

He protests they need him alive – out comes the knife again and he quickly tells Emma that in addition to the wardrobe dust Cora has, she also needs a magical compass to find her way to Storybrooke. And he’s willing to make the same deal as he made with Cora – help him get to Storybrooke and he will help them get the compass before Cora. Emma asks what he wants in Storybrooke – to kill Rumplestiltskin. Everyone’s pretty much OK with that.

They follow Hook, with Mulan and Emma suspecting and being ready for a trap when they see their destination – a giant bean stalk with a giant up the top.

Fairy Land Past
Rumplestiltskin is teaching the naïve and innocent Regina how to use her magic – starting by having her immobilise a unicorn. Once unable to move he demands she remove it’s heart as Cora does – Regina refuses, it’s evil and the unicorn is innocent (“No-one is innocent, dearie”).  Rumple removes the heart himself – saying it strengthens the heart and, if done right, doesn’t hurt the creature, unless you want it to. Though it does control them.  He gives it to Regina and demands she crush it. He wants to know, if she truly wants power, why does she hold back, why does she hesitate?

Later, in Rumple’s work shop he asks Regina what she wants. She tells him power and he scoffs, saying she’s wasting his time. Regina confesses she wants to bring back the dead, to bring back Daniel, her true love, who Cora killed. Rumple dismisses her, bringing back the dead is impossible – and they’re then interrupted by Jefferson the Mad Hatter arriving – a much more fun, less angsty Mad Hatter at that. Wants to know why she’s there – power, stop wasting time, bring back dead, impossible. He has an orb for Rumple and is apparently in the business of acquiring things for him – but he doesn’t have the objects Rumple wanted to use to reach another world. Jefferson mentions his hat but the hat won’t go to a land without magic (to try and find his son).

While Jefferson collects his gold, Rumple tells Regina to leave, there’s no point training her if her goal is impossible. Jefferson overhears what he said and tells Regina that he does know someone, a wizard of sorts, who may be able to do what she wants. In return he wants a passport for free travel across the kingdom, since she’s queen. If the wizard he knows can’t do it then Rumple is right, no-one can.

They go to Regina’s palace and, after much drama where Jefferson warns Regina the “wizard” is unused to their form of magic, he introduces her to… Dr. Whale. She takes him to the preserved body of Daniel and he marvels over the state the body is in, perfectly preserved by Regina’s spell. And we learn that his process hasn’t had success to date – it’s experimental – but it should work so long as he gets a strong heart, a heart that doesn’t exist in his realm. But he had heard that Fairy Land has hearts that are enhanced by magic – so powerful that they glow. Regina is adamant that she will not use magic for evil – and removing a heart is black magic. Jefferson suggests if she wants her fiancé back she should find someone who will.

But she doesn’t need to, taking them to her mother’s fire place, they can hear a heartbeat. Behind the fireplace is a vault in which are stored dozens, if not hundreds of hearts, all beating away. Regina says she has no idea who they are, Cora took so many it was impossible to keep track. She reflects on what an utter monster her mother was and the pain she caused.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Fangs for the Fantasy Episode 91

This week we discuss the season finale of Alphas as well as American Horror Story, Fringe, The Walking Dead and 666 Park Avenue

We also discuss erasure and how it is exacerbated by series with large numbers of characters.

Our book of the week is Grave Dance by Kalayana Price.

29/10-5/11: Dark Descendant by Jenna Black
5/11-12/11: Runelight by Joanne Harris
12/11-19/11: Her Own Devices by Shelly Adina
19/11-26/11: Eternal Night by Guillermo Del Toro

We will discuss each book on the latter date – so on the 12th November, we will discuss Runelight by Joanne Harris