Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Vampire Diaries Season Four, Episode Nine, O Come, All Ye Faithful

When Elena wakes, she is in bed with Damon and they are both dressed. Though Damon points out that this would have been so much fun if they were both naked, he says that he was being a gentleman.  I am actually quite happy that they didn't have sex because Elena's inability to say no, would have made it an act of rape. Damon points again that Elena is sired to him but she says that she is not ready to let go of how she feels.  Damon again says that he told Stefan that he would set her free and they interrupted by Bonnie, who has been teaching Jeremy how not to kill Elena.  Elena asks Damon to come along with her to her family's cabin.

Klaus is busy painting a giant snowflake as his donation to the winter wonderland charity event.  Adrian shows up and Klaus tells him to deliver the painting, but Adrian is not at all impressed with being ordered about. Adrian grabs the painting and leaves, as Stefan quips, "Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves."  Really? Who exactly thought that this was a great line considering that the writers constantly write scenes which praise the antebellum south, have referred to Bonnie's great grandmother as a handmaiden rather than a slave, and have refused to admit that the old Lockwoood property was a plantation?  If they are going to invoke slavery they need to follow that up with some decent racial inclusion and at the very least end the high praise of the antebellum south that The Vampire Diaries constantly engages in. Stefan tells Klaus that Elena is sired to Damon and Klaus says that he retrieved the hunters sword from Italy. When Stefan questions whether or not Klaus actually found the sword, Klaus grabs it from his vault.

Adrienne goes to see Tyler to complain about having to continue to serve Klaus, though he is no longer bonded to him.  Haylee tells them all that she has found a witch who is going to save all of their lives. Tyler heads off to the fair to see Caroline, where he tells her that Haylee found a witch to move Klaus into a different body and then they plan to bury the body in concrete. Tyler says, "this started with me and it has to end with me," as a way of justifying why he has agreed, to let Klaus take up residence in his body again.

Jeremy is splitting wood at the cabin, when Elena and Damon pull up.  Bonnie walks out to Jeremy and takes the axe away from him. Bonnie and Jeremy then walk towards the cabin door, which Shane opens.  Damon is surprised to see Shane and Elena admits that she invited him.  When Elena and Damon arrive at the door, she tells Jeremy that this is his house now and that he has to invite her in.  The moment Elena enters, Jeremy pulls out a stake and attempts to kill her.

Caroline calls Stefan to say that she is in a crises. Stefan tells Caroline that Klaus' sword decodes Jeremy's tattoo. Caroline asks if Klaus handed over the sword and says that they need to get their hands on the sword because the hybrids are taking out Klaus that night.

Caroline is looking at Klaus' painting and tells him that there is something lonely about it  When he offers her champagne, she says no because there are too many adult prying eyes and that she doesn't want to end up as a cautionary tale at the next town meeting. Klaus answers, "it's a good thing that highschool is almost over."  Caroline changes her mind about the drink and then moment Klaus leaves to get it for her, she texts Stefan to let him know that Klaus is officially distracted? How many times is Klaus going to fall for this? He is supposed to be an original vampire, how silly can he be to keep falling for the same distraction?

Stefan is on the phone with Damon, while he is searching Klaus' home.  Of course, Stefan now cannot find the sword.  Damon tells him to kill Tyler before he gets to Klaus or tell Klaus about the hybrids, so that he will kill Tyler.  Stefan replies that no one is killing Tyler and asks where Elena is today. Damon says that Elena is running around trying to reprogram Jeremy and then lies about breaking the sire bond.

Jeremy is tied to a chair and candles are lit.  Shane says that he is teaching Jeremy to have his subconscious recognise Elena as someone he loves.  Shane instructs Elena to talk to Jeremy and so she talks about the memories they have associated with the vacation house.  Elena tells Jeremy that their parents would have wanted them to stick together and fight for each other no matter what. When Shane asks Jeremy how he feels about Elena, he says, that she is not even his real sister and is the reason why everyone that he has ever cared about his died.  Seriously, Elena may not have liked the sound of that but it's the absolute truth and so it's too bad they had to make his comments all about the mark. Jeremy vows to kill Elena, even if it means he dies himself. 

Stefan shows up at the festival and admits to Caroline that he didn't find the sword and that they now have to convince Tyler to call off his plan.  What Stefan does not realise is that Tyler heard every word.  Tyler makes it clear that this is not going to happen. Tyler is not impressed that Caroline told Stefan about what happened.  Stefan asks for more time, but Tyler points out that every minute that goes by, the hybrids are at risk and adds that Stefan and Klaus have already served up a hybrid for Jeremy to kill.  For those who don't remember, the name of the hybrid in question was Chris and it's telling that the writers didn't use the name they gave him, considering he is yet another Black character to die needlessly on this show. In fact, Chris died specifically to turn Jeremy into a special snowflake like his sister. Tyler tells Stefan that he does not owe him anything.  When Tyler turns to leave, he is confronted by Stefan, who says that he can't let him do that.  Caroline calls Stefan to get his attention because they are now surrounded by hybrids.  Tyler says, "I'm sorry man, but you don't have a choice."

Back at the cabin, Elena and Damon are sitting outside.  Elena is upset because the plan to reprogram Jeremy didn't work and says, "I shouldn't have put this much home into reprogramming someone's mind. If it were that easy, then you and I wouldn't be in this situation."  She put hope into this because she has spent years deleting Jeremy's memories in order to control him, but let's not talk about that uncomfortable little fact.  Damon does not answer and so Elena goes on to talk about how the last time she was at this cabin, she was deeply in love with Stefan. Elena asks if her lack of memory is about the sire bond, or because she is happy to be there with Damon. 

Tyler decides that it is time to secure Caroline and Stefan to stop them from interfering.  Stefan tries to tell Tyler that he doesn't know what is going on, but Tyler says that he knows that this about the cure.  It seems that when a hybrid is cured of being a vampire, that they go back to being a werewolf, which means turning on every full moon.  When Caroline begins to beg, Tyler replies, "I thought you were on my side, that's all I wanted."

Inside the cabin, Jeremy is looking at pictures of happier times.  Bonnie enters the room to tell Jeremy that Shane wants to try again.  Damon quickly follows and suggests, "professor Shane has been dipping into the magical herbs a little too much, if he thinks using a vampire to suppress the need to kill another one is going to work on a hunter. It's like dangling a cheeseburger in front of someone on a master cleanse." Damon instructs Jeremy to find someone else to attach his warm and fuzzy feelings to and Jeremy says that he feels that way about Bonnie.

Beauty and the Beast: Season 1, Episode 9: Bridesmaids Up!

Catherine and Heather (remember her?) are all prepared for their dad’s big wedding day coming up soon and Catherine has become all gung-ho about the wedding. And Vincent arrives and actually smiles

Wait… let me double check that. Yes, he is actually non-angsty. The serum is working. He’s not blacking out and he likes Catherine’s dress. She has some worries about going alone and she also fees that while she’s been obsessed with her mother she has ignored her father a lot and is now overcompensating. They joke about bringing Vincent in on a false name so Catherine won’t be alone and angst begins to creep in.

But he’s here because he has a job for her – he was walking and found a guy who smelled of blood, he was nervous and also had a blood smelling briefcase (what is this, neighbourhood nosy Beast?) . Catherine goes to set up the wedding brunch (which is apparently a thing) while giving the details to Tess saying it’s an anonymous tip.

But Evan comes to Tess with his own project. He wants her to try and ID the intruder in his lab from last week (JT). And Evan was pursuing his own project on genetic mutation at the same time and worries that JT was trying to steal it or sabotage it.

The brunch is as fun and relevant as you can imagine and Catherine is rescued by Tess telling her the building nervous bloody guy entered is owned by Drake and Sabrina Meyer  - he’s in finance and she’s a professional matchmaker. Back to the brunch where everyone woman is horrified that Catherine is single! By the end of the episode they may actually grab a random man off the street and tie him to her. In desperation she claims she has someone in her life – a doctor but it’s too early in the relationship to invite him to a wedding. There follows a Spanish Inquisition of questioning to force out the name and make him come to the wedding.

Time to check in with JT and Vincent and Vincent wants JT to taser him. No this isn’t a kinky game, he wants to see if he’s safe to go outside. JT is not keen on this, sure they stopped the blackouts but his DNA is still the same, he has the same anger and control issues and he’s still capable of tearing people into teeny tiny pieces. Vincent mentions wanting to go to the wedding and JT thinks he has well and truly lost the plot. Vincent tries to provoke him into hitting him, JT isn’t such a fool and walks away. Vincent declares he passed anyway because he was irritated by JT’s refusal.

Catherine complains to Tess about the whole situation and how everyone regarded her with such pity because she was single. Tess suggests using Evan and his accent as a distraction but she’s already used Vincent’s name. And the case (yes there is one, conveniently brought by Vincent remember) they have Neil Mendell, missing finance guy – sure he’s only been gone 2 hours but what else do they have to do. As far as I can see only the fact both Mondell and Meyer work in “finance” connects these 2 and he’s been missing for an entire 2 hours.

Yes, apparently these 2 NYPD homicide detectives are so underworked that they can investigate long shot non-reported crimes for shits and giggles.

They go to his house, find the bed rumbled, an empty condom wrapper and a tiny blood stain. In the shower, they find a body with three bullet holes in him.

We have a crime. Time to take it back to Joe and review. Evan reports the flat was cleaned down and the blood stain was a contaminant. It also turns out that Mendell was paying into Sabrina Meyer’s dating business.  And, since murder cases are getting in the way of Catherine’s social life, it turns out Evan has accepted a date to the wedding with Heather! Yes, Catherine saying she has a date has convinced Heather that Evan is available. This leads to Tess’s excellent idea of having Catherine interviewing Sabrina Meyer alone so she can join the dating agency (because what’s wrong with mixing criminal investigation and your social life? And who says you can’t ask a murder suspect for dating tips!)

Friday, December 14, 2012

Review: The Hobbit by J R R Tolkien

 Bilbo Baggins is a Hobbit and he enjoys his quiet, respectable life in his quiet home in the Shire. Eating, seeing friends and generally living in peace.

Until Gandalf arrives at his door, followed quickly by 14 dwarfs who drag him into that least wanted of things – an adventure.

He finds himself walking half way across Middle Earth, not eating nearly as often as he would wish and facing far more peril than he’d like, to finally reach the lonely mountain, its treasure – and its dragon.

One of the eternal problems with reviewing is trying to be objective while at the same time recognising that reviewing is always based on our subjective opinions.

In light of that, I have to be fair. So, if you like long winded, extremely slow, ridiculously overwritten stories with far too many characters who have no development and are little more than a name, interspaced with grossly excessive exposition and the occasionally pointless song all told in the voice of a rambly old story teller who seems both forgetful and in terrible need of concise editing – you will like this book. Nay, you will love this book.

However, if you are like me and dislike info-dumping, prefer a tighter story, prefer a story to actually have some pace to it and not to have random pointless encounters to pad the pages and to have every character actually have a relevant role to play in the story then this book will slowly sap your will to live.

Bilbo leaves his home with 14 companions – Gandalf and Thorin and Fili and Kili and Sleepy and Dopey and Grumpy and Bombur (he’s the fat one. We know that because it is mentioned over and over again. Honestly, poor Bombur needs some better friends who won’t constantly mock his weight every single time his name is mentioned). Gandalf, Thorin, Bilbo are relevant, everyone else is an extra. And they didn’t have the good manners to be killed off as excess cast so the protagonist can be all sad about them – they hang around right until the end!

The story also bemuses me. The plan of the dwarfs is to get their ancestral treasure back. Do they know how to get there? Barely. Do they know what’s between them and the treasure? No. Do They have any idea how to overcome any obstacles along the way? No. Do they have any idea how to get the treasure past the dragon? No. Do they have any idea how to get the treasure home? No. They just set off on a wonder and hope that everything will sort itself out.

And it does! Partly through Gandalf Ex Machinae (seriously half of their problems are solved by throwing a wizard at them) and mostly through sheer chance and luck in random encounters. They run into some trolls, are saved by Gandalf and, stroke of luck, they happened to be carrying 3 of the most potent anti-goblin weapons of all time! What luck! Bilbo gets look in the middle of a goblin stronghold under a mountain and happens to find the One Ring! I was waiting for Bombur to look up from his supper and say “by my beard, this fish had swallowed the Portable Nuclear Device of Dragon Slaying! What amazing luck!” Luck gets them out of so many situations. They escape the wargs because, luckily, the eagles see them. They escape the spiders because, luckily, Bilbo has the One Ring. They have no plan to kill the dragon, but luckily their plotting is overheard by a bird who tells an archer a town over that is, luckily, attacked. These characters never actually achieve anything! They manage to bungle through the entire story in a series of natural 20s. Even achievements they seem to have – like Bilbo foiling the spiders or rescuing them from the elves is entirely dependent on his luck at finding the One Ring. And everyone’s dancing around him “my Bilbo you’re an amazing burglar!” he’s freaking invisible! How can he possibly fail? The only reason he looks incompetent is because next to Gloin and Oin and Fili and Doc and Sneezy the ponies they’re riding would look like geniuses!

American Horror Story, Season 2, Episode 9: The Coathanger

It’s the present for once and we open with a man, Johnny, speaking to a hypnotherapist, Dr Gardner, to get her help to curb impulses. His impulses? He skinned a cat as a child, then escalated to killing animals which he points our are predictors for psychopaths (serial killers more accurately) and those thoughts are getting harder to ignore. She becomes ever more uncomfortable as he talks about his roots – finding his real father (he now lives in his real father’s house) and his urge to hurt women and skin them. We flash to him as Bloody Face – modern Bloody Face – trying to skin Teresa at Briarcliff, but he’s not nearly as skilled as his father, Threadson. And he wants to go to medical school to learn his father’s skills.

Back to the past where in Briarcliff, Sister Demon Lettuce is upbraiding nuns for entering her office without knocking (aww, she’s all grown up). Even Lana comments on her “Jude imitation.” And Sister Demon Lettuce reveals that Lana is pregnant – and comments on a “drano margarita” to induce an abortion and calls her rape a lie (possibly because they have Threadson captured, Lana pretends she hallucinated).

Yes, Lana is pregnant. Who didn’t see this coming?

Lana declares that she can’t have this baby, she doesn’t want the baby but Sister Demon Lettuce says she can and will (and it’s an insane asylum, people hump like bunnies and they’ve had unwed mothers before… she has a way with words you have to admit) and the babies are taken to St Ursula’s home for lost children. Lana says she’s worse than Jude and Demon Lettuce threatens to restrain her.

Jude wakes up tied to a bed with the Monsignor standing over her telling her she’s become unhinged and paranoid. We see the process used to frame her with the Monsignor, Arden, Demon Lettuce and Leigh (yes, he survived) all conspiring against her to frame her for the death of Frank and accuse her of kidnapping and attacking Leigh. Even the Mother Superior testifies that Jude thought Sister Demon Lettuce was possessed by the devil. The magistrate ruled that Jude would spend the rest of her days in Briarcliff and she is stripped of her clerical status.

Mosignor and Demon Lettuce pack up Jude’s things – including her red camisole. And Demon lettuce reveals she knows all about Monsignor’s extreme ambition to become pope and offers her own service to the Monsignor to help him save souls.

Jude finds the nuns are no kinder to her than any other inmate - perhaps even harsher since she used to be the harsh taskmistress. Monsignor arrives with a visitor for her – Leigh. Oh I bet she’s thrilled. He has something to say which Monsignor thinks will help. He tells her he forgives her.

Jude is not amused and flashbacks to 1963 when they restrained Frank to his bed after he raped another nun (enough with the damn rape! And no, “Sister Chastity” being the victim is not ironic or funny or edgy, damn it). Leigh claims she has to forgive him, she says she doesn’t, she’s not a priest and he’s not a penitent. Back tied to her bed, Jude is not impressed.

Lana smuggles a wire coathanger to her room which she unfolds and goes to see Kit who is busy syphoning off his drip so he’s less loopy. Lana wants to kill Threadson again, but Kit still needs his confession.  Lana has an idea of how to make that happen.

Time to go see Threadson and show him her pregnancy results (“the ultimate cosmic joke”). He begs her not to give the baby up for adoption – since he himself was a child of the system. Lana holds up her wire coathanger – her “creative” abortion since she’s stuck there. Threadson starts begging and promising to change (imagine how little Lana believes that). She tells him how much she doesn’t believe him then begins asking about his victims, each one and why he chose them, getting confessions from him. All recorded by Kit. She does tell him that she was pregnant though – but she’d already given herself an abortion with the coathanger.  He calls her a monster for killing “an innocent child”, Lana’s not having it and tells him she’s going to get a knife from the bakery and slit his throat.

Arden, after his close encounter of the noisy kind, returns to the death chute to try and find Grace’s disappearing body and finds… footprints. If feet were odd and two toed. Actually they look vaguely like dinosaur footprints from Jurassic Park – NB: American Horror Story this is NOT A SUGGESTION! Aliens and demons are quite enough thank you.

Kit, going to hide the tape recorder, runs into Arden who insists he join the doctor in his office for some 18 year old single malt. Yes, even Kit, not the brightest spark, think this is a little unusual. Why? Because he’s seen the aliens and even taken a cast of their odd two toed footprints. Arden has a hypothesis – the aliens took Alma, Kit’s wife, after they had sex and took Grace after she had sex with Kit as well; they’re experimenting Arden guesses Eugenics (course he does). He has a great plan to bring the aliens back: bring Kit to the brink of death and the aliens will swoop in to the rescuetheir prime subject. And he’d prefer Kit to co-operate. For the sake of seeing Alma again, Kit agrees

The Torrent of Homophobia on 'Misfits'

The title of Misfits has caused many to give it a pass on what can clearly be described as terribly problematic language and behaviour. There can be no doubt that the misfits are clearly to be understood as anti-social personalities but this does not excuse their continually contemptible behaviour and language. There comes a time when even the most tolerant viewer will move from, “I don’t like to admit it but this cracks me up,” to “this is beyond offensive.” In season four the last original Misfit left the show and in many ways, it seems that the writers/producers feel that increasing the problematic language and behaviour is necessary because the audience no longer has a long running relationship with the characters. Week in and week out, marginalised communities are in someway maligned or made the butt of a joke.

From the very beginning, sexuality has always been a problem for Misfits. Much of the ways in which Simon was verbally abused by Nathan, included clearly homophobic taunts. For Nathan, attacking Simon’s masculinity meant repeatedly calling him gay, thus implying that gay men are not suitably masculine or otherwise inferior and worthy of derision. And no, you can’t use “gay” as an insult without saying something negative about gay people.

Simon is not the only man who Nathan has used homophobia to attack. In season one, episode two, Nathan discovers his mother’s boyfriend Jeremy lying naked on the ground.  There are many conclusions that Nathan could have jumped to - drugs for example, but instead, Nathan decides that Jeremy has to be a gay man, with some sort of disgusting sexual perversion - and, of course, no straight people troll for sex. He then takes his suspicions to his mother and asserts that Jeremy must be involved in some sort of “rough trade.”  

When Nathan leaves the show, his character is replaced by Rudy, who seems to exist to increase the usage of the usage of oppressive language. Rudy’s target for homophobic attacks is Finn. Though the two men are clearly friends, these taunts continue to exist. When you are on a roll with using an ism to attack, why not up the ante?  Finn, is interested in fellow misfit Jess, who wants to date Alex. Determined to prove that Alex is no good, Finn photographs Alex accepting an envelope from a man in a garage and extrapolates that Alex must be gay, involved in some sort of rough trade, as well being diseased (personally, I would have assumed a drug a deal since it makes more sense than exchanging money for sex and not actually having sex). Finn actively encourages Jess to question Alex’s sexuality and though she initially does the right thing and dismisses Finn’s charges, when she sees that Alex has pictures of himself and another man on his wall, has colour co-ordinated clothing, and can cook, Jess takes the opportunity to question his sexuality. I suppose nothing says “must be gay” like having the knowledge to cook, so you don’t end up eating take away or starving to death. These stereotypes were tired in the 90s, it’s ridiculous that a show in 2012 is perpetuating them.

This constant homophobia is clearly meant to be funny - and that can’t be clearer than repeatedly using being gay as a punchline. In season two, episode 3,  Nathan becomes a victim of Vince, a tattoo artist who uses his power to make Nathan fall in love with Simon. This of course includes Nathan getting sexually aggressive with Simon and trying to take his trousers off. The whole episode is one long gay joke that we’re supposed to be chuckling along with - but what is funny here?  Why is a man being attracted to another man funny? Why is unwanted sexual attention funny?   To exacerbate matters, when Kelly rightfully calls Nathan out, believing that he is teasing Simon, Nathan responds, "gay, straight retarded, why do we have to put labels on everything?" This completely dismisses the label he has been constantly using to demean.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Haven Sneak Peak!

A taster before tomorrow's episode

Kill Me by Alex Owens

Claire has a job to do. She’s at a music industry conference for a few short days where she can try and get as much PR business for her boss as possible. Thankfully, she’s very very good at what she does. Even with the distraction of her husband ringing constantly with hi passive aggressive attacks and their failing marriage.

But there’s a major distraction – Bette. Beautiful, seductive Bette who scents out Claire's untapped supernatural potential and introduces Claire to a whole new set of experiences.

Not least of which is vampirism. And her Bisexuality. It’s a steep learning curve for Claire which only becomes more complicated as vampire politics raises its head.

Claire is a character with a lot of depth and development – far beyond the vampirism of the story. She has a family, a rocky marriage, a complicated PR job, she schmoozes clients and develops ad campaigns, she builds some friendships – there’s a lot going on with Claire even before we consider the vampire angle

Her relationship break up with her husband was probably the most covered storyline. We see the foundation of it and how it progressed towards break up. It felt very real with a lot of substance to it. Similarly, the work she is doing promoting the one company she met at the conference was also quite detailed with a lot of information, character interaction and relationship. But both of these – the most developed storylines – are background stories, incidental to the dominant plot. They add flesh to the character but I don’t expect them to lead the book.

Don’t get me wrong, I liked these storylines. As I said, her relationship drama with her husband has real depth and realness. And her flirting, fun, bantering work in her job is extremely amusing to follow and either could be a non-supernatural story in their own right, I think. I enjoyed them, they were interesting and I’d probably be happy to read them even without the vampire element (and I never read non-speculative fiction).

Dark Angel Season 2, Episode 4: Radar Love

 Joshua is staying at Sandman’s house when he wakes up and follows his nose all the way across Seattle to Max’s flat, meeting Original Cindy (we assume he didn’t have to cross any checkpoints to reach her). While briefly stunned, Original Cindy quickly adapts to the dog-faced man. They both reiterate their plan to find Sandman for Joshua and so he can cure Max’s anti-Logan virus, but until then Joshua needs to lie low.

In Chinatown, a heavily deformed and bleeding man walks through the streets, wrapped up heavily to hide his appearance. A firework goes off and an Asian man staggers through the street, bleeding from his nose and eyes. He collapses and a young White man runs to him and shouts for someone to call an ambulance. We cut to the deformed man wrapping his wounds and see that he has a barcode on the back of his neck.

Logan is trying to track down Sandman but every lead turns up a dead end. They’re pretty sure he didn’t run because if he did he would probably have taken his stick with him – but Logan is concerned whether he’s a good guy if his stick has the Manticore symbol. As far as Max’s concerned, Joshua thought he was a good guy so that’s what counts. They plan to ask Matt Sung – Logan’s police contact, to check it for DNA or prints. Oh and Asha shows up to say something careless about Manticore so we can establish Max hating her.

And time for some damn weird and unnecessary camera effects to fill some time – until she runs her bike into a truck that comes out of nowhere and goes over the handlebars. The man gets out and checks her over, it’s Rafer, the man she slept with last time she was on heat. He says he’s a paramedic, Max accuses him of copping a feel and flips him off her easily.

Rafer approaches her at Jam Pony, in his paramedic uniform, confirming his story. He brought lunch as a peace offering. They agree to forget all about that night and Max talks about her boyfriend situation (Logan, and it’s “too intense” for them to be together) intercut with Logan telling Asha about how hard their relationship is. Both discussing how hard it is and why they think the other may be better without them. With Asha and Rafer flirting – and Asha hurrying out without ID

Meanwhile Matt Sung gets the stick off Logan but also has to brush off the young man who saw the Asian kid fall and die in Chinatown, he’s a biochemist and wants to know more, get autopsy reports if he can. Matt’s boss also hands him a sketch artist impression of the deformed man and asks him to keep rumours down before a panic starts – Matt tells him there already is a panic in Chinatown.

In Chinatown, the deformed man checks into a hotel and another firework goes off that night. In the morning Sketchy and Original Cindy are delivering a package to Chinatown (and Sketchy continuing to ramble about mutants) when several people around them collapse, bleeding from their eyes and nose.

Matt Sung arrives on the scene and calls Logan – 22 people dead, all Chinese. He also tells Logan that there’s a rumour about a transgenic in Chinatown that bleeds out through its skin and that may be a connection. Logan goes to see Max about it and Max is instantly defensive about the idea that a transgenic would be behind it, she also points out that all the victims are Chinese and Manticore was always behind killing anyone regardless of race. Sensitive after Asha’s comments, Max won’t listen to any implication it’s a transgenic behind the deaths.

More relationship angst with Max talking to Joshua and Logan running into Rafer in a bar. And Asha gets herself captured trying to sneak past a check point. Logan calls Max to help rescue her, though Max is still snarling angrily, she goes and rescues Asha from the guy who is slapping her and trying to make her talk about the S1W. Max takes them down easily – and we see that Asha has no combat skills at all.

In Chinatown the police arrive at the hotel where the transgenic man is staying and the hotelier’s son sneaks up the fire escape to spy on him. he nearly falls, crying for help and the transgenic grabs him and helps him up – the police misunderstand the situation and shoot him. At the autopsy Matt, Logan and Max await the autopsy result and the pathologist (in Eyes Only’s loop)declares him clean – there’s not a trace of the pathogen. They go in the room and Matt comments on the barcode tattoo – eye flicks with everyone else and Matt realises everyone else in the room is keeping a secret from him. Max tells him he killed an innocent man and leaves. The pathologist tells them that they have the tests on the dead from Chinatown and it’s not infectious – they were directly exposed to the pathogen and that it’s man made, not natural.

Switch: Season 1, Episode 4

 Morning and a sleepy Jude is stacking up the new clothes she’s made, Stella is obsessing over mustard, her company’s newest, biggest client… and there’s a goat’s head in the fridge. Apparently it’s their anniversary tomorrow and goat’s head stew is traditional. Grace leaves and Hannah glares at Stella and Jude because Grace is so invested in the anniversary and has gone to so much trouble and they’re too busy for it.

Grace heads out and is followed by a man who asks after her phone, hits her and then steals her bag. She returns home to see the others going through their anniversary supplies. Instant huddle on the sofa while she cries. She wants to go home, where people are kind, she’s sick of London. They comfort her and finally resolve on a confidence spell for her.

After the spell she describes herself as feeling “immense”.

So begins Confident Grace’s day. Which starts with her cutting the wire to the noisy headphones of the guy stood at the bus-stop afterwards, to her casually describe being mugged to her boss before taking the day off work to approach Gerry. She decides that if Gerry had more confidence he would be headlining his gigs. So off she goes to confront “shaggy” who runs the club and make it so – winning Gerry’s band the headline status.

At her old job Jude tells her business venture to Aaron and how she’ll be leaving work soon, all being well. She goes to see Hannah who has completely integrated into the market – she knows everyone, she likes everyone – but she’s not selling anything. And when they reach the stall they find everything has been stolen while Hannah was distracted. Jude is upset and very disappointed.

And at Stella’s job she finds that her PA has been sacked – to be replaced by India. One of the Kensington witches, clearly using magic to influence Janet to get the job and stop Stella from talking her out of it. They end up both working on the mustard account in competition, the best pitch gets the account.

India has cast a spell on the whole office – so extensive is it that even her pitch of a giant penis is hailed as brilliant by everyone. Stella confronts India and she makes it clear she’s doing it all to destroy the company, destroy Stella’s job and drive them out of London, “their patch”

Time for a switch organised by Hannah to create new T-shirts. After Grace used her confidence to haggle – hard – for materials and they enchant the designs onto the t-shirts.

Stella tells the gang her problem with India and Grace steps in with her uber confidence.  They go to see Janet and Grace steamrolls over everyone with her confidence to get them to make their own pitch. And the pitch contains an awesome speech about friendships and a powerful demonstration of the bond the 4 friends share (as it goes on, India gets ever sadder with a strong hint she doesn’t have that kind of friendship). Despite that, it doesn’t break the spell and they want to go with India’s suggestion that mustard is versatile – you can use it as toothpaste… or thrush cream. Even India doesn’t want that campaign now.

As they leave, they run into the Kensington witches. Grace has a bit of a showdown but finally lets them pass. They talk about their plans, not only is India not happy with what’s happening in the office but is disturbed that they paid someone to have Grace mugged.

And Grace gets the awful idea of texting sexy naked pictures to Gerry. She goes and sees him after his gig and his ecstatic and bouncing because it went so well. He even tells her that a woman sent her a naked picture of herself (but he didn’t see who). He says he won’t text her back because it’s a bit weird – and Grace reveals that it was her. She tells Gerry she’d never do anything to hurt Jude but she only thinks of Gerry as a hunk of sex meat. They sit down and she says he should probably delete that. He says no, they wrestle over the phone and end up kissing

Jude at work, talking sex with Aaron (Aaron’s topics of conversation: Jude and sex) when Jude realises that one of the guys in the shop is wearing one of her designs. Jude leaves the shop and finds a huge number of people wearing her designs. Jude rushes down to the stall and finds Hannah selling them for a £1. Hannah points out the t-shirts cost 50p, the switch is still going – 100% profit (what, the stall is free?)

Jude is furious, they’re supposed to be exclusive designs, she doesn’t want these “teletubbies” wearing them and making them look awful (Hannah calls that racist – ugh, no Hannah. Prejudiced and cruel, maybe, but not racist). Hannah protests that everyone loves Jude’s clothes, but Jude says they love the price- not the design.

At the flat Stella, after examining the goat’s head stew, notices the tension between Hannah and Jude. Grace comes out and wants to invite them all to breakfast in the name of friendship – but Jude hears something, goes and checks and finds Gerry naked in Grace’s room. Jude is less than pleased and they realise they need to lift the Switch on Grace. She needs to share some hard truths – except with her confidence boosted she goes over the top: tells Jude she was just using Gerry for sex, tells Hannah she put her market friends ahead of her real friends and tells Stella she’s obsessed about mustard.

Jude goes to work and Aaron starts talking about sex again but she complains it’s not all she’s about (it’s all he’s about Jude). Grace goes to see Gerry and finds his guitar – which he earlier said he loved more than his penis – had been stolen because he didn’t take it home the night before. He’s had it for 15 years and, like Grace, he describes being sick of London.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Cover Posing for a Good Cause

Photo © Denise Leigh
We’ve often mocked the ridiculous positions various Urban Fantasy covers require heroines to twist themselves into

But sometimes visual displays are best. Jim C Hines is not only repeating his previous awesome posing but is now also doing it for charity and challenging other Urban Fantasy authors to do the same.

And in doing so get to see Jim and others perfectly mock some of these ridiculous poses – including some we’ve mocked ourselves.

Check out the current samples already. One. And Two.

Review: Yamada Monogatari: Demon Hunter by Richard Parks

 Lord Yamada no Goji is an impoverished Lord in Heinan period Japan. He has very little property to his name, and a bad sake habit to go with it. But he also has an agile mind and a great knowledge of the ghosts, demons and other creatures that plague Japan.

Through this series of short stories we follow Lord Yamada as he faces a variety of the beasties that plague local daimyo who have heard of his excellent services – as well as the schemes he gets gently entangled with due to his contact with Princess Teiko. Demons, ghosts and always the tricky youkai cause problems across Japan and many times the answer is not always as simple or as obvious as just an exorcism or a monster to kill. Lord Yamada is called when things are delicate, when things are complicated and when discretion is needed.

Often assisted by the thoroughly disreputable priest, Kenji, Yamada has the perfect mind to untwist this myriad mysteries.

The world setting is Ancient Japan during the Heian period and Lord Yamada no Goji is an impoverished lord of that era, though with skills that make him in demand. I think this book is highly authentic to its setting – though it’s difficult for me to say since I’m not even close to an expert in Heian Period Japan. I’ve done some googling and some reading and that’s not even close to enough. But within those limits of my knowledge, I found no contradictions and a lot of richness. This book feels extremely well researched –just the fact it’s taking a period of Japan’s history away from the extremely popular Shogunate period  is an indication of that in itself. Imagine, a whole book set in Ancient Japan without a single katana! That alone makes me think it’s authentic because authors, especially western authors, generally salivate at the opportunity to stick katanas everywhere.

And the sheer amount of elegant description that goes into this book gives a strong sense of authenticity. There is so much detail here, so many different factors being referred to, to many political events being eluded to and just generally such a rich tapestry of the time, era, religions, mythology and people. There is a lot of research in this book – a lot of work has gone to make it very true to the era and setting. It hasn’t just relied in Wikipedia or google and it shows in the writing. It’s one of those historical novels that has a true feel of time and place about it.

Related to that, the writing is excellent. All this information is conveyed, all this beautiful detail about the time and place, but never is there an info dump, never is it clumsy, never is it convoluted and never does it drag. It’s always fascinating, always well paced and doesn’t lose my interest for a second. This is one of those books I can gleefully read cover to cover without pause. And that’s from someone who doesn’t usually like short stories. But these flowed naturally into each other, they told and overarching plot and each just built on each other extremely well despite containing neat, separate story arcs. And each story was neat – it wasn’t a concept drawn out to turn it into a short story nor was it a rushed full length novel condensed down. There were no loose threads, no elements that strongly needed developing. Nothing left handing or brushed over. They were neat short stories ideally suited to the short story format.

Misfits, Season 4, Episode 7

 Alex and Jess are making out, stripping, getting all hot and heavy – until they get to stripped right down and his lack of penis derails the proceedings. Alex calls his contact, offering to double the money, so long as he finds his cock.

In the community centre, Rudy is discussing Nadine, the girl he met at the wake, and how he can’t get her out of his mind. Of course, he’s saying this in the worst way possible, looking at pregnant women and talking about their vagina’s expiring – because he’s Rudy and file.

Through to the changing room with Finn and they discover Abby, unconscious on the floor (yes Rudy said horrible things about sexually assaulting her. Of course he did). She wakes up, recovers quickly (like she did at the party) and the probation worker, Greg, storms in and accuses Finn of having sex with her (for some reason) in the creepiest and most aggressive way possible (of course, he’s Greg, he exists to be creepy and aggressive). For some bemusing idea, Finn says she’s on community service.  She agrees and Greg says Finn is responsible for her (cue more creepy and more angry). Greg leaves and she turns to leave but Finn protests and begs her to stay so he doesn’t have to face Greg’s wrath.

Rudy continues being Rudy and thinking about Nadine – and prawn cocktail crisps. And Jess, depressed, looks up “post-op transsexual genitalia” on her phone. Oh dear. And her phone is taken by Rudy. Oh dear gods no. Rudy thinks she’s looking for “chicks with dicks” she  denies she’s looking it up to be turned on, he assumes she’s looking to “get a dick put on” and she ramps up the sarcasm.

Everyone prepares for the pub and Abby goes to the bathroom and finds a pregnant woman, Tara from the antenatal class having a panic attack in one of the stalls. She’s hardly comforting and the Tara panics still further, panting “I can’t do this” and her pregnancy disappears – and moves to Abby. Tara runs out the room.

To the pub where Jess and Alex reaffirm their commitment to actually having a relationship and Abby see Finn and Rudy (aww, why’d you do that? He’s only going to say something and no good ever comes of that) with her new heavily pregnant belly. She orders a vodka tonic and Finn points to her belly and she changes her order to a lemonade.

Let’s make this situation worse! Yes, it can get worse. Rudy decides to give Jess some lectures on cock and ball maintenance and then decides it’s disgusting and shameful that she’s not telling Alex about her sex change and insists on telling him. So Jess tells him the truth, that Alex has a vagina because someone stole his cock. She threatens him to keep his silence.

At the community centre the head of the antenatal class won’t give Abby Tara’s number or address. Finn uses his telekinesis to knock over the woman’s tea, sending her to the bathroom giving Abby access to the woman’s laptop. She steals it and they both try and leave though they run into Greg who questions Abby’s sudden pregnancy. He asks Finn if the baby’s his – yes in an extremely creepy and aggressive manner.

They go to see Tara (with Rudy continuing to obsess over Nadine) but when they get to her flat, Abby has done a runner. They go back to talk to her and she says it’s hers now, she’s keeping it. Jess asks her why she wants to keep another woman’s baby and Abby shouts that she doesn’t know who she is – when the storm came she lost her memory and since then no-one has come looking for her which she takes as a sign that she doesn’t have anyone. With a baby she feels like she’s part of something – someone to love and to love her.

As they head back, Jess stops to join Alex and Finn starts moping. So, of course, Rudy spills Alex’s secret.  Fail follows. Lots of fail follows. Including Rudy tucking his penis between his legs to imitate Alex. Which is when Alex comes in – and then storms out, past Jess saying he can’t believe she told them. Jess follows this up with violence against Rudy. I disapprove – the camera angle was terrible.

Greg has a creepy rage moment with Abby because she’s not in the system and Alex refuses to answer Jess’s phone calls. But Alex’s contact gets back to him with information about James – a “girl” on the estate who suddenly got a cock without surgery, lots of misgendering follows. Alex takes out a gun, his contact tries to stop him and he gets smacked over the head for it.

Jess goes to see Alex and meets the bleeding and stunned contact who tells her she has to go find Alex, he’s got a gun and he’ll do anything.

Switch Season 1, Episode 3

 Grace is fretting over their plan to bring Lucy – Stella’s “mad ex” over without even explaining anything to her, while Jude tries to figure out what to wear to work in her first day as store manager.

Jude, one hangover cure later, sets off to her job, praised by Stella but Hannah questions her willingness to drop her dreams of being a fashion designer.

And Lucy arrives. Stella doesn’t recognise her at all – her memory’s completely gone – but Lucy cracks upon the photo album of the times they spent together. She’s also very very loud and rather annoying and more than a little nasty with burps and drinking out of the bottle of the milk. She is a witch – Air – but has no coven and she and Stella were together 5 years ago. Lucy says their relationship was fine, albeit fiery until they had a big fight, broke up and the coven convinced Stella to forget her. Grace counters that it the memory spell was Stella’s idea and that Stella was constantly in pieces with Lucy, all the time. But she thinks Stella can’t fall in love again until she remembers Lucy and gets over her.

To life the Switch, Stella and Lucy have to share a memory that means something and after a picture we won’t speculate about, Lucy points to their matching necklaces they got at Glastonbury where they nearly got married before Stella was transported to first aid in a wheelbarrow. It’s on such foundations that true love is built.

Stella hides in her bedroom trying to get Lucy to leave, pretending her memory is gone but Lucy stands outside being annoying until she hits on an old nickname that finally causes Stella to snap and slip that she remembers. The pair of them set to arguing while Hannah leaves to job hunt, leaving Grace to be on standby.

At work, Jude finds Aaron heartbroken because Miles has got a new job away from him and has already left. Jude says she needs him at work and he gets very dramatic, but any hissy fit is averted when he sees some new stylish clothes on the computer and completely forgets to be upset (see, if your GBF is having an emotional problem and you may find yourself focused on his issues for 2 minutes, don’t worry, throw some clothes at him. After he’s finished being gleeful over the fashion, the natural order will re-assert and he will return to your issues). The fashion designer behind the clothes – the new big thing – is an old school-friend of Jude’s. And he was completely and utterly uncool and unartistic at school. And he’s designing a special range just for them – it’s been kept secret because they didn’t want it to get out and “only the creative” were kept in the loop. Jude, the aspiring fashion designer, is shaken and upset, unsurprisingly.

Aaron sets to work trying to comfort her while Jude complains about the advantages the designer had she never did (he went on work experience in Paris, she went to a jam factory). When a customer comes in with a complaint she loses her temper and leaves.

Hannah looks for a job in the job centre window when she’s mistaken for someone else –a woman he interviewed for a job earlier. Hannah asks if the woman got the job, he says no, they needed someone more dynamic – she leaps on the chance and asks for an interview right here and now (well in the cafĂ©). He works for a security company, testing company’s security and her job would be to test security guards to see if they’re up to scratch. Basically, she’s to try and shop lift and if she succeeds they return the goods and report, if not she shows her credentials. Uh-huh, I can see where this is going. Hannah, alas, cannot and is naively excited.  Julian gives hires her on a trial basis.

Back to the flat, Jude joins Grace on vigil outside Stella’s room. Jude says how much she hates her job and wants to use a Switch to design her a portfolio – she doesn’t want to manage a shop, she wants to design for them. Stella leaves the room describing Lucy as impossible and Hannah comes in telling everyone she’s got her dream job. Jude is not amused – Hannah gets her dream job in an hour, she’s been designing for years – she needs some help and summons everyone to the cauldron. Spell time! Which leaves Stella to return to her argument, Jude to work, Hannah to her secret work (she can tell no-one – uh-huh or Stella may hit her with some common sense) and Grace to return to her vigil, poor Grace. But it’s broken by Gerry arriving to collect his guitar. Let the flirting commence.

Stella, again, asks Lucy why she’s still there and Lucy wants to know if she feels nothing at all. Stella admits they had some good times but that they were mostly bad. Lucy says she’ll change and wants to go back. She talks about how she was heartbroken – just like Stella – and how it hurt to have Stella just delete Lucy from her memory. She has regrets and wants to change that.

There follows a prolonged silence which Grace considers to be a very bad sign in the ongoing argument. She enters the room, cries out and leaves. She walked in on them having sex (and is very very impressed by Stella’s flexibility). And the news – Lucy’s moving in and Stella and she are going to give it another go.

Hannah goes on her first “mission” and successfully shop lifts despite her extreme lack of subtlety. She reports to her boss who is very impressed by the amount of loot she hauled and says they need to go back in again to check the security guard who has a bad reputation. She realises, rather belatedly, that she could get the security guard fired.

She returns to the shop to renew stealing in an extremely obvious manner. She tries to make it more and more obvious in a desperate attempt to be noticed and caught by him. Eventually attracting the attention of a kid and getting him to tell the security guard. To her relief, she’s caught. To her dismay – the store manager has never heard of the firm she says she works for (who didn’t see this coming?) She turns and runs.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Fangs for the Fantasy episode 97

With the holidays approaching many of our shows are on hiatus. Still, we discuss American Horror Story, Fringe and The Vampire Diaries

We also discuss the stark differences in behaviour between male and female protagonists in Urban Fantasy.

Our book of the week is Hunted by the Others by Jess Haines

Our Next books of the week are:
10/12-17/12: The Turning by Jennifer Armintrout
17/12-7/1/20113: Touch of the Demon by Diana Rowland
7/1/-14/1/2013: The Awakening by LJ Smith
14/1-21/1/2013: Grave Memory by Kalayna Price

Review: The Millennial Sword by Shannon Phillips

Viveka has arrived in San Francisco from the Midwest to start a new job. That’s already pretty challenging, a new work place, a new city, finding a place to live (despite a limited budget) and trying to keep her very grumpy cat amused and tolerant during the move.

And then a woman gives her a sword and runs off. A sword that virtually no-one can see – Excalibur. She’s just been recruited as the new Lady of the Lake with a solemn duty to try and protect the people of San Francisco from Morgan Le Fay – queen of the fairies who has a specialty of kidnapping children. And like it or not, she can’t stand by while children are taken – especially with recaps moving against her. She has a few friends, a complicated love life and a lot to learn.

This book did a very good job in setting up the world, the characters and the concepts of the story. By the end, everything is firmly in place and it’s a lot of fun getting there, from battle the tomte in her home, to swordfighting with the Society for Creative Anachronism to just moving to a brand new city, starting a new job and trying to set up a new life. We get to know Viveka, her life, her duties and the people that are part of it.

But I felt the plot itself was a little floppy. Viv gets the sword and gets on with her life, she makes some adjustments like spending more time with Noah practicing and going to an SCA meeting, but otherwise she gets on with things. I don’t object to the story, but she’s very reactive – which I can understand in the beginning but she seems to continue in the same vein throughout. Of course, I can’t criticise too harshly because I can’t think what she could have done or what other sources she should have contacted or what information she should have found out – but the plot didn’t really draw me in because it felt like Viv was constantly reacting. I don’t think we left the book knowing much more than we knew to begin with – and a lot of what we know was packed into the last scene.

I think part of that as well is that so many things were handed to Viv. She was handed the sword, it wasn’t something she studied or sought out. Once she had the sword she ran into Piper who gave the free info. Through Piper she ran into Raven who gave her magical help. She went to work and ran into Noah who happened to be an SCA member who knew how to use a sword, knew Arthurian legend and was happy to research for her and teach her. It felt like a lot fell in her lap without her seeking it out or doing a whole lot to get it. It’s not that she’s inactive – she fights a dragon after all and rides to the rescue of kids and faces down the wild hunt. She acts – but she acts when directed.

Switch: Season 1, Episode 2

 After being hexed by the witches of Kensington, our witches of Camden march to a very impressive house to confront the rival witches. They open the door – and the Kensington witches greet them with squeals and hugs of happiness.

The horribly pretentious head, Alexa of the Kensington witches introduce themselves as India, Romula and Remy – her new coven. Jude is surprised, is she sure they’re new? They look just like the last 3. Which kind of wipes the smiles off their faces. Alexa explains they were practicing magic, wanted to try a hex and had a picture of the Camden coven in solstice camp – they didn’t even think it would work and she’s “totes proud of us.” They keep trying to be friendly with the Camden witches who are, obviously, not that open to the attempts at friendship. The 4 Kensington witches gather in a group and whisper a chant, at the climax of it they’re bathed in white light and the hex disappears from the Camden witches’ hands.  Alexa turns and apologises (they’re “totes sorry”) and thinks the feud has gone OTT. She offers them a truce – an entente cordiale. And she offers drinks.

Cut to all 8 witches drinking up a storm. Many many many many drinks, all of them bonding with their opposite numbers on the coven. Until, in a wave of hugs, the 4 Camden witches drunkenly stagger out, making their goodbyes. More feuds should be resolved with a drinks party. Alas, it’s not to end there and the Kensington witches happy smiles turn to glares as the Camden witches leave.

Staggering home, the witches reflect that for all their money, they’d still not entirely want the Kensington life.

At their flat life goes on – and Jude has received a final warning from her job. Stella looks at the letter and has to agree that it’s fair but Jude still wants to do something about it and points out that she has so many warnings because she hates her boss who is mean and unfair. Grace points out that they can’t use magic every time that Jude screws up at work (part of me wants to say that they did this with Stella, but I can see that Stella had bad situations forced on her while Jude is instigating hers). Stella starts to blame Jude for the huge phone bill they have (assuming he has phone sex with a Cuban guy but she protests he lives in Tooting. Why not have real sex? “Because he has a face like a slapped arse and a voice like Antonia Banderas” you’ve got to love Jude). Grace confesses it was she who ran up the phone bill constantly ringing Hannah while she was travelling. Grace also opens another letter with a final demand for the electricity bill.

Stella, den mother, lectures the group, snarking at Hannah for the back rent and making it clear they can’t get by on 2 incomes; Jude counters that she’d still have an income if they did a quick switch to get her her job back. Faced with another bill, they start casting to arrange for Jude to get a new boss – a more tolerant and friendly leader and a “hedonist just like Jude.”

Spell complete, grace gets a text from Joel asking her to go to lunch with him – today. She asks what to do – and Hannah takes her phone and “accidentally” calls him. Grace hangs up quickly – but then Joel rings her back. After much fumbling (to the amusement of the other 3) she agrees to lunch and the celebratory squeals begin.

At Jude’s work she sees Aaron who tells her Duncan, the old boss is gone – and she gets to meet the new boss, Gerry Blackwell, by swearing at him. And he’s young and cute. And he’s the most laid back, permissive boss imaginable.

Things are not going so well for Grace. Worrying about what she’s going to wear and her looks in general, she starts to trim her fringe. She makes a… rather awful job of it which both she and Hannah find horrible – as an added bonus a neighbour dumps his 2 noisy sons on her to babysit since he has a work emergency. Hannah is there to rescue – she says she’ll look after the nasty little monsters – kids – after they’ve fixed Grace’s horrible hair. Time for a Switch call.

They gather together, though Stella heckles Grace about not going to a hairdressers. To quite the screaming kids they use their hair and a TV remote to cast a quick mute spell (I would gladly sacrifice several fluffy kittens for that spell). They fix Grace’s hair and she hurries to her date (mutual awkward people date) – and Stella takes Hannah back to work with her, she has an interview for her (leaving the kids in the lobby – and pausing them. Seriously, someone get me one of these kid remotes). Hannah’s worried about being unprepared by Stella tells her to be herself.

Hannah starts out by being incredibly awkward, spouting a lot of standard copy & paste drivel from standard CVs before relaxing and riveting the interviewers with anecdotes from her many many travels.

Unfortunately, the Kensington witches are whispering their curses again – causing Hannah to start swearing and call herself a kleptomaniac and then assault the head of HR and Janet before Stella can get her out the room. Stella doesn’t blame her – instantly hitting on the Kensington witches, especially since Hannah told them she wanted to settle down and get a career.

At the awkward date she asks Joel about his life story – like his big loving family. Who died in a fire. And his ex-girlfriend who had a child – that wasn’t his, it was his best friend’s who she then ran off with. But he’s ok now…  he says. And then is very very very very clingy. He says it’s the best day of his life – but as she points out, that’s not exactly saying much. He goes on about how much he likes her – and how much he thought about ending it before he met her. Ooookay, not good.

Jude returns to work to find a massive queue – and Aaron and Gerry in the back room smoking pot. He accuses her of taking things too seriously while she protests she spends her whole life not taking things seriously. They then have a brief competition as to who’s the most radical and she challenges him to a drinking contest with over-proof rum. Last one standing wins.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Game of Thrones.... on the CW

It's amazing how many networks can leave a fingerprint on a show. I know we both reacted in horror at the idea of the CW getting their hands on the Hollows Series.

But what if the CW were the network behind other shows?

H/T The Mary Sue

Review: Hunted by the Others, by Jess Haines. Book 1 of H&W Invesitgations

 Shiarra is a private detective – for now anyway, though her business is in severe financial difficulty and it’s only with the intervention of her very wealthy business partner that they’re even keeping afloat at all.

It’s these money troubles that drives her to accept a case from the Magi. Despite never working for the Others and having no wish to spend any time among the relatively newly revealed supernatural creatures, the offer is simply too good to refuse. Even if it does mean spying on a vampire to learn about a highly in demand artefact that has gone missing.

Unfortunately, she quickly finds herself revealed – and threatened – by the vampire that tries to put her very life in his hands. And she comes to the attention of the White Hats, a fanatical group determined to eliminate the Others. Already that’s more than complicated enough, but then people start dying to attacks that make no sense and events are being manipulated by a shadowy hand above and beyond the immediate players.

This is the kind of Urban Fantasy world that is guaranteed to pull me. Diverse creatures, integration into the human world, magic and vampires and werewolves, politics between the different groups, politics between them and the humans – it’s just the kind of world I love. No, it’s not completely knew, we know all of this before and none of the creatures here really strike new ground – but it’s an old pattern done well with enough original twists to keep me interested, keep drawing me in and keep enjoying it without think that it’s been done before. It’s a variation of an old theme – but it’s a good theme, it’s a fun theme and while the picture is similar, the details and story are different.

And it’s very well written. We have a few unnecessary monologues, but the pacing is excellent. We have a vast amount of information about the world but it’s all presented in a really natural way that completely flows into the story. The plot also has several interested parties, each with their own agendas and similar plots – the mages, the vampires, the White Hats – even Shiarra’s family but they are all given the attention they need and deserve without dragging the plot into a dozen different directions or getting us hopelessly lost. Couple with the necessary world building, the semi-love triangle, a decent cast of characters (even if they didn’t all play a huge role, they were all characters and there was some level of making them more than just floating names) keeping it all balanced was an act of true skill.

No matter what else, this book was an easy read because the writing just kept it all moving, kept me absorbed and never derailed me or left me floundering or bogged down – despite many chances when it could have.

Shiarra breaks the mould on a lot of Urban Fantasy protagonists. She’s not kick arse, she’s not lethal, she’s not skilled in weapons. She doesn’t want to get involved with the supernatural, she’s not hard as nails, she’s not a walking ball of attitude and chutzpah. The monsters frighten her, she doesn’t want anything to do with them, she doesn’t have the capability to deal with them. She isn’t a hunter, she isn’t a PI who works around the monsters - she’s been dragged into this against her will.

Which in some ways is so very refreshing because it is different and original. And it’s nice to see her grow in knowledge and experience and work her way out of it. In theory… yet… it’s hard not to be frustrated by the character – if she’s this afraid of the monsters I’m surprised, despite their money worries (though her very rich friend will support her), she took the case. And if she can’t make her business work without monster money then is she in the right business? And if she can be made to break a confidentiality clause and spill all her secrets because a vampire flashed his fangs at her then why would anyone trust her in such a sensitive job? Yes she’s afraid – but there’s fear and there’s cowardice. She also doesn’t seem to be all that good with at her job – she doesn’t seem to do or achieve anything through her PI profession, her plans don’t point to any particular knowledge or expertise. Her business partner has to set her up with her plan to approach Royce (who she didn’t even recognise), Arnold has to take her to get equipment and weapons – magical and otherwise (which she doesn’t question, despite the obviously illegal source). And the magical belt – which is certainly an awesome concept – gives her her impressive fighting skills which leaves me wondering what she brings to the story. There was apparently some event in the past that brought her to the attention of the Others – but we’re not really told what it is. So I keep asking why the Mages, Royce, anyone at all is interested in her? What makes her so special?

Misfits: Season 3, Episode 3

Simon is embracing his future potential and starting to leap across roof tops in an impressive display of athletic ability – until he hears the sound of someone being mugged. Taking his superhero-ness a little far, he runs to the rescue. He sends the mugger running – and the guy he rescued instantly assumes he’s a superhero and has a fanboy moment while Simon does the disappearing and hiding thing (super heroes have to do that, it’s a rule). Simon’s pretty gleeful about saving someone.

Arriving in his nifty lair, Alisha sees a trail of blood, worried she goes to check on Simon and he shows her his wounded hand, smiling in more glee. Alisha is less gleeful – he could have been hurt, badly. He says if he doesn’t take risks he won’t become him – who he’s meant to be. Alisha doesn’t see why he wants to become his future self – because when he does he leaves her and dies. He counters that if he doesn’t she will die in the past and she argues she can’t die in the past if she’s alive in the present.

I’m trying to wrap my head around that logic since while it’s technically true… ugh, temporal logic is bad for the brain.

She points out that he can’t travel back in time because if he does he’ll dump her – and she doesn’t get dumped. Poor Simon apologises for upsetting her. These 2 are actually a brilliant couple with a lot of chemistry – a little oasis in Misfits.

At the community centre there’s a preventative intervention scheme where, to use the words of the completely indifferent probation officer,” they’re going to tell you how they fucked up and you’re going to tell them not to fuck up again so they don’t become as big a fuck up as you.” And one of the people there is the guy Simon saved. He’s there because he stole a girl’s handbag to give it back pretending to catch the thief – none of the Misfits are impressed.

Simon, alas, feels the need to reassure the guy when they’re alone in the bathroom – and he realises that Simon is the guy in the mask. Simon asks him to keep quiet and Rudy comes in to treat us to some gay jokes. Remember, whenever Rudy opens his mouth, that’s when you stop listening.

The fanboy, Peter goes home and sketches superhero comics – with Simon as a character. When he speaks to Simon the next day he tells Simon about his obsession with superheroes, at the end of which Simon invites him to be his best friend. We look back at the comics Peter was drawing and we see that the entire conversation id depicted in the panels. Yes, he has a power.

At work Rudy 1 and Rudy 2 are messing around being Rudy when the probation worker sees them. Rudy instantly claims identical twins, the probation worker starts to challenge him (what with them both wearing jump suits and apparently job sharing the community service) but Rudy talks and keeps talking and it’d take a more patient man than the arsehole probation worker to listen.

Alisha goes to see Simon and is confused to find him so friendly with Peter so suddenly. Simon takes that further and takes Peter to see his lair and tells him about his future self – and how he has to save Alisha and die in the process – if he doesn’t die, Alisha won’t fall in love with present him and then he won’t become his future self and if he doesn’t become his future self he won’t be able to save Alisha.

Alisha arrives and turfs Peter out, as Peter leaves he can hear Alisha arguing with Simon about how he’s just met Peter, how he doesn’t know Peter and about revealing all the secrets to him.

The next day, Simon tells Alisha that he needs to be a super hero alone – and leaves. The whole conversation is written in Peter’s comic panels, he’s made Simon break up with Alisha.

At the community centre Kelly comforts Alisha and they tell the news to Curtis and Rudy; Curtis is shocked. Rudy, of course, raises that he thinks Simon and Peter are gay (of course he does, because it wouldn’t be Misfits without some extra homophobia). Alisha protests that Simon’s not gay, he’s the best sex she’s ever had (slight objections from Curtis and Rudy since they’re both Alisha’s ex-lovers). She smacks Rudy, not nearly hard enough.

She confronts Peter and he tells her that superheroes never have successful relationships. She angrily tells him that Simon’s not a superhero, he’s her boyfriend and he says “was”. She pushes him, dropping his sketch pad, showing her the comic sketches he’s made of Simon. On one sheet of paper she sees the conversation she and Simon had when they broke up. She tells the others that Peter has done something to Simon while he goes back to his flat and starts drawing.

To the pub and Kelley has a drink with Seth (and mocks him for his gin and tonic, since it’s a drink her nan drinks) some more flirting and establishing each is single before Kelly joins the gang, downing her pint in one before she does.