Saturday, July 20, 2013

Almighty Johnsons, Season 1, Episode 3: Bergerbar

Zeb is interviewing a new flatmate now Gaia is gone (noooooooooooo Gaia, come back – no-one blames you for sleeping with Anders, Dean O’Gorman is just too irresistible, all reasonable people understand that!) the mess of the apartment is a barrier, her playing the accordion can be worked round – Axl coming out of his room naked? A definite deal breaker.

Poor Zeb is finding it very hard to fill that room with Axl’s depression/angst/active sabotage (and lack of clothes and personal hygiene). And poor Mike who is, of course, expected to bail him out. I’m not quite sure taking him to play pool is the best solution for Mike (since he always wins) but gives him a chance to talk to Axel – and Axel to be moody, bad tempered and in no mood to listen. Emo Odin is in the building.

Mike goes to Olaf for advice (oh gods no!) and Olaf says he’ll handle it (NOOOOOOO! In what universe is this a good idea?!).

Olaf’s method of handling Axl involves getting him very very high indeed so he became “one with nature” (as opposed to “upholstered” which means “one with the couch” which was Olaf’s lesson for a younger Mike) and pretty unable to communicate. Or stay on a sofa. Or do anything except giggle helplessly.

A sober Axl goes to see Mike to ask everyone to stop helping and finally talk about his depression. Loving Gaia and investing in her as Frigg. Which failed. Then loving Gaia despite the gods which also failed. And now being without Gaia, unable to cover his own rent and nothing special – and being Odin makes it worse because he’s got a big duty and all this apparent power that he can’t even touch, making him feel more a failure. And to add salt to the wound, the one thing he could be proud of – his family – betrayed him, with Anders sleeping with Gaia. And he’s failing his course for non-attendance.

All in all… ouch.

Ty isn’t finding things easy either – humans not remembering him also affects an old customer who doesn’t give him the same goodwill he’d had. Also, Hodr, lord of all things dark and cold, had a distinct advantage when it came to repairing fridges. He goes home and… sells his house. Quickly – even when his estate agent says he could get more for it. Ingrid, helping him pack, who apparently lives with him at the moment (I missed that – also this may be the first scene where Ingrid is not drinking, about to drink or actually drunk) questions him giving in both his career and his house in the same day (also where will she stay); but Ty wants to restart his life. Stacey suggests working for her but he’s contemptuous of being a cycle courier – which she shoots down, having no time for such snobbery.

And we have a visit from Colin, yes Loki. Oh shit, everything goes to hell when Loki shows up (as it should). He’s pissed that Ty is selling the house since he gave it to his daughter (Hel) after she married Ty and before she died – except, as Ty points out, she left it to him in her will, which cleared probate and not once did Colin try to stop it or challenge it. Colin is determined that Ty won’t sell the house because… because he’s Loki, he doesn’t need a reason!

Friday, July 19, 2013

The Monsters in Your Neighborhood (Monsters #2) by Jesse Petersen

Natalie is the new leader of the Monster support group but it’s not exactly peaceful. Despite having come together closer than ever before, they all live under the shadow of Van Helsing’s declaration of war. After such a delay, they have only just started to relax

When Van Helsing fires the first salvo. Not in a direct attack – or not just in a direct attack – but via twitter and youtube. The Van Helsings target them at their greatest fear – exposure. Exposure to a hostile and terrified public who will rise up in a mob like those the Van Helsings whipped up of old.

As the group turn on each other with suspicion and spite – fanned by the flames of Van Helsing’s divisive tactics and even a traitor in their midst, Natalie must hold them together to face their old foe.

This is one of those book reviews I’m having trouble with – because a lot of what I’ve said about the first book in the series still applies. I don’t like my reviews to sound repetitive, but this book is exactly what you’d expect from the last book.

The monsters are still extremely fun characters – they continue to be everything they were before – while different and odd and, yes, monstrous, they’re equally human. And by human that doesn’t mean nice and compassionate  - no it means petty and prone to panic and likely to be selfish and frightened and resentful and spiteful. Human doesn’t mean nice – and I think too much in Urban Fantasy, a monster striving to hold onto their “humanity” means a monster trying to be compassionate and kind. But that’s only one side of humanity – we’re not all nice. We do fall apart in a crisis. We do look for someone to blame rather than looking for solutions. We are paranoid, we do tend to lash out when threatened or upset or angry. We don’t always make sense. We don’t always act sensibly and we certainly don’t always listen to reason.

This book shows that extremely well with the story set up to try and drive wedges between the monsters of the group. We have seen characters grow – with Linda gaining some strength, Kai and Natalie growing closer with mutual respect and, of course Natalie and Alec have really developed their relationship; all excellent things I wanted to see. But all of that is threatened with the external menace mixed with the individual threats – you can see who is closest to who by the way they bury their suspicion, but those close relationships also mean those who are just friends worry that they’re going to be sacrificed for the sake of loved ones. The paranoia, backbiting and lashing out between them is so very typical of a realistic response – especially when you get directed threats like the Book of the Dead, carrying spells that can kill immortal mummies, is stolen which make Kai and Rehu paranoid and frightened. It’s really well done.

I like how Natalie has grown as well, she used to have a lot of insecurity but she has really come into her own as a leader – clearly standing above the others. She’s really believable as a leader; she isn’t perfect by any means and she certainly has doubts, but you can see why the others believe in her and support her. And I definitely love how Linda has grown with respect to dealing with the man who treats her poorly – oh yes yes I do.

One thing I do like is that perhaps the most monstrous of the group, Patrick the Cthulu, seems to be the most decent and most kind of them as well. Or maybe he just hasn’t been in the group as long as the rest so hasn’t had chance to develop all those little annoyances and grumbles that people forced together for a long period of time tend to develop.

While I was prepared to dislike Igor originally because I had a bad feeling about where he was going, Alec managed to spin it round to make it clear what Igor is – whatever you expect him to be. Igor is the consummate assistant who can’t help but serve and becomes whatever people need him to be; whatever role he assumes, he becomes that stereotype. He’s an interesting take on the whole concept of Igor.

Dead Like Me, Season 1, Episode 9: Sunday Mornings

The theme this week is George and good memories she looks back on. And speaking of things we look back on - Roxy’s back! Thank you – and her first line is pointing out an annoying habit of Daisy’s! Is this why they got rid of her for a while? Because there’s no way Roxy would tolerate the newly arrived Daisy’s shenanigans? Anyway, Daisy accuses George of being “internal” which is why she has no friends. Roxy snarks more at Daisy (deservedly) I think Roxy is going to make Daisy far more tolerable.

In other things getting better, it looks like the Las household may be heading up with Reggie being much happier and brighter with JD the dog with even Joy and Clancy bonding. Things are looking up

Less so for George going to a college for her death appointment (accompanied by Mason for the usual skeevy reasons), reminiscing about their families and how George was so close to her dad as a child but they drifted apart. George goes all internal with the stress presence of the college while Mason, of course, finds some drugs (and declaims his theory that colleges are invented by bacteria). She finds her target – a ridiculously enthusiastic college student with big big hopes that are now very much dashed. And Mason’s peeping Tom ways let him see an attempted rape, to which he promptly clonks the guy on the head with a fire extinguisher.

Afterwards, George and the woman Mason rescued talk about reaction in crisis and how they think they’re ready but then have a brain freeze; and George bonds over how alike they are. Goerge sees a friend and actual friend – and Mason develops a crush. And more than just he-wants-to-have-sex-with-her crush. To which Daisy, seeing Mason with some vulnerable feelings, promptly stomps all over everything.

The problem with undead characters is you can’t wish them dead.

And Roxy is being given grief on her job, as usually – and then he touches her. Touches her when she told him not to. This is where we learn that a pissed off Reaper can rip the soul out of your body, hold it above their head and give dire warnings before putting it back.

At work, George tells Delores she has lunch plans – and Delores very kindly, very patiently tells George it’s fine to say no to her without having to lie. Which shows again how Delores is both kind and annoying – and how insular George normally is. Of course she does have lunch plans this time and she and Charlotte continue to enjoy each other’s company; Charlotte complains about how the guy trying to rape her also hit her joy of the sonnets she was reading at the time – joy George used to share because her dad (a university professor) used to read them to her. In fact, Charlotte invites her to a seminar about them lead by – yes, Clancy Lass, George’s dad. And she’s struck by how engaging and entertaining and clever he is in the lecture hall – completely different from how he was at home. George reflects on how Clancy changed and realised she changed and became a teenager and started avoiding him so stopped seeing Clancy as he was.

The Women of Defiance

Sci-fi, regardless of the medium, has a long history of misogyny. Protagonists tend to be males on a heroic quest, with women reduced to the love interests (read: damsels to be saved) maternal figures, fridged corpses to inspire vengeance or, in a rare outing, the sidekick. This, of course, makes perfect sense given that sci-fi is largely written by men and men act as gatekeepers. Many women have found that the only path to success in this genre is to use their initials in publishing, thus masking their gender or outright adopting a male pseudonym. When we learned that Syfy was releasing Defiance, as an original program, we expected to see the same male headship that can be found on all of the science fiction shows that we currently watch. If anything, we expected even less because Defiance isn’t just science-fiction, it’s dystopian - and there’s nothing like the end of the world to drive us back to 1950s “values.”

At least in terms of gender Defiance turned out to be quite the surprise. Women make up a fairly large percentage of the cast and they are in powerful and varied roles. Defiance easily passes the Bechdel Test week after week and, in many ways, stands as evidence that strong empowered women in science fiction only enrich the story, not detract from it.

Perhaps one of the most compelling characters of the show is Stahma Tarr. At  first blanche she appears to be completely subservient to her larger than life husband Datak Tarr; and victimised by their misogynist culture. Stahma is a soft spoken, conventionally attractive woman, with traditional Castithan beliefs. Many of the humans who interact with her commonly underestimate her because they wrongly focus on her much more demonstrative husband Datak and view him as the threat. Yet, as we see, Stahma is the brains behind most of Datak’s plans and ambitions and it’s strongly implied this has always been the case; even Datak doesn’t realise that Stahma directs actions with deftly skillful manipulation and she is always 3 steps ahead - as Kenya found out to her cost.

Stahma is far from infallible - in some ways, Stahma is a bit of a fish out of water. For instance, before her son Alak’s marriage to the very human Christie she sought a prostitute to teach Alak how to give Christie an orgasm in fear that Christie would not give her father Rafe a good account of their wedding night; clearly what we have here is a huge cultural difference that she was not aware of but even in this situation though her assumption of what would be required of Alak was erroneous, she was plotting for the success of the marriage because she say the political advantages of a union between the Tarr and the McCawley. Stahma learns from her missteps and the next time Stahma faced a cultural difference, she quite astutely turned it to her advantage and pulled Christie closer to her. It’s this willingness to learn, ability change and unwillingness to be bound by Castithan custom unless they suit her (unlike Datak, who is far more rigidly attached to the old ways) makes her one of the most formidable figures in Defiance.

Another fascinating character is Kenya Rosewater. It is incredibly rare to see a sex worker as a main character on television - certainly not one so devoid of stereotypes. Kenya isn’t an exploited victim, she chooses her profession, she’s proud of her profession and her prowess. She is very protective of her establishment and the people who work for her. She is a skillful and capable business woman who doesn’t need help or rescue - she’s also pragmatic and not waiting for a man to whisk her away from all this. In fact, when she developed feelings for Nolan that affected her work, she stopped seeing him; her work came first. She is slut shamed by other residents but she adamantly refuses to accept that and fights back against it - even from her own sister, she refuses to be shamed.

In fact, merely having a publicly prominent sex worker be the sister of the mayor says so much about this setting and while Amanda has expressed reservations about Kenya’s profession, she’s also defended and is close to her.

I can’t say Amanda is our favourite character; she sometimes seems inconsistent and I disagree with many of the decisions she makes. She has her morality, sees rights and wrongs but at the same time she is heavily dedicated to keeping Defiance going which leads to her tolerating the intolerable. Despite this we cannot deny her strength; like Stahma and Kenya she isn’t perfect - she struggles a lot with insecurity especially in the beginning as the new mayor, but she is a skilled manager of Defiance, balances its factions and no character can see the larger political picture with Defiance, the world they live in and the various forces in the world as well as Amanda. Even if we don’t always like her decisions, we have to respect her strong leadership and no-one is as dedicated to Defiance as a whole; while many characters in the show are willing to destroy the greater good for their own profit, Amanda is firmly fixed on that greater good - but perhaps quite willing to trample individuals for the sake of it.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Reluctant Reaper (Reluctant Reaper #1) by Gina X Grant

Kirsty D’Arc is happily living her life, doing her thing when her day is spoiled by being attacked by a stapler. A stapler. As if violent office supplies weren’t enough, she then finds her boss is actually trying to sell her soul – to get an extension on his old contract

A dizzying series of terrible accidents finds Kirsty down in Hell, the afterlife. And nothing is what she expected but nor is it easy to fix such a blatant mistake. She’s down there for some time – giving her chance to learn a little about herself, her family – and how little she had done with her life but also what she actually wants

Especially concerning attractive Reaper Dante.

You can tell this book was designed to be funny and light full of quips and wit and lots of giggly moments. It doesn’t take itself seriously, it often jumps into the ridiculous and positively wallows there. Everything is a little silly, a lot zany, a lot whacky and more than a little cartoony. And I can appreciate that – some of my favourite books have been those that are just loopy and out there and make me giggle all the time. It’s especially fun when you take something as serious and dark and mournful and, well, grim as a Grim Reaper and throw all this light, silly, funny joy on top. So it had a lot of potential

And completely missed the mark for me. I don’t think I laughed once, unfortunately, I’m not even sure if I cracked a smile. The humour is contrived, it doesn’t fit even in the zaniness. It relied a lot on convoluted mental monologues while Kirsty chased her own thoughts in circles until she could force out a quip (and setting up your own funny lines doesn’t work). There is an inordinate number of puns – puns on top of puns on top of puns that just don’t work for me even slightly.

It has the odd line like: “When life had handed me lemons, I’d gone online and purchased grapefruits. Victoria’s Secret was safe with me.” That wasn’t bad. But gee-nomes that sting you and alter your DNA? Lead by the streetsmart “metrognome”. She gets angry when it’s misty so becomes “misterical”. The mist that would not be missed?  I didn’t laugh – I did groan. I did look back and see if I had actually read that. Then I groaned again. And really, this is just the tip of the iceberg. It gets worse. It gets so much worse.

This is shaky ground to be on. You have a book whose prime selling point is its humour and, to me, it’s just not funny. That’s crashing and burning right there.

But, worse, humour is pretty much all the book has. The plot is really weak. She dies, she goes to Hell, she wanders around and random stuff happens. That’s about it – each random event is an excuse for some more zaniness and puns and maybe some world exploration – but there’s no actual plot. There’s a vague, background “oh I want to go back to my life” but she doesn’t actually do anything about that or about anything else. She just kind of exists. I think this is trying to set up her character as someone who has no karma – because that is exactly what she is in this setting, she has neither good karma nor bad karma (which is currency in this Hell) because she hasn’t actually lived; she never takes chances, she never does anything, she’s not an active participant in her own life. Which is an interesting thing to explore in both a character beginning to grow and over a series – but there’s nothing else in this book to provide a scaffolding around a deliberately blank protagonist.

Under the Dome, Season 1, Episode 4: Outbreak

Julia has Barbie’s map and is definitely suspicious about it – given how she hides it from him.

Outside the Dome the military is packing up and leaving – and those trapped inside gather in a crowd to protest them leaving; writing messages on the dome to ask them to stay, to help get them out. Linda arrives and tries to get everyone to back off since people have died being too close to the dome. She draws her gun which doesn’t really help - and Rev. Coggins starts preaching which isn’t very helpful either. It’s Jim speaking up that manages to disperse the crowd and he disagrees with Linda drawing her gun (damn it, you made me agree with Jim Linda). Jim starts to talk to Linda but she’s woozy and doesn’t look well – she collapses and Jim and Barbie catch her.

Kidnapper James Junior still has Angie imprisoned – bringing her clothes, reminiscences and more creepiness.  When he’s not there she saws at her bonds with the scissors she took, when he is, she carefully plays to his fantasies. When he turns his back to let her change, Angie tries to stab him with the scissors – he grabs the blade, cutting his hand but overpowering her. Ha chains her up and leaves, refusing to let her out “until she’s ready.”

Julia follows the map Barbie left and finds her husband’s car outside of a trailer. It’s were Phil the DJ lives; Phil tells Julia that her husband sold him the car – then he faints, ill like Linda.

At the clinic, Carolyn and Alice bring in Norrie and Joe, worried about their mutual seizures and the possibility of it being contagious. Problem? They have no doctors, the dome killed or cut off all the doctors. They do have Alice – she’s a psychiatrist but she interned in medicine. Joe notices Junior getting his hand patched up and asks if he’s seen Angie – Junior claims he has but doesn’t know where. And Jim and Barbie bring in the unconscious Linda. More and more people come in needing help (Jim sends Junior to help Barbie set up cots in the basement). And everyone misses Peter Shumway – Julia’s husband – since he was a doctor.

Alice performs tests on Norrie and Joe (who are definitely getting on very well – and both know the X-Men) – but finds nothing unusual, when Jim asks for her help. There’s a huge number of patients now, and Alice is the closest thing they have to a doctor.

Julia confronts Barbie on his map – but then she falls ill as well. People ask Alice what’s happening and she thinks it’s a meningitis outbreak by the symptoms but she can’t test because the clinic doesn’t have the equipment. Alice’s family were vaccinated, Barbie was in the military and Junior in college but anyone else is highly likely to catch the disease. Worse, Alice doesn’t have enough antibiotics in the clinic (or enough gloves and masks for that matter). If any of the infected leave the clinic, it spreads.

The Walking Dead Vol 8: Made to Suffer

There’s not much to summarise this volume. The Governor has found the Prison and unleashes the full force of Woodbury against the group and they desperately try to defend themselves

Lots of action, lots of combat, lots of death.

If there can be said to be any theme in this action packed volume, it’s proving just how very mistaken the group was in their complacency and sense of peace we had in the last volume. There they were beginning to relax, plan a future, settle down, build a life.

This week, that was all destroyed. Everything was ruined - we can see this as best symbolised by Rick giving Carl back his gun. Last volume he was ready to let Carl be a kid again, now he is back to being a warrior. The upbeat, even delusional, optimism of last week is replaced by battle plans and even preparations for the worst - having to leave the prison. It seems odd to us to see a prison be seen as something so desperate to occupy and hold, especially as Dale and Andrea flee, but as Axel says (and this is from a prisoner who was actually incarcerated there) this is their home and they see no place for them outside its fences.

Of course, this shattering of the peace was truly shown by the vast amount of the cast was killed. I think this was the first volume that truly established the sense that anyone can die in this series. We fully expected Axel, Patricia, Billy and Alice to be expendable - but Tyreese, Hershel, Lori and, especially, Judith were a shock and showed that no-one (except maybe Rick) is truly safe. Carl has an excellent line on death in this series - everyone dies, he expects no different, it’s just a matter of when and again shows his shattered childhood.

What almost adds to the tragedy of this volume is the pointlessness of it all; Martinez died telling Rick how good he had it in the prison, how much the people of Woodbury would have a better, safer life there. That was what they were fighting for. But the Governor’s greed, evil and rage ended up not only with his death and the disillusionment of his people, but the prison itself so badly damaged that it was no longer useful for anyone. The Governor’s violence - monstrosity even - destroyed it for all of them.

One last element we had was just how far the people of Woodbury had hitched their hopes to the Governor that they were willing to believe his lies, deluding themselves, even when they know what he has done and how he behaves - something we have seen before at the arena matches. The Governor was even telling them how evil and violent Rick & co were while also assuring the crowd that their arenas would be back soon; right up until the Governor's melt down becomes too much for Lily to ignore.

On the issues - most of this volume was combat so there was considerably less than usual, but still some major points. On the plus side, Andrea and Michonne were not only capable fighters, they were combat monsters; they slaughtered the people of Woodbury in vast numbers, they were terrifyingly efficient defenders.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Carniepunk Anthology

By: Rachel CaineDelilah S. DawsonJennifer EstepKelly GayKevin HearneMark HenryHillary JacquesJackie KesslerSeanan McGuireKelly MedingAllison PangNicole PeelerRob Thurman, Jaye Wells

When I first saw this anthology I leaped to request it – so many of the authors included in it are the authors I already read and already love, a collection of stories by them was definitely something I was sure I’d be able to devour in seconds, loving every word.

I preface the review with this to make it clear that my expectations were very very high – perhaps too high given my oft mentioned dislike of short stories. This left me feeling a little disappointed.

Firstly, on the book overall I was impressed by the unity of theme, short story compilations by different authors can feel very disjointed as you are buffeted from epic story to laughing comedy to heart wrenching tragedy that makes them almost impossible to read in one sitting because they’re so different.  While the writing style of this book was, obviously, very varied the overall theme not just of Carnivals but of something sinister, dark and something pretty creepy was generally well maintained throughout. I don’t know if it was intended or if the authors just find carnivals as creepy as I do – but nearly every story had a strong sense of the creepiness, the alien and the outsider about them that helped keep the whole book together as a coherent whole which I appreciated.

In terms of the stories, the ones by the authors that drew me in were very much their style, but also nothing special and didn’t form much of a useful addition to their own stories:

Kevin Hearne’s The Demon Barker of Wheat Street, was a fun ride with characters I’ve come to know and love. Atticus, Oberon and Granuaile are always immensely fun romp around a Carnival, fighting evil with humour and flair with odd moments of depth and emotion to it that so characterises Kevin Hearne’s work; it’s good but not his best, lacking in style or real relevance to the world he has…  if you’re not a fan of the series already you’re going to be a little lost reading this one – and a little Spoilered as well, which is a bad choice for a short story, I think.

Jennifer Estep’s Parlor Tricks, is much the same. If you know her world and her characters then it’s a great read, a nice continuation and nice to see Gin in some semi-downtime. If you don’t know her world then you’re probably going to be more than a little lost as the full weight of her massive Ashland world is thrown at you. As a fan and a current reader of her series, I enjoyed it while still feeling I wouldn’t have missed anything if I hadn’t read it. That’s a good thing in the sense that I don’t want my series to depend on me tracking down anthologies, but bad in that I left the story feeling I hadn’t gained anything.

Seanan McGuire’s Daughter of the Midway, the Mermaid and the Open, Lonely Sea, surprised me in that it didn’t seem to be related to any of her actual series. While I liked this story, I also felt that it was the only one that didn’t fit the overall theme of the book, though I quite liked the subversion of finally presenting the Carnie’s point of view and taking their otherness that had been so pushed through the rest of the stories and making that a strength rather than the sinister nature that had been pushed so far. It was an excellent close to the book.

Notable others were Painted Love by Rob Thurman, it was the first story in the book and did a very good job of setting up the dark and sinister theme; the fantastic and the other, the evil and the cruel, the hidden threats as much as the hidden wonders. It was an excellent choice for the first story. But, as far as the story itself goes, it didn’t work for me. It had a nice twist ending but to make that work it forced a lot of character interaction that didn’t make a lot of sense and some very stilted descriptions. The story also had an over-wordy, over-introspective style that I’ve never particularly cared for. It did really set up the sense of the other – in ways that go beyond the simple supernatural creatures we’ve already known - and definitely laid the groundwork for the creepy, the evil and the sinister

Teen Wolf, Season 3, Episode 7: Currents

In the hospital there’s chaos with a major accident and no doctor (I thought it was a running joke that Melissa was the only medical professional in that hospital!); Scott uses his special werewolf powers to ease one woman’s pain and Ethan bursts in half carrying Danny, screaming for help. He starts vomiting up mistletoe.  With the doctor stuck in traffic and Melissa still being the only medical professional in this hospital ever, Melissa gets to work on some emergency lung draining treatment and being all awesome.

The hospital has called a second doctor in after the first one disappeared. This doctor also doesn’t make it to the hospital - she gets overwhelmed when her car fills with butterflies. 2 doctors, 2 sacrifices.

Outside the hospital Ethan tells Scott that he’s not going to hurt Danny – because the twins knew Lydia or Danny were going to be important to Scott (hence why Aidan and Ethan targeted them) but now they know it’s Lydia. They’re interrupted by a car crashing – no-one’s inside, only butterflies.

Stiles and Scott connect the two deaths as sacrifices – but Danny was clearly targeted and he isn’t a healer of any kind. And the first body is found. While Derek and Cora are disturbed by an alarm in the Werewolf Loft (doesn’t have the same ring as the Batcave, does it?) and the triskele-style graffiti on their windows – the Alphas are coming tonight.

Of course, the Darach is targeting healers and, as is often jokes, Melissa is the only medical professional in this town. Which is why she wakes up to find Scott and Isaac camped in her room. Both asleep – which means they fail at watching and standing guard. Melissa points out she’s a nurse not a doctor – but they don’t know how narrow the sacrifice definition is (besides, 3 seasons she is the only medical professional in this town. It is known)

At school (with Ms. Jennifer Blake substituting for the sacrificed Harris) Stiles and Scott talk about the gazillion invisible doctors just waiting to be sacrificed at the hospital. And Dr. Deaton calls Scott – asking for help. He has a butterfly on his hand, and he knows what it means. He warns Scott he’s going to be taken and needs Scott to find him. The windows of his surgery are covered in butterflies. Scott rushes to Deaton’s office – running into Sherriff Stilinski and a random deputy (Stiles phones ahead) Dr. Deaton is missing – and the Sherriff wants to know everything.

Quick consult with Stiles to figure out exactly what to tell him – Stiles is in favour of not dropping all the info on his dad while Scott thinks his mother absorbed the news well… eventually. But Stiles is worried about the knowledge getting him killed – and him losing both parents. Scott agrees with him – but Stiles realises Scott is right and they go out to tell the big truth…. And run into Ms. Morrel who tells them to find her brother (Dr. Deaton) they’re going to need to use the one person who can seek out the supernatural. Lydia

Damn so close to the big reveal! So close!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Continuum, Season 2, Episode 10: Second Wave

In the future, in prison, Travis and Chen meet, discussing life, death, beliefs and doing things that go against your beliefs; which Travis calls part of being a soldier. It’s before their execution and Travis makes some ominous pronouncements about Kagame and Theseus.

In Alec’s lair, Alec hasn’t entirely forgotten all about Kiera’s brush with being a murderer and endorsement of torture and they talk about not just finding Liber8 but also Gardiner who has disappeared (recap on Gardiner – who was the guy who was suspicious of Kiera and ended up investigating the Freelancers and their stealing of the bodies of time travellers as well as killing each other off). She also wants to add Julian to this huge project of illegal scans and searches through Alec’s computers. She also insists she didn’t hurt him so that makes her a good person (you hunted him down, had to be talked down from murdering him – oh and watched and helped people torture him. Yes, Kiera, this is who you are). Alec doesn’t seem to be especially impressed by this – nor the fact she cut off his communication and wouldn’t listen to him. Further examinations are put off by Alec’s computers spotting Jasmine Garza

Elsewhere, Sonya meets with Kellog who is trying to get her suspicious of Escher (Escher is another time traveller who is a big corporate bigwig in the future and is trying to ensure his company will still be big and powerful and has tapped Dillon). At the same time Lucas is seeing Curtis – who died a while ago – this seems to be a continuation of the hallucinations he had last episode.

Following up on Alec’s lead, Kiera and Carlos go raid Garza while she’s in the middle of an arms deal – and Kiera uses super tech to stun her and her associate. They end up with Garza in custody. In the police station Dillon lets Kiera take the interrogation – and turns off the cameras and recordings. Carlos is extremely uncomfortable with this highly illegal and deeply unethical turn of events; but Cameron is fine with that.

Cameron goes in and beats Garza, slamming her head into the table. Garza responds by talking about Alec, about the message he sent and about Kiera’s purpose – which she won’t share with Kiera. Kiera loses it and starts strangling Garza and Carlos charges in, grabs her and pulls her off. Carlos pulls Kiera from the room while Garza tells him there’s a military chip in Kiera’s head that makes her “loco” and suggests that maybe they start thinking for themselves.

Kiera leaves Carlos to handle Garza but realises by what Garza said about the chips, she must think all CMRs are military – which means Travis may have his own CMR. Which means Alec can activate it and maybe find where it is.

Travis is beginning to feel them messing with his chip and has his gangs looking for Garza – especially with the police acting like a private army rather than a police force. And Alec is joined by Emily (his girlfriend, working for Escher) and he shows off his super shiny technology to her when she plays ignorant and praises his brilliance; she’s also got a new phone for him (oh I wouldn’t trust that). Emily leaves and he turns on Travis’s CMR – causing a jolt of pain for Travis – and allowing Alec to track him.

It lets him track Travis, but doesn’t it also give Travis the huge advantages of a CMR?

As Kiera moves in on Travis she comes across a rally against a corporation threatening low income housing. On the edge of the crowd she spots 2 men – Freelancers who stole the bodies of the time travellers. Kiera plans to lure them round the corner into a trap – which is when Alec also tries to narrow down where Travis is. He sends out a pulse which hurts Travis and Kiera – and then his CMR comes online – and he can hear Alec and Kiera – and they can hear him. They have a conference call! Alec quickly disconnects them – Kiera worries Travuis could use the link to track her or Alec – but then the Freelancers arrive and attack Kiera.

They’re skilled fighters though, Kiera is better. It’s actually a decently choreographed fight scene because, while there is a moment in the beginning where they take turns, she generally fights them by pulling them into each other’s way and using each one to shield the other – rather than the usual “wait your turn” ode of multiple combatants we see on TV. She knocks them both down and then runs, using the stealth mode on her bodysuit; which they turn off with their own future technology. She runs back to the crowd

Falling Skies Season 3, Episode 7: The Pickett Line

The Masons have ridden out and Ben asks Tom if they find Anne and Lexi if they’re going back to Charleston. To which Tom says he doesn’t know because he doesn’t think there’s a future there for them.

…seriously? Compared to WHERE? Charleston is, as far as Tom knows, the only human settlement that is managing to hold its own against the aliens. It’s also a place where he is not only known and has friends but has enough respect to be elected president. Everywhere else? Aliens. Murderous aliens. Lots and lots of aliens. Future with aliens. Future without aliens. Shall we choose? How is there a future anywhere else for them – or is running and hiding through the wilderness with a newborn baby better? And didn’t Matt and Hal both leave women they cared about behind?

They’re, obviously, worried about Lexie being treated badly because she’s half-alien. A concern, yes – but compare that to MURDEROUS ALIENS WHILE CAMPING IN THE WILDERNESS and it seems a relatively minor one.

Also, ben is a little nervous channelling the new leader of the skitter rebellion – he’s more aggressive, more impatient… At which point that leader falls from a ridge, clearly injured, and warns them of an Espheni patrol.

In daylight it seems Hal and Matt have a separate camp and are doing all the touching reminiscing thing. And like Tom and Ben, they consider living in the soaking wet wilderness with a newborn baby rather than the closest approximation to civilisation; before Tom and Ben return telling them to strike camp.

Another fun event when away from Charleston – they’re ambushed by a group of masked humans (why masks? Who are they trying to hide their identity from? The FBI?) who steal their horses and supplies. Tom tells them about Charleston but their leader doesn’t seem to be the biggest fan of joining an army to fight the Espheni.

With no supplies the Masons have one plan – to follow the raiders and get their stuff back. They follow them (having a few rehashing of various issues along the way) and stalk into the camp – raiding it and taking down nearly all of their targets easily. One man with a knife gives Hal trouble – and Matt shoots him. Hey they tried to leave you unarmed and with no supplies in the middle of nowhere – that’s pretty tantamount to murder, I shed no tears. The man actually has the gall to ask what Matt shot him for “errr, you stole our shit, tried to leave us to our deaths and were trying to stab my brother”. Seriously, there’s no shortage of reasons.

They decide to provide medical attention to the man rather than taking their stuff and going back to looking for Anne and spending the time while doing that talking to the raiders. The family of raiders have avoided the aliens and only seen them from a distance, but other raiders killed their mother while stealing. Lots more talk of everyone having to stand together against the aliens and that they can’t just hide and hope. Unfortunately, their playing with the family and not properly searching for weapons, or holding them at gun point or restrained lets the raiders get the upper hand again.

The raider lines them up against the wall ready to shoot them and Tom makers another dramatic appeal to humanity. It’s the raider’s daughter who breaks, unable to stand them being shot and while she distracts him, the Masons make their move, disarm him and have another tense showdown of everyone pointing guns at each other. Tom prevails and the raider family is cowering and the Masons are armed.

Now please collect your shit and get out of this place. This season is too damn short for you to be playing silly beggars with some bandits for some awkward attempt at showing that people steal when they need to to survive.

Mist (Midgard Series #1) by Susan Krinard

Mist is a Valkyrie, one of the last remnants of the Norse pantheon left on Midgard, following her sacred duty to keep the Treasures safe that Odin entrusted to her, and her sister’s, care.

But many centuries have passed and she has lost a lot of faith in this role – she is slowly adopting a normal life in San Francisco with the Norse firmly in her past. Until she runs into a Jotun who tries to kill her and an Alfar who has some ominous news – the 8 other Realms are gone, but Ragnarok has not yet been fought. The other gods are still out there, seeking passage to Midgard to begin the fight

And Loki is already on Midgard, already preparing to win and unleash his own brand of chaos on the world. It’s down to Mist to stop him, especially when he steals Odin’s spear, Gungnir, her charge to defend.

I love Norse mythology. Actually, I love mythology in general and are a definite mythology junkie. This is the kind of book that can be guaranteed to be like catnip for me – I’m reeled straight in to any world that incorporates all the details – the more the author has dug and the more obscure elements they have included, the more geeky glee I enjoy.

So here we had a full selection of the Norse on display, a delving into their treasures, and expansion and mention of so much of the nitty gritty of Norse mythology – it’s the kind of thing I love, it’s the kind of thing I can guarantee will hold me interested because of my geeky obsession because there is simply so much of the Norse mythology folded into this world setting. It made for a fascinating world with a lot of strong characters because of the amount there, the fullness of the background and integration and the incredible knowledge the author has and has included

However, pushing through my own enjoyment, I have to say that if you’re not a major mythology geek it’s going to be too much. There are too many unnecessary references, not all of them very well explained if you don’t’ have a good grounding in Norse mythology already. There’s a lot of Norse words, Norse references, Norse exclamations – I don’t know if it could be confusing, but it could slow the book. Certainly a lot of them are not necessary to the story. I don’t want to criticise this because of my own geeky love of it, but objectively I think it’s the mythological equivalent of those authors who include lots and lots of literary quotes to prove they have an English Lit degree.

Because pacing in this book isn’t brilliant to begin with. It’s not awful, I’ve certainly read a lot worse, but there’s a lot of time when Mist, Dainn or Loki are sat considering their next move and thinking about the situation they’re in. A lot of these are used as teasers for various big reveals with Loki or Dainn’s long, rambling thought processes tip-toeing all around the surprise until they get almost to it – then their thoughts get interrupted. It’s just more dragged out than it has to be and sometimes my mind did wander. I don’t think the fight scenes are written in a way that flows or gets the full sense of the action either – 5 minutes of frenzied activity can feel like 1 hour of 2 people doing stuff while everyone else watches.

But these are relatively minor complaints. They’re there, they’re problems but not big ones – the monologuing isn’t so long as to frustrate me, the fight scenes are still exciting enough to keep me engaged, follow the action and feel that the action is there, the world building is a little overdone but it’s all really fascinating. All of these things aren’t critical flaws in the book so much as a lack of polish over the already excellent bones of the story – which is a good story, with multiple actors all playing their own games, all fighting with conflicting motives, a lot of twists and a couple of red herrings to keep you guessing. It’s exactly what I’d expect from a series of gods plotting with and against each other – simple on the surface but with a large amount of background machinations that could easily trip you up. It’s deep, it’s nuanced, it has lots of angles and is generally interesting to read.

If I have a complaint about the plot it’s that Mist and Dainn both spend far too little time planning and far too much time charging in without a clue. There are far too many instances of them storming into situations where they know they are outmatched and hoping that their special shiny woo-woo will kick in sufficiently to save the. It’s a crying shame but this kind of foolishness is too often a deal breaker for me with books – I hate it when the protagonists, despite previously showing intelligence, suddenly lose their ever loving mind and just charge in to impossible situations and then succeed because they’re the protagonists and their plot armour won’t let them die. This didn’t break the book for me, but it hurt it a lot.

Monday, July 15, 2013

True Blood Season 6, Episode 5: Fuck the Pain Away

Sookie pushes Warlow back around the room with her vampire killing ball of light (will that even work on a light immune vampire fae hybrid) while Warlow hurriedly backpeddles and tries to explain. Seems Sookie isn’t snack food, she’s an arranged bride and he loves her! Uh-huh, of course this is the man who killed her parents which, frankly, really sucks as a wedding gift; I’m sure Ms. Manners disapproves of murdering the bride’s parents, even if your in-laws are really really annoying.

At Chez Billith Jessica is distraught over slaughtering the faerie kids who tasted so good – she turns for Bill to comfort – and then starts kissing him and not in a father daughter way. It’s a testament to how well these two have maintained their father daughter dynamic over the seasons that I am well and truly ewwwwwwwwwwwwwwed by this. Turns out she’s high (I don’t know what drugs Bill has been taking that makes him want to make out with his parents because that’s not a usual symptom of being high) on faerie blood

Warlow’s defence to massacring the in-laws is that he interrupted them trying to kill Sookie. Sookie smacks him with her sunlight ball, not buying his excuse. It’s apparently a really painful sunlight ball – and Billith feels it and has flashbacks of sunlight and burning. Warlow heals his injury which doesn’t impress Sookie since she’s been bandaging his injuries and just sees more lies (and wasted gauze! That’s not cheap Warlow). She rants away at Warlow and Billith comes to join them. She starts to rant to him but he’s there for Warlow.

Warlow threatens to kill Billith but Billith tells him he already did (you didn’t make it stick, Warlow) and Billith commands Warlow, as his maker, to come with him – and it works.  Ok I should have seen that coming but totally didn’t.

Leaving the older-than-god-more-powerful-than-anything vampires to work out their issues, we join Andy who goes to Bill’s house, gun ready, looking for his daughters – and finds their bodies. He starts to hunt for Bill (hearing the hiding Jessica) but then hears one of his daughters choke – she’s still alive. He carries her out of the house to get help. At the police station he feeds her vampire blood from the evidence room to heal her

Next characters – Tara zooms up to Eric to tell him that the vampire hunting police have Pam. (Meaning Tara has more sense than everyone on this show and didn’t just charge in but went for help). So what are they going to do? Apparently show their fangs and surrender to the same police… uh-huh. Meanwhile Pam is being taken to the camp where vampires are being experimented on in many weird, cruel and just plain strange ways.

And at Governor Truman’s, Sara Newlin tries to convince the governor that Willa is dead and gone and decides to do this by suggesting she and he have a baby. Uh-huh, Truman isn’t on board with the write one child off and replace her with another one plan. Truman handles her suggestion with considerably more restraint and class than I would “oh hey your daughter’s as good as dead! Marry me and we can make another!” I would say Sara has awful timing but I really don’t see when this argument would ever be ok. She has a full blown tantrum because “when a woman comes to you in black lingerie, you unwrap her”. That may possibly be the line of the night.

Back to the secret Billith lair where Warlow is trying to deny the whole Billith, prophet of Lillith, thing and we have a flashback to 3,500 BC where people can’t decide between wearing ancient classical togas or Neanderthal style furs. At night while collecting water, Warlow is approached by Lillith, pulled in by his faerie smell. They have very brief sex, she tastes his blood and she declares him the future saviour of vampire-kind – then bites him, shifting to Bill

To the present and Warlow is apparently not happy being a vampire, as Billith draws his blood.

Time for some random pointless side characters – Jason arrives home to find Sara Newlin on his doorstep looking to save his soul. Jason tries to polite about her rambling, but she wants the holyn experience of sleeping with someone as hot as Jason. They then have a holy experience (though I’m pretty sure they’re not lined up right)

At the Unfriendly Possum…. Oh gods, I don’t know if that is the worst or best name for a bar ever. Great it’s the werewolves – most pointless storyline of all. Alcide is trying to find Sam since he scented nearby and gets told “this ain’t no f@g bar”. Because Jason and Sara making a few gay jokes weren’t sufficient for this episode. And we’re joined by Aclide’s dad because he’s so totally necessary to the story right now.

Feed (Newsflesh #1) by Mira Grant

In 2014, the Rising happened. The dead came back to life and went on the rampage, biting or simply splattering the living to try to spread the infection. Millions died and the only reason more didn’t die was the Bloggers – while the news was telling the world that everything was ok, the Bloggers told the truth.

Decades have passed since that first Rising, decades in which society tried to put itself back together under knew, extreme security precautions, avoiding the zombie infested zones and living with the fact that anyone who dies will rise again – and attack and spread. In this paranoid world, the functions of government continue and it’s election time. And George (Georgia), her brother Shaun and he friend Buffy have been handed the biggest opportunity of their blogging careers – the chance to cover a presidential candidate for the full length of the campaign.

It’s a great victory for the legitimacy of blogging and a massive opportunity for George and Shaun to establish themselves as Alpha bloggers; but on the campaign trail they find something far more sinister than your average election time politics.

I love this world. I love this world because so much detail has gone into its creation. Not just into connecting all the fantasy elements together to make sure all of the fantastic and sci-fi and dystopian elements were internally consistent, but also the work that has gone into to plug all the gaps and make sure that it is something  can see and believe happening.

Because it’s a complicated world. It isn’t the standard zombie apocalypse with a few brave souls desperately trying to survive and occasionally losing it and trying to kill each other as has become something of a staple in the genre. This is a society that has survived and built up after the apocalypse. A society with people who have grown up not remembering anything but the zombie threat. A society that has to deal with the fact any human being could die and will rise as a zombie, who has to deal with the fact even a spec of infected bodily fluids could trigger your own zombiedom leading to a chain reaction that could massacre everyone around you and create an army of the undead – and not just zombies but any large mammal. A world where large sections of the country are abandoned or near abandoned because of the zombies, where there are threat zones designated based on how safe they are from zombies

The knock on effect from that is huge – beef disappears, large farm animals are too dangerous to keep around people since, if they die they become a threat. Wilderness becomes a no go area. And the endless quest for safety has led to ever more restrictions, gated communities where children can’t even go out and play and where an entire generation has grown up with a deep terror of crowds or the outside, their homes overlaid by security systems and constantly monitored for infection. The government has huge sweeping powers in the name of security – including a CDC with broad, lethal authorisation. People take constant blood tests to a paranoid degree to prove they are safe to be around.

All of this is put together with more unique elements – like the rise of blogging as a major source of media as the mainstream media tried to cover up the zombie outbreak rather than tell the truth – and entertainment for the shut in masses. It all comes together to be a deeply nuanced and multi-levelled world where hours must have gone into considering every contingency. Especially since this is also a book about politics so the political implications of everything have to be considered – laws about keeping large pets or annihilating all wildlife, the question of the death penalty, raising religiosity in the face of the near apocalypse; political issues that have been vastly skewed because of the zombie uprising.

The Returned, Season 1, Episode 6: Lucy

We start 1 year ago, with Lucy arriving in town and getting her job at the pub through, well a lot of confidence and chutzpah. Jérôme is also in the bar, drunk, being collected by a weary Claire who seems to have done it a few times before. Toni tells Lucy about the local tragedy of the crashed school bus and lets her stay in the back room. Later she has sex with Jérôme there – and during sex she talks to Camille. There follows the freakiest séance you ever did see. Personally, I would have thought the last place you would want to commune with your dead child is while her ghost watches you have sex. That is one seriously messed up kink.

Today, Lucy is in hospital after her miraculous recovery; she doesn’t remember what happened to her and the doctor is looking at her like she’s the second coming or grew a second head. Or is the second coming with a second head.

Elsewhere, the power plant, the source of so much weirdness, has flooded, completely. And the boss seems to just write it off – well shit, it’s flooded, no power for you, off home now. That’s a… staggeringly nonchalant attitude towards a major disaster. And more than a little fatalistic. “Dear people of town: your power plant’s fucked, no we can’t fix it. No power for you. G’bye now.”

So what do you do on a night with no power? Why grave robbing of course! Frédéric and his friend dig up Camille’s grave – inside they find the coffin full of water and no body.

The next day with the power off, Pierre gathers a number of people at Claire’s house. He gives them a complete ring master run up before revealing – ZOMBIE CAMILLE! I don’t know if it’s cruel or not to show her off to the parents who also lost their children in the bus crash, since their kids didn’t come back. Pierre presents it as hope for all of them that their kids will come back, but one grieving mother wants to know why Camille and not her daughter – Camille runs upstairs and Claire tries to follow, but Pierre stops her and goes instead. He calls Camille selfish for being upset that Léna, Frédéric and the circle of parents look at her like she’s a monster because 15 year old Camille should think of them and is upset that she’s a miracle and does nothing with it. After shaming her, she agrees to do what he says

Pierre looks like a manipulative wannabe cult member.

Thomas takes Simon, who he murdered last episode, to the morgue, but the hospital’s generators are running low. After asking to be informed if there’s anything odd in Simon’s autopsy he goes home to Adèle and Chloé. Adèle asks Chloé to go to her room but Thomas talks to her about the “ghost” and how he’s all gone because they don’t need him any more and coaches her on what lies to tell the police when they ask about the murder. Chloé goes to bed and Adèle falls helplessly into Thomas’s arms for comfort.

Lucy gets a visit from Alcide in the hospital – and remembers his name even though she doesn’t remember seeing him before. Over at Julie’s, Victor takes a bath (and is Julie surprised that he doesn’t want her there to see him get undressed?) and examines his arm in the mirror – it has a blackened wound like Léna’s back – shaped like a burn.