Friday, August 16, 2013

Deadline (Newsflesh #2) by Mira Grant

Shaun is not doing well after George’s death. At least she’s still with him – or his grief shattered brain keeps conjuring her up for him – but the fact the boss is hearing voices (and talking back to them) doesn’t reassure anyone else around him.

But the drive to avenge George continues – along with the George driven need to discover the truth. What is really behind the conspiracy that lead to George’s death? A fleeing doctor from the CDC may provide the answers – starting with the CDC’s disturbing habit of killing off researchers who get too close to certain topics and asking the question WHY the CDC’s vast budget actually devotes so few resources to actually curing the zombie plague?

Questions lead to rogue researchers, some stunning data and some truly devastating revelations – both personally, but also for the entire planet.

This book had a very different tone from the previous book and, on the whole, I think that worked appropriately. In the last book things were very different for George and the people around her. She was embarking on the opportunity of a lifetime. They were doing something they passionately believed in, they were increasing their site to unprecedented levels, they were legitimatising their industry. Even through the eyes of these cynical people, there’s a positivity there, a sense of them doing something powerful and meaningful and things getting better – at least until everything starts collapsing. But even then, as the conspiracy is revealed in Feed there is a sense that they’re uncovering it, they’re succeeding.

Now contrast that with Deadline. They’ve uncovered the conspiracy – but it’s still been largely hushed and a very public scapegoat has been thrown to the wolves. They’re freewheeling, they’ve lost people they care desperately about, their leader is having a full blown psychotic break. Yes they’re pre-eminent bloggers now, but the cost has been huge and, for much of the book, they don’t even know what to do and are rather desperate and flailing. Even with the zombie apocalypse, Feed had a sense of, well, not positivity – but competence and confidence. George and co knew what they were doing, where, when and why. Shaun and his fellows do not. They’re lost, desperate and facing off against an enemy that is more dangerous than just about any other force in the country. People have died, people are continuing to die and no-one is grieving in a healthy fashion.

And then there’s Shaun as the narrator. George was a Newsie. She was a Newsie who endeavoured to present the truth with minimal spin and garnish. Her tone is informative and attempts to be objective. Shaun is not. He’s an Irwin. He finds dangerous situations and pokes it. He’s also emotional, depressed, in incredible pain, angry and dealing with mental illness. His tone is angry. His tone is subjective. His tone has an agenda and a mission and isn’t there to info dump for us. When he does info-dump, it’s more about his personal state and emotions than bringing us up to speed on the world.

Dead Like Me, Season 1, Episode 13: Vacation

George is facing family issues again – every year the Las family used to go on holiday and, of course, George used to be sullen and pouty about it because she was far too cool for family holidays. And now, separated from her family preparing to go on the first holiday since her death, she wants to go with them. She wonders if she haunts her family – especially her sister (while hiding in her sister’s cupboard to spy on her). Rube has an excellent insight – haunting is all about envy. George’s envy for the family she no longer has.

That family is, of course, full of lots of bickering between Joy and Clancy. And the phone keeps ringing then ringing off whenever Joy answers it – but there’s someone there when Clancy picks up. Uh-huh. Clancy also seems less than thrilled by the whole thing.

When they arrive at the cabin, Clancy is still not happy – and he’s brought a mobile phone with him. Joy tries hard to make the holiday good for Reggie in the face of Clancy’s indifference; which contrasts sharply with George’s happy flashbacks. Including an awesome in observation from Joy about not needing to work so constantly for stuff that makes them happy when the simple life in the cabin brings them such joy.

The next morning Joy asks Reggie if she’s ok and she says no – Joy admits she isn’t either. Reggie talks about missing George and going somewhere else on holiday next year.

At the Waffle House there are no assignments – the Gravelings are taking the day off (and also enjoying the Waffle House). No-one dies today – and no-one knows why (I’m going to go for “convoluted story twisting so you can force a holiday plot).  But no time off – it’s filing time! Filing time which consumes most of the Waffle House much to Kiffany’s annoyance until Rube orders food for all the piles. And the empty booth full of Gravelings (and, yes, Kiffany has seen enough that the Gravelings don’t phase her).

And George has actually learned things by working in filing and actually has useful things to add – Roxy also has useful things to add “shut up and get on with it.” Especially since the filing system includes the arcane “last thought” storage. (Regrets about pets are more common than regrets about spouses it seems). All around people do many many risky things that don’t make them die for once, while George is still having sad flashbacks of past family holidays. Mason flirts with Daisy, as always and Kiffany hovers around as well, trying to draw Roxy in conversation and further pad this episode.

George leads a rebellion against the manual copying and demands they use actual data entry methods and actual computers – everyone agrees with her and after Roxy puts her foot down, Rube caves and they sneak to Happy Time with the keys George still has.

Top 65 Kick Ass Female Fantasy Characters - Looks Awfully White

After Ellen recently wrote their list of the top 65 Kick Ass Female Fantasy characters.

Whenever we see lists like these, we tend to cringe because almost inevitably the “top X characters” will usually neglect one or more minorities - and this list is no exception. The number of Women Of Colour on it are few - especially for a list this long. There are only 7 WOC on this astonishingly large list of 65 Kick Ass Female Fantasy characters. That’s barely more than 10%


This doesn’t come close to mirroring population demographics. Once again the whole promoted idea of “uplifting” women or promoting women is again limited to White Women. WOC get no more than a few token mentions, thrown in almost as an afterthought or transparent attempt to head off charges of racism without any real attempt to be racially inclusive. This is more about the author’s wish to protect  themselves from an accusation than it is to ensure full representation and give WOC of their due.

Of course, one element of the lack of inclusion goes back to a point we’ve made about Inclusive conventions as well - part of the problem of erased lists is a genre that still has an incredible paucity of WOC characters. This limited pool will always reduce how many awesome characters there are to identify with.

But this is no excuse for this list -  managing a paltry 7 characters when there are several awesome WOC in the genre (not nearly enough but far more than are represented here) that are truly kick ass and worthy of a place on the list - Bonnie from The Vampire Diaries, Astrid from Fringe, Kate Freelander from Sanctuary, Catherine from Beauty and the Beast, Annie from Being Human (UK), Sally from Being Human (US), Max and Original Cindy from Dark Angel, Anna from V, Detective Rita Veder from Vampire in Brooklyn, Dr. Clementine Chasseur from Hemlock Grove, Nora from Revolution, Mira from Terra Nova, Guinevere from Merlin, Rachel from Alphas - we can go on, these are just a few we brainstormed off the top of our heads. We certainly didn’t love all of these characters, but After Ellen’s own list contains some dubious entries.

To put salt in the wound, none of the WOC are entered in the top 10. That latter element is particularly significant because the majority of these lists are usually “the top 10 X” - it’s only by expanding past the usual 10 that WOC were included on this list at all.

It is an indictment that the list had to be expanded beyond this common 10 to have anything other than an all-white cast.

While this may seem like a simple list, a bit of fun, not to be taken seriously - this is yet again another example of White women being predominantly upheld as representative of all women; they are presented as the default woman and the only woman that matters - non-white women are outliers, exceptions to the rule of womanhood. This list is intended to promote women in the genre but instead promotes white supremacy and, as such, is detrimental to marginalised women

Rachel Skartsen and the Mosaic Church

Recently it was drawn to our attention that there was a brouhaha about Rachel Skarsten - the actor who plays Tamsin on Lost Girl - tweeting her support and membership of the homophobic Mosaic church in LA. Naturally, this caused some comment, especially given the prominent lesbian and bisexual characters in Lost Girl

This is always an awkward topic to talk about and I was in two minds about talking about it at all. However, having decided to, it is one that requires some nuance and length.

Firstly, it’s a discussion that raises the question of whether we’re going to examine all actor’s religious beliefs - especially since Ms. Skarsten’s church, as far as I can see, is no more homophobic than many other large churches like the Catholic church, Anglican church, Baptists, Latter Day Saints - in fact, I would say that the Mosaic church is pretty standard in its homophobia compared to the majority of organised denominational Christian churches. It would not surprise me if a huge number of the actors in shows we love, attended churches that hold objectionable, homophobic views. I would say it’s almost a certainty that many of them do.

On that, it feels rather unfair to single out Rachel Skarsten. Especially since organised Christian churches that don’t hold views that aren’t at least a little homophobic (churches that outright say being gay is not sinful and treat gay parishioners with exactly the same respect, rites and blessings as straight ones) are not actually all that common. This is a deeply depressing state of affairs - and certainly one that mainstream Christianity needs to address; but how much blame should attach to individual Christians for that? Because if we are apportioning blame, there are 1.2 billion Catholics in the world supporting a church whose homophobic rhetoric is, at very least, as homophobic as the Mosaic church. I would rather all supporters and members of homophobic churches take a good, long look at what they’re supporting and endorsing rather than singling out one among many.

Ultimately, as well, how people deal with homophobia from their churches can be a fraught issue. Personally, I cannot understand why someone would seek deity in a place that preaches hatred. I do not see how a place that preaches discrimination can be regarded as a source of deity (and certainly not morality). I do not understand this, I find it dubious. However, at the same time I acknowledge that the church can be a source of immense importance to people - religiously, culturally and from a community standpoint. I find it... distressing that people feel they cannot connect with their faith, their god, their culture or their community without also endorsing and supporting bigotry; I also can’t help but feel that people are saying “the humanity and rights of GBLT people are less important to me than X” (whatever “X” the church provides for them). But these religious choices are extremely powerful and personal. And at least it’s a little better (though very much in the same vein) than people saying that the humanity and rights of GBLT people are less important to me than fried chicken or watching a film. Because that’s just really depressing.

But there are three elements that I feel are worth mentioning in this case - and they apply not just to Rachel Skarsten but as good general points.

Firstly, there is an issue of tweeting the church and endorsing it; attending a church and extolling its virtues are different things. Herein lies one of the problems with both the brevity of twitter and celebrity endorsement - it’s a good idea to check out what you’re endorsing first. I don’t know how aware Rachel Skarsten was of her church’s stance on homophobia - in fact, I did a fair amount of googling and the Mosaic church does put its homophobia as front and centre as many churches do. This is a trap I’ve seen other celebrities fall into - in fact, it wasn’t long ago that Cher tweeted support for a homophobic pastor and faced gentle criticism of the bigotry she was promoting. I have to say, Rachel Skarsten’s response was considerably better than Cher’s rather... excessive rant.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Iron King (Iron Fey #1) by Julie Kagawa

Meghan was struggling through her normal life, having to deal with the standard problems of a teenaged girl: the mean girls at school, bullying, getting her work done at school because of the antiquated machine they have at home, hoping to get her driver’s license.

But she keeps seeing things – and she’s not forgetting them. Even harder to forget is her baby brother trying to kill their mother. And growing claws at that.

It’s the first of many revelations – about her heritage, her parentage, about her best friend and that her brother has been kidnapped and replaced. And that faerie is real and lurking all around her – and faerieland is just a closet away

She has the chance to forget and return to a normal life – but her brother is out there and she’s the only one who can save him.

This book had some pretty flawless writing. From page 1 to the very end I can’t really point to anything and say “clumsy” or “awkward” or “over-described” and there’s nearly always something I’ve highlighted, but not a line here.

The pacing is excellent – despite being in several sections from Meghan’s ordinary life at school, to the world of the fae, to the different fae courts – everything moves well and quickly. Each section gets enough attention to truly establish it and characterise it. Each section is fully realised with its characters, the nature of what it is and what it represents and the forces in play – but none of it is over described or cluttered with lots of new information we don’t need. We don’t dwell anywhere or dawdle or rehash the same old lines over and over again. It’s impressive how careful the writing is to manage all this

It’s even more impressive since we’re dealing with the fae and fae worlds that pull in a lot of mythological creatures (both faerie and otherwise). We have an extremely rich world here – not just the two courts of the fey, but the way the fey react with the human world, why they react, their feeding on dreams and glamour and excitement and emotion that gives them their vibrancy and even their essence. The power of human belief – and the damage caused by the banalty of non-belief. And even how that belief feeds into things like monsters under a child’s bed or imaginary friends – the powerful belief of the child empowering and attracting the fey.

These are concepts I’ve come across before – but not often and it’s definitely fun to see a new take on them. But then we have the rise of the Iron Fey, the acknowledgement that human kind hasn’t stopped believing or dreaming – only now instead of dragons and faeries, we’re believing in technological wonders. Wonders built from science and iron and things that are the very antipathy of the fey themselves. The interplay and development between them isn’t only fascinating but it really has both a lot of plot hooks and nuances, especially when we can see that it’s far from a simple case of good fae vs bad fae

Under the Dome, Season 1, Episode 8: Thicker than Water

It’s night and a noise wakes up Big Jim. He instantly reaches for the gun he keeps by his bed and heads downstairs to find… Junior. Jim doesn’t lower the gun, since he kicked Junior out last episode. Jim accuses Junior of stalking Angie – and, in a moment of shocking hypocrisy, he criticises Junior for killing the Dundee boy who hurt Angie. Jim didn’t like him and doesn’t defend him – but doesn’t agree with Junior to be judge, jury and executioner. It’s not Junior’s job to decide who needs to be punished

That’s Jim’s job.

He accuses Junior of not being in his right mind – says he sounds like his mother did “before the end” and disowns him and kicks him out. Junior leaves – but warns Jim never to talk about his mother like that again.

Outside the McAllister house, Barbie digs a deep grave for Alice (Julia remarks on how good his grave digging is – yes, all the better to bury your husband with!)  and they reflect on the new baby at the same time as a death – circle of life time. Inside, Angie isn’t impressed by Joe’s lack of shopping – and being too goody-goody to join in the looting. To the diner for food! They try to bring Norrie but she’s isolating herself with grief and anger

At the diner there’s coffee, Julia – and Jim arrives remarking on Angie letting herself into his diner. She has a good come back about Junior doing the same thing the night before. Jim placates her and agrees to talk to Ollie about getting food delivered to the Diner so she can restock it and open it up – but he also adds that pretty soon they only way they’ll get food is from the ground and they need to be smart. Angie catches the fact Jim is looking for the long haul, expecting the Dome to be around for a while.

At one of the tables, Joe draws the Minidome and the egg within – but hides it from Julia. In the woods, the Minidome glows.

Jim goes to see Ollie, secure in that he now has the propane – but Ollie is happy to grow crops without his modern irrigation systems rather than make a deal with Jim. Oh he won’t starve people – but he won’t share food until the town removes Jim so he can step in his shoes.

At the police station Linda and Barbie walk in on Junior playing with the big guns – which is worrisome. And no she doesn’t trust him after the whole killing thing – and she’d fire him if she weren’t short handed. Glad to see there’s some sense there. He’s on probation. Which is when Jim arrives to say he needs Linda and Barbie – ignoring his son.

Jim wants to use Eminent Domain to claim Ollie’s well. And he wants to use the police to back it up – Barbie is not a fan of this plan. They drive off, Jim still ignoring Junior – and are met by an army of Ollie’s men and Ollie not accepting that Jim’s authority counts as the authority of the town. And he tells Linda that he doesn’t recognise her or anyone else’s authority if they stand with Jim (maybe he doesn’t – but calling Linda “sweetheart” should get him shot anyway) and that he won’t be giving food to the town either. He shoots one of Linda’s deputies in the knee – Linda draws her gun but Barbie gets her to lower it.

And Junior join’s Ollie’s team – and takes Jim’s gun at Ollie’s instruction. Ok – Ollie’s officially the bad guy now – and that’s saying something when you’re opposite Jim.

Back at the police station, Jim says all the farmers back Ollie because they need his well, if they get the well, they win their allegiance and Jim is ready to go back, guns blazing. Linda and Barbie are not fans of Under the Dome: The Civil War. Jim storms up, but Barbie has another idea – there were over reservoirs and wells in town before Ollie’s, but they all dried up when Ollie dug his well. Destroy Ollie’s well and all of these other water sources start flowing again. Apparently. I’m kind of bemused that the town let some guy get away with digging a well that sucked up all the water in the area.]

The Walking Dead Volume 12: Life Among Them

Rick and his group finally approach Washington and learn the devastating news - Eugene was lying. He isn’t a scientist, he can’t save the world and he isn’t leading them to safety.

But they seem to fall on their feet when they are found by Aaron, a scout for Alexandria. Alexandria is a walled community, a safe community, protected from the zombies. It is a place where kids still play, no-one is armed and people even still have pets and parties. It is a utopia in the apocalypse

The group joins Alexandria, but are both suspicious of strangers and face the apparent fragility of a place that seems far too good to be real in this dystopian world.

The last few volumes of The Walking Dead Comics have concentrated on how the zombie apocalypse has changed the survivors. We’ve seen their grief and pain - up to and including suicide. We’ve seen their losses drive them to talk to imagined loved ones. We’ve seen them treat a prison as a utopia. We’ve seen them willing to murder living people for the sake of survival. We’ve seen them survive rapists, torturers and even small wars. And we’ve seen them accept that they are, on some level, monstrous - and need to be monstrous to survive in this world

The group has been through fire and survived - but it has dramatically changed them.

Then we get to Alexandria, the safe zone. In some ways this represents everything they ever hoped to find - a place of safety. A place where they can lead normal lives. A place where they don’t have to be afraid. It was such a dramatic transformation that even they transformed - Rick shaving, showering and getting a police uniform is symbolic of this. “Civilised” Rick was such a dramatic difference, it took him back to Issue 1 and the group didn’t recognise him.

And they don’t fit. As we can see that even “civilised Rick” is marked by his missing hand; the apocalypse has left an indelible mark no matter what veneer of past Rick he wears. We see that they’ve all changed so much that this place doesn’t work well for them. Carl has forgotten how to play - and doesn’t understand kids wasting time trick-or-treating or wearing costumes in a world with zombies to defend against; he even walks around with his own gun when even the adults Alexandria can’t walk around with weapons - his comfort with the weapon horrifies and even angers the Alexandrians. Michonne makes a scene because she can’t relate to women gossiping about such petty issues - and the idea that one woman worries - WORRIES - about cooking food. In a world where Michonne has survived so much, endured so much, she’s presented with a woman who’s worry is if someone likes her food. Douglas even asks them if they mind sharing houses - when they have all been packed into tiny vans and see his “roughing it” as unimaginable luxury.

Alexandria isn’t just safe from the zombies - as the prison was - but the zombies are completely hidden by the wall. In the prison, with the chain link fences, they could see the zombies, they could never ignore the zombies or forget them. The people of Alexandria live in a bubble where they never see or hear the zombies except for the runners looking for supplies. It’s a town of not just safety - but denial.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Espirit de Corpse (Reluctant Reaper #3) by Gina X. Grant

Kirsty scythed Conrad – her evil ex-boss who tried to sell her soul to increase the terms of his demonic pact – with Dante’s scythe. All the rules said this was forbidden, but no-one knew why. Until Conrad turned into a demon, escaped from prison and fled to the mortal Coil

Guess that answers that question

Of course, it’s Dante and Kirsty’s job to bring him back since they’re at fault – and quickly. But Conrad has returned to his old company and targeted his daughter and Kirsty’s best friend – Shannon. As if possessing Shannon wasn’t enough, she then gets arrested for murdering Kirsty!

Through all this Kirsty also has to deal with a moody Dante who is Not Happy with Kirsty over the whole scythe thing.

Oh this book. In fact, this series. I can see what it’s trying to do. I can see what it’s trying to achieve. It’s trying to be a very funny, fluffy, light and irreverent story with a slightly ditzy protagonist and lots of zany amusement. Kind of like Mary-Janice Davidson’s Undead series.

But it really isn’t working for me. It’s trying to force all these puns and commentary and it just doesn’t work for me. And everything about the world and story kind of revolves around setting up the next joke or gag so it all kind of doesn’t work for me.

I don’t mind the story in this book – the beginning set up was annoying and the conclusion vexed me, but the middle was pretty interesting. I followed along wondering what they were going to do next, how they were going to rectify things and if they even could, especially from the coil. I was interested and engaged but a little frustrated that they seemed to be more witnesses than participants in the story.

I do give massive points to the awesome judge who set the court room lawyers homework to learn the damn law and banning them from watching courtroom dramas. I cheered that judge. I bow down to this judge. This judge is beyond awesome.

I would really like to see Kirsty involved in a storyline that didn’t come about because of her own mistakes. The second book came from one of her unintentional blunders in the first book and this book is based on her grabbing Dante’s scythe despite knowing there would be (admittedly ill-defined) consequences. If there’s a fourth book in the series, I’d very much like it not to be another episode of “Kirsty D’Arc, scrabbling to clear up her mess. Again.”

Teen Wolf, Season 3, Episode 11: Alpha Pact

Stiles desperately wakes Derek up where he’s passed out in the lift after the Darach, Jennifer Blake, escaped. They quickly leave (Stiles holding the fort at the hospital) and meet up with the Argents and Isaac (Peter decides to leave because of his unpleasant history with the Argents – them with the murdering and the torturing and him killing the malicious murdering torturer, Kate). Everyone recaps everyone else

Poor Stiles gets to explain to the hostile FBI agent and cover up everything as much as possible. Preferably with extra sarcasm. And for someone reason someone has written “Argent” in red on the lift doors.

Maybe he’s the third “Guardian?”

Derek takes Cora home so he can stare mournfully at her; he doesn’t know what to do. Isaac has a rant at him since Scot and Stiles have been out and about looking for the Darach but no-one thought to check Derek’s bed for her. And now Derek’s going to just sit and stare into space while everyone else fights? Isaac asks why Derek even changed them all in the first place (a direct swipe at his role as Alpha). Derek says he’ll help the others once he’s figured out how to help Cora. Isaac leaves in a rage to let Derek get on with his moping.

Peter, having heard all that, drops in to twist the knife in. Oh, Isaac didn’t mean it – he’s only being all angry because it helps him justify following Alpha Scott rather than Alpha Derek. Scott continues to use his pain-killing were-wolfy ability to help Cora while Peter warns him not to go too far. Rather than just snarking, Peter has heard of another ability – an Alpha can do more than just stop pain, they can actually heal someone – using their super Alphaness, though, of course, it could kill him.  Even if it doesn’t kill him, it will drain away his alphaness and turn him into a beta. Which may be a bad idea with Kali’s promise to kill him and all the next day (like he ever did any good against her with Alpha powers). Peter also warns Derek about Machiavellian plotting (which is kinda rich coming from him, really) and maybe Jennifer planned all this to make Derek her ally – since he’d need her power to fight the Alphas as a beta.

And it’s a lunar eclipse, so they’ll all be powerless. Actually that sounds like a good reason not to care whether you’re Alpha or Beta.

At Argent HQ, Chris thinks his awful parenting disqualifies him from being a Guardian (true – working with granddaddy to raise a torturer and having a family tradition of massacres isn’t exactly wholesome) but Stiles and Allison doesn’t buy it – and Allison thinks they need to talk to Ms Morrel. She may be the Alpha Emissary but she knows a lot and is randomly helpful. Argent wants to keep looking for Melissa and Sherriff Stilinski and, besides, he has a big gun – can she heal her face being blown off. Hmmm… maybe.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

No Deadly Thing (Twisted Tree #1) by Tiger Gray

There is just too much of this book to summarise – Ashrinn, an ex-special forces soldier returns, injured from Iraq and discovers a whole new magical world, powers he never imagined, his own personal connection to the divine and, above all, a purpose. A purpose to save not just his home, not even just the magical community – but the entire world. And in the process find his own personal family life shook to the core.

That is such a brief and pared down summary of the vastness that happens in this book

This book has some of the best characters you could hope to meet; even side characters have a sense of history and personality just waiting to be discovered. Even side characters banter off each other well. It has an amazing level of diversity with GBLT people, POC and disabled people. Each of these characters has the foundation of some truly excellent development to them. Their interactions promise lots of real connection and development.

The world is rich with many layers and powers and I long to delve into it an examine every corner. We have different organisations, a myriad of powers and forces for me to explore and discover.

The protagonist is someone I can really get behind, with poignant experiences, considerable competences and a lot of personal growth and revelations

The story promises to be exciting and action packed, with close emotional dramas, epic conflicts and world balancing feats that is interspaced by personal revelation and discovery

This book has every element of being awesome. This book has all the ingredients of being one of the best books I ever read. This book not only has every sign of being a 5 star book – but it has every sign of being one of those books I can’t stop reading, a series I follow with an almost fanatical religious devotion and adore to a level that is frankly creepy in its excessiveness.

I cannot understate the incredible core of this book. I cannot understate how utterly and unbelievably amazing this book could have been.

Could have been.

So much potential – but it was badly let down by the execution.

It’s very overwritten. There were huge sections of the book I was tempted to skim because they were overly descriptive, they gave background or side information that wasn’t useful, snippets of world insight that add too nothing and endless, endless pages of internal monologue that is repetitive and often goes nowhere except to reconfirm the same issues we have already seen over and over. I know Ashrinn’s issues, Liu’s issues, Mal’s issues – but we rejoin their headspace for long long chapters of little happening but following their thoughts as they cycle round the same issues again.

I think there’s a real attempt to truly establish these characters and the theme and atmosphere, but it loses me in a lot of really heavy text I could skip over.

Worse than being overwritten, this book felt like several books squished together:

Book 1: Ashrinn has his awakening moment, comes home and is introduced to the supernatural by Randolph, training in what that means, what he can do, what is out there and what Randolph wants to achieve with the Order

Book 2: Ashrinn, member of the Order starts to get things into shape, organising the order, fitting into his new life, some relationship issues with family and friends.

Book 3: Opening up to non-paladins/mages. Establishing and training Storm, getting the unit to work together, dealing with any issues between members and making them an effective, elite team.

Book 4: Battling the Cult, escalation, fighting the cult, cult avatar sets up, beginning of the war

Book 5: All out war, world in chaos, humanity learns about magical things – panic, death, government breaks down, human-only zones, anti-magic backlash

If this had been the series, it would have been EPIC! But all of this happened in ONE BOOK. And on top of that we have pages of Ashrinn’s relationship with his wife, his son and lots and lots about Mal and his kids and the issues between Ashrinn and Mal himself that is just kind of pasted on the rapidly speeding story for more distraction and confusion. Many times I skimmed back in the book because I’d blinked and something had changed. Ashrinn meets with Randolph – BLINK, he’s now training a team. How did we get from A to B? Now the cults’ a major threat and the Order isn’t enough – how? Why? What? I don’t know – we just blinked through all the exposition. Then BLINK! He has a team and there’s a werewolf and he may have to kill her BLINK she’s a fully functional member of the team and BLINK the team needs to be trained to fight! BLINK team is trained now – wait, what, you developed the team into a fighting force in the down time?! But… BLINK zomg DRAGON! Wait DRAGON?! Where did the dragon come from? Why? BLINK, all out war, we’re losing pieces of Seattle! Wait, Seattle’s under attack? The whole country’s under attack? When did this happen?!

This continues throughout the book. There’s no progression, no leading from scene to scene, just snap shots from different stages in the narrative. It’s like we skip forward months of even years with each turning of a page, vast events and knowledge happens in those missing months and we learn nothing about it. I was constantly running to catch up, completely lost and frustrated by the awesome elements of the story that I never get to see!

Utopia, Season 1, Episode 1

Opening scene – a comic book shop, a radio with a new announcer telling us that food prices are sky rocketing and the government is urged to fix this, and 2 men looking for something called the “Utopia Manuscript” and willing to bash people in the head to get it.

I know some comic book fans who’ll do the same for early editions. So long as they can guarantee blood won’t get on the pages anyway.

They’re not all bad, they gas some innocent bystanders (ok said gas ALSO kills them but at least there’s less splashing involved – preserves the dry cleaning) and the very singleminded man talking to the manager not only wants the manuscript – which has already been sold – but also to know about a “Jessica Hyde.” Everyone gassed – including a small boy – they then break a gas line. I suspect everything goes boom.

From there we go to Becky who has a copy of the Utopia comic, describing it as having been written by Mark Dane – a delusional paranoid schizophrenic who killed himself after writing it, which Becky feels feeds into a conspiracy theory. Becky’s life changed dramatically from her previous career choice as a doctor when her father died of a long illness – and now she’s trying to convince 2 people to fund her research into the graphic novel. She isn’t the best saleswoman in the world, it has to be said (swearing at the investors is never really a good plan). Unsurprisingly, it doesn’t work and she goes home to her many photos of her dad and her carefully organised stash of pills.

Elsewhere we have Ian, checking out a website for true believers of the “Utopia experiment” and not doing the tedious work he’s required, which follows some not-so-witty sparring with his boss including the oh-so-clever insult of suggesting he sucks his bosses (Michael’s) cock.

Moving on again to Bejan, at home, checking pages that look like they’re from Utopia and logging on the same site as Ian, joined in the chat room by Grant, Wilson, Becky and Ian (who is new). Bejan tells them they’re chosen and he wants to meet – for he has Utopia part 2; which is apparently a Big Deal. They agree to meet at the pub after Grant protests meeting at Bejan’s house.

Grant seems to be 8 kinds of arsehole – but he’s also a child, unbeknownst to the rest of them and one who seems to have a pretty grim home life, judging by the passed out parent, the copious empty booze bottles and the salad cream sandwich.

Next character – there seems to be rather a lot – Michael (an at least semi-important man in the department of health, it seems), in a motel room with lots of booze and pills and someone’s sent him an ultrasound with “your Russian whore is pregnant” written on it. After an awkward conversation while he tries to convince his wife all is well and he’s at work, he gets a call from his blackmailer – a man who pimps out the pregnant prostitute. He is required to perform a “mission.”  This seems to give him some hope since he disposes of the booze and pills and goes to work the next day, though he’s a little distracted in his meeting.

Michael and his boss Greg go to meet with the head of Corvadt Biological services (a pharmaceutical company) trying to sell them boat loads of flu vaccine the department of health doesn’t think they need – especially with the food shortages (though he never speaks – his Assistant does all the talking). When he steps out for a while, the Assistant tells Michael he should make Greg take the deal – he should “make it his mission.” The boss reiterated – this is his fucking mission. Well that doesn’t leave much to doubt.

The Rainbow Gallery - a New Resource for LGBTQ Fandom

This is a guest post from RVC Bard and her new project, the Rainbow Gallery

The Rainbow Gallery is a video campaign that aims to create a more inclusive space for LGBTQ fans in mainstream TV and film.


For many of us, fandom has been a sanctuary for LGBTQ people who don’t necessarily have such spaces in everyday life. Fandom has given many of us an opportunity to explore our identities and create community we otherwise do not have. In a world where we still fight for acceptance, justice, and equality, fandom has even saved lives.

Unfortunately, the people involved with making the TV shows and movies we love don’t always grasp that. So, they sometimes say and do things that wind up alienating us from something that once gave us joy and inspiration.

This is unacceptable. This has to change.

What follows is just one piece of trying to make that change.


The Rainbow Gallery is a video campaign that aims to create a more inclusive space for LGBTQ fans in mainstream TV and film.

By sharing our perspectives, experiences, and insights, The Rainbow Gallery seeks to:

1.      Let fellow LGBTQ fans know that they are not alone
2.      Show people that LGBTQ fans are real people and not merely “issues"
3.      Put industry professionals—studio execs, producers, directors, writers, actors, critics, etc.—on the right track when talking to and about LGBTQ fans and the things that matter to us
4.      Get straight allies in film and television on the same page as LGBTQ fans when it comes to how they can support and advocate for us
5.      Pave the way for better representation of LGBTQ people in mainstream film and television


Much like the It Gets Better campaign, video contributions from LGBTQ fans form the core of The Rainbow Gallery.

The format of the videos can vary from a simple chat in front of a camera to voice-over narration to text and music, whatever makes the person most comfortable because it’s not always safe to be out as LGBTQ.

Videos can discuss a variety of topics, including:
·         media representation
·         fetishization
·         queer-baiting
·         fandom
·         straight allies
·         best practices
·         personal stories
·         and more


There are a lot of things you can do to help (video editing, making a website, etc.), but the easiest are:

1.      Make your own video for The Rainbow Gallery and submit it here
2.      Reblog this post for your followers
5.      Use the #rainbowgallery hashtag when tweeting about The Rainbow Gallery
6.      Share links on Twitter and Facebook
7.      Tweet about The Rainbow Gallery to people affiliated with your favorite TV shows and films
8.      Come up with prompt questions for people making videos
9.      Something clever and amazing that would make everything so much better


I’m not doing this because fandom is an untapped market I want to maximize for its earning potential. I’m doing this because, despite its flaws, I’ve seen in fandom visions of the world I want to live in. A world where who I am is not a resource to be exploited or a problem to be solved.

Every fandom I’ve participated in has had so much love, passion, talent, creativity, intelligence, kindness, generosity, and wisdom that it strikes me as shameful that the people who offer all these wonderful gifts are made to feel invisible, insignificant, and expendable by those who give life to the stories and characters they love.

I believe that no one deserves to feel invisible. I believe that no one deserves to feel insignificant. I believe that no one deserves to feel expendable.

I refuse to accept this is “just the way it is.” I refuse to accept this as inevitable. I refuse to accept this, period.

I want to do everything I can to change this so that me and my friends can play in the same sandbox as everybody else and not have to deal with any bullshit.

Will you join me?

Monday, August 12, 2013

True Blood, Season 6, Episode 9: Life Matters

Warlow is near dead from blood loss and Bill wants the rest of it. Sookie is not amused by this – Eric has ruined their deal and since Billith is the “god of all vampires” it’s time he dealt with his vampire. She feeds Warlow her blood (also OW, drawing blood on your arm with blunt human teeth gotta hurt) and slaps Billith down AGAIN for getting all fangy about it. Bill grabs Warlow as he begins to recover but Sookie tells Billith where to go and points out Eric currently has more of Warlow’s blood than Warlow does. And she zap Billith out of faerie land with her light.

I quite like this season’s Sookie. A good deal less spunky, a good deal more edgy.

At Terry’s funeral, Arlene got her way on the reverend, but it looks like Caroline got her way with the military honours. Sookie checks on Warlow and he seems to be all better. She reiterates that she’s willing to be with him, she promised – and then she sets off for Terry’s funeral (where one of the elderly guests calls her a weirdo) meeting with Arlene, Alcide and random other Bon Temps residents. The reverend makes a beautiful speech followed by Andy making a speech about how the war cost Terry and how Terry disappeared into the woods after coming home and Andy went to convince him to come back. Followed by Sam talking about Terry as a friend and employee (after Andy got Terry a job with him) with more flashbacks of Terry fishing – but unable to kill what he catches.

Lafayette gets up next (to nasty commentary from the elderly prejudiced woman – doesn’t every family have one? ), nervously to add to Terry’s back story and Lafayette taking Terry under his wing. He’s followed by Portia. With her finished and no-one else to speak, the Rev invites Arlene up to speak but Sookie hears her thoughts and realises Arlene isn’t ready, she can’t do it. Sookie speaks up to step forward to give Arlene more time. Arlene mentally asks if Sookie was listening to her thoughts and Sookie nods; they smile at each other. At the podium, Sookie reveals what most of the town already knows – she’s a telepath – and tells Arlene what Terry was thinking when he first saw her – how pretty he thought she was and Sookie tells Arlene that Terry loved her from the very first second they met.

Arlene’s turn and she talks about Terry comforting her insecurities – after everyone else talked about how they propped up Terry.

Next to speak up is Big John Dixon (cue awful, elderly confused woman to say something terrible). He also works at Merlotte’s with Terry – and, not being good with words, he sings for Terry.

The soldiers have their salute – Arlene jerking with every shot – but Arlene’s thoughts reveal she was ok with the military aspect, it wasn’t as bad as she feared.

While the funeral is going on, a lot of action happens at the vampire prison

Full of Warlow blood Eric goes for a daytime jaunt to the vampire prison. Fangs out. They’re not expecting a day walking 1,000 year old vampire and he slices and dices them merrily.  Billith arrives in the very very very messy aftermath. Eric’s inside, using severed arms to bypass security and rips off the nasty sadistic doctor’s genitals. Literally.

From there, Eric releases the general male vampire population – who all run. They blur out the room and we hear screaming suggesting they’ve found some more of the guards or operators of the prison. Except one kid who won’t leave without his maker – who is in one of the bed/drawers infected with Hep V and dying. Eric tells the kid his maker will die a horrible death and it’s his choice if he wants to watch – but he’s free to go.

Biting Bad (Chicagoland Vampires #8) by Chloe Neill

More drama returns to Chicago – this time in the shape of riots. Riots with firebombs targets that are close to the vampires – including their blood supply and Grey House. Naturally this threat has to be investigated and countered – as much as they can counter the growing anti-vampire attitude.

But the rioters don’t behave as would be expected – there’s definitely something behind them and perhaps one of their many enemies is pulling strings and hiding a more nefarious agenda

And the GP is suffering from its own conflict – Darius has had a blow to his authority and his chief rival has his gaze fixed on Cadogan House.

Whenever you have any kind of “whodunnit” or “whydunnit” mystery, you have a problem. There’s a problem between keeping the story going but at the same time not tipping your hand early. It’s simply hard to keep the pacing going while maintaining the mystery – it’s very easy for a book to become boring while everyone sits around frustrated, with no leads. At the same time, too many side plots can derail the plot and make the mystery seem almost background.

Biting Bad does a good job of maintaining that pacing. We have side plots – related to Grey House and the ill vampire which nicely tie into the overall mystery. And there are other side-plots –Mallory, Merit’s parents, the GP – that fit the idea that your whole world doesn’t stop to allow you to focus on one issue. That said, I think both the parents and the GP were rather unnecessary in this book and added nothing to the overall plot and, as explained below, didn’t make a whole lot of sense.

I can see some excellent hooks in this book – I see Mallory joining the house, perhaps Catcher as well and House Cadogan in general building a supernatural coalition its own way. I can see shades of them setting up their own organisation, especially considering the actions of House Grey and the GP. I like these hints of future action that don’t have to be spelled out, merely implied and suggested for future plot hooks.  That said, I found the ending frustrating in that the consequences of it were not shown.

In terms of Merit I think we have some improvements on some levels – her considerations about her relationships with both Ethan and Mallory (and even with other vampires within the House, like Helen) point towards some very belated character growth. Even her interactions with her family suggest we’re edging up to something resembling growth which is long overdue. She has some good ideas – both in the investigation and also with using the press to try and counter their negative image. The ideas are good but not genius – but at the same time no-one hailed her as the world’s most awesome tactical genius for her basic ideas as has happened in previous books. She has competent ideas, she was expected to provide competent ideas and her competent ideas were praised for their competence. It was nice to see.

The flip side is that Merit’s previous strength – her combat skills – were sorely lacking this book. Now, far be it from me to hold up skill with weapons as proof of a strong female character, but one of the main reasons Merit is Sentinel at all is because she is physically dangerous. It’s why she can spar competently with a man several centuries her senior. This is the reason for her rank – beyond her competent ideas and beyond the fact Ethan has the hots for her; she is sentinel because she is physically capable and because she doesn’t bow to Ethan. We saw neither of these things in this book. I can understand her losing to the GP – given his age and power – but being taken down by a human wielding a kitchen knife? Merit is better than that. I could take one comic disaster to have everyone laughing – but where was the counter moment? Where was the moment where Merit kicked arse and showed her strength?

But the main problem I have with this book is how some of the characters are developed and how that fits into the world – I either have trouble accepting them as they are or believing their actions. Some of these decisions could be explained if you extrapolate a whole lot of back story – but that’s not shown in the book and I’m engaging in mental gymnastics to justify the characters.