Saturday, August 31, 2013

Almighty Johnsons, Season 3, Episode 9: Mike in the Mirror

Apparently Zeb dreams of awful sexist beer adverts when thinking of finding Frigg. He takes his master plan to Axl and even he realises that it’s dubious and nothing about the Frigg prophecy guarantees Frigg’s bra size.  Unfortunately, as he talks Axl decides running auditions for a fictitious advert for a fictitious beer “Odin’s Ale”, requiring actors fit the model of Frigg is somehow a good idea.

In one way this is very true to Norse Mythology. The Aesir aren’t the brightest bunch around.

To Anders’s office where Dawn is happy they’ve got rid of Colin (the wanker), but that they still need business – and she pokes for more information about what actually happened in the alley. Anders ducks the question and is rescued by Axl and Zeb arriving with their not-so-masterful idea about finding Frigg and wanting to talk in private (poor Dawn).  Anders hears their plans and tells them exactly how utterly awful they are – but he will help them find Ingrid (who has gone missing) because her genealogy isn’t the worst idea – but no way is he setting up an advert that the real Frigg will run screaming from.

Is it shallow of me to want to give a small award to Dean O’Gorman’s tailor? Or a not-so-small award?

At Mike’s, Michele is glowing and happy despite putting in long hours at work – apparently on a medical research project (she is a doctor). Mike doesn’t believe her – he and Olaf go making money with his Ullr power and discuss the inscrutable secretive ways of conniving women when men don’t bother to actually ASK them if something’s going on. (Y’know, if he really wants to know, he could just have Olaf says “I bet you can’t guess what Michele is doing all day”).  Mike decides that since she’s content, not guilty, it’s probably secret goddess stuff and, therefore, something he should stay out of (especially when Olaf points out Mike isn’t exactly telling her about the money he’s making using his Ullr powers)

Anders tries to get Stacey to tell him where Ingrid has got to. From there he goes to a swanky looking hotel, the same hotel Michele has been visiting and sees there’s an event called “The goddess healer speaks”. And Ingrid is the receptionist for the event (and collecting fees). He breezes past Ingrid to see Michele giving an empowering, but rather generic new agey presentation to a room full of women.

Anders confronts her afterwards about how it’s all generic new agey stuff and she’s really healing everyone with Yggdrasil – and to make lots of money. And he wants a part of it – she ignores him, so he asks what Mike thinks of the whole thing, to which she brings him on board.

Zeb and Axl continue their awful advert idea on social media, get a large number of women auditioning and borrow a set at a local theatre to “interview” potential Friggs.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Iron Queen (Iron Fey #3) by Julie Kagawa

Ash and Meghan have been banished from the Summer and Winter courts due to their illicit love. They are free to go to the human world, free to live with Meghan’s family again – except the Iron fae are still interested in her and she can’t bring their conflict to her parent’s home.

The only place to turn is the Queen of the Exiles, the Leanansidhe – and Meghan’s own mission to save her father

But the Iron fae haven’t gone away, led by a false king, they launch their armies against the beleaguered forces of Summer and Winter. Meghan may be their only hope.

I already love the world building but I further love how it is developed in this book – new insights introduced, new angles to consider. The nature of Iron glamour. What oaths mean to the fae who cannot lie. What releasing a fae from a promise means in their culture. The power of a true name. What happens to mortals trapped in faerie land. The very nature of the Iron fae and the way they fascinatingly contrast with the old fae – the old fae are timeless and immortal and eternal, while the Iron fae fully expect to be replaced over and over again because they become obsolete. With that comes the very nature of the Iron King’s power passing to the next worthy candidate – the next upgrade.

This insight also applies to the characters, their motivations and roles – removing many of the obvious villains and casting both Ferrum and Mechania in a very different light. There’s the added complexity that, while the Iron fae are destroying the Nevernever, if they weren’t on the offensive the Old bloods would probably kill them as well – the two sides are inherently damaging to each other.

There’s some old gems as well – Grimalkin is always shiny (even if, for once, she managed to confuse him), effortlessly perfect and amazingly snarky. And I do like Puck – and his unconventional magic that is a nice shift from the more direct attacks that Ash throws.

The story itself was fun and adventurous. The fight scenes were exciting, the descriptions never got in the way of the story expanding the theme and the characters while still keeping everyone largely on task (I do think there was something of a lul while they stayed with the Leanansidhe) – but it wasn’t exactly unpredictable. You could sort of see how the book would end just as it began.

The title fits the theme and all that – but it’s also a bit of a solid giveaway of how this book ends. I can’t say it ruined it because I think it was fairly clear where we were heading and it was definitely a fun ride anyway, but I still feel the need to object to a spoiler in the title on sheer principle.

As is very common with books about supernatural creatures and the fae in particular, there are no POC in this book. In fact, with Ironhorse’s death, there aren’t even any dark skinned fae (and I’d not exactly be eager to consider that as representation anyway – even aside from the fact he was an animal). There are also no GBLT people. I don’t approve of erasure in any book – it’s never a good or acceptable thing – but as casts get larger and series get longer, erasure becomes more and more blatant and worsens the problem. We’re on book 3 now.

Dead Like Me, Season 2, Episode 1: Send in the Clown

First episode of a new season – and that means a recap. Actually, it’s a pretty good recap, nicely summing everything up elegantly. Worries for this season? Season 1 was left with no plot hooks and a fairly weak overarching plot itself – I wonder where this season will go and whether the separate episodes can be interesting enough in their own right

We open in the Waffle House and George reading the Obituaries – the Reaper Sports pages – and feeling bitter when people live even to be 50; given her own very young death. At least it was very well reported – she asks Daisy and Mason if there’s was (Mason no – drug death in the 60s wasn’t newsworthy and Daisy’s death was buried since it happened on the set of Gone with the Wind). This leads, because of Daisy, to a conversation of the many men Daisy slept with and questioning of why George died a virgin (George’s reasons don’t impress Daisy). And Mason realises since he’s knocked off the booze & drugs he’s suddenly attracting more attention (aha, season 2 is jettisoning the bizarre fiction that Callum Blue is not hot).

Rube arrives with the assignment including multiple deaths at a farmer’s market (and a discussion about what constitutes a “disaster”. 7 deaths and under is a “crying shame”. I do love their banter). To the Farmer’s Market and the usual game of tracking down exactly who is going to die and putting the Reaper touch on them. Throw in some highly dubious but partially challenged racial banter, a discarded cigarette, a graveling and a gas leak and Booooom. George feels especially bad because she Reaped a flower seller who gave her a flower just before being Reaped. George flees the scene – especially since the disaster zone resembles her own death too much.

Back at the Waffle House, Mason is revelling in his newly awakened taste buds after being sober and drug free for the first time on 40 years. And Roxy has an insightfully cutting note about Daisy and her demeanour and why it doesn’t work on Roxy.

And at the Las household, family life is rocky and Joy continues to try and understand and bond with Reggie.  And a reminder from George that Rube hates her stalking her family – as she returns to the Waffle House, still disturbed and short tempered and guilty; leaving her flower and breakfast going to work (after Rube walks out from more tales of Daisy’s “star fucking” days).

George heads into work – actually relieved since it’s a job where she won’t be dealing with life and death. She has to deal with Delores – and bad news, training the bosses inept nephew Brennan. Well, apparently bad news but the consolation prize is that he’s easy on the eyes. Time for training and, yes, Brennan is not very intelligent. Also, George is pretty creepy when she finds a guy hot. She also gets jealous over other women paying attention to him (already claiming him as her boyfriend) and Delores advises her against office romance – that she’s young and has her whole life to meet someone. Ouch. As George says – she’s a virgin with a death certificate, what is she waiting for?

A Letter from Urban Fantasy Parents to their Beloved Children

Dear Long Lost Son/Daughter

Hey, this is your dearly departed parent. I have a lot to tell you and, since we’re in an Urban Fantasy story, I thought it best to write it down because the chances of me living long enough for you to get past the “gaa-gaa, goo-goo” stage is pretty limited.

You have just turned 16/18/21/met that super hawt guy and everything has changed! You can now see things you never thought existed. You can do things that were impossible! You have powers and skills and a whole lot of teenaged angst about them!


You’re actually a vampire/dhampire/lost faerie princess/super powerful mage/shaman/god* (Delete as appropriate)!

This must be something of a shock to you since we decided to keep it completely secret all of your life, but we had our reasons. See it’s dangerous to be a (insert shiny magical thing) so we decided the best way to help prepare you was to keep you completely ignorant of everything so one day you will have to fight/run from/conquer the terrible, dangerous evil while also dealing with disbelief, culture shock and one hell of a learning curve

If you’re really lucky, you’ll also be doing this while grieving over my recently deceased body.

Yes, we decided this was a much better way to prepare you than, well, actually preparing you. But I’m sure this note explaining things will be far better than a childhood of understanding, teaching, support, learning your skills, training and being told about your enemies

It’s quite possible that our decision making skills may be why Urban Fantasy parents don’t live very long...

Don’t worry, child, these new powers come with a full set of plot armour. You’ll be fine!

Love you forever for lots and lots of angst that should still be having you moping in Book 3,

Dead Urban Fantasy Parent.

(P.S. Please find enclosed cryptic magical Mcguffin/Deus Ex that I won’t explain because I’m running out of paper or something, but it’ll be useful. Honest).

(P.P.S. Trust Complete Stranger Guide person who I have never ever introduced you to before despite them being my oldest friend in the world. It was necessary to hide this person you will completely rely on from you because…oh look, out of paper again.)

Thursday, August 29, 2013

In the Blood (Maker's Song #2) by Adrian Phoenix)

After the events of the last book, the powers that be are seeking to tie up loose ends and cover up Bad Seed and make sure no-one ever knows what happens. Which means people have to be silenced – which puts Dante and Heather in a very dangerous situation with some powerful forces hunting them.

In addition, the whole events, including the dramatic death of the Bad Seed agents at Dante’s hands has brought Dante to the attention of Dr. Wells, the initial founder of Bad Seed. He has plans for Dante – as does his brilliant son – and both have the tools to manipulate Dante’s shattered mind and pull him into their web.

Then there’s the Elohim; Lucien has done his best to hide Dante from his fellows, but his song is being heard and he cannot hide much longer.

This book avoided, to an extent, the main problem I had with the first book. Of course, that’s rather to be expected – my problem was the first book being too full, with too much world building and new weird words and too many characters and too many agendas made the whole book far too full and confusing and rushed. I didn’t know where I was or what everyone was doing or even what everyone was – it took a lot of back tracking and notes and head scratching to finally get everyone in the right place.

Now with all of these characters established, the world resolved and everything set, we didn’t have to face that… except I wrote “to an extent” up there – because while the world building was already set, we still had the shifting POVs, the 10 squillion unnecessary characters and the million unnecessary agendas. We had:

Heather, Dante, Von et al. The good guys! Yay!

Then there was the Shadow Branch of the government (miscellaneous nefarious folk). Their agenda is to kill everyone to cover up Bad Seed and everything that happened in the last book

Their agent/assassin Caterina has her own agenda because of her vampire mother

Rutgers is the boss of the more conventional FBI who wants to kill a different set of people from the Shadow Branch because… I’m not even sure. Spite, I think.

Under the Dome, Season 1, Episode 10: Let the Games Begin

In the barn, the Children-of-the-Dome (hereby forever known as COD), Angie, Joe and Norrie wake up to find that there’s a caterpillar in the Minidome – a Monarch Butterfly caterpillar (also Norrie is engaging in inept bondage to stop Joe sleep walking).  The CODs talk about whether or not to trust Julia again (not) and check again that they do need the fourth hand print – there is another COD out there!

Dodee has been following the CODs because… the script says so, because I can’t think of any other reason. When they leave the barn she goes in and finds the Minidome! She takes pictures – then touches the Minidome and is thrown across the room, unconscious. The COD hurry back from wherever they went (I don’t think they went anywhere, I think the script just said “leave Dodee alone with Dome for REASONS”) to find her unconscious and with a burned hand from where she touched the Dome.

She has failed the Children of the Dome test.

They hurry her to the clinic and she doesn’t remember anything – just electricity. They seize on the explanation of the generator and hand her over to a nurse. Angie takes the chance to ask Nurse Adams if anyone else has had seizures and she says “not since your 10th grade dance.”         

This causes Angie to storm angrily. Why? Because that seizure was Junior’s. Junior is the 4th hand, the remaining COD – damn it Under the Dome, why? You’re going to have the story force Angie and Junior together?

Angie tells Joe and Norrie about Junior kidnapping her – which causes Joe to announce he’ll kill Junior and Angie to counter that she’s the one who gets to kill him. Alas, this kill Junior tag team stops because Norrie returns them to the 4th hand. Oh Norrie, you can cut off his hand after you kill him.

Elsewhere, Barbie consults with Jim about Max – the enemy of my enemy and all that. To stop her they need to find her little insurance dirt and they brainstorm Osiris properties – a legitimate estate company she owns that owns property in the area. Of course they still don’t trust each other. They go to the town hall to find an isolated property on an island in the middle of methane lake which may be the best place to check. And Max comes in with a shopping list she expects Jim to fill.

Seriously Max? You’re going to use your blackmail material to humiliate them with menial tasks? It’s not like Jim is a man with a temper, a predilection to violence and a Napoleon complex so pathologically strong it drives him to maim and murder for the sake of saving face… oh wait?

Julia goes looking for Barbie at the police station and finds a troubled Linda going through a pile of files. Linda asks Julia about being told by Ms. Grinnel about the propane warehouse and shows Julia the footage of Duke meeting with Max (behold, Julia is shoe-horned into another storyline!) and tells her about the drug production. After brainstorming, Linda remembers the hat that was oh-so-special to Duke and finds a key to a safety deposit box in the brim – a box in Chester’s Mill Bank

Wait, hold on now, you’re telling me Barbie and Jim are looking for where Max has stashed her blackmail material in abandon properties when there’s a bank in town with safety deposit boxes?

Speaking of, Jim is heading to that island – with a gun. There he finds a big, beautiful house and a working generator. There he runs into the caretaker, Agatha, who likes him (she doesn’t know him beyond his adverts) and knows nothing about Max – she thinks the house is owned by an Oliver Luckland..

Alas, it seems we have to catch up with Junior, driving around with all the authority of the law (oh dear). A guy sees his car and runs which looks a little suspicious so Junior grabs him – he’s been shoplifting salt. Why salt? Because apparently it will get you into the cement factory. I’m… not entirely sure why one would want to get into a cement factory or why table condiments are replacing currency so quickly. Having taken the purloined salt, Junior heads to the cement factory but he’s not welcomed since he’s a cop (ish)

The Walking Dead, Vol. 14: No Way Out

This volume was an action packed comic with the near destruction of Alexandria at the hands of a zombie herd and Rick & co rallying Alexandria to its defence and ultimately saving the settlement.

We saw three themes develop this week, each leading into the other. Firstly, we had the overt acknowledgement of what had become clear in the last volume - Alexandria’s safety is an illusion. They are not safe. Douglas mourned this, but Carl is actually happy that their safety was compromised, so that the people of Alexandria can wake up to the reality around them.

Which arises in the next theme - the herd hits, Alexandria isn’t safe and people die. But not only do people die, it becomes clear that the safety of Alexandria has left the Alexandrians ignorant, weak and even liabilities. Andrea ducks among Roamers while Spencer flinches from them. Douglas nearly kills Carl - and all of them - by firing a gun randomly into a pack of Roamers. Holly balks at killing the bitten Bruce and Ron and Jessie freeze in a pack of Roamers. The safety of Alexandria left them grossly unprepared for the reality they were living in.

The third theme was one of hope - and the first real hope we’ve seen in the series. Rick is convinced, in the aftermath, that they can stand and hold Alexandria - that the dead are not a major threat and they can hold them off; he has a lot of ideas on how to make it happen. But, more subtly, this arises out of that last battle - where Rick and Michonne’s heroic, awesome fight, joined by Abraham, inspires many others to fight - including usually non-combatants like Eugene and Gabriel.

Rick speaks of this as a new way of thinking - standing and fighting rather than running and hiding from the zombies, but it is a new way of thinking that has only arisen because they’re in a larger group AND because the “civilians” stepped up. Throughout the series, the group has had a number of non-combatants, many of which could have fought (including most of the women but also including people like Hershel and, to a lesser extent, Dale) who stood behind the fighters. This becomes especially meaningful next to the “rookie mistakes” made by the ignorant Alexandrians - the message was clear, the non-combatants are a burden and they need combat experience for the group to prosper. It will be interesting to see how this develops - if Rick’s revelation is seen as a change of thinking, using numbers effectively or recognising that non-combatants cannot be liabilities seeking shelter without good reason.

In terms of problematic issues we have a few:

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Host

The movie The Host, is based on the novel of the same name by Stephine Meyer. An alien race has invaded the earth.  The aliens do not seek to live peaceably with humans and instead take up residence inside of human bodies.  They then go on to completely clean up the earth, which was dying because of human neglect and greed. The aliens view humans as volatile and justify their enslavement of humanity based on their supposedly more moral way of living and interacting with others.

Movies and books are two very different kinds of arts.  A writer has a far greater ability to make many in depth points in a book whereas; movies quite often are forced into a position of making a point quickly without much nuance.  The Host essentially told the story as written by Stephanie Meyer without any analysis or nuance, thus making if fall flat. What we are left with is a doe eyed protagonist who is all about peace, love and getting along. It's boring and uninspiring.

In the book,  everyone on earth has a job and are allowed to pursue the calling that best suits them.  Everyone takes their turn cleaning the streets and doing menial tasks, that allow the environment to be clean.  If one is hungry, it is a simple matter of going into a grocery store and taking the food items that are needed off of the shelves.  If one is sick, it is a simple matter of traveling to a healing center to be cured and no cost is ever incurred for treatment. Both men and women work, though women or at least human women, remain subservient to males.  Sports are played without violence and at the Olympics, everyone is given an award.  There is no war and there is no violence. In the movie, we do see Wanda enter a store and take what she needs, as well as borrow a car by simply asking but these scenes alone are not enough to portray the message that Meyer tried to convey in the novel. By removing the class analysis, the movie removed the most compelling aspect of The Host.

When Wanda first arrives at the human compound, she was hit repeatedly.  Though the first time she is slapped, it's by her aunt, much of the violence she suffers is at the hands of men.  It is justified because they see her as the alien, the other. Wanda only stops being beaten when she shows them that she is gentle and even demur.  It reads as her conforming to patriarchal understandings of femininity and thus being rewarded.  In one scene, the human rebels begin to fight and instead of being proactive and trying to escape, Wanda turns herself over and allows herself to be strangled with no attempt to defend herself. Even more problematic, when Wanda is removed from the human body she was inhabiting, she is placed into the body of a woman who is even smaller, thus placing her passive personality into an even more vulnerable body.

In the novel, there were no characters of colour and no GLBT characters. The movie did however include characters of colour.  They were seekers, healers and of course human rebels.  The largest change was Doc being turned into a Black man.  Largely it felt like these were additions to forestall complaints of having an erased movie because none of the characters of colour were strictly important to the story.  They played the role of fillers and this turned into an opportunity that was lost to correct one of the problems with the book.  The movie also continued the novels erasure of GLBT people. Apparently all aliens are hetcis and so were the surviving humans.  This kind of erasure is of course common to this genre as the various reviews on this novel show but it doesn't make it any less irritating each time it happens.  Something about aliens mean quick death or erasure to marginalized people.

The Host was billed as Stephanie Meyer's first adult story but the movie turned it into nothing but the usual teen angst because it removed the class analysis. The advertisements for The Host tried desperately to connect it to Twilight and while The Host was more palatable in a lot of ways, there was nothing to really propel the story forward. Emily Browning is an attractive woman but having her make doe eyes and simper for almost two hours is not exciting. In the end, it's time that is most certainly wasted.  The Host is not entertainment but it is a cure for insomnia.

Death and the Crimson Night (Night Series #1) by Marie Hall

Pandora  is a 5,000 year old Nephilim, a person whose daddy was an angel who did things he shouldn’t with a mortal woman. Along with some powers and a long life span, this also comes with a demon resting inside of her – Lust. And Lust must be placated and fed. It’s quite annoying.

But she gets by, she and her small group of Nephilim, trying to the best people that demons can be. Not a little encouraged by mortals who monitor and police the supernatural

But things are getting odd, vampires (nasty, demon created things) are swarming in surprising numbers for creatures near extinct; a Nephilim hunter bothers Pandora but seems disinclined to hunt, and powers unlike anything she’s seen in 5,000 years are involved.

This book was a perfect first book right until the very end. The characters were excellently introduced along with a little information about each of them to give an idea of them without having to derail the main introduction, while at the same time giving a little bit of world building with each one. So we know things like Luc and Pandora’s past that colours their relationship without having to spend a long time on the backstory – while at the same time telling us about Nephilim losing control and going feral. We have a little information about Bubba while at the same time telling us about some of the awful things Nephilim are forced to do for their demons, how they, as a group, try to remain good. We have a little background on Vyxyn and how she doesn’t get on with Pandora – telling us that the group is somewhat forced together and leading nicely in to the Order of Light, the war and the policing of supernaturals.

It’s a really elegant way of including a lot of backstory, interspaced with Pandora’s internal musings and recaps that are very lightly info-dumped, to get a maximum amount of world building, character development and backstory in place with minimal info-dumping and making the whole plot run smoothly.

The plot itself is excellently paced – enough mystery and revelation, enough character development sprinkled with bits of action; shadows of a love triangle but it never developed into one and Pandora firmly in control of what she will and will not tolerate even with various forces pushing against her. It was a fun read with a lot of unknowns – unknowns that continue to be unknown at the end of the book as well – to leave me hooked in for the next book coupled with a whole lot of ominous foreshadowing and some excellently balanced description keeping everything vivid, but moving. We have a really nicely new world – the Nephilim are children of angels (who fell for being naughty and lusting) with their own vice demons possessing them. I like how it links vampires, zombies and other miscellaneous supernaturals back to this original Nephilim presence – creating a very potentially diverse world but still keeping the backstory focused and relevant.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Walking Dead Season 4: sneak peak

Walking Dead season 4 Sneak peak - just a little longer to wait

Godhead by Ken Mooney

Back in the mists of history, the gods of Olympus fought against the demonic forces of Kaos. And they lost because one of their number, Aphrodite, turned against them.

With gods dead and facing utter destruction, Hera launched a last, desperate plan; sealing off Olympus and the tree, the source of their powers and with it sealing the demons away from the world and humanity.

Aphrodite is still active in the world, her schemes stopped only by the human descendants of the Olympians. Which is where Megan, newly grieving for her dead grandfather, and Karl come in – learning a lot about their ancestry, their abilities – and a sudden, high risk duty.

Greek gods! Demigods! Epic battles between the Olympians and the forces of Kaos! Demons, a rogue Aphrodite! Lots and lots of Greek mythology sprinkled around!

This book was almost designed for me. Throw in some human descendants developing super powers and discovering what they are and a big epic battle to save the world all coupled with a well realised and developed antagonist? Excellent idea, you’ve hooked me in; this concept will have me begging for more.

Unfortunately, the writing is very very slow – this is a long book that could have been a lot shorter. It was a shame because it opened extremely strong. The scenes of the ancient world, the history of Aphrodite and the Greek gods, what happened and what the consequences were were awesomely done. I actually want to read that book – just the war between the gods and the demons would be excellent. Not only do we have the prologue but the book is intercut with more snippets of the past from Aphrodite’s point of view. All the scenes are excellent and really do a lot to flesh out and develop Aphrodite as a villain – giving some motives behind her destruction.

Really, the whole ancient world would have been an excellent series of books in their own right.

But having them cut in randomly from half way in the book felt more confusing to me than anything. Because the actual present being depicted was moving so slowly, these sudden flashbacks – to the ancient world, to Hannah and Unity when they were younger, to Meghan’s grandfather’s journal, while all considerably better than the main plot line, served to bog it down a lot, make the book longer than it had to be and make it all a little jarring. Sometimes I just didn’t have any idea what was going on or why.

Utopia, Season 1, Episode 3

At Corvadt office, the boss man, Conran Letts,  has to make a difficult decisions – prompted by the nameless-yet-sinister Assistant who is played by James Fox so has an instant aura of authority. He makes a call…

And Arby picks up his phone, eventually, still maintaining the creepy. He pulls on gloves then takes out his gun from his yellow bag. He goes to the school where Grant was attending and runs into the headmaster who tells him, completely unasked, that Grant is missing (not unexpected given his home life). Arby asks how many people are in the school, since it’s after hours. The headmaster sums up the few remaining and Arby shoots him in the head. A woman sticks her head out of a room, gasping in shock – and Arby shoots her too. He follows her falling body into the room where we can hear screaming; the 4 members of the geology club are also shot. A boy comes in and sees the headmaster’s body and wisely runs. Arby follows him and we hear more gunshots.

He reaches the last boy who cowers when he points the gun. Arby pauses in silence, only his breathing and convulsive swallow making any noise. He rubs his eye – is he genuinely bothered? Then we hear another gun shot.

Well… damn. That scene was incredibly powerful. Hardly a word spoken, and so much power and emotion conveyed.

Back to the main group and they arrive at an isolated cottage where they’re staying – and Becky thinks they have to wait for Jessica to help them break in. Wilson and Grant protest they know how to break into houses to which Becky, rather shocked, asks if she’s the only one who doesn’t know how to housebreak. Wilson offers to teach her *snerk*

Inside Becky gets Garth a sandwich and examines his leg – she speaks to him as a child and he responds rather more adultly than she expects. She asks him about the manuscript (which he left with Alice) and he gives some hints – more information about Caville and the man known as the White Rabbit. Wilson and Ian seize on the fact Garth can get them the manuscript but Becky emphasises they have an 11 year old boy who saw someone murdered and has been on the run, all alone, for several days. She wants to go softly softly – and doesn’t trust Jessica at all.

Which is when Jessica arrives and wants to search Grant and get her hands on the manuscript no matter what. Becky stands between them, Ian tries to get her to sit down which leads to another argument – and the news comes on with the school shooting. Grant has been framed as the main suspect behind it.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Dance of the Red Death (Masque of the Red Death #2) by Bethany Griffin

Araby has managed to escape the city with her friends, giving her chance to absorb some terrible truths:

Her father is a murderer, her father created the plagues.

She can barely accept it, even reading his own journal and needs to hear it from his own mouth. Which means returning to the city – to hear from him and to find a cure for April as well, rapidly succumbing to the Weeping Sickness.

And while they’re there it may be their last chance to save the city – a city ravaged by plagues, swamps and the duelling forces of Prospero and Malcontent.

Elliot launches on a really excellent campaign this book. It’s his chance to take back the city and save it from the dual abuses of Malcontent and Prospero – his father and his uncle. He has his army, but will it be enough against Prospero’s and Malcontent’s own forces? Or the city itself? Ravaged by 2 horrendous plagues, the water unsafe to drink, the air unsafe to breathe. Slowly sinking into the swamp, ravaged by divisive factions, falling apart through anger and fear. Services have stopped, getting food into the city is becoming harder and roads are blocked by the piles of bodies.

It’s an epic task he has – but he has a plan, reclaiming a neighbourhood and expanding, creating a safe space, disposing of the bodies. He is the man to save the city and he is perfectly placed to do so.

And he’s not the protagonist.

We’re following Araby. Awwww… do I have to? But but Elliot is the hero!

In the face of these epic happenings Araby is… spending pages on pages worrying if she really loves Elliot. Or wondering if she loves Will after his betrayal – and his continuing activities for that matter. Or she is worried/hurt about her father and the terrible revelations that show that he is far from the hero she suspected. Or she is worried about April or the children or some of her other companions.

And it’s not like any of these issues are wrong. She has been betrayed by Will, her whole relationship with Elliot is a complicated one. And April is her often unappreciated best friend who is now plague ridden – of course she is worried about her and the children in such dangerous places and circumstances. All of her emotions are legitimate. But they’re also repetitive, really really, repetitive and handled at great length. I could, possibly, get past that if we didn’t have Elliot running around actually doing something – and not just doing something, but doing something for the whole city that makes Araby look very… small in comparison.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

Alright, I fully admit that by doing a marathon on all of the Star Trek movies, I am stepping completely outside of our stated genre, but as a life long Trekkie, this simply had to happen. Given the success of this franchise, I'm betting that at least a few of our readers are also Star Trek fans. Of course, I will stick to the usual social justice perspective, as we work our way through the series.

Star Trek II The Wrath of Khan has Ricardo Montalban reprising his role as Khan Noonien Singh. The character first appeared in "Space Seed". Khan is a genetically engineered human from India.  When he is awoken from suspended animation, instead of being thankful, Khan attempts to take over the Enterprise and as a result, Kirk maroons him on Ceti Alpha V.  Stark Trek II the Wrath of Khan begins with Chekov on a scouting mission, for a planet which meets the parameters of  the Genesis project.  He mistakenly beams onto Ceti Alpha V and is captured by Khan, who implants an alien in his ear, along with that of his captain and thus begins his plan to get revenge upon Kirk.

I have to pause to say that the entire start of this saga is absolutely faulty.  How could Chekov not remember or realize where he landed in the first place?  The set up was absolutely thin at best and was a weak excuse to introduce Khan into the story. Is this the reason Chekov didn't make captain like Sulu?

Kirk is beginning to feel his age and though the promotion to Admiral is something Kirk viewed as a positive, the end result is that it keeps him landed. At the very first opportunity, Kirk quickly takes over command of the Enterprise, though he no longer possess intimate knowledge of the ship's capabilities. In many ways, this reads as a man desperately trying to prove that he is still vital and capable.

 Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, is a test of wills - a contest of masculinity.  For Khan, Kirk represents Moby Dick,  so much so that Khan's last line is, "from hell's heart I stab at thee; for hate's sake I spit my last breath at thee" —Moby-Dick, Chapter 135.  Though Khan has a ship and Genesis - everything he needs to start fresh, he simply cannot let go of his desire for revenge and it is in the end his undoing. 

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is very much about hyper masculinity.  What constitutes manhood and how does one prove it?  Kirk as the White male of course represents the best of what masculinity has to offer and Khan, the man of colour cannot help but to be secondary.  In many ways, Khan's race makes him just as much "other" as Spock, with the difference being that Khan refuses to be submissive to Kirk.  Khan would rather die on the Reliant than surrender. Only those who follow the headship of Kirk can possibly be considered good and this justified through the approved hierarchy of the Federation and thus once again, we have White male leadership affirmed.