Saturday, September 14, 2013

Almighty Johnsons, Season 3, Episode 11: A Bit Like Buses Really

No-one’s happy with Mike now, starting with Zeb and Axl ranting away in their flat with Axl angrily stating he is Odin, no-one else, not Mike. On that note he heads out. He has a plan. Oh dear

First step of that plan involves Axl, Anders, Ty and Olaf gathering together but Olaf isn’t necessarily on board the whole idea of Axl’s visions and thinks Mike destroyed Yggdrasil for moral reasons (no-one gets healed at all? I put it down more to power outside of his control). And Olaf wants to double check that they are sure that Mike ISN’T Odin because of woo-woo and stuff. But, ultimately, Odin will be defined by his actions – like finding Frigg; which Axl and Anders are going to do.

And Mike? Mike has a crushed car and a very angry Michele. He still gets transport, goes to a house and asks the man – is that strange-stalky-man-who-is-probably-Heimdall? – to see the woman who lives there and he says “no” and shuts the door on Mike. When Mike knocks again the man yells “all wrong, go away”.  He closes the door – but leaves it ajar. Mike opens it, goes in…

And appears in his bar with Ty in the room. He goes outside – yep, it’s the street outside the bar. (Oh I need one of these for door-to-door canvassers!) Inside the bar his little football game has been cut in half – that would be an angry chainsaw wielding Michele. Ty and Mike talk about the whole Odin thing and Mike has been doing his research after Michele’s mother, Karen, warned him about being Ullr. Since “Ullr” means glory, he says some people considered Ullr and Odin to be interchangeable.

The goddesses get together for Ingrid and Stacey to marvel and praise Michele’s revenge campaign, though Ingrid is all kinds of stunned that Michele isn’t a sobbing mess of sadness. Michele is more in for revenge – gods aren’t worth any of their tears

Axl’s plan is actually pretty good – just take Anders to the Retirement home and use his Bragi powers to learn who Frederick Larson’s next of kin is – though that does involve keeping Anders on topic – complete with “retarded” joke – which is a pretty epic task in itself. He’s still distracted by an attractive nurse who rather openly crushes on Anders at first sight (perfectly understandable, especially since she hasn’t heard him speak yet). And she’s an identical twin – which of course Anders makes skeevy.

Mike returns to the house to be told to go away again; the man (possibly Heimdall) knows who Mike is and what he wants – which Mike snarks that him and everyone else apparently. But also that, as Ullr, he will find her. He opens the door and sees the man, her brother, Frigg’s brother. The man again says this isn’t the way it’s meant to happen – but leads Mike into the house  and to another teleport back to the bar. I like this power.

In the bar is Olaf, who is frustrated by everyone being interested in the stories despite him repeatedly saying they’re just stories. Mike takes this and dismisses the signs pointing to Axl being Odin because they’re similarly not fact – so it comes down to finding Frigg. And Olaf confirms that Mike has met Heimdall, the Guardian. His ability to move between realms means he can send people anywhere he wants. Also, because Heimdall sees all and hears all in every realm, he is driven mad by the overload and it’s a good idea to stay away from him and so far he has been playing nice.

Anders has finished his “mission” which apparently took longer than expected and resulted in his flies being undone, but he has the details for Axl. They go to the address (and the cameraman is now playing to getting shots of how Anders fills his impeccably tailored trousers, don’t tell me that wasn’t intentional. I like this camerawork). It appears to be a sheltered place and we add retirement homes and mentally ill people to the vast list of things Anders is scared of. So Anders stays outside – and gets a sext from Michele? Oh that’s not good.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Reveal (Cryptid Tales #1) by Brina Courtney

Shay has always been able to see ghosts, ever since her father left their family when she was 6 years old. It had always been her secret that she kept hidden while she tried to lead a normal life

Until she found Hugh, a very attractive guy – who can see ghosts as well. But seeing ghosts is just a tiny fragment of the truths he can reveal about her nature, her heritage and her father

And the dangers they – and the world – face.

The world is fairly interesting. We have people, Cryptids, with various abilities  due to their DNA being spliced with animal DNA (cats) leading to  the ability to see ghosts and shapeshift and some sundry other abilities which will no doubt arise. None of these abilities are especially original or shiny but nor are they particularly clich├ęd. It’s nothing exciting but it can work as a background – except the whole building around it is mind numbing.

The way they came about these powers is original – which is good because it’s absolutely freaking ludicrous. One’s ancestor drinking cat’s blood is a ridiculous origin story. Hey, I would be Super Pork Man, empowered by black pudding to be really tasty! This follows ongoing world building shakiness is exacerbated by things like her dad making Shay, our protagonist, super duper powerful by giving her his genes. He removed his ghost-seeing genes and injected them into her giving her… uh… extra Cryptid genes I guess.

I kind of glaze out and try not to think about it too much or my head hurts.

A lot of the rest of the world building is just so generic or, at least, horrendously underdeveloped to make it seem generic because we don’t have any details to make it more than generic. For a large part of the book the enemy is literally called “The Darkness.” Beyond making me want to snark about reaching for torches, it’s so vague and pointless.

This is later developed into Native American mythology – the Darkness is apparent Malsumis – a malevolent figure in Algonquian and Abenaki beliefs. I can’t say I know much about either belief system on which to comment except to say – Native American woo-woo and animalism! Brown people woo-woo strikes again! And my admittedly limited googling points to these being people being from the North-eastern US so the whole rural Texas reservation seems odd (the reservation made up of a dozen people who don’t deal with any other Native Americans seems odd too). This legend is pretty much the extent of delving into any Native American culture (the tribe/nation isn’t even named) and I can’t esc ape the feeling that it’s there for woo-woo justification. The flip side is we are blessedly free from the more blatant stereotyping though poverty is very much apparent.

As a villain in the book, Malsumis isn’t presented in a particularly menacing or dangerous way. People talk about him as dangerous and that’s about it – he wants to destroy the world and/or humanity. Ok, I can get behind a malevolent deity that literally exists to cause nothing but destruction – but I need that to be sold to me. A creature with literally no motive in life except utter destruction of everything is not going to be very human – they need to be inhuman to sell the whole mindset as believable. The Malsumis presented is all too human – and not very menacing with James Bond monologues, cursing out his minions and with the deadly, scary ability to turn to mist and he ended up running away in the face of pretty unimpressive force. He needed more oomph.

And why does he have minions? How do you even get followers when your remit is “the utter destruction of absolutely everything”? Does he offer a really good benefits package or something?

But the main reason why all of this falls flat is that there’s little coherent plot that goes anywhere. There are plotettes.

Dead Like Me, Season 2, Episode 3: Ghost Story

Open with George at work giving us a story about someone sinking in a swamp while she sinks under her huge work load (courtesy of her promotion) and Delores is so eager to tell her about the Happy Time Retreat she hasn’t signed up for yet! George is less than eager. In  between being a fluffy bunny, Delores makes a deadly accurate observation – George uses humour and sarcasm to keep people at a distance, pointing out she has no personal objects on her desk, no photos of friends or family at all.

Of course, George reflects part of the reason she isn’t joining Delores’s team is because she’s already been drafted to the dead team. To underscore that, she and Daisy go on a reap of two women speaking Spanish to a Brazilian personal trainer at the gym while George considers ways of making some fake photos of her fictional family. Though post Reap of the vapid stereotypes, Daisy agrees that George does use humour and sarcasm as a distancing technique.

At the Waffle House everyone else gathers around for their random comments about the fake parents picture George has made (I do like how they bounce off each other); and Rube agrees that she doesn’t fit in. Which is fine, George doesn’t want to – but she doesn’t want to stand out either. She even doesn’t join the Waffle House card club to get free waffles, despite every other Reaper joining.

Flashback to her childhood and her parents hiding from carollers with her at Christmas so they wouldn’t be dragged into joining them. (Side note – is this actually a thing in America? People gather on someone’s doorstep and sing at them? Do they even check if the people inside celebrate Christmas first?) Her family has always been loners who didn’t join in.

Back to work and the Retreat Facilitator joins the campaign to make George do stuff with people, he’s very pushy and leaves George feeling like a “loser” for holding down the fort. She goes to the Waffle House and tells Rube she’s going on the Retreat to help stay low – because being on the outside is making her stand out more. Rube still wants her on call though and objects to George’s sarcasm.

George joins Delores on the Retreat, though her sarcasm is very much in evidence. She doesn’t join in the game (saying what animal you are) very well and is snarky and prickly throughout – with added enthusiasm that out in the wild is a perfect place for everyone to truly get to know everyone. Which prompts lots of opening up about people’s secrets and pains and struggles and one recently split up couple starts to bicker. Millie continues to snark and not join in until everyone stares at her and she thaws and says – she’s a cat. Not a housecat, a stray – mean, distant

Rube also takes some time off (I wager to follow George) leaving them with the dire warning not to fuck up – meaning Mason who promptly loses his post it. He freaks out and panics and joins Daisy who is Reaping a biker in a notorious biker bar and discussing poetry (which I love – why can’t you have biker poets?)

At camp, I was right – Rube shows up to see George and give her her post it. Delores notices him so, again, they trot out the Alcoholics Anonymous excuse. George comments how even when she tries to join the circle, death drags her out again

George goes on her walk to find her Reap target while Rube joins the camp for storytime – telling a love story – a story of a man and a woman in love who fell out and he left in anger (I kind of like how Rube assumes leadership of the whole group without even trying) and then got stuck in a swamp trying to get back to her with lots of parables around it. The bickering couple both protest he could have got back to his wife, I imagine indicative of them regretting splitting up. Rube has a message for George about facing fears together and George’s internal monologue praises having a spot in the circle.

Daisy’s idea is to break into Rube’s flat where Mason hits Rube’s booze and they discover a vast supply of post its (hey, Crystal had a vast supply of stolen post its too – and didn’t seem to shocked by helping them work on their paperwork). They sample more of Rube’s booze and, predictably, get rather distracted, covered in post its and dancing. But in between the celebrations, Mason drops a bomb – someone’s going to die alone today and Mason keeps praising how perfect and beautiful Daisy is. Mason goes on with a powerful, despairing question as to just what, in the whole scheme of things, does one more unhappy soul mean. Daisy pushes him to remember the post it – because he always looks at it, always, before he puts it in his pocket. Proving also that Daisy watches Mason, pays attention to him. She lays next to him on the bed and tells him he needs to remember this one, or they will die alone.

The Walking Dead: The Problem With Michonne

Michonne is one of the most popular characters on The Walking Dead. There was great anxiousness about who would be cast in the role and when she would actually be joining the cast. Unlike Daryl Dixon, who is also a character on the show, Michonne first appeared in The Walking Dead comics.  Michonne is the longest running character of colour and one of the few characters of colour to appear in the comics.

She is known for her fearlessness in battle, her skill with a katana, her long dreadlocks and of course her all Black clothing. What little we know about Michonne’s background appeared in Playboy rather than in the traditional comics. Michonne is a character of action and she is regularly given very little dialogue. In a word, Michonne is taciturn.
In many ways, much of Michonne’s humanity has been removed. She doesn’t really get to have moments of self reflection, mourning, or happiness. Humans are very complex beings and if we were to sever Michonne’s relationship from the group and solely examine her by herself, her lack of nuance would be evident. Michonne couldn’t possibly be conceived of as an individual or even compelling because of the constant one note characterisation. Michonne only really gathers the attention of the readers of the comics because of the way in which she handles zombies, rather than her ability to show the whole range of human experience or emotion.

In some ways, Michonne is a superhero - in that she is entirely defined by her special ability - the ability to kill. But this would actually be a doing a disservice to superhero writers, since it’s de rigeur for superheroes to have some terrible tragic back story with lots of personal angst. Michonne doesn’t even get that - she’s not a superhero she’s a weapon, an embodiment of her sword.

Worse, she is a sword that is wielded by Rick, the White male leader of the group. There are innumerable scenes in the comics where Rick, when confronted by a zombie, just says “Michonne” and expects her to act. Yes it shows confidence in her, yes it acknowledges her skills - but it also assumes her obedience and doesn’t bother with overt acknowledgement or even requesting. Michonne feels almost like Rick’s attack and guard dog. Even in the TV show, Michonne had to prove herself worthy in a way the other characters never had to - only being accepted into the group when Carl agreed to her presence, after Michonne proved herself useful and willing to perform his dangerous task.

At one point we had high hopes for Michonne being further developed. There was a mini-series of her past before meeting the group and Michonne was opening up with various tidbits to Rick. It looked like we were going to see a more multi-layered, developed and emotional Michonne we were actually optimistic (yes, us, optimistic!)

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Reign of Blood by Alexia Purdy

The world as we know it is over, civilisation has fallen, mankind is almost annihilated. In fact, April, her mother and her little brother, hiding in a bunker outside of Las Vegas, may be the last human beings on the planet. The city and the night has fallen to the vampires – monstrous, feral creatures that swarm in the cities and hide from the sun, giving brief respite in which April and her family can scavenge for supplies.

Until her family is taken from her and, in her quest to find her loved ones and the only other humans that are left, she stumbles onto a whole new type of vampire she never imagined existing.

A combination of a zombie apocalypse and a vampire story, this world has so much potential. Humans stalking through the slowly mouldering cities for supplies, avoiding dark places, knowing they have to return to safety by sun down. Watch out for movement in the shadows, stay where it’s sunny and if you see anything lurking in the darkness… don’t meet its gaze.

Is this not an awesome concept? I think I could very much love it. For some reason the idea of sinister marauding vampires taking over the city during the night is far scarier than zombies taking over everything all the time. Just that constant “get home before the sun goes down” pressure.

There’s also some interesting side musings – the usual things in a dystopian like missing luxuries and necessities but she also makes a point to talk about things like missing toilet paper – the basics we have every day but don’t consider luxuries but would surely miss. She also goes down an interesting path of considering things she doesn’t miss – like how her priorities change and she no longer has to concern herself with clothing or appearance –and then being plunged back into society and flailing to think about them.

We have the interesting contrast as well between April’s personal goals – her desperate need to reunite with her family, perhaps the last people on Earth – but also a, perhaps, higher goal to help the hybrids and be the saviour of an entire people. The balancing of the desperate personal need with, in some ways, the greater community good is a harsh and difficult contrast and choice to make.  And that’s before we get April’s very well presented trust issued (before the woo-woo romance anyway)

Unfortunately, there’s a lot of the writing I’m not a fan of. It’s very repetitive – we’re constantly told how hot or cold it is (and since the book is set in Las Vegas it’s not like there’s a lot of interesting weather options here). We’re told about vampires in buildings avoiding the sun – which is fair enough world building, but it doesn’t really need repeating. Or she tells us she needs to  clear out shops before stocking up on goods – even if we couldn’t have inferred that from her actions, we didn’t need to be repeatedly told

There’s also odd statements about that are pretty redundant – like her machete being perfect for close up fighting. It’s a machete, how else are you going to fight with it? Throw it? Also, some purpleness creeping in – like turning on her flashlight and it’s beam “caressing” what it illuminates. I feel quite cheated, no torch I have ever owned has caressed anything. And when a vampire grabs her it’s the “cold grip of death.”  And vampires don’t drain her blood – they “sucked my life’s elixir away”. One character manages to watch her with a look of contempt and respect on her face… what would that facial expression even look like?

And some of the dialogue is just… not great.

“You’re in the wrong place at the wrong time; I will make you pay for what you have done to my family.”

“I have been watching you, seeing what it is you seek.”

Yeah, not great. Seek? Unless you’re a D&D games master, who uses the word “seek” in daily conversation?

Under the Dome, Season 1, Episode 12: Exigent Circumstances

MiniDomeEgg is all bright and shiny, Julia is still unconscious in hospital – and Barbie is on the run in the woods, hiding from search parties hunting him down because of Jim’s lies. In a public meeting where Jim has managed to rouse up the panic, one of the people wants house sweeps and searches, despite Carolyn (she’s out of the plot box!) protesting that such unwarranted searches of people’s homes are illegal. Jim protests that this is America and of course they won’t do such – oh well if you insist! House sweeps it is. Linda gives him the side-eye. Jim ignores her and continues his inspirational speech about Chester’s Mill enduring these terribad times. Everyone cheers, Carolyn leaves in disgust.

At the radio station, Dodee continues to listen to the military chatter and hears someone refer to “that egg thing”. Checking her Iphone she sees the picture she took – and realises that is what burned her. But they add that finding the egg won’t mean a thing if they can’t find Barbie – and he’s the only one inside with the necessary expertise. Expertise in alien invulnerable eggs is apparently what they teach you in the military these days. Good to know.

Over to the Children of the Dome, minus Junior, and Angie wants them to kill Jim because the Dome said so (hey I’m all for killing Jim and think Angie has excellent reasons for wanting that – but killing people because the Dome said so is probably a bad precedent). Joe and Norrie are less on board with the whole killing-people-because-our-hallucinations-said-so idea. Joe is also invested in the idea of Barbie as the monarch. More speculation is interrupted by Carolyn arriving (much to everyone’s shock – she has managed to leave her bed/plot hole!). Norrie tells her what it is and that it showed her Alice, giving her chance to get home and say goodbye. Carolyn jumps on board and tells them they need to move it because of the house-to-house search. Carolyn assures Norrie she’s always on her side – and she doesn’t trust Jim anyway. Angie suggests taking it to Ben’s (what they’re not going to search his place? And wow, the plot box is being emptied and shaken this episode!)

Linda is co-ordinating Jim’s house-to-house search, trying to ensure the volunteers for it don’t wreck everyone’s home and limit the damage. And Phil arrives (the plot box be emptying!) to follow Linda around. Junior arrives with lots of worry and vague warnings for his dad who dismisses vague portents and instead sends Junior to guard Julia – in case Barbie tries to finish her off *ahem*. And if Julia wakes up, he needs to tell Jim straight away, no-one else (so he has the chance to silence her). Dodee shows up and tells Jim what she heard on the radio.

She takes him to the radio station and shows him a picture of the egg – then leaves him alone for plot reasons so he can be the only one the hear the military talking about the egg being moved. They also hear the military say they can’t find Barbie and that the guy in charge is Jim – who would make a bad contact because he murdered Coggins and the military saw it. Killing the local pastor is apparently frowned upon. Jim hurriedly tries to shut the radio down, but it’s too late – Dodee heard everything.

It’s ok, Jim explains that he killed Coggins because he was a liability! See, totes fine! Dodee, like most people,  doesn’t particularly trust referring to people as “liabilities” and then murdering people and asks about all of Barbie’s supposed victims and Jim all but admits to the deaths by not denying it – simply saying that Barbie deserves what he gets. Why, Jim just killed people for the greater good

The Walking Dead Vol 16: A Larger World

Rick and the gang are approached by Paul (Jesus) from the Hilltop Community - a group of 200 people in their own settlement. And he comes in peace. While it takes Rick a long time to actually trust Paul, he eventually works his way with the gang to the Hilltop settlement to see the large, organised and ordered community; in many ways superior to the Alexandria especially with their food supplies.

But all is not well - as we hear of The Saviours lead by Nagan, a travelling violent gang extorting supplies from Hilltop and their allies.

This week was somewhat of a slow week as we transition to the next storyline. Like last week, the theme is one of moving beyond mere survival. Surviving is something they can now do - we even had a scene where Rick, Michonne and Andrea take down a crowd of zombies without even breaking a sweat. The zombies are background noise, no longer and overriding threat, merely something to deal with like harsh winters or summer storms.

With immediate survival no longer an all encompassing obsession, Rick & co can focus on living and building their community and establishing a long term presence. They can now think about long term plans and more mundane - but more dangerous - threats like other people, the canned food expiring, needing to produce their own weapons (and manufacture ammunition) and their own food supply.

And part of this involves meeting with other, larger, communities that are apparently thriving and forming a network of co-operation and trust. In many ways we are seeing the birth of a nation; a new way of living and building a new country. The challenge that Rick sees now is not surviving the zombie attacks but ensuring his community is dominant and powerful (for their long term survival). Which involves bartering their main asset - Rick’s group’s travelling gave them considerable combat experience; they will act as mercenaries lacking the large supply stores that Hilltop has.

Which also introduces The Saviors, lead by Nagan, the next big bad to tackle.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Etched in Bone (Maker's Song #4) by Adrian Phoenix

Dante has managed to wrest Lucien free from Gehenna and from the control of the Fallen – albeit while growing a set of wings in the process. But he is far from free of them as they demand a promise from him to return while they plot about how best to control him.

Things are not calmer on Earth as more and more of his enemies – a variety of rogue FBI and Shadow Branch Agents – manoeuver to find a way to bring him down or turn him into a tool. All the while he is still trying to control his broken mind, suffering from flashbacks, seizures and agonising pain.

But he has no time to heal – the local vampire boss, Mauvais has killed someone they care about and must be made to pay while the vampire factions also look to tie their own puppet strings on Dante.

Even Heather’s father is in town, with his own plans to ruin what life they’re trying to build.

There is a problem when it comes to reviewing series. The problem is that an author is (usually) unlikely to massively change their style. They’ll probably grow and change as a writer as the series progresses, but the fundamental nature of their writing usually remains somewhat the same.

Which means, as a reviewer, I run the risk of broken record syndrome. The same issues I have with book 1 are the same issues I have with book 2 and on to book 3 and, behold, the same issues arise again.

And so, here I am reading book 4 of the Maker’s Song series and, guess what? The same issues that have dogged the other books are still there. I’m sure you’re all shocked to hear that.

The characters are moving together and pairing off when their agendas are close – so we have Gillespie and Rutgers working together, we have Emmet and Merri joining the main gang, Underwood being derailed – a few of the lines are coming together or being snipped. Excellent

But more are being introduced – we now have another faction entirely, seeming to be pissed off, mind controlling Teodoro Dion (another new character, yay!) who really really hates the Fallen and is going to hurt Dante because that’ll show ‘em all! And then there’s Heather and Annie’s father who is running around with his own perverse ideas of putting their family back together again.

I have to say, again, that none of these storylines are bad.

The FBI/Shadow Branch tracking down Dante and torn between killing him, imprisoning him or monitoring him with the odd rogue agent along the side? It’s a great story and the characters are fascinating and really work well.

World War Z

Brad Pitt plays UN specialist Gerry Lane.  The world is caught up in a zombie apocalypse and initially all Gerry Lane wants to do is protect his family.  He is not allowed to stay on the sidelines because of his expertise and so Lane travels across the globe in the hopes of finding a way to save the world from the zombie threat.  This movie is supposedly based on the book by the same name. 

Like the book, the movie does travel across the globe but the first major break is that the movie has one set protagonist.  This turns World War Z into yet another run of the mill picture because instead of telling the story from multiple points of view as would be befitting in a war that encompasses the entire world, we are forced to watch yet another film in which an American, straight, cisgender, able bodied White male is the only hope for humanity.  I wonder if there will ever be a time when Hollywood will tire of offering us this trite over privileged narrative?

Instead of giving us a complex story as the book did, World War Z the movie was heavily reliant on special effects.  Zombies moved incredibly fast, no matter the rate of decay.  Zombies quickly scaled walls and chased humans with super human speed. I suspect that this was to increase a feeling of peril but let's face facts, just something determined to eat you should be scary enough.  The story was essentially sacrificed to give us super threatening zombies.

Very few people of colour make any kind of appearance in this story.  One family actually provides refuge for the Lane family. Gerry tells them that he is an expert and that they must keep moving. Of course the family of colour chooses to stay, which leads to the death of them all with the exception of Tomas their son.  The Lane family quickly becomes the guardians of Tomas, who despite losing all of his family to zombies shows little to no emotion; while the Lane daughters are a wreck and filled with grief by all they have seen. This of course gave the Lane girls far greater depth of character than Tomas. The other two character of colour of any note were Thierry Umutoni (Gerry's boss) and an unidentified W.H.O. doctor. Neither were given much character development at all.  Though all were focused on finding a solution to the zombie apocalypse, their answers all revolved around Gerry.  

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A Study in Silks (The Baskerville Affair, #1) by Emma Jane Holloway

Though Evelina Cooper is gentry, she is a woman caught between worlds.  As the niece of the famous detective Sherlock Holmes, when a young maid is murdered she is determined to find justice but at the same time Evelina must be careful as her best friend's family is indicated in wrong doing.  If that were not enough, Evelina is pulled by her past when her lost childhood love makes an appearance. With him comes the danger of discovering she is a magical person in a society that has outlawed magic.

Holmes and the famous Dr. Watson make an appearance in this story. As someone who has never read the Sherlock Holmes novels, I cannot speak to how accurate the portrayal is.  I did, however, enjoy the detective greatly and felt that he added great tension to the story.

There are several strong female characters in the novel.  As the protagonist, Evelina was completely enjoyable.  She is smart and even though Evelina is pulled between two men, she never gets so caught up in the romance that she loses sight of who she is and what is important to her.  Tobias is ordered to seduce Evelina and his love for her stops him from ruining her reputation; however Evelina is quite clear that regardless of his motivations, she cannot afford him. Even Niccolo, her long lost circus performer love, who she is terribly attracted to is desperate for her love but she is too well aware that a life with him is the path to danger because together they cannot control the magic that flows.

Though A Study in Silks is a classic steampunk novel, there are strong elements of magic in it.  I enjoyed that Holloway was accurate and portrayed how magic witch hunts invariably are problematic for women.  It is women who prosecuted and attacked by flimsy evidence in order to control them.  Evelina is well aware that though she uses her power for the good, if discovered it could mean becoming subject for scientific investigation or worse yet, death.  It is clear that in the books to come, Holloway intends to expand upon this theme.

Utopia Season 1, Episode 5

A lot happened last week, leaving the gang in the abandoned mansion with Conran tied to a chair. And Becky meets her contact at last – it’s Donaldson, the scientists that Michael has been working for – and he has medication for her. She does have the same disease as her father, the one her father died from, the one the Network created. Donaldson tells Becky that when Jessica gave up the manuscript to Arby, she took some pages – and he wants Becky to get him those pages. And if she doesn’t, he’s going to stop giving her medication – and he hasn’t given her much to last

In the house, Alice is getting on as if nothing happened – despite her mother being murdered and she having just killed a guy. Becky tries to get her to talk but Alice is wonderfully calm in a very very very creepy way

They check Conran for a Rabbit scar – and he doesn’t have one. He isn’t Mr. Rabbit. They ask him about the vaccine, claiming they know about the protein and Janus; though Conran finds the whole idea of trying to wipe out specific races to be ludicrous to the point of being laughable. Wilson doesn’t have any patience for laughter – what with having lost an eye and his father and Ian has to make him back off Conran. He rants at Ian about him not having lost someone – and Conran hears his name and realises who they others are.

He recognises them – and tells them they were given a phone with a tracking device in it. A phone given to them by Milner, the MI5 agent. The Network has always known where they are – which Conran realises means he’s been abandoned since no-one has come to rescue him.

There’s a brief debate on whether Milner is actually working for the Network (Ian thinks no since she saved him) and after Conran asks about Becky’s health (he worked so hard on Deals – the disease she has), she asks why he did it. It was an experiment to see if they could make a disease that was inherited – they didn’t care what it did. Becky’s outraged that he calls the death of her father a success and Ian brings up the eugenics again – prompting Conrad to go on a rant. It’s not about genocide – it’s about the population of the planet swelling from 2 billion to 7 billion in his lifetime. It’s about rising food prices (we’ve seen news reports throughout the series about food shortages and rising prices) and dwindling oil – and how humankind will obviously not share.

Janus is their answer. A protein and an amino acid that do nothing until brought together. When brought together they render the person infertile and that trait is inherited (I have to question why it is required to make infertility an inherited trait, but I assume that it’s not complete infertility). Janus is designed to sterilise the entire human race. It affects 95% of the population, leaving 1 in 20 fertile. They imagine within a century the population would be reduced to 500 million. After which normal breeding will resume on a more open planet.

Ian isn’t impressed but Conran turns back his accusation of being genocidal – that not doing anything is genocidal. He says a third of the world’s farmland is now ruined because of soil degradation but more people are being born – and adds how wonderful for the planet Ghengis Khan was because if he hadn’t slaughtered millions of people and given the world chance to recover, there’d be a billion more people in the world today.

Janus does that without violence – of course Wilson brings up his own torture and his murdered father and Conran admits he has that and a thousand other crimes on his conscience – but without that he sees a world reduced to a desert.

They’re testing it because they’re not as brilliant as Carville (Jessica’s dad) but they’ve nearly repeated his work. But they need the manuscript to be sure they have correctly repeated his work. Ian and Becky ignore him – but Wilson stuns them by asking isn’t Conran right? Ian and Becky shout him down – but Wilson holds to his guns – if Conran is right and they stop the Network, what does that make them.

Over to Michael and his wife Jen and wedded turmoil after she got her care package of Michael’s visits to now-pregnant prostitute, Anya (and they’re having IVF since Jen can’t conceive, just to twist that knife a little deeper). Jen asks if Anya wants the child – and hearing “probably not”, it looks like Jen is considering adopting the baby – since it is Michael’s child and needs a home. I’m glad that Jen confirmed that Anya didn’t want the child first – and rejects her being trafficked and pimped as “employment”.

At Corvadt headquarters, Michael’s boss, Geoff, is horrified to hear that Conran has been taken – and with the vaccine, but the Assistant (who is awesome, cool and evil) is not perturbed , they’re too far along for it to matter – and he sees no reason to bring Conran back, why would they? What he is far more concerned about is Michael, the information he has and his willingness to blackmail – and he criticises Geoff for how he handled him (though Geoff is shocked that Michael, a civil servant, actually had the guys to do anything).  The Assistant orders Geoff to end him – and Geoff gets all touchy about being ordered around, being a minister and all.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Chimes at Midnight (October Daye #7) by Seanan McGuire

October Daye has a mission – to get Goblin Fruit off the streets. It’s a powerful narcotic, loved by Pureblood Fae – but it’s lethally addictive to humans and Changelings. Emphasis on the “lethally”, it will kill them. Unfortunately, the Queen doesn’t care – what do Changelings dying matter to her, even if dozens of children have died? And she doesn’t like October either – so she can have a banishment.

That leaves only one choice. The Queen has to go.

In three days

That’s quite tall order for deposing the local monarch – but she’s not popular and October has a lot of friends with some very cunning ideas and some long hidden secrets.

The plot of this book is Epic and Urgent and Heroic and Magnificent. Which is awesome. In fact, we need more unnecessary capitals – it was AWESOME. But it’s also hurried and a little disjointed.

October is taking down the Queen. Which means lots of manoeuvring to desperately come up with an idea that would knock her from her throne, which means lots and lots of brainstorming and lots and lots of rallying the troops. It means October rushing around everywhere and speaking to everyone. It means we get to see everyone, all the excellent character we’ve come to know and love (and I do love the characters in this series, more on that later). It makes that wonderful, spine-tingly epic feeling you get when a story is real and exciting and powerful and you can almost feel the epic consequences of the characters actions. Overlaid over all that is that wonderful, viscerally satisfying feeling you get when a long standing aggravating character is about to get theirs (the “Joffrey Slap” feeling). And there’s a time limit so all of this happens real fast with an extreme sense of tension and panic about it – because time is running out.

Awesome and excellent.


3 days? Is far too short. It makes the whole kingdom look kind of odd that it only takes 3 days to depose the sitting monarch. I would actually have rather this be an epic campaign taking part over several books as October rallies her forces, gathers her allies forged in several books of helping and heroism and challenges people to pick the unstable, dangerous, fickle queen over her and her claimant. That would have added an extra layer of epic to an already epic tale – and made it more momentous that she had to gather all these forces and spar with the Queen for so long.

As it was, the story was still epic – but there were elements that felt forced or could have been better. Like taking over the queen’s castle full o’guards with just 2 people. Or the Queen able to perform near miracles with her Siren abilities (why don’t sirens rule the world?) Or the Queen only having a few gambits against Toby and Toby merrily teleporting left, right and centre to avoid them – leading to a disjointedness of her not spending much time in one place and not really hashing things out with Tybalt, Sylvester, Jazz or Walter.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a truly awesome, epic book with lots of excitement and powerful scenes. But it could very easily have been more if it wasn’t so hurried. It’s less a complaint and more a lament about what could have been.

Along with the great story we have some great world building – and I do love the world of this series. When October found herself shifted towards the human end of the spectrum I was kind of sad because I thought there wouldn’t be much chance to explore Dochas Sidhe and what that means if October was barely fae at all.

What we did get was a lot of foreshadowing of more to come – with a prophecy and a lot of the Luidaeg and all revolving around the First Born and October being a Dochas Sidhe – so I think I just need to hang on in there because it’s all coming.

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

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.

The Klingons are looking over the recordings from Kirk blowing up the Enterprise to escape.  They wrongly believe that Genesis is a weapon designed to attack the Klingon people and so they demand extradition and justice.  Sarak, Spock's father, shows up to speak on behalf of Kirk, but he is informed that Admiral Kirk is charged with nine violations of Star Fleet regulations.

In the meantime, the Enterprise crew is on exile on Vulcan. Kirk takes a vote and they agree to return to earth to deal with the consequences of their actions. This is the first act and only act of democracy ever shown in the franchise. Spock is busy trying to re-learn how to be Vulcan but pauses when the computer asks him how he feels. This confuses Spock and he says that he dos not understand.  Spock's mother tells him that the computer knows that he is half human and that he must deal with his emotions. Spock then informs his mother that he intends to return to earth to give testimony in the trial.

In the meantime, there is an unknown ship in the neutral zone emitting a loud signal. Despite repeated attempts to contact it and relay friendly messages of greeting, it does not respond. The signal that it is emitting is damaging everything in its path.

Spock boards the Klingon Bird-of-Prey and McCoy is not sure that having Spock back at his regular duties is a good idea. Kirk however is sure that everything will be fine.  I'm sure the fact that Spock refused to call him Jim and referred to Kirk as admiral, citing that it wouldn't be proper to use his first name, while he was in command, went a long way to assuring Kirk that Spock was doing just fine.

The alien vessel has arrived at earth and is shooting some sort of beam through the ocean, even as it continues to issue the damaging sound.  The crew is now approaching earth in the Klingon vessel and are shocked that things are not as they expected.  Uhura then picks up a planetary distress system message, which instructs them to avoid the planet earth at all cost and talks about the damage which the probe is causing. Kirk asks to hear the probe's transmission and Spock says that he finds it unlikely that the message is hostile and that the transmission is probably meant for an intelligent life force other than humanity.  Spock points out that the transmission is directed at the earths ocean. Kirk asks Uhura to modify the probes transmission, so that they can hear what it would sound like under water. Spock says that if his suspicions are correct, there can be no response. Spock does some quick research and realizes that it is the sound of the humpback whale.