Saturday, September 21, 2013

Goodreads, Badly Behaving Authors and Silencing Criticism

Goodreads has made the decision to delete reviews and shelving that it feels “attack” authors. This includes such shelving as “due-to-author” (this is now an attack apparently). They claim this is because they want reviews to focus on the book, not the author for whatever reason (though, for some reason that doesn’t apply to shelves like “author-is-awesome”).

Of course, this has nothing to do with Goodreads's recent acquisition by Amazon, I’m sure.

At Fangs we only occasionally (often because we don’t know about an author’s various bad behaviours until after we’ve reviewed them) refer to the author when we deem it relevant (often because of actual flaunted bigotry on the author’s part) nor do we generally shelve books on goodreads (at all, because we’re far too lazy to do so) but we oppose this terrible and privileged policy change

This whole idea that the author doesn’t matter is something we have discussed before. Author identity matters, author experience matters, author authenticity matters. Each of these things add context to the books produced, adds a level of depth and a level of knowledge; the context of a book can add considerably to that book.

It also matters when it comes to bigotry. There are a lot of people who were and are unaware of Orson Scott Card’s bigotry. It is grossly ridiculous to claim the author’s giving money to hate groups and actively campaigning to have gay people imprisoned is somehow irrelevant to buying his books. That is ridiculous. It is not just ridiculous, it’s grossly offensive and obscenely privileged to discard these concerns as unimportant and speaks volumes about the priorities of those who try to do so.

And that is hardly an isolated issue. While Save the Pearls is horrendously racist without knowing anything about the author, the scandal around it is added to by Victoria Foyt’s own added excuses, explanations, anecdotes and attacks that add considerably more meat to her bigotry.

Similarly, Out is virulently homophobic – but far more so when you realise how much Laure Preble is schilling her book as pro-gay and trying to use PFLAG advocacy as a marketing tool.

The author’s behaviour matters. It adds context to the content of the book. It underscores the bigotry of not just the writing but the real world consequences of empowering bigotry – of giving bigots not just more money but a greater voice with which to spread their bigotry. Readers have a vested interest in knowing that they're dropping money on, say, John Ringo “Scalzi’s only popular because he panders to women and gay people, not REAL fans” and decide whether they want to support that.

Almighty Johnsons, Season 3, Episode 12: Late to the Point of Knowledge

Family meeting time for the brothers (and Olaf) over Minigolf (Anders arriving late because Michele tied him to the bed). They’re not with Hannah (Frigg), because she turfed them out to deal with her brother who doesn’t handle things not going to plan well – she sends them both packing despite Axl’s protests. Stacey puts herself forwards, as Fulla, Frigg’s handmaiden, to be the go-between for everyone. Which leaves Olaf unhappy because he’s been holding down Stacey’s business in her absence. The Thing breaks up with Axl leaving. (We also get a reminder that Hannah looks exactly like Axl did – when he turned into a woman).

Axl goes home to Zeb to begin his epicly long rant with lots of pouting and tantrums. He goes to the Bridal shop, but it is closed for “family reasons”.  And Stacey is still missing from her work place where Olaf is melting down.

Stacey is with Hannah (yes she does have to be there 24/7, damn Handmaiden power) and Mike, using his god of stalking power, tracks them down. And his plot is to try and get to Hannah through her brother, saying he knows someone for Martin to talk to who might understand him (Ingrid may be the best choice).

Axl goes to Ty to rant at him for siding with Mike and he and Dawn strike back that when whoever ascends to become Odin, Ty becomes Hodr, full blown god of darkness and Ty and Dawn don’t want anyone to ascend until they’ve figured out what that means. So… why help Mike? That’s an argument for not helping anyone – or hindering both of them – not for helping Mike. But he does give Axl her address

She isn’t there, she and Stacey are taking Martin to Mike’s set up meeting with Ingrid. Neither Martin nor Stacey are happy about the matter. Hannah pushes Martin to leave with Ingrid then orders Stacey to leave her and Mike alone.

Mike and Hannah go to dinner, each comparing notes on whose life and family is the most dysfunctional. And after lunch, she kisses him. They go back to his flat and have sex.

Axl visits Anders and asks him about him and Gaia – specifically why Idun and Bragi found each other impossibly irresistible but Odin and Frigg don’t the same (it’s called bad writing and desperate retconning).  Anders reassures him and Axl, despite their past differences, thanks Anders for being the one brother he is sure is on his side.

Michele goes to Stacey to go to meet Hannah – and after much questioning while Stacey tries to dodge the issue she learns that Hannah was at Mike’s bar – and that now her phone is turned off. She goes to Mike’s and finds Mike and Hannah in bed together; she watches them sleep before turning and leaving. When Hannah wakes up she leaves… oddly abruptly and almost nervously. Certainly hurriedly – she doesn’t even bother putting on shoes.

To Ty and Dawn working on their issue – Ty takes Dawn to meet the family oracle – which is very disappointing because that’s Olaf. Which she berates Olaf about and Olaf, in turn has a rant about trying to keep an Oral tradition alive when, frankly, it means you’re the last person in a long line of a generational game of Chinese Whispers and are meant to have answers.

Martin and Ingrid go to the beach where Ingrid tries to catch seagulls and generally revels in her classic joie de vivre.  And Martin talks about the various things he manipulated – not wanting to but having to – like getting Anders and Gaia together. Manipulating Axl on his trip with his father, getting Mike to bring him home – warning him about Jormugandr even getting Axl his job delivering pizza.  He was the one who provided the woodchipper that Mike threw Yggdrasil into and do everything he could to try and get Axl to Hannah before Mike.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Iron's Prophecy (Iron Fey #4.5) by Julie Kagawa

Meghan is the Iron Queen, Ash is her consort and everything couldn’t be better. Being Queen is hard work but Meghan rises to the occasion – even making notes to ensure Mab remembers where their borders lie. Ash still has the power to ensure his old associates at the Winter Court respect his ice and his blade. And there’s a baby on the way – things couldn’t be better

Except for an oracle with a dire prophecy concerning that child. A prophecy that requires them to delve into the outer reaches of the Nevern

This is a nice, bridging novella. I think it was just what was needed to mark the transition of the Iron Fey to the next set of stories no doubt set a considerable time in the future from where they are now.

Meghan and Ash both have their happily ever after. Meghan is settling in as Queen, Ash is finding his place as consort. They both seem more than capable and Meghan is even willing to stare down Mab in her own hall – she’s come a long way, she isn’t a simple mortal girl any more.

We even have some wonderful moments of that – like Ash trying to play the protector and Meghan (nicely) making it abundantly clear, SHE is the super powerful faerie monarch, thank you very much, she doesn’t need to hang around at the back like a delicate little flower waiting for the menfolk to save her. She can not only save herself, but has done so – and can save her menfolk and her kingdom as well for that matter.

And Ash is, for once, wonderfully free of the angst that makes me want to bury him somewhere. Of course, he has no reason to angst. He has some natural wistful thoughts about the court and family he left behind, but compared to the epic, book consuming moping that characterised his every breath to date, it’s a blessed relief. Ash is now happy (I know, I nearly fainted) and even has sufficient power that he isn’t angsting about that either – it’s a wonderful addition of closure to their story.

Dead Like Me, Season 2, Episode 4: Shallow End

Oh dear, we open with George voice-overing about how everyone wants to know they’re loved – or whether people even like them. This episode is going to be sickeningly twee or very angst laden. Or both. Get your vomit bags ready.

To reassure young George of that question, Joy decided to take the insecure girl to swim day. Reminding us that Joy, bless her heart, tries very very hard but doesn’t always get it right. Still, uncool 10 year old George at least can look down on even less cool Beth-Ann.

And in the present poor Joy is having similar difficulties with Reggie, who also doesn’t fit in, has no interest in doing so and has a razor sharp tongue to go with it.

To the Waffle House where everyone is delightfully random – bouncing off each other so incredibly well covering withholding love to make people desperate for your attention, how Roxy scares people and Mason playing with pepper spray.

And a messy Reap ends up with George going into work covered in bloodstains, much to her work colleague’s consternation. And to her consternation, her computer has been hacked by Neo-Nazis in Oregon now using it to send out mass mailers; she has Ethan, the nice IT guy, to fix it but in the meantime feels the need to convince everyone she isn’t a Nazi. On the plus side she does gain a super intelligent and efficient lackey in Ethan – she tries to figure out why and realises that her keeping him at arm’s length and reacting with panicky violence probably counts as “withholding love” to encourage people to want you.

She revels in the sudden power and popularity that comes from being an arsehole. Especially since being a nice girl never got her anything (though it has to be said the sarcastic George was never what you might consider a fluffy person). And she even laces into Crystal – ooh she’ll regret that.

George starts to have second thoughts about the whole being mean thing, though she’s not sold on niceness; especially when Delores tells her that Ethan just quit.

Meanwhile Daisy has a reap in a plastic surgery clinic, where her self-confidence makes her a little out of place among the enraged fighting women in the waiting room and the trans woman, Stan, waiting surgery who is, alas, her Reap when caught in the cross fire of thrown high heel shoes. Daisy is there to provide lots of comfort and they go to church together. At church Stan rants and curses at god and tries to throw a bible at the cross, incensed by her own exclusion. Stan asks Daisy to throw the Bible, but she refuses. Daisy urges Stan to pray and Stan says “I’m willing to forgive him, but I want him to say sorry first.” The stain glass window breaks and Daisy runs outside to chase off the kids who threw a rock. Stan’s trip to the afterlife arrives in front of the window, in the form of a figure robed in light opening their arms to Stan.

Autumn Schedule at Fangs for the Fantasy

Autumn is upon us, which means a whole new schedule building up after out last 2 months of relative relaxation. Well, what was planned to be relaxation then Renee had to go and have her little medical emergency – Renee, you ruin my schedules! My lists! My precious lists!

*Ahem* my lists aside, since Renee has successfully escaped the clasp of Sister Demon Nun and her pernicious minions (long story) we can both rejoice to have her back with us and prepare for the Autumn with full vigor. We have:

Already started this week, In this modern-day twist on Washington Irving's classic, ICHABOD CRANE is resurrected and pulled two and a half centuries through time to unravel a mystery that dates all the way back to the founding fathers. Revived alongside Ichabod is the infamous Headless Horseman who is on a murderous rampage in present-day Sleepy Hollow. Ichabod quickly realizes that stopping Headless is just the beginning, as the resurrected rider is but the first of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and only one of the many formidable foes that Ichabod must face to protect not only Sleepy Hollow, but the world.

They are the next evolutionary leap of mankind, a generation of humans born with paranormal abilities — the Tomorrow People. Stephen Jameson stands at the crossroads between the world we know and the shifting world of the future. Up until a year ago, Stephen was a “normal” teenager — until he began hearing voices and teleporting in his sleep, never knowing where he might wake up. Now, Stephen’s issues have gone far beyond the usual teenage angst, and he is beginning to question his sanity. In desperation, Stephen decides to listen to one of the voices in his head, and it leads him to his first encounter with the Tomorrow People — John, Cara and Russell — a genetically advanced race with the abilities of telekinesis, teleportation and telepathic communication. The Tomorrow People are being hunted down by a paramilitary group of scientists known as Ultra. Led by Dr. Jedikiah Price, Ultra sees the Tomorrow People as a very real existential threat from a rival species, and the outcast group has been forced to hide out in an abandoned subway station just beneath the surface of the human world. 

In Victorian England, young and beautiful Alice tells an impossible tale of a strange new land that exists on the other side of a rabbit hole. An invisible cat, a hookah-smoking caterpillar and playing cards that can talk are just some of the fantastic things she's seen during her adventure. Surely this troubled girl must be insane. Her doctors intend to cure her with a treatment that will make her forget—everything. Alice seems ready to put it all behind her, especially the painful memory of the genie she fell in love with and lost forever, the handsome and mysterious Cyrus. But in her heart Alice knows this world is real, and just in the nick of time the sardonic Knave of Hearts and the irrepressible White Rabbit (John Lithgow) arrive to save her from her fate. Together the trio will take a tumble down the rabbit hole to a Wonderland where nothing is impossible.

Family is power. The Original Vampire family swore it to each other a thousand years ago. They pledged to remain together, always and forever. Now, centuries have passed, and the bonds of family are broken. Time, tragedy and hunger for power have torn the Original Family apart.
Klaus Mikaelson, the original vampire-werewolf hybrid, has returned to New Orleans, the city his family helped build, the city from which he and his siblings – Elijah and Rebekah – were exiled a century ago by their relentless hunter father. Drawn back by a mysterious tip that a plot is brewing against him in the supernatural melting pot that is the French Quarter, Klaus is surprised that the city still feels like home to him despite the decades he’s been away. Curious as to why Klaus would return to the one place he swore he would never set foot again, Elijah follows his brother and learns that the beautiful and rebellious werewolf Hayley – Klaus’ onetime flame – has also come to the French Quarter searching for clues to her family history. Hayley has fallen into the hands of a powerful witch named Sophie Deveraux. When Sophie reveals to the brothers the almost unbelievable news that Hayley is carrying Klaus’ unborn child, Elijah realizes that the Original family has been given a second chance at humanity and the redemption they desperately crave.

It's the late 19th century, and the mysterious Dracula has arrived in London, posing as an American entrepreneur who wants to bring modern science to Victorian society. He's especially interested in the new technology of electricity, which promises to brighten the night - useful for someone who avoids the sun. But he has another reason for his travels: he hopes to take revenge on those who cursed him with immortality centuries earlier. Everything seems to be going according to plan... until he becomes infatuated with a woman who appears to be a reincarnation of his dead wife.

And, of course, many of the shows we already watch are returning and we will continue to follow them; including Revolution (25th September), Once Upon a Time (29th September), Beauty and the Beast (7th October), American Horror Story (9th October), The Vampire Diaries (10th October), The Walking Dead (13th October), Supernatural (15th October), Grimm (25th October), Lost Girl (10th November).

It’s going to be a busy busy Autumn, I may need to stock up on more coffee.

With the return of our shows, the end of our semi-holiday and Renee’s successful battle against the scourge of Sister Demon Nun we will be restarting our podcast – once all technical difficulties are resolved and we find suitably awful books to force Tami to read. We plan to be back on the 7th October, the first Monday in October

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Gossamer: A Story of Love and Tragedy by Lee Thompson

Dorothy has had a long, magical life. Fleeing persecution, death and betrayal, she and her aunt sought their own sanctuary, a place of their own with their own people sheltered by magic. But even that was a tragedy, leaving Dorothy alone with her immortal followers – followers who worshipped her and adored her and the gifts she brought, but couldn’t fill the hollow within herself.

Until one man came who brought love – and brought tragedy to her people. Now she must resort to luring in others to her lethal trap to try and save some of her people from the monster she invited among them. Which is where Brooke, Natalie and Angel arrive in this isolate sanctuary and find themselves drawn into the web.

This book opened awesomely. We had Dorothy and her story, her history. We had her power, her childhood, the persecution and trials she faced. We had her developing her power, we had her aunt and her own awesomeness. We had them challenging the norms and motives and evil prejudices of the era in which they lived. We had them escaping it while condemning it, we had them setting up their own community, and their lives there. The magic, the carousel, the heartbreaking split between them.

It was fascinating. It was powerful. It was meaningful. It was evocative and poetic and painful and beautiful. I was hooked, this book looked awesome. I couldn’t wait for more information about Dorothy, more of Dorothy’s story, her struggle to ensure her community survived and thrived, the challenges hinted at with the man and his hunger, the oddness unveiled with the boy and his spiders. I knew I was going to love this book.

That was Part One of the book. Truly excellent characters, an amazing story, a fascinating world, a great concept and a beautiful, emotive, poetic style that was a sheer joy to read.

Then we reached Part Two.

Dorothy became an odd, plotting, side character trying to run some kind of convoluted plan that I never really understood but involved stuff happening. Instead we focused on Brooke, her daughter Natalie and her new husband Angel.  A family of three arriving in town to wander around for convoluted reasons and promptly info-dump the hell out of everything. Page after page after page after page I was given more information about Brooke and Angel’s childhoods than I know about my own parents’. Brooke’s first marriage was covered including why she dumped Natalie’s father and why she is so protective and controlling and various others things covered. At length. Angel’s father, stepfather and how that contributed to various issues in his own life and romantic life. His love of carousels was described in eyeball-desiccating detail. We have descriptions of their jobs, why they do their jobs, what they think of their jobs. I’m scrolling through my tablet notes as I write this review and it’s just dozens of highlights with the notes “long winded” “unnecessary information” repeated over and over again. I can track my growing frustration as the notes change to “rambling” “yet more rambling” “why are you telling me this?”, “am I bothered?” and “ye gods who cares?!”

All of this is written in the most rambly, overdescriptive, style that is supposed to be ominous or evocative but fails utterly because it is so convoluted and so constantly interrupted with the massive info-dumps. In trying to make me care about these three people, the author forces a huge amount of information about them, shoe-horned in without rhyme or reason and in the driest, dullest style possible. Unlike Dorothy who had me invested as her story was SHOWN in dramatic, poetic, amazing detail, this dull recounting forced in every time a character stood still for two seconds didn’t just leave me not caring about these characters, it left me actively hoping something would kill and eat them so we could move onto something more interesting. The endless description is so clunky and unnatural that they feel LESS like actual people than if the info had been left out.

Under the Dome, Season 1, Episode 13: Curtains

At the noisy Minidome, the chrysalis hatches and Linda freaks out about the Minidome even existing, lots of explaining follows. Linda decides it’s police property but everyone ignores Jim’s lackey because the butterfly in the Minidome touches the edges and blackness starts covering the dome.

Jim has his predictable tantrum over Barbie pleading not guilty; but Barbie points out that Julia’s out there and she knows the truth. Well, sort of - she knows Barbie didn’t shoot her. Barbie knows better than to trust Jim

And Junior is being both creepy and tortured against the Dome and asking why it wants him to kill his dad, Jim. What, you want a list?

In the Minidome, the butterfly creates several black spots before it falls to the floor, weak. The big Dome also darkens – huge black spots appearing then spreading to cover the Dome until it’s black and opaque, blocking all light. This causes more than a little consternation. Norrie and Joe discuss what they can do to free the butterfly – they need the COD. And Linda decides to call all available units to the house.

Because a large group of police will achieve… what exactly? Her message is heard by Julia and Angie and Junior – and, of course, Jim. Who she specifically says needs to see this – because she has every reason to trust Jim, right?

Meanwhile she tells Joe and Norrie to stop it making its horrible noise – they say they may be able to stop it by touching it. She refuses – it’s police property, she will do the Dome groping round here! And just like Dodee, she gets zapped across the room by the very angry Dome. Junior bursts into the room all pouty because Angie is helping Julia and Barbie and Barbie is a murderer – except, Joe saw Barbie save Julia’s life so that doesn’t really work for the gang. With Jim arriving, Junior helps them move the Minidome (awww, can’t you let Jim touch it at least once?) By the time Jim arrives, there’s just a waking Linda who tells him it may be their best shot of getting out of here! Being the crack detective she is, she completely misses Jim’s “oh shit” look.

Julia and Angie are staggering along to the police station to rescue Barbie (what, you thought they were going to clear his name by publicly declaring that he didn’t shoot Julia, therefore removing any chance of Jim silencing Julia? Hah, that would make sense! There is no sense under the dome!)  They free Barbie but run into a policeman (who Angie clonks with  fire extinguisher) and Phil (who is kicked into unconsciousness by a still handcuffed Barbie).

Over the police radio Joe tells Angie to meet them where they hid when they broke their mother’s mirror – to hide that she means the cement factory. They gather there and Junior points a gun at Barbie because, of course, he believes everything his dad says to a point where he’s sceptical when Julia says Barbie didn’t shoot her and it couldn’t possibly have been his dad’s friend Maxine (the same woman who even Jim warned Junior about. Junior is not the brightest spark, is he?)  

Junior settles down when the Minidome produces glowing red hand prints, a subtle hint to get on with it. They touch the prints and the Minidome flares a bright, brilliant white before shattering into dust and soil. The Minidome is open. For a moment they think the Monarch butterfly is dead but when Norrie touches it it moves. It flies around the room before buzzing around Barbie. Joe happily declares him the monarch.

I’d complain if I were you Barbie, other monarchs get jewels and crowns and stuff.

Outside, Jim and Linda learn that Barbie has escaped so Linda scarpers off and Jim finds the whole town gathering in the church for some fervent prayer before the end times. Personally if I thought the end of the world was nigh it’d be orgies and booze, but each to their own I guess. Seeing a crowd gathered, Jim decides to get up and speak – it’s almost a compulsion, he sees an audience, he has to stand up in front of it.

Back in the cement factory, Barbie isn’t behind the whole choosing rulers by insect method of deciding leadership and the egg begins to shake and glow. As the room begins to shake and possibly collapse, everyone runs except Julia who seems mesmerised by the pretty light (keep her away from lightbulbs she could be a danger to herself). She picks up the egg, it stops glowing and the shaking stops – the butterfly lands on the egg. Barbie declares that Julia is the monarch (despite his contempt for insect-based leadership and the fact that Julia is the least interesting person on the entire planet).

Meanwhile Jim is wants Phil to gather some workers to make a gallows in order to maintain the peace – Phil actually agrees. Jim’s other lackey, Linda, is at Joe’s barn and tells Jim that the gang aren’t there. She tells him about the pink stars painted on the walls and asks what “the pink stars are falling in lines” mean – which causes Jim to have one of his guppy mouth-open moments. Of course, he recognises the phrase from his wife’s problems.

He takes Linda to his wife’s studio and shows Linda her painting – a black egg surrounded by pink stars. Jim realises his wife may not have been sick and Linda urges him to stay strong – for us because his family is important. And he’s important! Ye gods, really? Really really? That’s it, seal the Dome, don’t let any of them out, there’s no hope left.

Back at the cement factory, Junior wants to hand everything to Jim who both Angie and Barbie call a monster and he pulls a gun on them – adding that Julia is a liar as well, bringing up her last job. Can someone kill him already? He demands she hand it over but she throws it to Angie and the handcuffed Barbie tackles Junior while everyone runs.

In the woods, they ask the egg what to do – and Hallucination Alice appears. Julia points out it’s probably not Alice (really?) Joe sees he’s been beaten in the stating-the-bloody-obvious-stakes and says it’s probably whoever sent the Dome. Angie, it’s your turn – point out it’s really dark, just in case we’ve missed it. Anyway, Dome!Alice tells them the Dome was sent to protect them from thing-she’s-not-going-to-tell-them-about-because-that-would-make-sense. And you want daylight? Well you’ve got to EARN that daylight, kiddies! And if you fail it’s death for all of you. (This is an interesting definition of “protect”) They earn, y’know, life by keeping the egg safe (next month we see what they have to do to earn oxygen). Julia asks how they protect it and who from – but cryptic revelation hour is over and Dome!Alice is gone.

The Walking Dead Volume 17: Something to Fear

This volume we see Rick’s optimism and positivity about the new nation he plans to lead reach greater heights. He’s even talking about ending the zombie apocalypse in 5 years. He has so little fear of the zombies now that he nearly pushed through a wall of them chasing Negan’s group. His confidence and optimism has reached a level of arrogance.

And this is especially true when we see his consideration of Negan’s gang. The idea of Negan’s Saviours being an actual threat never occurs to Rick. He offers to destroy them without knowing what he’s gone up against (much to Andrea and Michonne’s consternation). The idea that the Saviours could be as dangerous or more so than his group is beyond him. So extreme is this cockiness that it feels almost unrealistic, especially from the man who lost a hand, a wife and a daughter to the Governor (in fact, he was still talking to Lori on the phone until recently). This level of confidence - bolstered after seeing his combat superiority compared to the Alexandrians and the Hilltoppers - seems to have reached not-quite-believable heights. I can see him being confident and invested in his ideal future - but he has erased one of the more defining elements of his - and other character’s pasts - to come to this conclusion.

This shaky story and not-quite-justifiable cockiness seems to be forcing a theme - of Rick’s harsh crashing to reality. But the theme does feel forced - because we can’t really believe that Rick would become so naive in the first place.

To add to the forced feel of this volume, that cockiness is used to justify some dubious decisions - like Rick deciding to turn to Hilltop for help, despite having seen how fearful and inept Hilltop has been in the past. But Rick making that decision was needed to set up the ambush (which he, somehow, never predicted) and for the death of Glenn. Just as Abraham and Eugene going out alone was needed despite them knowing of the Saviour threat to lead to the death of Abraham.

The loss of Glenn is a deeply sad moment - and part of the Walking Dead’s anyone-can-die ethos - but it has left the series without any Asian characters.

The two major female characters in life at present are Michonne and Andrea. He has an equally long relationship with both women. Andrea has become his lover and Michonne supposedly his trusted friend but despite assertions that he values these women, his actions clearly show otherwise. Andrea makes it clear at the very beginning of this that she is not as hopeful about their interaction with the Hilltop as Rick is but he is blinded by his ambition Rick keeps singing rainbows and lollipops in complete denial of the world they live in.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Forgotten Ones by Laura Howard

Allison lives a quiet life, often actively avoiding her friends and certainly the attractive and very interested Ethan, because she has another job. Her mother. After her mother went to school in Ireland she returned pregnant with Allison – and disturbed. Over the years her apparent schizophrenia has got steadily worse and Allison is determined to help support her.

Right until her dad arrived – her strangely youthful father – to tell her all about the fae, their habits of kidnapping humans, and how it created their little family. Allison doesn’t exactly roll out the welcome mat for her long estranged father spouting fairy tales – but when her mother goes missing and Danaan are to blame, who else can she turn to?

We have the fae – which is always a plus for me – we have other worlds. We have a strong, very decent protagonist. We have writing that is perfectly serviceable (and doesn’t that sound damning? It isn’t though, it was pretty good writing – the writing isn’t sparkling and making me gasp but everything is appropriately balanced. There’s no rambling, no staccato sentences, few big gasping info dumps or clunky inserts. The writing flows). We have magic, the fantastic and a daring quest against some alien forces.

It all sounds good.

The problem I have with the story is that there are 8 bazillion characters and it was hard to actually keep them all in order especially since very few of them were developed.

This starts very early in the book where we get  Allison, her grandparents, her best friend Nicole, her love interest Ethan (who she is interested in but not) then various other friends who are connected to Nicole and/or possibly related to Ethan. And I know very little about any of them. Part of this stems from the fact that Allison is not the most extrovert of people, she doesn’t want to join them at the beach or parties or wherever they’re planning. Also she feels duty bound to look after her mother and be there for her especially since she feels partly responsible so is almost guilty when she takes time for herself. All of this is great for Allison’s character development, but it means all those friends remain just names. In fact, her grandparents are no more than that either. Everyone’s just a name on a page with no real connection.

And this is especially bad with Ethan the potential love interest. Allison finds him attractive but, again, feels he may be a distraction from her personal duty of looking after her mother and taking over from her grandparents; she constantly keeps him at arm’s length despite her desire. But that makes Ethan look overly creepy – constantly looking for an edge to catch the reluctant girl; don’t get me wrong he’s not nearly as bad as so many love interests out there, not even close, but with the interest only going one way for so long it gets shaky. What’s even shakier is Ethan being cast as this desperate, meaningful love interest who Allison is bound to want to risk her life to rescue – there wasn’t nearly enough connection built between her and Allison for that to be really established and conveyed. There was still the “an innocent is under threat!” element, but not the personal connection I think was intended.

Once we leave most of the mortals behind, the characters and lack of connection balloons. We have Liam (her father, who then spends most of the story asleep), Aoife, Niamh, Eithne, Saoirse, Aodhan, Deaghlan, Taghd, Aengus and many many more. Other than vague ideas about affiliation, I had little to no idea who these characters were and even less about their motivation.

Sleepy Hollow: Pilot

The scene opens in New York in 1781 to what looks like a revolutionary war battle scene.  A red coat in a mask charges and is shot by Ichabod Crane but he quickly get up and attacks again.  The redcoat seems to have a weird tattoo on his arm.  Ichabod cuts off his head and quickly passes out, wounded.  We then hear the words, "Ichabod stay with me," as he climbs out of the ground.  Ichabod has no wounds despite being injured in battle.  He climbs up a rough hewn stone staircase and ends up outside.  Ichabod pauses when he comes across a paved road and is almost hit by truck and a car.  The owner of the car gets out and Ichabod starts running. We see a sign that says the village of Sleepy Hollow.

In a diner, Sheriff August Corbin and Abbie Mills eat while discussing an unsolved homicide.  They seem to have a good report with each other.  Corbin asks if Abbie finds the number of unsolved cases around there odd.  Abbie asks him to stop and reminds him of how few people Quantico takes each year.  Corbin points out that he's not asking if she is qualified for the job but wants to know if she is running away.  Outside at the car, they get a call about horses being spooked and Abbey quips that this is why she got into police work.

Corbin and Abbie arrive at the location and split up.  Abbie heads to the house and Corbin to the barn.  Abbie gets no answer when she knocks and so heads to the side of the house, as Corbin enters the barn to indeed find an upset horse.  Abbie heads over to a truck with the door open and she contacts Corbin to say that something is wrong because she has found a weapon on the ground.  When she contacts Corbin again, it's beacuse she has found the body of the owner of the farm without his head.  The headless horseman comes out of the bushes and Corbin fires several shots at him but he just keeps coming.  Abbey is pushed to the ground as the headless horseman charges out of the barn on a horse.  When Abbey heads into the barn she finds Corbin and gives a call out about officer down which is picked up by Andy Dunn.  Andy then arrests Ichabod who is standing in the middle of the street.

Later, Abbey and Andy enter the jail and Abbey tells Andy that Ichabod is not the man they are looking for.  She says that he was wearing old military clothing and had a tattoo on his hand.  Icabod  pipes up and asks if the man carried a broad axe and if the mark on his hand was a bow.  Abbey asks who this man is and when the last time Ichabod saw him was.  Ichabod answers, "when I cut off his head."

When next we see Ichabod he is being strapped in to a polygraph machine.  Ichabod is incredulous of the machine's ability to discern whether or not he is lying and asks why they are holding him against his will. He is told he is being held as a suspect in the death of Corbin and that if he pasts the test that it will go a long way to proving his innocence.  Ichabod says that he was a history professor and that he became a spy under the command of General George Washington.  Ichabod then admits to shooting and beheading the horseman before being taken to triage. At triage he received treatment from his wife Katrina where he lost consciousness. When Ichabod asks where he is, the detective hands him a dollar bill and informs him that he is now in the future.

Because he passed the test they decide to take him for a psych evaluation.  Abby asks for a chance to question Crane but is denied.  Abby makes the argument that Crane might have seen something and could actually explain why Corbin's wounds were cauterized.  Again she is told no and so she argues to transport him to the hospital.

When Abbey then confronts Ichabod he is surprised to find that she is a Black female lieutenant and asks if she is emancipated.  Abbey makes it clear that slavery has been abolished for quite some time and tells him that she is authorized to carry a gun and shoot him.  Ichabod says that he is glad to hear that slavery has been abolished.  On the way out Ichabod suggests to Abbey that she believes him because there is no other explanation for both he and the headless horseman.

On the way to the hospital, Ichabod keeps playing with the window and in frustration, Abbey locks it. As they drive Ichabod is surprised by the number of Starbucks and wants to know if there is a law requiring them. He asks when it becomes acceptable for women to wear trousers. They drive by a church and Ichaod sees a priest - the same priest who was there when he was wounded in the past.  Ichabod and Abbey head to the cave where he entered the present.  In the muck, Ichabod finds a book and it turns out to be the same bible that the priest lay on his chest when he was injured.  There is a passage from Revelations that is highlighted and it's about the four horsemen of the apocalypse.

Ichabod reveals that the revolution wasn't merely a war about the freedom of the colonies and that it would determine the fate of every man, woman and child on earth.  Apparently General Washington gave him a mission to kill an unknown mercenary recognizable by the mark on his hand.  Abbey is quick to dismiss Ichabod but he points out that the bible was left with him for a reason and that Abbey just isn't ready to accept it.  Abbey asks if she is supposed to believe that the man who killed Corbin is one of the four horsemen of he apocalypse. Ichabod points out that when he beheaded him that the man didn't die because he is death itself and he has somehow returned to Sleepy Hollow to finish what he started.

In the woods the horseman rides, as the priest heads out into the cemetery with a shovel.  The priest takes off running but is quickly confronted by the horseman who charges for him.  The priest uses magic to chain the horseman but the horseman breaks free and continues to charge.  The priest says that he will never tell him where "it" is and that he is prepared to die.  At least he was prepared - because the Horseman kills him.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

American Horror Story Sneak Peak

Time for a sneak peak!

Tempt the Stars (Cassandra Palmer #6) by Karen Chance

When we last left Cassie two years ago, she was on the verge of death until Pritkin gave her the energy so desperately needed, thus sacrificing his freedom.  I am sure that many fans of this series screamed in frustration at this point, I know I did.  Tempt the Stars doesn't begin quite where Hunt the Moon left off.  It's now been a week since Pritkin disappeared and Cassie is determined to do whatever he has to to bring him back from his fathers clutches - even if she has to go to hell.

Tempts the Stars is filled with all of the elements that fans have come to love about the series.  Cassandra continues to be filled with spunky agency and though at times it is seriously annoying because she jumps headfirst into situations without thinking them through, one cannot help but to route for her. It is only when we consider how little Cassandra knows about the office of Pythia, her mother and even latent powers that one realises that she been left absolutely defenseless despite the power she has. Yes, I know that this is yet another trope in urban fantasy, but Cassie's never say die attitude keeps the story moving without being bogged down in self pity.  It helps that in the end, Cassie accepts who she is and is thankful.

For all of her inept bumbling, Cassie continues to be a strong protagonist.  Chance avoids falling into the trap of simply turning her into a weapon as a way to express strength, which is far too common in urban fantasy today.  Cassie's goal is to save Pritkin which in many ways is a change in gender roles because not only is not waiting to be saved, Cassie is actively trying to save the big strong man. I love that though Cassie has her moments of modesty, she is not above whining about not being able to masturbate in the shower because of sensitive vampire hearing.  

Syfy Q&A: Eric Balfour from Haven

We were lucky enough to have been invited to a press call interview with Eric Balfour, to discuss Havem. Syfy has sent us a full transcript of the conversation - it's long but there are some gems in there

Woman:                 Hi everyone, thanks for waiting, and welcome to the Haven Season 4 pre-Premier conference call with Eric Balfour. As you guys know, Eric plays Duke Crocker who was last seen jumping into the barn after Audrey. So let's get right to it. And operator, please start taking questions.

Operator:               Thank you. Our first question comes from the line of Jamie Ruby with SciFi Vision. Please go ahead.

Jamie Ruby:          So can you talk a bit about kind of how things just are going to change, all the dynamics of everybody, considering that Audrey isn't Audrey in the beginning, and right now isn't even there?

Eric Balfour:         Yes. You know, it was a really sort of fascinating time when we found out what was going to be happening this season, not only from a character standpoint but also, you know, simply logistically with Emily, you know, having just had her baby and we were, you know, basically going to spend the first about six weeks without her here in Nova Scotia filming with us.

                              So it was going to be a challenge. At the same time, it was really exciting. And what it did do was create a lot of new dynamics between, you know the characters, and how things would shape.

                              And I actually think, you know people say everything happens for a reason, and I think we were really lucky because what this did do was force us to get out of our comfort zone. It forced us to think outside the box. And what we end up with is something really exciting. The show has a whole new energy this season and a whole new sense of playfulness. And there's new characters that we introduce.

                              The biggest change is, you know, initially seeing how Lucas Bryant's character Nathan is going to have to change his role in how we deal with the troubles. And also how my character Duke, is going to have to relate to Nathan, and how he is going to have to help him in a way that he, as we know, has always been reluctant to do.

                              So especially in the first handful of episodes, things are completely different. And it - I really am excited about it. I really think that the audience is going to love this season because it's obviously - we try very hard to stay true to what is great about the show, but it's just always exciting when a show has to reinvent itself to a certain degree.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Walking Dead Sneak Peak

It's not long now before Walking Dead is back - here's something more to whet your appetite

On Midnight Wings (Maker's Song #5) by Adrian Phoenix

Dante and Heather are still separated by the various factions trying to hunt Dante down, while Lucien, Von and the gang continue to hunt for them. But between Fallen machinations and the call of the Llygad, neither is able to launch the rescue efforts they would like to.

Heather continues to extricate herself from tricky situations to try and reach Dante, but every time she breaks out of one trap there appears to be another waiting and time is running out – Dante, held by Dion and tormented by Loki, is fraying. His fragile mind is growing more and more damaged as he approaches his limit

If he breaks, he will become the Great Destroyer, the Unending Road, using his awesome powers of creation for destruction – and then the world is doomed or those who love him most may be forced to kill him.

Right, let’s start with some major positives. First and foremost, the 8 gazillion unnecessary cast members are largely taking a back seat. Largely. They’re still there and mentioned far too often in passing and in any other book I would be yelling “kill some side characters, damn it!” but for this series they have been cut down by them both teaming up (so forming less random groups with their own agendas) and by them just not getting the same level of page time as they have in previous books. For the most part, the book has managed to stay relatively focused on Dante and Heather with only a few distractions as you’d find in most books.

Another positive is that the bad guys that were actually relevant this book were fairly major powers. Mauvais was there, hanging around finally coming to terms with just how big a hornet’s nest he’s kicked which was great fun to read – I do like to see some good comeuppance. Heather’s father also took a step back but he’s still lurking in the corners so I don’t think we can say goodbye to him just yet. The FBI and Shadow Branch lurked around but after some initial forays fell back to leave the action more centred on the Fallen as secondary but mainly Dion. He’s a later arriving bad guy with a very petty, personal agenda more than the world destroying but at least he has some decent supernatural oomph.

Another major plus for me was that all of the overwrought emotional language, endless Dante flashbacks and fractured viewpoints, the little girl he saved, the endless memories of Chloe and papa Prejean – all the pointless minutiae of Dante’s tortured past and shattered psyche – actually came together and were relevant beyond the whole “woe is Dante, poor Dante, our tortured anti-hero is the most tortured of them all!”

It’s actually ironic considering how overwritten this series is that we haven’t truly had much information on the Great Destroyer, the Unending Road and what that means. This book brings it home – the true consequences of what they’re fighting for. Not true love. Not whether the Fallen get their creator to repair/renew/rebuild Gehenna. Not whether the various vampire societies get their shiny new True Blood vampire for whatever reason they want it – the ultimate ending is Dante’s cracked mind finally shattering, his Bad Seed programming coming up and his anger and pain exploding in horrible messy ways that results in the whole world being reduced to ash in the fires of his rage. And all those people pinning their hopes to him have to decide to stop him – if they can.

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

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 beginning of the movie actually appears to reference a biblical passage from Revelation 6:8  I looked, and behold, an ashen horse; and he who sat on it had the name Death. Instead of death, the man on the horse is Sybok and his mission is to help people confront their pain so that they may release it and move forward in peace.  Sybok has big dreams of leaving Nimbus III (the "Planet of Galactic Peace") and to do so, he must force a starship to visit the planet.  He accomplishes this by kidnapping the Klingon, Romulan and Federation council.

With the exception of Uhura and Scotty the rest of the crew are on shore leave.  Kirk is climbing a mountain named El Capit├ín in Yosemite National Park as McCoy grumbles in the background and Spock appears wearing jet powered boots. Spock is curious about why Kirk would choose to climb and risk himself and Kirk replies, "because it's there."  When Kirk does eventually fall, Spock races downwards and catches him before he can land. What follows is a touching scene wherein the three men then set up camp.  Kirk reveals he knew that he was not going to die on the mountain because he is destined to die alone.  This of course is foreshadowing of what is to come.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Haven, Season 4, Episode 1: Fallout

Haven is back – and we left it on a pretty massive cliffhanger last season with the barn and some hints of answers and Audrey being far more central to the Troubles than we had ever imagined.

And this season opens inside the barn – with Duke who leaped in to save Audrey after everything went so wrong at the end of season 3. The strange white place inside the barn is falling apart, holes are opening in walls through which we can see sweeping stars like a Star Trek ship going to warp (this may be my geekiest comparison of all time). The walls replay flashbacks of the last episode, of James dying, of Audrey agreeing to return into the barn. Duke watches, transfixed, until a hole opens up underneath him and he falls into the starry blackness – and lands in water.

In the seal tank of the Boston Aquarium. That was unexpected. The news report is watched by a woman who hears him ranting about Audrey Parker – she suddenly gets up, grabs her things and leaves.

In the hospital, cuffed to a bed, Duke learns he’s been listed as dead for 6 months. Which doesn’t help his case, especially with all the fake IDs he carries around. He’s in trouble.

As are the people of Haven it seems – judging by the loud rumbling noise that then blasts in all the windows of the bookshop.

Duke gets a visitor, a woman claiming to be Audrey Parker but when she visits Duke in hospital claiming to be his sister, she’s not Audrey. She’s also not very coherent. But she is Jennifer Mason, she worked for the Boston Globe, she rambles a lot and was diagnosed as schizophrenic because she kept hearing conversations repeating in her head – conversations including the names of Audrey, Duke and Nathan. She started hearing them 6 months ago, when Duke and Audrey went into the barn. Duke tries to explain to her about the Barn and Haven and the Troubled (and that she might be one of them) which is a whole lot to sum up so quickly. It’s not very reassuring to Jennifer, nor the fact that Duke is a criminal nor that he wants to go to Haven. She agrees to co-operate simply because the alternative is her believing she’s “crazy”.

They escaped with a paperclip and Jennifer’s boobs and Duke calls the Teagues because they always know what’s going on. Dave answers and after the shock of Duke being still alive, he tells Duke that a lot has happened – among them the Troubles not going away. And Nathan has gone of the rails.

Nathan has a beard now, he’s in a biker bar and a biker just paid him to be able to hit him. Or maybe a bet. He has a whole queue of bikers paying to hit him (Nathan, remember, feels no pain – but can still be damaged). Duke and Jennifer watch for a little bit before Duke approaches - reunion time! Lots of hugs, I’m sure they’ll be hating each other by episode 3. But he’s still looking or Audrey.