Saturday, September 28, 2013

Gods Among Us - Episode Two

This time Zeb is exploring if the Johnsons as Gods feel a responsibility towards humanity. Unfortunately, Olaf is the one answering this question and we end up with the mother of all tangents.

The Almighty Johnsons, Season 3, Episode 13: The End of the World As We Know It

To the beach, in a rain storm with Ingrid and Olaf trying to justify their mistake over what happens after the Gar. It seems they interpreted it as “get their powers and rule on Earth” rather than “get their powers and rule over Earth”.

What does that mean? Well as Colin, pouring drinks to a very depressed Anders, elaborates – they will become gods in Asgard. Not Earth. Anders doesn’t want to leave Earth. He certainly doesn’t fancy being the god of poetry surrounded by gods like Colin (he describes it as being the “effeminate kid at an all-boys boarding school” which is both offensive and a woeful interpretation of Norse sagas).

But Ty puts a whole new spin on it to Dawn – when Odin and Frigg reunite, Hodr will go to Asgard and Ty is left on Earth – suggesting the mortal bodies they occupy will continue without their godliness. Dawn doesn’t see why this isn’t good news… but the last time Ty lost his godliness, Dawn forgot him.

To Axl and Zeb to add that Odin in Asgard will also be needed to end Ragnorak. Odin needs to ascend and leave Axl behind in order to save the world.

Mike and Hanna have sex again. And Heimdall freaks out – and there’s an Earthquake (probably not Martin’s doing since it hits everyone – and ruins Anders’ nifty fish tank). Jormungandr is stirring.

Later we see a newspaper about the “Earth’s day of disasters” making it clear that the Earthquake wasn’t the only effect of Jormungandr waking up. And Michele is still alive despite being hit in the head with a hammer. At Ander’s flat the news continues to show more and more chaos around the world (and it seems Colin thinks he will ascend since, if he’s elected mayor, he expects to disappear) and Michele joins them – and rather oddly eats bacon despite being a vegetarian. Colin doesn’t notice anything wrong, more interested in Michele “changing brothers”. She goes to bed and waits for Anders which is a wonderful way of kicking Colin out quickly. Once Colin is out of the picture they fall into bed incredibly quickly.

With more and more bad news being reported everywhere, Olaf checks in with Axl and asks if he’s handling it – Axl say he is (much to Zeb’s surprise) – and goes to Mike’s.  Guess who doesn’t believe it? That would be Mike – I mean massive disasters all over the world don’t mean Jorumgandr’s stirring (despite, y’know, the god who SEES EVERYTHING IN ALL THE 9 REALMS saying he is). After a whole lot of arguing back and forth they decide to go see Hanna.

There they find the house empty – with Mike being all kind of stubborn. Until they find Mike’s hammer. His blood and hair stained hammer that Martin smacked Michele with. Mike uses his Ullr powers and realises the hair is Michele’s (tracking her I guess?)

He tracks her and finds her at Ander’s curled in a ball, talking about the things she was going to do in the “time she had left” but just ended up curling up and feeling pathetic. She doesn’t quite remember what happened or seems not to – she says they were talking and had tea then everything went black. Mike points out she’s awfully alive for someone who is dead – it turns out bringing back the dead is one of Frigg’s powers. The downside is that she is being powered by Frigg; when Frigg returns to Asgard, Sjofn will go with her and Michele will die.

Brief interlude to Ty and Dawn having sex and recording it, apparently. Ok then.

And a god meeting at the bar where Ingrid and Stacey rush to comfort Michele (Mike, setting the weeping goddesses on her is just cruel) but, despite her objection to hugging, she does take comfort from Ingrid. Mike makes the connection that Martin must have been the one to take the hammer and hit Michele but this is all so he can stick his head in the sand, ignore Jormugandr, the Gar et al. The goddesses leave but not before Michele drops the bombshell that she slept with Anders (yes, she gets her revenge in even facing death – this is why I like Michele). While everyone expects Anders to feel guilty he does make the point that Mike had moved on to Frigg here. Meanwhile Michele realises her best chance for a life is Frigg dying old and unmarried

Axl does find Hanna – at Martin’s room which he has now decorated with a big picture of Jormungandr. Hanna joins him and doesn’t seem entirely amused by the description of Martin as a murdering freak (it was defence of Hanna after all). Martin shows up and doesn’t pay much attention to anyone but plays a DVD of some bluesy horn playing. Yes, Heimdall just blew his horn, the herald of Ragnarok, using a CD player. Hanna confirms that this is Regnarok coming sign and Axl pushes for her to choose and she kicks him out.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Gods Among Us - Episode One

In the wake of the potential cancellation of The Almighty Johnsons, I really needed something to soothe the pain. I found the following documentary by Zeb on Youtube and thought that they might be good to share.

Fading Amber (Cambion Chronicles #3) by Jaime Reed

Sam wakes up at home to find her Cambion, Lillith, freaking out and a massive gap in her memories and a note from Lillith asking her to not poke at the gap and just accept the missing time.

Lillith really should know Sam better than that.

Still Sam has a lot on her mind – there’s her continued complicated relationship with Caleb, the investigation by the Santiago family of Cambions that could see Caleb dead (and their investigator entering a relationship with her mother), her best friend is still on the outs with her and Angie, another Cambion family head, is coming to visit from Poland.

And there’s Tobias – the incubus has just disappeared since her memory lapse and they have to wonder when he’s coming back and what actually happened to him

This concludes, neatly, the Cambion story – it’s always good to see a series ending that actually addresses all points and closes all doors, especially one that does it as well as this.

There were a few elements that I generally find irritating with teenaged protagonists – like Sam and Caleb running off on their own to solve their Tobias problem despite everything at stake and Sam’s mother deciding if she puts her foot down she can make everything go away. But on the former case we actually have a very good reason for their secrecy – since the Cambion families are quite happy to accept some collateral damage that is personally unacceptable to Sam. And, in the latter case, Sam’s mother can be talked round and made to see sense (kind of) beyond her initial panicked reaction.

The story itself was decently well paced. The whole memory lapse lead me to be a little confused at the beginning – but it all flowed well from there. There was a constant quest to figure out what had actually happened in that gap in Sam’s memories – as well as trying to fend off attack from the Santiago family, as well as exploring her relationship with Caleb and what she actually wants to do with that and further meeting Angie and getting on with life. We have a lot happening there but it’s all balanced – I like the way that no one event completely consumes Sam’s life, that she can’t put everything on hold and focus on one element. In fact, better than that, Sam refuses to put everything on hold and focus on one element. She has other things to do, other worries, other concerns.

I love Sam and Caleb’s relationship because Sam is so sensible about it. She doesn’t let emotions or hormones overwhelm her common sense. She finds Caleb extremely attractive (more so with their Cambions fighting to get closer) but doesn’t let that overrule all logic. There’s a wonderful line where she’s trying to lecture Caleb on him feeding too much and putting them all at risk and he has a tangent about how he hurts everyone and woe is him to which she responds:

Revolution, Season Two, Episode One: Born in the U.S.A.

Bombs are in the air and Aaron is desperately trying to stop them.  The scene then shifts to the Plain Nation six months later.  Charlie is having a drink in a bar and Jeff the bartender is talking about what it was like during the power serge. Charlie takes Jeff in the backroom and the two start to make out. 

In Willoughby Texas, a very rundown and bloodied Miles stares as a wooden cabin starts to burn. He the heads into a bar in a factory, where he walk right past Aaron.  Rachel is in a makeshift hospital giving medical care. Her patient is a man who was thirty miles from Atlanta when the bomb dropped. Rachel asks Gibson what it's like back east and he tells her that Atlanta and Philadelphia are gone.  He tells her to be glad that she is where she is.

In Savannah refugee camp, Neville walks around with a picture of Julia asking if people have seen her.  Jason joins him and the two continue the search together.

Back in Texas, Miles gets his injured hand taken care of.  Jean tells Miles that he should have seen Rachel when she was a kid, with a finely tuned compass for the wrong guy.  He adds that when when Rachel met Ben, he was relieved until at the wedding, he noticed the way that Rachel glanced at Miles. Miles assures Jean that there is nothing going on between him and Rachel.  Jean makes a point of reminding Miles that Rachel was married to his brother and adds that he owes him for bringing Rachel home, reiterating that the last thing Rachel needs is the wrong guy.

The morning after, Charlie is getting dressed, and when Jeff asks her if she has any family to go back to, Charlie says that she doesn't have any family.  Jeff takes note of Charlie's tattoo and says that they are brothers in arms because he was briefly conscripted.  Jeff then says that he saw Monroe a few weeks ago and that he looked like cold hell warmed over.  Charlie asks which way Monroe went.

Rachel keeps having flashbacks to the night that they turned on the power. Jean asks if meeting with the Georgian soldier upset her and asks her to put away her work.  Rachel wonders what Randall was doing and Jean tells her to stop, because though the last few months haven't been easy, she needs to avoid looking for a relapse.  Rachel wonders if Randall was following orders and Jean asks from who.

At the White House a big military project is underway.

Miles is packed and getting ready to leave and Rachel thanks him for looking after her but wants to know why he has to leave.  Miles flashes back to the burning cabin and says that the town just isn't his speed.  Miles and Rachel embrace and she asks him to stay just a little longer.  Miles answers that bad things happen when they are together

In  a flashback to six months ago, we see Charlie meeting Jean.  Jean wants to know what they are doing there and Miles admits that he had nowhere else to go.  Rachel sits in a jeep in an almost catatonic state. She tells Jean that the bombs are all her fault and that she broke everything.

Miles is sitting on a horse when he sees men attacking and runs into a cornfield in pursuit. A fight quickly ensues.

Charlie approaches New Vegas at night and a barker announces Dave Swimmer, "the last surviving friend." I have to admit that I chuckled at this.  Charlie walks into a tent where Monroe is bare knuckle boxing. She stays hidden while he wins the fight.

Aaron is a alone and stares at a pendulum.  Aaron is obsessing over the fact that a student in his class was just diagnoses with polio.  The woman says that things will get better and reminds him that if the power can turn on once, it can turn on again.  Aaron says that this is not going to happen but refuses to go into more detail. Aaron heads outside where he sees a large gathering of  neon green fireflies and is almost mystified. In town next day with Rachel, Aaron says that what he saw was not just fireflies.  Aaron asks Rachel if she can explain the insane things that have happened and Rachel responds that Randall dropped the bombs

Miles is talking to Mason the local sheriff about the bandits that he stopped.  He says that they probably wandered down from the plains nation and will eventually come in for the kill and everyone will be slaughtered. Miles starts asking about security and Jean tells Mason that he needs to listen to Miles.

Jason walks into a tent to find Neville with a gun in his hand in despair.  Neville says that Julia would never have left Atlanta because she would have waited for him to return.  Jason asks him for the gun and questions if Neville is going to "check out now like a little bitch."  Jason tells Neville he won't let him but Neville believes it will be like Christmas morning for Jason if he dies.  The struggle between father and son is interrupted by a ship coming into harbor.  Jason says that the men aren't rebels.

Another flashback, and this time to four months ago in Texas with Charlie and Miles.  Miles is trying to get Charlie to stay but Charlie says that she cannot be with Rachel because too much has happened. Charlie is shocked that Miles is not trying to stop her.  Miles instructs her to try and keep her stupid to a minimum.  That's a tall order because Charlie just loves her spunky.The two embrace, and Charlie walks off with Rachel looking at her through a window.  Back in present day, Charlie is watching Monroe from a distance.  Monroe is now going by the name Jimmy King and has apparently been in New Vegas a couple of months.

Why The Recent Upsurge of Zombies?

In the fantasy genre, supernatural creatures fall in and out of fashion. In recent years, we have seen the revival of the zombie with movies like World War Z, television shows like The Walking Dead and books like White Trash Zombie.  What is it about the zombie that has re-captured the public imagination? They are after all rotting, disease ridden and dead.  Surprisingly this is exactly why people are now fascinated with zombies. They represent our near universal fear of death - in particular what happens to our remains. Unlike vampires who become undead and retain their intellect and beauty and gain superhuman powers, zombies reveal in the starkest manner possible that the sweet phrases we parrot to bring comfort only hide the ugliness and dehumanisation of death.

With zombies come a dystopian world. In almost each instance in which zombies appear currently, the society in which they inhabit has broken down. In fact, we have seen a large resurgence of dystopian world recently. This likely has to do with the ongoing depression and the general sense of social malaise which has become the norm. With no sense of anomie or real hope for change, people have become almost anesthetised.  Each day is struggle to pay the mortgage, or hold onto a job that pays below subsistence wages. In a sense, the economic downturn is the equivalent to many of the dystopians we read about or watch on screen. The zombie then becomes the person who shuffles along, powerless to create change - a cog stumbling with no vision and no hope.

For some, these fictional dystopian worlds are meant to show us that life, no matter how bad it is today, can always be worse. We may be struggling to attain the basics like food, shelter and clothing, but at least we are not being chased by zombies desperate to eat our brains.It represents the constant refrain of it could be worse, which is said to lower classes as a way to pacify them. Yes, things could always be worse but if we have reached the point where we are reaching for zombies to soothe, perhaps things are bad enough. At very least, a zombie dystopian world is so different from our world as to be a far greater level of escapism than we often find in Urban Fantasy

One element of zombie stories that differs from other modern monster stories is that there is very little attempt to “redeem” them into sympathetic or romantic characters. We’ve seen this with virtually every other creature - especially vampires (who have almost lost their status as monsters and are often more tragic - or sparkly -  than horrifying). Vampires, werewolves (or were-anything for that matter), faeries, gods and an entire Greek legend of weird and wonderful creatures; they’ve all started featuring more as romantic heroes, soulful protagonists and bare chested, turgid love interests as often as monsters.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Walking in the Midst of Fire (Remy Chandler #6) by Thomas E. Sniegoski

Remy Chandler has a new case – an Angelic General has been murdered. Apart from anything else, killing a powerful angel isn’t exactly an easy task. But more worrisome, if he doesn’t find out who did it, Heaven’s not going to look they’re just going to point fingers at the newly released Lucifer.

Which will mean war. And it doesn’t matter who wins a war between Heaven or Hell, Earth will be reduced to cinders in the process.

But in searching for the real murderer, Remy is involved in the convoluted plotting of an ancient figure from his past and has to make some very hard moral decisions. Especially since the angels and the fallen are not all that different from each other

I love how this book is written. In every scene we have some excellent description – but not too much. We havbe action that flows perfectly with blood-fizzing excitement without glossing over what’s actually happening. We have an amazing sense of epic – and this series needs the epic. The protagonist is a seraphim who is frequently fighting to save the world from the indifferent forces of Heaven and Hell – it needs epic. It needs lots and lots of epic. And it delivers – it’s one of those books that can very much be on-the-edge-of-your-seat reading.

Beyond the epic, this book also has some really impactful emotional scenes. It has some utterly tragic scenes, some really painful scenes and a whole lot of enraging scenes as well. I think it’s a mark of excellent writing and character development if you can well and truly loathe one of the characters (that is, if the character is written to be loathesome, anyway. I’ve read a few books where I’ve loathed the protagonist and I’m pretty sure that was unintended) because it means you’re so emotionally invested in the characters and the story that you can feel rage for the wrongs perpetuated.

This has that in spades – Remy is such a real character, such a human character (ironic, because he’s an angel) that he’s easy to connect to. His compassion, his honour, his emotion and his goodness are really powerful forces throughout the book which, along with the heavy amount of epicness in the story, makes me really want to get behind him. At the same time he’s very practical, he knows what compromises to make and what people to tolerate – even while, at the same time, having firm lines he will not cross under any circumstances. It’s an excellent balance of practicality with hard moral limits.

He also has some excellent interactions with other characters to really flesh them out and humanise them even if they don’t have much time on the page. His still apparent grief over his ex-wife, his fun relationship with Linda with both his doubts and the excellent bond and banter between them. His friendship with Mulvehill, his contact with Francis – it’s all very real

And they’re developed in their own right – seeing Mulvehill come to terms with the supernatural world is a powerful storyline of self-growth, discovery and determination. Seeing Francis, Mentagin, Squire and Heath together made for some awesome comic relief while still developing these relatively unpleasant characters – while still have the strength of Francis’s journey and underlying development – the fallen angel who isn’t sure what is right or what he should do.

There’s some wonderful development of the already incredible world building but – again – it’s so well written that we get all this new information without infodumping or it being awkward or convoluted – it works. If anything I will say it’s a little sparse in explaining the whole concept of the guardian of light magic and the guardian of dark magic – we needed more explanation as to what they actually were and how they came about. I did like that the white magic guardian was the actual aggressor. We also got some excellent development of the demons – both their origin and their actual legitimate grievance even if it doesn’t make them any less evil. It makes them evil for a reason – an understandable reason – rather than just “rawr, demons.”

The Walking Dead Volume 18: What Comes After

This volume we saw a lot more of Negan and how he runs the Saviours. We saw how he is almost a cult-like figure, demanding obeisence from his followers. In many ways we saw how he was different from Governor - or perhaps how he is the next step the Governor would have to take. The Governor was brutal and dominating - but he didn’t need a cult of personality and elaborate speeches about how he was a saviour, nor did he need a harem. But then, the Governor didn’t need to control and intimidate nearly as many people as Negan did.

In some ways a lot of this volume was padding in the same way the Governor’s rape of Michonne was an unnecessary insert. We had numerous scenes that existed to just prove to us that Negan was a bad guy - something that had already been made abundantly clear. We didn’t need him to threaten the women of Alexandria with rape, when we’d already seen him with his harem - or with him torturing men (and, by extension, his harem) with a red hot iron. Negan was a bad guy. Negan is a bad guy who likes the sound of his own voice. It is clear, we don’t need to belabor the point.

One thing that did stand out though was the vulnerability of women. While we think female victimhood is an overplayed trope in just about every media out there, at the same time it is worth noting that in a dystopian - or any situation where order breaks down - women are likely to be among the most vulnerable and that needs to be shown as well in a way that isn’t gratuitous.

As ever when we have a big bad, it’s natural to draw comparisons with other leaders - particularly Rick. What struck me was that, even though Rick is maintaining a sense of being submissive to Negan (insofar as he can manage to do so), but if anything he becomes more dictatorial. He openly threatens to kick people out of Alexandria to compel obedience. Perhaps that can be seen as understandable given the threat they faced, but Rick also made this entire plan on his own. He included Jesus because he had to. He included Andrea because she was going to walk out on him. Again, there is some excuse for him keeping most of the community in the dark - but Andrea and Michonne? Surely they deserved to be included in the plan.

Perhaps the most interesting character is Carl. Carl’s childhood has been left behind almost completely, Rick barely treats his son as a child and when he does it seems almost to be naive and silly on Rick’s part, rather than the natural way you would treat a 12 year old. Andrea doesn’t seem to include him in her chewing out Rick for failing to protect the children and Michonne even takes him beyond the wall to fight Walkers on what looks like an ordinary patrol. The group has started treating Carl like an adult.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Kabu-Kabu by Nnedi Okorafor

This book is a collection of short stories so I cannot really write a synopsis other than to say most of them are led by women, who are African or of African descent , all of them are powerful and all are set in beautiful, amazing rich worlds – or our own world with some excellent fantastic twists.

And it’s huge. In fact, it felt far huger reading it than I seemed when I first saw how big it was. There are the best part of 20 stories there – they’re not all extremely long but by the end I was beginning to feel a little fatigued. It wasn’t that they were boring or bad or dull stories – it’s just that after story 16 my brain did kind of ask me “what, it’s STILL story time?!”

This is not a criticism – this is advice. Read this book, but don’t try to tackle it all in one sitting.

Part of the reason for that is this is a book that absolutely denies any kind of skimming or lazy reading. This book is meaty. This book is complex. Many of these stories tackle big, weighty issues in stark terms. There are many different issues concerning racism, Black Americans in Nigeria and conflict with Nigerians, colonialism, exploitation of Nigeria by western powers and industry, of arrogant foreigners assuming they can step into Africa however they wish. Issues  of shaming people for their natural hair, genocide, dehumanisation, degrading beliefs as “superstition”, scapegoating population, scapegoating religion, stereotyping – both religious and racial and a whole lot of challenges of assumptions. We have societies where fat women are considered the epitome of beauty or where a veiled Muslim woman is a mechanic working in her mother’s shop.

This book is stark. I don’t mean grim-dark with lots of excess awfulness everywhere in an attempt to be gritty – but stark. It’s unflinching. It both challenges that idea that Africa in general and Nigeria in particular is some grim, desperate place (even in the dystopian stories presented – which in themselves are unique simply for being African dystopians) while at the same time not flinching away from actual problems and creating some kind of unicorn inhabited utopia.  It’s stark – it looks at the whole, the bad things depicted are not presented as uniquely African or Nigerian, they’re not sugar coated and they’re not exaggerated – but they are examined and exposed and they demand you think.

All the worlds are African-centric (primarily Nigerian), from the Nigerian-American lawyer catching the Kabu in Chicago and running into all kinds of shenanigans on the way, through to the stories set in post-apocalyptic Sudan. The stories contain a lot of African beliefs, mythology, folklore and stories bringing a lot of stories we just never see in so much of Urban Fantasy –or any genre for that matter – making them extremely unique. But it’s not just the monsters and magic that are different, there is a true sense of time and place throughout the stories with the surroundings and the food (especially the food which always takes a strong place in each story).

Sleepy Hollow, Season One, Episode Two: Blood Moon

Ichabod is running through a forest and is being chased by the headless horseman.  When he turns to look behind him, the horseman has been joined by two others - together I assume this is the four horsemen of the apocalypse. Ichabod gets tangled in some roots and vines and is then sucked into a cave where he sees his wife Katrina, who tells him that is safe there for now.  Katrina tells Ichabod that a dark spirit is rising and that he must stop her before she kills again.  Ichabod then awakes to find himself in a cheap motel room.  When he tries to leave, a cop stops him, saying that he is a material witness in an ongoing case.

Abbie is at the police station and learns that the cops who were there during her last interaction with the horsemen have recanted their story.  Abbie then brings up Andy, believing that his unexplained death is evidence enough that they are dealing with supernatural forces but she is again stymied when Frank shows her a video of Andy forcefully throwing himself at a mirror and breaking his neck. Abbie asserts that this is not what happened and says that there was something in the cell with Andy. Frank says that Ichabod is mentally unstable.  As they talk, back at the cheap motel, Ichabod tries to shower and ready himself for the day. It is a comedy of horrors but he does seem to figure out how to make coffee pretty easily.  Frank tells Abbie that he cannot explain what is going on but is aware that she and Ichabod are his only cues.

As soon as Abbie shows up at motel, Ichabod says that he will not be held prisoner there.  Abbie tells him that that is under protective custody but Ichabod is not pacified.  Ichabod then tells Abbie about his dream and when Abbie questions him, she immediately channels Scully. Abbie justifies her skepticism by claiming that she is trying to hold onto her sanity.

At the morgue, a body inside of a body bag breaks free.  It's Andy and his neck is so broken, that at first he cannot see.  The demon appears again and starts to give Andy orders.  Andy falls to his knees and coughs up a medallion.  The demon issues more order and Andy questions who he is supposed to release.

Abbie and Ichabod are in a car and he  freaks out when he finds the bill from the donuts Abbie bought. Abbie instructs Ichabod not to change the subject and demands to know why he didn't know that his wife was a witch.  Ichabod explains that the witch trials were mostly over when he met Katrina and that he believes Katrina was protecting the world and the fate of the American revolution with her silence. Ichabod concedes that it sounds strange and then goes on a rant about the high rate of taxation on the doughnuts. Really Sleepy Hollow?  There's cheese and then ridiculous cheese. Abbie tells him that he is going to need a cover, which means no more conversations about founding fathers, witches, or heavy taxation on donuts.

Andy is now all dressed and behind the seat of a patrol car.  Abbie attends the funeral of her former partner, cries and has a series of flashbacks, as Ichabod looks on from a distance.  Ichabod then walks over to Katrina's gravestone  and asks what she was trying to tell him.  Ichabod remembers that Katrina refered to the dark spirit as one of them.

Cue spooky music and Andy is now in a graveyard.  He holds the demon medallion over a tomb stone and a body emerges from it.  Andy tells the creature that he was sent to help her find the people that she is looking for.  Andy then delivers the following message, "The ashes of the pious will ordain your resurrection. Take their flesh and you will reclaim yours."

Andy then pulls over someone briefly and asks for their name.  Andy tells Jeremy that what happens won't be personal, before getting in the car and driving away.  Jeremy tries to start his car and of course it doesn't.  The dead witch hops onto Jeremy's car and bursts into flames.

Abbie and Ichabod are back at the station and he is trying to talk to her about the connection of witches and the lunar calendar.  Abbie asks for a break because she was supposed to be at Quantico but Ichabod does not give her a moment's peace and replies that he too thought they lived in a world built on logic and reason, until that meeting with George Washington.  Abbie responds that she knows what she saw with her own eyes but usual police procedure is not going to cut it in this case.  Ichabod brings up the demon that Abbie saw in the forest and asks her to help him understand.  Abbie says that after she and her sister saw the demon things got bad for them.  Abbie's sister went to an institution and she broke into a pharmacy and got caught by the sheriff. The sheriff gave her the option of changing her life or going to jail and Abbie chose to change.  The conversation is interrupted by a call over the police radio.

Abbie and Ichabod head to the scene where Jeremy died.  Ichabod looks at the body, which has a gaping hole in his chest.  Ichabod then quickly surmises that he knows who killed him.  Ichabod tells Abbie of a blood moon in the past and the burned out camp they came across.  Ichabod then sensed a presence behind them and when he turned it was a woman.  The strange murders became more frequent and that Washington thought that the red coats had formed an alliance with the dark coven. Abbie and Ichaod decide to head back to the office to look at Corbin's files.  Of course when they get back, they find the office empty and the files gone. Abbie goes off to find some answers and Ichabod and Luke have a very uncomfortable conversation.  I guess being technically hundreds of years doesn't make one too old to engage in a pissing contest. Abbie explains that Ichabod is a consultant on the case she is working on when she returns.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Cursed (Fallen Siren Series #1) by S.J. Harper

Emma is a siren, banished from Olympus by Demeter for failing to keep Persephone safe, she now must seek redemption by saving kidnapped women and girls as an FBI agent if she is to ever have any hope of returning to Olympus. And in the meantime she must avoid any romantic entanglements or risk Demeter’s spite

Which makes her new partner, Zach, who she previously had a fling with, very complicated indeed. Especially since he’s a werewolf with a difficult past and fleeing political turmoil in his pack.

But emotions aside the job calls, people are going missing, people without any apparent connection between them – it’s their job to find them, preferably alive.

The story and world are definitely appealing – Emma is a cursed Siren and we have a wonderful new take on Siren mythology (especially since siren mythology is one of those that has several different versions). Emma’s quest for redemption, without any real confidence of ever being redeemed, is a powerful one – but not one that eats up the story with angst. She seeks redemption so she gets on with her job – she’s not happy with Demeter but she isn’t going to curl up into a sobbing ball for pages of how miserable she is, but at the same time her sadness, frustration and despair is apparent.

The book is a police procedural and I know that has been done a lot in Urban Fantasy – but it works. It works because it is actually a police procedural with the law and detective work and channels and procedures to follow. “Detective” isn’t a job just used as a title to justify why the woo-woo character happens to be involved in the latest case, it actually means something. Which in turn leads to the story being compelling as Emma and Zach hunt down leads, follow up possibles actually have to interview people and work and chase dead ends and generally do police work.

It’s got a wide world that has only been hinted at but already leaves me eager for more – the different werewolf packs and politics from that, the vampire kings and their own politics. With lovely extra twists like the vampires not wanting to reveal themselves to humans because they distrust the humanity of humanity! Because human exploitation, arrogance and cruelty is such that they think it wiser to hide from them – I love that twist.

When it comes to romance there’s usually a lot of tropes going on that give me headaches – but this managed to navigate them well, much to my happy surprise.

Firstly, there’s no love at first sight or love at first woo-woo – there’s attraction that grows into more and there’s also history between them. Just the fact they have been together before, that they know each other, that they’ve worked together gives a foundation on which that attraction and emotion can actually be built upon rather than just racing to the “rawr, sexy times!”

Utopia, Season 1, Episode 6

The radio announces more outbreaks of the Russian flu and more people beginning to panic and flood GP’s surgeries while the gang gathers up their things ready to leave – and Jessica Hyde dramatically joins them. She has the manuscript which she gives to Wilson. It has everything in it – the experiments, the murder victims – all of it.

Of course, the gang aren’t especially pleased with her given her actions last time they saw her. To which she responds, in classic Jessica style, that she needed to set a trap. They were bait. “I’m sorry, let’s move on.” An apology with all the sincerity of a celebrity who just dropped slurs on twitter. Becky wants to chew her out some more but Jessica is far too goal orientated for that – specifically she wants to know where Grant is and where the pages she gave to him are, especially since those pages contain the real name of Mr. Rabbit.

While Wilson analyses the cryptic pages, Jessica loses her shit and starts tearing the place apart looking for the pages until Becky delivers an epic slap down of “killing Mr. Rabbit won’t make your father any less of a cock.” The verbal battle escalates a little until Alice hands over the pages – Grant isn’t that good at hiding things. Now she wants them to find Grant.

Which is looow on Jessica’s priority list. She and Becky continue to snap at each other, she wants Wilson to hack GCHQ and find someone of the name “Leton” who may or may not be Mr. Rabbit but he’s all distracted because he’s not entirely on their side any more.

Grant is, of course, in the Network’s hands, being questioned by the Assistant. He has Grant’s pictures he drew of the comics including the cryptic page of Janus with all the random numbers which he thinks is an essential protein code – unfortunately Grant didn’t finish it, they need 3 more 5 digit numbers and they need Grant to remember them. Seemingly impossible, but the Assistant is quite willing to lay on the pressure –including footage of Grant’s mother to show they’re watching her.

They leave him the laptop of his mother’s every activity while he struggles to remember. He manages to dredge up one number but his pleas that he can’t remember any more are ignored. Left alone again he takes apart the lap top.

And Michael and Jen have taken Anya in – and taken over her medical care (and Michael is still in the guilty dog house, naturally) and not entirely happy to see his boss, Geoff, being hailed in the news as the country’s saviour with his department’s brilliant forward planning over Russian Flu. Especially since the vaccine has been hurried through and is going out the next morning.

At work there’s a little snag to that – before the vaccine can be released it needs to be independently tested and analysed by, well, Michael (Geoff can’t do it because politics may motivate him, it has to be a civil servant). Geoff has the team –Michael’s job is to sign it off without questioning. Awww, Michael can’t wash his hands of the whole thing.

Becky does meet up with the nasty Dr. Donaldson to make it clear she is never going to help him again – she appeals for the medicine she needs as one last plea to whatever shred of humanity he has in him. Of course, he throws them in the lake, no humanity detected here. Back at the mansion, with Ian, she worries about whether Deals has started – or if she’s just imagining it and stressed. Ian promises to stay with her but she recites the awful symptoms of Deals and doesn’t think she wants someone to watch her endure it all. Instead she talks to Alice about the cryptic code page.

Meanwhile Wilson easily hacks GCHQ (he’s contemptuous of the security) but has to cover his tracks – so that means trawling through lots of databases he’s not interested in so he’ll be taken as a UFO conspiracy theorist. He also tries – unsuccessfully – to get Jessica to leave him alone so he can contact the Network, she’s a hard woman to get rid of. He almost gets a message off to the Network – just as he gets a result and has to delete the email.

The result has a reference to “Letan”, his name is redacted and changed on all official documents – but they missed the footnote (see, I love this – because it’s so real. How is a conspiracy discovered? Simply by finding the mistakes that people will make – and there will always be mistakes. It has a realness to it that adds so much context).

Knowing Mr. Rabbit was on this committee (on weaponised genetic research) they print out the committee’s pictures. 18 people, 14 men, 7 of which are dead or incapacitated. Unfortunately, none of them recognise any of the 7 men – so Jessica decides to kill them all.

Michael goes to see Anya – and is attacked by Ian who points a gun at him. Michael tries to protest his innocence – and offers to help them find the vaccine.  Michael quickly calms down the panicking Anya and gives Ian the address of the warehouse full of vaccine; Ian, intelligently, demands he bring it up on googlemaps to confirm there is actually a warehouse at the location. He offers to get them inside, to help – and then Anya grabs the gun and smacks them both down. Then she calls the Network; in a perfect English accent.

Oh I did not see that coming! Cue sputtering guppy-fish reaction from Michael. When she turns away, he pulls the rug out from under her – literally – and then rushes her and hits her in the head and she smacks her head on the glass table. She looks pretty dead. Ian leads the shellshocked Michael out before the Network team arrives.

Ian and Michael return to the mansion just as Jessica and Becky are having another fight – Becky accusing Jessica of being too emotionally attached. Everyone panics a little about Michael. He tells them about the warehouse and he recognises one of the pictures they have up – Conran’s assistant, the man really running Corvadt.

It looks like they just found Mr. Rabbit.

Grant, in his cell, fills in another number and buzzes for the Assistant. He hides a piece of sharp metal he removed and bent from the lap top. But he doesn’t  use it.

Back at the mansion, Jessica is determined to go and hunt down Letan in broad daylight – which everyone tells her is foolish and, no matter what she says, at this late stage won’t stop the warehouse of Janus vaccines going out. There’s another stand off, Ian refusing to hand over the gun and Jessica threatening more violence when Alice – she has impeccable timing that child – calls them over to where she’s been examining the Manuscript.

Spreading out the pages, she has found a pattern – lines and dots that go from one page to the next – together forming a molecular diagram. The structure of Janus. The real Janus, not just the vaccine test. Everyone leaves while poor Michael tries to praise Alice for being so clever, aww bless (Alice is, indeed, very clever – clever enough to know when she’s being patronised). Michael justifies why he handed over Grant to Alice and Alice talks about her mother and finally breaks down. They sit and talk and Michael holds her

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Volatile Amazon (Alliance of the Amazons #4) by Sandy James

Sarita, the Water Amazon, is often considered the weakest of the four and certainly the least likely to be sent out on a mission alone. So she’s surprised when Ganga insists she goes on a mission that would normally be Becca’s field of expertise.

That’s not the first surprise – from falling into the hands of Ian who has been plaguing her dreams for weeks, but has his own plans to her – to then actually falling in love in the most unlikely circumstances, things change very quickly for her.

But they need to change – including her powers – as Helen advances her plots and becomes ever closer to destroying the Amazons – and the world with them.

Putting the romance to one side, there’s a lot to say about story and character development in this book.

This feels like the last book in the series and would be appropriate as such since each Amazon has had a book of her own. The book was perfectly written to close their ongoing story arc, deal with the big bad and end in a grand epic conflict. All the Amazons have their HEA, and the future is decided. It’s closed neatly and nicely with no unresolved threads. At the same time we have a careful nudging of that door ajar should future stories in the same world happen – along with cameo or even full appearances of the Amazons and their families. There’s a couple of storylines that could be pursued but don’t need to be –it’s a nice way to wrap up a series while still leaving the option of picking it up again.

The story also had a wonderful sense of epic. The consequences of failure were grand, emotional and extremely clear, the menace was well maintained and the fight scenes were action packed, excellently written and great fun

I also liked a lot of the character development. The goddesses have frequently been presented as vain, fickle, egotistical, petty, selfish and generally unpleasant and incapable of getting anything done. All of this is true. But this book also underscores that they do care – in their self-absorbed way – they care about humanity or they wouldn’t have created the Amazons at all. We have this displayed wonderfully and it adds some great depth to the four goddesses – and even Frejyr.

Sarita also grew well, going from a woman plagued by her insecurities about her scar and being the weakest Amazon to growing in her power and confidence, determined to be treated as an equal and be firmly respected by everyone, resisting any attempts to infantilise her. It was good to see – but unfortunately the whole “Volatile” element meant Sarita had a lot of temper tantrums storming out of the room. Even when they were justified, they were childish and not the way I would have expected her to resolve her issues, especially since we’ve seen no sign of it to date. But often her sisters had a point and their input should have been respected. It was annoying.

I do like that Sarita’s power growth was pushed by goodness. Sheer, pure hearted, goodness. I know that sounds twee, but it’s nice to see a character who is empowered through tweeness rather than being super dangerous or the child of a god or other source of immense power – Sarita is powerful because she is just such a good person. Good enough to use dark magic without being corrupted. Good enough to become the very opposite of a dark practitioner.

Those are the good. The bad is that I just didn’t get the story. Parts of it were unbelievable, parts of it didn’t make sense and parts of it were too damn vague.

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

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

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, is the last movie which includes all of the original Star Trek cast.  In someways, it's bittersweet because clearly the actors at that point were ready for retirement but at the same time, without them, there would have been no Star Trek.

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country begins with the crew being called in three months before their retirement, after the Klingon moon Praxis has exploded.  This is a disaster for the Klingons and will mean their absolute destruction, unless they forge a peace agreement with the Federation.  Spock arranges for the Enterprise to escort  Klingon Chancellor Gorkon to earth for peace talks.  Kirk feels that Spock has overstepped and makes it clear that he does not trust Klingons.  Kirk brings up David and calls Klingons animals outright.

On the voyage to rendez-vous with the Klingon bird-of-prey, we meet Valeris, Spock's protégé and replacement for Sulu. Spock says that this will be his last voyage on the Enterprise as a member of its crew and that he intends for her to take over for him.

Upon meeting up with Chancellor Gorkon's ship, the Klingon's beam over to share dinner with the crew of the Enterprise and it does not go well.  The humans are appalled at the Klingons lack of human table manners.  Chang speaks of his admiration of Kirk as a fellow warrior but it is clear that there is more to this than just his supposed respect for Kirk.

As soon as the Klingons return to their ship, the Enterprise picks up a strong energy surge.  The crew watches in horror, as the bird-of-prey is fired upon several times.  On the bird-of-prey, two humans in Enterprise space uniforms board and proceed to wound and kill several Klingons, including Chancellor Gorkon. When Kirk finally gets in touch with the Klingon ship, he says that he is surrendering, rather than escalate the situation and then beams aboard the bird-of-prey.  Kirk and Bones are promptly taken prisoner after Gorkon's death and put on trial. They are sentenced to life without parole.

In typical Kirk fashion, he gets into several fights and just manages to escape with the help of Spock.  They discover that the saboteur is actually Valeris and make it to the new peace conference in time to stop the death of more Klingon officials and the president of the Federation. Kirk gives one final speech and heads back to the Enterprise, where he decides to go on a space jaunt, rather than showing up to be decommissioned.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Haven Season 4, Episode 2: Survivors

The sign tells us it’s Haven Founder’s Day coming up! And the crumbling man made of charcoal tells us that the Troubles are still going strong and there’s likely not going to be a lot of celebrating. And Nathan is still trying to find Audrey though Dwight points out that, with the crumbling human charcoal and all, he might want to put that on the back burner for a little bit.

The woman has been completely incinerated, her flesh charcoal, only her teeth and bits of metal unscathed. And the fire was oddly contained – everything around her is untouched. Dwight actually thought everyone could celebrate Founder’s Day without troubled shenanigans – this shows that Dwight is most certainly overly-optimistic.

In the morgue she’s identified by her teeth – Sally Marigold, who recently lost her brother Bill the firefighter during the meteor storm when a building burned down on him. It left his body looking awfully like Sally’s and Nathan and Dwight jump to the same Trouble in the family (or he was a firefighter caught in a burning building. Far be it from me to play Occam’s Razor on Haven – but their bodies look alike because they both burned. Do you expect them to look different?)

At the Gull, Duke and Jennifer talk to Duke’s brother Wade, who seems way more staid and organised than Duke. At least Duke didn’t have to come up with a good excuse, since the sensible brother knows better than to ask questions about Duke’s business dealings. Just in case, Jennifer isn’t stopping her meds even though Duke tells her it was all real and she isn’t schizophrenic – she’s not risking it. While Duke was gone, it also seems Vince and Dave Teague tried to buy the Gull (they are fabulously rich and own nearly everything – more mystery from those 2).

Duke runs to confront Vince who tells him they did it to try and get rid of his brother – the Guard doesn’t really want another Crocker around with Duke’s Trouble (if he kills a Troubled person, he removes the Trouble from their family – unfortunately this led to some Crockers running around stabbing people for funsies which is Frowned Upon). Duke wants to make sure the Guard doesn’t target Wade, and Vince (his tattoo magically appearing) agrees that if Wade leaves Haven only Duke will be running around with a target on his back (yes, he does enjoy upsetting Duke).

Jennifer checks in on the other Teague to hear how they cover up the Troubles, why the Troubles are a bad thing rather than nifty abilities, shows her a picture of Audrey and makes her a little more uncomfortable with his faith that Jennifer will find Audrey. No pressure there Jen.