Saturday, May 10, 2014

Vampire Diaries, Season 5, Episode 21: Promised Land

Elena and Stefan have been kidnapped by Travellers because they were too busy love triangle arguing than actually handling shit and now Damon is dealing with this the way he deals with everything – torturing people. Caroline also drops in so they can exposition everything.

Stefan and Elena are both being drained by the Travellers but some helpful person frees Stefan and despite both of them being hardly able to walk, they manage to escape. Travellers, I’m not impressed. They top up their blood with “squirrel slaughter” (Elena’s not a fan) and call Damon, not for rescue but so he can hunt down and kill Markos since he has a huge bucket of doppleganger blood and can do all kinds of mischief with it. Stefan and Elena begin the long walk home, frustrated by the fact they’re so low on blood their vampire mojo is failing (to prove this, Stefan tries and fails to blur for Elena’s amusement – also lots of angst. Lots and lots of angst).

And Damon gets stabbed. That’s Enzo’s way of getting Damon’s attention and reminding us, through Bonnie, that Damon promised to find a way to bring him back. And he’s driving Bonnie up the wall until he gets his way – and wasting perfectly good booze (well, insofar as American booze can be perfectly good). Hey, Enzo, this is Mystic Falls, people drink booze instead of water – you can’t be wasting it. Damon’s plan is for Enzo to latch on to whatever spell Liv is planning to cast to save Bonnie from the Other Side collapse – Bonnie disagrees but no-one listens to her.

Live and Luke have a meet and greet where the coven they belong to is really pissed (this is the coven that thinks stopping the Travellers getting the dopplegangers is major important but has only sent 2 young witches to deal with it) and is blaming Luke for Elena and Stefan’s blithering foolishness – and sending unpleasant migraines to make their point. Last option is to kill Elena and Stefan.

See, I’d have made it the first option.

Random cameo from Pam, who is possessed by the Traveller, Karl who gets a vial of doppleganger blood from the postman (you can get ANYTHING off amazon or ebay) then stabs Pam’s husband in the neck for completely failing to realise his wife has been colonised by a total stranger. Also he’s Black and lacks any useful woo-woo so he was never going to live long on this show.

Stefan and Elena are still annoying and are now saying how wonderful Caroline is, they get a ride. Not because of Elena’s breasts (which she deploys to aid hitchhiking) but because it’s Maria, the Traveller wife of Traveller Julian and she’s the one who freed them. Because she thinks I haven’t suffered enough, it seems.

She wants Julian – in Tyler’s body (she says Tyler is gone). She wants to leave with him to spend his last moments with her. Yes, last moments, because the spell will strip Tyler of his vampireness and then kill him.

Damon has the stooges (Tyler and Jeremy) drag in the “husks” of all the Travellers from the cave (my idea – admittedly mind involved axe murder). Caroline and Damon snark back and forth for a while, ending with Caroline telling Damon to not torture Julian/Tyler because “she doesn’t abandon the people she cares about”. A direct hit that woman! Though it has to be said until very very recently she was quite happy for Damon and Elena to break up. Caroline checks with Julian who confirms that Markos wants to remove all witch magic – including daylight rings and vampirism.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Magic City: Recent Spells Anthology

Street Wizard by Simon R Green; Paranormal Romance by Christopher Barzak; Grand Central Park by Delia Sharman; Spellcaster  2.0 by Jonathon Maberry; Wallamellon by Nisi Shawl; -30- by Caitlin R Kiernan; Seeing Eye by Patricia Briggs; Stone Man by Nancy Kress; In the Stacks by Scott Lynch; A Voice Like a Hole by Catherynne M Valente; The Arcane Art of Misdirection by Carrie Vaughn; The Thief of Precious Things by A. C. Wise; The Land of Heart’s Desire by Holly Black; Snake Charmer by Amanda Downum; The Slaughtered Lamb by Elizabeth Bear; The Woman Who Walked with Dogs by Mary Rosenblum; Words by Angela Slatter; Dog Boys by Charles de Lint; Alchemy by Lucy Sussex, Curses by Jim Butcher, De La Tierra by Emma Bull, Stray Magic by Diana Peterfreund; Kabu Kabu by Nnedi Okorafor; Pearlywhite by Marc Laidlaw & John Shirley

The first thing I’d advise on reading this book is not to read it like I did – in one sitting. You get a big bumper 24 stories in this book – and 24 stories in one stretch where none of them are connected directly made for a long read. And I don’t think they were well connected – “magic” and “city” are particularly specific enough themes, especially in the Urban Fantasy genre, to make an anthology out of. Especially if you’re going to throw “fae” in there as well

I think the first story, Street Wizard by Simon R Green is definitely the story I want to turn into a full book or series. Just the idea of low level magical functionaries patrolling London and trying to keep all kinds of magical chaos under control, all with a heavy taste of grittiness, fascinates me. It’s really well written and an intriguing concept. I would really love to see an entire series based around this concept.

I also really liked Wallamellon by Nisi Shawl bringing in elements of a Yoruba or Yoruba derived religion (I don’t know which one, exactly, but they worship Yamaya) as well as a very strong look at race and race relations. It has some excellently compelling characters, a really powerful feel and atmosphere of the story as well as the strength and maturity of protagonist. It was definitely an excellent story

Both The Thief of Precious Things by A. C. Wise and A Voice Like a Hole by A.C Wise were powerful stories. Both were the most beautifully written, The Thief of Precious Things created a stark, impactful setting with almost abstract, alien characters in a truly different dystopia. While A Voice Like a Hole was pretty savage in its language, painting a picture of bleakness and despair really vividly and with an incredible description of broken, beautiful singing I’ve come across.

Alchemy by Lucy Sussex was the most intriguing story, taking place in Ancient Bablyon. There was a real sense of research, I felt the author either really knew their stuff or had spent a long time hitting the books (this assessment, of course, comes from someone whose knowledge of Ancient Babylon would not cover a reasonably large beer bottle). There was an excellent sense of time and place, a really fascinating main character – and an ending and process that went completely against what I would have expected. I particularly liked the different definition of “black magic”.
Curses by Jim Butcher, Seeing Eye by Patricia Briggs and The Arcane Art of Misdirection by Carrie Vaughn were all part of larger series (Curses also appeared in Side Jobs. Nnedi Okorafor’s Kabu Kabu also appeared in, unsurprisingly, Kabu Kabu). In one of those twists, I thought Curses, a fun story about Harry Dresden and the cursed Cubs, far more amusing and entertaining – but that Seeing Eye, a story of a witch and a werewolf facing a coven of dark practitioners was more useful.                 Didn’t add anything particularly to Harry’s story, same as The Arcane Art of Misdirection didn’t add an awful lot to the Kitty Norville world, while Seeing Eye added some very solid world building to Patricia Brigg’s world.

The 100, Season 1, Episode 8: Day Trip

The Grounder is still a prisoner and still not popular

Clarke talks to the Ark council and Jaha and Kane give her directions to somewhere where the 100 can shelter over winter. New councilwoman and clear baddy Diana thinks they should just wait until the grown ups arrive – but they’ll probably freeze in the process. Jaha also has a word alone with Clarke – there’s a queue of parents who want to talk to their kids and Clarke’s mother Abigail wants to join that; but Clarke still isn’t over the whole murdering her dad thing.

But Commander Shumway (who is definitely evil – since he put Bellamy up to kill Jaha) jumps the queue to talk to one of the 100 called Dax, a murderer. He has a mission for him and in exchange he’ll make sure Dax’s mother gets to the surface. He wants Dax to kill Bellamy.

Octavia and Bellamy are still spilling sibling drama everywhere. Clarke, Raven and Finn have love triangle drama. Clarke heads out to check the supply depot with Bellamy because it’s so wise to take the two leaders out at once – the convoluted excuse for this is that Clarke is feeling arsey and would rather take it out on Bellamy than someone she likes. Dax follows them, conspicuously sheaving a knife.

With all the distractions, Octavia sneaks up to see Abbalicious, the Grounder, gives him water and rubs all over those abs (she’s cleaning him, honest). He tells her his name is Lincoln which mean I can’t call him Abbalicious any more, but it also calls into question why he pretended he couldn’t speak English for so long when it was really really unhelpful for everyone, himself included. He thinks he’s going to die – she wants him to tell the others he’s not the enemy – but he says he is. Oops.

Octavia tries to torment Raven with the idea that Finn’s into Clarke but Raven refuses to play that game. But she does go in and have some “MAH TERRITORY!” make out with Finn. He tries to stop her because he thinks he should tell her about Clarke first – but she says she knows and they will never speak of it again. Now back to the territory claiming!

Clarke and Bellamy hike while Clarke tries to convince Bellamy Jaha is totally going to forgive being shot (this is not 10 minutes after her “I will never forgive you!” speech to Jaha about her mother). They check out the bunker which is filthy, damp, leaky and has very little in the way of supplies (and isn’t likely to be a good place to shelter during the winter). But it does have guns.

And because we apparently don’t have enough material for this episode – Monty and Jasper accidentally discover narcotics. Octavia happily gives narcotic food to Miller, the guy guarding Lincoln. And at the bunker, Bellamy’s also snacking on the narcotic nuts while playing with firearms. Clarke also realises that Bellamy took so many supplies because he intends to run and leave Clarke in charge because when Jaha gets to the ground he thinks he will be very very very dead.


Revolution, Season 2, Episode 20: Tomorrowland

Truman reports to the president who is very very very unhappy with him. The assassination attempt in Texas going so badly wrong all because of Miles and Monroe (I love how we’re actually pretending these 2 are an effective resistance). Truman shows some spine and blames the president – he kept sending in people to take over his job while tying Truman’s hands. Which is pretty true. The president (after making a comment about him having “a pair like Hillary’s”) gives him one chance. And it seems he still wants to provoke a war between Texas and California.

Charlie finally finds the much battered Miles.

Truman returns to Willoughby and is told that an informant has found Miles and Monroe’s camp – and he takes the opportunity to send someone to fire Neville.

At said camp, Aaron is getting frustrated that Nano-Priscilla isn’t actual Priscilla and Miles has decided he’s all better and doesn’t have to stay in his hospital bed; both Rachel and Monroe do their own form of fawning over him. An ominous flock of birds appears and Nano-Priscilla tells Aaron to run since he’s slower than everyone else; he does warning everyone else and Monroe throws in a random insult over his weight – before they see a creeping yellow gas.

Those caught by it choke and die – it’s mustard gas. Thankfully they’re in a chemical plant with lots of climbable things; but as they climb men in gas masks emerge from the gas and shoot people

I personally would not trust a gas mask that has been literally decades without proper maintenance.

Miles finds a sealed truck for all the important people to hide in, though Aaron wants to find Priscilla and save her despite her actually being god at the moment. They hide while outside the men massacre everyone. Except Nano-Priscilla who walks calmly through the gas. Some of the masked men fire bullets into the container – but inside they plug the holes.

The survivors gather up and Monroe wants to hit back – steal mustard gas and release it wherever he can do the most damage. And he shouts down any argument, he’s tired of moral quandary and argument – even if they have to destroy Willoughby, their inaction is killing them. Miles agrees – while Rachel stares at him. He waits for her to complain but she says that she’s tired of competing with what’s between him and Monroe and they’re done.

As they walk off Miles asks what Monroe’s plans are for the Monroe Republic and Mornoe is vague but Miles realises he plans to take Georgia as well, the whole Eastern Seaboard. He promises it will be different and he wants Miles to join him.

Truman returns to where he’s staying with Marion before leaving. She checks the drawer he used and finds a false bottom – in which is a gas mask and some paperwork which horrifies her. She goes to see her dad’s gave that night and Gene and Charlie kidnap her.

In Fiction, No-one is Forced by Circumstance

'The write thing Project 365(2) Day 12' photo (c) 2010, Keith Williamson - license:

When a book or TV show is fiction, it’s made up. Everything within it is created.

I can see your bemused expressions now - why have I started stating the obvious? Well, by a lot of the excuses people make for various issues we criticise in books, it feels like some people aren’t grasping it.

In particular, this happens when we describe a character as being problematic in some way - maybe they’re a stereotype or trope, maybe they have bigoted attitudes, maybe their relationships are a hot mess of problems, maybe everything’s just a wall-to-wall hot mess. But we describe the problematic issue and someone counters “but X forces them to be/do/think that!”

But this forgets that “X”, whatever X is, only exists because the author put it there. The author isn’t a historian presenting their research, or an anthropologist loyally relating their observations. The author is the storyteller, the author is the one who built this world, every aspect for it, and if they have created an element that “justifies” some prejudiced, bigoted or problematic element then that has been their choice to do so. We cannot pretend or act like this is out of their hands.

There are so many examples of this - let’s take werewolves. Female werewolves are often super-duper rare - making the few female werewolves highly desirable and hunted by the male werewolves (like Elena in Kelley Armstrong’s Women of the Otherworld) or making female werewolves so rare they have a very male dominated cast (Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson Series) or there just cannot be female werewolves for REASONS - which are probably related to werewolves being so traditionally masculine and aggressive and hairy (Eileen Wilk’s World of the Lupi series, Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series).

The scarcity of female werewolves is used over and over as a justification for women living in a sea of men, or for women being super-precious and hunted or needing lots of aggressive “protection”. It’s not a trope! It’s just the rarity of women! It’s just how werewolves ARE!

Except for the fact that werewolves are not actually real. If this is just how the werewolves are, then it is because the author chose to make them that way - you can’t excuse a problematic story element by creating a problematic world element.

We see this repeatedly when supernatural Alpha Male “heroes” are aggressive, violent, angry, “protective” and controlling, the excuse is usually that this is part of their nature. Werewolves are possessive and violent. The vampires latch on to their mates (in the Black Dagger Brotherhood) or can’t control themselves (Twilight). There are any number of abusive tropes that are justified because the man gets a supernatural pass - the abusive nature is part of their werewolf/vampire/weremanatee nature.

These creatures are not real, these creatures do not have to be this way. Their natures are conscious choices on the part of the writer and, as such, cannot be a “get out” of tropes they embody.

While supernatural creatures are a classic example, we can also see a lot of similar excuses arising from the cultures created in the books.

Again, Patricia Briggs’s Mercy Thompson series has the werewolf pack that is deeply misogynist and homophobic. Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments Series has a homophobic society. George R R Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire has a society that is such a hot mess of misogyny that I don’t think they have any industry other than prostitution. It’s the first society ever whose economy is entirely reliant on war on sex-work. Again, all of these cultural bigotries are choices of the author - these are fictional societies, subcultures and often entirely new worlds with new religions (and dragons); there is nothing forcing the bigotries of our world onto their societies beyond authorial choice.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Chosen by Fate (Para-Ops #2) by Virna DePaul

(spoilers ahead)

After returning from Korea with the para-ops team, Wraith isolates herself from everyone else.  Though she has always been moody and standoffish this increases.  Wraith knows that her undead life is running short. Finally, she decides to be proactive and demands to know who she was but with three felines being raped, Wraith's needs are put on the back burner.  Though Wraith agrees to work on the rapes, she cannot ignore the changes to her body.  Suddenly, she is becoming more human and it's no longer painful to be touched. Still the pain of who she was haunts her and though she manages to hide it all from the team, she cannot hide it from Caleb.

For a paranormal romance, DePaul crams Chosen by Fate with a lot of world building, mystery and spirituality.  The Goddess Essenia is still very much considering the annihilation of every single living creature and as Mahone works to stop it, the weight of the responsibility is beginning to wear on him. There is a secret organization that is attempting to end the peace between the humans and the Otherborn. Even the Para-Ops team who is trying desperately to bring about a balance is struggling with their own issues.  For all of the things happening in the book, it never feels confused.

Chosen by Fate's largest problem is that DePaul piles fail upon fail into the story and absolutely none of it is necessary.  It's so bad that I almost don't know where to begin.

Caleb is the main love interest in this story and he is half Indian and Half Irish.  This makes the relationship between Caleb and Wraith subversive because inter-racial relationships aren't often portrayed in this genre. What ever gains DePaul made in this regard were lost when she made Caleb a drunk. He even snarks when Mahone finds him in a bar, "Didn't you do your intel? I'm half-Indian and half-Irish.  You had to know the chances of finding me shit-faced was esp ... est ... extremely high."  Of course he's an alcoholic, everyone knows that if you're Irish or Native you cannot control your drinking.  Yes, I'm rolling my eyes.

Then we have the problems with GLBT portrayal. The problem begins with the felines who are bisexual, which is explained by their high sex drive.  Felines are also promiscuous because if they don't have sex, they experience pain.  Yes, promiscuous bisexual beings which is justified by story reasons. Further problematic is that one apparently needs "training in the art of feminine love." Feel free to dish out the side eye.

The Originals, Season 1, Episode 21: The Battle of New Orleans

Jackson and Oliver have collected a load of rocks that seem to be for Klaus’s moonlight rings and Jackson finally snaps at Oliver for constantly harping away about Hayley – when they run into a police road block. One created by Marcel and Diego.

Josh is hanging around with Davina, being a good GBF and being all reassuring of Davina’s doubts over making Marcel a cloaking spell and seeing Klaus’s ghostly daddy everywhere.

Genevieve marvels over Klaus’s mother’s spell (given that Klaus’s mother created vampires I think “gifted witch” is an understatement). The whole spell will stop wolves turning on a full moon, still leave them strong and fast and keep them with venomous fangs. Klaus… this sounds like a very very very bad idea. Even Genevieve is concerned when Klaus up his order from 1 ring to 100 rings – she objects and adds she isn’t his servant because they sleep together (oh Genevieve, you should know Klaus better), but Klaus offers her the entire grimoire in exchange for the rings. That’s…. also a really really bad idea. She realises Klaus is building a werewolf army (you think?) but Klaus brings up the fact Genevieve’s coven expects her to sacrifice herself – and he promises to protect her.

Klaus, did you brain switch with Elena?

At Camille’s bar, Francesca arrives complete with goon to clear everyone out and demand Camille hand over the special key. She has a day in which to do it. Camille goes to a property her uncle had and behind a not-very-hidden panel in the cupboard finds a whole hidden room full of files and weirdness.

Marcel asks his captured werewolves what they’re plotting with Klaus and, since they’re carrying lots of spell ingredients around with them “we’re not” is not a very convincing answer.

Klaus, Elijah and Hayley have noticed the absence of the wolves and guessed that Marcel is behind it – the vampire who they just keep forgetting to kill. And since Marcel has a spell from Davina (Klaus knows from Genevieve) he just needs leverage to use against her – yes Josh, you’re a tool and victim again, such fun (wondered why he appeared again, he does generally only show up from his plot box when useful). Klaus bites him – with his nasty vampire-killing hybrid bite. Davina tells Klaus where Marcel is.

Genevieve and Hayley worry – the main point of this is for Genevieve to tell Hayley how super special she is with her super special womb of specialness.

Elijah and Klaus find Jackson tied to a bomb (which Klaus is thoroughly indifferent about, being more focused on the stones). The explosives also seem to be the same as the ones used on the attack against the werewolves in the bayou which Marcel claimed to be innocent of. Klaus randomly open boxes triggers the many many bombs.

Being Originals, this comes under the heading of “mild inconvenience” rather than life threatening attack. They even manage to rescue Jackson. So Klaus resorts to his backup plan – call Francesca and have her deliver a bag of the stones (she and her family being organised crime means she can find odd items at short notice). Which now means Francesca knows their plans – Elijah, being the only person with a  working brain today, questions why Francesca is so happy to get on board with the whole werewolf army plan. She also wants to bring her people in Klaus’s compound to protect them in case Marcel attacks. Klaus agrees

From Dusk Till Dawn, Season 1, Episode 8: La Conquista

Flashback to begin – waaaay back this time, to the Conquistadors arriving in Mexico.

In the present, Santanico is with Richie’s wounded, maybe dead body. And by “with” I mean writhing gratuitously over it while still wearing not much of anything” because Reasons. She lets Carlos know that Ranger Freddie is still alive and she’s isn’t happy about it. The problem is that, whatever they need Richie for, it has to be his choice and desire.

When Richie wakes up he backs away from Santanico, horrified. He blames her for the women he killed and mutilated.

In the main club there’s a showdown, Seth has a knife to Freddie’s throat, Jacob’s upset about Scott being missing and has a shotgun to Seth’s head to stop him killing Freddie, Freddie has visible bite marks and they’ve already seen people turn and Freddie claims to know a way out. Lots of tension. Jacob calls on a vote for who wants to leave Freddie behind – and Katie votes for death, as does the professor. Jacob is shocked, they’re sensible – someone is bitten, they turn, they attack you.

They tie Freddie to a stripper pole before opening his “way out” the trap door to the grinder. They work their way down to a side passage, working carefully pas the grinder (Professor Sex Machine drops their weapons in it. Not useful – but, hey, if they were still drinking blood from the fountain they could get a splinter).

Freddie frees himself from the pole and grabs the Eye Knife to free his arms. But before he can join them through the trap door, Carlos arrives. They fight, Carlos with sword, Freddie with Axe (Carlos claims to have made Freddie stronger – I think to explain why Freddie isn’t dead in seconds). The fight looks well done but the cameraman has a bad case of random jerking. Freddie manages to disarm Carlos – but the axe to the face just causes wounds that heal instantly. Carlos rams Freddie onto the bar, salts Freddie’s wounds, drinks some tequila then bites him. Freddie apparently has a special blood line. Proved by him throwing a stick and impaling Carlos before stabbing both his hands to the chair – Carlos laughs.

Santanico continues to try and seduce Richie and convince him she’s a nice vampire and he stabs her. She doesn’t give up and we get a flashback when she was a mortal among the Inca. She ran rather than let people be sacrificed in her name; since she refused to spill blood, she was cursed (as we saw in the pilot) to have an insatiable need for blood. The hunger drew her to the temple where she would be enslaved (presumably to the Lords of the Night). He’s still not overly sold on her plea to free her.

Meanwhile, Professor Sex Machine expositions the fact the vampires have visions (Seth objects – he’s with them on Temple of Doom but draws the line at Crystal Skull. Seth, all right thinking people draw the line at Crystal Skull). Also underworld may be mentioned. Meanwhile Katie takes comfort in the belief that if she dies she will go to Heaven with her mother. To which Jacob basically prepares to spill some big terrible secret about the dead mother and, presumably, why she isn’t in heaven. This causes something to growl. I’m with you unseen monster, bad mouthing the girl’s mother when she’s desperately using the memory to be brave is totally not cool Jacob. Never mind losing his faith, this man is a monumentally shitty pastor. Can you imagine going to see him for comfort? “I take comfort knowing my mother’s in heaven!” “What? Your mother? Hah. Well you can take comfort that she ain’t cold at least!”

Anyway, I digress, they run from the angry vampires, Katie and Jacob falling behind because Jacob has a bad leg. But Seth can’t leave them behind and helps them behind the door they found just before the vampires get them. Professor Sex Machine was willing to leave them behind and Katie gives him a very appropriate kick.

Their little sanctuary is full of all the various cargo the vampires have stolen over the years. And they find a very agitated man with a shotgun who has been hiding down there for a rather long time – though he’s not sure how long. However he’s, perhaps, a little affected by his experiences and demands they spin the “wheel of misfortune”, a little cardboard game of life or death he’s set up. Which Seth wins, earning a shopping spree! And the revelation that the man has been to the very centre of the temple and seen bad bad things.

Scott isn’t dead, he’s in some uber scary catacombs full of scary noises and glowing green eyes. So, not in a good place either – he comes out in Santanico’s lair, watching her trying to convince Richie to trust her

Freddie wants Carlos to tell him why Santanico needs Richie and Carlos responds with a flashback – he was one of the Conquistadors. Hearing of the killing and abuse of the Incans – and the forcible conversion of them; Carlos isn’t so interested in the latter, wanting gold more than anything. So his commander decides the best way to do both is find their gods – which are probably gold statues. The Incans took him to a temple, a step pyramid with the Eye Serpent symbol with lots of gold – and a chained Santanico. She starts to bite him – and he cuts off her chains

Becoming her servant (and creation) which he has been ever since; keeping the deathlords happy and both of them alive. He lured his fellow conquistadors to the temple and killed them.

See, kill your villains, don’t wait for them to exposition!

Santanico tells roughly the same thing to Richie only says Carlos doesn’t love her – he worships her. He’s also greedy, always has been – and makes a profit from working for the lords which means she doesn’t think he can pass the “trials” needed to free her.

Carlos continues his exposition with the news that Richie has only killed one person at their behest, the bank teller (we’re ignoring the police he shot, apparently) the other serial killer victims were not his. He also dismisses the people who regularly die in the Titty Twister because he doesn’t consider them “innocents”. He adds more talk about who Freddie is, a white hat, the price he’ll pay and how he’ll never see his family again – before a vampire sneaks up behind Freddie and knocks him aside.

The vampire is Scott, bitten by Carlos. Carlos is freed but Freddie escapes down the trap door. Carlos again assumes Freddie is dead. And Scott, who was spying on Santanico, tells Carlos she chose Richie over him.

Supernatural, Season 9, Episode 21: King of the Damned

We are starting out of their usual stomping grounds – Leith, Scotland, 1723. Crowley’s old home – when he was human. Abaddon drops in on a man planning to run away to the colonies (he may be Crowley, we can’t tell because the Crowley we see now is, of course, just the body he’s possessing – which also means Abaddon is time travelling since that’s not her true form either) and casts some kind of spell.

Intro established, it’s to the present, 3 people enjoying a drink at a bar and a fourth being That Guy who absolutely no-one wants there, insists on talking about work and bragging and not taking the hint that no-one wants him there. Let’s hope something eats him. Until he mentions being close to the Metatron. They’re all angels and he’s giving them the spiel about why Metatron is worth following. Loose lips sink ships – or in this case get you kidnapped by Castiel’s team.

Sam and Dean arrive to find Cas has a fully working base, staff, the whole set up. Anyway, Castiel wants peace between angels, no more violence… for which he’s preparing for a war. Also he has an angel to question and he’s called the Winchesters to do it. Castiel isn’t doing this no-violence thing very well.

Of course Dean is up for some torture and he’s been trained by one of the best. Throw in the Mark of Cain and the main worry is him killing Ezra accidentally. Sam has a different plan, telling Dean just how low level and pathetic Ezra is so there’s no need to torture him, Metatron probably doesn’t even know Ezra exists – Ezra, a guy who felt the need to brag how important he is, of course opens his big mouth without Dean having to get creative. They learn Metatron has a portal to heaven that is undetected because it moves. Metatron is putting together an elite squad to do something – but Ezra really doesn’t know what

Sam and Dean leave the angel but when one of Castiel’s minions check on him, he’s been killed. Dean suspects there may be a mole in Castiel’s organisation. Castiel also takes the chance to ask Sam about Gadreel possession – with an apparent slant towards “are we sure Gadreel is evil”. Sam thinks, regardless of what he felt from Gadreel, he killed Kevin. So the answer points strongly to “yes, evil!”

Still, Castiel meets with Gadreel and tries to reason with him. Though during their argument they’re ambushed and have to kill a few angels. Gadreel insists he didn’t plan it and he believes in honour (killing Kevin was honourable) but Castiel makes the point that this just proves Metatron is not the good guy. He wants Gadreel to be his mole.

Crowley’s holding his own board meeting with black-suited demons – who are not on his side it turns out. Crowley has well and truly dropped the ball and his minions have betrayed him to Abaddon (he does threaten them with a whole lot of torture though). Abaddon is rather worried about the Mark of Cain and the First Blade since it can actually kill her – but she does point out if they do actually kill her, they’re not going to stop and the Winchesters will kill Crowley next. She wants them to work together to take down the Winchesters.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Night Terrors (Shadow Watch #1) by Tim Waggoner

When Audra was a little girl she spent many a night terrified of a clown.  As phobias go, coulrophobia isn't rare, let alone odd.  What is odd is that one day, the clown who had been haunting Audra's dream for years, suddenly comes to life.  You see in Audra's version of Chicago, some people have the ability to create living beings out of their nightmares.  Audra as it turned out is not a troubled child but an Ideator.  As an adult, Audra works with an agency tasked with policing earth and Nod - the land of the nightmares with Jinx, her nightmare come to life.

Audra and Jinx work well as a team but when Jinx gets kidnapped and a high profile incubus (read: living nightmare) manages to escape custody, Audra knows that despite being pulled off the case, the balance between Nod and Earth is out of balance.  Can Audra find Jinx in time to stop a full incursion of the earth?

I was immediately put off by Night Terrors because it began with a big battle before we were given any idea about the world, or the characters involved.  It's hard to root for the protagonist when you don't know anything about the players involved.  It's always good to hit the ground running; however, since this is the first book in the Shadow Watch series, it felt completely disorienting. From the beginning of the novel the nightmares brought to life were referred to as incubi.  Waggoner put a spin on the incubi mythos but he took quite a bit of time before he explained this leaving me feeling for quite some time that his story didn't make any sense.

Once the world of Night Terrors was explained, I did find it interesting.  The very idea that one's dreams could come to life is actually quite fascinating.  Equally so is the idea that the incubi would have one personality during the day and another at night when they became the living embodiment of the nightmare.  I found Jinx to be a fascinating personality and he was certainly an interesting twist on the terrifying clown.

As fascinating as the concept of Night Terrors is, I found that I couldn't invest in the story let alone get lost in it.  For me, at least part of the problem were the fight scenes.  They seemed to drag on and on. Neither Audra or Jinx seemed to really investigate anything and sort of just lucked into clues and made assumptions that lead to a conclusion.  There is also the issue of the Perry Mason like confession at the end of the novel. The story telling very much let down the concept.

In Audra, we once again have an isolated ass kicking protagonist.  She is filed with spunky agency and never takes time to formulate a plan of action.  Audra charges forward, even when it is detrimental to herself because that is what hard asses do.  She is far more of a walking trope than she is a character.  There are other female characters in this novel and so Night Terrors does pass the Bechdel test; however, while women do interact, I would be hard pressed to say that there are any real relationships.

In The Flesh, Season 2, Episode 1

A new report gives us some quick exposition – 18 months have passed since the zombies have been reintegrated into society (ish) but there’s now a problem of the Undead Liberation Army causing all kinds of tension. There’s also a drug called “Blue Oblivion” on the streets. There’s also a new political party, Victus, with signs and adverts around that is against PDS integration.

To remind us of this tension, we have a kid calling the PDS “rotters” and that they can’t feel, which our old friend Ken (who lost his wife) objects strongly to, reminding him that the medication the PDS takes makes them safe.

Ken on the kid get on a train with 4 PDS who are probably ULA planning a strike. When the train moves, one stands and begins ranting his party piece in dramatic tones. The 4 PDS take the Blue Oblivion – and become full blown flesh eating zombies. There’s a massacre…

They killed Ken!

Steve and Sue Walker (Kieran’s parents) watch the news of the attack worriedly, as Victus and PDS groups both blame the other. Kieran’s worried that his old friend Amy may be involved in extremism, he shows his sister, Jem, a letter from her talking about going on a “secret mission”. Jem and Kieran seem closer though and she’s faced with the mundane worries of school exams rather than her past zombie hunting – but she also thinks Kieran should go to the continent where people are more tolerant of PDS.

He goes to the doctor (with awesome nurse Shirley, who is truly excellent) because his eyes are aching – which is a sign of more nerve tissue growing back. But it also means he’s wearing his contacts far too much – since he never takes them out. They gently tell him he isn’t supposed to do that and Shirley, who is awesome, asks him to run through an affirmation (little speeches to help build confidence). Which he does – quickly and stiltedly, the doctor’s happy but Awesome Shirley looks concerned. She’s also very much in favour of Kieran staying in the UK and very protective of any suggestion he “should” leave – but the doctor think it’s probably wiser to get out of Britain. Awesome Shirley gives him his meds and leads him out – but as she does another nurse tells her about Ken. Ken’s dead (noooooo, I liked Ken!)

He can’t even get out the door without another incident – a man, Gary, dragging in a rabid PDS, in full zombie. He has him in chains and drags him to a cage where another is already. Everyone around seems so used to this that it’s not even worth noticing. Gary gets an £80 - bounty for bringing in an intact rabid PDS; but Kieran points out the PDS has a bullet wound (Gary denies carrying a gun – there’s been a weapons amnesty) – he loses £40 for a damaged rabid PDS

Vicar Oddie, the hater of all things PDS, is still ranting away to his flock, supported by Phil the general council dogsbody (and Shirley’s son) – but that flock is much much smaller. After the service he’s visited by Maxine Martin, their new MP. She wants to talk to the assembled people but notes that this church is apparently not the place to do it.

The Tomorrow People, Season 1, Episode 22: Son of Man

Stephen is attacking Ultra to free his father and stop humanity dying, but not alone because Jedikiah has gone as well, according to John. Irene says the human body eventually rejects Tomorrow People powers (and yes, Jedikiah did steal Irene’s powers. He stole her genes. No it doesn’t make sense of course it doesn’t make sense this is The Tomorrow People) so Jedikiah clearly took hers not to fulfil his dreams but out of noble sacrifice or some crap.

It also seems that Jedikiah can kill with his powers – as he, at least, severely injures one guard – before having to pick up a gun when he runs out of juice. Of course now he’s human he can’t go near ther machine without dying so we have a dramatic angst moment when Roger urges Jedikiah to shoot him to stop the machine. Drama drama angst, sorry the ridiculous storylines have left me caring so little about these characters.

Stephen arrives, rather late, and runs through the trail of carnage Jedikiah left in his wake and, of course, arrives just in time to see Jedikiah shoot Roger and the machine power down. If you’d just been 3 minutes sooner Stephen.

While they’re all tragic and dramatic, the Founder arrives all evil like because the machine is still working – it’s already got its Roger stuff (don’t ask, it’s Tomorrow People). The Founder and his goons kind of just stand and watch while Roger gives his son an empowerment speech then they let him teleport away. The Founder also wants to be dramatic in killing Jedikiah and Roger too, so he gives them chance to teleport out as well. Perhaps he should quit on the dramatic pauses?

Roger teleports them to a flat somewhere where he dies in Jedikiah’s arms.

Stephen staggers back to the Tomorrow People HQ grieving, telling Cara how he can stop time but he was too late (oh dear gods, did this show just lamp shade its awful inability to keep the powers coherent over a character’s death?). Dramatic grieving Stephen grabs a gun and asks John to take him to the facility where John was experimented on until he learned how to kill – taking the info from John’s mind. Cara asks why he’s doing this and Stephen says “revenge”. Which should have been fairly obvious.

Cara runs through the machine with Tim and this super computer basically has the answer “humans should get far away.” Useful Tim, really useful. Cara wants John to run though he points out without a car, passport or the ability to teleport it’s not like he can. He’s having trouble adapting to humanity but they seem to drag their relationship up again with Cara promising to get to him as soon as she’s stopped the machine. Well at least she has decent priorities.

John goes to Jed’s flat for money and he and Jed have a “awww let’s pretend we have a father/son relationship and forget about all the torture and killing” moment.

Stephen goes to the lab where he finds the Founder is mass producing turn-paranormals-into-killers drug which is ominous but kind of lacking next to the whole apocalypse thing.

Russell with Ultra, is surprised to realise the Founder is evil and now wants him to kidnap Cara. Or he can’t be part of their new genocide future. They end up leading a Paranormal kill squad – Evil Natalie goes ahead to tell Cara she made a “mistake” by becoming evil, of course she’s evil and is just leading the kill squad right to Cara. They knock her down but Russell throws them all against the wall because murder is not part of the deal. Except Roger. And wiping out humanity. But murder bad!

Cara joins Stephen in his easily-found-bedroom Cara tells Stephen how special he is but he won’t save them all by giving up his humanity (um… since killing is something humans can do but paranormals can’t, wouldn’t he be claiming his humanity?). He doesn’t take the drug.

Now Cara has called Stephen special, John goes back to Second-Choice Astrid and all 4 of them meet up. They have 2 hours before the machine explodes and time stops for all humans – and never starts again. Then Russell joins them – Stephen understandably jumps him given the whole father murdering thing and Russell actually has the gall to claim he didn’t know. Russell gives them the plan Roger had – though it required a dozen not 3 (Astrid and John object to being missed out of the plan). The plan involves attacking with someone sneaking in the back (that would be attacking agents who can kill but they can’t because HUMANITY!)

Cara and Russell fight the agents and do really well because the agents keep using guns which are really kind of useless when telekinesis takes out whole scads of people and stops bullets. They’d actually be much better off putting the guns down and just using telekinesis. John shows how you really use a gun – sniping (Astrid tells him there’s someone to shoot – wow, you didn’t even try to make her useful).

Inside Cara and Russell split up for REASONS. Cara gets to confront the Founder while Russell confronts Natalie where he says he simply has to draw the line at genocide (y’know, eventually. Rather belatedly). Natalie is still all “yay genocide!”

Warehouse 13, Season 5, Episode 4: Savage Seduction

I love how these characters bounce off each other, Pete bothering Myka, Artie bouncing in with overdramatic panic (and sending Steve on a Ping with Claudia to distract her), hoogie envy… I’d actually like an episode where they do nothing all day but bounce off each other.

When Kelly arrives – remember Kelly? She had a brief fling with Pete before backing out because his Artefact heavy life was too chaotic. Well she’s in trouble and she’s heavily pregnant! Pete panics about the baby being his before Kelly reminds him that they actually broke up 2 years ago and human biology doesn’t work that way. Anyway, her grandmother’s television is possessed.

Oh, no Kelly, I know you think the TV is eating your brain, but it’s probably just the Tomorrow People, the plots will do that to your head.

Arriving at her grandma’s house, they learn granny is missing and it seems the TV is possessed, showing a Telenovela that has been cancelled – and still showing it even though it’s unplugged. Also, the TV’s glowing blue. Also, missing nana is now on the TV show. Kelly’s extra worried because the role her nana appears to be playing is likely to get murdered at the end of the episode. Purple goo doesn’t work – and they lose the cat into the television screen, where he appears on the show.

Which of course means convoluted things have to happen to drop Myka and Kelly into the TV as well, Myka becoming a maid and all becoming grossly exaggerated, melodramatic characters. Myka and Kelly hate each other and are in competition for Armando.

Artie arrives while Pete is completely lost in the plot (despite not speaking Spanish) and gives Artie a letter that Kelly’s nana received from the producers of the show. As a massive fan, they gave her a brooch used on the set – one that Nana on screen is wearing. Probably the Artefact – Artefacts are created with strong emotional connections and Kelly’s Nana refuses to leave the house after the death of her husband. Either way, to save everyone before the end of the episode they need to go in and goo the Artefact – with the help of Harvey Korman’s cufflinks to keep their real personalities.

Oh dear. Oh dear oh dear. Ok, Pete revels in the sudden ability to speak Spanish, before looking for Artie. Of course, Pete is the much desired Armando. And quickly finds Kelly – playing Carmen his pregnant wife – dramatically demanding his attention and threatening castration if he cheats on her.

Dona Fausta (Nana’s character) is attacked and her brooch is stolen. Pete wants to focus on the brooch but the whole theft/attack on Dona Fausta insists the whole thing is linked to a convoluted plot involving her long lost son. Pete follows that to Myka who is stuck in character as Maribel – she leads Pete to Artie but to learn what Artie knows he has to give up his cufflink to access his character’s knowledge. The three of them play pass the cufflink for a while. Before going to confront Alicia (Kelly), followed by a gun fight and more cufflink passing when Alicia and her mother run.

There’s a big confrontation in Dona Fausta’s room with more cufflink passing until Artie breaks the brooch – just before Armando (Pete) and Maribel (Myka) kiss.

In the real world Pete and Kelly make their goodbyes – with Kelly saying it could never have worked between them because Pete is so in love with Myka.

This Week in Book Covers 28th-2nd May

It’s another week of covers - and we see the continuing trend of big name authors not actually using much on their covers to sell their books - their names speak for them, cover art is unnecessary. For those who aren’t relying on their name in block capitals to sell their books we have the usual ploys - sexy ladies for no reason, abstract to the point of sheer confusion and a sparse… but evocative suggestions.

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

Like Anne Rice’s books, this is another classic that doesn’t need a cover to tells us what it is or what it’s about. If you’re going to read this book, you’ve heard of it and you know what it is, or at the very least are familiar already with the author’s work.  The cover is simple, evocative and lacking any need to actually sell itself. It is also worth noting that the society in this book is quite repressed and therefore to truly represent the story the cover must necessarily be understated. A loud aggressive in your face cover would not work for this book.

The Witching Hour (Mayfair Witches #1) by Anne Rice

Again, Anne Rice’s covers always scream “I’m Anne Rice, this could be covered in wall paper!” Which is true. The emphasis is on the title and the author’s name; everything else is just there to fill empty space. It’s like the editor wrote Anne Rice’s Name, the Book Title then rammed some stone angels on there because they had the rights and why not? Witches? Ah, it’s about an old house - statue angels will do.

I like to kind of hope that they’re actually Weeping Angels and they’re there to try and save you from reading this book. Whatever you do…. BLINK!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Midnight Crossroad (Midnight #1) by Charlaine Harris

Midnight is a quiet town like no other, in the middle of rural Texas, with few people passing through. It’s a quiet place, an insular place, a place where the few inhabitants have each other’s back – but keep their secrets to themselves.

Manfred is a new inhabitant to the town and quickly finds the secrets run deep and there is far more than he imagined. Some of these secrets become exposed when a body is found…

This book shows Charlaine Harris’s main strength from the very beginning. Charlaine Harris has a great talent for truly describing a place, really getting a sense of what the town of Midnight is like. But it’s not just the place, Charlaine is extremely good at describing a community and how they all relate to each other. Even really small or background characters are fit into the overall community and the characters that make up the location.

This especially works with this series because it is such a small community as well as the very nature of the community. It’s interesting to see how close and supportive everyone is of each other, while at the same time following Mightnight’s unwritten rules – complete acceptance and not asking any questions. It’s a town for the misfits and people who can’t find somewhere to fit in anywhere else and this is really well presented – not with everyone having to be freaky or weird or odd to stand out – but just this really subtle way everyone’s secrecy has been woven into the community to create a set of unwritten rules that no-one ever has to overtly say though they’re always clearly understood.

There is a problem with pacing. This is the first book in the series and there’s a lot of introduction and description including a lot that probably isn’t necessary. A lot of the earlier part of the book is taken up setting the scene with rather more excessive detail than is necessary that clogs things a little. Especially since it seems to be a while before anyone actually gets involved in any murder investigation (though I did like the moment when Manfred questioned why they’re investigating at all since none of them are police). This slows down the general mystery as well for some time – which is a minor element of dissatisfaction along with a completely unpredictable ending.

One thing the book has is a separatist, white supremist, racist, misogynist, homophobic group. The depiction is pretty good – they’re not soft peddled or excused, they’re a repulsive as you’d expect. But they’re repulsive without the need to turn them into outright cartoonish caricatures, some of them are very very human and even nice (so long as the person they’re being nice to is a nice White Woman) but the hatred is clear. A nasty bigot doesn’t have to be frothing, they can be surprisingly pleasant people – but they’re still repellent bigots.  It also brings in some nicely weird things happening like the whole Sovereignty Movement and the bizarre actual belief that people can set up personal and pseudo states basically by claiming they have. It was pretty well done managing to revile, mock and depict these people as the danger they are. But also make it clear they are not the only sources of bigotry and people shunned the POC or gay people without being part of the hate groups.

Continuum, Season 3, episode 7: Waning Minute

After the revelations last week that Curtis was the one who killed the spare Kiera, Curtis gets himself put in one of the clear cells. They talk about “debriefing” which sounds ominous, applied to Future Alec as well. Curtis mocks her for the title “protector” as well – she didn’t protect Alec, her family and barely even realised what was happening in the future. And now what does she do? She sees one of the other locked up prisoners, with a tattoo, and remembers him telling her that he’s freer than she’ll ever be (I can barely remember who this random encounter was – but the point is made). She cries and asks “what have I done.”

Honestly, Kiera? I think this whole series could be titled “Kiera: What Have I done?”

That calls for a flashback to the future (which sounds so wrong) when she and her colleague stalked tattoo guy who has been getting busy with a knife –stabbing someone and cutting their finer so he can use their DNA/finger print secured gun. A gun that shoots armour piercing rounds that cut through the Protector suits. When he’s out of ammo he lays a crafty ambush for her but her suit protects her and lets her electrocute him.

She ships him back on a future plane thing – which then has a systems failure and crashes. Kiera crawls out of the wreck, the pilot is dead and her CMR is messing up – so is her gun. And her prisoner is up, alive and well except for a chunk of “fascist gunship” in his leg which needs removing and treating. He makes an attempt to bribe her (while taking a swipe at the system) but she’s not playing, she’s too loyal to her corporate overlords and keeps chanting the corporate party lines.

The man keeps trying to talk her out of her party loyalty and that they need to head to civilisation themselves because the corporations will have just written off the plane. 2 men find them (men with crossbows) and take them away – once they’re assured by her prisoner that her CMR is broken.

They take them to a camp of “gleaners”, an old derelict factory turned over to growing plants; they’re self sufficient and try to live separate and apart from the corporate congress. Their doctor fits Kiera with a headband that prevents her CMR, even if it were working, from transmitting, receiving or recording.

Back at the city, Kiera’s husband is informed of Kiera’s supposed death with a corporate drone bringing a pack of paperwork for him to sign and absolve them of all responsibility. Yes they’re caring people

At the commune Kiera tries to convince everyone the system is fair while the farmer points out they were legally required to use genetically modified crops that produced no seed – so they had to buy seed every year; which in turn would only grow with proprietary fertiliser and pesticide. So she and her farm went off the grid “went grey”. Others have stories of how the system treated them and Kiera offers weak, empty sympathy that her prisoner mocks as the useless thing it is.

The doctor is actually Sonya – and in the back she is treating Kagame. And he is sharing banned literature and reminding her that the Gleaners are always on the edge of being hunted down. When he’s alone he bites and apple and puts his blood on it… that’s not hygienic.