Saturday, August 9, 2014

Defiance, Season 2, Episode 8: Slouching Towards Bethlehem

Now Nolan knows all about Irisa’s murder woo-woo she can now talk about her uber uber guilts over all the murder-resurrection. Nolan does not approve – he’s also very very sure that it’s not Irzu or some other deity – it’s all some weird sciency thing from the Votan ships and they just need science to fix it (sadly, he also decides they can’t trust Yewl. Which is kind of true, but she’s awesome). In between banter, Nolan tries to threat Irzu

This touching scene is interrupted by Mercado calling – the result of which call has Nolan and a whole bunch of people run into the Need/Want with guns (Amanda gives them a literal “what the hell”? look). They arrest Mahsuvus for being a Votanis agent. Amanda doesn’t see the big deal – Defiance isn’t political – but the Votanis collective have apparently planted a big bomb in New York (the capital of the Earth Republic) and Mahsuvus is supposed to know where the bomb is.

As soon as they leave Amanda gets a call – free Mahsuvus or Kenya dies. And it’s not a bluff – he does seem to have Kenya. She seems to be alive (and she screams at Amanda to not do anything her kidnapper wants, so it may even be the real Amanda)

Amanda goes to see Mercado (and he calls her “Madam Mayor” so looks like she has the job back)  and he confirms the bomb is a nuke. They also have pretty good proof that Mahsuvus is a Votanis agent. He also throws in how impossible it would be to actually evacuate in New York (in general, let alone in dystopian Defiance land). Amanda adds the TMI that Mahsuvus is a popular employee because of his huge pain tolerance so torture won’t work (um, if you’re clients require someone who can take so much pain as to be immune to torture then they’re definitely doing BDSM wrong).

Amanda offers to help them interrogate him by having him released into her custody…  Mercado says no and is a little suspicious of Amanda’s interest.

Berlin and Tommy are questioning Stahma about Mahsuvus because she did visit him – but she says for sex not spying and adds that she’s doing really really well under the stability that E-Rep has brought Defiance. Of course, anyone who talks to Stahma does not do well, and Stahma delicately drops Berlin being with Nolan into the conversation. Berlin concludes that Stahma is a gangster not a spy but Tommy huffs up and asks if Berlin and Nolan are dating – she laughs off the idea, of course not! They’re just having lots of sex.

Back to Nolan who is preparing torture bugs for Mahsuvus while acknowledging how totally not personal this is and how they’d be such good buddies in other circumstances (Yewl is also on sight to assist) and how the war is over and the fighting has to end (actually well done given the history of Defiance and Nolan’s place in it). Mahsuvus agrees they could be friends – but won’t tell them anything. The torture begins – Nolan and Amanda actually looking more upset by this than Mahsuvus

Amanda gets another call from Kenya’s kidnapper to urge her to hurry up and Kenya isn’t being a good little kidnap victim – she defies and taunts her kidnapper.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Sanguine Eyes (Salt Lake After Dark #3) by J.K. Walker

With a werewolf gang moving into the area and starting a war with the local werecats, a new supernatural drug hitting the streets that makes people preternaturally strong and nearly immune to pain and injury, several disappearing vampires and a new werecougar who really needs Jazz to show her the ropes – everything seems to be happening at once for Jazz. It’s overwhelming, it’s non-stop and it threatens the supernatural in the city from several angles

Not least because of supernaturally-aware government agents showing up – and news of the supernatural finally being leaked to the world at large

This book has an immensely fast paced, action packed storyline. It pulls in all the characters we’ve seen before and faces off against threats from all sides that hit so many of them personally.

It has some really well written fight scenes, just designed to get the blood pumping with excitement  - which is hard to do in print and few authors manage to pull it off. We have an involved, complicated and multi-faceted investigation without dead zones, without it being too linear, without it being simplistic or obscure. We also have multiple storylines, each with complex, real threads, each of which demand Jazz’s attention, each of which are vitally important and show how overwhelmed she is – but at the same time they all manage to come together excellently.

And through it all we have Jazz, with her awesome (and predominantly female) friends, intelligent and skilled without unnecessary “chosen one” elements. A keen sense of duty that is really sold (even if she does go over the top, it’s really well portrayed as I mentioned in my review of Hollow Eyes  –her sense of duty is her sense of responsibility, her sense of professionalism and her way of proving herself.

It also continues with its diversity, with Jazz having 2 lesbian friends (albeit in more background roles since the earlier books but they’re still awesome with some excellent unique skills on Rachel’s part – and there’s some mention of homophobia Rachel faces from her family), being half-Chinese herself and having Japanese, Latino, Native American and Black characters all as important connections, friends and actors in the supernatural world and close to Jazz. We do have some elements that continue the shakiness – like the prevalence of Latino gang members (but they’re not demonised for it or presented as having just one aspect to their personalities) and an evil-voodoo practitioner (but we also have a voodoo practitioner who isn’t evil as well) but in general the main problem is simply having so many characters and not the time and the space to give them all screen time – especially since this book was very narrow to Jazz even while it involved everyone.

That’s a recipe for a lot of awesome. But there’s an issue. A big one

There’s a lot that happens that isn’t explored to the degree I’d expect it to – or doesn’t have the same kind of impact I’d expect it to. This is going to be hard to write about without spoiling so I’m going to do a lot of dancing around the subjects.

The Last Ship, Season 1, Episode 7: SOS

We begin with a flashback this week – 6 months ago when the world wasn’t all destroyed and we’re in Oslo. A young scientist has just performed a radical and highly dangerous test to stop the then spreading virus – his older colleague is disturbed and upset by this. Especially since the younger man tested it on himself. The old man storms off and the young man’s wife arrives – and she’s feeling sick.

To the present and that young scientist is the scientist on Admiral Evil Russian’s ship – which has finally been repaired. He’s guiding them to where Rachel is likely to have gone.

And to the Good Guy Ship where Rachel has Ominous News about the virus – there’s a human gene added to it for reasons unknown, also it’s a clever, highly adaptive virus and all Rachel is doing is making it faster, stronger, more deadly than before!

On the ship, random drama this week is sailor Cosetti being treated like he hasn’t bathed in a month by the rest of the crew with only Miller (I think he’s the rookie guy) trying to reassure him. He apparently did something that has not impressed people (am I supposed to remember this? Because I don’t). Anyway, Mike (that’s second in command guy who is awful at everything so Captain Big Damn Hero Tom looks good) mentions it when talking to Danny who wants to get him back in the field. He also talks about Danny and Kara doing the naughty naughty fraternisation thing – Danny’s fine with being punished too but all insecure about people knowing about it.

In the communications room there are lots and lots of depressing help messages – and , in between one woman who sings, they hear a distress call. Communication guy Mason has been tracking this distress call – she was on a boat with 50 people. Then 15. Now she’s alone – which suggests she’s immune so could be interesting to study. But also risky –because finding her will be hide and radioing her will expose them to everyone – including the Evil Russian.

Of course, Big Damn Hero Tom contacts the survivor – Bertrise (I mean, he may have before, but the minute it involved taking a heroic risk was there any real doubt? Also I thought her name was Patrice, but IMBD insists on Bertrise). He pretends to be a fisherman and gets the co-ordinates from the panicking woman.

Naturally the Evil Russians hear everything while grinning with Evil Glee (Evil Russian Admiral even has a collection of minions, since they’re Russian, the writers could even call them Igor and complete their “characterisation”) .

An away team is prepared, Danny (Big Damn Hero #2) can’t go because he’s ill – Cosetti is going and he gets a great big “don’t screw up again” lecture. Guess who is also going to a boat with a risk of infection? The Captain. Of course he is. Because a Big Damn Hero must be present even though it’s ludicrous for the command structure to be put at risk all the damn time! Also, they’re not wearing beacons or any way to find them so they can stay hidden – this will cause story problems later, I am sure.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Kraken King and the Iron Heart (Kraken King #5, Iron Seas #4.5) by Meljean Brook

Zenobia has been kidnapped to try and force Ariq’s hand and make him reveal the location of a devastatingly powerful weapon to the Horde rebellion – as an added threat, general Tatsukawa threatens to unleash the might of the Nipponese empire against his settlement.

Zenobia doesn’t expect rescue. Ariq is a ruler, he has people he is responsible for. And she’s no stranger to being used as a bargaining chip. While it hurts, the sensible thing is for Ariq to comply and leave her, or look after his people – and leave her

But Ariq does not respond well to threats

This book managed to play with a lot of romance tropes that could be very headache-worthy to read (because I’ve read so many) but manage to do it in a way that makes them really work. This seems to be a pattern with the whole Kraken King Saga and I have to say I love it

Take Zenobia’s pain and angst that Ariq won’t rescue her. She’s sad about that, it hurts her that she isn’t his top priority. But at the same time she understands it. She doesn’t think he won’t rescue her because she’s unworthy or not important to him or otherwise flawed and unloved. She doesn’t think he will rescue her because, as a leader of his people, it would be impractical and even selfish for him to do so. She knows how kidnapping works – you are held, unharmed, for ransom.  There’s no reason for Ariq to make her a priority. It’s painful, but it’s based on solid logic.

Similarly, her own attempts to escape are not based just on how much she needs to see Ariq and how sad she is without him, but because she’s tired. She’s tired of always being the victim, of living her life in fear of being a target for her brother or – now – her lover. She has motivations and thoughts and pain and trouble which are not based on Ariq and are deeply personal and, in many ways, separate from him. Zenobia has always been her own characters – as has Ariq – which has always made their romance more compelling because they both have so much in their lives above and beyond each other. Their romance is an important part of the lives of two fully rounded and involved characters – but it isn’t their sole reason for being; these characters were created for more than just being a vehicle with which to display the romance

Zenobia isn’t good at escaping – it isn’t her skill set – but nor does she meekly wait for rescue and nor is she incompetent. Her plan is flawed, but reasonable. This book brings her to one of her lowest ebbs, but, again, her pain is very personal and a very reasonable part of her character – and completely separate from Ariq. She aches because of an attack to her family and her work and it cuts her deeply. I like that she’s not invulnerable but also that her vulnerability is not her love interest.

Utopia, Season 2, Episode 5

We start with Terrence wgho apparently has a miserable job in a fast food restaurant dealing with some awful people.

Except when he goes home he prints out news stories of all of the men who killed their families after spreading the deadly flu and lays them out. On each he puts a large sum of money in the denomination of the country they news is from and a passport. He also pulls out a gun – all from a Network-style yellow bag.

Over to the gang or what is left of it – Ian is determined to get Grant back while Becky is sensible and points out how dangerous Pietre is – and how Ian certainly can’t take him on with a curtain pole; but also Pietre being so deadly means he probably doesn’t want Grant or them dead – or they would be.

Becky and Ian also have the dead translator to deal with – or dispose of – with it’s own little moral quandary. While doing that, Becky sees the news of Ian’s brother’s death. And Ian being suspected of it. Ian has an amazingly well acted response of shock and horror and grief (especially since his mother thinks he did it).

The next morning Ian bricks up the translator into the walls and Becky has a little horrified moment about the whole thing. Either because of Deels syndrome or her own guilt, she hallucinates the dead man talking to her and playing gross games with the hole in his head. She goes to Ian and discusses her disease – basically that it will get worse, her medicine isn’t great and at some point she will want to choose suicide while she is still capable of it: and she wants him to help

And at Michael’s house he and Jessica have taken Milner hostage. Michael is shocked to realise who Milner is and talks about what a killer she is while she comments on a news story as tensions around the world escalate, going her usual doing what must be done route – and adding that Jen and Alice (hostages meant to keep Michael in check) are going to die because of him if he doesn’t free her. The news also shows Jessica the news about Ian’s brother’s murder.

While Jessica decides to go after her dad and Ian, Michael is worried about Jen and Alice. Jessica advises him to go visit and carry a mobile – he protests that they always search him. So she tells him to shove it up his arse (quite seriously), also that he shouldn’t use a big one.

He takes her advice. But as he leaves he runs into Ian with a knife, his protests and Becky’s gentle words talk Ian down who is obviously rather overwrought. They sit and talk and bring Michael up to speed with what they learned from Anton and Michael’s knowledge about who Mr. Rabbit is

Leah gets the kidnap photograph Jessica took – and shows it to Wilson. The problem now is that Milner leads – through secrecy and convoluted means (hence why no-one knows who Mr. Rabbit is) and Leah knows… some of it. Wilson decides they can use that; they are now Mr. Rabbit.

Just to make things more complicated for them, Geoff, their politician tool, is watching their machinations destroy his career and is rather irate about it – he sends a blackmail demand to Leah. Leah and Wilson consult Geoff about the silly demand and he, of course, advises they pay it for the sake of Janus. Wilson and Leah are not fooled for a second.

This Week in Book Covers 28th July - 1st August

Well, this week is an odd one - all good! I have so little to snark! Someone get me some twisted spines, some man titty and an action heroine in high heels and a boob tube (against a winter backdrop, no less!)

How the White Trash Zombie Got Her Groove Back (White Trash Zombie #4) by Diana Rowland

Fun and a little gruesome - this not only conveys the zombienesss of the book - and a zombie as a protagonist, but also gets the tone over as well. We have a zombie protagonist, that means for brain eating and rotting and things that are not for a delicate disposition. But she’s also fun and awesome and definitely out there - I think the dismembered body parts and that expression really bring it together.

Alice Through Bloodstained Glass by Dan Adams

I have not one criticism to say about this - dark, gritty, tough with guns ready and a truly perfect expression on the model’s face. What’s not to like? Ok, if it were ideal for the book there’d be some more Lewis Carroll elements on the cover but they’re better off downplayed anyway. bring on the lethal Alice ready to mow down some zombies

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Under the Dome, Season 2, Episode 6: In the Dark

At the school, Sam and Junior (yes I’m calling him Junior again, since his insistence on being called James lasted for 10 seconds) decide to explore the spooky tunnel of spookiness. Rebecca asks them to come back, to get help, to tell others where they’re going – all of these are sensible suggestions so, naturally, they ignore them.

At the diner, Barbie and Julia are all happy again, and Barbie heads out looking for Lyle and Sam since he’s not entirely sure Sam’s all that trustworthy either (especially because of his history with Melanie). Melanie’s sat in a corner of the diner all angsty and self-doubty so Julia tells her how she just has complete faith in the Dome telling her what to do – because if you can’t trust a strange alien force imprisoning you in rural New England, what can you trust?

Julia also wants to establish democracy again while Jim is convinced it’s his town, that voting is a bad idea because the people can’t be trusted and he should lead them because RAWR. When Julia doesn’t listen, Jim goes to tell Barbie in a rather vile “control your woman, damn you!” kind of way. But Barbie has finally found some sense, especially after Jim tried to blame the genocide plan on him, every time he has tried to work with Jim it has backfired. And adds that while Julia may be a fluffy hippy, he isn’t if Jim decides to cause problems. He then heads to the school called by Rebecca. We also have a hint of a new domey drama – the wind and dust picks up.

Joe and Norrie are fighting over Joe being all Melanie focused while Joe tries to use “I love you” as an actual answer.  He storms out when she says she doesn’t love him. Ah teenage drama – am I watching the CW? No? Right, move on please.

In the tunnel Sam tries to talk to James about how killing is bad and vengeance killing really bad (of course, ulterior motive there!). James isn’t impressed he’s already killed a guy who dared to touch the woman he claimed and kidnapped and he’s happy to hunt and kill again. Perhaps fortunately for Sam, this is when Barbie shows up. They walk on until they hit a booby trap which blows up the tunnel. In a series of three stooges attempts to rescue each other from falling rubble, Barbie and Sam get separated from Junior

Sam and Barbie are then trapped together with Pauline’s journal (which Barbie now knows about and sees as important). Junior calls help which means medical treatment from Rebecca and ranting between him and his father. They should fight, guns at dawn, and kill each other. This would be a good thing.  Anyway they have a new drama. The dust storm (caused by the acid blood rain) is flying everywhere and coating the inside of the Dome – the dome lets in air (apparently) and if it’s coated it won’t and then they’ll all suffocate (the land under the Dome includes a forest and lots of farm land – and a huge space – surely that will take a long time?)

Rebecca has ideas to fix it. Jim continues to be an arsehole because waaaah he should be in charge (and he kind of wants Sam and Barbie to stay lost) and Junior fills Julia in on the four hands thing – only thinking Lyle is the killer not Sam. Melanie and Junior decide to go to Joe and Norrie to help protect them in case Lyle gets out of the tunnels (which they guess are the old cement factory tunnels) and starts hunting (again, they assume Lyle is the killer).

Flight from Hell (Otherworld #15.5) by Yasmine Galenorn

Shimmer is a blue dragon, exiled from the Dragon Reaches after a very ill-advised theft, she now has to live Earthside with most of her powers stripped from her.

She only been on Earth for a short time - but when she starts acting very out of character, Carter, her lover calls on the D’Artigo sisters to try and find some answers and try and find Shimmer herself, who has vanished

Menolly quickly uncovers a connection between Shimmer’s odd behaviour and a new threat in town – a vampire sorcerer looking for revenge.

I have issues with this novella. Mainly the same issues I have with the Otherworld Series in general, but exacerbated by this being a shorter story. There is just such a lot of recap and reminder of previous stories, so much hammering home who everyone is, what everyone has done, what has happened before and why and how that wasn’t really needed here which would clutter up even a full length novel, let alone a novella

This novella has been bogged down with all the litter of the last story. Menolly being Roman’s consort, Smoky and Shadow’s existence, Camille’s relationship, Delila’s dead twin, Menolly’s past and scars, the previous vampire serial killer, what Iris is currently up to, chase and his elven heritage, the magical storm in Otherworld – all of this is completely unnecessary to the plot and has been added in almost as padding

This adds to some other elements of over-descriptiveness – like a lecture on the merits of locking your car from Menolly. Or detailed descriptions of Carter’s cats. We really don’t need this – we don’t need this in a full length book, in a novella this is overwhelming the short plot line we have. It also makes elements that would have worked – like following up a dead end in the investigation with Wilbur – not work because it felt like more padding. When you have so many excess story elements, every new dead end or red herring, even for plot purposes, just adds to this padding

This excess padding contributes to another major problem – this isn’t a book in the Otherworld Series. It’s set in the same world, but it’s supposed to be the first book in the Fly By Night Series following Shimmer, Ralph and Alex. And in that it failed epicly.

Every part of this story was told almost entirely from Menolly’s point of view – one of the main characters from the Otherworld Series. All the relevant action was performed by the three D’Artigo sisters who are the protagonists in the Otherworld Series. Alex just follows the sisters around really adding a great deal or doing an awful lot to establish his character. We have some, but he’s so overwhelmed by the sisters. Ralph is barely even there, I completely forgot about him repeatedly and thought he was an excess character. And Shimmer? We get a little from her at the beginning of the book and enough of her back story and culture to make her interesting enough as an outcast from her society with strong class parallels. I think her story could be interesting. But this isn’t her story. This is the story where she is the object – she exists in this story to be rescued and that’s about it. The background we’re given could easily have been the background for someone the sisters are investigating – she’s nearly completely absent as a character in this book.

Teen Wolf, Season 4, Episode 7: Weaponised

So we have a creepy scientist doing creepy things to a captured werewolf that apparently causes him to die. He plays a sound file which recites how to claim money from the Benefactor for kills

The same file that Scott and Stiles listen to on the tape they found in the money last week. Scott starts to pack up the money to give to Derek – it is, after all, Derek’s money. And Stiles kind of agrees, of course they should tell Derek about his money; but some of that money is Peter’s. Homicidal killer, Peter. Peter to whom they owe nothing. Not that he’s saying they should keep the money, buutttt…

Malia arrives to tell them about her and Derek finding Satome’s pack before Stiles has to complete that thought. She says the entire pack is dead – but the survivor Derek found?

That’s Braeden – he carries her to the hospital. She’s been shot.

Outside the vet clinic, at night, in the dark – someone attacks Deaton. Who draws an asp and pulls out some pretty awesome fight moves. Deaton, where have you been hiding these skills?! His attacker, with all the martial arts skills, is Satome (of course). This appears to be how she says hello.

To school where there’s an exam and Scott actually makes a really great point that yes they have to do tests because they’re fighting to survive so they can live and have actual lives – he does want to go to college et al; it can’t all be about surviving day to day.

They fingerprint tests in the US? Anyway, before the exam can start they need 2 teachers – Natalie (Lydia’s mother) and Coach. Who is unconscious in his office; she thinks he’s fallen off the wagon after 15 years sober and has a great sad/disappointed/frustrated voice.

The exam isn’t fun for anyone, least of all Malia (Lydia isn’t taking it because she already took it being awesome and all) and one of the girls, Sidney, falls out of her chair. Natalie helps her up and notices a rash on her wrist – though they both set it aside to get back into the test. Natalie hurries out the room and checks the unconscious coach – he has a similar horrible rash all over his back.

Natalie acts promptly, chases out new students arriving and locks the door. She settles down the people in the exam attracted by her screaming, then calls the CDC (overheard by Scott’s super-ears) Whoa whoa, shouldn’t she call a doctor first? She sees two people who are ill and she calls the CDC? Isn’t that… excessive? If four people sneeze she’s going to call on the WHO! And can a non-medical professional just do that? Call in the CDC? I would think that would be vulnerable to crank calling

The CDC arrive and set up big plastic things with lots of lock down and quarantine and people looking all worried. Sheriff Stilinski is set up outside the perimeter to help keep people leaving and stop new people arriving. Creepy exam operator says they can’t call out because the CDC will block all outside communication to stop a panic…

Seriously? That’s ridiculous. Like the CDC could make such a dramatic quarantine and not have it splashed all over the news anyway!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Falling Skies, Season 4, Episode 7: Saturday Night Massacre

Anne is still bonding with her evil collaborator alien child in her evil cocoon which is so dangerous that the Volm have fled the area and if there were any sense in this world everyone would be dead 10 times over for continuing to make ridiculous decisions like this over and over and over again.

Alas, this is Falling Skies so there is no sense in this world at all. Or coherency. Or even consistent canon.

Yes, this show is beginning to annoy me. Ah well, let the hot mess continue

The cocoon opens, alas, I thought we were going to get at least a few episodes without Lexi’s tortured logic. Lexi emerges with different coloured eyes

Really, you went through an entire cocoon scare for the sake of a new set of contacts? Most dramatic aliens, ever!

She emerges all angry because humans can’t let go of their hatred (because she is still ignoring the whole alien invasion thing and because this is Falling Skies absolutely no-one even tries to challenge her). She’s going to find a family that’s not so filled with violence

Someone kill her. Please. Espheni, human, volm, I don’t even care – I’d even applaud Pope at this point if I didn’t have to listen to one more of her ridiculous arguments.

She decides to leave talking about how terribad and violent the humans are, followed by Lourdes the eternal sycophant. She decides to take Lourdes with her – by draining her. When Pope decides to try and shoot her, she freezes everyone. Lourdes falls, dead, bleeding from the eyes and Lexi calls her free

So, we’re going full on woo-woo here? Because this has kind of left sci-fi aliens and gone full out psychics and magic. And can we finally accept that Lexi is evil and everyone was right about her needing to die in the cocoon?

Lots of sadness over Lourdes death and everyone remembering they’re supposed to care about her (but no-one skinning the Masons for letting the monster escape). Finally, Hal manages to get in a decent “I told you so” (seriously, to even begin to redeem this hot mess of a show, I’m going to a need a lot of this) He storms off and Anne tries to say he’s wrong (damn it Anne!) but Tom at least acknowledges that he rather epicly failed in his promise to deal with Lexi if she came out dangerous. Anne keeps depending Lexi while Tom at least seems faintly open to considering the fact her daughter is the enemy. She wants to save Lexi – and Tom to help her with it (how many more people die while they figure that out?)

The Strain, Season 1, Episode 4: It's Not For Everyone

So, we pick up where we left off with Ephraim, Nora and Jim standing over Captain Redferne’s body after Ephraim brutally bludgeoned him to death after he grew a tongue tentacle and tried to eat them.

Jim panics, Nora thinks Abraham may not be wrong about the burning thing, but Ephraim needs closure – which means an autopsy. If he killed a man he wants to know why. They get him to a room and prepare – Ephraim offering Nora to step out if it’s too much for her and she needs time (gah, Jim is the one freaking out – Nora is handling it well). The autopsy reveals lots of odd elements – folds on the neck to rapidly cool the body, no genitals just a cloaca. Slicing inside (thank you images that will stay with me) they find the interior organs are nigh unrecognisable including a new circulatory system – and a long tentacle they call a stinger.  Pulling it causes the body to discharge ammonia – vampire guano. Ephraim concludes it’s a parasite, taking over a human to spread itself and then consume the host.

They incinerate it, per Abraham’s instructions, and reflect how right he was. Ephraim and Nora talk about having to save the city and Jim’s guilt gets the better of him and he confesses to letting the box through – while he’s focused on confession Ephraim latches onto the important element: someone planned this epidemic. Originally anyway, then he punches Jim and tells Jim he’s dead to him. Normally I’d call that statement melodramatic, but given the givens it works. Nora takes the phone with the recording of the autopsy and follows Ephraim.

Outside, Ephraim is pouty and Nora sympathetic – she understands Jim was in an impossible situation with his wife dying. Remembering what Abraham said about the new creatures returning to their loves ones, Ephraim remembers the dead French girl and the call from her father saying she had returned home

Ansel, one of the other ill, survivors, has wisely decided to have his wife Annie and kids go on a little trip – but leaving the dog behind to “keep him company”. Poor doggie.

Annie comes home later, still wracked with nerves, to find the house overheated and the dog missing. She spots the dog’s collar outside – stained with blood. She follows the blood trail to the dog’s body in the garden – and hears chains rattle inside the shed. She looks inside – and Ansel, very much on the way to transforming – has chained himself up. He lunges at her then begs her to run, while the second voice repeats the voice in his head talking about ripping out her throat and eating her.

Rather than call for help, Anne buries the dog and even tries to placate a nagging neighbour. He complains about her growling dog and apparently thinks animals should be hit – so she lets him go in to see Anselm. Dinner is served Anselm.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Fangs for the Fantasy Podcast: 2014, Episode 22

It's time for another Episode of the Fangs for the Fantasy podcast

You can join us here and you can listen live on our youtube channel, here, or in our sidebar. All will also carry a recording after the show is finished. As ever all our previous podcasts can be found in the archive

The podcast begins at 7:00pm EST (technology willing)

28th July - 4th August: The Vampire Armand by Anne Rice
4th August-11th August: Divergent by Veronica Roth
11th August - 18th August: Merrick by Anne Rice
18th August - 25th August: Blood Games by Chloe Neil
25th August - 1st September: The Witch With No Name by Kim Harrison
1st September - 8th September: Blood and Gold by Anne Rice

The Vampire Armand (The Vampire Chronicles #6) by Anne Rice

It is Armand’s turn to recount his history to David to be recorded for posterity

If Lestat and Louis’s books are digitised, he could always just copy and paste the relevant sections.

I am not a fan of this book, there’s very little about if I find even remotely enjoyable and the few steps forwards it takes are so overwhelmed with problems as to make whatever progress it made completely irrelevant. This book was not a fun read, it was a boring read and, more than anything else, it was an unnecessary read

Which underpins the main problem with this book – it’s unnecessary in many ways. Firstly, The Vampire Chronicles is already a grossly over written series with a truly unnecessary amount of back story for the tiny crumbs of actual plot and present day happenings we have been given. I know more about Louis than I needed to, but at least Interview with a Vampire existed to introduce the world. I know every last teeny tiny detail about Lestat, but at least he is a central figure in the plot. I know Marius’s background in painful length but at least he is, somewhat, a foundation for the other characters in a rather convoluted manner. Even Meheret dropped in for a dreadfully long story time of her history

This is a lot of unnecessary back story already for a very limited plot. It doesn’t need yet another book full of back story with no actual present day storyline; enough with this endless, long winded recitation of their pasts! Recounting of history is not a substitute for plot

But this unnecessariness is compounded by the fact that this is Armand! I know some people are big fans of Armand – but honestly I have no idea why. Armand hasn’t been relevant to the plot line since Louis left him after burning down his theatre. Armand has had no significant presence in any of the dramatic events of Akasha waking up, or Lestat playing body switching or Lestat’s appalling navel gazing theology  – nor did he really start a storyline of his own in this book. Armand is completely irrelevant to current events and this book did nothing to make him relevant. Nor has he ever actually been relevant!

This is shown by this book, he was a brief stopping point in Marius’s, Louis’s and Lestat’s history – a permanent side character in all their lives. The book even lampshades it:

“How can I tell you about something that doesn’t interest me? Is it supposed to interest you? The problem is that too much has been written about my past already.”

I don't know Armand, is it supposed to interest me? Because it didn’t. And yes, every remotely interesting moment in Armand’s life had already been covered in previous books; Armand had nothing useful to add and did nothing useful or interesting outside of those moments. It is repetition with another repetitive story of being a young vampire and Armand and Marius tacked on (the basics of which we already knew). This character is irrelevant! His story is already told! His history is already known! Why are we repeating this?

Fangs for the Fantasy Book of the Week

It's Monday so time for another episode of Fangs for the Fantasy podcast - our weekly podcast where we discuss all our shows and our book of the week through our social justice lens.

The podcast will be 7:00pm EST tonight! We hope to see you there

If you need to catch up on any of our previous podcasts, you can find them here

And those reading along can see our next books of the week:

(Our list is always subject to change should we need to squeeze something in or something random happens)

28th July - 4th August: The Vampire Armand by Anne Rice
4th August-11th August: Blood Games by Chloe Neil
11th August - 18th August: Merrick by Anne Rice
18th August - 25th August: Blood Passage by Connie Suttle
25th August -1st September: Blood and Gold by Anne Rice
1st September - 8th September: Under Suspicion by Hannah Jane


Spoilers Ahead

After an apocalyptic war, the world is divided into factions: Dauntless, Abnegation, Erudite, Amity, Candor, Factionless and Divergence. There is a wall separating the group of factions for what lays outside.

Dauntless is the faction who work to protect society. They value bravery above all and demand that their members face their fears and push their way through them. Abnegation is dedicated to selflessness and devoting oneself to others. Abnegation is in charge of the government because they are peaceful, neutral and calm. Erudite is dedicated to knowledge, intelligence, curiosity and astuteness.  They are the librarians, doctors and teachers and are responsible for all record keeping. Amity is dedicated to peacefulness, kindness, forgiveness, trust, self-sufficiency, and neutrality. Amity value peace of all and are not adverse to twisting the truth to maintain it.  They function as providers in this world and grow all of the food. Candor value honesty, and their symbol is a set of unbalanced scales bound by a circle. Candor members value honesty and forthrightness above all and function as the makers and maintainers of law in this society precisely because they are honest to a fault. The Factionless are those who are not wanted by any faction and they live on the outskirts of society because of it, often scrounging refuse for anything useable. Finally, the Divergent are people who fit into two or more categories on their aptitude test.  They are largely made up of people from Abnegation and the Factionless.  They are feared precisely because they don't fit into a box and cannot be as easily molded into a way of thinking.

Our protagonist, Tris is born into Abnegation.  As a young girl she greatly admired the Dauntless for their fearlessness and often ran behind them. When Tris takes her test she gets a Divergent response and is rushed out of the testing room and told to lie and say that the serum made her sick. When Tris questions what Faction she should choose, she is told that because of her result, she has to know her own heart.  The problem is that should she choose Dauntless she will be removed from her family because society values Faction above blood.  It is further complicated because Abnegation, her faction of origin is under suspicion by Erudite who believe that Abnegation is not as selfless as they appear to be.  There has already been an issue with one child of Abnegation origin leaving the faction based in rumors of abuse. While it does happen that children do leave their faction of birth, a full 95% of them choose to stay where they are born.

The next day both Tris and her brother choose to leave their clan of origin.  Tris heads to Dauntless and immediately finds herself out of her element.  Though she is very fast, she is also substantially weaker than everyone else and risks failing to make the Faction because of it.   Tris ends up working while the others are sleeping and pulls her way from the bottom of the ranks to the very top.  The real challenge however still lies ahead because she still must past the psychological tests.  Not really being Dauntless, Tris solves things in her own manner unintentionally revealing her true nature. With observers coming to review the final testing and tensions rising between the factions, Tris knows that she cannot afford to fail. The very stability of the world that has grown up in, depends upon it.

This movie is based on a trilogy written by Beatrice Prior.  Having not read the series, I cannot discuss if the movie follows it closely, or takes artistic license due to time constraints. What I can however say is that it reminded me very much of The Hunger Games but is far less compelling of a story.  Tris is the girl who does not fit into her society because of her inability to conform and her decisions on how to negotiate this post apocalyptic Chicago become pivotal to the functioning of the world. The problem with Tris is that I cannot take her seriously.  She knew from the very beginning that she did not fit in Abnegation but at the same time never wondered about the make up of the world she existed in despite seeing the Factionless all around her.  Further, Tris didn't really express any kind of disatisfaction with the world itself until she was informed that she simply didn't fit into any category.  I hope that at least some of this was covered by internal monologue in the book itself because it certainly did not translate to the screen.

Divergent is also another in a long list of story's which kill of the parents of the protagonist.  Natalie, Tris's mother lives long enough to save her daughter and then die in her arms.  Natalie lives just long enough for Tris to have a moment of pain and then quickly move on. Andrew, the father lives long enough to pull the most ridiculous Dirty Harry routine before going down in a blaze of glory. By the time Andrew dies, Tris is so set on her path of stopping Erudite from annihilating Abnegation, Tris barely stops long enough to register that her father is dead. So not only is Divergent unoriginal it's trope laden.

There is an undercurrent of romance flowing through the movie.  Four, who also originated in Abnegation and is himself Divergent ends up becoming Tris's trainer.  Theo James, who plays Four is truly a beautiful young man and functions very much like eye candy in the film. My issue with their relationship is that during testing, one of Tris's deepest fears is to be raped by Four.  It simply does not make sense to me that she could or would romanticize a man she fears would rape her.  Four does not actually do anything predatory to Tris throughout the movie and in fact shows that he cares for her deeply, so the fear does not make sense to me either.  I am not sure what the purpose of that scene was. It seemed to be dropped into the film with absolutely zero context and was never really explained.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Witches of East End, Season Two, Episode Four: The Brothers Grimoire

Tommy and Wendy are on a picnic date and doing just fine until a rat comes running out of the bushes and crawls up Tommy's body and he starts freaking out.  Wendy grabs the rat, looks it in the eye as she squeezes it and then tosses it back into the bushes.  Tommy tries to calm himself with a beer but clearly the mood has most certainly been ruined.

Victor is still being held captive and because Joanna is expecting him home, Ivar uses Victor's phone to send a text explaining that he missed his flight, in order to by them more time. Isis enters the cave and transforms from the rat that crawled up Tommy into a woman.  Isis says that she found Wendy but because Wendy was so focused on Tommy, she didn't realise who she was holding when she picked up the rat.  Isis has a wound in her leg from when Wendy grabbed her, so Ivar licks her leg to heal it.

Dash goes to see Ingrid to see how she is holding up and Ingrid assures Dash that he didn't know what was happening to him and she knew.  Dash questions if Ingrid believes what happened was her fault and Ingrid confirms that she wonders if she had told Dash earlier, if all of this could have been avoided.  Dash expresses his gratitude for Ingrid's timely arrival and promises to be there if Ingrid needs anything.

Wendy has returned home and Joanna questions if the date went badly because Wendy is actually home.  Wendy explains that the date went well until a rat crashed their picnic and explains it away as an example of the Beauchamp women's horrible luck with men.  Joanna points out that her relationship with Victor is good. Wendy reminds Joanna that she was estranged from Victor for three centuries and didn't talk to him for two.  Joanna says that things between her and Victor have been good lately and that Victor will be home today. Wendy says that Tommy wants a do-over date but questions if she is up to and Joanna snarks about her having an eternity to find a mate.

Dash and Killian chat about how Killian met Ava and Dash clearly feels relief when he learns that Killian has no idea what really happened to him. They are interrupted by a knock on the door and it turns out to be their mother's executor. The executor drops off a box revealing that he was told to deliver it upon her death, only of the two brothers were together. When Dash opens the box, he finds a cryptex. When Killian grabs the other end of the cryptex, it immediately lights up, causing the brothers to decide that it's time they had a little conversation.

Back in the torture chamber, Ivar threatens Victor with death by a thousand cuts, which Isis apparently is a master in.  Isis brings up the portals and reveals that they know the one in East End was opened. Isis demands to know where the key is because she and Ivar want to return home. Victor tells them to go to hell, so Ivar suggests that if Victor does not break soon, they can try to break Wendy. Isis confirms that she is fine with that as long as they stay away from Joanna because Joanna scares her. Ivar intercepts a text from Joanna to Victor, saying that Frederick is looking forward to seeing him. Ivar and Isis realise that Frederick must have come through the portal and call it good news for them and bad new for Victor.

Dash opens the cryptex and finds a note in Latin saying follow the trail.  The brothers begin to wonder what it means and marvel at the fact that they are warlocks.  Killian reveals that Ava is a witch and that is why they found each other. Dash in turn reveals that the Beauchamps are witches and calls Freya a lying bitch, after admitting that she never shared that information with him. Killian may no longer be in love with Freya but having him sit there after she flew so far to find him and not respond to her being called a bitch is problematic.  This scene represents a lost opportunity in how to use a slur and still make sure that it is understood as wrong. Dash explains that Freya told him that their powers were dormant and that their mother's death must have brought them on.

Tommy and Wendy are playing darts and she uses her magic to make a better shot than him. When Tommy moves to withdraw the darts from the board, Wendy throws a dart hitting him in the shoulder.  Wendy uses magic to quickly heal him and calls him a baby. Tommy snarks about Wendy delivering a nice apology and points out that they are not having the best of luck on their dates. Wendy grabs her bag and suggests quitting while they are ahead but Tommy is determined to forge on, calling it the best time he has had in a long time.

Frederick brings some booze up to the bar and sees Ivar and Isis.  Frederick is instantly uncomfortable, as Isis invades Fredrick's personal space. When Freya does not recognize Isis and Ivar, they realise that she is a new Freya. Ivar explains that back in the old country, they all used to be friends and get into a lot of trouble together.  Frederick is quick to assure Freya that she is a good girl. Freya asks for details and Isis promises they will only tell the stories about Frederick.

Dash and Killian continue to talk about what follow the trail means. Dash suggests that it is a form of spell and Killian points out that the cryptex didn't open until they both touched it and therefore they should say the spell together. When they say the spell, the paper drifts across the room and lands on the floor and bursts into flames, as it leaves a symbol in the wood. When the brothers pry the floor boards up, they discover their family grimoire.  Of course, Dash wants to try a spell.

Back at The Bent Elbow, Isis and Ivar tell the story of how Frederick stole the sacred scrolls. Frederick explains that he did so so that the people would know that those in power bent the law to serve their own ends. Frederick explains when he was young and stupid, he was quite the daredevil. Ivar says that he and Isis took their rowdy behaviour too far and as a result were banished by Frederick and Freya's grandfather. Frederick tells them that they are lucky because they didn't have to face the king's wrath, when Isis says that they didn't have it easy on this side. Ivar points out that Isis had her big brother to look for her and the two kiss. Isis and Ivar tell Freya that they are twins like she and Frederic and Freya is quick to point out that she and Frederick are not like that.  Frederick asks to speak to Freya for a moment and explains that Isis and Ivar are bottom feeders whose clan are despised in Asgard. Freya points out that Ivar and Isis were Fredrick's friends and Frederick explains that he was acting out and that were happy to come along for the ride.  Freya makes it clear that they need to get rid of Ivar and Isis and Frederick promises to take care of it.

When Frederick returns to the bar, he finds only Ivar waiting for him.  When Frederick asks what the twins want, Ivar explains that they are owed because they took the fall for Frederick in Asgard. Frederick is quick to deny owing them anything and suggests that they leave before things get rough. Ivar however will not be scared away and pulls up an image of Victor on his phone. Freya is now at the back of the bar when Isis suddenly appears.  Isis strokes Freya's chin saying that Freya was always so pretty and that they should have some fun. When Freya declines the offer, Isis blows some sort of black smoke into her face.