Saturday, August 16, 2014

Dominion, Season One, Episode Seven: Ouroboros

This episode begins with a flash back to the Babylonian Desert in 1900 B.C.  A child is lying in a field of dead bodies clearly playing possum.  Suddenly the child gets up and starts running through the bodies and Michael shows up, covered in blood and dressed in battle armor.  Michael extends his hand to the child telling him not to be afraid and the child moves to take Micheal's hand.

In the present, Gabriel sits upon his throne and starts to pressure to be let into the body of  Louis, a higher angel hiding in plain sight in Vega. Louis is in the market working at his fruit stall when Gabriel enters his body.  Louis' body convulses quickly and Gabriel takes over claiming that he doesn't know what came over him and that he has never been better.  Gabriel says that he has earned some me time to the man shopping at Louis' cart.

In the border lands and eight-ball tears apart a trailer until he finds a pack of cigarettes. He doesn't get to celebrate long because he is confronted by Michael who snarks that cigarettes will kill the eight-ball. In the next scene we see the eight-ball chained up in what used to be a sex shop and Alex trying to expel it from the human body it inhabits.  Michael suggests that Alex look at the apocrapher but Alex is adamant that he doesn't need to read the book anymore because the markings have told him. Michael says that this is progress and Alex snarks that he is trying to build on that progress. Alex goes back to trying to expel the eight-ball and Michael says that Alex is being over confidant. Alex points out that he burned the angel out of Claire's mom but Michael replies that Clementine was a rare case. Michael says that spiritual matters are never an exact science and in frustration, Alex shoots the eight-ball in the head. Michael calls what they are doing a fools errand but Alex is determined that continuing to try is better than sitting there and doing nothing. Michael suggests that Alex cannot keep doing this to himself but Alex is determined to keep going until he gets it right.

Back in Vega, David is lying in bed when William brings him food. David calls William insane for worshiping Gabriel who is a despicable piece of shit. William says that he is looking out for himself and trying to save David. David snarks that this is what he used to tell people on television and that it was couples with a 1-800 number. William makes it clear that he is not like David because he is telling the truth.  William believes that when the end comes that there will be a few humans who are saved and those he cares about will be among them.  David makes it clear that he is not one of David's acolytes and never will be. David makes it clear that he teaches that the chosen one is among them but that the sheep don't need to know their time is near. It is the followers of Gabriel know that the chosen one will only bring about their end.  William grabs a bowl of soup to feed his father, but David knocks it on the floor.  David is adamant that this isn't really about Gabriel but how he mistreated William. William says that David has given him more strength that he can measure and that this is about love, not revenge.

William leaves the room to find Claire waiting for him. It seems that Claire wants to move the wedding forward - next week in fact.  Claire is determined to get her father out of house and that marriage will remove the so-called burden of running the city away from her father.  Claire asks about David and William lies and claims that William has taken a turn with his pneumonia but is not going to the hospital to avoid being seen as weak.

Alex is back in Vega and he is having a shower.  He is joined by Noma who says that she missed Alex at the bar.  It seems that Noma made a toast in Alex's honour about Claire moving up her wedding. Alex calls it old news so Noma asks why he looks like someone killed his dog. Alex simply says that it has been a rough few weeks weeks but Noma makes it clear that it would easier if Alex would just speak to someone.  Noma slaps Alex across the face initiating what seems to be a common game between them and Alex laughs. In return Alex playfully slaps Noma's but and she snarks about the chosen on laughing.  Noma starts flirting with Alex saying that she is not blind and that maybe the tattoos mean that he is something special or maybe that they don't mean anything at all. Noma claims that to her, he will always be plain old Alex. It's not long before to the two are kissing. Alex says that things are different now so Noma asks if the chosen on can have a good time.  When next we see the pair, they are in the supply closet making love.

Gabriel in the guise of Louis heads to Jeffery who is a nurse in the infirmary.  Jeffery tells fake Louis that he cannot be there and that he is tired of being asked about the Michael thing. It seems that Jeffery is not interested in becoming an operative for Michael. Fake Louis suggests aligning with Gabriel but Jeffery calls Gabriel a maniac.

Senator Becca Thorn is out for a jog, followed closely by her security when she calls for everyone to take a five minute break. In the process of stretching, Becca notices blood on the sole of her running shoe. Becca retraces her steps and finds a pool of blood. When she looks up, there are several dead higher angels hanging from the walls, including Jeffery.  Becca orders the security to get Risen immediately.

Defiance, Season 2, Episode 9: Painted from Memory

Kenya recounts her kidnapping and the goggled man who questioned her about her life in Defiance and her family. But it’s quickly clear that the kidnapping only lasted 3 weeks, while she has been missing for over a year – she doesn’t remember what happened to her (or Stahma poisoning her). Yewl says it’s because of brain damage and stops Nolan pressing her because it’s not helping. Amanda takes Kenya away when she says she’s tried though Nolan has more questions and Yewl needs to check on her.

Nolan intimidates Yewl because of her past habit of lying (and other dubiousness) –  Yewl is quick to see a physical threat and promises to look after Kenya

At the Need/Want, Stahma sees Deidre and learns she works for Alakk (oh Deidre, Stahma will eat you alive) and Kenya arrives to be greeted warmly by the staff – and with Stahma’s astonished shock. Something shocked Stahma! The world may be ending. When Kenya sees her, Stahma runs in panic.

Amanda has the doubts about why Kenya left, afraid she drove Kenya away – Kenya admits Amanda is controlling but has no idea why she left and she loves that Amanda kept her memory and her business going.

Irisa, meanwhile, has gone over the edge – lying to Nolan about her absence she is leading her little group on a “pilgrimage” which she calls “Irzu’s will”. And we pan out to see a lot of people, a lot of camps and more cars incoming – are these all Irisa’s converts?

Nolan, meanwhile decides to patronising and taunting to Tommy about him sleeping with Berlin and when he calls Tommy a “good kid” Tommy hits him. Good, that much smugness is sorely deserving of a slap.

The next day, Kenya walks gleefully out into the market and Stahma finally approaches her. Kenya greets her happily with a smile and a hug; Stahma realises that Kenya has memory loss and Kenya asks what was between them. Oh, that’s a hugely long and complicated answer. Kenya promises a proper reunion when she has her memory back and kisses Stahma on the cheek. Oh dear Kenya, methinks your days may be numbered

Kenya goes to Nolan to check the equipment her kidnapper had and see if any jog memories and also say “hey I don’t know if you remember but we dated, we broke up, and I dated your sister while you were gone.” Kenya remembers her kidnapper breaking her out of a tank of water. She remembers other humans there and the Votanis Collective soldiers killing them but Kenya was spared because she is Amanda’s sister. Kenya has a panic attack due to the memories coming back and Nolan comforts her. She does remember a tattoo on one of the victims.

Nolan takes her to see Berlin and they share the origins of their names (Kenya was born the day the Votans destroyed Kenya. Berlin’s movies are considered propaganda by many). Berlin has a tattoo like the victim but not identical, but she recognises the one Kenya describes. The people who held her in the laboratory were Earth Republic Special Forces.

Friday, August 15, 2014

On the Prowl. Anthology by Patricia Briggs, Eileen Wilks, Karen Chance and Sunny

Alpha & Omega by Patricia Briggs

This short story is the prequel to the Alpha & Omega series that I have read. I found it quite useful to bring a little more detail to the background of the Alpha & Omega series while, at the same time, striking the ideal balance of not actually being essential to reading that series. It doesn’t add more to Anna’s history than I already knew but does provide a greater context to how her abusive past happened (especially given the inviolate nature of Omegas in the series) and how she and Charles met.

Even though I have read this series and the Mercy Thompson Series I also think this book did an excellent job of being both a stand-alone novel and giving us enough information about the world to be both workable and intriguing. Whether you had or hadn’t read the series, it was still a good story with elements for both readers.

While I’m not a big fan of the whole Alpha-male-werewolf-rawr trope but I think this story did a good job of looking at some of the consequences of this – how easy it would be for these “dominant” wolves to be abusive and for their victims to fear them all due to the ease of abuse written into their culture. Sure there’s a heavily element of the abusive werewolves doing-it-wrong, but at the same time it’s clear why their victims wouldn’t see much difference and would be wary of dominants.

We do have a lot of insta-love and insta-sexiness going on with Charles’s woo-woo mating bond kicking in. This causes a lot of over sexiness, a lot of domineering sexiness and, frankly, a lot of really unpleasant sexual pressure that is only exacerbated by Anna being a rape victim

We have some POC in this story – Charles is a Native American and drops in a fair amount of his culture and origins. Kara, Anne’s best friend, is Black – but it’s a shame she doesn’t get more presence here or in later books, serving only to be worried and protective of Anna (in a rather powerful way) without much more to her.

Anna sets the tone for future books in this series – while she’s hurting, abused and fearful, she’s also intelligent, brave and resourceful when called for – she’s abused but it’s made clear that doesn’t make her weak.

Unfortunately, this book does revolve around one of the tropes that is central to these series – mental illness is worse than death. Older werewolves in this world are often prone to insanity. This is considered terrifying, very dangerous and, ultimately, these werewolves have to be “put down”. Making mental illness a source of danger (a common, destructive and rarely true trope), a fate worse than death and something incapable of treatment or management.

This story has issues but it’s the one I liked most in the book – and the one I think struck the best balance with the series it was part of

Inhuman by Eileen Wilks

This is a short story set in the same world as the World of the Lupi series that I have read. It is, however, an excellent standalone story – in fact, while it’s set in the same world and the same events that are in the main series shape this one, it’s so separate from the main series that I missed that it was a part of it – in the beginning at least. It’s possible this perception is because I have read the main books and don’t realise how much I’ve assumed or absorbed to make this one work but it was very detached. The events like the magic wave flowing over the world and the increasing magic were mentioned in the beginning and nicely easily understood concepts to establish this world setting without having to get into the detail from the main series

If anything, the World of the Lupi series is too dependent on this book. Nathan and Kai, the protagonists of this story, return to play a major role in Night Season which makes that book feel very rickety unless you have read this short story to explain who Nathan and Kai are.

I think more development of Kai’s abilities and more definition of it would have been helpful – it was a little vague. I think the story itself was also more of an introduction to Kai and Nathan than a plot in and of itself. It does a great job of establishing who they are, how they fit into the world and how they get pulled into whatever shenanigans they will be pulled into – but it doesn’t actually tell much story. There’s a monster, they wait, the monster attacks them. Ok that’s overly simplistic and there’s a lot around the edges – but the edges is more about introduction of the characters and throwing in a hefty amount of “rawr sexy”.

Like the series it’s part of, there’s also a lot of appropriation of real world oppression against the woo-woo groups. We have direct links made to the holocaust and a lot of anti-magic laws that mirror laws and language against oppressed groups

The Last Ship, Season 1, Episode 8: Two Sailors Walk Into a Bar

Tex and Tom are taking on board the evil ship of the evil Russians who are evil and Tom gets to see Quincy’s family and says nice things to Eva, his daughter. Russian Admiral (ok, I’ll use his name, though that would suggest far more characterisation than he has had) Ruskov makes a big thing about how wonderful and kind he has been to Kelly and Eva and how unappreciative they have been. Ruskov tries to play nice villain, Tom responds with name, rank and serial number. Ruskov mocks the idea that the Geneva Convention still applies in a world where Geneva doesn’t even exist.

I do like one thing he mocks - Tom’s pride and need for glory. Why else would he personally lead the team to rescue Bertrise? Why indeed.

On the ship, Mike & co can’t find the Russians but think if Ruskov has Tom, he will call to trade him for Rachel and her work. Rachel is showing Betrise the science behind the vaccine (a partial explanation to illnesses she’s had in the past as well) and introduces her to Mason – one of the communication people who heard her call.

Ruskov calls and makes all the usual threats and demands. But the call does all Mike’s com’s officers to find the Russian ship. Which is twice their size – but they intend to send a rescue mission (Danny wants to lead it because he’s Big Damn Hero #2). Rachel interrupts the planning with the happy news that she has a vaccine! And she’s willing to trade that for Tom or, since all they need to do is replicate the formula, willing to trade herself. They try to talk her out of it but she knows it’s the only way to stop him.

They agree to the demands but are obviously planning more since Danny and Cosetti are going through plans of the Russian ship (which is, as they remind us, nuclear so breaking it has to be a careful affair – which requires Cosetti’s presence). Burk who fulfils some undisclosed role on the ship but seems maybe to be in charge of the armoury, gives Rachel a big gun and a suppressor to hide in her medical box. Before she goes, she asks Quincy to work on the cure. Mike even has a respectful goodbye for her

She’s taken to the Russian ship where they search her but don’t find the gun (it’s under virus samples so no-one wants to jog them too much). They take her to the admiral and the prisoners are brought up – and Rachel greets Tom with a passionate kiss. Ok, slightly unexpected so I vote for ulterior motive.

Rachel is taken to see their scientist, Neal Sorenson (he with the dodgy experiments from last episode). He’s infected, kind of – he’s the one who added the human gene to the virus – who “weaponised” it. In a way it worked – it made him completely immune to the virus. It also made him a carrier. Rachel is outraged, his tinkering is what made it so hard to actually create a vaccine – and he not only did this but then refused to come forward and admit it when there were still functioning governments. And he doesn’t even get to cure it now, because she’s already cured it. He has a tantrum when she refuses to involve him.

When Ruskov arrives with her and some men, Neal claims the vaccine won’t work without him. Roskov decides to test it by vaccinating one of his minions and put them in Neal’s isolation room.

In the prison Tom takes the note out of his mouth that Rachel planted there. It has a time and a place. Roskov wanders in to tell them about his childhood in a tiny room because we needed to throw in more Russian tropes here. He’s also there to be evil, threaten death and try to get Tom to be a loyal pet or have everyone killed. Tom is a big damn hero and says “no” while the dramatic music plays.

Throw in a random dramatic speech from Mike on the ship about getting Tom back because there are dairy farmers less cheesy than this scriptwriter.  Jeter, being Jeter, praises him. Because his job is to praise the white guy in charge.

Utopia, Season 2, Episode 6

Our ominous burger flipper from last episodes is waiting for a bus, with a nice social conscious woman talking about the environment and reduced resources while her small child has flu. Ominous guy counters her environmental sensibilities by the fact she has a child – 1st world humans are the greatest sources of pollution on the planet and how little her refusing to fly actually makes any difference next to that. Which turns into a calm explanation of how she should kill her child.

Uh-huh, well that’s the Networks viewpoint in a nutshell.

Pietre is in hospital with Jessica lovingly by his side. Becky and Wilson look on (Michael has taken in Grant; which isn’t going well since Grant is a deeply damaged, wounded kid who likes to play with knives). She has not even come close to forgiving Wilson though

Ian is still wanted for murder of his brother and now his mother is appealing on television for him to give himself up when Wilson and Becky arrive with the bad news. He’s spoken to Leah, and their man is supposed to go to various locations around the world to spread it in 5 different locations round the world. They have 90 days to stop him. But if he’s suspicious he’s to release the disease straight away, killing millions. They can’t use the Network’s resources to find him because of that – which means they have to find him. First step is looking at the people it could be (there are several dummies, like Paul who Wilson met) to see which one has disappeared so they know who they’re looking for.

Wilson continues to try and build bridges with the other two – they’re having none of it. They go to find Paul – and realise he’s still around so he isn’t the one. Wilson draws a gun – Becky and Ian are horrified, and even more horrified when Wilson assures them Leah can cover it up; he’s not worried about the morality of killing, just blowing the operation. Wilson points out they have no idea what to do or what the back up plan is with Milner dead (especially since with her dead who knows what will happen when people notice) – getting very agitated. Ian suggests breaking into Paul’s house – but they’re not killers.

Where they continue to see how much Wilson has changed from his time in the Network, how few lines he has. They do find a mobile phone which Wilson can get into with his former geeky glory (call back to season 1). They find a call from Gorsky, someone who has been involved before but is supposed to be dead.

Becky takes another of her pills – she’s running out, she only has 4 days left. And she does intend to commit suicide before she dies of Deels. She tells Ian it’s her choice. She’s also still having hallucinations of the murdered translator with the hole in his head.

Gorsky is actually in prison after going to utterly extreme levels to fake his own death (hammering out his own teeth and putting them in the head of a man he’d kill). They seek Gorsky in prison and he’s afraid – he trained the Janus operative, he knows who they are and that they’ll clear up loose ends. Like him. When Wilson shows he knows about Paul, Gorky gives him the other two names; but wants protecting. And no, he doesn’t think a police station is enough. Wilson calls Leah who has both Paul and one of the other men killed, leaving only Terrence.

George R. R. Martin's Poor Excuse for LGBT Erasure in A Song of Ice and Fire

At the Edinburgh International Book Festival, George R R Martin, author of the Song of Ice and Fire Series (Game of Thrones) was asked about the lack of gay characters and intimate gay scenes in his books. This is his response:

He said the books are narrated through his "viewpoint" characters, so he was more limited than the TV shows. "Frankly, it is the way I prefer to write fiction because that is the way all of us experience life. You're seeing me from your viewpoint, you're not seeing what someone over here is seeing.

Because none of the viewpoint characters are gay, there are no explicit gay sex scenes in the early books. "A television show doesn't have those limitations," he said. "Will that change? It might. I've had letters from fans who want me to present particularly an explicit male sex scene – most of the letters come from women."

But he added: "I'm not going to do it just for the sake of doing it. If the plot lends itself to that, if one of my viewpoint characters is in a situation, then I'm not going to shy away from it, but you can't just insert things because everyone wants to see them.

"It is not a democracy. If it was a democracy, then Joffrey [the sadistic boy king] would have died much earlier than he did."

There’s a lot to unpack here - and it’s a whole lot of wrong

When we write fiction, we create a brand new world. The operative phrase in the previous sentence is “we create”.  A Song of Ice and Fire is most certainly an epic and unique world but it is a world created specifically by George R.R. Martin and as such, Martin is ultimately responsible for everything the characters say and do and for the world itself. To then suggest that explicit same sex scenes cannot happen because all of the characters are straight, ignores the fact that Martin created an all straight universe, thus  making the possibility of same sex interaction impossible in the first place. Martin is right, what he chooses to place on the page is not a democracy and thus he is solely responsible and is therefore open for critique. He can write whatever he wants - and what he wants is nothing but straight people and we can criticise him for that.

What is further disturbing is that Martin then goes on to add: 

"I'm not going to do it just for the sake of doing it. If the plot lends itself to that, if one of my viewpoint characters is in a situation, then I'm not going to shy away from it, but you can't just insert things because everyone wants to see them.”  

Since this series is from the beginning a creation of one person the plot was always malleable and the only limitations in actual existence were, and in fact are, the limitations of its creator.

Further, Martin suggests that this kind of inclusion boils down to fan service and given his tumultuous relationship with his fans, it would on first appearance justify his response. The problem is that we aren’t just talking about whether or not Joffrey should live or die but the inclusion of marginalised characters. This isn’t about throwing meat at overly demanding slashers but inclusion of a group of people who society actively oppresses, erases and frames as having a deviant sexuality. The more GLBT people are represented in the mainstream media alongside straight, cisgender people, the more we affirm that there is nothing inherently problematic or morally wrong about being a member of the alphabet soup.

This is why inclusion is so important and not something to be reduced to overly demanding fans, once again making unreasonable requests of George R.R. Martin, in attempt to reduce him to their “bitch” as it were. Including GLBT people is an imperative and moral good given the heterosexist society we live in. Sure, inclusion alone won’t change the bigotry of many, or the laws of the state but good inclusion (note: operative word here is “good.”), will have tangible social effects. At the very least, it could be one of the few series in which a young person could see themselves represented in a world which tells said person that they should not exist. Given the high rate of substance abuse, suicide and bullying, every social action which upholds and asserts the humanity of the TLBG community is important.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Year of the Tiger (Changeling Sisters #2) By Heather Heffner

The war between the weres and the vampires grows in intensity and Citlalli is torn in how to proceed – does she obediently follow the were alpha’s plans, even as he keeps her in the dark? Does she join Rafael on his destructive quest for vengeance- but how many will die following his path? Or does she take a chance and run for her own priority – saving her sisters – even if it means meeting the vampire queen on her own turf?

While Raina continues her precarious existence in the vampire court. She has few – and decreasing – allies and an ever growing amount of enemies. She has forged an alliance with Khyber, the queen’s oldest son, but how sure can she be that she can trust him? But her own awareness of herself and her past may be giving her a whole new weapon to fight with

I don’t know whether it’s because of the gap between reading this book and the last book, but I found some elements of this book lost me. It’s just so huge, we have the supernatural world, the back story of the vampires, the nature of Citlalli’s many divided soul, different shapeshifter groups, magic and spirits and Uma and dark spirits and the Fox and the man’s lantern… it’s rare for me to want a recap but I would have appreciated here  - a recap or more detailed explanation. Or maybe just a slightly slower pace

Because while the first book took a long time to get started, this book felt like we were plunged into the deep end and expected to run. In almost no time we go from reeling and adapting to the last book to throwing ourselves into the action of this one. The war is here, the plot against the vampires is coming to a head. Fights! Drama! High emotion! Conflict! It’s an excellent roller coaster of action and tension which just doesn’t give me much time to catch my breath and get my bearing as we’re pulled along. Just little things like the nature of spirit world, the identity of various ghosts, a reminder of the shapeshifter hierarchy, the nature of Maya’s many forms, Una’s role, maybe even a little time to get used to Raina and Citlalli’s differing POVs since Rain is changing so much.

At the same time there are elements of the plot that are distracted. Citlalli takes some time to spend with the lantern seller and I,m not entirely sure what it achieves (or how she’s able to magically divine his cure after such a brief meeting). We have the fox running around causing chaos that could probably be better served in a series of short stories – though it does serve to remind us that just because the vampires and Maya are the main enemy doesn’t mean they’re the only problem.

I think this rapid pacing, large number of characters and lots of action confuses me a little because the world is so wide and rich. There’s a lot of research, a lot of legends and a lot of work gone into building this world and incorporating so many different elements of mythology that we so rarely see incorporated into Urban Fantasy stories, making it very different from anything I’ve read before

I did like to see some humanising of Citlali’s mother – she’s often the harsh authority figure to be railed against and blamed. It’s nice to see more of her – her strictness covers her concern and genuine love. And her compassion – refusing to let Una live alone when she realises she has no parents. She’s strict, she has rules, but she also has a lot of love and a lot of hard history behind her

Witches of East End, Season 2, Episode 5: Boogie Night

Joanna casts a spell which doesn’t seem to end well – she looks at the remains and says “Mandragora” and seems quite surprised and unhappy with this result.

What we need now is Freya dreaming up a whole dated dance scene with Dash and Killian. Its’ really really really really long and Freya badly needs the 21st century to fall on her – and Dash looks awful in a moustache. But hey, everyone would look awful in that moustache. Actually Freya needs some serious help with her sex dreams – they need 1) less pre-amble, 2) less clothes, 3) less dance scenes, 4) better music and 5) better cocaine.

Ingrid wakes her up before she gets past the preliminaries with Dream!Killian (see Freya? Less time on the dancing, more time on the sex next time). Apparetly Freya’s vivid dream is due to her using a past-life spell she took from Ingrid. This means a) Frya decided to return to the 70s BY CHOICE WITH NO-ONE FORCING HER and b) she really did have a choreographer and extras plan her sex with Killian. Ingrid thinks this is a bad idea (because it ended badly when Ingrid tried this – not because her sister is clearly a twisted soul for her wilful 70s visit) but Freya is super happy because she’s known Past-life-Killian in every past life (sometimes Dash, though not always. I assume he disappears for a generation in shame after the moustache).  Anyway this is all angst fodder for her not having hot monkey sex with Killian in the present.

Admittedly, being in the position to sleep with a) Dash or b) Killian or c) (with skill) both to having neither is worthy of a little angst. Brief cut to Dash to remind us that he’s actually a good looking man when he isn’t ravaged by a moustache.

To the plot (Freya isn’t present. Freya is the destroyer of plot), Joanna, Wendy and Frederick have a Mandragora info-dump for us – they’re feral creatures that do kill people (Joanna assumes its behind the killings). Frederick adds that evil granddaddy-who-is-probably-Odin-but-no-one-says-that trained the Mandragora into armies and sent one to hunt him; though Wendy still doubts this oh-so-convenient explanation for the serial killing which so conveniently gets the highly suspicious Frederick off the hook. Frederick continues to practice his wounded sad pathos eyes. He does have very good wounded sad pathos eyes. Kind of like a sad puppy. He also adds that Mandragora are big and dangerous and unkillable.

Alas Freya returns so the plot cringes away from the all consuming love triangle. Killian is now working in the bar again rather than live off his vast inheritance or card sharking or even going back to live wherever he was but isn’t apparently going home. This is so we can clumsily turn the clock back to Killian and Freya working together – except now that Killian knows about the whole witch thing. Killian’s all pouty because she didn’t manage to work being magical into the conversation at some point. In the name of honesty, Freya gets ready to tell Killian how much she still loves him – when Killian’s wife, Eva, enters the room and greets Killian with a kiss. Oh Freya, don’t pout, we all know something’s going to eat Eva soon – or she’ll be evil.

So Freya handles this like a mature adult – and runs to the store-room to take some of her happy recap spell. Because interrupting your work day for, effectively, a magic drug and hallucination masturbation is so professional. Back to the 70s and Dash is a drug dealer and she is the one who makes it because she’s super-good at that and Killian wants her to be honest with Dash that she loves him – using the exact same words that modern Killian did referring to telling him about magic. How. Trite. He also accuses her of being an addict.

This Week in Book Covers 4th August - 8th August

This week we border just a little too close to the phoned-in generic too often. Nothing truly awful, but not a lot to distinguish itself either

The Vampire Armand (The Vampire Chronicles #5) by Anne Rice

Anne Rice = Big Name = Abstract Generic that vaguely suggests you’re going to read a dull book about Italian frescoes. At least this is vaguely tangentially related to the characters within

Flight from Hell (Otherworld #15.5) by Yasmine Galenorn

I’ve always kind of liked the Otherworld covers in a, this-is-a-classic-generic-urban-fantasy-cover kind of way. They’ve never stood out as especially different, but they’ve always been somewhat iconic of the genre - the classic “this is a badass woman in full pose with an interesting background with little hints of supernatural” that we’ve seen a dozen times. Yes, it’s generic, but it tells you exactly the kind of book you’re getting - and the Otherworld series has sufficient length and prominence that they can pull off the “iconic yet generic” cover look.

Unfortunately, those generics also come with tropes -so while Menolly is fully covered, she’s also rocking a massive hip thrust. At least she’s avoided the crouching that was so common in earlier books.

The main problem with this cover is, of course, the main problem with the book - this book is supposed to introduce a new series and I see Menolly on the cover

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Win the Rings by K.D. Van Brunt

Shapeshifters can turn into perfect copies of people – any person – with just one touch. And that doesn’t just mean appearance, that means their memories and skills as well. One touch and they can become them any time. After one shapeshifter nearly bankrupt a city, the US military quickly intervened under a secret executive order and all shaepshifters are found and imprisoned – raised, trained and by the army in brutal surroundings. Evading them is a crime, free shapeshifters are hunted.

Jace has been in the army prison since she was 5 years old. It was hard, it was brutal – and she is both of those things. She also wants to be free… which means earning her freedom

Gray ran, he’s spent his whole life on the run, but he’s finally been noticed and hunted. Gray’s freedom may be the price of Jace finally escaping.

This world is an interesting wrong, bringing in shapeshifting as a power and mixing it with elements of mind reading to make a truly original and rather frightening story. Beings who can read the minds and memories of those they have turned into – the threat they represent is incredible which in turn leads to them being brutally oppressed and denied anything resembling rights as human beings – this widescale kidnapping and holding of them works and remains realistic in the story simply because they never forget how much of a threat they are – we are constantly reminded in subtle ways just how dangerous a shapeshifter is.

I think the world building also works because there’s a limit on anything else out there. Gray and his sister have a form of telepathy that suggests maybe there is more out there, but the author has resisted the temptation to crowd the story. We have one supernatural, we have the world adjusted to control and use this supernatural. This is their stories – we don’t need other psychics, weremoose, and-whatever-monster-we’re-calling-fae-this-week.

This tight focus works to keep the story moving – and makes it a very good first book. We get the characters introduced, motivated and developed in excellent but not long winded detail. Everything is focused on them and their journey so you really get to know these people without distraction. The world isn’t overly complicated nor is the story confused or twisted – it’s pretty focused. The military controls all shapeshifters (to stop them running amok in uncontrolled ways and to use them to run amok the way they want to) in, basically, a prison. Jace can earn her freedom by serving her masters – and that serice means bringing in shapeshifters who have managed to dodge the system; like Gray.

It’s not a complex or twisted story (though there are elements of one to come in future books). But it’s clear lines let us focus on the characters, let them explore this (again, not overly complicated) world and establish everything perfectly

And this is ideal because I love the protagonist, Jace and Gray.  Starting with Jace: ok, I would expect someone raised in a government facility to be rather more brainwashed than she was, but that’s clearly not been the way she was raised and there’s some quasi explanation for it. The main reason I like her is that she has all of the usual excuse we have for a complete arsehole of a character – the tragic past, being completely friendless, being relentlessly bullied and constantly having to fight for her place – yet she isn’t that arsehole. She’s hard. She’s harsh. She’s unforgiving and uncompromising. She has a control streak 10 miles wide But she’s fair within her own rules, she’s willing to fight for other people as much as for herself. She has a strong sense of duty even if she doesn’t like or isn’t particularly nice to the people she feels dutiful towards (or if they don’t like her either). She has a short temper, but it doesn’t reach the comical levels we see so often in the genre with protagonists lashing out like berserkers at the slightest thing. And she’s selfish – or, rather, she’s focused on her own goal. She wants to get out, she wants to escape the prison she has lived in all her life – and if that means she has to work for an organisation she loathes and even hurt someone else in the process – well, needs much. In fact, she’s not selfish – but she isn’t a martyr. And that doesn’t make her a bad person – she does what she has to within the limits of her terrible situation

Under the Dome, Season 2, Episode 7: Going Home

Barbie angsts to Julia about Sam. While across town the four hands wake up, Melanie all close to Junior for further these-two-are-definitely-a-couple and Angie has totally being replaced feelings. She’s also so happy that Junior stayed awake to keep them all safe. Uh-huh, something needs to eat Junior

Barbie and Julia alive and after a brief “yay alien egg that has imprisoned us!” moment, Julia tells Junior about Sam. Of course Junior doesn’t believe it and he stomps off. So Barbie decides they need to find Sam’s body. Barbie tells Jim he’s going to explore the tunnels (while keeping the whole Sam thing from him)

Rebecca Barbie and Julia reach the abyss. There they find compasses spin, a flare dropped into the abyss is just swallowed by the darkness and they don’t hear it land and a laser pointer can’t penetrate it. With all this reassuring knowledge, Barbie decides to abseil down.

This may not be the best idea anyone ever had.

Some distance down this huge crevasse, something starts to pull Barbie down. He jerks down the rope – and it pulls itself free from its anchors. Only Julia and Rebecca grabbing the rope stops him falling. Julia screams at Barbie to climb, he screams for her to drop him. Rebecca screams for them to do something because he can’t hold them both while they try to out-noble each other. Barbie wins when he says he loves her then cuts the rope, dooming himself to fall

And behold, Natural Selection in action.

In town Junior angsts to Melanie about Sam and Jim overhears. Jim takes this as a chance to try and get Junior back on side since he was getting so close to Sam, saying how weak and flawed Sam was unlike him – special special Jim who was chosen by the Dome to be so awesome. Junior actually makes me agree with him when he shoots back that Jim has to make everything about him.

Joe grieves for his sister and talks to Norrie which turns into Joe asking lots of questions about the dome which are supposed to be new, but really aren’t. Honestly “where does it come from? Why is it here?” we need an actual scene for people to ask these questions?

Rebecca tries to calm Julia down when Jim arrives seeking answers. Julia keeps news of Barbie’s fall secret and claims Barbie is bringing Sam’s body up from the pit. She then goes to see Joe, Norrie and Melanie and tell them about Barbie cutting the rope and falling . Joe doesn’t believe the Dome would ever allow Barbie to be hurt – he also adds the knowledge that he’s been in the school basement and the tunnel is completely new and part of the Dome’s plan. Which he seems to find reassuring.  He wants to send a robot drone down the abyss – which he can totally make because of a school club. What is this school club teaching kids how to make robots?

Rebecca goes home to find Jim waiting for her, being all creepy and menacing, talking about her “crossing him” and how the Dome named him the super special Chosen One. He intimidates and threatens her into telling him what happened to Barbie.

Teen Wolf, Season 4, Episode 8: Time of Death

I want to give a prize to Teen Wolf for being one of the few shows on television to show romantic going to sleep with the person you love as awkward, uncomfortable and with arms going to sleep. Stiles and Malia struggle until finally getting comfy  - but alas, it’s all a dream of sad Stiles since he upset Malia by lying to her

Also, he could sleep better if he didn’t wear enough clothes to go on an arctic expedition.

Rafe McCall (who still isn’t dead) prepares his notes on having shot someone last week to save Stiles’s life. Scott hears it all with his super wolfy hearing. Rafe also has to go back to San Francisco for the review and he and Scott talk about him having to kill and how hard it is; Scott looks for advice on how to deal with it since he’s been in a few life and death situations. Speaking of, Rafe would like to talk to him like that since Scott et al seem to deal with all of the life and death stuff quite casually- because they’re a bit used to it by now. He wants to know their secrets

Personally I want him to be eaten by a weremarmot. We don’t always get what we want

Scot gathers Stiles, Kira and Liam to make a dangerous and reckless plan – the Benefactor always wants visual confirmation someone is dead to prove they’re dead. So when a supernatural on the list dies without that proof, they assume he will come and collect his own visual proof.

How do they do this? Scott is brought into the hospital, not breathing. Liam’s father works on him (behold, another medical professional in Beacon Hills) before declaring Scott… dead.

Yeah turn off that dramatic music, there’s no way Scott is dead. You already played the “zomg this character is going to die” card 11 billion times last episode.

They call Melissa and her grief is… incredible. Whatever this plan involves it is so not nearly enough to justify doing that to Melissa. Even if the whole world rests in the balance, if he didn’t at least give Melissa a heads up ther’es not enough mother’s day gifts in the world to make this up.

Flashback to Noshiko (Kira’s mother) guiding Kira how to use stormy kitsune magic to stop Scott’s heart (Scott having to reassure Liam to stop wolfy freak out).

In the hospital it turns out Melissa wasn’t devastated – she’s just a great actor and maybe Scott will not spend the rest of his life buying diamonds for mother’s day. She’s in on the plan – she hates it, but she’s in on it. Noshiko shows her that his low, quiet heartbeat is enough to keep an alpha wolf alive for 45 mins – but he needs to be brought back before then or he dies. Something they didn’t tell Melissa.

Stiles and Chris Argent send out their little message to the Benefactor saying that Scott is dead (Stiles is adorkable of course). The Benefactor won’t pay without confirmation so Chris plays hard ball – he gets his money or he, who killed no.1 on the list, goes after Chris.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

True Blood, Season 7, Episode 8: Almost Home

Sarah/Noomi is stll hallucinating away and has been found by Eric, Pam and the Corporate Yakuza Texan (only recapping True Blood would I ever type such a phrase). Sarah embraces death and goes to Eric because… well, very little Sarah did made sense before so she’s hardly going to start any time soon, especially since she now has a messiah complex. Eric would much rather kill Sarah than live and save vampire kind while Pam holds a gun to her chest and is willing to kill herself if Eric kills Sarah.

Everyone here just wants to die.

Eric bites Sarah but doesn’t kill her – Sarah’s blood heals Eric and the black veins disappear.

They go to Fangtasia and Gus reveals his full dastardly plan. Sure they can (and have) created cure blood from Sarah which they could sell – but instead he’d rather produce New Blood that doesn’t cure the disease… but treats it. So vampires would have to keep on buying it – as he tells Sam and Eric to make them agree not to tell anyone about the cure.

To Bill and Sookeh who are all post-sexy glowy and talking about how Queen Sophie-Anne (remember her?) wanted to use Sookie to breed a legion of tasty tasty fae snacks and that was why she sent Bill to go get her. He didn’t because Sookie was so special and lots of love and gooeyness and how unworthy Bill is of her.

Elsewhere the Reverend Daniels is called in by a family rather bemused to have Lafayette and Lettie Mae digging up their lawn. James shows up to be their blood dispenser while Lettie Mae begs Reverend Daniels to believe in her. Watching Lettie Mae take the blood, the Reverend Daniels does the same (with some awesome acting). The bemused family is rather shocked. They all see Tara and follow her into the past to a flashback of the past, with Tara, Lafayette and Sookie as kids at Tara’s birthday which was going well – until Tara’s abusive father returned home and hit Lettie Mae.

As he abuses and beats Lettie Mae, young Tara finds her father’s gun – she considers shooting her dad  before deciding to bury it in the garden – just because her dad comes out and leaves with Lettie Mae begging him not to. When he’s gone she despairs of continuing alone.

In the present, Reverend Daniels finds the gun Tara buried. Tara, now coherent, tells Lettie Mae how she’s sorry that she couldn’t pull the trigger, that she should have; while Lettie Mae says it wasn’t Tara’s job to save her. Tara praises her as a good mother and she wasn’t weak – bad stuff happened to her. She tells Lettie Mae to forgive herself – and let her go. After a hug goodbye, she disappears.

For some bizarre reason (even by True Blood standards) Bridget, Hoyt and Jason decide to hit Hoyt’s baby photo albums which has Hoyt having an angry, grieving rant at Bridget over the idea of having kids. Jason is distracted from the Awkward by a text from Violet of Adilyn all tied up and kidnapped and Jessica. Jason leaves to run to the rescue and Bridget decides to join him because the way to storm out of an argument with your boyfriend is totally to join a policeman on a kidnapping case, right? Then refuse to get out of his car.


They arrive at Violet’s house and Jason gives Bridget a gun (Bridget has just realised following a police officer into a dangerous situation is actually, well, dangerous). Jason enters the house full of elaborate decor and taxidermy (why was Violet living with Jason again?) Violet easily ambushes Jason, has a rant about how she’s the most perfect, irresistible woman in history and how no-one leaves her, before taking him to where all the prisoners are bound. She chains him to a St. Andrew’s cross. She then performs her bad guy epic monologue on torture and rape and torture and how Jason should have just worshipped her before Hoyt shoots her in the back and kills her

Well, that was anti-climactic. I guess vampire ears turn off during ranting

Jason unchains Jessica but she only has eyes for Hoyt then gets all sad eyed when Bridget appears. Nope, I forbid another love triangle/square/dodecahedron! I forbid it! Andy arrives and there’s lots of hugging and reunion. Jessica and Hoyt have a moment. Jason and Bridget have a moment. I have a drink.

Jason and Jessica have a moment outside Jessica’s house – and yes, I have another drink. The next day at Bellefleurs Hoyt talks to Jason about how compelling Jessica is to him because, really, why wouldn’t you have this conversation with a near stranger? Hoyt decides to visit with a care package of a pint of his own blood (since he’s uninfected) awww, isn’t that nice? More people should visit with unrefrigerated bodily fluids! Do you have to write a thank you note for that? Jessica is awake (despite, y’know, that being virtually impossible for a vampire during the day –pfft, who needs canon?)  Yada yada romance romance romance.

To the Sookie household and Eric visits to show Sookie his uninfected healedness. She tells him that Bill is super sick. Eric tries to make excuses and eventually uses the sun rising to leave promising to come back

True Blood, Season 7, Episode 7: May Be the Last Time

Eric, Pam and Gus all question Amber, Sarah’s miraculously cured sister. Sadly, as well as being cured, Amber has fully bought into her sister being a good and wonderful saviour – especially since she IS the cure. Any further questions fail because Eric loses his every-so-fragile temper and kills Amber. Pam and Gus are not impressed.

Holly and Andy are still seeking their lost kids (Andy calling Adilyn’s phone on the assumption that no teenager can ignore a ringing cell phone. Hey he may not have been a dad for long but he picked it up quickly), and find Wade’s dad’s truck at the treehouse and Adilyn’s phone. Andy calls Jessica (interrupting her, Bill and Sookie all wallowing in Bill’s illness because wooooe. No I’m not sold on it because there’s no way Bill will die, especially not with Eric on the track of the cure). She confirms she has had Adliyn’s blood and would sense if she were in danger – and hasn’t sensed it. Holly suggests that the kids have gone to Wade’s father’s lakehouse –in Oklahoma.

They’ve actually gone with violet to her huge impressive mansion (why was she slumming it with Jason again when she owned this?) and her extensive vintage sex toy collection (really? This is ridiculously comic) and sympathetic support for their love and totally understanding because she used to sleep with her brother too. Uh-huh. Wade and Adilyn are all kind of annoyingly cute about how they don’t want to use any of Violet’s toys but think they have to play the other before mind reading solves the whole problem

Andy and Holly find that Wade and Adilyn aren’t at the lake and Andy breaks down – Holly is there with some excellent reassurance.

Interlude in the Sookie/Bill/Jessica angst for Arlene to have a sex dream about vampire Keith because she’s had his blood.

Back to Pam and Eric and Pam being very very impressed with Eric – and Eric being more interested in killing Sarah than using her for the cure. Gus has a plan – NuBlood, synthesised blood from Sarah with the cure which he wants to cut Eric and Pam in. And he’s sure he can find Sarah because the Japanese government is so eager to help businesses they will apparently put spy satellites at their control (and, by extension, control of a yakuza. Oh True Blood).  He needs Eric onside because he’s handsome (yes we have a damn “no homo” moment) and can restore trust in a company which has obviously lost a lot of public confidence with the whole plagued product thing.

Back to the angst fest. Sookie encourages Jessica to get in bed with her father figure and repeats her determined belief that there is a miracle out there for Bill.

Time for a pointless flashback! Bill being forced into marriage so they can have a stable family with lots of money to provide for his mother’s old age. But luckily Bill liked Caroline, his wife

Sookie calls in Dr. Ludwig who could have improved this whole show 8 bazillion times if she had been a regular character). She confirms that Bill’s super-accelerated Hep V is due to Sookie being part fae – and she heads for the hills when she hears that Niall is Sookie’s ancestor.

Falling Skies, Season 4 Episode 8: A Thing With Feathers

So last episode a lot of people died who I didn’t really care about. In the aftermath, the survivors (who I don’t really care about either) now emerge from their bunker. Thankfully the Espheni didn’t search very hard with their army of agile skitters and the not-very-hidden bunker wasn’t found.

They search the ruins for survivors, finding many bodies (and Pope finds a wounded Skitter – which Sarah insists on finishing off rather than Pope.)

Ben wakes up as Lexi’s prisoner among the Espheni where they can hear the screams of people held captive (but Lexi is still on team Espheni? Yup, evil). She calls all the screaming a “peaceful solution”. It’s the e3volution of the species to have humans imprisoned and experimented upon. Did I mention she was evil. Ben finally tells her that what she is planning is genocide, is extinction – at last someone said it to her! She uses his spikes to control him and he gasps “you’re going to kill me like you killed Lourdes” as he collapses, bleeding from his eyes. She tries to spin her evil and Ben tells her he’s making him her slave, just like the Espheni did. She says she still wants to be family and he walks away from her.

Hal finds Maggie and she’s alive (I’m shocked. Truly. This is my shocked face. Just look at how shocked it is).  They get Maggie to Anne for treatment but Anne tells Hal that Maggie is paralysed due to spinal cord damage. To cure her they talk to Cochise who suggests taking super-healer serum out of Deni’s spikes and injecting it into Maggie – which could kill both of them. Deni agrees but Anne won’t go ahead without Maggie’s say-so. Maggie is unwilling to have alien DNA injected into her despite Hal begging her to.

Hal lies to Anne about her refusal. She’s too out of it to stop Anne from injecting the fluid. After the procedure, Maggie is so weak that Anne doesn’t think she can survive and Hal cries and admits he lied – Anne says she would have done the same for Tom. While they’re all sad, Ben returns and tells Anne about Lexi’s lovely genocide plot and how impossible it is to rescue her – and even if they could, it’s pointless because Lexi is gone, there is only Espheni. Ben also suggests using a full spike transplant on Maggie to save her – Anne is all angry and stompy (curse you Ben and your truth telling!) and is worried that a full pike extraction would kill Ben (since just removing the fluid hurt Deny a lot). Ben insists and with Volm tech they remove the spikes (which are wiggly living things). She gets three before she worried about Ben. Maggie and Ben’s spikes glow and they start synchronised seizing

Under the rubble Tom is alive (no, really, this is my shocked expression honest) and even buried under 10 tonnes of rocks he manages to be the big damn hero, pulling Botha out from under a slab. On the surface Weaver organises the digging while Pope declares Tom is dead and Matt leaps at him for the suggestion. Even Pope recognises that talking about a kid’s dad being dead while he’s present is not a nice thing to do.

The Strain, Season 1, Episode 5: Runaways

Bolivar’s doctor has got him the discrete urologist he asked for – and she makes a house call, speaking to his manager, Ruby who is very focused on the next night’s performance. Gabriel, now all vampiric, grabs and feeds on the urologist – Ruby sees this and, very sensibly, runs for it and seems to get away despite wearing very impractical shoes that twist her ankle (she should study with Urban Fantasy protagonists, they can fight any kind of monster in heels).  She hobbles away and calls someone who says they can take care of things.

Jack Noon arrives, a professional “cleaner” to make the mess go away. Bolivar is still in the building – and attacks. Jack shoots him which doesn’t do a great deal – and Bolivar eats him.

Ephraim is now with the crotchety Abraham who has no time for guilt, doubt or the police. He also introduces the concept of the Master – that this is a disease with an intelligence, a plan and a cunning strategy including both a scapegoat in the CEO of the airline and a distraction – the four “survivors” to draw attention away from the 200 re-animated dead. And yes, he’s a vampire (or strigoi), but dump all of the romanticism of it – he’s a leech, a predator. Abraham knows this from both the stories his mother told him and his own experience; which leads to the first flashback to young Abraham being taken, with his family, to a concentration camp in World War 2.

Time for another survivor story – Joan, the awful lawyer with her kids and servant (inevitably a WOC) who she’s pretty unpleasant too as well. I could say it’s because she’s feeling awful but I get the impression she’s always pretty unpleasant. She tries to be nice to the kids, but she also kind of wants to eat them.

As Joan gets worse, the servant notices something badly wrong (especially since she sees the nictitating membrane) and decides it’s a good idea to get out with the kids.

Back to Ephraim and Abraham – Abraham has a not great plan (albeit with few options), go down the list person by person, killing them and anyone they’ve infected and hope along the way he runs into enough witnesses that he can convince to help him to build a small army to take them all down. Ephraim’s plan is to get footage of the survivors so he can get the CDC to throw their power behind the hunt. Abraham also shares that vampires are weakened by silver (and has a nifty silver nail gun). He also makes it clear that whatever Ephraim may think, this was his fight first and foremost and that should Ephraim get infected, Abraham will behead him. I don’t think Ephraim takes him seriously enough.

They drive off in Ephraim’s car which comes with a history of a previous assignment of his – Ephraim tells the whole story (including another hint to why his marriage broke up since he put the work first) and Abraham concludes “you’re a romantic and impractical.” Abraham Setrakian is not impressed. He does ask about Ephraim and Nora’s relationship – not to be fuzzy, but because turned vampires go after their loved ones first.

We have another concentration camp flashback in which Abraham saw the Master feeding on prisoners in the camp then breaking their necks so they didn’t rise. He tries to tell his friend but he has more human monsters to focus on – not wanting to make plans to steal silver to fight a vampire.

Abraham and Ephraim work their way down the kill list, going to Anselm’s home. There they find Annie’s body – she has hanged herself. While Ephraim wants to cut her down, Ephraim merely checks to see if she’s a strigoi (a silver backed mirror is a good test) and, since she’s not, moves on. He has other priorities.

In the shed they find Anselm where he chained himself for his family’s sake. They kill him while Ephraim gets it all on camera – but in the corner they find Anselm’s cowering neighbour, sick and also changing. Abraham doesn’t even hesitate- just cuts him down. He sets fire to the shed.

There’s another concentration camp flashback, and in the present Abraham refuses to stand by while Ephraim starts quarantine procedures (he has seen what happens when men “do nothing”). He will keep hunting.