Saturday, September 20, 2014

Haven, Season 5, Episode 2: Speak No Evil

Duke is having a bad day and decides to unload to Nathan – who tells Duke Mara shot him. Y’know stealing someone’s thunder like that is just rude. Nathan’s not getting medical help though because Mara’s after evil Aether (the black goo) and Duke is willing to let it go because he’s obsessed with finding Jennifer

Mara, meanwhile, happily murders someone possibly over a pencil before recruiting intern Vicki with her drawing Trouble to do some sketching for her, hoping her power will open the Thinnie (oh gods are we calling them that?) Thankfully, no, Vicki isn’t powerful enough because she’s an “early model.” Vicki gets tased – it’s useful being semi-regular cast, less chance of being murdered. But Mara did get Vicki’s keycard which lets her in the morgue where she works.

As we check in on Gloria (who is awesome) we see the test-tube of Aether she has stored acting up – just as Mara arrives with a gun.

Having spoken to Vicki, Nathan arrives looking quite chipper considering the bullet wound and finds the morgue in disarray and Gloria, thankfully, (or we’d have ISSUES), alive and snarky (and still awesome – she had the presence of mind to hide when Mara showed up with Intern’s pass. Yes, Intern, Gloria has no patience for silly things like names). Gloria also hid the Aether, because she’s Gloria and awesome. It also means Nathan fills her in on the whole Audrey/Mara thing while she deals with the many many bodies.

Dwight drops in on Vince who is still guarding Dave’s bedside – he’s not happy about Vince keeping the whole Mara-is-responsible-for-the-Troubles to himself and also Driscol’s fanatics are giving the Barrow family grief because the whole face sewing Trouble going round is their family Trouble (even if it’s now on Duke). And, basically, Vince is totally slacking off in his task of heading the Guard.

Dave does finally wake up and Vince uses the arcane powers of soda and porn to question his brother about his little secret of having being through the portal. Though all he remembers is fog – and returning to the real world in terrible pain and with bruises which now has all over again. Vince takes scans of the injuries to Gloria who declares them terribad.

Dwight’s still trying to fix the Trouble issue which means grabbing Duke and stopping him obsessing about Jennifer for 5 seconds – especially since he just got an entire coastguard crews’ eyes sewn shut. Dragging Duke to the Barrows finds Henry Barrow badly beaten – looks like Vince was distracted and didn’t arrange the protection he should have. Bringing them to the hospital also unleashes Duke’s little sewing problem on the poor medical staff. While Duke is panicking, Dwight questions an elderly member of the Barrow family about the Trouble and learns that the sewing happens whenever someone tries to tell them bad news (everyone telling Duke that they haven’t seen Jennifer). There’s even more rumbling of the Guard being restless.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Zombies: More Recent Dead Anthology

The Afflicted by Matthew Johnson; Dead Song by Jay Wilburn; Iphigenia in Aulis by Mike Carey; Pollution by Don Webb; Becca at the End of the World by Shira Lipkin; The Naturalist by Maureen F McHugh; Selected Sources for the Babylonian Plague of the Dead (572-571 BCE) by Alex Dally MacFarlane; What Maisie Knew by David Liss; Rocket Man by Stephen Graham Jones; The Day the Music Died by Joe McKinney; The Children’s Hour by Marge Simon; Delice by Holly Newstein; Trail of the Dead by Joanne Anderton; The Death and Life of Bob by William Jablonsky; Stemming the Tide by Simon Strantzas; Those Beneath the Bog by Jacques I Condor (Maka Tai Meh); What Still Abides by Marie Brennan; Jack and Jill by Jonathan Maberry; In the Dreamtime of Lady Resurrection by Caitlin R Kiernan; Rigormarole by Michael A Arnzen; Kitty’s Zombie New Year by Carrie Vaughn; The Gravedigger of Konstan Spring by Genevieve Valentine; Chew by Tamsyn Muir; ‘Til Death Do Us Part  by Shaun Jeffrey; There is No “E” in Zombi Which Mean there Can Be No You or We by Roxanne Gay; What Once We Feared  by Carrie Ryan; The Harrowers by Eric Gregory; Resurgam by Lisa Mennetti;  I Waltzed with a Zombie by Ron Goulart; Aftermath by Joy Kennedy-O’Neill; A Shepherd of the Valley by Maggie Slater; The Day the Saucers Came by Neil Gaiman; Love Resurrected by Cat Rambo; Present by Nicole Kornher-Stace; The Hunt: Before, and the Aftermath Joe R Lansdale; Bit Rot by Charles Stross

My first impression of this book: 36? Thirty-six? That’s a vast amount of stories for an anthology! Even 20 would have been pretty big

My second impression: No, really, 36? Seriously?

My third impression: wait, 36 stories and it’s only 480 pages long? How does that work?

Simply, a lot of it doesn’t – we have some frankly weird, surreal, barely related and generally random filler fluff pieces some of which defy me even commenting on them because I have no idea why they’re there other than to pad an already hugely stuffed book – so The Day the Saucers Came is just some randomness that barely covers two pages and is only, at best, tangentially related to the theme (or any theme for that matter), The Children’s Hour is a poem and not a particularly good one. Rigormarole feels like a tiny scrap that was edited out of a longer book and is kind of lost and pointless without the rest

But then we get down to the inherent problem of zombies and short stories. Now, I know I’ve said before that I’m generally not a huge fan of short stories anyway – and I hold on to that. A short story is usually too short to establish characters, world or a decent plot line, so often it relies on lots of info dump and no plot, lots of short cuts or relies on a lot of prior knowledge of a longer series. Then we get to zombies – there’s actually not a lot you can do with zombies. Oh, you can switch around the origin and nature and properties of zombies but, ultimately, a zombie is generally a rapacious killing machine with low intellect and (usually) both spreads rapidly and is made up of our former loved ones. Most zombie stories actually focus less on zombies and more on the characters reacting to grief, shock, horror, struggling to survive, etc etc – look at most zombies stories out there: from The Walking Dead to World War Z, most of the time zombie stories are about the people in an apocalypse

Which is damn hard to do in a short story – because you have a few short words in which to make me care enough about this person and the situation they’re in. Worse, you have a few short words to make me care enough about this person and the situation we’re in while 30+ other stories have already tried to convince me about their person in, basically, the same situation. It’s hard not to reach story 30 and not think “can you just be eaten already so I can get to the next one?”

So a lot of these stories rely on the emotional horror of loss in a dystopian. Some work and some not so much. Becca at the End of the World manages a very real emotional impact with a mother facing her 16 year old daughter turning in front of her, but it also feels heavy handed. I mean, we have a mother watching her child turn zombie – you’d have to be a horrendously awful writer not to make that emotional. I found it both very impactful but also kind of lazy – the easy route. I also thought Jack and Jill with its comparisons of zombiehood to terminal illness (and presenting someone with cancer – and in remission no less - as being, effectively, the living dead) both problematic and, again, a way of forcing emotional impact by hammering it in. Shepherd of the Valley was a man in a zombie apocalypse with a rather unique way of dealing with things but the story primarily centred around his sadness for his daughter  which just wasn’t that well conveyed- lots of moping with an odd setting. Which also kind of describes Love Resurrected; it’s a fantasy setting with the twist of a “zombie” point of view – but there was too much distraction from character development to get any real emotion out of the character

POC as Other: The Foreigner, The Savage, The Non-Human

We’ve said repeatedly on Fangs for the Fantasy is that not all inclusion is good inclusion - something that is often forgotten since so many shows and books completely erase minorities or, at best, present hollow tokens that are blatantly there to tick boxes. It’s tempting to celebrate even limited inclusion - but we should be wary of given uncritical praise to problematic tropes raising their ugly heads over and over and over again

One of the most pervasive of which, for POC, is the Other. Not Like Us. The Alien. The different - repeatedly we will see something that separated POC from the “local” people (or, in extreme cases “normal” people). This isn’t the same as presenting POC with cultural markers - in fact we’ve spoken before about the removal of identity with POC characters - but as expressly Othering POC as external to the setting

A common example of this is by making all POC foreign. When POC are included they are often not local to the setting - they come from elsewhere, some foreign land, they’re immigrants or visitors or passing through or, in some cases, outright alien or non-human. This isn’t inherently a bad thing, obviously there is no problem with having POC from foreign countries to the setting nor even in having non-human POC - the problem comes when these are the only or the overwhelmingly predominant representations especially when the setting of the book/show is much more diverse.

Take The Dresden Files. Harry lives in Chicago - a city that is 55% non-White, yet the vast majority of the very few POC who appear in the city are not native Chicagoans. We have members of the High Council (emphasising how global and diverse the High Council is, which isn’t a bad thing), visiting wizards (Ramirez), foreign knights of the cross from Japan (Shiro) and Russia (Sanya); but very few actual Chicagoans are POC. This allows the (very limited) presentation of a few POC in the book while still implying that Chicago is an all White city. We also have Uriel, a Black angel - non-human POC who is by definition alien, which leads me nicely to Dominion.

Dominion is set in Vega, a post-dystopian Las Vegas. In the here and now, Las Vegas is only 48% non-Hispanic White - fast forward to Vega and we do have a fair number of POC in the city; but when you looked at actual people from Vega it is all white. All of the POC were either foreigners - natives of Helena (Arika) with it’s often emphasised different culture (nearly every time Arika or her fellow Hellenites appeared it was to emphasise her sexual nature or their foreignness and alienness to Vega) - or, tellingly, not human at all. Noma, Michael and Furiad, perhaps even Gabriel, are all POC and all angels. Again we have a setting that has presented several POC to the cameras (albeit not always for very long or in much depth), but they’re all Other, they’re all foreign or alien or inhuman. They’re all “not from round here.” We have an attempted display of diversity while still implying that the “home” location is all White.

Even in the future we get this same sense - look at Almost Human with Dorian the Black android. Again, there is no problem with Dorian being a Black man - nor is there a problem with a number of the other androids being POC (both the police bots and the sex bots). There is a problem that very few of the other human cast, both background extras and main characters combined, are actually POC. Again, we have diversity presented on the screen, even a co-protagonist presented as a POC, but we still have a trope that renders the POC as Other.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Infinity Key (Senyaza Series #2) by Chrysoula Tzavelas

Branwyn is human. A nice, normal human – which isn’t a great thing to be when magical shenanigans, monsters, fae and wizards are running around. There can be no greater evidence of this than her best friend, Penny, slowly dying in a hospital bed. A fate that could have been Branwyn’s if Marley hadn’t worked so hard to keep her out of the supernatural drama that had consumed her life.

Branwyn doesn’t want to be protected, she doesn’t want to be a tool, a victim or something to be sheltered and she certainly doesn’t want to sit and watch her best friend die. Against all advice and all established knowledge, she reaches out to Tarn, a fae noble, in his imprisonment in the fae world. He’s definitely using her for his own devices but he is the only one who offers even flimsy hope of saving Penny’s life – and, perhaps, of Branwyn learning some human skills that will allow her to protect herself in the magical world she has been plunged into.

When I started reading this book I was very worried I would hate Branwyn because in many ways she does exactly what I hate human characters in Urban Fantasy to do. She seeks out danger, she gets in way over her head, she doesn’t listen to warnings, she takes massive risks and she doesn’t know nearly enough to be safe. That is usually a recipe for me to be cursing a character and the magical luck that allows her to somehow exist and breathe through.

But Branwyn works. She works because she is extremely, painfully, aware of how vulnerable she is in fact the core of everything she does is because she is so vulnerable – she’s trying to reduce that vulnerability. She’s an aware human in the supernatural world – she’s inherently vulnerable. She’s tired of having to rely on the (sometimes dubious) protection of others and she can’t bring herself to pretend she isn’t aware of the supernatural around her. She needs to take these risks or spend the rest of her life being at risk or dependent on other people which is most definitely not her nor something she could endure.

It works, it fits her personality – she’s irrepressible, irreverent, fun loving, passionate and defiant – not in a constantly angry kind of way, but in her insistence that she will walk her own path and do her own thing and isn’t going to accept what others lay down as “the way things are.” This also makes her very determined and completely unwilling to accept the inevitable fatalism about Penny’s slow death, nor accept that her vulnerability or lesser status is just something she has to put up with. She’s also, unlike Marley, not willing to take the word of Senyaza for anything –neither assuming they know everything or assuming that they have her best interests in mind (especially since they’re more than a little condescending when it comes to humans anyway)

This makes her an excellent, caring, challenging character – if I had any criticism at al, it’s that her “irreverence” often comes across as brash or even outright rude with little justification for it – and seems more like showing off bravado than appropriateness of the situation. But then, when the only power you have in a situation is confidence and bluff – and making it abundantly clear to all concerned that you will NOT be playing by their rules then you have to spin it well.

Witches of East End, Season 2, Episode 9: Smells Like King Spirit

Ok, let’s clear the B storylines first:

Dash is having massive temper tantrums because Ingrid doesn’t want to return his calls. Dash does kind of epitomise the entitled, spoiled, rich kid doesn’t he? His tantrums reveal a hidden stash of letters and books from his evil grandfather – that would be the evil grandfather who was in a relationship with evil past!life Ingrid. There’s even a photograph of her.

He tracks down Ingrid because her not returning his calls is STILL not a big enough hint to ask about his evil-granddad’s journals. Ingrid explains the whole cursed rebirth thing and past lives. Dash also realises his mother was over a century old and that Ingrid had sex with his grandfather- but thankfully Ingrid is not his granny because uckies uckies uckies. Ingrid also remembers that evil granddad was evil – he had her do things like kill people and cover it up. Like she did with Dash. Ooops.

Dash counters it’s totally different because he’s not evil. Uh-huh, I think he’d have trouble convincing an impartial jury – and Ingrid for that matter. To prove his lack-of-evilness he has to burn the journals and black magic. Which he does. Good step. Step 2 involves Dash telling Killian he nearly killed him with magic. Yeah, not sure this step is a good idea, to be honest. Ingrid keeps trying to sell this as redemption while he’s clearly seeing it as a step-by-step guide back into Ingrid’s bed.

2nd B storyline and 2nd Beauchamp daughter:

Freya (argh, must we?) who dumps all of her Killian issues on Ingrid including that she thinks Eva is bespelling Killian (which is a) a classic case of main characters magically knowing the script and/or b) super arrogant because Freya assumes the only way Killian would chose Eva over her is witchcraft).

Eva and her daughter/grandmother seem to be using a magical pregnancy test that comes up negative which makes Eva very sad.

Freya sneaks into their house to steal a bottle of potion and runs into the grandma/daughter – who responds to this trespass by breaking glass and making a huge mess. Not the most useful offensive spells in the world. Granny needs to work on her aim. The stress of random vandalism also causes her heart trouble.

Freya tries to convince Killian that her breaking into his house is nothing to do with him being a depraved stalker and that Eva is totally evil but it’s not because of Freya’s jealousy. Uh-huh – that’s a pretty hard sell there.

They go to see Eva – and find her much older. Eva’s daughter/grandmother died from the heart attack. Eva isn’t even a witch – she’s human, but so long as she has a child by a warlock she remains young and powerful - which is why she needed to be pregnant by Killian before her daughter died. That didn’t work out so now death is catching up with her. As she collapses, Killian begs Freya to help and she leads him in a chant to help Eva but it doesn’t work. Tragic death follows Eva assuring Killian she really loved him, honest.

Killian goes, alone, to talk the whole living a lie thing through with Dash – reflecting on people he thought he loved lying to him. Guess what Dash decides to talk about? Yes, perhaps the worst possible moment, ever. Literally, he could not possibly have chosen a worst time for this.

Dash tries to point out he was angry and panicky, Killian points out that Dash actually pushed him out to see for him to die. “I was mad” and “I panicked” are really not good excuses for this. Lots of old brother issues are dragged up and a huge magical fight follows

In the aftermath both are unconscious and surrounded by wreckage – including the broken charm that’s supposed to keep the body of Dash’s victim underwater. It rises to the surface. What, you didn’t think to use a breezeblock as well as magic?

And the main plot:

Freddie is busy slicing and dicing Caroline for his sacrifice to granddaddy but Caroline keeps being funny and cute and declaring how much she loves and trusts him so Freddie just can’t go through with it. Y’know, rather than family members and lovers maybe you should try to sacrifice and arsehole? Like, say… Dash?

This Week in Book Covers 1st September - 5th September

This week the theme is Vague. We have a lot of books with some, generally very nice looking covers - but none of them really give me a sense of what’s inside the covers. In fact, they don’t really give me a good sense of the genre they belong to either

Blood and Gold (Vampire Chronicles #8) by Anne Rice

This cover is beautiful, there’s absolutely no denying it. It’s a glorious picture of a glorious scene. And it tells me not one thing about the inside. At least it’s prettier than most Vampire Chronicles covers, but like the rest it relies on name and author recognition rather than cover to actually tell us what is inside.

Shaman Rises (The Walker Papers #9) by C. E. Murphy

Again, it’s pretty, definitely a pretty cover, definitely something that’s nice to look at… but this is a book where Seattle is devastated in an apocalyptic magical battle, where buildings fall and dread magical forces ravage the good guys - gods! Monsters! Magic! What is this rather peaceful and beatific cover? I wonder if this book is resting more on being the 9th and concluding book in a series

Also, while we have the belt and tassels and, yes, Joanne does have strong Irish ancestry this cover doesn’t seem to touch much on her being Native American

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Seven Souls (Harrow #1) by Elissa Stark

Phoebe is a detective, one who is especially good at her job because of her ability to read emotions from things people have touched. But even she was surprised by a prophetic vision from a small child – one that predicted her surviving a car crash

She survived the crash, but afterwards she’s left with blackouts and an odd voice. While the doctors offer one explanation, she knows there’s more to this world and seeks out the child – and her father, the paranormal detective Jack with his own gifts. And his own job – to seek out the truth behind a murder she once investigated – and which seems to be racking up more victims

But as she seeks the killer, she also learns far more about the supernatural in the world – and in her own family history.

We have a very involved and different world here with a lot of mysteries. Different realms, angels, demons, humans with uncanny abilities – and hints of far more out there. There’s a lot to grasp here, especially since the demons and angels definitely come in different flavours as well – and it’s all shrouded in mystery; mystery that’s made all the more mysterious by being not entirely like anything I’ve read before.

I think this book actually manages a decent job with the mystery element in that it resists the urge to be too info-dumpy. Phoebe is somewhat new to the world and rather doubting – but not entirely because her own psychic gifts at least crack the door to the supernatural being possible. She hits the perfect spot between being hardcore cynical and just eating up everything everyone tells her without blinking no matter how outlandish it happens to be. She contrasts well with her partner, Charlie, who can deal with Phoebe’s abilities but draws the line of allowing this much woo-woo into his police work and Jack who is right in the middle of all the supernatural. If I have any criticism of the world building it’s that I would have actually appreciated a little more information or clarification on some points – perhaps a little more in depth curiosity from Phoebe (part of that is a style choice – she does get the big book of info but it’s hard to read and we don’t get what she’s actually read beyond the fact it’s not helpful to her).

I think, even with that curiosity into what the angels are doing in the city, what they’re involved in and what their missions are, is probably handled better as being kept a mystery – something to build on in later books especially as this book revealed some interesting and deep questions about Phoebe’s past which will likely be explored at the same time. Doubly so because the actual storyline is quite complex – with 3 different murders over 3 different time periods all with 3 different murderers and 3 different families – there’s a lot of names. That’s a lot of threads. That’s a lot of leads. Throw in Phoebe’s best friend and her police partner and her family history and a voice in her head and it’s very very easy to get lost in all this. I didn’t get swamped, but it came close, especially for the first book in a series.

So, I’m torn – I want more information and I think it’s kind of dubious that Phoebe didn’t push for more, while at the same time thinking the world building we had and the storyline combined to have enough questions and complexities to chew on and more would risk me being rather lost. Similarly with the pacing, I kind of wanted the book to go faster and reveal more of the plot, do more investigating but, again, I would be hopelessly lost if it did.

There are a number of POC characters – Charlie, Phoebe’s partner, his family, Suzy her best friend and one of the key witnesses ; these aren’t huge characters but beyond Phoebe and Jack no-one really is – they’re bigger than any others and somewhat involved in either the plot or Phoebe’s life with strong hints that they are/were much more involved. There are no LGBT characters. Phoebe, like many with sensory woo-woo in the genre, touches potential on mental illness but she seems to be actually possessed: so it’s more magic pretending to be woo-woo than anything.

Under the Dome, Season 2, Episode 12: Turn

The Dome is shrinking, which will squish everyone and this is a bad thing. Apparently. So I’m told anyway. Alas, it’s not doing it very quickly, only in fits and starts. Rebecca tells the gang to get everyone to the centre of town. Hey, if you wait long enough they’ll reach the centre! No, but really, people need to be told?

Since the recent crisis of random coldness has now being aborted everyone is packing up in the school. Amusingly Pauline patronises Lyle for having visions of hell and destruction and the end – despite the fact having visions is kind of her thing.

Melanie’s also sick and she and Junior are being loveydovey which is really nauseating. Barbie and Julia pack up things she wants to keep from her house and have a pointed moment when Julia leaves a photo of her husband behind because that was “her old life” (hasn’t he only been dead for, like, a month?). I have to roll my eyes at Julia saying “the Dome has taken so much from all of us” – yeah so maybe she could stop speaking about the Dome as her personal saviour?

They reach the school and Rebecca points out the obvious – they won’t actually be killed by the Dome walls – they’ll be killed by all the earth (the Dome goes underground), houses and stuff squishing them. And Julia is back to think the precious Dome would never do such a thing. Oh gods I continue to marvel at Rebecca’s restrain in not strangling her. Julia, mindnumbingly, acts like Rebecca is being closed minded for not thinking the Dome is a source of peace, love and good wishes.

Joe makes Hunter confess to being a spy to Barbie who responds with ineffective violence and much shouting and pouting follows though Norrie does defend Hunter. Barbie drags him off somewhere

While Norrie goes to see Ben. Hey remember Ben? Ben was Joe’s friend back in the beginning of season 1, he fell into the plot box (where Carolyn now lives) and has finally pulled himself out so he can be all despair about the Dome squishing them all (he just saw someone get squished by Julia’s oh-so-benevolent Dome). Norrie gets to make a “let’s have hope” speech before Ben wanders off and she and Joe chase after Barbie and wherever he’s taking Hunter.

Barbie is staging a whole holding Hunter at gunpoint and demanding to speak to his dad through the Dome to the random Acteon minion.

While Jim keeps creeping to Pauline who seems to be buying his bullshit, Junior is ragingly pissed over Jim throwing the egg over the edge and Melanie’s rapidly declining health because of it. Melanie herself is coughing up blood while Julia continues to act like Rebecca is being irrational and wrong for thinking the murder Dome is murderous. There’s also a touching moment where Rebecca lays out the actual wonder and usefulness of knowing stuff rather than revelling in ignorance. This would be redundant if it weren’t for the whole “Dome wills it” crowd.

Lyle, Junior, Jim and Pauline all rifle through Pauline’s paintings and journals looking for an answer. And Jim tells Pauline all about his theory that he is the Dome’s special chosen one. And she buys it! She buys that he was Chosen to Lead with her as his guide! Aaaaaaaargh

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Strain, Season 1, Episode 10: Loved Ones

Time for a family episode! Because with the world ending and all I’m sure we really care about Ephraim, his son and his missing wife Kelly. So Ephraim’s off to look for her while everyone else plans on how to save the world.

The news also reports that Dutch’s magical net hacking has almost collapsed the world’s financial systems. So, the internet is broken yet Zach can still use it to track phones because PLOT CONVENIENCE. Dutch and Vasiliy hope to fix that little problem if Dutch can get into Eldritch Palmer’s building

Ephraim tracks down Kelly’s car via a homeless person with her phone.

Do you know what would be even less interesting than watching Ephraim track down Kelly? Going back 32 hours so we can see what Kelly has been doing in the last few days – because I’m sure someone cares about this. Someone. Somewhere. Maybe.

Anyway Matt did come home to Kelly (and I love how she hectors him for not talking to her while he’s in the bathroom despite the very clear sounds of him being very ill inside). At school where she works half the school is missing because illness and she realises that maybe she shouldn’t have ignored her husband, the CDC doctor, when he warned her about an epidemic. Because he’s a CDC doctor. And ignoring CDC doctors when they talk about “epidemics” is like… is like… actually, I honestly have zero comparisons because I don’t think there is something out there as foolish as ignoring a CDC doctor when they talk about epidemics. At home she fights off Matt and gets a worm in the eye. There, she’s infected, can we not worry about her now?

Infected Kelly wanders around slowly transforming before dropping in on her sassy friend and eating her along with her child. Nom nom nom. The Master speaks in her head, calling her to his side.

Ephraim follows the trail until her finds and kills infected sassy friend – and realises she has Kelly’s necklace. He cries as he realises Kelly is definitely infected.

In storylines that might actually matter, Dutch and Vasiliy head off to Palmer’s building claiming to be pest inspectors which Vasiliy is… but Palmer is way too important for such things, also is there a reason why neither of them realise Dutch would be recognised? They’re caught and taken to see Fitzwilliam (Palmer’s chief lacky) who takes Dutch to an interview with Palmer (because taunting people is Evil Genius 101). She rants, he taunts and expositions (nothing we don’t already know). She smacks him and Fitzwilliam takes her away. He doesn’t kill Dutch and Vasiliy though because he’s finally realised that the end of the world isn’t actually a very good idea and he’d rather it not happen and if they could stop it he’d be quite happy about that (not that he’s going to help or anything).

Monday, September 15, 2014

Blood Passage (Blood Destiny #2) by Connie Suttle

Lissa is finding life as one of the few female vampires difficult – she’s in demand and forced into a relationship she would certainly not choose – definitely not the engagement. Her special powers also make her special to the Council who are more than willing to use her as their tool and instrument.

On top of that, the rules she’s under because of her unconventional siring leave her stifled and controlled and subject to harsh and deeply restrictive supervision at all times. Then there’s the werewolves, as a member of their pack she has been called upon to help the Pack leader try and fix some of the issues of the last book – leading to more duties and repeated danger as she’s again drafted as bodyguard. Danger which only becomes more acute as an ancient enemy starts to test both the vampires and werewolves

There’s a whole lot of people making demands of Lissa and she has little freedom, space or agency in which to be herself.

The ongoing conflict of this book is Lissa feeling trapped and constrained by the vampires around her. And rightly so. She is continually kept in the dark, told to follow orders, never has anything explained, is expected to drop everything and be sent across the world at a moment’s notice. She lives under a death threat from the events of the last book as well as continually compulsion forcing utter and complete obedience. She rarely goes out without escorts, she rarely goes out at all. Even Merril’s training is full of orders without explanations, unpleasant situations and only reasons why after the fact.

On top of this she doesn’t trust any vampires not just because of the death threat she’s under for existing but because of the way Gavin dragged her in to that trial – compelling her so completely she couldn’t even blink without permission and leaving her like this for three days.

Even more on top of all that we have the situation where she is one of only 16 female vampires in the world (there are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of male vampires) and there for she is in high demand to marry one of them – and basically given the ultimatum to pick one for the sake of vampire peace and vampires not all fighting each other for the precious, rare womanfolk. Oh and she has to pick one based on one dance – a scenario which would only be less plausible if the picking were based on her running out at midnight and leaving a shoe behind. This leaves her with a choice that is basically a) Gavin (who scares her for the whole compulsion thing), b) French vampire who scares her and she thinks may want to kill her because of another arseholery plan Wlodek & co have come up with to test Lissa’s abilities without telling her (even after the fact because REASONS), c) strange Russian vampire who scares her and is boring.

YAY choices!

This needs more salt in those wounds – so Gavin is then ultra-super-awful possessive and has a habit of ranting and raging in several languages if anything comes near his now fiancĂ©e. He is “protective” which basically translates to screaming at her because she goes on dangerous mission which she’s instructed to be part of. And in an extreme case where Lissa was sexually assaulted he outright strips her in front of other people and scrubs her which she protests – the whole thing is revolting.

Intruders, Season 1, Episode 4: Ave Verum Corpus

Madison flashback to when her parents first bought the beach house and Madison, possessed by Marcus, can play the piano despite never being taught. This is a dream along with some unpleasant flickers of Marcus’s death before she wakes up in the back of a car. And she’s Madison again, confused and lost. She doesn’t even remember where her home is because of Marcus; the confusion only a little time before Marcus is back in charge. She goes to a library, seems to remember the name “Allison Crane” (which may be Amy )before getting frustrated and reading from her book again – which talks about areas of the world where it’s easier to come back from the dead.

She continues to try and prompt her memory – and remembers Alison is her mother, and her phone number. She begs her mother for help to get home but “the man” (Marcus) wants her to find someone called Crane. She passes out by the pay phone.

Meanwhile, Gary is telling Jack about the shadowy organisation. He tells Jack about a client of his firm called Joe Cranfield (very rich man who became that way by, we can infer, being resurrected, meaning he already had practice at life). Gary worked for him for 15 years (being apparently creeped out by the guy but never being asked to do anything dubious) but last year he randomly decided to start dispersing his money in  preparation for death despite being quite healthy. In addition to leaving his family very very comfortable he also left the bulk of his fortune to an obscure charity and $10 million to the illusive Bill Anderson – who keeps sending he cheque back to Gary. He also put a building in trust – a building Amy visited when she disappeared. For extra connections, the building has been owned by Todd Crane (Amy’s boss – and the person Madison/Marcus is looking for) for over a century and the Crane family has also been running the obscure charity for a century or so. The trustees for the building are Todd Crane, Marcus Fox (the guy possessing Madison) and the now deceased Jo Cranfield – his trusteeship has passed on to Amy, Jack’s wife Amy. The building’s also eerily empty. Jack makes excuses and Gary finds the whole thing very suspicious and decides this is all behind the attempted murder of Bill Anderson and the actual murder of his family.

Jack agrees to look at all the evidence Gary has – and then Gary needs to do nothing and leave Jack alone. Jack leaves planning to visit Bill Anderson’s house (I’m assuming by the police tape) –and gets an ominous distorted call basically saying “stop it or we kill you”. Honestly if they didn’t do this on a regular basis Jack would probably get bored and wander off. Inside he finds some burned out electronics (Richard Shepherd burned the building down) and a guy who holds him at gun point

Said guy is the police and takes him back to the police station for some snarking and convenient info-dumping about Tim Truth and the conspiracy people on the radio. Also a bit more hinting at the nefarious past that made Jack quit the police in LA.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Z Nation, Season 1, Episode 1: Puppies and Kittens

I like the opening, flashes of zombies and chaos, the world falling apart while a voice over tells us that all government has fallen all is pretty broken and there is no cure – and we’re now 3 years after the outbreak. Move on to an “Infection Control Laboratory” which sounds nicely ominous. Soldiers are running through the facilities being chased by running zombies (definitely scarier than the lurching kind).

To add to these soldier’s fun, they get new orders relayed by Simon, someone who works at the NSA, telling the soldiers (Hammond and red shirt) to rescue some people and take them to California, just as soon as the helicopters there. Which will be soon. Honest.

Hammond leads the other guy to hold the fort and fights his way to where scientists are conducting some human experiments on prisoners (chief scientist takes the time to formally explain the law that basically says their consent is unnecessary and they’re going to be tested on for a zombie cure including zombie exposure no matter what). The prisoners are, unsurprisingly, not thrilled about this but being tied down they don’t have much choice. The “cure” is given to each inmate, one by one – killing each in horrible, gruesome ways. Which is when Red Shirt can’t hold off the zombies any more and knocks on the door all zombified (they change quickly) followed by a lot of his rotting fellows.

Hammond and the doctor run, leaving the last living inmate tied down and helpless for the zombies. The Doc gets to the roof where the helicopter is waiting (arranged by Simon who definitely said his name was Simon but the credits call him “Citizen Z” so we’ll run with that) who delayed to arrange it – and missed his own evacuation from what looks to be an arctic base. Turns out to be lucky for him though since the evacuation plane crashes.

All of that was just the prologue – because we’ve now leaped forwards a year and we’re in New York (the state, not the city). Everyone is having a beautiful little goodbye ceremony for a sick 65 year old grandmother, singing songs, saying goodbye – and then everyone leaves just Nana and Roberta Warren who formally gives her the “8th sacrament”. A bullet to the brain saying she gives her Mercy; it’s a formal rite and fully known about and agreed to by Nana.

Warren leaves Nana’s family afterwards (hugging her daughter as she goes) to join Charles Garnet at the lake where some strangers are arriving; they plan to talk nice to the strangers – and be ready to shoot them if necessary. The stranger is Hammond, still following his mission to get to the medical lab in California with Murphy – the surviving convict who they left to the zombies. The cure they injected him with apparently worked, he wasn’t zombiefied.

They take him to their camp where they have a small settlement – Garnett and Warren are ex-national guard and Warren makes it clear that the whole “government orders” doesn’t mean much to her with the government being gone and everything; but they agree to help him get part way after Hammond stares down a guy who is more concerned about their truck than a zombie cure.

Up in the arctic base Citizen Z is there, still getting messages from the bosses asking after Hammond’s team (does it count as a team when he’s the only one left).