Saturday, December 6, 2014

Vampire Diaries, Season 6, episode 9: I Alone

Alaric and Jo are being all romantic – this may be less of a romantic gesture and more (as we switch to Damon and Stefan) because of Damon’s compulsion on Alaric to get the magic-steampunk-key no matter what which is why Alaric is asking lots of questions about it (I suppose I should call it the “Ascendant” because that’s its name – but it’s brass and it has cogs! It’s like they went to a Steampunk convention and asked for the shiniest thing! Also with a name that pretentious it needs to do more than open a door). Stefan points out that Alaric may kill Damon for this but Damon takes the chance to mock Stefan about Caroline some more, which, as I pointed out last episode, may be the highlight of the whole season. (Damned with faint praise).

In other news, Elena has deigned to notice her little brother so he is now totally over his angst over Bonnie (it may distract Elena from, well, Elena and force her to care about someone). Learning that Jeremy has moved on and stopped grieving, Elena decides to tell him that Bonnie’s imprisoned still. Jeremy is neither willing to have a lot of hope nor put a lot of trust in Damon. Elena is sad by this, Elena has clearly (again) forgotten that Damon murdered Jeremy.

Over to Liv who has been hiding out with Tyler for an unspecified period of time and is now sick of it so is going back to a normal life or risking her life or something. Anyway, Damon wants her to do some witchy magic on the Ascendant to get Bonnie back – Tyler suggests using Luke (because absolutely no-one gives a damn if he gets killed. No, really, even Liv doesn’t take exception to “hey, let’s just sacrifice your twin brother” plan) but since that would involve giving Luke some on-screen time other than to exposition Liv’s relationship AND suggest he actually has power there’s no way that’s happening.

Sarah is still around (I actually had to do some googling to figure out who she is) and she wants Matt to help her find Stefan (the whole Tripp the vampire-hunter storyline appears to be officially buried now). Anyway Sarah wants to talk to Stefan which involves talking to Enzo (“Matt and Stefan, you can do so much better.” So very very true). Stefan arrives so he and Enzo can do their usual dick measuring. Enzo and Matt retreat to snark at each other while Sarah tells her life story to Stefan. And Stefan uses a milk shake blender so he can compel her without Enzo overhearing because apparently everything Sarah has said is a lie.

In the car, Stefan reveals that he actually looked after the real Stefan Salvatore, ensuring she was adopted by a great family et al and he’s even kept an eye on her and knows her entire life story because she’s family and Stefan cares about that in a long-distance stalky kind of way. Fake Sarah tries to run which is really pointless with a vampire. She reveals her real name is Monique who knew Sarah and decided to try and hijack Sarah’s history because her life is terribad. Stefan points out that she has no idea how terribad Sarah’s life would have been because Monique hasn’t met Damon yet. And to make sure terribad Damon never goes to the real Sarah he compels Monique to completely forget Sarah and get out of town.

Amusingly Enzo stays behind to exposition to Matt and lamp-shade what is so wrong with this show – that Stefan is just as evil as him but Stefan gets to be a hero while he is a villain. Wow, who’d have thought Vampire Diaries was so self-aware? Enzo points out at least he’s honest about killing people.

Friday, December 5, 2014

The 100, Season Two, Episode Six: Fog of War

Two days have passed since Finn slaughtered the grounders.  At camp Jaha, armed men guard the perimeter, as Clark explains to Bellamy how they can get into Mount Weather to rescue their people.  Bellamy declares that if Abby doesn't sanction the meeting soon, he will go by himself, Clark of course agrees to accompany him.  The conversation switches to Finn, who Clarke has not spoken to since they returned because she doesn't know what to say. Bellamy justifies Finn's actions by saying that they are at war and have all done things.  Jeremy makes himself scarce when Finn shows up asking about the plan.  Clarke is vague and they are then joined by Murphy. who announces that both he and Finn have been pardoned, causing Finn to say that they did what they had to do.  When Clarke doesn't answer, Finn leaves. causing Murphy to snark about their being trouble in paradise.  Clarke makes it clear that though Murphy and Finn have been officially pardoned, she most certainly has not pardoned them.  Ironically, for the first time on this show, Murphy is actually innocent, as he did try to get Finn to leave several times.

Raven shows up and demands that Murphy leave.  Raven explains that they haven't heard from any of the Arc stations because Mt. Weather is jamming them.  Later, at Raven's work station. Raven says that Mt. Weather crashed the Exodus ship and that if she can get to the tower that broadcasts it, she can make it explode.  Abby charges in, telling the two young women that they are not going anywhere. Abby is adamant that The 100 are not soldiers and acting like they are, puts lives at risk.  Where was her concern when she was sending her daughter to the ground to die?  Clarke tells Abby that Raven discovered that Mt. Weather is jamming their communications and that there could be more people on the ground.  Clarke points out that they are already fighting a two front war and demands to go after her friends.  Abby agrees but says that she is joining them. Of course, Major Bryne simply must object, pointing out that Cain could be dead and that the Grounders could be massing to attack.

At Mt. Weather Dr. Tsing reports in a meeting that Maya may be metabolizing radiation on her own now.  It seems that Jasper's blood was 8x more effective than anyone they have ever tested.  Cage is excited that this could mean a permanent cure and Dr.Tsing asks for permission to move forward with the rest of the 47. To his credit, Dante says no though Cage is quick to give his agreement with Tsing, saying that though their plan was to assimilate the 47 into the gene pool, this changes everything.  Dante points out that this isn't proven but Tsing says that with the blood of the 47. they will need fewer treatments, will feel better and live longer.  Dante points out that Jasper volunteered and he refuses to put the 47 in cages like animals.  Cage points out that the benefit is that they might be able to go outside again but Dante says that if he gives the order to harvest the 47, he won't deserve to see the outside again.  Dante leaves the meeting to find volunteers.  Cage says that Dante will come around but if the 47 don't volunteer they will do it anyway.

The group from camp Jaha is making its way through the woods.  Abby brings up Finn and Clarke thanks her for voting to clear Finn.  Abby says that Finn thought he was rescuing his friends. How exactly can Abby pardon Finn when neither she nor people she cared about died in the slaughter?

Cain is struggling to try to remove his chains and Jaha tells him to stop because if the Grounders wanted him dead, they would have killed him already.  Cain is concerned because they have gone two days without food and water.  Jaha points out that there were many times on the Arc they went two days without food or water.  Jaha is convinced that this is not the end because his son told him.  Right on cue, one of the others enters their cell.  They start beating on Jaha and Cain begs them to stop because they came in peace.  Gustus demands to know how Cain can speak of peace after sending an assassin into one of the villages.  Gustus unsheathes a knife saying that one of them will die today at the other's hand, adding that he will listen to terms of surrender from the man who lives.  Gustus tosses the knife on the ground and exists the cell. Oh please let it be Jaha who goes.  As much as I don't like Cain, Jaha gets on my last nerve - POC or not.

American Horror Story, Season 4, Episode 8 Blood Bath

We open with Gloria seeing a doctor about her concerns about Dandy – she recounts his childhood and basically lots and lots of red flags screaming “serial killer” including a likely victim when he was still a child. The doctor insists on seeing Dandy. She doesn’t tell the doctor about Dandy killing Dora.

At the fair everyone goes looking for Ma Petite – and Jimmy finds her clothes, bloodstained and damaged. The assumption, to everyone’s horror and grief, is that an animal got her. Elsa is distraught.

Ethel is not impressed by Elsa’s theatrics and when they’re alone (perhaps aided by a bit of booze) Ethel out right accuses her of faking grief. Elsa hits her but Ethel doesn’t back down – accusing Elsa of only caring about being centre stage. We have a flashback showing the crowds who loved Ma Petite and Elsa’s clear resentment of it, as she does anyone more loved than her. Ethel hasn’t finished and goes on to deliver one of those epic performances where she tearfully and grimly talks about how Elsa has declined and how Ethel has come to dread spending time around her. Elsa keeps trying melodramatic refusals but Ethel isn’t shifting – especially since she remembered Elsa discussing killing the twins with Stanley.

The discussion gets more heated and Ethel reveals she has hidden the twins away – and she draws a gun and shoots Elsa in the leg. In her false leg – which Ethel didn’t even know about (which causes Elsa to note that Ethel doesn’t know her as well as she thinks she does AND to draw commonality with the performers of the show, even though she’s always avoided it before). This calls for a flashback, of a Dr. Massimo who treated her after she lost her legs.

Moving story aside, Ethel isn’t going to give up her plan of murdering Elsa and killing herself. Elsa resorts to asking for one last drink – and when going to the bottle she pulls a throwing knife and gets Ethel right in the eye. Bye-bye Ethel.

Cut to later on with Maggie Esmerald all tearful and being comforted in the tent telling Jimmy that she’s just found Ethel’s body in a crashed car; Maggie suggests it was suicide while Elsa puts on her usual performance of grief and horror which is just gloriously AWFUL (I know forensics weren’t what they are now – but a dagger to the eye?). They decide to go to the scene of death and Ethel’s suicide by beheading (it’s not completely implausible but very messy). Elsa continues to be ridiculously melodramatic and it’s clear Stanley and Maggie helped her dispose of Ethel; we get a flashback with Stanley confirming that (and in the flashback we see that Stanley doesn’t buy her bullshit either).

Time for Ethel’s funeral with some moving, tearful speeches from Jimmy and a great speech from Desiree which, somehow, gets well and truly hijacked by Penny talking about her father forcibly tattooing her. Ok, Penny you totally have a grievance and I’m sure everyone would love to hear it and help you – but beside someone’s open grave? That’s some epic thunder-stealing right there. They all note how hard it is to be a woman and how little men and the authority’s care when men who “own” them abuse them. Desire, Suzy and Eve all pledge to work with Penny to get her some revenge.

Roles Only Cis, Straight, White Men Can Get Away With

Because of the prevalence of straight cisgender White men in this genre, it’s actually quite easy to pick up on the repeated tropes. Cisgender White men do get to play multiple roles in fiction; however, these roles all come with rigid rules which help define  exactly what White straight cisgender masculinity is. It’s all one nasty performance of gender which both imbues the body with power, even as it disciplines it into conformity.

While we’re very used to seeing a lot of cisgender white male character templates, what is noteworthy with some of them is that, in some ways, the normal opponents of diversity are right: these are not roles that can be played by someone who isn’t a cisgender white man. Not because a marginalised person is less capable or appropriate - but because our perception of marginalised people is so much harsher, so laden with stereotypes and so unsympathetic that we would never support or accept them in this role

Take one of the most common troped protagonists out there, especially when detectives appear, the Antisocial Genius Arsehole. If there’s one troped protagonist I would happily bury not just with a shovel but with industrial mining equipment, it’s this one. He’s brilliant, he’s super insightful, he has flashes of amazing insight that stun lesser mortals around him, leaving them in awe of his genius

And he usually has the social skills of a chilli in the eye. Maybe he’s merely socially inept and awkward, but quite often he’s actively unpleasant, abrasive, belittling and lacking in even the most basic of social graces. Time and again, this man with the social skills of a wolverine is given a pass because of his brilliance. We see this a lot in crime dramas - but it creeps on in paranormal shows as well as we see with Forever and Helix.

These unpleasant geniuses are overwhelmingly cis, straight white men - because, frankly, it’s unlikely anyone would put up with that arseholery from anyone else. Sexist, homophobic, racist, transphobic et al tropes that would fall on any minority acting like this and pretty much ensure that very few writers would be willing to put them in this role - and very few fandoms would tolerate them there anyway

An anti-social genius woman may get away with it if she’s cute, manic and oblivious in an adorably-helpless kittenish kind of way. But aggressive, abrasive behaviour is going to catch all kinds of sexist crap (the word “Bitch” would echo through the net). With POC, anger is always seen as disproportionately more threatening and less acceptable than it actually is -  and if she were a WOC the labels “dragon lady” and “Sapphire” would definitely arise: at the very least she’d be expected to be comic.

An LGBT person could work it, if they were advising the ACTUAL protagonist and, again “bitchy” and “bitter” and “catty” would arise. Just think of Felix in Orphan Black who demands that his life be taken seriously, so that he can run off and serve yet another straight, cisgender, White woman. Oh Felix is catty, but he always knows his place - servant and comic relief. His snark isn’t there to be taken seriously - it’s supposed to be comedy.

In general, the sheer lesser rate of sympathy afforded marginalised characters would ensure that a character that is personally objectionable is going to be a hard sell to audiences in ways a cis, straight, white guy isn’t. We are programmed, as a society, to expect marginalised people to apologise and walk small for existing - or to be grateful for being tolerated. It is seen as a breach of  tolerance if they are not on their “best behaviour”. Anything less is not just seen as rude, it’s seen as ungrateful, as spitting on the “gift” of their presence being tolerated.

Which brings us neatly to another role which screams for a cis, straight, white guy - the anti-hero. He’s the protagonist, he’s the hero of this piece… but he’s also something of an arsehole. Sometimes he’s just a good guy facing harsh circumstances and having to make hard decisions (Constantine and Supernatural are classic examples) but sometimes he isn’t even that. He’s left a trail of bodies behind him several hundred deep and no-one could even remotely justify even a tenth of what he’s done - but we’re still backing him. Klaus on The Originals is still our tragic hero despite the oceans of blood on his hands, Damon and Stefan on The Vampire Diaries are both our beautiful, sexy love interests despite all that unfortunate killing. And how many would gleefully support Killian on Once Upon a Time or even Gold, the devious Dark One himself? And everyone is positively eager to bare their necks to the sexy and vicious Eric on True Blood

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Archangel's Blade, (Guild Hunter #4) by Nalini Singh

Honor is a Guildhunter, but after a horrendous experience at the hands of some deeply sadistic vampires, she has been unable to leave the guild for a long time, hiding from the outside world. When Sara, the head of the guild, comes to her with a job to consult with Dmitri, head vampire in the city, she’s not sure she is ready to face vampires again. Especially not one and dangerous and sexual as Dmitri.

Dmitri needs Honor’s expertise to help solve a code that may be the key to an odd murder – and uncover something deeper behind it. Together they can both tend old wounds and seek to finally resolve their painful pasts.

This book has an excellent continued theme of revenge and agency with Honor. She feels no shame for wanting vengeance and she’s very clear about claiming that vengeance herself, as is Dmitri in giving it to her. While Dmitri always wants to protect and shelter her, he recognises and respects her need to be involved in hunting down the vampires that hurt her, her need to confront the places that may trigger her and her general need to be involved in avenging herself. She can be violent and cruel in her pursuit of vengeance and she isn’t shamed for that either – her rage isn’t presented as something evil or toxic or wrong – she is allowed to be angry, her anger is respected and she doesn’t have a super-touching moment of epic forgiveness to prove she’s one of the good guys (thankfully).

But at the same time we have a nice conflict with her stopping Dmitri from going over the edge, from stopping him using vengeance as an excuse to become more brutal and sadistic. It’s a complicated nuance which I think the book generally gets right – both accepting that a certain level of brutality is necessary to control sadistic immortals and accepting Honor’s right to want revenge while also understanding there are lines you can’t cross and things Honor doesn’t want Dmitri to do to further compromise his battered morality. I think it’s a really hard balance to get right but they manage it well.

Also providing a nice contrast is Dmitri’s own buried demons and plot for revenge – he’s still haunted by his losses but he is that rarest of Urban Fantasy characters – someone who is over it. Ok, not entirely, but it’s nice to see someone who was wronged a thousand years ago who HASN’T spent the last thousand years seething in a corner.

The two plot lines themselves worked really well together for the most part. There were moments when I couldn’t quite decide if the person they’re tracking down is part of Honor’s revenge plot or Dmitri’s revenge plot but it usually sorted itself out quickly. The pacing kept moving and when we ducked into emotional asides they didn’t derail the plot completely which is a relief. There is, perhaps, a bit too much recapping (and I really didn’t like the ending but no spoilers) but generally it worked, it flowed and kept me reading happily throughout without once wanting to strangle everyone. This is an achievement

As can be guessed, every character here has a traumatic past. It’s paranormal romance, everyone has a traumatic past – your post man lost his pet hamster in a freak letter avalanche, your window cleaner is desperately torn up by his hydrophobia – it’s a genre staple. I do have an issue with how the trauma of both characters are represented because they follow the same gendered paths that we’ve seen not only with Ellie and Raphael, but also repeatedly throughout the Paranormal Romance genre. Dmitri, the man, is traumatised – so he’s rough and tough and harsh and disconnected and cannot open himself up and be vulnerable until a nice warm, moist female… heart brings him back to love and warmth and joy. While Honor, deeply traumatised by her experiences, was broken and fragile and vulnerable and can barely bring herself to leavethe Guild building and is tormented by nightmares and overwhelming fear until she rebuilds and learns her strength again

Supernatural, Season 10, Episode 8: Hidding 911

This week’s random death is the brutal murder of a graffiti artist.

Cut to Jody – Yes sheriff Jody Mills! She’s going to a “sheriff retreat” whatever that is. She doesn’t seem to be looking forward to it. Or enjoying the perky sheriff Donna (who we’ve also seen before). Do police even come in perky? Perky and handing out lollipops? Jody would rather be back home working and looking after the kid she adopted/took in/saved from vampires (Alex, who she assures is totally capable of not throwing a kegger while she’s gone). Arsehole Sheriff Doug also appears and if Jody had the power to flay people with her eyes he would be totally screaming and dying right now. Apparently Doug is Donna’s ex. Let’s hope something murders him.

The risk of random Jody-eye-flaying goes up as the cheesiness increases and the host decides that the sheriffs are all going to “partner” with someone from 50 miles away from them to make friends. Since she was on the phone when that was announced, Jody gets stuck with Donna. I hope this episode ends with a big pile of bodies, a ruin and Jody stood over it all, an axe in one hand and a flamethrower in the other yelling “I REGRET NOTHING!”

As the puns pile up and Donna glows with perkiness I can see the flames rise in Jody’s eyes – but everyone is saved from Jody wrath by the gossip of a body found – eaten. Without claw marks or hairs from the creature that ate him

Over to the Winchester cave where the brothers are studying the Mark of Cain (and snarking transgender research which is dubious on a show with no trans people, don’t use trans people as a one off joke). They get a call from Jody who sees if they have any idea of the monster – they don’t off the top of their heads and offer to help but she tells them she’ll handle it unless it gets too much. It’ll be a nice distraction from perky Donna.

Of course they’re going anyway – if nothing else but to get them away from the research.

Jody tries to see the body but, of course, has no official capacity. Thankfully Donna does – and has the power of PERKY as well. It’s possible that EVERYONE in this town of Hibbings is perky. We may have to nuke it from orbit. Looking at the body they find unrecognisable bite marks – and the guy was apparently wearing jeans that were way too big for him but no belt to be seen.

Time for the next death – a guy gets dragged into a large wheelie bin to be, presumably, eaten.

Back at the retreat (which has a bar so isn’t all bad), Donna and Jody check in with Sheriff Len who is also clearly equally clueless about the chewed up body. Jody does manage to get the sheriff to admit that there’s been another “animal” attack. And Jody and Donna actually have a nice conversation about out-of-control Alex, arsehole ex’s et al. Awww, this means Jody may not ritually murder Donna.

The Winchesters finally arrive – and their suited-fake-FBI look doesn’t quite fit in. They confirm the second victim was also eaten – and missing a wallet. They also recognise Donna and delegate Jody to distracting her while they investigate; Jody agrees to it but at least she expresses her not-very-high opinion of that. Of course, since everyone’s pushing the idea it’s an “animal attack” not everyone is exactly thrilled to see the FBI about and are stonewalling.

This Week in Book Covers 24th November - 28th November

A short week this week - and to make it even harder to review I have no bad covers to snark! Really publishers, can you churn out the half naked, broken spined heroines squatting their way into battle? I need material here!

Loki's Wolves (The Blackwell Pages #1) by K.L. Armstrong & M.A. Marr

See? Look at this! Excellent background that sets off the characters without overwhelming or distracting things, slavering wolves that really do look menacing, accurate representation of 2 of the major characters all in a style that is dynamic and evocative of YA. Publishers, how do I snark this?! Won’t someone think of the snark?

The Accidental Alchemist by Gigi Pandian

And this - we have a gargoyle on the front which is just perfect; he’s a major part of the plot so he’s not a distraction or deviation - the style is intriguing enough and weird enough to draw a casual browser in for a closer examination and then we see the whisk. At which point anyone who doesn’t read the blurb probably has no soul.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Sleepy Hollow, Season Two, Episode Eleven: The Akeda

Crane and Abbie race to Frederick's manor and Abbie wonders if this is indeed the end of days.  Crane points out that Moloch has risen, adding that little remains between Moloch and his early reign.  Abbie replies that there's Katrina (why oh why is she including Katrina, who thus far has proven to be incompetent and that is a generous estimation) , them and the sword.  Ichabod says that Moloch's use for Katrina has likely passed.  The car is struck by lightening and stops.  The witnesses end up at gas station and are told that it will take an hour to fix their vehicle once the parts are received.  Crane impresses the urgency for their need of transportation and the mechanic leaves to call them a cab.  Crane then notices a motorcycle and Abbie realises that there are no electronics to worry about with the bike.  Crane suggests commandeering the motorcycle and two hop on and speed down the road, after Crane worries about not having a seatbelt.  The moment they arrive at the manor, Crane hops off and announces that he wants a motorcycle as soon as this is all over.  I hope he plans on getting a job to pay for it because Abbie is paying all of his expenses.

They hide beside a tree, and notice that the house is completely dark with no sound coming from it. Abbie wonders if the demons are still there and Crane points out that Katrina's last contact was from there.  They decide to head into the house. The search proves that the house is empty as it appeared from the outside.  Abbie examines the model Henry built and Crane realises that it details locations that Henry has struck.  They use a string to align them all and predictably it reveals a pentagram over the city.  Abbie points out that they saw a pentagram in Moloch's lair and Crane says that Washington's bible says that a demon will create hell on earth.  Crane starts to worry that they are too late and points out that  Katrina came to this place to kill Molcoh.

Right on cue, Katrina plays damsel in distress and they hear her begging.  Crane and Abbie head outside to see Katrina tied to two posts, with Abraham standing next to her holding his axe.  Crane quickly realises that Abraham plans on making Katrina his bride.  I think Crane should just let Abraham have Katrina because they seem to deserve each other at this point.  Crane unsheaths the sword and begins to battle Abraham. Crane quickly gets the upper hand, so Abbie races towards Katrina and releases her.  Ichabod stands with the sword pointed at Abraham's heart and threatens to kill Abraham, if he does not reveal where Moloch is.  Katrina reveals that she can still see Abraham and enhances the charm on her amulet so that Ichabod can see him for himself.

Ichabod informs Abraham that he is not immune to the sword, though he is the horseman of death. Abraham says that the sword is of infinite unstoppable power to man and asks Crane if anything seems strange about that tale to him. Abraham tells Crane that all magic has a cost and that the sword requires a sacrifice - the moment a man uses the sword to kill, his soul and life will be taken with it. Oh I don't know about you but I want Katrina to use the sword so that we can get rid of her character. Also, how did Methuselah manage 1000 demons if the wielder dies the moment s/he uses it?  Crane believes that Abraham is lying and raises the sword, only to have Katrina stop him and say that Abraham may be telling the truth.  Katrina asks for time to prove, or disprove Abraham's assertion, based on the runes on the sword.

Back at the witness bat cave, Abraham is chained up and Abbie is distraught over the idea that they cannot use the sword, given what her family has already sacrificed for it.  Ichabod suggests that Abbie not rush to conclusions and points out that Jenny will arrive shortly with the research Katrina requested, adding that for now Katrina will gather more intelligence.  Abbie questions if it is hard for him to watch Katrina with Abraham but Crane explains that since they cannot use the sword, Katrina must take a more personal approach.  Crane does however add that his marriage to Katrina has been under a lot of strain recently - um yeah, you think.  Abbie points out that Katrina has saved Abraham's life but Crane argues that it was only to save his life.  Abbie does concede the point.  Abbie gets a call from Jenny and she and Crane head to the cabin.

Jenny tells them that using the sword would lead to the end Abraham foretold.  Crane holds the sword, calling it a strange and singular weapon, leading to death to.  Abbie says that it could take both of them to finish this and that they will both die for the cause as witnesses.  Abbie adds that when they find Moloch, the horseman of war will be standing right next to him.  Abbie asks if Crane will be able to use the sword against Parish if he interferes with them killing Moloch. Crane says that Moloch is their target and that everything else is secondary.  Here we go again with the whole, yes, he's the horseman of war but he's my sweet baby. Abbie calls Parish his weakness and again questions if Crane is willing to kill his son. Jenny asks if there is another way and questions what happens if a person's soul has already been claimed uses the sword.  Abbie realises that Jenny is talking about Irving and points out that this could lead to Henry taking over Irving's soul. Abbie adds that Irving has a wife and daughter but Jenny believes that if there is a chance no one has to die, they have to try.

Parish is standing at the place where Moloch pulled him out of the ground and talks to Moloch about raising hell on earth together. 

Trinity (the Koldun Code #1) by Sophie Masson

Helen is taking a holiday in Russia with her mother, desperately trying to get some space from her disastrous break up and collapse of her career. She never expected to find a place so alien to her – and she certainly never expected to find the rich and intriguing Alexey

But Alexey has more on his mind than romance – his father and father’s 2 business partners have all been murdered within a short space of time. People are whispering about a curse – and not only is the murderer still uncaught, but other forces have their eyes on his father’s business, looking to wrest it from his inexperienced and idealistic hands.

The first thing that struck me about this book was the amount of research that has gone into it. From my unfamiliar eye, this author seems to have made the effort to ensure the Russia of the book wasn’t just a Russia of bad stereotypes and alien culture – there has been some work into making this real and authentic. I can’t say how good a job has been achieved since I am neither Russian nor especially experience in all things Russian, but I can feel the effort behind it.

I just feel it’s a shame that so little has been done with it.

I don’t understand why Helen is the protagonist. In fact, take a step back, I don’t understand why Helen is in the book at all. All the action, all the story twists, all the mystery and the investigation and everything else? It doesn’t involve her. It cannot involve her. It’s all completely beyond her experience, affecting people she’s only just met and investigating/resolving it requires knowledge she doesn’t have, skills she doesn’t have and working with/speaking to a lot of people she’s only just met, most of which she doesn’t even share a common language with.

Rather reasonably, because of that, she doesn’t actually do anything. And it is reasonable – even her few interjections about whether Alexey can trust someone or not (for example) come across as ridiculous because she is so outside of her experiences, her skills or her specialities that her intervening would be ludicrous. She doesn’t. She can’t. She spends the vast majority of this book just following Alexey around and occasionally taking little breaks to work on the romance (I’d say “develop” the romance but that would be a stunningly generous description of what happened). Honestly, she could be entirely removed from the book and very little of real value would change.

So let’s get to that romance – firstly, it also adds very little to the plot. It’s an odd tool used to pull Helen (and, therefore, the protagonist) into the story as audience without having to come up with an actual reason for her to be there. Helen and Alexey meet (he nearly runs her over), they arrange a second meeting. Boom. LOVE FOREVER, Alexey (a man receiving death threats) is now happy to have Helen follow him around everywhere, be party to all of his company’s secrets and generally be with him every second of the day when business doesn’t drag him away (and she is free to roam around his work place/home as you would any near stranger). The romance is tooth-achingly saccharine and quite dated - Helen actually uses the words “Oh, Alexey”. She says this more than once; I started picturing everyone in black and white after that. It’s also comically speeded up with Helen happily considering moving to Russia and spending the rest of her life there after… a week? Less?

Forever, Season 1, Episode 10: The Man in the Killer Suit

So we have two very very rich people getting married, one of them a British Viscount Colin who is very uncomfortable about the over-the-top lavish engagement party his American wife (Emily)’s father is throwing. Nor does he particularly want to get married in his family’s castle.

Then poor Colin gets himself murdered so that solves the wedding arguments. Jo and Hanson arrive and though it’s Henry’s day off, Hanson thinks they have to call him given the dead noble in the middle of Central Park.

Over to Henry and Abe who knows just how to push Henry’s fussy buttons (he doesn’t like microwaves) and a Sunday breakfast of Henry (an antique dealer) combing through the obituaries like a vulture – and he finds the name of an old friend from a long time ago. All the domestic bliss is interrupted by Jo’s call.

Henry arrives on scene and explains the difference between nobility and royalty and examines the odd wounds. Jo finds it odd he was walking in Central Park in the middle of the night and that he was murdered but not robbed while Henry, pulling out an encyclopaedic knowledge of the nobility, is suspicious because there ISN’T a viscount Cavendish. Hanson confirms this after contacting the British Embassy.

On the slab they discover the dead man was a natural blonde but dyed his hair. He also finds several gravel-embedded scars, gold in his wound (yes gold) and through some (I suspect dubious) mouth analysis conclude the man was actually American. Helpfully his suit had super-duper rare stitching that could only come from one tailor. Henry’s.

This adds a little more to Jo’s information on Henry since the tailors should be beyond Henry’s price range. Through the tailor they learn about Colin’s engagement and fiancée while Henry decides to stare at a complete stranger’s legs (he has matching scars) and completely fail to explain why he is doing so. The scarring is from riding  a bike (a “chain scar”) and the bike messenger recognises Colin – or Dwight as his real name is.

Jo and Hanson discuss Dwight’s past with Lt. Reece and basically cover that Dwight is a very poor man and Emily, his fiancée, is a very wealthy lady. They call Emily in and it’s quickly clear she has no idea about Dwight’s hidden past. They do find a torn up cheque in Dwight’s pocket – for $1,000,000 from Emily’s father.

Henry (for some reason) and Jo go to see Emily’s father, Norman (and have a brief discussion in which Henry is, obviously, very sympathetic about Dwight’s desire to re-invent himself and points out the fact the cheque was torn up suggests a motive other than money). Norman slips and refers to Dwight as being from Oklahoma – which no-one told him. Henry does his Sherlock thing to describe, in detail, a fight between Norman and Dwight

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Resurrection, Season Two, Episode Eight: Forsaken

Lucille is washing off the bloody cross on her window.  At the church, Tom is ministering to a woman who is concerned about the cross on her door.  It seems that she is no longer willing to allow her late husband's father to live with her any longer.

At the hospital, Maggie checks in on Ray, whose fingers are turning blue.  Ray is still unconscious, so Maggie heads out to chat with Elaine, who is watching Ray through the observation window.  They begin to speak about how Elaine spent much of her childhood looking after Ray.  Maggie admits that Ray is getting worse, though he is coming in and out of consciousness.

Bellamy stops at the liquor store and sees a man scrubbing a cross off of his window.  Bellamy notices a security camera above the store but is told that the camera is not working.  Bellamy says that he just wants to stop this kind of thing from happening again, but is told to leave.

Margaret and Jacob pull out boxes to look at some old photos.  Margaret brings up the cliché of not forgetting the past, as she flips through the photos.  Margaret pauses when she comes to a picture of William Kirk.  Later, Margaret heads to see Brian to question why he didn't reveal that he is related to William Kirk.  Margaret points out that William worked at the factory and Brian says that because William was a common laborer, he believed that Margaret wouldn't know who William was. Margaret points out that before she was a Langston, she was the daughter of the foreman and that she knew the face of every man who lifted a hammer at the factory.  Brian cuts the visit short by saying that his cousin will be home soon and it wouldn't be polite of him, as a visitor, to have guests. Brian suggests that they head into town instead and have coffee.  Margaret tells Brian that it is a tragedy that William died in the fire and that there were a lot of nasty rumors about the Langstons back then but she was only a girl who heard stories.  Margaret tells Brian that if there is even a modicum of truth to the rumors, she would understand why someone would want revenge against the Langstons. Brian simply asks Margaret what she wants and Margaret responds that she wants the deal killed and for Brian to stay away from her family. 

Bellamy has gone to see Tom, who now has five Returned staying at the church -- who have been abandoned by their families -- now that the virus has jumped to the living. Tom suggests that Bellamy reveal his status as infected but Bellamy is worried about how the town will react to him.  Tom argues that Bellamy revealing himself would be an act of courage and that it might encourage others to be courageous as well.

Bellamy excuses himself to speak to the woman who turned in her father in-law, to make it clear that they are not running a foster care system for the Returned. The woman suggests that her father in-law be placed with the unclaimed Returned and when Bellamy questions this as an option, the woman is quick to point out that Bellamy has no idea what she has been through, adding that he has no right to judge her.  The woman points out that they were targeted and that she has to protect her family.  Bellamy argues that the man is her family and a human being just like her but the woman is not convinced of her father in-laws humanity.

Lucille arrives at Maggie's office with a picnic basket. Lucille apologises for the things she said to Barbara at the dinner party but Maggie is not at all pacified. Lucille simply says that she is sorry for Maggie's lost before leaving the office.  Maggie puts the basket on the floor and stares at the tiny statue of a baby in a uterus on her desk.

Bellamy marches into the police station to report that the community is dumping their Returned at Tom's church.  Fred simply says that the people are scared and reminds Bellamy that there is a virus going around.  Bellamy counters by saying that only one non Returned person has been infected. Bellamy is worried that the crosses are only the beginning and brings up the men who died at the factory fire; however, Fred replies that they don't know what really happened.  Bellamy argues that the men were murdered repeatedly and that history has a way of repeating itself.  Fred hands over a sheet of paper he printed out from a website called The True Living of Arcadia.  Fred says that he has no idea who created the site but promises to talk to somebody who might.  Fred then grabs his hat, telling Bellamy he needs to get a tea and relax.  Bellamy gets a call from Maggie, who says that she might have figured out how Rachel got better and that if she is right, it might lead to a cure.

Rachel and Tom sit in Maggie's office, where Maggie explains that when a pregnant woman is sick, the fetal stem cells migrate into the mother's system and help boost the mother's immune response.  Maggie asks to do an amniocentesis to hopefully isolate the free floating stem cells, to see if she can create a cure for others.  Tom asks about risks and Maggie explains that there is a small chance of miscarriage and Rachel is quick to agree, happy to help people.  Maggie promises that Rachel will be home by this afternoon and Rachel thanks Maggie for being there for her during all of this.  Maggie simply says that it's her job, before leaving Rachel and Tom in the office.  Tom is upset that Rachel didn't even hesitate and reveals how he almost medicated Rachel against her will when she was sick.   Tom apologises for what he almost did and Rachel grabs his hand saying that she understands.  What neither realise, is that Janine saw the exchange.  Janine enters and apologises for being late and Tom explains that Rachel is going to have an amniocentesis.  Janine immediately brings up the risks and questions if Rachel plans on having an abortion if something is wrong with the baby.  Tom explains about the fluid possibly containing a cure and Janine calls it amazing, before excusing herself to go to a meeting.

Elaine is at the vending machine when she is joined by Fred, who has brought her some food and coffee.  Elaine says that Ray must have done this to himself because he hated The Returned and avoided them. Fred says that it couldn't have been on purpose but Elaine quips that it would have required forethought, before bringing up Ray's attempt to raise chickens, which left her cleaning up the mess. Elaine adds that her whole life she has been taking care of Ray, protecting him from bullies, defending him from their father and that she didn't go to art school because she was afraid that something would happen to Ray if she left.  Elaine asks how incompetent someone has to be to get sick like this, before sitting down in frustration.  Fred offers Elaine a sandwich and in return, she questions what Fred wanted.  Fred brings up The True Living.

The Fairyland Murders (Deadly Ever After #1) by J.A. Kazimer

Blue Reynolds is a PI at the very edge of his resources – there just doesn’t seem to be that much demand for a PI who is also a lightning rod. Needing to make rent he’s willing to take any case – even from fairies.

Even to protect the Tooth Fairy from a serial killer.

Which is even harder when it’s clear that the Tooth Fairy, Izzy, does not want to be found or protected – and then it just gets more complicated

I think the main selling point – indeed, the main point – of this book is it’s world setting. It’s like film noir meets fairy tales. We have the dark and gritty and grim that so constitutes film noir – and then we have the tooth fairy and fairy dust and trolls and princesses. It’s all blended together in a unique, sometimes hilarious and sometimes just plain weird way. From the fairies needing dentin to survive – so the tooth fairy because an essential role, to fairy dust being an actual drug to various characters with little easter-egg names like Detective Goldie Locks – it’s all very very unique and very very strange

I can’t say I’m a fan of Blue, the protagonist. His concept is interesting with him being a permanent electrode and how isolating that is. But it’s both being done (the tragic protagonist who can’t touch people without hurting them) and it has been done a lot better, especially since Blue’s angst seems to come in random waves. He’ll be walking along and then out of nowhere we’ll have this sudden mini monologue of despair, then next paragraph he’s fine – it’s almost like there’s a little note “remember tragedy!” Other than his tragic past, Blue is something of an archetype – the film noir detective who is grim and gritty and poor and hard drinking and chain smoking – honestly, he just needs to start referring to women as “dames” or “skirts” and we have it all, including the hard boiled inner monologue. I can appreciate the archetype aimed for, but it doesn’t really leave me much to invest in

Especially since there’s no real indication he’s even decent at his job. He has a big gun and a semi-lethal power her rarely, if ever, uses with any competence. He doesn’t actually investigate – he’s got three cases to pursue and he doesn’t really do anything but stumble around, get into fights and get very very drunk. This damages the pacing a lot because pages seem to go by with Blue constantly talking about how close to bankruptcy he is or generally giving a sense of urgency without actually doing anything. He’s kind of like the guy who tweets about how much work he has to do every 5 minutes but doesn’t actually do any of it

In terms of plot, it’s all a little bit confused. I think part of that is the intent – Blue is in the middle of a case with all the classic Noir elements of cross and double cross and never knowing who he can trust and every case as little loop holes and surprises within surprises. We’re meant to doubt everything, we’re meant to question everything, we’re meant to know nothing. We’re meant to flail and be suspicious and not trust anyone and realise that every assumption we make can be completely wrong. It’s a classic mystery in a classic style and in that sense it is really well done. I didn’t see any of it coming I didn’t know who the villains or allies where, I didn’t know what anyone’s motives where and I was so drowned in red herrings the whole book should smell decidedly fishy. All of this is perfect and I approve

Once Upon a Time, Season 4, Episode 10: Fall

After unleashing her mirror, Ingrid admires her handiwork, the spell is due to hit at sundown where it will bring out the darkness of everyone in town and make them do nasty bad things to each other. Gold shows up to congratulate her much to her surprise (yeah, so wouldn’t trust that, myself) and offer a deal – see while Ingrid and her “sisters” will be unaffected, so will Gold and he will then dedicate the rest of his life to inflicting horrible revenge on Ingrid. Ingrid respects that threat. Gold wants Ingrid to let Henry and Belle leave with him and in exchange he will spare her. She agrees.

In town, Regina confirms to the gang that they have until sundown before everyone starts fighting (and Regina kills everyone because she’s Regina and would so definitely win). Emma proposes a simple solution – everyone leave town. But that means dealing with the giant ice wall around the town. But the ice wall has other ideas – Elsa does find her sister’s necklace in the ice at least. So impending doom is still coming but at least she has matching jewellery.

(Bonus Regina moment – Elsa: “It’s a sign!” Regina: “is everyone into this hope thing now?”)

More concrete plans involve getting people out by boat. Regina and Emma debate on who Henry should be near – Elsa points out the ribbons will make them immune but Regina counters that Elsa and Emma are the main target of Ingrid’s plans.

Henry goes with Regina to see Robin Hood where they warn him that the spell is coming and them all gathered together with weapons will be a really really bad idea. Robin calls Will (who is awesome) to break camp, Henry helping while Robin and Regina have a touching, loving moment (Robin and Henry are the only ones who have complete faith in her and she dreads the spell making Robin look at her like everyone else does)

Elsa and Emma go to see Belle who concludes that they can’t stop the spell but they do have a way to cure people who are affected by it. Elsa has a sudden realisation that Anna put her in the urn because she was under the spell (yes she’s finally caught on) and now they can use the necklace to find Anna because that really should be everyone’s priority right now. Anyway, more usefully they can use Anna (or her hair or something) to make a cure for everyone else. Emma points out there’s some time travel nonsense going on so Anna could be 80 or 200 or who knows (time lines aren’t exactly set) but Elsa is sure all will be fine (that hope thing Regina mentioned).

This calls for us to switch to Arendelle –Anna and Kristoff are freed from the ice (alas) neither of which are dead (alas). Anna quickly realises the urn is missing with Elsa – but also finds a golden straw which is pretty much Rumplestiltskin’s calling card. Alas Hans is also here (seriously does this kingdom not have an army? Can anyone just wander in?) and has decided to arrest Anna for treason and declare himself king. Thankfully the only people more inept than Anna and Kristoff are Hans and his brothers so they’re able to get the upper hand. Rather than stabbing the invaders they decide to lock them in a room and run. I’d hope for the guards.

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Big Over Easy (Jack Spratt Investigates #1) by Jasper Fforde

Jack Spratt (who has an unfortunate giant killing history) has lead the Nursey Crimes Division of Reading police for a long time – and has often been overlooked in favour of the more narratively pleasing detectives, like his nemesis Chymes
Joined by new Detective Sergent Mary Mary (she’s from Basingstoke and not ashamed) he tackles the case of Humpty Dumpty, found dead at the bottom of a wall. This could be the case that finally breaks the Nursery Crime Division – to say nothing of Jack and Mary’s ambitions towards joining the prestigious Guild of Detectives

The main selling point of this book has to be its humour. This book is hilarious. Even the little newspaper excepts had me in stitches:

The spinning industry was shaken to its foundations yesterday by the shocking royal proclamation that all spinning wheels in the nation were to be destroyed. The inexplicable edict was issued shortly after the King’s only daughter’s christening and is to be implemented immediately. Economic analysts predict that the repercussions on the wool, cloth and weaving trade may be far-reaching and potentially catastrophic. “We are seeking legal advice on the matter,” said Jenny Shuttle, leader of the Spinning & Associated Skills Labor Union. “While we love our King dearly, we will fight this through the courts every step of the way.” The King-in-opposition has demanded a judicial review

Honestly, I started compiling quotes of elements I found particularly hilarious in this book and stopped because I had so many excerpts that they were making up a review all of their own. I don’t think more than 5 pages passed at any one time where I didn’t laugh out loud and the smile never once left my face. This is one of those books you feel compelled to read aloud to people around you so they can join in the hilarity. There are so many little asides – like the man who collects cheap and nasty Victorian furniture which is extremely expensive because so little cheap and tacky furniture has actually survived long enough to be antique. Or Mary Mary’s complicated and hilarious Shakespeare betting scam (Tybalt upset the bookies by actually beating Romeo and it ended with the actual arrest of Richard III).
This book takes nursery tales (and even beings of legend – like Prometheus who, in addition to having some surprisingly deep and meaningful decisions, is also fighting extradition) and brings them to the real world with hilarious and amazing skill. We have Gorgio Porgia (the crime boss), Rumplestiltskin (in prison for his straw-into-gold scam), Bluebeard the serial killer, Old Mother Hubbard the landlady – so many glorious little references. And, of course, Jack Spratt himself and his carefully dissected bacon sandwiches and his unfortunate habit of killing giants (though, to be fair, only one was an actual giant, the other four were just really tall). It should be silly. It should be ridiculous. And it is – but it’s awesomely and hilariously so
I even love how this whole fairy tale theme is often achieved with subtle easter-eggs you need to be looking for – like the Butcher, Baker and Candlestick maker among Jack’s co-workers. Or the way Mary Mary actually contradicts people a lot.

Walking Dead, Season 5, Episode 8: Coda

Lamson has escaped from Sasha and is now on the run, tied up, unarmed, surrounded by zombies and chased by Rick in a car. Rick hits him with the car. He’s very badly injured and Rick gets out to lecture him on how he only had to stop; Lamson reasonably points out that he didn’t know Rick, how could he trust them. He begs Rick to take him to the hospital; he says that Rick has been “out here too long” and Rick shoots him in the head.

Rick returns to the gang and tells Daryl that the whole hostage exchange may be a disaster – but Daryl thinks there’s a chance since Dawn isn’t a big fan of Lamson and maybe she’ll be happy he’s dead. This seems to be backed up by one of the cops, Shepherd, happily saying Lamson was eaten by zombies and she totally saw it. The other cop will go through with it because if Dawn thinks they killed Lamson she won’t agree with the trade since it will make her look weak.

Sasha and Tyrese have a moment remembering childhood and Tyrese trying to comfort Sasha over Lamson’s death. Tyrese tells her about Martin, the guy he let go who he shouldn’t have – saying basically he and Sasha are the same and did the same thing; showed mercy which isn’t a bad thing. Sasha thinks she’s changed

At the hospital, Dawn is a little stressed about her cops not checking in but apparently it isn’t unusual. She talks about the old leader of the group and how she replaced him and ends with the message “you don’t need their love, but you do need their respect” which is a fair point – but I don’t think Dawn has that either. To remind us of that we see a policeman abusing an old man for not sewing his uniform.

Beth challenges Dawn on her believe that they just have to hang on and do what they must until it’s over – but it isn’t over and isn’t going to be over. Dawn doesn’t listen – just tells Beth she owes her for protecting her, saving her and hiding what she did in her attempted escape. To reinforce all this, Donald, one of Dawn’s deputies arrives with lots of threats and saying it’s “time to make a change”. She tells him to back up and points a gun at him – reminding him that she killed the last guy in charge and reminding him of how far he has fallen from the cop he once was. There’s some nice lines “holding on to what we have” “and what do we have?!” back and forth before they fight because she let him get too close. During the fight Beth pushes him down an open elevator shaft (there’s a pack of zombies at the bottom, it’s where they dispose of bodies). Bye Donald you will not be missed. Dawn thanks Beth.

Afterwards they have a little moment in Carol’s room with Beth saying “I don’t cry any more” and also seeing through Dawn’s “protection” because all the police who have died are people who were dangerous to Dawn. Beth sums up how the hospital works – everyone uses everyone else to get what they want. Dawn is sure Beth is just naïve and she will come round and continues to try and aim for friendship.

Back at the church Gabriel limps along on his own until he finds the cannibal’s camp – complete with bbq leg rotting on the grill. He’s extremely troubled but has to hobble away from zombies. He makes it back to the church where he yells for someone to let him in (a nice reversal on what he did to the people he locked outside). He cowers behind the defences surrounded by a horde shouting to Karl and Michonne to let him in – that he “knows now”. They de-barricade the door in time to let him in, of course letting zombies in with him. There’s so many they lose the front of the church and have to barricade a back room. They end up crawling out of the same hole Gabriel made.

Atlantis, Season 2, Episode 3: Telemon

Ariadne has a big ceremony that may be a coronation, presentation or just an excuse to get the shiny gems out. Afterwards she’s more concerned with Pasiphae not being dead or in a dungeon (or both, but that tends to get a bit whiffy after a while) as she tells Dion. Worse they can’t find any allies because no-one’s that impressed with Atlantis that can’t even capture one woman. On top of that, the Coronation Games are scheduled and have to go ahead without looking terrible. Dion thinks Jason should be their Champion because they really need to win. Ariadne thinks it’s a bad plan.

Pythagoras and Hercules also think it’s a bad idea because Jason and Ariadne pining over each other in the star crossed lovers manner is just so damn nauseating. Hercules also reminds Jason that people do actually die in Greek games, but Jason’s mind is made up.

Hercules acts out and spills the secret of Jason’s parentage to Pythagoras – including that they can’t tell Jason or he will turn to the dark side of the force. Which is a shame because as the son of Pasiphae Jason is technically royal so could marry Ariadne. Hmmm evil and married, good and pining love sick puppy? Choices choices….

While in the forest training, they hear combat and see a man being attacked by a gang of random brigands. They rush in to save him (continuing their impressive skill that they’ve acquired this season) and manage to save the man being attacked – Telemon, one of the competitors in the games. For reasons that escape me they decide to take him home and let him stay while waiting for the games.]

Hercules is a quick convert to Telemon’s side because of his gift of wine but Pythagoras is more suspicious – especially since Telemon has apparently come to Atlantis with no travel supplies at all.

The games begin with the contestants being presented (they’ve remembered to include not just POC warriors, but a woman warrior as well). And to confirm Pythagoras’s suspicions, Telemon is presented as a prince. Still Hercules tries to handwave it

Of course, a suddenly appearing prince has to be welcomed at the palace where Ariadne learns Telemon’s excuse of not being there with his father’s approval, wanting to escape the trappings of royalty and also flirt with Ariadne if possible (which also shakes the whole idea of his father not approving since apparently daddy wants to have an alliance backed by marriage).

Some fighting in the arena where Jason does well and then some intrigue behind the scenes, Areto, the female warrior, recognises Telemon as a prisoner from some salt mines – but he denies it. She wins her bout but is injured during it. Pythagoras goes to see her, helping her with her injury and learning that she is sure she met Telemon before. Telemon overhears their discussion.

Telemon wins his bout as well before going on to tell Jason that he wants to win Ariadne’s hand in marriage but he’ll totally remember Jason is his friend. Uh-huh, rub that salt in a little harder.