Thursday, December 25, 2014

Happy Holidays

Hello everyone, the Fangs for Fantasy crew would like to wish you and yours, a safe happy and prosperous holiday season.  We've had a rocky year at times in 2014 and we hope everyone will join us with a big drink and a bigger turkey

So long as you don't deep fry it.

And make sure your decorations are tasteful. Or Awesome.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Gaia's Children by Eric Hutchinson

Ok I have to preface this by the fact that this is a very long book that I did not finish because of issues I will explain. I haven't included a synopsis because the blurb for the book doesn't resemble what I've read - I'm assuming that a lot more happens so I will say if you don't find the beginning 150-200 pages the same kind of road block that I did, there's probably a much meatier story lurking behind it.

But I was forcing myself to read long before I stopped and for the sake of an honest review, it doesn't matter if your book becomes awesome in the last 300 pages, if the first 300 pages are too much of a roadblock to meet it. But if you can get past that road block, you may love it. 

Now - onwards:

Recently we took part in the Book Smuggler’s holiday Smugglivus and one of the points we raised on our Inclusive Ingrid post was:

Sometimes Inclusive Ingrid wrote this book to tell us that racism/homophobia/sexism/ableism et al is bad, guys. Let me tell you how bad it is, because it’s really really bad. Have you not seen how bad it is? Don’t worry, this book makes it very very clear. Example after example, incident after incident all explained in detail. It’s a wonderful lecture on the damage and prevalence of prejudice! Unfortunately what it isn’t, is a story. Inclusive Ingrid has sat herself down and written one long PSA, shoe-horned in some downtrodden vampires and a werewolf who wants to expound on their women’s studies notes, and neglected to actually include a plot. Or characters we don’t want to cheerfully beat to death with their own sociology 101 texts.

That’s pretty much the very definition of this book. It is there to make a point and it does to at length and with great repetition. Some time ago I read the Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind which was, basically, a great big love in to Ayn Rand and the joys of libertarianism. This book is Anarchism version – one long polemic on how anarchy, no government etc is such a wonderful thing conveyed through an alien living in a utopian society describing his world and showing us the way to fix our world.

Now, I’ll add another preface by saying I am a very liberal person – I am, in many ways, the commie-pinko-socialist the right wingers love to hate – so many of the points the author was trying to raise definitely resonated with me: environmental destruction, wealth inequality, lack of representation in democracy, the way politicians try to hold power – so, no I’m not putting this book down because it clashes with my political views because in some ways it doesn’t (until the libertarianism raises its ugly head).

But it is mind numbingly naïve and simplistic to a point where I’m not sure whether the author even believes what they’re writing or is trying to parody them

Most of this lecturing is delivered by having an alien, Albert, describe his society to many people, starting with married couple Tom and Samantha. After many many many many lectures (and shenanigans from a Completely Awful Journalist) a television interview happens which is very very very long and this, in turn, leads to a big societal uprising that Tom and Samantha lead

In some ways it was very useful that it was an alien that communicated their world and society because it required a completely alien world and an alien society for me to believe it was workable. The inherent practicality of it that even the book has to acknowledge is backed by a lot of special alien woo-woo to cover any of the inconveniences that putting humans in this system would bring (not least of which are the aliens not needing cooked food, food storage, medicine, sanitation, construction, recorded history, literature, written communication at all, transport, education – so much more). Basically, the alien physiology (and low resource nature of their world) renders any kind of collective undertaking unnecessary. They live as free-thinking individuals without leadership, hierarchy, government or laws because absolutely nothing in their society or world requires collective effort. And even this doesn’t follow through in their depiction – because this society with virtually stone age tool use (and even that is helped by an incredibly convenient ecology that produces easily customisable items) has still managed to produce chemical and biological weapons… somehow.

Lost Girl, Season 5, Episode 3: Big in Japan

Bo is decorating (well, kind of) with Dyson and it gets all sexy, inevitably when Bo suddenly pulls back. Dyson tries to assure Bo there’s no strings attached but she claims a headache (remembering she’s a succubus who can heal with sex and has previously used sex with Dyson to heal while half dead) she pulls back a second time and rushes off for a drink. Dyson is all confused. Bo is missing Kenzi

At the Dal it’s karaoke night. Because why not. A man (who definitely cannot sing) is throwing a huge amount of money around, 2 women with him make out for his enjoyment and someone puts a poisonous thing in his drink. This isn’t a particularly ill thought out recipe but a poisoning attempt the man notices when he freezes his drink with a wave of his hand.

Bo and Tamsin continue to miss Kenzi when Tamsin tries to make dinner and they miss Kenzi’s effortless ability to produce amazing meals out of the terrible food and awful kitchen. Instead they go out and when Tamsin suggests finding someone to feed on, Bo again dodges the issue. Ruich guy from the Dal propositions them on the street – Tamsin seems quite fine with this but Bo is reluctant – until Tamsin comes on to Bo and, again, Bo ducks out and decides they should go with rich Japanese guy. In case you missed the theme, Bo is avoiding sex.

The next morning Bo and Tamsin wake up in bed together, hung over – and they didn’t have sex. Bo tries to feed on Tamsin to cure her hang over but stops – she can’t, which Tamsin puts down to breath issues. The rich guy from last night is also there, playing with a knife. Tamsin is way too tired to deal with this and fun in her indifference. He wants them to play bodyguard

He takes them to dinner where Bo snarks about sushi and Tamsin and the man (can this guy get a name please) explain that Taco, the ones out to kill him are major bounty hunters. We learn he gets his icy powers from his grandmother, Yuki-Onna and we get the man’s name – Musashi who Tamsin fangirls all over since he’s a great warrior who fought in one of the fae’s greatest wars. To counter Tamsin’s fawning fan worship, Musashi is an arsehole to the woman serving him tea because she spills some (she snarks back, politely, that her servers can’t pour tea because they were with him the night before and are now hung over) – she’s also his sister and he introduces his three brothers hanging around as well.

Bo gets back on track and asks why someone wants to kill a great fae war hero and he hands Tamsin a scroll – Musashi is “ascending” which means he’s becoming a god.

They leave the restaurant, brainstorming who could be wanting to kill Musashi and are attacked by someone actually dressed as a television ninja, I kid you not. He knocks Tamsin and Bo aside and holds his sword to Mushashi’s neck (in TV land, you don’t kill someone without a dramatic pause to spare them first) and sees his tattoos – the assassin falls to his knees and kills himself for insulting the “exalted one” by stabbing himself in the stomach. No-one thinks to get medical attention so they can question the man, instead concerned with Bo who is injured and refuses to feed to heal herself.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Fangs for the Fantasy Podcast: 2014, Episode 27

It's time for this week's episode of Fangs for the Fantasy podcast - this is the last podcast before the Holiday break. We will be back on the 5th January at our usual time (but full of much much more turkey)

We're looking at the season finales of the shows we follow as the end for the holidays including Originals, Vampire Diaries, Resurrection, Constantine and more

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

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

15th December -  22nd December: Odin Ravens by  K.L. Armstrong, M.A. Marr
22nd December - 5th January: Hidden Legacy by Ilona Andrews
5th January - 12th January: Unbound by Jim C Hines
12th January - 19th January: The Fourth Bear by Jasper Fforde
19th January - 26th January: A Storm of Swords by George R R Martin

Odin's Ravens (Blackwell Pages #2) by K.L. Armstrong & M.A. Marr

Baldwin is dead, avatar of the god Baldr in legend he stayed dead because Loki would not cry for him – but this time Loki’s descendants grieved for his loss. With the myth changed, Laurie, Fenn and Matt are willing to enter the underworld and bring Baldr home – even if it means facing the dead, giant dogs and the goddess of Hel.
Even then they’ve still got Mjolnir, the hammer of Thor to find and an apocalypse to stop… and Matt, a 13 year old boy, has to grow into the shoes of Thor.
Plot wise I think this book has a similar issue with the last book – it’s very linear. They have a step-by-step plan and are railroaded along it. They have to rescue Baldwin, they have to find Mjolnir and to do both they’re basically told how to do both. We then have all the necessary action scenes described (and they’re really good, don’t get me wrong) and they all flow very smoothly, there’s little in the way of down time or dead places in the book – but it’s still linear. They have a task, they know exactly where to go, they go there, they fight whatever gribbly thing they have to fight then either they succeed and fail and move on to the next step. There’s no real complexity there. And it isn’t written badly and it certainly doesn’t flow better and it’s generally fun to read – but it’s a classic quest story. A well written quest story, a nicely paced quest story with some great description – but still a linear quest story.
The research behind the book is excellent with a real nice inclusion of all kinds of Norse legends and not just the common ones (Thor, lord of goats doesn’t make its way into many stories). I do so love the legends
One thing that does set this book above the first book is the character development – there’s a lot more of it. It also had some nicely fun moments in between the action
I am torn over Fenn. On the one side he’s a pretty annoying character – he’s surly and moody and his cousin Laurie spends waaaaay too much time tip-toeing around his stompyness. I honestly spent most of the book a little tense waiting for him to do something unforgivably outrageous, turn to the dark side, or otherwise make me want to strangle him. In the end he was still a character I didn’t like – but he wasn’t unrealistic, excessive or aggravating – or any more aggravating that a bad tempered 13 year old with a chip on his shoulder should be. I think there’s a level of realism to him, he’s had a hard pretty neglected life, he’s always been second or overlooked and accused (which we also see from the general Thorsen way of treating him and the other Brekke’s) and the only person he has ever had he could rely on is Laurie – who now has other friends and is supporting them and not just following in his wake. His behaviour is understandable – annoying but understandable and realistic.

Fangs for the Fantasy Book of the Week

The next episode of our podcast will be starting tonight at 7:00pm EST (12:00am GMT). It's the last episode of the year and we continue to work through all the mid-season finales on the lead up to the Holidays

You will be able to listen to us on our youtube channel, or by the link in the sidebar or by the post here that will be posted. We hope to see you there

Like all  the Fangs for the Fantasy podcast(archives here) we read a book and discuss it on the show. 

To give people a chance to read along with us we include a list of our planned books of the week for the next few shows, so people can get the books, read them and join in the conversation.

We will be returning in 2015 on the 5th January

15th December -  22nd December: Odin Ravens by  K.L. Armstrong, M.A. Marr
22nd December - 5th January: Hidden Legacy by Ilona Andrews
5th January - 12th January: Unbound by Jim C Hines
12th January - 19th January: The Fourth Bear by Jasper Fforde
19th January - 26th January: A Storm of Swords by George R R Martin

Atlantis, Season 2, Episode 6: The Grey Sisters

Medea runs through the woods, chased by Jason. She manages to hide among the trees and cower from him. He rants his promise of revenge for her stabbing Ariadne. Jason tries to sell menacing and enraged. It’s kind of like being menaced by a chinchilla. Mid rant he nearly stabs Hercules (who does a much better job of acting scared – but means he now looks terrified of the chinchilla). He’s there to call her back to Ariadne who needs him (Medea you had a knife to her throat and failed to murder her. The other assassins will now laugh at you) because they need to get her back to Atlantis – since Jason just apparently left her to run off after Medea. Medea shakes and cries.

They get Ariadne to the palace and she’s put in bed and the Oracle called in to work with Pythagoras on Ariadne’s wound. Sad faces all round. While the Oracle works her ritual to save Ariadne, Hercules comforts Jason who is beginning to lose his faith that all people are wonderful fluffy bunnies.

Having done what they can, Jason goes to her side. Hercules goes home to eat and where they’re hosting Orpheus. Hercules offers his condolences since he has also lost the woman he love (Medusa) but Orpheus believes love only dies if you give up on finding your loved one – he’s even willing to go to Hades for Eurydice. This sounds like a lead in to Hercules questing for Medusa (please! Medusa was awesome).

Jason spends the night laid next to Ariadne – still in his zombie-skeleton stained leather, this is not hygienic! Ariadne started bleeding again during the night. The Oracle makes a vaguely ominous statement about the wound not healing. Using a ritual she reveals that Medea put a death curse on the dagger – using Colchean magic that the Oracle can’t undo (do you know what would have worked better than a death curse? Stabbing Ariadne in the neck). After dramatically announcing that Ariadne’s going to die and Jason refusing to accept it, the Oracle decides enough drama has passed for her to dole out another tiny crumb of information – the Grey Sisters are super powerful seers who will know a cure. They will also tell you upsetting things – like Jason is going to listen to any warning.

Of course, being oracles, I predict they will say ominously vague things without much substance.

Jason and the gang set off on the quest and Pythagoras notices something is bugging Hercules – he teases him as is his wont and Hercules loses his temper and snaps at Pythagoras for always making a joke out of him. More prodding and Hercules reveals his Medusa angst – Orpheus and Jason are both going to extreme lengths for the women they love and he hasn’t done anything to help cure Medusa of her curse.

They make their way to the Grey Sisters cave and find the three – eyeless crones carrying one large eyeball between them in order to see (the Graiae). They ask what he has brought them and he has nothing but he begs them to help; as they pass the eye back and forth he grabs it. He threatens to destroy it if they don’t tell him the cure (Pythagoras and Hercules exchange startled looks) – the cure is to anoint the wound with Medea’s blood. She’s at the temple of Hecate in a forest but when Jason mentions how much he wants to kill Medea, the Gaiae tell him their fates are entwined and everything will fail without her (vague ominous premonitions! Ah the oracles never cease to not disappoint). Jason throws the eye at them and leaves