Saturday, August 15, 2015

Under the Dome, Season 3, Episode 9: Plan B

It’s another episode of Under the Dome, the series that proves to us, week by week, that there is no god – because any merciful and/or wrathful deity would have wiped us all out long before now.

So war has been declared, Barbie is leading his merry pod-people to kill the rest of the Resistance (and, while they’re evil, their goals including killing Julia and Jim so they can’t be all bad). But they don’t know where the Resistance is hiding in a funeral home. Barbie has the house they were staying in burned down in a tantrum – and Christine seems quite panicky that her enemies didn’t stand still to be killed. In between her tantrum she also collapses in pain, clutching her stomach. Eva ruses in confused at the strange star mark on Christine’s stomach – but Christine is far more excited that her amethyst has declared that Eva is pregnant.

Apparently she’s carrying the new Queen. Eva tells Barbie who is all thrilled and shiny about it. Christine has also ensured there are guards to protect her – which, of course, makes Barbie all the more gung-ho.

Christine is having to adjust her plans – including now needing Joe alive. Sam has also vanished but Christine’s main concern is the Dome. She has Junior take her there where the dome is calcifying, meaning it will no longer let in air (I wonder if the plant life within would be sufficient for oxygen?) which will kill everyone unless she can get Joe to bring it down (yes Joes is involved for reasons.) This is, of course, all due to the broken amethysts and the Dome not having enough power – the same thing that is causing Christine to be faint and weak.

Until she has sex with Junior. Sex hormones helps heal aliens, apparently – though she does point out she is dying still and Junior totally needs to have sex with many people. I’d ask why but, really, this show is past why now.

So it’s time to pick out women for Junior – but in doing so Christine earmarks 12 girls that she needs for undefined purposes. Sadly unsurprisingly, the one time Junior has ever argued with Christine is in claiming one girl he is determined will be his.

Christine picks out one girl, Harriet, to be Eva’s midwife (no, Eva does not get a say). She’s also sending Eva off with said midwife, bulldozing over Eva’s objections.

Friday, August 14, 2015

The Beauty and the Sadness of Geek Culture

When we think of Geeks socially, immediately the image of someone awkward who lives in their parents’ basement hissing at the first ray of sunlight comes to mind. Geeks are thought of as social outcasts with difficulty relating to people. They seem to live outside of the ordinary aspects of life and instead come to life at the fantastic - a world far beyond our own. From the outside it can seem strange, even puerile when one considers the many issues we have to deal with. Does it really make sense to argue about who played The Doctor the best when we have to contend with global warming, racism, income inequality, homophobia, sexism and ableism?  

Geek culture is an escape from the everyday and it is seems puerile that’s because it is sometimes. You know what? It’s perfectly okay. Geek culture allows an escape to some degree from the serious issues this world is dealing with. It allows us to dream about what could possibly be someday, even as it often presents a brighter, kinder side of humanity. Take Star Trek for instance, where money no longer exists, though people do own some private property. No one in Roddenberry’s world is hungry or homeless. Now imagine what that would mean to someone currently struggling to pay the rent and living on foodstamps.

There is much negative said about geek culture by those who don’t understand it and have never been part of it. It seems foreign so it must be wrong right? I don’t understand the references and why these catch phrases make sense. Why is this person yelling Allons-Y, or Geronimo, or asking, would you like a jelly belly? It’s childish rubbish right? Well in short, it’s not.

Geek culture brings people together. People from opposite sides of the world with completely different cultures can come together over a catch phrase like "I'm Givin' Her All She's Got, Captain!" Running into someone wearing a tardis shirt can spawn conversations and even start friendships because immediately two geeks can identify each other and speak their own special language about a show, comic, movie or video game that they are passionate about.  In a world where we spend more time communicating through the internet and texting, this opportunity to relate to each other in real time is something we should celebrate.  

I personally have had hour long conversations with strangers about whether or not JJ Abrams has ruined the Star Trek franchise. I’ve argued with strangers about whether the remakes of Planet of the Apes can compete with the original 1968 movie. I’ve jokingly asked obviously geek waiters if there’s soylent green on the menu. I won’t even get into the conversations with Star Wars fans about Jar Jar Binks and their feelings about George Lucas. Opening up that can of worms can lead to a neverending argument.

Even when two geeks take opposing sides on a matter of cannon, the very fact that they have a movie, comic, video game or television show in common is enough to spark conversation and interaction. In this way, Geek Culture brings people together regardless of their cultural differences,ages, race, gender or sexuality and I would go as far as to suggest that because of the way it unifies people at its best, Geek Culture presents an umbrella culture beneath which all can gather. Such is the nature of the unity that it reifies the phrase, “Live long and prosper” to a unique level.  

As humans we may not be able to agree on how to deal with Global warming or if Global warming even exists (yes, I’m looking at you, you science denying conservatives) but as Geeks we can almost universally agree that it would be amazing to go where no man has gone before. At the end of the day, this world would be a lot better place if we allowed our dreams of the fantastic to guide us and bring us together.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Blood Mage (Mages #1) by KR Yaddof

The world is in turmoil. A mysterious attacker has destroyed the world’s capitals and several other major cities as well, leaving civilisation weakened and very worried.

Alexis wishes she could live the life she had before – but she is the daughter of the new President of the devastated United States. The constant security is enough to make any kind of normal life hard – but when her necklace starts glowing and she starts manifesting strange abilities she finds she has a whole secret family legacy to contend with as well – and secrets that may hold the answer to who launched the attacks

This book starts with a world and concepts that has some potential:

We have a world where most of the major cities have been dramatically destroyed by a completely unknown foe. Millions are dead and the world is in turmoil and very afraid. We have a protagonist who is the US president’s daughter and somewhat in the centre of a lot of the politics that could arise from this. And she has some magical powers that are developing which is pretty much par the course but could go to interesting places.

Alas, this book did not deliver on that potential.

Firstly, in response to the horror of so many millions dying, our first insight from Alexis is the unhappiness that, because she’s been moved to a highly secure school with the other kids of important politicians, she is no longer going to be the most popular girl in school.

As an opening introduction... this is pretty horrible. In the face of the world being devastated, no doubt these characters grieving for millions dead and now facing a very tense and worrisome future full of fear and tension Alexis is worried about not being the popular girl and her new high school

This doesn’t really change for most of the book – not just Alexis but most of the cast seem to be focused largely on pretty mundane high school issues with little to code either the dangerous world they live in, the privileged place they occupy (there are secret service agents around but they’re set dressing). This high school and the characters in it could be in any setting and these characters would not need to change. What worries them – parental rules, parties, whether other characters are cute, relationships is all pretty much interchangeable with any other setting.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Veil (Devil's Island #1) by Chloe Neill

When the Veil ripped open, allowing magic and magical beings entered the world. The war that followed was devastating, reducing much of the southern US to a devastated war zone – or, as it’s known now, The Zone

Now the war is over, Containment controls the Zone and tries to police the remaining free paranormals – and the Sensitives, humans with magic who are doomed to become savage wraiths.

Claire is one of those Sensitives, living in New Orleans and trying to hide her secret – but when wraiths attack she can’t resist using her power and only help from the bounty hunter Liam helps her cover it up.

Liam also knows what she can do to avoid that fate – but it means drawing further into the supernatural world and, on the way, learning of a plot that may re-ignite the war all over again

When this came up in my to read pile, I was happy to jump on it. While we’ve had a rocky ride with the Chicagoland Vampires series, I’m still generally positive about them and was definitely up to seeing this new world that Chloe Neil had produced

And the world is excellent. Urban Fantasy meets dystopia and both parts are covered and blended so well. It’s not a common genre mash and when it is there’s usually a focus on the magical elements rather than the dystopian ones – so how we now use magic to do various things rather than technology. This focuses the other way: we have a large section of the American South that has been devastated by a magical invasion from across the Veil. The land is now extremely unproductive thanks to magical damage, the population has been decimated, the cities reduced to ruinous shadows of what they were before and much of it is contained and separated from the rest of the United States out of fear of magical beings that still lurk in The Zone.

The focus here is very much the dystopia. Most of the cast are ordinary people trying to survive in devastated New Orleans, clinging to a normal life, the celebrations and ceremonies and trying, slowly but surely, to rebuild on the devastation. The book covers this excellently, especially with elements like the ruinous feeling of the city, the battle between salvaging vs looting and even little things like Claire being leery to actually consume luxuries when she gets them (as a shop owner) because she doesn’t want to get used to them – and these luxuries (butter, coffee) are things that did used to be commonly available and she daren’t get back into expecting them.

On top of that we have an excellent depiction of life after the war – hatred of the enemy, the loss people have suffered and are still grieving. They have new ceremonies, new sayings, new commemorative days and monuments – there’s a real sense of completeness to this world that makes it very real. On top of that we have the ongoing threat that Wraiths represent – making the city unsafe, heavily monitored and always with that sense of fear. The themes are really well set, decayed grandeur, stubborn defiance and that edge of worry always there but all turned into a kind of gentle acceptance as well.

Teen Wolf, Season 5, Episode 8: Ouroboros

Ominous abandoned dangerous nuclear facility is ominous… for some reason Deacon’s decided to explore with someone else who speaks Russian in tow. The place is deserted and has signs saying “they come for all of us” which is when I’d be gone so fast you’d think I invented teleportation. “They” are terrible masked people which are pretty clearly the Dread Doctors – but with an Ouroboros symbol.

They find a spooky spooky lab full of bottled foetus and dead kiddies – and Deacon finds a tooth. Which is apparently what’s looking for. He then decides it’s time to leave when he is confronted by a woman with a gun.

The Desert Wolf. Malia’s mother.

Back in Beacon Hills, everyone’s looking for Liam and Hayden

And Melissa wants to explain something to the sheriff, something the requires he not be sheriff while listening. Sheriff is all worried because he seems to keep doing it while Melissa is “this is what our kids do. Deal with it.”

She shows him the clawed body on her table – and Sheriff asks after Kira. The sheriff reports the body – against Melissa’s wishes. She slaps him, furious he’s going to accuse Kira while the sheriff certainly isn’t going to cover up the murder of a teenager. Melissa throws back that their kids are constantly dealing with stuff outside the law. But “not above the law” is the counter.

Worryingly, Kira is wandering down the road in a trance before a deputy (Hayden’s sister, Clarke) finds her and snaps her out of it – and arrests her.

News of the arrest is heard on the police radio by Stiles and Theo. Parrish also learns as he washes off more soot and looks all troubled by another murder while he blacked out

At the police station the sheriff is still a good guy and is assuming Kira acted in self-defence if she was involved when Kira’s parents arrive. Kira’s father, Ken Yakimura, quickly lies and makes up a story blaming himself.

Since Melissa found the body she also has to give a statement. Melissa is Not Happy and gives him a wonderful statement, describing the claws on the bodies as well as chimera, werewolves, banshees and everything else she can think of. This is not helpful. Clarke also interrupts about more information about the 911 “prank call” that Stiles made to try and report Donovan’s death – and it implicated Stiles. Sheriff declares no more bending the rules for anyone

Melissa: “maybe you should bend before someone breaks.”

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Strain, Season 2, Episode 5: Quick and Painless

Feraldo’s tactics continue – including armed men enforcing mandatory evacuations and killing any vampires they find. They’ve already learned things like ensuring the white goo doesn’t touch them. But not, it seems the use of UV light. Or to shoot creepy children on general principles. Especially super-fast wall-climbing vampire kids that are Kelly’s kiddy minions. Even if they weren’t vampires they should have been shot

They also seem to believe that vampirism is only passed on by neck bites. Uh-oh.

Dutch arranges for Ephraim to get new IDs so he can leave the city (sending him though, from what we can see in the brief milliseconds, is a gay bar to do so). He then goes home to convince Zach that killing all the vampires is going to happen soon and going to be awesome. Zach still thinks his mum is coming back to him. Ephraim is amazingly not sympathetic, kind or decent about this because he’s a terrible person.

Nora tries to convince Ephraim to be sensible especially since getting all three of them through security checkpoints to deliver the plague would be difficult to say the least – so she offers to stay behind and look after Zach. They’re still playing the romance and Nora finally puts her foot down – she’s not going with him. She’s going with Dutch to try and get Vasiliy out of prison after his bombing last week.

Ephraim also tries to avoid attention by changing his appearance – and shaving his head.

Dutch and Nora find pandemonium waiting for them with Feraldo talking sense and trying to get people to calm down and support her and go into quarantine if needed. When Nora hears that they’re quarantining people for 3 days and offers them a quick and easy way to diagnose the infected. In exchange for Vasiliy’s release (he is being awesome in custody). When Dutch sees his face she goes full on mother-just-saw-her-child-come-home-with-a-bruise. The police do know why he set the bomb though and are even somewhat impressed by how he did it – still civilians and bombs are a bad idea. And he has all the info for killing vampires – UV and silver which he tells the police.

In turn the police tell him about the spider kids being so dangerous to kill. That sounds like fun to Dutch and Vasiliy. They go with a police squad to go hunting spider vamps. Showing them all the shiny vampire hunter tools (though a bullet to the head is as good). They also get vampires in the walls where Vasiliy repeatedly puts his head to holes he opens and just begs to be bitten.

Falling Skies, Season 5, Episode 7: Everyone Has Their Reasons

Everybody has their reasons. And in the case of the writers of Falling Skies I believe the reason is “class A drugs.”

So Tom & friends have found a working military base. No, really. Actually, working, occupied military base. Weaver’s excuse for why it hasn’t been decimated is that it’s surrounded by three walls so is strategic. How this would have worked against the invulnerable mechs of season 1, the completely dominating air power of the last 5 seasons or the hordes of feral skitter – some of which can fly – let alone the swarms of piranha flies that can strip a human to bone in seconds… well, it’ Falling skies and this show has sworn to never ever make sense.

Of course, Tom, Weaver and Hal decide to go forward without advance notice, backup or even letting anyone know what they’ve found – they go forth confident in their plot armour. They’re ambushed and everyone points guns at each other until Katie Marshall appears – an old contact of weaver’s. She welcomes them to the 14th Virginia.

So the 2nd Mass gets a nice welcome into the base that was successfully protected by WALLS. (Ok maybe the first lot of inhabitants were wiped out but still leaving these guys alone for a year makes no sense. And don’t tell me they’re hiding – they literally have a building sized, improbably clean America flag). And technically Colonel Weaver outranks everyone so is in charge.

They tell Marshall that Tom shut down the power, in case she didn’t realise she’s supposed to worship at this feet and Marshall shows off how they’ve improved the base (flags – flags are very important it seems) and the intel they’ve managed to gain. Weaver also tells them about the Volm – which Marshall is not a big fan of because of their whole re-locate to Brazil idea which was back when the Volm were actually a major fighting force and not just handwaved away. They tell Marshall their plan which they’ve implemented through the militias and show off the shiny Volm tech and the plan to reach DC

Random domesticity – and Hal decides to get all kind of possessive over Isabella, not-so-subtly playing the MAH WOMAN game with a soldier who was flirting with her. And Maggie looks on. Oh look, the love dodecahedron continues. My interest does not grow. Maggie and Hal have relationship talks. Do not need. Tom talks politics and history with Matt like they’re going to rebuild very soon

And Weaver and Mashall catch up with a strong hint of them having been an item once. Well more than a hint. And an actual good depiction of her being haunted by a bad experience.

Monday, August 10, 2015

The Awesome by Eva Darrows

Maggie is a hunter’s apprentice – following in her mother’s footsteps to take down all the creepy monsters that lurk in the world (including gross ghosts and sidhe which may or may not have eaten an eyeball)

But she can’t be more than an apprentice yet because she is still a virgin. Virgin blood drives Vampires into killing frenzies making them strictly off limits. If Maggie wants to face the big leagues she needs to tackle an entirely new experience: The Sex

And while teenaged boys may be daunting, a new kind of zombies and a vampire cover up may be far more dangerous.

When I first saw this book, I saw the synopsis of “teenaged girl has to lose her virginity to fight vampires” and, I admit, I rolled my eyes and thought “I don’t want to read this.” I then sharpened my snark and prepared to read.

Then I heard that Booksmugglers and Cuddlebuggery had read this book and loved it – this meant that I now had someone to blame should I hate it for many many many years to come. The promise of snark and eternal shame did make things look much brighter

Alas, I have little of either because The Awesome was, indeed, awesome in many ways and all the terribleness I both dreaded and was ready to skewer just didn’t arise.

It was awesome in the way the whole quest to lose her virginity was treated. There was no massive putting of hymens on pedestals. There was no forcing Maggie into sexual encounters she didn’t want. There was no terrible romance tropes marauding all over everything and neither she nor Ian felt particularly exploited, used or mistreated by the other. Even with The Sex being the stated goal for hunting purposes, both Maggie and Ian are clearly interested in their sexual encounter before going ahead

And that sex is perfectly imperfect. As befits two very inexperienced teenagers. It isn’t terrible and they both enjoy it and they like each other and the whole experience but it is certainly not an epic passionate time of skilful sexual maestros causing people to go blind and pass out from the 8 fold multiple orgasm of doom either. It’s awkward and fumbling and not always done right and the bedrooms are messy and alcohol doesn’t help things. It’s excellent, I think it’s the first time I’ve read a sex scene where it was improbably perfect screaming orgasm time while still being happy and fun.

I also liked that Maggie and Ian built a friendship and relationship as well – which was also sweet and fun with them actually enjoying non-romance time together.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Killjoys, Season 1, Episode 8: Come with the Rain

After the many events of last week the whole team is more than a little traumatised – D’avin hiding on the ship, Dutch ducking between brief sexual encounters and John telling all of this to Pree at the bar. The heat wave doesn’t help any.

And John is doing his best to bring his damaged team back together. To do that he’s signed them up on an easy mission in Dutch’s name. Everyone is, tentatively, getting back in the saddle. Though Dr. Pawter doesn’t agree with John being up and about so soon after being injured.

But everything’s called when they get a super severe weather alarm. A severe chemical storm no less. That’s very not good. Part of that storm also has convicted criminals chained up to be exposed to the chemical weather, their faces forced to turn up to the sky. Nasty.

At Pree’s he opens the doors to anyone who can’t get home and to shelter. That includes John, Pawter and the preacher Alvis. Pawter checks John out and finds him generally healthy but they also touch on the mental state of Dutch and D’avin which they don’t think is nearly as good.

Pawter tries to leave when John mentions that Dutch and D’avin slept together but Pree isn’t letting anyone leave his barred doors with the storm coming. Which is a shame because John isn’t a fan of the people he’s been locked in with. Several of them have just completed an armed robbery and there’s an alert out for them. And there’s a Company employee in the building about to enforce said alert (or, as John puts it, “do something stupid.”

Which he does. The captain and the thief have a brief conversation about who is betraying his people more, the one working for the oppressive company or the one who is stealing the future of people who earned Leith passes from the company.

A firefight breaks out in the bar, a passing rookie is killed and the main thief is injured badly. The storm breaks, the man chained up outside scream in pain as the rain begins to kill them. It’s a hostage situation time, with Pawter helping heal the shot thief while John manages to ingratiate himself sufficiently to help Pawter and be left, almost, alone with her and her patient.

Pawter also seems to be having her own health problems – complaining of a headache and her hands are shaking. John talks to Pree clearly realising that Pawter is in withdrawal. She’s addicted to Jack, a nastily addictive substance she can normally easily find – and they need to get her some if she’s going to be able to doctor the thief and his friends not shoot them all in the head.

So that means using the tunnels and basements under Westerly to find Jack. And if they’re not back soon, he will throw the random civilians hiding in the bar out in the rain (and he doesn’t buy the whole “these are your people!”)

Defiance, Season 3, Episode 10: When Twilight Dims the Skies Above

I’m not even going to recap this damn prologue – I’m so sick of this trope. Shit happens and then we go back 12 hours earlier. I will revisit said shit when it is actually relevant rather than disrupting the sequence of events for some unknown reason which, I presume, involves whiskey.

Nolan is drinking in the Need/Want and sees Stahma and T’evgin enter. His hallucination wants to kill Stahma as a traitor

Stahma is clearly nervous about being out of the shelter of her home and T’evgin is quite sweet and reassuring. In town more of the shopkeepers shun Stahma as a traitor but T’evgin snarls to her defence (and buy her flowers) demanding she is respected. He also wants to talk to her about his people since his ship is nearly refuelled. He doesn’t think he can release his people after what he saw Kindzi do. He thinks about colonising Australia where the Omec will be massacred by the wildlife can study humanity while being isolated from it enough not to go around hunting people and eating them. And he wants Stahma to come with them to help her teach and guide his people. Of course she wants to stay – but T’evgin points out how little she has left in Defiance.

Amanda, with the help of Irisa, finally tacks down Nolan drinking away – they need him because the Votanis Collective has arrived. A big convoy of military vehicles no less. They did ask if they could enter which was nice, and Amanda allowed them because, without the Stasis Net, it’s not like they could be stopped.

They meet Vice-Chancellor Silora Vaske. She’s very polite and introduce Sturuge, her chief of staff – and Datak, alive and well. Stahma looks shocked (and is that disappointment?) before running to his arms.

In the mayor’s office she says what she’s there for – an alliance. Amanda is shocked and points out all the things the VC just did but Silora points out that Rahm Tak was rogue and not sanctioned by the VC. And they’re here to apologise and make nice. She also thought Datak would receive a warmer reception than he is – neither Amanda nor Nolan (or his raging hallucination) are happy that Datak lived (and now has a new mechanical arm). Nolan is so unable to suppress his violent hallucinogenic rage – or his urge to reach for weapons, that Amanda has to kick him out. Silora also kicks out Datak, reminding him he owes her for the very expensive arm he now has as well.

Datak storms out and does manage to vent a little at Sturuge who is unfailingly polite.

Silora explains the situation with Rahm to Amanda and how far he went beyond anything they told him to do, even murdering his own wife. (She also calls Datak a “haint” which Amanda is surprised by but Silora, as a Casti, says “it’s ok when I say it.”) (She also calls Datak a “haint” which Amanda is surprised by but Silora, as a Casti, says “it’s ok when I say it.”). She can offer all kinds of shinies and the main reason she’s doing so is because a whole lot of Votans agreed with Rahm they need some signal of co-operation, them working together. And on that she mentions the Omec with their Harvester in orbit which has thoroughly terrified the VC. And scared Votans do stupid things (Amanda points out that the Votans tried to wipe out the Omec with their arc – which kind of makes Silora’s point)