Friday, August 12, 2016

American Vampire, Vol. 1 (American Vampire #1) by Scott Snyder, Stephen King, Rafael Albuquerque (Illustrator)

The first volume of this story moves between the 1880's and the 1920's. It begins in the twenties with the story of Pearl, a young aspiring actress living in Los Angeles.  In between picking up bit parts in movies, Pearl works several odd jobs to make her rent.  When she gets a big break - an invitation to a party by a successful director, Pearl believes that her hard work has finally paid off and that she's going to get her big break.  Pearl's gets a break alright but it leads to the end of her human life.

Volume One then takes a step back to look at the life and death of the infamous outlaw Skinner Sweet.  Just as his last name implies, Sweet, loves candy and he combines this with his love of robbing banks, violence and sleeping with prostitutes.  Sweet is not even remotely at this point an anti-hero, let alone all around good guy.  

Sweet is Pearl's sire but the connection runs a lot deeper than that.  Because they are both a new breed of vampire, the sun has no effect upon them and the old guard, (read:European Vampires) want them gone.  Sweet and Pearl represent a contamination of the blood and if that were not enough, this so-called contamination means that no one knows what they are vulnerable to. Sweet and Pearl absolutely have a target on their backs but the tie that binds them is deeper still even if it is ridiculous.

Volume one is written by Scott Snyder and Stephen King and the difference in the writing is evident from the start.  Clearly, King wanted to step away from vampires that sparkle. One guess as to who?

Houston commercial photography

It's hardly surprising given King's very adamant dislike of Twilight, based in the idea that it's "tweenager porn" and his belief that Stephanie Meyer "can't write worth a darn".  It feels as though Sweet's story is an absolute refutation of the sparkly vampire.  Sweet is most certainly not a vegetarian and he glorifies in violence.  He works his own agenda and simply cannot be tamed.  It's clear that Sweet is not a man to be taken lightly and certainly not a man to run into even casually. He is bound to no one and serves his own end. In fact, the creation of Pearl is about the only good thing that he does in this volume and it's clear an ulterior motive exists for this action.  

Zoo, Season 2, Episode 8: Zero Sum

Our new animal of the week – a Lizard which causes ice. Of course

And some kind of stealth device that lets evil Davies and his squad of men sneak up on a jet while in flight without anyone noticing until they managed to take all the power off without affecting any of the instruments.

So Davies and his squad attacks and quickly subdues the crew despite Jackson’s super rage strength. Thankfully Mitch has the master plan of releasing the Earthquake-causing sloth. In a plane. In mid-flight

Shockingly this doesn’t kill them all (or even seem to cause irreparable or even severe damage to the plane) but does allow the gang to quickly overwhelm their captors. (Oh and release the ice lizard which Mitch now has to save because the cure can only be extracted from living animals. Oh and can we have an aside – they’re piecing together all of the animals the need based on the bones they dug up last episode – yes they were buried for no reason but moving on – but they’ve already found one animal that doesn’t have a skeleton. Was the jellyfish the only creature that was x-rayed with the woo-woo machine that didn’t have bones?)

So with Mitch duly distracted, the rest of the team can address various other terrible plot lines

Firstly, Logan is revealed as a traitor and Jamie outright murders him. Wow, that was a super abrupt end to this very abrupt storyline and totally pointful. But let’s return to this whole murdering thing – Logan is trying to jump out the plane never to be seen again – there is no benefit at all to killing this man beyond vengeance. This is new edgy Jamie who I’m just so tired of that (she also has a little tantrum with Mitch which serves the purpose of establishing her as REALLY annoying).

This may be examined in how her character is turning to the dark side but, alas, that will mean focusing more on her character. Alas.

Autumn Schedule

At the moment we’re both kind of kicking back enjoying our reading and even catching up on a few shows that have managed to slip under our radar - it’s the Summer lull. It helps that the same networks that were churning out vampire shows are now swarming around Marvel and DC screaming “give me more (almost entirely straight, white, male) superheroes!”

But Autumn is looming and with it a whole load of new shows coming in and some of our old favourites enjoyable interesting uh… shows returning. Time to look at what is looming.

We’re also throwing open to you guys. As can be seen by the “under the radar” reference above, we’ve definitely missed shows - especially non-US shows that don’t have quite the same internet marketing as others (Sparky would also like to as the BBC, whyfore they sneak out your speculative fiction like some kind of guilty secret?). So, if we’ve missed something or something’s coming up that we should look at come, tell us! MOAR URBAN FANTASY SHOWS!

New Shows

Emerald City

This is actually happening, apparently. Honestly we’ve been hearing rumours about this Oz-based show for years now and it seems someone has finally managed to drag it off the ground. Sadly, I’ve heard absolutely nothing good about it. If it’s pure High Fantasy-ish we have an excuse to drop it harder than Beauty and the Beast (which was repeatedly RENEWED for the love of all that is holy, why?). On the plus side, at 10 episodes it’s not going to inflict itself on us for too long.


Ok, spacecowboys? Cowboy robots? My undying love for Firefly, aside (curse you Fox! Curse you forever and a day!) I’m a little leery on this one. It’s more sci-fi so not really our genre (to everyone rushing in to point to Defiance, Killjoys et al hush, they’re our rules we can break them if we want to :P) and we don’t particularly want our vampires to be outnumbered by space ships. This is going to be one of those shows we need to see before we run with it


Ok, I’m not sure on this one. A man who speaks to ghosts and solves crime? Maybe our genre, maybe not. In some ways it makes me think about Forever and I’ll ask the same question - is the focus the supernatural or is it the crime solving with a quirk?

Van Helsing

Van Helsing. Vampire hunter. C’mon if this is the most terrible show that was ever perpetrated (pushing Shadow Hunters off their pedestal) we’d still have to watch this.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Magic Binds (Kate Daniels #9) by Ilona Andrews

It’s coming. Nimrod has been poking at Kate’s borders so many times and she cannot keep ignoring it. She cannot let this go. It is time for a war.

I love this series!

I love it love it love it love it. And this book excellently continues this whole awesome series. This was one of those books where I got it, retreated to my bedroom and snarled at anyone who dared to interrupt me

Friends, family, beloved husband – I love you all. I just love the book more. Come back in a couple of days when I’ve finished this and maybe I will notice humanity again. Maybe

This includes sleep. Sleep can take a back seat, I have this book. This is amazing. This is my life now. Bury me with this book

Kate faces some absolutely excellent conflict here – influenced by her magical claiming of the city of Atlanta. There’s an excellent magical explanation for this in the growing world building of this series (more of that later because it’s awesome) but it wasn’t so forced as to change Kate’s character. Even without the magic, I could see Kate moving down some of these pathways – ok not all of them (and the woo-woo driving her to dominate and control what I hers) – but her being generally hacked off by people challenging her, giving her shit and not coming close to respecting her for all the sacrifices she has made.

This is a long series and through that series we’ve had Kate save the city and the world quite regularly. We’ve also seen people fail her, a lot, over and over again. She has proven herself time and time again even as the people she have saved continue to fail her, not trust her and often not make her much of a priority for them. This is one of the reasons why Kate and Curran left the pack in a previous book. So, for me, seeing Kate push back and respond to, for example, Jim threatening her with

“If I ever turn into my father, you will kneel and pledge yourself to me, Jim.”

And I cheered. I did. Because this was past time doing this. It also made her power creep complicated. Because part of her was very justified in wanting to push back against the insults she takes for constantly saving people with her vast power and then having the people she just saved being terrified by that same power. But that’s the complexity – because she is powerful, never more so than in this book – she is terrifying in her power and even though she’s never given anyone reason to doubt her the mere fact she can destroy the entire city makes her a terrifying force. Especially with the woo-woo now being such a pressure on her she has some really excellent conflicts where she is aware she’s circling the abyss

Colony, Season 1, Episode 2: A Brave New World

This show continues with more of the excellent background foundation of this show – the constant reminder of privation without going all out to make people starving. It underpins the general belief of many of the characters – they can exist like this. Really that strengthens the whole storyline of the collaborators – not just the idea that they’re evil or have sold out or are greedy (which seems to be something Snyder was presented as), but because they CAN exist like this.

Will has his new job hunting down the Resistance for the Authority – and though he has a great deal of power in this new role, he’s not the boss. That belongs to Phylis, a lady he suspects is ex-CIA or something similar. So, head enforcer, she’s got to be an evil collaborator? Nope, again with praise from me for not going down that simplistic route, Phylis makes it clear she doesn’t expect Will to like what he’s doing.  I don’t even think she does. But a) she’s sensible enough to point Will at objectively objectionable targets (not a rebel, but a man who was paid by the rebels to plant a bomb) b) she’s not a fan of terrorism with collateral damage and, ultimately, c) she doesn’t think they can win

She tells us that in The Arrival the mysterious forces that invaded (we still only see their drones) took out all their defences in 8 hours. Part of the reason the authority is struggling is because they purged all police and military – which is why Will was in such demand. If they can do that against Earth at its peak then she doesn’t have much faith in the rebels. She has a point and a legitimate fear of them making it worse.

Will’s own motivation is less widespread. The authority have promised him help to find his lost son if he co-operates. He doesn’t really intend to change the system or freeing anyone or anything else – he wants his son. This means he actually pursues his job with drive, unlike his new sidekick Beau (ok, look, I can see why any cop here wouldn’t want to assiduously pursuing his job since it is literally selling out humanity, but there’s still a stark contract between the Black sidekick’s slacker ways and Will, the white protagonist’s skill and drive).

Kate, Will’s wife, may also be driven to find her son but she’s also part of the resistance. In her words, she can’t imagine telling her children she did nothing against the occupation. Being married to Will who is now in the loop means she can feed some useful information to the Resistance, both following Will’s investigation which may expose them and letting them know when places are going to be raided - though the response to that is to murder the resistance fighters…

Glitch Season One, Episode Two

So the John Doe who crawled out of the grave at the end of the last episode, has made his way to the local high school. He walks around campus naked, covered in mud and stops to look at some pictures.

At the surgery, Kate is the first to wake for the day. She makes her way to the bathroom, removes her top and discovers that her breasts are gone.  After staring for a few minutes her breasts appear.

James is home and is greeted by Sarah, who wants him to come to back to bed. James begs off, claiming that he has a report to do.  Sarah questions his facial expression and James brushes it off, and touches her face affectionately before leaving.

Kate goes to find Elishia to discuss her suspicion that not only did she have breast cancer but that she had a mastectomy. Elishia confirms her suspicions and Kate talks about remembering waking up after the operation and feeling sorry for James, who she felt didn't deserve this. Elishia has to point out that Kate didn't deserve it either.  Kate wonders if her cancer has returned with her. Elishia examines Kate and finds no abnormalities.  They are interrupted by a phone call from James, who wants Elishia to join him at the cemetery.  Kate wants to tag along but Elishia says no because everyone who knows Kate things she's dead.

Paddy has broken into a store and gotten himself some clothing and what appears to be minimal camping gear. He's assimilated rather well hasn't he?

Elishia meets with James at the cemetery and reports that Alexander, Carlos's brother died the night before at 11:50. Yep, you guessed it, that's the same time that Carlos died.  James immediately believes that there must be a connection; however, Elishia argues that Alexander was an old man. Okay, Elishia has just seen a bunch of people who have supposedly come back from the dead but the connection between Carlos and Alexander is what she questions? Elishia is determined to find a rational explanation and points out that there are six graves which have been disturbed and that they've only found five people.  James wants to cover up the graves so that there's no investigation. Elishia makes her way to the hole that John Doe climbed out of and pulls out something silver but quickly hides it from James, claiming that it's not a grave but a hole. James has no time to dwell on this however because he gets called to the local high school.

John Doe is hiding out in the female change room and James enters calling out for Paddy, wrongly believing that this is who John Doe is. John Doe tries to escape and a fight breaks out between him and James.  James ends up with upper hand, handcuffs John Doe and then escorts him to his vehicle.

At the medical clinic, Kate is going through her medical file when Charles joins her.  He's astounded by the television.  A scream comes from the kitchen and Charles and Kate go running and find Maria and Kirstie in the kitchen.  It seems that the leg wound Kirstie received crawling out of the grave is not healing. Elishia joins them and confirms that the wound is infected and is clearly surprised because Kirstie is on antibiotics.  Charles questions why they aren't taking Kirstie to a hospital and Elishia just gives him a look.

James is driving John Doe back to the medical clinic and questions if John Doe remembers anything about the cemetery or how he got there, but gets no response.  Judging from John Doe's appearance James guesses that he is not Paddy. James drives by the clothing store that Paddy broke into earlier and who should be out front but Vic, and so James decides to pull over. James is not pleased, particularly when Vic brings up Carlos, who is not in lock up. James says that he decided not to charge him, causing Vic to accuse Carlos of being responsible for the robbery.  John Doe starts to kick at the doors of the vehicle and when Vic moves to check, James is quick to tell Vic that he doesn't want Vic telling him how to run his section.

In the woods, Beau awakens a sleeping Paddy, who shows off his new clothing.  When Beau mentions the store Paddy broke into was on Fitzgerald street, this causes Paddy to preen, claiming that the store would not exist without him and therefore if he needs something, he will take it. Paddy wants to head to his chambers but Beau says that he has school. Paddy being Paddy scoffs at the idea that Natives have school.

thats racist
Yeah, it's great that they've had Beau call out Paddy's racist attacks (well all of them except for this one) but how long are they going to have him following around Paddy like a lost dog while Paddy makes racist comments to him or about him? 

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Invisible Library (The Invisible Library #1) by Genevieve Cogman

Irene is a Librarian, and her task is to acquire rare books and take them back to the Library.  This means travelling to different dimensions.  Though having just completed a long mission, Irene is immediately sent out when she returns.  She's even saddled with a new apprentice, who hasn't left the library in five years.  Irene cannot fathom what is so special about this version of Grimm fairy tales that means she has to be sent into a chaos dimension inhabited by fae, vampires and werewolves to snatch this book. Librarians however do not question, they only do and Irene gathers her courage and takes a leap that will ultimately lead to her meeting the Library's arch nemesis.

There were times when I almost gave up on this book.  It began very quickly and then just as quickly ground to what felt like an absolute stand still.  A major part of the problem with The Invisible Library, is that it is hopelessly overwritten and tries to desperately to be too many things. I understand that in order to affect the world around her, Irene had to speak in a special kind of language however the explanation of this skill seemed to go on forever.  I also quickly became tired of reading about the tattoo on her back. I think that Tolkien relies on Elvish less than Cogman relies on the language as a writers device.

The Invisible Library has a strong steampunk element to it.  Cogman story includes dirigibles and things like mechanical centipedes attacking on the streets of London.  Cogman takes great care to repeatedly remind the readers exactly how dirty this London is.  She talks about the smog hanging in the air, the scarves people strap around their mouths and noses, as well as the effect it has on statues. Yes, London during the industrial revolution with its towering smoke stacks was filthy and extremely polluted.  Anyone with the slightest sense of history is well aware of this which led me to wonder why it is that Cogman kept repeating these mundane facts to the reader? It felt like an effort to increase word count rather than to make The Invisible Library a more vivid read.

This novel also felt very piecemeal as though Cogman was simply throwing things against the wall to see what would stick.  Irene reads as a self insert as she talks about how much likes detective stories. It feels like Cogman's way of explaining why she has inserted a very Sherlock Holmes like character into The Invisible Library.  The concept of Librarians hunting down books and storing them away feels directly lifted from the television show The Librarians; however, Cogman doesn't infuse her story with even half of the humour. Then there are the vampires, fae, and werewolves just thrown in for what feels like shits and giggles, though Cogman explains their presence by claiming they are because of the chaos infused world. This concept should have been a readers paradise but the execution absolutely let it down.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Sacrificial Lamb Cake by Katrina Monroe

Rain is the Messiah, the second coming of Christ

Which surprises no-one as much as Rainfall (call her by her real name and suffer) – a lesbian, child of a rabid hippy and generally the last person you’d expect

But Jude – appointed by the Trinity Corporation – is determined to guide her to the second coming hopefully without setting off the apocalypse

Except big G seems to be playing his own game

I can see what this book is trying to do, I can see the theme it is trying to set. It’s the same kind of super-silly-yet hilarious theme you get with books like Christopher Moore’s and                             . These are the kind of books where we know the point from the beginning – it’s about being funny, about being silly. Yes there may be a plot and a world there, but it’s more to be a vehicle for the hilarity than anything else and, often, we’re not going to poke at it too closely because it’s not that kind of book.

Though it does have a plot with some very awesome points. I love the twist ending. The twist ending is amazing and perfect and really something I should have seen coming from a mile away but it was so well done. I have endless praise for the plot twist at the end

The plot was also very fun. Rain’s sudden diving into this whole new world, trying to learn it, trying to understand it and her various misadventures along the world – it was all kind of fun

And the idea of a super evil and repressive hippy also has a certain dark irony about it – though in addition to being played for laughs it was also a kind of dark lesson that fanaticism of any kind is a terrifying thing.

I’m also really amused by the attempts to prove she’s the messiah and how very very very awry they go. We live in a very different world and not every situation is improved by water turning to wine…

Her mother was an excellently over the top and terrifying character – the new age fanatic taken to extreme and horrendous extent, both funny and frightening and an excellent twist

And the horsemen? I really liked the horsemen

All of this worked.

What didn’t work so much is that opening theme – because though I found this book amusing, I didn’t find it laugh-out-loud hilarious and zany. I smiled, I didn’t laugh. And that’s a problem because this whacky genre – from the sheep on the cover to all the randomness inside – kind of needs that. And it needs the surface hilarity to set the theme and discourage me from taking too serious a look at it. I would find myself being frustrated and wanting greater examination of various issues. Like how quickly Rain accepted the idea she was the Messiah based on very little (a display full of bagels?). Or how she is clearly the messiah of the Christian faith but there’s no real examination or issues from her about being a Lesbian messiah of such an unrelenting homophobic force in the world. Or how I really wanted the story not to run as quickly as it did and have more examination of the world and everything in it. Or how Jude is just so bad at seeing what the modern world will accept as a messiah or not

But then I stop and remind myself that this isn’t that book – it’s zany and funny and not meant to be that book. But I have to remind myself because I didn’t laugh enough to take me through that.

In terms of POC we have Jude – and the other disciples – who are described in terms that are somewhat ambiguous but definitely point towards them being POC (as would also be a sensible depiction given the characters they are). For LGBTQ characters, Rain, the messiah is a lesbian. Openly so, not just as a brief reference and definitely in a sexual (if not loving) relationship which is clearly depicted without flinching and has complexities and difficulties that stem from more than her being a lesbian.

I don’t actually know which is the protagonist. For a whole book I would have said Rain since she is the actual Messiah – but by the end and with the twist I lean towards Judas, with Rain becoming, really, a part of his greater story, in fact her whole presence in this story leans towards that.

I’m intrigued by this book and enjoyed it – but think it needed to be either, much whackier and funnier, or much more serious and developed. It doesn’t really hit either sufficiently to truly be as awesome as it could be.

The Frankenstein Chronicles, Season 1, Episode 1: A World Without God

London 1827, ah Regency – kind of Victorian but with more debauchery.

There are three kinds of Victoriana/Regency out there I’ve found:
Decorous which is all big houses and pretty clothes and intrigue, usually involving Rules of Decency and terrible terrible liberties
Swashbuckling, which has lots of brass and waist coats and brave man facing terrible peril and monsters (like brown people) in foreign lands.
Gritty with big bleak cities, lots of fog and poor people and everyone has cholera.

This is definitely Gritty.

Let’s look at the characters introduced.

Firstly we have Generic Angsty White Guy, inspector Marlott. He works for the River Patrol, hunting down opium smugglers and generally not being super popular with his fellows because Gritty. He finds a body of a child during one of his investigations – and this body seems to be seven separate children’s bodies sewn together. He has been recruited by the Home Secretary Sir Richard Pool to find out who is behind this.

Marlott also has syphilis, taking mercury, a requisite dead, tragic family (which may or may not be his fault because ANGST) and a loss of faith and a need for redemption.

Honestly, I’m not inspired. I’ve just seen so many of these characters. Grim, gritty, angst-laden, standing on a fridge of dead women and practicing his rugged grim suffering look which I’ve seen so many times over and over. Yawn not another one!

He has sidekicks – an urchin and Nightingale. I like to think Nightingale will be a well developed, interesting character but part of my cynically thinks that his inclusion involved the following discussion:

Producer #1: Shit… I’ve just realised the only Black person we have is a nasty child abusing villain
Producer #2: it’s a historical…
Producer #1: Stop, we’ve used that excuse way too often, they’re not buying it
Producer #2: Fine, throw in a Black sidekick
Producer #1: that’s good we can introduce his family and show how they live in 1827 London, the challenges they face and…
Producer #2: Make him an orphan.
Producer #1: Oh…
Producer #2: But a nice guy! That should do it.

Monday, August 8, 2016

The Heart Goes Last (Positron 0.5) by Margaret Atwood

Things have gone absolutely to hell. Banks are collapsing, there's little food security, homes are being foreclosed on and unemployment has skyrocketed. Stan has always been steady, especially in comparison to his career criminal brother Conner. He has a job, a reliable wife and house which repairs and values.  It's the typical middle class existence.  When Stan is fired and his wife is laid off, Stan quickly discovers that security is only illusion.  Stan and Charmaine end up living in their car, living on the tips she makes working at a bar, and spending the rest of their time being wary to the criminal element who want to take their possessions.  Everything changes when Charmaine sees an advertisement on television for Positron Project located in the town of Consilence.  If accepted Charmain and Stan will alternate between spending one month in prison and one month occupying a home with a job.  It's absolute security from the struggles of the outside world and all they have to do is give up their freedom.

The Heart Goes Last starts off as dystopian and finishes as speculative fiction.  Given the mortgage crises and the last recession, Atwood clearly chose this setting because of its relevance and reliability. As in reality, the rich continue on consequence free in opulence and privilege while the poor and the middle class struggle to survive and understand the order of the world.  The middle class lie is that if we do everything right get an education, live within our means and do a good job at work that everything will be just fine.  This is the promise and though it's proven to be a lie, when meritocracy is all that stands between you and destitution it's what you hold onto. In that sense Stan is the every man who finds himself in an untenable situation due to forces well beyond his control.

It's Charmaine who first suggests applying for Consilence.  She wants the comfort of a bed with clean sheets and all the trappings of the middle class life.  She's tired of the insecurity and the fear that someone will harm them as they try to sleep in their car. Even before meeting and marrying Stan, Charmaine had a difficult life, filled with abuse neglect and domestic violence. She was then raised by grandmother to be sweet and to only see the bright side of life.  She's almost like a Stepford wife. Consilence is just too good to deny and she's even willing to sleep with Stan in the backseat of the car to make happen.

Interestingly, Consilence encourages people to be their true selves and for Charmaine, that doesn't necessarily mean being the perfect positive wife anymore who submits to sex out of a sense of duty. In the restriction laden life of Consilence she finds herself having an affair. For the first time Charmaine can be the bad girl. The one who wears the bright lipstick and gives voice to all of her slutty desires. In captivity she finds freedom but it comes at a cost. When you give up your agency, you have no control of what someone does with your image.  What if someone want to operate on you to turn you into a subservient sex slave?

The theme of what is stability worth is repeated through the novel.  Is it better to live in ignorance and safety than have knowledge and instability?  Is personal agency valuable if it puts you at risk and makes you responsible for your actions?  Is it easier to simply have the bad things that you've done erased so that you don't have to confront guilt or shame?  What compromises are we willing to make for love and what do we owe our romantic partners?

The Heart Goes Last offers us the POV of both Stan and Charmaine; however, when Stan's point of view moved beyond his economic circumstances to me he read like a misogynist and not once is this fully addressed. Right until the end of the book, he disrespectful  and dismissive of Charmaine, and entitled when it comes to their sex life. He only seems concerned with his own sexual gratification and doesn't think about whether or not Charmaine is sexually satisfied. He spends a good deal of the book worried that his brother Conner will steal Charmaine away from him.  Stan is anything but likable and though he didn't deserve to be repeatable raped, I found his character completely unlikable.

When Charmaine's infidelity is discovered Stan is forced to into a sexual relationship with Jocelyn. Jocelyn forces Stan to act out the sexual activities that Charmaine did with her lover Phil. Atwood writes a lot of about Stan's discomfort and he's feeling of desperation. There's also a clear power imbalance between Stan and Jocelyn yet for some reason, Atwood doesn't seem to feel the need to label this as rape.  At times, Stan's predicament is even played for laughs which is completely unacceptable.  If a person cannot actively consent then it's not a sexual act, it's a sexual assault.

Atwood also engages in homophobia in The Heart Goes Last.  The first time Atwood introduces a gay characters, they turn out to be a trope of Elvis impersonators.  When Stan first meets them, he believes all of the Elvises to be gay (p. 286) but after getting to know them learns, "not all the Elvises are gay. Some are, and there are a couple of bis and one asexual, though who the hell can tell anymore where to draw the line?" (p. 295-296). As part of Stan's role as a member of the Elvises group, Stand has a special skill he must learn.
“By the way, we do coaching in how to act gay,” said Ted. “For our new Elvises. Ten tips, that sort of thing. Stan, we might have to give you some help.” 
“A straight guy playing a gay guy playing a straight guy, but in a way so that everyone assumes he’s gay – that takes skill. Think about the complexity. Though some of the guys overact. It’s a fine line,” said Rob. 
And why exactly is it essential that Stan, a straight man, learn to "act gay"?
“Okay,” he said. “I get that about the acting, but why the gay thing? I may be dumb, but Elvis was definitely not gay, so…” 
“It’s the clients,” said Rob. “And the relatives, the ones who book us for a treat. They prefer the Elvises to be gay.” 
“I don’t get it.” 
“They don’t want any uninvited hanky-panky,” said Rob. “Especially not at the hospitals. With the female patients, the ones in the private rooms. Historically, there have been incidents.” (pg 297)
Pretending to be gay means that Stan doesn't have to "fuck a hundred-year-old woman with tubes all cover her and her insides leaking out".  It's allows a graceful exit.
“You’ll just give us a call on the cell, over at the UR-ELF Nightline, and we send one of the Elvis bots. Big markup on those! Like a superdildo, only with a body attached.
Vibrator built in, optional.”
“Wish I felt like that,” says Pete. 
“Then you chat with them, pour them a drink, tell them you wish you were straight. When the Elvis arrives, you switch him on and he hums a little tune while you run over the instructions with the client: he responds to simple voice commands like love me tonight, wooden heart, and jingle bell rock. (pg 299-300)
None of these gay Elvises ever rises to the level of a fully fleshed out character. They aren't even individualized and instead function like an Elvis GLBT group whose existence is to protect Stan from being caught and helping him to hide his heterosexuality for financial gain. It's sickening and so beneath Atwood's skill that I was truly astonished and disgusted.

People of colour receive no real representation either.  There's a casually mentioned dark skinned person but that's about as far as inclusion goes.  Did all the people of colour suddenly die off when the economy crashed?  The only concrete reference is sex dolls being created to look like Oprah and Rihianna.  It's never made clear whether either woman agrees to her image being used for the sexual gratification of others. It's both racist and misogynist particularly given that the real horror the reader is meant to experience occurs when a doll is made without permission of the ever so white Charmaine.

There are some great themes running though The Heart Goes Last.  Questions regarding the value of freedom and the cost of agency are constant refrain in The Heart Goes Last.  What exactly does one do once the rug has been ripped out from under you and there are no easy solutions.  Do we owe it to our partners to always keep a positive disposition? Are our lovers responsible for our sexual gratification?  Is it okay to create child sex dolls to reduce pedophilia?  Finally, does the supposed greater good outweigh an obvious moral wrong?  These are interesting questions and I feel at some point, with the exception of the child sex bots, questions we must all individually answer at some point.

I loved that the disaster in The Heart Goes Last is grounded in an actual possibility, after all billionaire Peter Thiel advocates the rich moving into international water to avoid the laws and taxation.  It's the very possibility that the decline in The Heart Goes Last is possible that makes the book instantly relatable. The characters aren't very likable but I don't think that they are meant to be. In the case of The Heart Goes Last I firmly believe the point is that we place ourselves in the position of the characters and imagine what we would do in this situation.  At the end of the day it's an interesting thought exercise that while filled with flaws, is interesting.

Outcast, Season 1, Episode 9: Close to Home

This isn’t an especially Kyle heavy episode as he hangs more around the edges. But there are a lot of poignant moments as he gets Amber back in school and tries to reassure her fears. Having found her pictures he knows she remembers Allison being possessed and wants to desperately reassure her and protect her even as Amber is a lot more cynical than most children her age. It’s hard and quite sad to see that painful knowledge

Kyle does find Allison- she’s checked herself in a Mental Institution (with standard mentally ill people as wallpaper) – and no matter how he appeals to her, she won’t leave. She says it’s up to him to raise Amber. This is painful but I can see this – how would you deal with knowing you hurt your own child, knowing you did it but not knowing why, what triggered you, what set you off… or if it would happen again. What can you do?

Ogden and Kat leave town – but not out of the influence of Sidney who gives them a new, ominous mission. Ominous keeps happening as we come close to the season finale

Alas we have to check in on Anderson. He seems to have landed on his fee with Patricia who doesn’t deserve such an arsehole in his life. Equally he has Giles who continues to support and protect him even as Anderson shows he has absolutely no control at all. Seriously this man needs to lose his fawning supporters as of yesterday.

This lack of control Includes attacking Sidney in full view of the council looking to replace him (this didn’t help his case). And attacking Patricia’s son (yes the kid’s an arsehole – but Anderson defaults to attacking verbally or physically anyone who refuses to fit his world view) which goes down especially poorly with Patricia since her ex was abusive.

He accuses Patricia of letting Sidney and her son (who is hanging out with Sidney) play her. Which, again, shows his arrogance and inability to see what’s in front of him. They’re not playing her – they’re playing him, his arrogance, his temper. In the last 2-3 episodes we have seen Anderson blow up, what, 3, 4 times? His temper is predictable. Sidney doesn’t have to isolate Anderson from the town – he only has to gently poke him and watch Anderson go rabid. He’s predictable and he’s easy and unless he steps away from the mindset of making everything about him, he will continue to be used and fail.

Is There Rhyme Or Reason To Game Of Thrones Deaths?

For a very long time, Game Of Thrones had a reputation as the most brutally uncompromising show on television. In particular, it was known as a show that wouldn’t hesitate to kill off a protagonist or favourite character. This was grounded not just in the writing, but in the philosophy of series author George R.R. Martin. Martin has argued that his tendency to kill characters off is not simply a result of a pessimistic outlook or a play for shock value, but rather a reflection of the fact of life that death can strike down anybody at any time. It’s not a cheerful thought, but it’s the truth, and Martin, even while writing a book populated by dragons and ice demons, prides himself on keeping things real.

For five seasons, HBO reflected Martin’s feelings and writings with death after shocking death that rattled and even upset fans. Ned Stark’s fate all the way back in season one has been counted among the most shocking television deaths in recent history, and fans quickly discovered that it wasn’t to be an outlier. In this show, popular characters die all the time, and when it looks like someone is about to be killed, he or she usually is. That, for a long while, defined death on Game Of Thrones. It was the idea that this is not some fairy tale in which underdog stories are common, or last-minute miracles save the heroes. Martin writes, and HBO always followed, based on the odds. In short, if a sword was falling toward a neck, there was never a blade that was going to get in the way at the last moment.

It’s because of five seasons like this that as we headed into season six, most of the discussion wasn’t about who might win the Iron Throne (basically the gold medal of this whole “game”) or whether the remaining Stark children might find happiness. Rather, it was about two things: whether or not Jon Snow would come back from the dead, and who else would be dying soon. Indeed, character deaths have become such a major part of this series that there were even betting odds on who would die first in season six (which favoured the likes of Olly, the High Sparrow, and Lancel Lannister). That’s a pretty remarkable concept. The show had become so well known for killing off major people that people were actually wagering on who might be next.

In terms of the volume of deaths, season six lived up to expectations and then some. In fact, to a more casual observer of the show, it may even have seemed as if nothing changed, and Game Of Thrones simply went on doing what Game Of Thrones does best — and perhaps even got a little better at it. But a closer examination showed that despite the high body count of season six, Game Of Thrones actually changed drastically this year as it moved beyond Martin’s writing for the first time. Simply put, this time it was the bad guys and the seemingly powerful who died at the hands of protagonists and underdogs.

As one recap wrote, some critics went so far as to suggest that this was antithetical to the spirit of George R.R. Martin. More than a few referred to season six as a crowd-pleasing effort, or suggested that it was an unrecognizable shift in tone for the show. That’s a little bit of a stretch, perhaps, but it’s still easy to see how someone could come to that conclusion. Martin’s own assertion that death can come to anyone at anytime actually held up extraordinarily well in season six. What changed is that a few people against whom the odds seemed to be stacked finally scrambled away from death to triumph. There had hardly been an unlikely win in five seasons, and in season six there were several of them.

The question now is how much of this was intended. It could be that HBO has simply decided to go in its own direction as Martin struggles to push the sixth book through his notoriously slow writing process. But it could also be that he always intended to have a few comeback stories and satisfying heroic victories, and that five books’ worth of relentless adherence to the odds was meant as a setup. Until The Winds Of Winter (book six) comes out, we really won’t know. But for now, we’re left somewhat in the dark about where this show is going, and what the nature of the countless deaths sure to come will be.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Killjoys, Season 2, Episode 6: I Love Lucy

After the traditional opening where we see the Killjoys be their usual silly, fun selves. I do like these little preludes that remind us that normal life (such as it is) goes on.

But the gang needs answers and the best way to get this is with the green goo they have in Johnny’s pet Mossapede. Taking inspiration from Pawter’s mother they decide to experiment by injecting said goo into someone and seeing what happens –namely D’avin since he has all kinds of gooey woo-woo in his system

It turns out that injecting random animal secretions into yourself is a bad idea. The goo forms a mental bond between D’avin and the Mossapede which is most unpleasant. Life in a bug’s head is not good. From this they conclude they need some pure goo

Thankfully Pree has a contact from his Stylish Dictator Days that may provide just that.

San has a ship on an asteroid and is a collector – you know the trope I don’t need to spell out the oceans of shiny things he has. And he wants to trade for more

He’s all jaded and not impressed and ends up double crossing them (to the shock of no-one) and doesn’t instantly get mauled by Dutch because he has 3 illegal sexy, deadly female androids.

Yes, sexualised jokes are included but I have seen so much worse. Much more fun is Lucy hacking one of those Androids and clearly having a huge crush on Johnny to the point of being willing to sacrifice her new shiny Android body for him. It’s actually fun and kind of touching and I think I’ll miss Android Lucy.

The main story is Dutch and San – he wants her Sitarra, her musical instrument and the story behind it and uses woo-woo tech to see what she sees to see their past

We hear her tragic story of her past. Or some of it: of her being placed in a Harem, of her having Khlyen as a tutor who taught her how to play music and her promise of leaving the harem when she marries. It’s all very very sweet right up until Dutch shares the rest of her story – at the Harem she was taught to find a good husband. But to kill him. The musical instrument has poisoned strings that are then used to garrotte… and all of Khlyen’s promises about her not having to kill once she got married were a lie – because her mission was to kill her husband and with it all her dreams of being free.

It’s tragic, heartfelt, incredibly powerful and brutal. Her singing before the whole garrotting is beautiful and hits all his emotions as well and longings as well. It’s an awesome scene.

But he’s not dead – and we get his story. Aliens invaded his planet 4 centuries ago, he was tortured and he betrayed his people (he and Dutch strike a commonality with the idea that they both traded other people’s lives for their freedom and now hate themselves for it). He sought medical help – and ended up being filled with illegal nanites that, effectively make him immortal by healing all damage.

He has found common cause with Dutch, she understands, she invokes emotion so perfectly – he wants someone to stay with him. He wants someone to make him a better man. He wants Dutch to make him a better man.

“I’m not your Manic Pixie Assassin”.