Friday, September 30, 2016

The League of Extraordinary Gentleman Vol 1

The big glaring issue of this volume - it’s set in Victorian England AND it’s based on 19th century adventure stories. Which means the authors have taken a carte blanche to engage in some pretty epic level racism, misogyny and a dash of homophobia.

Look, yes, when using past settings there should be prejudices depicted - because that was how it was (and how it very much is). But there are correct ways of doing this - naming, showing prejudiced PEOPLE and then showing them as wrong. Depicting prejudice and then challenging it.

This volume doesn't come close to it; the prejudice is revelled in and elevated at every turn. We don’t just see prejudiced people, the marginalised people fit those prejudiced stereotypes; prejudice is reinforced as ACCURATE at every turn in this book - from how the characters act to how they are drawn. Bigotry is not only reasonable, but it is accurate and even a sensible response to the situation

Mina Murray is the so-called leader of the league.  She is hired by Mr. Bond, an agent of the British government to gather up a “menagerie” of people to help protect the empire. To that end, she rounds up Captain Nemo, Dr. Jekyll, Allan Quatermain, and Hawley Griffin (The Invisible Man). Mina is now divorced from her husband after supposedly being “ravished by an Easterner,” and the League is her chance to make her own way in this world.  This premise sounds good right? A woman in charge of all of these notorious men, on a mission to save the empire.  What could be more glorious?

Unfortunately, from the very beginning it’s clear that Mina is a liability.  When she goes to retrieve Quartermain, Mina finds him high out of his mind on opium.  She tries to rouse him several different ways but it is not until she is set upon by a group of Egyptians intent on raping her that Quartermain jumps out of bed and comes to Mina’s rescue.  Throughout this volume, Quartermain saves Mina several times and Mina is only able to return the favour once.

Mina seems to be in charge because she plans the missions and even hands out the assignments, but it is Nemo who has the intelligence to have Bond investigated.  When Mina rightly gets upset that she was not consulted on the investigation of Bond, Nemo actually commiserates with Quartermain about western women not obeying their men and dressing like whores.  At no time does either man acknowledge that she managed to get them this far with her careful planning.  No, they are being oppressed by having a woman who does not know her place.

When it is discovered that Bond is indeed a problem, instead of focusing on the issue at hand, Mina actually blames her failure to investigate Bond on her female naivete.  To be fair, Quartermain does acknowledge that he was also naive but he never blames it on his gender.  This failure of leadership is solely because of her gender.

American Horror Story, Season 6 (Roanoke), Episode 3: Chapter 3

Lee has lost her daughter, Flora and is predictably panicking. The fact she was a cop herself is a cold comfort – she definitely doesn’t trust the local cops and their complete disinterest in finding her child and her knowledge of being a cop means she knows how quickly the chances of her daughter being found are plummeting.

They search the forest and find ever more disturbing things – including Flora’s doll being cut up and left mixed up with bits of dead pig

Honestly I have to say yet again how this season is doing a really good job of being utterly, utterly creepy rather than just gory and horrifying. This is first class creepiness

They find more horrible creepiness in the woods until they find a house, a horrible horrible house with much awfulness and two children suckling at a pig

Not eating a suckling pig. Suckling at a pig.

Yup. That’s now a mental image I now have. Thanks for that, American Horror Story.

They take the kids to social services to try and see if they give any clues to where the presumed owners of house are but all the kids can say is “Croatoan”. Ominous, but not helpful.

Things get even more tense when Mason arrives and he assumes Lee is has kidnapped Flora and is now hiding her. In a rage he pushes her down and storms out into the woods.

And his completely incinerated corpse is found later

Tragic, horrifying and ominous – because Matt’s CCTV caught Lee leaving the house just as Mason did – and then returning 4 hours afterwards

The Perils of the Fast Lane Dystopia

We have now watched rather a lot of Dystopian shows. Sometimes dystopians where the whole world is being destroyed and now lives in terrible straits. Sometimes it’s dystopia in a microcosms where the world is ending… but only for specific people behind a fence/wall/whatever.

And there’s one question we have to keep asking - how did these people function in the world?

I mean, I get it, they’re in a terrible, scary situation… but they start panicking within literal hours! Look, I know humans are inclined to panicked over-reaction - but there’s a number of times we have people losing their shit in utter terror on these shows when barely any time has passed, people making terrible, soul wrenching choices… they really don’t have to make yet and folks suffering under terrible privation when their store cupboards should still be quite full.

Here we have the fast forward dystopia, the end of the world in 16x speed. Letting us get past all that pesky development, world building and slowly dawning tension and horror with people grasping their new reality; so we can get right to the nitty gritty of showing young girls the flowers and having to decide who dies so you can preserve your girl scout cookie stash.

After watching many dystopian shows in which the key element is humanity trapped or cut off from the rest of civilization (please stop making these btw), the one thing necessary for these shows to work is a sense of panic. The quickest way to achieve that, of course, is shortages of basic life sustaining items like food, water, or medicine.  Here’s the thing, even the smallest towns these days have a Walmart, drug store, hospital; shit even walk in clinic and yet somehow, people are cut off from the rest of civilization are dying of starvation two days later. Yes, I’m looking directly at you Between.  

What makes Between particularly bad in this area is the starving baby and the fact that all of the adult population has died off. This means that supplies can go even further because a significant percentage of the population is DEAD. Well, you wouldn’t know this from watching Between because the kids begin to go hungry almost immediately. Jason is the only infant in the town and somehow they don’t have any formula. Who the hell consumed the formula if there’s only one infant?  And no, the formula didn’t go bad because formula has a shelf life of at least six months and Jason is one baby and it hasn’t been six months since they’ve been trapped in Pretty Lake. Sure, I know a starving baby adds to the drama but if they cannot even do it in a believable fashion, then why the hell do it? In fact, I think that we should just can the entire idea of starving isolated people as plot advancement until the characters are stuck for at least a couple of months. Most towns could withstand that (even without an entire dairy herd to slaughter). Hell, how many people have a couple of months food in their larders alone?  

Then we have Under the Dome, which almost immediately jumped from “hey we’re trapped” to “let’s have underground fighting rings!” Let’s not forget that within the Dome were FARMS.  Yes FARMS, and still somehow survival was only possible because one character started hoarding. If anything, Under the Dome is even worse than Between, because they had so many more supplies on hand which, while not allowing the gluttonous wasteful food fiesta that we enjoy today, would not have left the characters so desperate at the drop of hat as portrayed. Clearly, the authors didn’t think that dropping a Dome down on a town of unsuspecting people provided enough of a mystery and or plot point so they went with starving people, who shouldn’t even have been hungry.

Containment continues the theme - we need desperate food drops and criminal gangs barricading the local corner shop because, despite a huge segment of the population dying, again there’s no food. They’re not trapped in for months - they’re not even trapped for a month, yet you’d think they’d been desperately confined for years with nothing but bread, water and poutine to live on.

It’s not only shortages that lead to simply odd behaviour. On Revolution, the power suddenly goes out which means no INTERNET people. Why, whatever did people do before the internet? Well, the answer is an agrarian society folks. Without all of the modern conveniences of Internet, electricity, ATM’s, people on Revolution packed up their shit and headed for Beverly right quick. They packed anything valuable and they immediately started hoarding food.  They don’t even wait for the government to attempt to create some kind of order, they pack up their shit and move to the nearest farmland that they can find. Do these people even realise how long it takes for canned food to bad? They had months before they had to worry about getting to farmland for survival and yet it only took Julia six weeks to suggest to Neville that they should leave the city. No one even stopped to think about whether or not farmer Brown wanted their company, even if they could sing B-I-N-G-O. It’s a ridiculous over reaction to show immediate conflict in the story. Look, losing all electricity forever is ridiculous but an entire population shifting out of urban areas rapidly after losing said power is even more ridiculous. I can’t imagine the traffic jams everytime a fuse burns out! I don’t recall anyone in the great northeast blackout of 2003 running for the nearest farm. Sure, we whined about no air conditioning and having to bbq all the meat as quickly as possibly, but it’s funny how in the real world, people were fine just waiting for the power to come back on. We were even happy to be able to see the stars for a little while.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Blood Dragons (Rebel Vampires #1) by Rosemary A Johns

Light has had a tumultuous life as a vampire. From his original Election by Ruby he has gone through the decades discovering what it means to be a vampire, how that differs from humanity and the new rules –or lack thereof – of his existence

Until a new era and a new love opens his eyes to the potential of humanity while he also learns that vampire reality has far more rules than he originally imagined

This book reminded me very strongly of Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles Series.

Unfortunately, as people who’ve read me reviews will know, I absolutely hated that series.

The similarity is that we have our protagonist, Light, recounting his long long long history in overly elaborate language and including a lot of detail that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense in someone recapping their own experiences. In between the very elaborate recounting we have musings of philosophy (again, very reminiscent of The Vampire Chronciles) only this is very focused on the difference between Blood Life and First Life and what being a vampire means.

The difficulty I have with the philosophy is it feels both unnecessary (since, ultimately, it comes down to Light valuing creativity and originality and discovering who has it while at the same time being the most clich├ęd rebel you ever did see) at the same time it feels shallow. Like if you’re going to of this route and look at the evolution of humanity and examining the differences between the vampires and humans then do it – don’t just have this aside that turns up now and then but is never really explored in

I think one of my main issues with this book is the format. Because it is set out as Light’s autobiography. And we start with Light and his now elderly human lover and the very beautiful poignant emotion he has over her slow loss to disease. It’s beautiful and it’s sad and it… doesn’t really explain why he’s writing a long history of himself addressed to the human lover who is no longer in a position to read it. But more, it’s like a story that begins at the end. The rest of the book tells us Light’s story – but we already know what happens to him. We know he falls in love with a human and moves somewhere isolated to spend the rest of their lives together. This is told to us in the first chapter. The rest of the story becomes… prequel? A plot whose tension is lost because we know pretty much exactly what is going to happen

Aftermath, Season One, Episode One: RVL 6768

This episode opens with Joshua Copeland gathering research materials from the university where he works.  Everyone is in a rush because of a spate of natural disasters.  He grabs what he can and decides to hurry back to his family.  Along the way home, the radio reports disaster after disaster.  Joshua gets back home just in time to hunker down with his family because of an approaching tornado.

The next morning when the Copeland family awakes there are dozens of dead fish on their lawn. This is odd because the fish are supposedly deep swimmers. The local Sheriff makes an appearance to check on the family and to drop off a BOLA from some missing youths.  While there the Sheriff notifies the Copelands of a town that went violently insane causing the members to kill and eat each other.  The Copelands aren't really buying it, even when Brianna pipes up to say that her friend texted her about ghosts in NYC.

Sure enough one of the missing youths show up at the Copeland farm and are invited inside. Things go fine for a little bit until the kid starts getting violent and attacks Karen.  Joshua rushes in from the other room as Karen instructs Matt to go for the bible. You guessed, they have a gun, a loaded one at that hidden in a bible. Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition.

Matt takes his shot and shoots the kid who collapses as a demon flies out of him. You would think that Joshua would be freaked out that his family was attacked and that he saw a demon fly out of the kid but what he's really concerned about is the fact that they have a gun. 

Karen decides that the shots fired need to be reported and since they have no cell phone service she is going to drive into town and speak to the sheriff.  Karen and Joshua argue briefly about this but it's clear that what Karen says goes when Joshua quickly acquiesces. When Karen arrives at the station she finds it empty except for the jail cells which seemed to be filled with people infected by demons. Karen is grabbed but manages to get away and the process grabs a shot gun.

Colony, Season 1, Episode 9: Zero Day

We see more tension with respectful grieving gatherings to remember the arrival and the people they lost

Gatherings that turned violent when the authority has its usual over the top suppression reaction.

This all contributes to more and more of Snyder’s paranoia – which sets him up perfectly for Beau and Will to manipulate him into thinking there’s a scary terrorist cell working outside the Wall and able to sneak in and cause mayhem. They continue the ruse excellently, getting more and more backing from him to investigate all so they can set up an escape plan. This plan involves Will, his family and Beau all leaving the Colony and going to live in Beau’s cabin

We’re assuming it’s still there? I guess

But Kate is pursuing her own plan – work with Broussard and her new cell with Eckhart, BB and Morgan to attack the train bringing the bigwig into town – hoping to kidnap them.

Running away out of the city and attacking a train are not compatible plans. And it all comes to a head when Will reveals his to Kate and they argue

She’s pissed that he has AGAIN, made a big decision without talking to her about it first

He’s pissed that she put the family at risk working for the Resistance – yes the secret’s out

She’s furious he’s working for the Authorty which is now brainwashing their daughter

He’s furious she’s working for butchers (REALLY?!) she points out that the people’s he’s working for are far more evil and murderous. She throws the body of her friend strung up as a traitor along with children. And he throws Phylis at her – Phylis?! You have to be one hell of a collaborator to think Phylis was not a viable target?! He also blames her for the deaths by being part of the Resistance rather than… compliant? He wants her to think of her kids – while she says the same because she wants to protect their future.

They both point out they’ve been saving the lives of each other.

Needless to say, Kate isn’t running away to hide. She also asks how they exactly plan to live outside the wall? Kate begs him to work with her – but he isn’t doing that

From Dusk Till Dawn, Season 3, Episode 4: Fangalorious

Time to catch up with Scott – he has a band now and has even taking his sister’s advice to heart after she urged him last season to find a way to feed on blood that didn’t kill the innocent

He found a way. Since Culebras can mind meld by mixing blood with humans – so as part of his schtick of his band’s act he encourages people to cut their hands (don’t do that!) so he can mix blood with them and then pick the terribad evil person to snack on. Sure he’s still killing people – but they’re rapists and if you’re going to murder people, they’re a good choice to be chomped on.

He’s also causing one hell of a hepatitis outbreak.

And after one act he meets Kate… yes, actual Kate. Kate has managed to throw off the influence of Amaru to warn Scott that he must save himself from Amaru and stay away from her

Y’know this plan has a flaw. See, Amaru and Brasa haven’t been able to find Scott – and they really want to because killing Scott will quash Kate’s soul and give Amaru full control of the body. But now they’ve found Scott because Kate just found him. I mean, he didn’t even know Kate was still alive so it’s not like he would even seek her out

Anyway, Amaru takes over and does her soul sucking thing – to which Scott is resistant – when Freddie the peacekeeper shows up and saves him by shooting Kate. She backs off and Freddie takes an enraged Scott off to Freddie and Seth.

While Amaru goes off to Basra to get some healing by chomping on a random guy before practicing her knife skills and demanding they find Scott again because of that whole soul squishing thing. And, of course, they pull out some new monsters of the week to send after Scott

These are Jaguar warriors that hunt by hearing their enemies’ heart beats and then using epic combat skills to slice and dice them. They’re the guards of the sun god (that would be the demon Brasa and his burniness) as he passes through Xilbalba. So pretty elite.

As we can see when they catch up with the Geckos, take down some random minions and impale Richie on a giant blade. While Seth manages to capture one of the others (of course on a team of 2 men and 1 woman, it’s the woman who is captured).

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Fate's Edge, (Edge #3) by Ilona Andrews

Audrey was building her new life. She had left behind her past of crime conning and thievery and finally had a legitimate job in the Broken

Until her family comes back with another unreasonable demand. She’s dragged in to make one last steal for them

Unfortunately what she steals has the potential for some terrible consequences. And Kaldar Mar, another thieve, con-artist, gambler – and agent for the Mirror, Adrianglia’s secret service – has been tasked with getting that property back. And he’s going to need Audrey’s help.

Like the rest of the Edge series, this is a paranormal romance. But like the rest of the Edge series I’ve enjoyed it despite generally not liking romance tropes. Part of this is because, like the other books, there is an excellent world setting, some great characters and a fun plot line that runs alongside the romance. The romance is not used to derail the main plot. And I know this is a little unfair the call a romance plot a “distraction” but I do find, especially in paranormal romances, a lot of the books I’ve read have

But it’s also because this book seems almost to be gloriously parodying those romance tropes. Including some excellent lines like:

“Oh no, not that seductive face. I’m overcome with the need to take off these awful clothes. What is happening? I do not understand. Oooh. Ahhh.” She touched her wrist to her forehead. “Somebody help me. I’m being drenched with my own fluids.”

This is reinforced by George. We don’t see him at school but he does refer to how he’s making himself popular by being a Brooding YA Hero:
 “My past is tragic. I wouldn’t want to burden you with it. It’s a pain I must suffer alone. In the rain. In silence.”

That’s some utterly quality mockery there

Of course Kaldar and Audrey do end up together because it is a romance. But what is glorious is that no matter how much they’re hot for each other and no many times they play together, they’re still focused on the actual job. They’re focused on the mission and the conflict – they keep the romance simmering without derailing the actual plot line or giving us the idea that the main plot line is not important. This is a problem I’ve seen before – the whole world is in the balance but hey they still have time to have a quick shag while running away – sometimes it’s frankly bizarre.

The Strain, Season 3, Episode 5: Madness

This episode begins with the opening spiel that really should have happened about a season ago – Abraham describing how the Strigoi were now taking over many cities across the world, countries after county desperately struggling (and also Africa. Which. Is. Not. A. Country.). Now we finally have a reason to see this as a global threat rather than a problem confined to just one city

It would also have helped to actually have seen some of the power apparently being thrown uselessly at the vampires.

Vasiliy is continuing the fight against the Strigoi – actually putting tracking devices on vampires to try and track their lairs and see they are continuing to invade the safe zone. Because the vampires are still attacking places Christine thought were safe and she’s getting increasingly frustrated and desperate.

The vampires are digging tunnels which shows a disturbing level of intelligence – and under Central Park there is a huge nest of literally thousands of vampires – Christine decides they have to target this nest. That will definitely go wrong. So very very wrong

What may help is Dutch and Ephraim who are now happily experimenting on strigoi, capturing them, taking them back to the lab and then dissecting them, torturing them and experimenting on them. The way this is depicted is interesting – because Dutch and Ephraim are clearly desensitised (and even damaged, and possibly drunk) to the brutality of what they’ve done. But the brutality is still clear – they even talk about their experiments as torture. The starkness does a lot to show these characters

They do discover ways to try and cut off the communication between the strigoi – which also reduces the vampires to mindless animals which would give them a huge advantage, especially now vampires are showing more and more intelligence. Including the aforementioned tunnelling – and a captured vampire able to pick locks

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Venom and Vanilla (The Venom Trilogy) by Shannon Mayer

Though having grown in an extremely religious family, Alena has managed to break away and make a life of her own. While not part of the religious group anymore, Alena still tries to live by some of its tenets. Though she still misses her brother desperately, with her husband by her side and a successful business, things are looking pretty good. Unfortunately, Alena should have listened to her mother's warning about being more humble. When Alena catches a disease associated with the supernatural that kills rapidly, she has to make choice between keeping her soul or becoming evil like the supernaturals she was raised to hate.

Venom and Vanilla is only 240 pages long and it's quite the wild ride.  At no point did the story feel rushed though it was filled with action. If anything, the times it did slow down were the times it felt disconnected. I really didn't need Alena's recitation of her baking recipes or the interlude making baklava.  It's set in a world in which the supernatural in North America are being forced to live beyond the 49 parallel behind walls.  As a Canadian, this had me rolling my eyes just a bit.  I had to admit that given that so much of Mayer's story is set in what would have been Canada, that I was a little bit disappointed not to get a sense of my home.  That being said, I suppose she gave Canada the interesting side of the border.

I started out really feeling for Alena.  Alena is hospitalized and dying, only to be told by her husband just how quickly he plans on moving on with his new girlfriend and what he plans to do with her money. Her husband doesn't even plan to wait until she's dead. Even Alena's struggle to decide whether or not she should allow herself to die or become supernatural really touched me.  At this point she felt real to me. If only Mayer had kept this tone throughout the book. By the time the action starts, Alena's refusal to swear, her ridiculous sayings, as well as her constant second guessing of herself based on her religious upbringing got on my last nerves.  Her constant insistence that she is still married though the government has declared her dead irked me.  It's rare to have a protagonist move from warm and easy to relate to, to downright irritating. It's a vicious pendulum swing.

Fortunately, the world in Venom and Vanilla makes up for Alena's shortcomings.  Mayer's world includes, all manner of supernatural creatures as well as the Greek Pantheon.  Yes, the mythology geek in me had a pretty big squee when all of a sudden I found myself reading about Zeus's marital problems with Hera. I very much appreciate Mayer painting Zeus as the douchebag that he is because in recent incarnations, the modern interpretation of Zeus has been far kinder than he deserves.  I love the idea that heroes and monsters are intrinsically linked and the idea that maybe monsters aren't who we believe them to be. I will however say that though the ending of Alena's battle with Achilles was extremely predictable, I at least enjoyed the battle.

Once Upon a Time, Season 6, Episode 1: The Saviour

Once Upon a Time is back and we begin with a little Aladdin/Jafar scene. I’m torn – part of me wishes that they’d managed to cast Naveen Andrews to make it more consistent with Once Upon a Time in Wonderland. At the same time this Jafar is decidedly yummy

It seems Aladdin is/was a Saviour as well – but he’s helpless, his hands shaking uncontrollably. Jafar taunts him – everyone asks a Saviour for help and the Saviour, naturally, gives and gives – until there’s nothing left

Is it disturbing to hear Jafar paraphrase the Giving Tree? Yes yes it is.

Apparently Jafar believes no Saviour ever has a Happily Ever after

So back to storybrooke where Emma and Killian’s sexy times are interrupted by Killian’s sexiness causing an earthquake (also possible the horror at the idea of Mary Margaret, the soggiest of characters, walking in on them caused the earth to recoil)

Or it could be the giant dirigible, I suppose. Filled with people from Hyde’s land of untold stories, it’s duly ominous. What is more ominous is that Hyde is pretty much immune to everything including Emma and Regina working together

(Awesome line:
Regina: I don’t know how strong I am without my evil half
Emma: Evil didn’t make you strong)

Did I mention how much I love how Emma and Regina bounce off each other.

So Hyde is the big bad and evil and… Jekyll jury-rigs an anti-hyde weapon and some anti-hyde handcuffs. He’s a prisoner now. Well that was anti-climactic. Is he just there to increase the amount of sexiness in the season?

I approve of this if he is. Now bring back the Knave. I know he doesn’t have a storyline, he doesn’t need one – he can just lurk in the corner and look roguish and sad.

Anyway, I digress.

Hyde is duly imprisoned but Emma is concerned – her hands have started shaking and she starts to have visions of her fighting someone. Her symptoms are looking a lot like Aladdin’s. While she absolutely refuses to talk to her knowledgeable, magically experienced and loving friends and family about this (even being reluctant when Archie shows up for therapy) and instead decides to question evil Hyde who makes Cryptic Comments and totally doesn’t have an ulterior motive.

Really Emma? You’re better than this. Or should be.

Monday, September 26, 2016

The Vow by Laura Daleo

Claire Matthews has returned home from college to spend the summer with her family.  It's supposed to be a great time in her life but when she lands at the airport, her usually punctual parents aren't there. Claire takes a cab to her childhood home only to find police swarming all over the place. Though Claire prays desperately that her parents and her little brother are fine, it doesn't look good. When Claire learns that her brother is missing and that her parents are indeed dead from an apparent vampire attack, despite the vow which hundreds of years ago ended vampires hunting humans, Claire is determined to find her parents killer and her missing brother.  The investigation will see her team up with a vampire as she negotiates the vampire world for the first time.

I had my doubts about The Vow from the first page.  To be clear, dead parents are absolutely a trope in this genre and in this case, both of Claire's parents are found murdered at the beginning of the book, making it far from an auspicious start. It also didn't help that Claire was absolutely alone in the world. How is it that she grew up in that home and didn't have a single friend to turn to? Did they all just disappear when she left for college? I understand that the purpose is to further isolate Claire but it really doesn't feel believable to me. However, Daleo did a good job portraying Claire's pain viewing her parents bodies and her fear that her brother might also be dead.

Where Daleo loses me is Claire's hunt for her parents killers.  Claire actually accuses the first vampire she sees with nothing to base her accusation on.  She casually decides that said vampire is shifty because he won't submit to interrogation by her and leaves at the first opportunity. Daleo then doubles down by having Claire volunteer at a vampire center (read: feeding area) and then interrogate random vampires coming in for nourishment.  She ends up agreeing to meet with not one but two vampires and of course it ends badly.  If that is not enough, a vampire priest sends her on a wild goose chase which turns out to be a trap and then Claire follows up on this faulty lead by disturbing a vampire in its lair during day sleep.  I quickly found myself wondering how it is that Claire is still alive. Sure, her vampire boyfriend and the police are there to pull her ass out of the fire but at some point she should have learned that simply walking off to meet vampires in isolated locations is not a good idea. Daleo attempts to explain Claire's repeated stupidity by employing Claire's grief over her parents death and fear for her missing brother as justification.  In the end, Claire simply comes across as a bimbo, making me wonder how she got into college in the first place?

Despite all of the focus on Claire's vampire hunt and her family legacy of vampire hunting, I don't feel like I really know who she is. It doesn't help that we are continually reminded just how beautiful Claire is and that her blonde hair and blue eyes practically make her vampire catnip.  It makes me wonder if this is intentional, so that the reader can place themselves in Claire's position? The problem however is then magnified because Daleo employs this tactic with all of the other characters in the book.  Neither Daniels (the investigating cop) or Conner (the vampire boyfriend) feel at all real to me either. I'm going to chalk this up to the very limited character development in this story.

Fear The Walking Dead, Season Two, Episode Thirteen: Date of Death

Just as the ending scene from last week promised, this week's Fear the Walking Dead told us the story of Travis and Chris after leaving Madison and Alicia. With the two hour season finale coming next week, it's clear that the writers are putting the characters into position to finish off the season.  I highly suspect that we will see the end of the Colonia and have everyone reunited at last.

Madison turned on the hotel light hoping to attract her ne'er-do-well son and just as Alicia pointed out, anyone could see the the sign lit up.  We saw Travis see the sign and start to head in the direction but so did many other people.  They all end up upside the hotel gates begging to get in while the hotel residents deny them entry and offer apologies.  It's only when Madison spies Travis that they open the gate long enough for him to enter.

Travis has clearly been affected by his time with Chris and bluntly rejects Madison's offer for food and a hot shower.   On one hand, Travis is thankful to be reunited with his wife but on the other, this means now he must relate what he believes to be his biggest failure - losing his douchebag son.

When we last saw Chris and Travis, James had been shot by the farmer as a result of the dudebros thinking that they could just come along and take the farmer's chickens.  Having been taught some first aid, Travis gets to work sewing up James's bullet wound as James screams in pain.  Chris takes a moment with Travis to talk about what happened and it's quickly clear that father and son are not on the same page.  Chris is still certain that they need the dudebros and points out that with Travis's quick thinking in helping James, this has moved Travis up a notch in the estimation of the dudebros. Travis however is not the least bit interested in playing hero to the group of douches.

Travis keeps checking in on James's pain level and James lies claiming to be fine when he clearly is not.  After eating all of the chickens, though Travis warned that should have only eaten the eggs, the dudebros decide that it's time to move on.  Even though Travis has warned them that there's nothing in the U.S., they are determined to see it for themselves.  Travis tries to call in Chris for backup to agree with what he has said; however, Chris claims that they didn't see it all.  Travis then brings up James, whom he believes in not ready to travel but James, acting in fear claims that he will be just fine.

Travis looks through the house and finds the driver's licence of the man that Creepy Chris killed. Travis carves a date of birth and death on a marker for his grave, much to the irritation of Chris who just wants to get going with the dudebros.  Chris makes it clear that his father doesn't fit in (ya think) and suggests that Travis start playing the game.  Travis however still isn't having it.

They manage to get James in the back of the truck and Chris and Travis ride back with him.  The moment the truck starts moving, James begins to show signs of pain.  James begs Travis not to stop the truck but when James passes out after only driving a few feet away from the farm, Travis is forced to get a very unimpressed Brandon to stop the truck.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Z Nation, Season Three, Episode Two: A New Mission

Last week we had a flashback episode to introduce a new antagonist.  It didn't really feel like a season opener to me at all.  Though this is the second episode of the season, to me it's episode one because we finally caught up with our hardy band of survivors. 

At the end of season two, we were left with a bunch of questions.  What's going to happen to Citizen Z now that he is has left the base?  Did Murphy and 10K get blown up with the submarine.  Finally, what's up with Warren and company? This episode answered all three questions and set about giving us a direction for season three.

Let's begin with Murphy and 10K, who did indeed survive.  After finding out about Zona's mission to save the top 1%, Murphy comes up with a new plan - hybrids.  This works for him because with his power he would be able to control everyone.  Murphy firmly believes that humanity has come to an end and that the world will be populated by those who are part zombie and part human, with him of course as the leader.  There is no visible mark on 10K unlike those who Murphy has taken hostage from the sub but he seems pretty content to do exactly what Murphy wants him to do.  Even when Murphy refuses to go and look for Roberta and company, 10K is along for the ride.

Murphy's big goal is to get out of there as quickly as possible.  Along their travels, they come across a herd of zombies who are attempting to feed on each other because there are not enough humans left. To Murphy this represents the way the world is now and yet another sign that his hybrid plan is the only way to move forward.  Two zombies fall off the pile of rolling zombies and Murphy orders 10K to take them out which he duly does.  This is when Murphy notices that 10K has stopped counting his kills. 

Up North we have Citizen Z, who as aforementioned walked away from the base.  He was saved by an Indigenous woman who takes him back to her home. Once there, because he's almost frozen, she gets naked into bed with him and they sleep.  Citizen Z is actually out for two days.  When he awakes, he finds that Kaya, the woman who saved him is a fan of his show.  Her deadpan delivery is priceless. Citizen Z learns that because the area wasn't extremely populated, the risk of zombies is low.  He sits back with Kaya, her grandfather and grandmother and enjoys the view of the Aurora Borealis.

Warren and the gang are captured by the Chinese.  It seems that the forces of Asia holed up behind the walls of the Imperial City.  Asia was not spared the apocalypse and so they pooled all of their resources to gather a team to collect Murphy's blood.  It's Doc who points out that even when Murphy isn't with them, he's causing them trouble.  Sun takes a sample of the team's blood hoping that even without Murphy they might provide some key to their survival. 

The team quickly becomes impressed with the tools that Sun and her people have brought to the fight.  When a zombie moves to take out Sun, it's Warren and Hector to the rescue.  Sun is touched by the fact that Warren gives the zombie mercy. Warren explains that they do it to retain their humanity and for the sake of the human that the zombie once was.  It's really a touching moment and reminds us that yes, Z Nation can be serious. This is enough for Sun to order the return of Warren and Co's weapons.

The goal is now to get to the supplies that the Chinese dropped but unfortunately, they aren't the only ones anxious to get to the supplies.  After a run in with the Enders, Sun is the only one left.  She's given no choice but to give mercy to a team member that she cared for. Sun is ready to give up on her mission and talks about the fact that she feels that she let her people down.  Warren assures her that they can work together as long as Sun promises that the cure won't only be for the Chinese but for everyone.  The plan now is to team up to get Murphy.

Van Helsing, Season 1, Episode 2: Seen You

Ok, it has to be said that the first episode didn’t exactly impress me. Of course, if Vanessa were to stab Axel or a vampire eat him or something we could be making some supreme improvement.

We don’t get that but I am left with a serious question:

Why wasn’t this episode first? Seriously this episode has all the world building, it introduces the main cast – it does everything the first episode should have done. Whhhhhyyyyy wasn’t it first? This would have made the series much more… approachable

Anyway back in 2016 to a backdrop of a smaller volcano in Yellowstone erupting and scattering the US with ash, we follow Vanessa and her daughter Dylan. Vanessa is clearly pretty poor, she lives in a ratty apartment, her best friend and neighbour is Sarah, a sex worker being abused by her pimp (until Vanessa beats him thoroughly proving she’s always been kind of badass). Vanessa sells her blood to try and buy her daughter a birthday present

Poor Dylan is not only embarrassed by her mother dishing out violence to violent pimps (really, c’mon Dylan your mother is awesome) but also has to deal with her estranged dad who hasn’t sent a present and is skipping out of seeing her so he can hook up, apparently.

The blood that Vanessa donated ended up in the hands of a vampire lurking in the basement

- Ok, can we go back to look at the feral vampires in the first episode? Because if they exist at this time how could they possibly hide from humanity. And if they don’t exist then what happened?

Anyway, the vampire dips into the blood himself and takes the rest to ridiculous creepy vampire boss Dmitri along with his minion Rebecca. This villain is terrible – he is such a caricature, I can barely understand him because he mutters and mumbles everything, occasionally drops into Russian and feels the need to ramble on about philosophy and ruling the night and utter nonsense. Honestly he’s comic. Said boss vampire realises Vanessa’s blood has turned his minion human – and quickly dispatches a vampire to go collect/kill/whatever her

This leads to a brutal, vicious fight in Vanessa’s flat with the vampire attacking her, being stabbed, but eventually overwhelming her…and biting her. The scene is utterly brutal, especially since Dylan witnesses all of it

You’d think Dmitri would have warned his minion against drinking her blood

Vanessa is taking to the morgue where she is examined by Doc Sarah – yes, Doc from the first episode who is a vampire. She quickly notices that something is up, what with Vanessa being dead yet having surprising living symptoms. She tells her sister Grace who is some kind of bigwig and declares everything classified: and causes the military to swoop in to claim the body

Van Helsing, Season 1, Episode 1: Help Me

The first episode of Van Helsing aaaand…. Hmmm… yes… hmmm

My first “hmm” actually comes from the fact Syfy has provided us a huge guide on how the apocalypse happened, the different kinds of vampires et al

Which is nice? I mean guides like this are great on, say, Defiance which is bringing two different media (TV and computer games) together or on Game of Thrones which has been running forever and built so many many plot lines

But if your new show requires a wikia? That kind of suggests “hey we suck at world building communication. Go do your homework”.

Then we have the fake lead in – where we start with the action half way through the episode: Vanessa Helsing being attacked by vampires as she lays comatose and having a nifty, but seemingly excessively gory fight scene.

Before cutting to “36 hours earlier”

I hate this trick, I hate this a lot in any episode – but if you’re doing it in the pilot, you’re virtually announcing that the first half of the very first episode has absolutely nothing to convince a watcher to keep watching. This doesn’t bode well

To the actual episode we get a nice little text lead in – it’s 2019. 3 years since “The Rising” began and civilisation has fallen

Wait wait… that’s 3 years from now… zomg it’s a dystopian world where Donald Trump won!

Vampires rule the streets… ah, not Donald Trump supports. Don’t worry guys, it’s not as bad as that! We also have a human saviour, y’know, conveniently labelled in case you don’t get it from the first episode (honestly it’s not exactly subtle. Actually, the whole dystopia isn’t exactly hard to see either – this show does love to beat you about the head with things to make sure you get it).

So to the ACTUAL beginning of the episode – we’re introduced to Vanessa in a secure hospital place where she has been snoozing for a very very long time. She is guarded by Axel, a marine who is all on his lonesome except for Doc, who is now a vampire so he keeps her locked up and feeds her blood. Doc and Axel apparently had a thing. I’m going to need someone to address this character rather than have her stuck in a cage making animalistic growling noises.

He is finally joined when one of his fellow marines returns, Ted, bringing a whole posse of survivors with him who all join them in the bunker after a fight against raging vampire-zombies (honestly at this stage vampire/zombie is fairly interchangeable. Bites infect, the vampires are “feral” so pretty mindless).

There’s a gazillion of these people, most of whose names I don’t remember and I imagine will die over the next few episodes – ablative extras. The ones to note:

Sam, a deaf man (which is very unusual in a post-apocalyptic scenarios to see any disability) and Mohamad a Black man. While neither of these are developed characters, they quickly support Axel during conflicts so will probably continue as Important Sidekicks

We have John who repeatedly fights with Axel because his wife was left outside and he’d kind of like to go out there and save her and Axel won’t let him.

There’s also Dead Lady, Cynthia (who gets upset over dead lady) and Nicole (who is generally hostile)

We have a fair bit of everyone sniping because Axel has all the diplomacy skills of a bull running at Pamplona and keeps pointing guns at people while the survivors have a couple of people who are just arsey for funsies and don’t really like Doc the vampire not being properly murdered.

There’s also Ted wandering around acting like Axel’s best friend in a totally not suspicious way. Oh and Vanessa is still unconscious as she has been for several months for reasons.