Saturday, August 19, 2017

Zoo, Season 3, Episode 8: Stakes on a Plane

Jackson and Abigail are continuing their family drama. Sister dearest would like the secret to Jackson’s super Doolittle powers. She calls it communicating with animals and tests it by having a hungry Bengal Tiger released next to him when he’s covered in blood.

I have to point out this is animal command not communication because communication would go like this:

Tiger: HUNGRY!
Jackson: Don’t eat me!
Tiger: nom nom nom nom.

I also want to point out the flaws in deciding to test Jackson’s animal control powers by letting a tiger loose around him. Luckily she has magical sleepy drugs that can put a tiger to sleep mid pounce. Dear TV-landia; tranquilisers don’t work this way.

Anyway she wants to record his brain mojo so she can add it to her hybrid mojo and TAKE OVER THE WORLD
Or destroy the world. Do evil stuff anyway.

To do this she needs some more emotional stuff so in between being an arsehole about Jackson’s dead family who were hastily retconned into the story two weeks ago, (and Jackson never once tries to hit her sore spot “daddy loved me best!”) she also decides to mess with the plane.

This would be the plane with the rest of the team on who are going… somewhere and doing… something? I guess. Mainly they seem to be flying around the Atlantic discussing various personal issues

Dariela and Abe have just had awesome sex but Dariela is still concerned about raising a child on the plane of drama and death and would like to go home. Abe concedes this - and will AFTER they save the world which doesn’t exactly appease Dariela because they may all die in the process. Though Jaime does have a point that if they don’t save the world there’s no much point in saving Isaac anyway, but slightly less heartless because she’s not me and kids being fed blatantly manipulative lines to try and pluck the heart strings annoys me. I als kind of don’t want another reason why Dariela is pushed to the margins

Mitch has used knockout/forgetful juice on Jaime so she doesn’t realise he’s Mr. Duncan because REASONS. Max, his dad knows about shis but doesn’t really care because he’s, perhaps, the worst person ever. He’s totally cool with Mitch lying to Jaime and thinks he should do it more because he totally did it while cheating on all those women and really we should not listen whenever Max speaks.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Shadowhunters, Season 2, Episode 20: Besides Still Water

Jonathan is alive… but only briefly. He bleeds and calls for his mother, his blood forming a pentacle which summons a great big ugly demon

Hey, I’m with you demon mum, someone calls me unexpectedly in a morning will not get me at my best

Simon and Luke have noticed that Maia is missing and they go to visit the Seelie Queen (well first they visit Magnus who is all “excuse me, valentine, genocide, et al. Priorities”) who they have randomly decided is responsible (accurately but hey, Valentine is running around but you assume the Queen is at fault). She lets slip she made a deal with Valentine to get him out of the city and Simon and Luke pretty much spend the rest of the episode playing in the Seelie realm looking for Maia. This would be the magical fae realm of Plotboxia!

The Shadowhunters - well, Izzy, Clary, Alec and Jace since the rest of the Shadowhunters only exist in crowd scenes in the Institute. They fight the big demon which splits into a gazillion little demons which all run and hide. This is when Clary gets the news from Luke that Valentine has fled the city. They can’t take down the warlock ward against angel blood because it will let the demons out.

Wait… why… what?

They also decide people need to go to Idris to protect the lake from Valentine’s shenanigans. Yes there’s an army of Shadowhunters there but they’re ALL CIRCLE MEMBERS. Seriously like half the Clave is a circle member. Of course Clary and Jace go. Of course they do.

That leaves Alec and Izzy to stop the demons by closing the portal. For that they need a powerful warlock. Magnus you have been summoned, at least he makes it clear he’s not doing this for the Clave. They go to the portal, fight more demons and seal the rift. And by “they” I mean Magnus

So, to Idris where Clary and Jace discover that the army led by chief Clave member Malachai are all Circle members. No, really. I told you so. He makes a big speech about how the Downworlders are totally the worst and how Clary and Jace have to die - starting with Clary

We even pull out the sad music for Clary’s impending doom. I didn’t press fast forwards. I was tempted. To the shock of no-one, Jace activates his wondertwin powers and he and Clary kill everyone. How shocked

To the lake before Valentine (hey, is this a good time to remind everyone Valentine only knows about the lake because of Clary & co? Yes?) and Valentine appears and stabs Jace. Woe he’s dying. And dying. And still dying. And Alec is feeling it through his rune and oh he’s dying and dying and woe and DIE ALREADY

Look, absolutely no-one watching this thinks Jace is actually going to kick the bucket. Stop wasting your dramatic tension on this

So Jace is dead and Clary imprisoned and Valentine makes another speech about how he’s totally not a bad guy - and he summons the Angel Raziel

And I honestly expected better CGI. This is your angel, Shadowhunters do better! Valentine announces he wants all demons dead. And all Downworlders. And all nephilim who don’t support him (all 6 of them).

Raziel points out heaven is totally uncool with this - killing Nephilim is bad. Killing Downworlders (who have souls) also totally bad. Killing demons is cool though

Valentine doesn’t even pause on hearing this (fuck the will of heaven apparently) and plans to go for it anyway- because apparently if you cut yourself in front of the angel he totally has to do what you ask

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Blood Ring (Rogue Mage #1) by Faith Hunter

This book is huge. Not so much because of the length of the book but the sheer amount packed in here - especially this really original world.

Honestly, if someone has sold this book to me as a post-rapture word, a world after the book of Revelations, a world where the angels came down and massacred huge chunks of humanity, I would be leery.

But what about that world where the angels never confirmed any one religion? What about when the Most High never actually appeared (but pointing that out is a quick way to get dead)? What about a world where actually fighting each other over a religion is the quickest way to get you dead by angel?

We have a world where religion and religious rules have definitely risen to prominence, piety is common and all but mandatory (there’s a lot of pressure even when it’s not mandated) and religious laws dominate. But at the same time everyone is kind of uncertain as to what the laws need to be. One interesting element of this is that they seem to have avoided the very common trope of just defaulting to “sexual” crimes (probably because most authoritarian religion seems to devolve to that level) and we see a lot more fierce punishments for things like swearing. It’s an interesting and unique political situation with religion ascendant and in control but without the certainty or single religious dominance you’d expect from such a world

It’s also been several generations since the end of the world so humanity is doing what we always do - backslide. Thorn notes that things that would never have been tolerated 10 years ago are now creeping back into the human media

It’s also really well done how the balance is set out. Because it would be easy to portray the Seraphs as wonderful saviours of humanity - and that’s clearly the spin and there’s definitely a cult that has grown around them - but Thorn sees it as a cult. Equally the depictions of the Seraphs arrival and the end of the world is depicted as duly horrific. The idea that the Seraphs are all good and pure is strongly challenged despite the spin. At the same time we have the dark powers, the monsters from the depths, demonic forces et al that humanity and the Seraphs allied against - so we do have the seraphs as being humanity’s protectors and destroyers, humanity’s shield, but also the sword which could come down at any time if humanity break the rules they’re STILL not entirely sure they understand. It’s all complex and nuanced and precarious

Add into that is Thorn, a Neo-mage. A woman with magic and, by official doctrine from the Seraphs, soulless. Registered and sequestered, Neo-mages are both an incredible asset to humanity for their skills but also feared and persecuted when unlicensed and not in their official communities. Thorn is surrounded by neighbours who would murder her if they found out about her while at the same time seriously considering hiring mages at exorbitant cost to help them with the town’s problems.

Oh and the world is a dystopia - not just because of the end of the world which means there’s a lot of salvaging and a lot of things mankind just doesn’t have the numbers to produce any more and is now working to produce in numbers what was once taken for granted. There’s no suggestion the technology is lost - it’s just hard to maintain the supply chain and production methods with most of the population dead. But the world is also entering a mini ice-age which doesn’t just mean cold, but also worries like glaciers forming in the mountains above the town

Throw in demons coming out at night and haunting the world and we have a much scarier world - and, obviously, an equal dependence for the decimated population on the Seraphs.

This world is FULL and it is FASCINATING and I understand there’s an actual RPG game that has built up around it because this world is amazing. I could happily just keep reading more world building and more and more and more and more

But in a book? All of the above is huge and complex and fascinating. And then we see different neo-mages with different powers and different sources of power - with the added complexity of elements from other specialties draining them (Thorn, a stone mage, is drained by water and moonlight). Then we throw in the descendents of humans and Seraphs, the descendents of mages and humans and the mixing of these blood lines all creates different complexities - and on top of that the dark side also has it’s own different forces and bloodlines

I love the world, but sometimes I feel like I need a guide to read separate to the story as it can be hard to follow all the ins and outs and complexities. This is sometimes not helped by the writing - especially when Thorn is deep in her magic and bonding with stones, I’m not always entirely sure what has exactly happened. This is especially the case later in the book towards the end with a grand finale where Thorn faces down the big bad hordes and it’s epic and it’s amazing and it’s exciting and powerful and… and I only have the slightest clue about what actually happened.

I think it did add even more complexity over what the Seraphs are - but I was too lost in it all to be certain. It still felt epic and the victory was clear but what exactly Thorn did? I’m not sure, I’m really not. Too much abstract, too many things going on.

The plot itself is a wonderful exploration of this world - and I think you needed a whole book on that. We largely focused on Thorn just living in this world with her friends. Which is excellent because this world is HUGE so huge, so very huge.

We have a mystery: someone has been captured (Thorn’s ex) and they want to get him back and stop the big dark evil things doing their evil worst but most of Thorns’ day and experience isn’t spent on this particularly. I think this works because the world is big and complex and, if anything, needed paring more for this book (the amethysts in particular were damn confusing)

I do like Thorn’s relationship with her friends and colleagues, all of whom work in stones and jewellery. There’s Jessie with her large family who has her own complicated past with religious society though is something of a minor character in her circle which is sad because she and a child and a very very distant woman mentor are the only women in Thorn’s life and we need more women in there. We have , Thorns’ best friend who is a gay man. I started out somewhat hostile to this character because he is introduced with a whole lot of dubious code words “flamboyant” “theatric”, an over-emphasis on clothes and make up. He loves musicals - in a dystopian world which doesn’t produce musicals ad doesn’t seem to have an excess of recorded media. The almost odd part of thi is it fades as the book goes on: it seems less to be character development and more that the author kind of forgot he was gay and the coding she’d already established. We have Audric who is one of these woo-woo half-breeds, a Black man and in a relationship with Rupert. Despite Rupert being her BFF, since Audric is the one who is actually aware of her secret than the others so is more prominent than the other characters. But part of the woo-woo apparently involves some unspecified genital deformity which, again, it’s implied makes him sexless. It seems an unnecessary addition to make it so expressly clear the gay couple cannot be sexual - especially as we’ve introduced the completely unnecessary concept of the mages entering highly sexualised heat. This used up way too much time of Thorn fighting supernatural horniness.

I’m fascinated by this world and curious by these characters. This book was probably too full, too overwhelmingly full, but what it was full of was absolutely amazing and  loved every last minute of it. Just reading this first book makes me think this series can become one of my favourites - all the more likely as it develops and I become more familiar with this huge world

Preacher, Season 2, Episode 9: Puzzle Piece

Oh Preacher, I’m getting a confused vibe from this show that is similar to how I feel about Z Nation. It just feels all over the map thematically. It will be fun and zany and I’ll love it - but then it will push that bit further and suddenly we have a shed load of rape jokes or suicide jokes and it’s like… wait… no… stop. And then it will be kind of deep and emotional, but then we’ll have weeks of moping and trauma which could be an analysis but just feels jarring and kind of lost. This episode pretty much epitomises everything

Our main gang is pretty sad and tense. Dennis is healing (he’s clearly been turned into a vampire) but Cass, while still saying the right things, is clearly pissed at Jessie for not using the Word to help. Jessie is completely despairing about finding god and he starts to rant on why it matters so much - god is order and rules and there needs to be someone in charge - but Cass both doesn’t care and noisily keeps on working with the kitchen, drowning Jessie out

When Tulip arrives from another night of no sleep and getting shot in the chest and Cass is clearly concerned. He tries to reach out to her and Jessie snaps “we’re good here!”, ignoring Tulip who herself laughs angrily at Jessie’s pronouncement. Jessie uses the Word on her to make her sleep.

Cass does not approve.

All of this is witnessed by Herr Starr when his minions bring their file to him. He hasn’t bothered to read any of it because he is the epitome of not giving a shit. He see the video and being pretty much revolting in every way, sees nothing special and how broken is the word that people think it’s a super power for a woman to obey a man.

He has a date so just orders his minions, Hoover and Featherstone to just kill everyone

So in goes a squad - and I love the whole first persons shooter vibe to this - as they’re taken apart by Cassidy, Dennis (now newly vampired) and Jessie using the word to turn them against each other. Unfortunately, Dennis kills the survivor leaving no-one for Jessie to question.

Herr Starr hears about this on his date where the governor of Louisiana’s daughter rhapsodises about meaning in her life with a terribly condescending story, while Herr Starr reflects how boring his life is, how something is missing despite his awesome power, throws in some contempt for disabled children and tells the young woman to strip and hold a stick of butter under her chin.

I… I don’t know what he intended with the butter before he was interrupted an really really really do not want to speculate.

He returns to the office where Hoover and Featherstone have already put down plastic sheeting in time to be execute, Hoover taking the time to tell Featherstone he loves her, while she focuses on being scarily professional. She agrees with Starr that they should be put down in a scarily fanatical zeal and even works extremely efficiently to clear the jam in his gun so he can do this - and describes how dangerous Jesse is in the process while laying out future plans to bring him down

Teen Wolf, Season 6, Episode 13: After Images

Let’s start with the main background menace that is underpinning this season - the essence of fear. Everyone is becoming more spooked, more freaked out. We see this first with Mason who has been hit hard hard; he keeps seeing that skinned body over and over again, like it’s literally there in front of him (some woo-woo also had Liam expressing an interest in Mason’s life - definite woo-woo).

That skinned body is now in the morgue and as Melissa tries to take samples she is overcome by terror. And things moving. And flickering lights and hellll no she’s out.

She calls Argent to do the body poking for her. I could make a comment about the problem of a woman calling a man to go in danger but hell no, I’m totally team Melissa here. In fact I wouldn’t be outside the door I’d be three towns over skyping him to guide him what fleshy bits to cut.

But even the manly man Chris Argent is overwhelmed by terror and flees the room. Together they recognise this terror is pretty supernatural and they manage to go in together with a gun and science talk to grab a sample - though it turns out that sample is nothing. No cells, no DNA - nothing… also the fear may have reduced but it’s still there

This can be cured by flirting and Melissa encouraging Chris to stay and Chris being a bit faster on the uptake

There’s also Brett on the run. He’s desperately trying to escape Tamorah and Gerard - with Gerard giving Tamorah a sadly very very very very good masterclass on becoming a monster hunter.

Brett’s sister, Lori (and am i the only one who thinks all these random extra werewolves should have been more present before now) discovers Brett’s blood stained lacrosse stick and recruits the gang to help her find her injured brother

They try Lydia to see if she can get a vision and manages to get a cryptic message of “68” not helpful psychic banshee powers - but Mason and Corey are so very irritating that she decides to wander off alone to have a vision. In the school. At night. But not alone because like half the school decides to wander around the library at night. Beacon Hills high school. Do none of these people have survival instincts?!

Mason and Corey hit the library because EVERYONE MUST HANG AROUND THE DEATH SCHOOL AT NIGHT! And there shady totally-released-by-the-hunt-guy whispers in Nolan, a student’s ear, about Corey - and how he can totally vanish and reappear. Nolan decides to weirdly join them to talk about people changing and if it’s possible. This is supposed to be some veiled reference at shapeshifting which makes Corey super nervous as it continues and Mason super bemused

I join Mason in the bemused- because Corey isn’t a shapeshifter. Except Malia and Derek, very very very few of the characters on this show actually count as shapeshifting - heavy brows, need of a shave and mega manicure are as shapeshifty as people get. And Corey doesn’t even do that much: when everyone else was getting the cool killing powers he got the “run and hide!” specialty as we noted before.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Somebody Tell Aunt Tillie She's Dead (ToadWitch #1) by Christiana Miller

Image result for Somebody Tell Aunt Tillie She's Dead (ToadWitch #1) by Christiana Miller
It's Mara's birthday and according to her tarot card reading things aren't going to go well for her. Proving that Mara's skills are top notch, it's not long before Mara finds herself banned from Beverly Hills, unemployed and facing homelessness after being evicted from her LA apartment. Luckily for Mara, she inherits a home when her Aunt Tilly dies. Unfortunately for Mara, this house is haunted by a very pissed off Aunt Tilly, who's certain that Mara doesn't have the sense God gave cabbage and not at all pleased that Mara is responsible for her death. Is anything going to go right for Mara this year?

As you might have guessed from the cover, Somebody Tell Aunt Tillie She's Dead is paranormal chick lit. It's not meant to be serious whatsoever and in fact never takes itself seriously.  Miller tries to infuse her book with humour, through awkward situations and back and for conversations between Mara, our protagonist and her GBFF Gus. Unfortunately, most of it is problematic as hell, thereby sucking out whatever humor was possible.

For all of Mara's string of bad luck, she's actually had a pretty good life.  Mara lived in an apartment in LA with a pool for well below market value thanks to the kindness of her gay landlord.  Normally I wouldn't mention the sexuality of someone's landlord but Miller goes to great lengths to establish that Lenny is gay and is only kicking Mara out of her apartment in order to get laid by Manuel. Apparently, Manuel's family has a problem with Mara's witchcraft but no problem with his sexuality. Yeah, these kind of bigots tend to hate everyone who doesn't conform to their belief system, not just pagans. Of course, Mara feels betrayed by Lenny because he chose a hot young lover over her. Lenny is not only gay he's flamboyantly so. Lenny even blames Mara for her eviction because of her unwillingness to hide her religious practice.
"Honey, we live in a Moral Majority word. Flaunt your religious beliefs and sexual preferences at your own peril. It's something we boys have known for centuries. Done is one." 
Given than Lenny is only a minor character, his homophobic representation is bad but could potentially have been overlooked; however Miller doubles down with her portrayal of Gus.  Gus is downright sassy and seems to spend a good portion of life listening to Mara whine and pretty much being at her beck and call. Every damn thing about Gus is fabulous, including of course his attire. Apparently, "Gus is more fond of skirts than any woman" Mara has ever known. Mara of course is largely celibate but not Gus who always seems to be fucking someone, which mystifies Mara.  
"How the hell do you find dates so fast? It takes me months."
"My secret club. It's a whole, incestuous, underground network that we don't let you fag hags in on. A place for us who shine like a veritable sun to share our boy toys . And our Viagara".
Do you see what happened there? Mara, as well as the other straight characters don't engage in promiscuous sex whereas, the gay characters are either constantly having sex or allowing sex to take over so much of their lives that they make major decision based on whether or not they are getting laid. 

Along with being Mara's personal cheerleader and general support, Gus is also super bitchy.  Yes, yet another trope. When one of Gus's numerous lovers decided to cheat, Gus curses him to have hives.
"Maybe I did mix a little pennyroyal in the massage lotion. He deserved it, I caught him in a hot clinch with that curvy tranny singer over at the Queen Mary, when he thought I was in the john."
I have to pause now to talk about the slur "tranny".  Putting that word into the mouth of a gay character does not suddenly make it not a slur. Throughout Somebody Tell Aunt Tillie She's Dead, Miller uses the words "faghag, as well as queer".  All of these terms are clearly problematic because they're homophobic and putting these words into the mouth of gay characters doesn't suddenly make it okay. It further doesn't help that Somebody Tell Aunt Tillie She's dead, is written by a straight woman.

The Strain, Season 3, Episode 5: Belly of the Beast

The Strain is still suffering from having every character everywhere which is a bit of an annoyance. Bring the team together again - you can see how bad this has become for The Strain that I think many of these characters are just completely disappearing from the story entirely. Which is a good thing with Zach.

So Ephraim and Alex find an abandonned town which they find suspicious because there’s no sign of a struggle so presumably no vampire slaughter. Thankfully they find a phone left out in the snow with a suspicious amount of battery life left (I will believe in vampires. I will not believe in a smart phone that holds its charge for a full week) which basically explains that everyone has left to go to the Partnership’s new super farms of awesomeness

I am completely bemused by how many people are falling for this. Entire towns are buying this

After an awkward night in which they heavily foreshadow Alex and Ephraim getting it on, the next day they find a survivor who says that the farms made huge promises but gave her a creepy vibe

She’s also losing her hair which may be due to turning. Or possibly radiation poisoning.

Here ends their plot line - evil farms are full of evilness which is evil.


Cut to Dutch who is being a little more efficient - she was captured last week after the shocking revelation that the evil breeding cult run by evil vampires and evil collaborators is evil

Eichorst drags her out of her cell so he can play civilised. Dutch calls him on the pointlessness - he won, why bother with the make up and suits (because he’s a main character and the make up department doesn’t want to have to do full noseless vampire every time). But Eichorst is doing it because he’s better than the average vampire, the chosen one with free will and ability to speak to a tailor. That sounds pretty awful to be honest - I mean the only person in the world capable of an intelligent conversation. It’d be like spending your whole life at a Brexit tally

Game of Thrones, Season 7, Episode 5: Eastwatch

This episode I am reminded of the action pack awesomeness of last episode - and also how quickly things need to move, especially since there are only 2 episodes left this season

I see this and then I see Ser Jorah and Gendrey and Sam and I have to fight the urge to tell them all to go away. You’re distractions. You’re not needed!

The Lannisters, Daenerys and Great Big Lizards

So we have a whole lot of dead soldiers after the dragons had the most overcooked BBQ since your dad’s last cook out. Tyrion is there and rather traumatised by the horror of it all. And then things get a little more worrisome…

Because Daenerys demands everyone bend the knee or die. The Tarly’s (Sam’s father and brother) refuse. Tyrion pleas for mercy from Daenerys, pleas for the Tarly’s to bend (since they just betrayed Olenna so they’re not THAT loyal). But both are inflexible… and Daenerys has them both burned alive. Oh, yes, Dracarys is fine.

This makes everyone else kneel.

Really, it’s not that far from what Daenerys has pulled before - brutal deaths for the disloyal and those who challenge her are pretty much par the course with Daenerys. Tyrion knows this - did he think she’d adopt new rules now she’s in “civilised” lands? Did he think she’d change when in “proper” countries of Westeros?

Of course I can definitely see the worry that while pleading repeatedly for Daenerys to be a gentle, merciful leader - the very reason why so many follow her (apparently) because she is kind (to people who are super loyal to her anyway). At the same time burning people alive is exactly what her father,  The Mad King Arys loved to burn people alive.

On the other hand - they betrayed Olenna.

Varys and Tyrion talk about this- both drinking and both clearly shaken. Tyrion, spin-master to the end, tries to downplay Daenerys burning people to death. Varys is very shaken -he served the Mad King, his spies dug out people the Mad King then burned to death. He has a truly haunting recounting of how he tried to deny he was responsible while clearly feeling very guilty for that. And now he’s seeing Daenerys heading down the same path and dragging them with him.

But she’s not the Mad King. Yet. That yet is their mission.

They’ve also received a sealed message for Jon
Tyrion: Have you read it
Varys: It’s a sealed message for the king in the North!
Tyrion: So what does it say?

Because you know Varys has read it. Of course he has. He probably read it before Bran even wrote it.

Daenerys also introduces Jon to Dracarys - and Dracarys bonds with his new step-daddy (I’m going to put this down to Jon’s Targaryen blood). And Daenerys discusses how she regards them as her children. Jon is discomforted by all the killing but Daenerys points out Jon’s wars to liberate Winterfel have hardly been bloodless: it’s fine to protect the people but you need to be in a position of strength in which to do it. She’s not exactly wrong - and nor is death by dragon any less dead than, say, death by sword.

He also downplays the whole coming back from the dead thing, just in time for Ser Jorah to come back and re-pledge himself to Daenerys. I get that I said this is a distraction but I really expected a more dramatic reunion here.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Orphan Black, Season Five, Episode Ten: To Right the Wrongs of Many

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When we last left Sarah and Helena they were in a shit ton of trouble.  Helena's water had broken just as they managed to incapacitate Virginia and escape the labour and delivery room. Given how long the sestras fought against Neolution, you'd think that this final confrontation would take up a large part of the episode but that's not what the writers decided to do.  

PT, hopped up on medical grade meth decided to take on Sarah and try to suffocate her to death with plastic.  PT managed to hold his own for a while but Sarah, being younger stronger and healthy quickly managed to kick him off of her.  PT starts ranting about Sarah and Helena being his biggest mistake and the fact that no matter what Sarah does, he'll always be a part of her because he created her.  PT is finally silenced when Sarah grabs an oxygen tank and smashes his brains in. 

Virginia finds Helena in the basement and of course is all smug about how fitting it is for Helena to give birth in the dirt.  Art walks in, relieved to find Helena, until of course Virginia gets the drop on him. Art is forced to hand over his gun. Virginia keeps her eye on the prize and demands that Art put on a pair of gloves and check to see how dilated Helena is. In the process of checking on Helena, Art notices that she has a screw driver tucked against her side to use as a weapon. Art pretends that there's something wrong with Helena and when Virginia comes to check, Art manages to disarm Virginia before pushing her in Helena's direction. Helena seizes the opportunity and uses the massive screw driver to take out Virginia.  

With PT and Virginia out of the way, there's still the matter of Helena being in labour.  Sarah joins Art and Helena in the basement and helps Helena with her labour.  Throughout this process, Sarah keeps having flashbacks to her pregnancy. In one scene, Sarah sits outside of a women's health clinic with Siobahn, debating whether or not to terminate her pregnancy.  As Helena begins to push, Sarah remembers her own labour and Siobahn holding her hand and encouraging her during her own delivery experience. Helena gives birth to two healthy boys.  So much for PT's declaration that "the future is female". 

The rest of the episode deals with the sestras trying to settle into life now that there are no more enemies to vanquish and their lives are finally their own. Sarah is the clone who has the biggest issues with the transition and that's hardly surprising given that even before she became aware of Neolution, she had difficulty being still or settling into any kind of routine. 

Now that Siobahn is gone, Sarah is solely responsible for caring for Kira and she's clearly overwhelmed.  Sarah is forced to give Kira money for lunch because once again, she's forgotten to go grocery shopping - a mundane task that Siobahn clearly always took care of.  When Felix arrives, he is shocked to find a for sale sign on the front lawn.  Sarah argues that they talked about this but it's clear that Felix isn't onside with giving up his family home just yet.  Felix even points out that Sarah has no plan for Kira who needs stability.  They don't have time to talk about it though because Sarah is going to take her GED so that she can get a job.

The Glamour Thieves (Blue Unicorn series #1) by Don Allmon

JT has managed to build a good business and a good life - not and for an orc and former criminal

But his past comes back to haunt him - namely in the hands of the very very sexy elf Austin. His ex and definitely bad news. JT should tell him to leave. JT shouldn’t have anything to do with him. JT should definitely not believe anything he says

But the threat against one of his dearly loved old compatriots is not something to ignore… of course the question then is, just how much has Austin lied this time?

Well that was incredibly different - and extremely fun and exciting to read. I need more of this, so much more of this.

Our main characters are Austin and JT, an orc and an elf, two men and two lovers. They’re joined by Buzz, a human, a man and another leg to their love triangle

And normally I’d cringe because there’s no quicker me to make me run for the hills than a love triangle - but this really works. It isn’t a matter of jealousy (though jealousy is certainly there), so much as different men bringing different things to the relationship. I love that their relationships are complicated and layered, with JT seeing different qualities in Buzz and Austin and valuing both for different reasons. There’s no real spectre of a happily ever after and the conflicts are very reasonable based on the very complicated histories between these characters which casts wide shadows on them.

Their relationships are very real, not overtly romanticised, often very gritty, with very real emotional conflict between the characters. I can really feel the history of these characters, what has past between them and how that makes their current relationships really fraught and difficult. At the same time, despite being an important element of the story, the romance does not completely overwhelm the plot by having confusing romance elements in life-or-death situations, etc.

It’s also blessedly free of the usual tropes and stereotypes we see about gay men and gay relationships - so many tropes that are almost mandatory in any story with men in relationships with each other. One of the more intriguing elements is that JT, the huge huge huge massive, super-huge orc is a bottom while Austin, the elf, is a top. Yes, it’s a simple thing but in a genre where fake gender roles are often imposed on characters in a same-sex relationship, it stands out. Equally the fact that Austin is definitely a more physically dangerous character is noteworthy. These characters are really awesomely deep, nuanced, relationships with each other with no tropy subtexts and no rigid romance paths. And they have some really good hot sex which, yes, I actually find hot (I have very very very very rarely actually found many written sex scenes remotely appealing) while at the same time being appropriate to the plot.

Frankly, if this were the only good thing about this book, I’d honestly still love it because I loved this so very very much. But there’s also so much more

This world is awesome - we have a really excellent Shadowrun/cyberpunk world going on here which I love. We have a world with traditionally fantasy world characters - wizards, orcs, elves in a technological setting - but an almost futuristic technology with cyberspace and networks in everything from minor networks for cars and huge, sweeping networks that can cover entire cities with grafitti’d, crowd sourced hacking. This creates almost a parallel realm that has to be acknowledged and taken into account in most encounters. To use an RPG parallel, your party needs a hacker as much as it needs a wizard or a warrior.

This creates a lot of levels of complexity, especially since orcs and elves are apparent recent additions to society, there’s lots of hints at dystopia and a dystopian event and there’s also an interesting take on the idea of magic and technology not mixing. This is a very old trope and one of those genre rules that has been so long that you do kind of wonder why it has become such a mandatory thing (like werewolves and vampires hating each other). What is intriguing in this case is we have a sci-fi, hyper technological society with those parallel cybernet realms means that a character who has and uses magic is effectively cut off from this. We see JT bonding with his car with his mind, turning his drones into extension of his own consciousness which was really excellently done (and an awesome part of the world) and through the power of this awesome description we realise that Austin, a character with magic, is expressly excluded from this world. This isn’t like, say, Harry Dresden being annoyed because he can’t use a computer or his car is unreliable; there are huge parts of this world that a magic user is expressly denying themselves for the sake of magic. At the same time, when we see the choice Roane made to get technological implants, we also see the implications, even the horror, of this elf expressly turning her back on her innate magic to gain access to this technological world.

All of this complexity and layers and elves and druid and orcs and hints of past events is all really wonderfully portrayed in subtle moments of world building woven excellently within the main plot line. There are no infodumps or convolued offloading of knowledge. Unfortunately. Unfortunately because I NEED MORE. I love this world - love it love it love it. I love the idea of a syndicate with hackers and cybernetic helicopters AND a Necromancer made of ofuda. More world building! More! I need more, I need it!

And all of this is presented with some really awesome writing. The action is exciting as they flee the attention of a major criminal gang. The description of JT’s technological merging is really intriguing and powerful. The relationships are really powerful, emotional and layered. The history and flashbacks are emotional and meaningful. And the book managed to describe cars in a way that made me interested and I don't give a damn about cars. And, yes, the sex is hot. This was a really excellent book

What is sadly missing is gender and racial representation. We have a few women and POC among the bad guys and side characters and we have a very briefly appearing female orc who is JT’s apprentice. Roane, Austin’s sister, is described as a Black woman but she is constantly mentioned and thought of rather than actually being present. Most of the characters here are White or racially non-applicable due to species (i.e. they’re green). It’s a shame because so much about this book is perfect that it’s painful to admit this glaring flaw.

I want this book to be a 200 book series I can just read forever. Make this more.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Wynonna Earp, Season 2, Episode 10: I See Darkness

Mercedes cast a spell last episode using rings (her dead husband’s I think) to try and find the 3rd seal. It told her that the seal is held by a member of law enforcement

Which is why Mercedes shows up on Nicole’s doorstep demanding the seal. Waverley also shows up and they both desperately fight to defend each other. In the battle, Nicole is bitten - and Mercedes leaves realising her spell got it a bit wrong

The Widows have a terrible, awful venom - and she is hurried into hospital. Wynonna and Doc are already there with the real Mercedes (who had her face removed by the Widows for their disguise). Nedry is also there to be awesome, because he is.

There Waverley babbles in horror about what has happened to Nicole - and along the way she also spills just about everything in her classic babble fashion: including that Rosita is a revenant. Waverley also realises that Wynonna knows where the seal is - and hasn’t told them; which puts a bit of a shakiness in the Earp relationship.

Nicole is facing inevitable death due to widow venom - a death that human medicine can’t cure. And is going to be extra awful as well. Nicole also has a deeply painful and traumatic conversation with Wynonna about how she wants to be killed rather than end terribly: because only Wynonna is ruthless enough and she’s the only one Waverley will forgive

This is all confirmed by Shae: Nicole’s ex-wife who is a doctor

Yup, Nicole has an ex-wife who she married in Vegas after rock climbing and it didn’t exactly last. And I have absolutely no idea why this is even here, to be honest. I mean we get a bit of Waverley’s jealousy and fear that she doesn’t know Nicole well enough so she can have lots and lots of angst about what a terrible partner she is because in TVlandia this is enquired for every loved one at a hospital bed. Honestly unless we do a whole lot with Shae in the future I just don’t really see the point of her presence - especially since we have only 2 episodes left and already everything is full.

Of course, Wynonna determinedly insists she will solve this, because this is what the heroes do and she will have the adorkably inept Jeremy to try and manufacture a cure. For that they will need more venom and someone to test it on.

Dolls tries to get venom from the bodies of Juan-Carlo and over Widow victims but those pesky order people have burned them all. They also offer to raise Wynonna’s child so it isn’t snatched by creepy cults (like Black badge who did, after all, snatch Dolls). This would be more reassuring if, y’know, the Order wasn’t a creepy cult. Just saying

They do give Dolls the decorative plate of Earpness which is apparently an anti-Widow weapon. I guess they hate tacky interior design - you should see how they react to three plaster ducks.

She recruits Doc to help with tracking down the Widow (he is very very snarky and pouty over his ring but the minute Wynonna tells him Nicole is dying he drops it all entirely and gets right on board).

Wynonna also confronts Rosita, threatening her with peacemaker and demanding she volunteer to be a guinea pig for the cure because it can’t kill her. Though it can severely hurt her. She concedes she likes Roista and will totally shoot her last… yeah...

Rosita agrees to help - but points out that as a friend there was absolutely no damn reason for Wynonna to threaten her.