Saturday, April 14, 2018

Apocalypse Alley (Blue Unicorn #2) by Don Allmon

Noah “Comet” Wu is back from a long deployment in a war zone and is looking forwards to some pleasant down-time.

Except his best friend JT has gone missing and he has to track him down. And the best lead he has is Buzz, hacker, possible - likely - criminal.

But he’s not the only one on the trail - violent, dangerous assassins are also following the lead. And there’s nothing like a constant fight for survival to increase sexual tension

This dystopian, high sci-fi, magical world setting all comes together in a Shadowrun-esque series that I have never seen to this degree. The combination of super futuristic technology - facing down a cyborg who is nearly immune to bullets and can control military-level robots and a fleet of cars remotely through the power of wireless networks. But at the same time you have a wizard walking around throwing fireballs around who needs to be fought with metaphors. And a complete wasteland still recovering from the fallout of an apocalyptic war is being healed by druids… but always with that edge. Like those druids? Are not restoring the forests by hugging rocks and playing with herbs. And we have references to things like the “second zombie apocalypse” which I’d love to know about.

I really like how cyberspace is presented here. In this ultra-technological setting cyberspace is an essential realm, a place where you do battle, a place of incredible power and potential that spills over into the real world. I like both the abstract description of things while, at the same time, resisting the urge to turn it into a tron-like alternate dimension which the characters run around in. But at the same time I love how real it is, with technology advanced to such a degree that there are people who never leave it - and there are people who experience everything through simulations on the internet which are not just visual but touch every sense. It’s both alien but grounded and every bit a real battleground. All made more real and poignant with Buzz‘s history and facing the very real choice of humans who have completely checked out of modern society.

Through the technology and the magic - and wizards and orcs and so much else - we also have a very nicely touched on world setting of chaos. The part I like about this is how elegantly it’s presented. We have mentions of different countries (including several which are clearly part of what was once the former United States), but no-one has to sit down and talk us through the disasters that struck or explain how the world works now because we see it. We see it because Comet is a mercenary who has fought in many many wars, telling us the state of the world. We see it because they pass through vast wildernesses where monsters roam which have clearly been abandoned. We see it because of the very limited presence of the police or authorities, especially when major powers clash. We see it because we have these huge quasi-legal and outright criminal organisations with vast powers, influence and the ability to act with impunity. We even see it in little things, like the high end car having a tracker in it so if it’s stolen the company that makes them can respond with over the top violence.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Shadowhunters, Season 3, Episode 4: The Soul Instructed

We all need more Jace angst. Apparently. Let’s make this even more fun by having Lillith be one of those villains who feels the need to exposition her motives which are already pretty obvious

Did you know Lillith loved her son and is now sacrificing people to bring him back? Did this news shock you? Did you actually not need Lillith to tell an entranced Jace all about it? Do you actually have the cognitive function greater than a small terrapin?

So after this unnecessary exposition Lillith learns that Jace’s owl trance can be broken by the touch of Clary because everything must centre her

Clary frets over Jace but Jace won’t tell anyone what he’s going through on account of Clary using up the world’s one angel wish on his sorry arse and not on something more important like cheese that tastes awesome while also being zero calories or that any chef who makes “foam” fall into a volcano. Or for acting lessons. Clary missed so many opportunities

He continues in full denial. And when Alec asks after him both Jace and Clary refuse to answer questions. Alec is also concerned because Jace’s suicidal mother had mental health problems and he wants to offer support for Jace in case he has inherited some issues. Jace doesn’t react well to this news and continues to deny

But he does go to see Luke who confirms that, yes, his mother had some problems with hallucinations but refused all help. Which is pretty much what Jace is going to do. And I’m not even going to begin to talk about representation of mental illness here since we know he’s not mentally ill but I WILL give the nod that Luke and Alec both speak in terms of support and care rather than fear which is something

What Jace does, all Owly, is go into the basement and uses woo-woo to depossess the woman from last episode, turning her non-demon: because a demonic possession could be used to track Lillith.

This is going to keep on going for some time.

Heidi, the vampire Raphael captured who escaped last episode has now run amok, eating people and generally being a naughty vampire. Izzy and Clary are on the hunt and take the time hunting dangerous vampires to talk about Izzy’s love life. Basically she likes hot doctor but really he’s mundane and she’s still focused on Raphael

Thursday, April 12, 2018

iZombie, Season 4, Episode 6: My Really Fair Lady

Wait… that’s Rachel Bloom? You have Rachel Bloom and you only have a cameo? Hey that’s ok I love her in everything

Um… except for an adaptation of Rent that decides it’s acceptable to exchange “AIDS” for “Zombie virus”, that can just die in the hottest possible fires for all eternity.

This episode is unique in that it is maybe the first without any murder… which in turn leaves more room to explore other storylines… though I’m not sure it did that really. More, it allowed the B plot (the meta plot) to be the main story it needs to be without the murder getting in the way. But it doesn’t allow room for the minor plots either

Which I think I approve of given the major plot

So, Liv is eating a brain this week because she’s hungry - and ends up with Rachel Bloom’s theatrical brain (and in classic iZombie fashion someone’s profession is presented as some kind of all consuming obsession and foundation of their personality). This includes some of the standard shenanigans with Liv acting in a sexual harassment seminar (run by weatherman Johnny Frost due to his sexual harassment. Which… doesn’t make sense but hey) her main focus is convincing Mama Leone’s group to accept her

Which is a hard sell. They’re not exactly trusting of outsiders, and, besides, half of their network has disappeared after Mama Leone was killed so horribly publicly. She offers to scratch people for them but they have zombies in the group. They don’t need her for this

I actually like how hostile they are to her, if anything it’s not enough. Because she’s not offering to join the group, she’s offering to replace Mama Leone and lead them - this woman who none of them knows. Why should they embrace her? And even if she is well meaning, what does she actually bring to the group? Mama Leone had contacts, a network, knowledge and respect- what does Liv bring?

So she has to prove herself -which she does with theatre. There are some recently smuggled humans about to die in a shipping container because the people meant to get them out have run away with Renegade’s death. Treating it as a play she sets out a perfectly executed plot, involving lots of plots, Rose McIver’s real accent, and a character who better be a lesbian after the lesbian joke.

It works perfectly and Liv willingly scratches the people she rescued -on camera, proving her commitment

Oh yes, hot film-maker guy/Liv’s next love interest is filming all of this highly illegal activity for good PR but mainly so we can have a big dramatic scene where Liv is exposed. That’s my bet. But it does make a good scene proving her commitment.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Siren, Season 1, Episode 2: The Lure

So after last episode, Ben decides to not kill the mermaid and stops Xander and his dad from  doing so. Which doesn’t make them happy because killing mermaids is how they’re going to get Chris back!


I feel they haven’t thought it through. They’re not the smartest people on the boat

And then Ben decides to jump into the water. Hey remember Helen last episode telling us mermaids naturally view humans in the water as prey and how Ben was nearly killed by a mermaid in the water? Well he just jumped into the water with a possible mermaid

I take it back, maybe the guys who think killing mermaids will get them Chris back ARE the smartest guys on the boat

So with this stunning display of intellect, Ben isn’t eviscerated but he does find like the hugest possible thing ever stuck on the bottom of the boat. Like I don’t know boats at all, but I feel if you go out to see and don’t notice this is on the bottom of your boat then you’re doing boats wrong

This device makes mermaid noises and has probably lots of other nefarious military technology assuming the military hadn’t heard of miniaturisation. Ben also makes peace with Xander by explaining he totally does want to find Chris (allegedly? I mean, this whole episode he seems distinctly unbothered) but murdering random aquatic creatures just doesn‘t seem to be the way to do it.

Oh and Xander’s plan is to power up the device, wait for the military arrive and then question them. Because the military answer questions

I think there may be a lot of inbreeding in this town.

Ryn has been attracting some attention - now Sheriff Dale (Maddie’s dad) is investigating the death of rapist arsehole from last episode. The police conclude that someone big and immensely strong killed him and that he’s a rapist arsehole and good riddence. But Ryn has also showed off her super strength while stealing some clothes so she’s attracting some attention.

Ryn works her way to Helen’s shop and Helen is cautiously accepting of her, teaching her English, buying an entire fishmongers to feed her, and working round her sometimes violent fear and propensity to lash out. I say again, the alienness of Ryn is excellently well done. She does manage to convey that she’s looking for her sister

Ben meanwhile introduces Maddie to the big mermaid secret (and points Siren, when he’s half naked - which is happening enough to make this character much more interesting - and covered in scratch marks we don’t get a convoluted cheating assumption from Maddie. Because “I’m not cheating, it was a mermaid” is just not a good story). Thankfully he has video evidence so Maddie quickly becomes a member of team mermaid though he does tell

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Siren, Season 1, Episode 1: The Mermaid Discovery

A fishing boat in the Bering Strait nets up something big and violent

See, David Attenborough told you about plastic in the ocean. But did you listen? No. No you did not. And now he’s taking direct action

I tried to find a picture of a menacing David Attenborough here but since he lives in a state of perpetual childlike joy I couldn’t find one. So here’s one of him looking mildly disappointed: and is there anything more devastating than the idea David Attenborough being disappointed in you?

The murder fishy injures one of the crew and the captain calls for help - and in comes ominous black helicopters filled with military types here to rescue the ominous murder catch. Oh and the wounded person, which really matters to them, honestly

They don’t even pretend to be coastguard. Black Ops are not even trying to be covert any more.

So from here we go to Bristol Cove, a town in the Pacific Northwest which is obsessed with mermaids and contains a mix of people who wear thick woolen clothing in the weather and others who wear shorts. I think Pacific Northwesters have the same weather attitude as Canadians but more umbrellas and less snow shovels.

Introducing the Pownall family, local celebrities because they’re descended from founding fathers (is this really a thing in America? Do you really care? “My great great grandfather was influential in setting up this small village” is something you put on your CV or something?). They’re charming, media savvy, great grandaddy was allegedly involved with mermaids and this town is so very very very boring that this is what passes for exciting celebrity.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Supernatural, Season 13, Episode 17: The Thing

In Providence, Rhode Island in 1925 we have a Men of Letter’s chapter that has kidnapped a woman in order to sacrifice her to a tentacled monstrosity. As one does

And why are these monstrosities always tentacled? Is it entirely because of Lovecraft? Or did he base his calamari loathing on previous beliefs?

So to the present and we have Dean and Sam desperately researching the remaining ingredients they need for their portal spell so they can cross over and rescue Jack and Mary. It’s very boring and Dean especially hates it. He also decides to amuse himself posting little post-its all over Sam’s back like an immature high school student.

Hey remember I mentioned last episode that we need to re-examine Dean’s eternal child thing? Well double down on that. Dean is 39 years old. It could be an interesting point to unpack that Dean has pretty much frozen in his maturation in many years. While he’s evolved as a hunter and even grown more cynical and hopeless, in many ways he’s frozen in terms of emotional and social growth. It’s an interesting angle on his highly inhibited life.

Anyway, they’re looking for the seal of soloman for the portal and their research leads them to, surprise surprise, a kind of secondary Chapter House in Rhode Island

So off they go, find their way in, do some exploring, find a little research aaaand find Sandy. The woman from the 1920s who was kidnapped and sacrificed to the great god of tentacly badness. She’s still alive and hasn’t aged a day

Being the Winchesters they rescue her (of course). And take her to a diner (because there’s ALWAYS a diner) full of local friendly folks and a particularly sinister silent chef who is Not Pleased to see Sandy (who is all confused and culture shocky at the 100 years that have passed and trying to figure out why Dean and Sam are pretty unphased by a 100 year old woman who hasn’t aged - because weird is normal to them). He calls another Not Pleased person -all of whom have Men of Letters tattoos.

Sam orders kale and is duly punished by having his food drugged. The other cultists attack when Sam is incapacitate - and quickly find that Dean most certainly isn’t (with some added stabbing from Sandy). They manage to escape with Sam, leaving a few bodies and some confused locals behind. Local cultist wannabes are no match for Winchesters

Brother and sister cultist team question Sam and bring some necessary info dumping: they’re the grandchildren of the original Men of Letter’s cult leader who, after a traumatic world war 1, decided the best thing to do would be to summon a tentacled god from another world to turn Earth into a Utopia

Unsurprisingly, this did not go well.