Saturday, July 14, 2018

Damnation Marked (Descent Series #4) by S.M. Reine

Elise has come through a lot in the last few years and is still reeling - but Reno is her territory and she’s determined to protect it

When a new dark threat rises from beneath, it may be beyond the limited resources she has left to deal with it… especially when she’s so alone. But is she ready to look to the Union for support?

And is this something the Union can deal with? Or can only Elise, the Godslayer, take down this threat? And at what cost?

I swear this series is my white whale. I read a book or two and then blink and S.M. Reine has written 8 squillion books in the same world and part of me thinks “no way can I catch up with them all” and then I’ll read another book in a different series and realise it’s in the same world and declare, that by Ahab’s ghost, I will tackle this whole series.

I imagine a lot of people are going to be very put off by Elise on account that she is pretty much a deeply unpleasant person. And at times for me I was frustrated - not by her exactly but by the people around her - like why are you hanging around this woman? She’s made of terrible and awful! Anthony, James - put some distance between you and her!

But I don’t dislike her. Her life has not been easy - including a lot of flashbacks this book which really bring home why she is called “the god killer” who she is, what her connection with the divine and infernal actually is and her rather terrible experiences because of it. We see her history and early days as a Kopis, and kopides with their high death rate and constant struggle against the various evils of the world.  We see her own activities in the past with James when she was much younger hunting terrible monsters.

And even then I kind of love how when hunting down a creature that is eating pigs and human babies she asks “why pigs”. James is all horrified “why babies!” is what he asks - but hey ALL big bad darknessess want to eat babies. It’s what they do. It really does show how even young Elise is thoroughly jaded and worn down by the life she leads. We even see this really nice

Throw in the recent death of Betty who wasn’t just her best friend but kind of the cornerstone of her humanity, the one who made Elise more than just a hunter and we have a wound right to her soul. It’s all really well done to produce a character who is, well, deeply unpleasant - but deeply unpleasant for powerful reasons that really make up her characters

And that isn’t lessened by the sometimes terrible things she has to do in this book coupled with just how utterly overwhelmed she is with the job of running Reno, protecting its inhabitants (including demons - which in itself is something that puts her at odds with not just other Kopides but even James as they can’t accept that chaos =/= evil) and protecting the holy gate.

Throw into this we have a lot of conflicts with the people in Elise’s life - whether that’s Anthony who is probably just too human to be in Elise’s life. Or there’s James who, because of their mystical bond, is just too close and she keeps pushing away (it’s also interesting in that James is built on to have so many more things in his own life as well, perhaps diverging his priorities from Elise and further making her unable to trust him). Her chaotic connection with Tom, a mysterious power who she certainly isn’t able to entirely trust - or even trust at all - and we have a character who is overwhelmed, facing impossible circumstances with little to no actual reliable support network from which to do anything about the dire threats that face her city

Friday, July 13, 2018

Romance: Persistence is Not a Virtue

There are many times in life where persistence and patience are rewarded. Times when we - and certainly the characters we read - should fight on no matter what, against all obstacles, in the teeth of the most vicious opposition. After all, a hero winning against all the odds is always good for an epic story. And it’s almost a trope now that if your hero gets into a fight this will start out badly for them, they’ll be beaten until they rally, the dramatic music plays and they give their enemies a good kicking. Everyone loves a scrappy underdog story and there’s nothing quite so underdog as rising from the ashes of defeat

Then we come to romance and… this trope continues. Not only continues but it has been thoroughly embedded in our society - faint heart never won fair lady, women play hard to get and, most toxically “no means yes”. We have entire genres of romance, rom-coms and more centred around the plucky male underdog, being rejected and refusing to take that no for an answer, persevering and then winning the reluctant woman’s stubborn heart. All “no” means is that you need to try harder, try again and again and again until you wear her down.

Or, to put it another way, men don’t take no for an answer and continue to stalk, harass and generally annoy a woman until she gives up. These stories don’t show love or romance and these men don’t approach their prospective love interests as people - but as prizes to win, obstacles to overcome to earn their eventual reward.

This can be very prevalent in long running Urban Fantasy series where a relationship is a slow burn rather than an insta love.

It takes Kate Daniels several books before her relationship with Curran became a thing. Oh he fixated on her quite early in the series but she wasn’t buying, despite being impressed by his physique. She resisted him, insulted him generally tried to make it clear that they were never going to be a thing. While he pursued her, pushed her, challenged her and even broke into her house (this seems to be a theme of these relationships - it’s not true love if the guy hasn’t broken into her house at some point).

I love Kate and Curran’s relationship. I love it, they’re awesome together - but they way they got there was a problem. Kate said no, Kate refused but Curran pushed and pushed and persisted and thought and… won.

We see this with the Otherworld series’ original partners - Elena and Clay. Their relationship starts in the rockiest possible way with Clay biting Elena and risking her life turning her into a relationship without her consent. After some rocky beginnings she runs - yes she has other issues as well prompting her to run, but after leaving the country she is very clear that she doesn’t want Clay in her life. Like a good Urban Fantasy protagonist, he takes this as a challenge, pushing back into her life, using circumstances to move into her home (and wedge between her and her actual fiance) and even getting handsy. Elena says no to Clay, Elena does not want him in her life - yet he persists. And he wins.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

The Handmaid's Tale, Season Two, Episode Twelve: Postpartum

Image result for the handmaid's tale

Postpartum marks the penultimate episode of season two.  When last we left June, she had just given birth alone after briefly reuniting with Hannah and watching Nick get dragged away by a pair of Guardians. Just as Serena promised, June has been seperated from her daughter and is once again in the Red Centre awaiting a new position. Any mom will tell you that labour and delivery is just the start of the journey and that the real work begins when you are handed this tiny human who wants attention all of the time. It's tiring, it's stressful but these moments are filled with the most selfless love. This is an experience June is being robbed of and instead, she's being treated like a dairy cow, forced to express milk for Holly every three hours. June's only reward is a bran muffin from eager couples looking to have her become their handmaid because she's delivered a healthy child.

In Gilead, parenthood, particularly motherhood, grants a certain kind of status. It's no surprise that once he had kidnapped June and Nick's child that Fred was promoted and moved into a bigger office. Fred being petty as fuck of course has to force Nick to hang a family portrait.  Even as he repeatedly tells Nick that he's going to go far, it's clear that it's Fred's objective to point out to Nick that though Nick is the biological father, Holly is his and will always be his. Even when Fred isn't being physically abusive, a strong streak of cruelty runs through him.  When Fred isn't busy pissing on a bush to mark his territory, he alternates between coming onto June, expecting to be rewarded for facilitating her brief reunion with Hannah, and dangling Holly in front of June to stimulate milk production. On every level that you can think of, Fred is a despicable human being. 

I know that there are those who have issues with the ways in which The Handmaid's Tale deals with motherhood, and I can imagine that this episode in particular would cause some consternation. The fact of the matter is that June didn't give up Holly for adoption, just as Janine didn't give up her daughter for adoption. These children have quite literally been kidnapped after being force breed. The idea that a baby needs its mother resonates strongly and I would argue rightfully so given the circumstances of the handmaids.  The wives who participate in child theft and raise them as their own are complicit in a horrible system, regardless of whether or not they love the child as in the case of Serena, or despise the child as in the case of Mrs. Putnam. It's torture to force rape and pregnancy on women and then deny them access to said child and even the title of mother. I think when examining the issue of motherhood re biological versus adoptive, it's important to remember the circumstances of reproduction in the Gilead. There are many aspects of The Handmaid's Tale which are analogous to the real world but not everything translates well. 

One of the most disturbing scenes in Postpartum is Serena's attempt to breast feed Holly. Breastfeeding is just such a deeply personal experience and it helps bond mother to child. No matter how much Serena may love Holly, she cannot give the baby what she needs and instead only ends up further frustrating the child to feed her own ego. That Serena withdraws and apologises to the baby shows that she understands that what she did was wrong.  It's absolutely abusive to breast feed another woman's baby without her explicit permission. It's easy to see this scene through the lens of biological mother vs adoptive mother because the emphasis is on the fact that of course Serena is not Holly's mother and this is when the system in which Holly's custody occurs is important to remember. Adoptive mothers can be just as loving as biological mothers which is why Serena loves Holly so much but in this case, Serena is also Holly's kidnapper. 

For quite some time now, Eden has been the looming threat in the Waterford household. Eden snooped through Nick's things and found the letters written by the handmaids. Eden also happened to witness the Handmaids in the store sharing their real names with each other. Eden was also suspicious of the feelings between Nick and June and even wondered if Nick was a gender traitor when he didn't rush to consummate their marriage. I knew that things would come to an end with Eden in a dramatic fashion however, I didn't expect her to run away with Issac after being told by June that she should hold onto love. Eden's death while unexpected was absolutely haunting. Eden was after all raised to be a good Gilead wife and wanted nothing more but to follow the rule of law because she deeply believed in God. If someone like Eden, who was so committed could not survive, what hope is there for any other woman?

Glitch, Season 2, Episode 2: Two Truths

James returns to the Risen because gods forbid he spend 5 minutes with his wife and child. I’m choosing to think this is a terrible director decision to try and cram everything into this improbably short season and not because James is just an arsehole.

He takes Elisha to the other Risen while explaining about the whole Boundaries changing and their old hide out being ransacked and all - she claims ignorance but James is super suspicious of her now he knows she’s also one of the Risen, possibly caused the others to Rise and hasn’t told any of them.

All Elisha is interested in is finding John Doe - or William as we now know - she’s terrified that Norgard has him and insists that Norgard will kill him. Norgard is also the utter worst and she insists she was just a contractor there. She doesn’t know how she came back from the dead, she died of a seizure and Norgard was experimenting on her. Which seems… dubious to experiment on your own researcher. She insists she cares about the others and she came to Yoorana and the head of Norgard to try and find some answers - and protect them from Nicola the ultra big bad

James is similarly doubtful and intends to check with Norgard for himself. And because he doesn’t trust Elisha he’s going to handcuff her to the stove and leave her guarded by Kirstie

But first we have awkwardness with James and Kate - starting with him walking in on her having sex with super sexy neighbour Owen having sex (thank you for the far far too brief visual). So she’s pissed. Unfortunately she decides she’s also coming with him to Norgard. And when James objects (I mean she’s has no credentials or reasons to do so while he is a police officer) she stomps and growls that he can’t tell her what to do

She also decides to assume the identity of a detective. Despite having no qualifications. No badge. No credentials. No ID. She puts on a baseball cap which totally is a detective disguise. Oh and she’s also dressed as… as… honestly I can’t think of a job which would consider her clothes remotely professional.

And this is why I’m increasingly disliking Kate. Because her asserting her independence and resisting James’s control would be good. Her being a little annoyed and put out by the whole ex-husband is now married with a kid is understandable. But her asserting her agency feels like, well, Spunky Agency. She isn’t making a lot of sense, is generally unpleasant and not making a whole lot of sense. She is expressing her agency but her agency isn’t making a lot of sense and is generally annoying

Just in case we had any questions as to who is actually evil, Nicola takes William to Norgard to reveal his history (including being flogged and executed as a murderer) - and that Elisha knew who he was. She also has ominous evidence that Elisha has been feeding her information - she has samples from all the Risen. It looks dubious but Elisha did mention she was trading information in the hope for answers

But if there was any evil doubt, Nicola decides the best way to experiment on the Risen is to tie John down and cut off his fingers to see if they can make them regrow

Yeah, definitely evil there.

Luckily for John he’s guarded by both a highly gullible scientist and this while highly secure facility is guarded by one person (when James and Kate visit they wonder what top secret research facility has a guard. I wonder what top secret research facility only has one guard).

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Glitch, Season 2, Episode 1: A Rare Bird

We start with a flashback to remind us of the big reveal: Elisha, the doctor who has been our source of science and medicine in this show, is actually one of the Risen herself. She died 4 years ago - before the rest - and then faked her continued death before staggering out of her lab and her life all alone.

This news is passed on to James who is super distracted by it - which is probably a really bad thing because his wife Sarah has just had a baby and could use some support and he’s all distracted by the walking dead. Sarah has every right to be pissed to be honest - not only do they have a new born baby but Sarah nearly died during child birth so some support might be nice. James stop seeing dead people, you got a damn baby!

Another distraction is his colleague Chris who is not an entirely incompetent policeman and he’s noticed that Vic, the evil cop from last season, is missing (dead and buried) and he’s not falling for all the very basic red herrings.

See this is what comes of burying bodies rather than feeding them to crocodiles. Or koalas. Isn’t a body in Australia just eaten by the wildlife if you leave it unattended for 5 minutes?

James herds three of the other Risen off to a cabin he has to try and keep them out of trouble. Kirstie is snarky but obedient. Charlie is a doormat because… he always is and just about everyone challenges him on being a doormat this episode. Except it’s less “stop being a doormat” and more “damn it Charlie, be MY doormat”.

While Kate, James’s not-dead ex-wife has decided to move on a little from the whole Sarah/James/Kate love triangle which is something as a relief. But she’s decided to… act out like an angry teenager? I mean, I totally support her “James you don’t get to tell me what to do!” stance, but her “I’m gonna do this because James doesn’t want me to!” is not exactly something I’m running with and it all feels like she’s just being… petulant because Sarah has a baby? Anyway she falls in with neighbour Owen who is made of hotness and they both go swimming in a waterhole together (in Australia. This must be suicidal). But it’s ok because they’re both local and know where the big scary snake is (hey let’s go swimming and just swim round the… lethal snake. Australians are… odd people). They smoke cannabis and bond and discuss his dead parents and he is very very very very very hot

James is concerned because she’s telling someone she just met her name and possibly exposing herself.

Meanwhile Paddy is rampaging around being Paddy. He wants to prove his land was willed to the wrong people and has a copy of his will - except it’s several decades older than federal Australia and going to be difficult to prove. While he’s trantrumming and pouting his lawyer will do some research. In the meantime he recruits Charlie for shenanigans at the house he intends to “defend”. Charlie goes along because doormat+homophobic slurs

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Preacher, Season 3, Episode 3: Gonna Hurt

Tulip is back to kicking arse of just about everyone on general principles. Especially since she charges into New Orleans to the Grail headquarters there prepared to kill everyone super dead only to find the place abandoned.

She is not amused

On the way back she is stopped by god

Yes god, in his dog fetish suit who also looks exactly like the guy the Grail got to play god - and it all works because they have literally god there to say “I planned it that way”. Speaking of, he thanks Tulip - even though she screwed up and her actions ended up with Jesse’s soul in the Grail’s hands. Because god planned it that way - because that’s the cost of free will. Some people do good things and some people - like Tulip with the O’Hare curse, just screw up because it’s their “nature.” After that attempt to destroy her entirely he dumps the fact he’s totally a loving god on her

There were two ways this could go - either Tulip could fall apart at such a devastating take down from god. Or she can go full Tulip

Thankfully it’s the second and she begins chewing god out, declaring there is no plan and he’s basically screwing around and how he can basically fuck himself. Even when he throws her against a car she still isn’t intimidated or backing down.

This is the Tulip I know and love - willing to kick god’s arse if she has to.

Back at manor Angel, Tulip tells everything to Jesse while they’re in bed together and he has a moment of being all petulant because god didn’t talk to him but Tulip suggests god may be afraid of Genesis. Also that he should be afraid of her.

Another person she thinks should be afraid of her is Marie L’Angel - and it says a lot that Jesse hearing that Tulip may be going after his grandmother makes him far far more worried than the idea of her going after god.

Adding more stress to Jesse is Cassidy. While TC is getting closer to Cassidy he notes that despite the bullet wound and all the many many many wounds he recounts, Cassidy is surprisingly lacking in scars. Jesse has a really good moment of bonding with Cass and they talk about being best friends. This is awesome and just what I desperately needed to see to put this love triangle to rest….

Sadly, no. Because when Jesse suggests that Cass leave because if the voodoo people learn he’s a vampire then he’s in serious trouble. But Cass thinks this is just a ploy to get him away from Tulip and is also kind of offended when Jesse refers to him as a monster.

This ends with Jesse stabbing Cassidy to hide the fact that he’s healed his bullet wound. He also steals Cassidy’s blood supply which doesn’t mend any bridges.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

The Frankenstein Chronicles: Season 2, Episode 6: Bride of Frankenstein

Marlott is captured and chained up and Esther is dead in the process of becoming not dead. Dippel is being super creepy with Esther. Harvey is being super creepy with Marlott. Everyone’s trying to out creepy everyone else and they’re all going for gold

Esther is resurrected - but that whole weird creepy beach vision which I thought was Marlott’s hallucination? Well it turns out like all the surreal moody visions, they’re actually real. This beach seems to represent… limbo? Maybe? ANyway this is why our not-entirely-dead people keep going there (because the land is life and the sea is death so the beach is sort of in between. Nice metaphor. Also points for moodiness. And making sure there are no seagulls. I feel seagulls would ruin this). And Esther, on her way back from death, is in the sea and drowning… until Marlott wades in and pulls her out

Which is nice but why does Esther need a helping hand back to the land of the living?

This also gives Marlot chance to tell Harvey what a terrible person he is killing his wife - he protests he didn’t but Marlot claims she set the fire that killed her because it was the only way to escape him. Because, yes, those creepy visions were real and were her ghost

While Dippel embraces Marlot as a sibling because they’re both not!dead people. He’s also passionate in his belief there is no god, this allows you to do anything but also is why he doesn’t want to die because it’s the end of everything. This from a man who literally sees a vision of life death and limbo AND sees ghosts. At least point being rather certain that there’s no afterlife seems… not the workings of a rational mind. “There is no afterlife now I’m going to lure this woman into following me into eternal life with the ghost of her son!”

I feel the writers may need a slap upside the head from an atheist

Harvey and Dippel are also working together - Harvey is really impressed with Dippel’s dad’s work - Dippel is really impressed that Harvey can replicate it but they both kind of need each other: Dippel is holding on to the formula for the catalyst while Dippel seems to be running out of the stuff and possibly unable to recreate it without Harvey’s genius.

But I’m getting ahead of myself - because while, as I said last episode, everyone on team bad guy knows each other and is working together, they’re all also all sharpening their knives for more quality back stabbing than a Tory Party conference.

The Dean is duly concerned that the current king is days away from dropping dead and Prince William the heir is Not a Fan and all those pesky murders. So when Renquist turns to him asking if the Dean will protect him the Dean happily says “god will protect you”. Which is religious talk for “you’re screwed”.

Renquist responds to this by going to Boz the journalist and exposing the Dean as the murderer trying to make lots of money out of Pyre Street. He also orders the Parish Watch to arrest Dippel for the murders just so he can have a scapegoat

Queenie, Dippel’s maid, does some of her own sleuthing in Dippel’s murder rooms and finds Nightingale’s keepsake. A token mothers left with their babies at the foundling home where she and Nightingale grew up so, if matters changed, the mother could prove which child was there’s by describing this unique token. She has proof Nightingale was there and takes it to the Inspector, threatening to take it to the Parish watch if he won’t act

Yes that’s the watch and the police after Dippel now.

Which is why, with Esther newly awakened and screaming, the police arrive. Dippel and Harvey promptly turn on each other, fighting over Dippel’s dad’s catalyst and the formula: Harvey breaks the bottle which leaves Dippel distraught and all but licking it from the floor. This is why I think Dippel is incapable of recreating it - which is why he needs Hervey, I guess.

I wonder if Esther and Marlott will need that catalyst as well?