Saturday, July 28, 2018

Glitch, Season 2, Episode 4: A Duty of Care

Elishia is buried by James and William who is the saddest of sad pandas. James is also pouty because he starts praying then has a tantrum. And honestly I don’t know if anyone really showed that much care for her before.

William assumes that Nichola Hysen is the culprit which isn’t exactly poor reasoning - but he does disagree with the idea that Nichola is like old policeman Vic who tried to kill the Risen - because Nichola wanted William alive.

They do tell the other Risen who all despair and panic especially with the boundary shrinking and Elishia not being around to fix it - since she created it (more news from William). They decide they’re under threat and need to guard the place - so James tries to give Kate his gun. She refuses because… well because James and he could offer her water while she was dying of thirst and she’d still throw it back. But also because she says she doesn’t know how to use a gun. So James keeps his gun

Hey, remember Charlie was an actual soldier who fought in a war? Y’know it’s JUST POSSIBLE he might know how to use a gun!

Once James is gone, the under threat endangered risen promptly decide to scatter to the four winds. James would have better luck herding cats.

Kirstie is determined to find out who murdered her and Charlie - dispatched by Kate to stop her running off- becomes her willing servant in questioning her friend who is now an estate agent. Honestly everyone needs to stop treating Charlie as their personal sidekick.

It’s all awkward because Charlie is super inexperienced in the modern world and definitely not used to buying modern houses. But through questioning and Kirstie’s slow recovery of her memories they learn what happened: Vicky hasn’t abandoned her friend, she’s traumatised and trying to protect her son. Back before she was murdered, Kirstie saw Vicky being raped (fathering her son); Vicky tried to keep quiet and hide but Kirstie wasn’t going to let the popular football players get away with their crime and was a vocal criticism - leading to her being targeted and dying

The whole scene is painful, traumatic and dramatic and mixed up with Charlie’s fumbling feels unnecessary.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Immortal Unchained (Argeneau #25) by Lynsay Sands

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Though Sarita has never actually met her grandmother in person, the two have been exchanging letters since she was thirteen years old. When Sarita gets word that her grandmother has taken a bad fall and may be gravely injured, she is quick to book a vacation and head to Venezuela in the hope of comforting her Abuela. What Sarita didn't count on is being kidnapped by a mad scientist intent on learning the secrets of the immortals in order to become one himself. 

Domitian has done many things in long life but Lucian refuses his help to investigate the missing immortals.  Domitian does what he can; preparing food as the expert chef that he has become in the last ten years.  When his life mate Sarita becomes involved, Domitian knows that he can no longer sit on the sidelines to please his uncle because a life mate is too much to risk.  Unfortunately for Domitian, he quickly finds out that he has not been as circumspect with his identity as he had previously believed and quickly joins the ranks of the missing and kidnapped immortals. Domitian knows that he has to find a way to keep his life mate safe and somehow thwart the plans of the evil scientist.

From the beginning of this series, Sands has used the concept of life mates as a tool to justify the insta love that has become a mandatory part of the paranormal romance genre.  For the most part it is an effective tool, particularly because unlike many series, Sands ensures that her female love interests are all grown adults, with some sense of the world and independent identity. In Unchained Immortal however, Sands has Domitian discover Sarita when she is only a thirteen year old girl.  Yes, it's as gross as you think it is.  Domitian however decides to do  the noble thing (please feel free to role your eyes) and wait until Sarita has reached adulthood and worked at least two years in her chosen profession before inserting himself in her life and wooing her. In the meantime, to ensure that he doesn't lose contact with her, Domitian hires a private detective to follow Sarita around for 15 years and send him back monthly reports on her progress.  Domitian actually thinks that he is a moral and decent person for waiting and other yhan a few moments of brief discomfort, Sarita quickly lets him off the hook for this epic invasion of her personal life. 

I really liked Sarita's initial determination that she would not be a tool and made it clear to Domitian that there would be "no sexo".  Unfortunately, that is when the life mate nonsense kicked in and Sarita threw herself at Domitian. Can we just have one female protagonist who sticks to their guns on this note for more than half a page?  It certainly isn't helped by the fact that from almost the very moment Domitian lays eyes on Sarita, he begins sexualising her.  His inner thoughts are all about her breasts and everything that he wants to do to her and only chastises himself because he has a life mate and at that particular moment didn't realise that Sarita is his life mate. Domitian even goes as far as to fantasize about having two life mates at once.  Even when Domitian agrees to Sarita's "no sexo", he decides instead to invade her mind and send images of himself pleasuring her directly into her mind knowing that because of the life mate bond that she would then want to have sex. How is this not only a violation and abject manipulation?

I don't really feel as though we got to know Sarita in this book very much. We know that she's a cop and joined law enforcement because she wanted to help people. We also know that her mother was murdered and kidnapped and that this is why her father moved her to Canada and put her in martial arts training.  All around Sarita are women who have become victims of some sort, even Sarita herself considering that she was tricked into coming to Venezuela and then kidnapped. What we know is that women in Sarita's family have been victimised but we hardly know anything about Sarita herself; she's barely a cardboard cut out.  Even admitting her love for Domitian is stripped from her and she is informed by Eshe that she is just being silly and holding onto moral conventions by wanting to wait until she has a good handle on what is going on. Please keep in mind that Sarita has been kidnapped, witnessed horrible abuse and turned against her will. What is so wrong in that situation about wanting to get a handle on a situation before admitting to loving a man who has been stalking her since she was a thirteen year old girl?  Sands really did Sarita a disservice in this book. 

Marginalised People Cannot be Confined to Niches

We’ve spoken repeatedly about the paucity of marginalised people being represented in all forms of media. We’ve seen show after show, book after book and game after game with no marginalised people. Or, at best, limited tokens clinging to the side of some privileged people’s stories. We tag those books that have POC, disabled or LGBTQ protagonists - they are by far the minority of the books we read and generally (albeit not always) far lower profile and not part of greater series. Often, they’re pushed aside or shuffled into their own side or niche genre

This can be seen very much in the trend of long paranormal romance series: The Black DaggerBrotherhood, Dark Hunter Series, Argeneu Series and so many others feature long chains of romances, a new romance with each book, constantly showcasing more straight and primarily white romances. While the excellent Guildhunter Series and Psy Changeling series feature many POC, they, again, show a chain of straight romances. LGBTQ people, when they appear, are confined to bit characters, usually supportive (or terribly terribly represented) and not given close to the same representation as the straight couples. And when you have a series of 15+ straight couples, the comparison becomes glaring

It’s not, of course, that romance with gay characters doesn’t exist - but it is very much a separate, (and heavily colonised and problematic) genre. The idea that these romances should be blended into mainstream romance seems almost… alien. These are niche stories that belong in their niche subset

We see this pressure for pushing marginalised characters into niche genres very much with the assumption Societal Default - that every time a marginalised character is present it must be for an agenda or a reason (and, the implication being, that with that reason it should then be a specialty “niche” show again). Our society is far more comfortable with a show like RuPaul’s Drag Race or Queer Eye for the Straight Guy or even the L Word and Queer as Folk than it is with a gay superhero show (you’ll not my conspicuous lack of giving an example here). The former all have concepts where the LGBTQness is “justified” and has a “reason” and, as such, fits its appropriate “niche”.

 We see this as well in the powerful backlash we get when these characters and stories step outside their niche. Star Wars “fandom” has driven marginalised actors off social media for the terrible crime of bringing POC to the franchise. Star Trek discovery faced a similar racist outrage, Black Lightning, and Luke Cage had a wave of outrage and protest and the epic shitfits pitched about Black Panther was the stuff of legend. One of those terrible legends where the world ends and we’re all eaten by giant wolves.

This definitely extends to women with both typical backlash against Wonderwoman and the mere fact that Batman and Superman have both had a mindboggling number of films made about them - but Wonderwoman’s has only just been released despite being a contemporary. And Jodie Whittaker’s new role as the Doctor has not only prompted a backlash but also prompted her excellent comeback: Women Shouldn’t Be a Genre

In all these cases we had marginalised characters and stories stepping outside their niche; their specific defined genres to tell their specific, permissible stories. I actually participated in one especially annoying comment thread where a pouting man was upset that Star Wars was abandoning its concept and reason for existing. He compared including marginalised characters in Star Wars to having men control NOW and NARAL - he sees marginalised characters mere existence as pursuing an agenda that is antithetical to the genre itself.

This mentality, this idea that marginalised characters may only exist - or only be important - in certain niche genres, telling certain permitted stories greatly limits how marginalised people see themselves - and it also greatly limits marginalised writers. It has taken far too long for Octavia Butler to be recognised as a pillar of the sci-fi community and I can’t even imagine how many of her contemporaries deserve to be recognised but are not because sci-fi isn’t their appropriate “niche”. N.K. Jemisin has even written an excellent piece on why she doesn’t want her books shelved in an African American section of the book store.

Let’s be clear, I’m not saying these niches can’t have value. There is value in having marginalised media produced by marginalised people for the consumption of said marginalised people (there is a reason why #Ownvoices is so important). There is value in marginalised people being able to explore, represent and embrace issues which are specific to themselves without having to explain them to people who don’t experience them. Kind of like being able to tell an in-joke without having to explain the context to random passers by. Or not having non-marginalised people leap into family discussions to Give Their Important Opinions.

But niches are great places for marginalised people to visit and use - but they can’t be prisons; they can’t be an excuse to drive marginalised people away from everywhere else

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Archangel's Viper (Guild Hunter #10) by Nalini Singh

Holly Chang was terribly victimised by the Archangel Uram. It left her with a lot of trauma, a lot of healing to do - and some supernatural abilities no-one really understands but could be very dangerous

She’s done a lot ot put herself back together, made a place for herself in the angelic hierarchy and built a life for herself beyond her trauma - when someone puts a price on her head. Now working with Venom, one of the Archangel Raphael’s chief lieutenants, she needs to fins who put the contract on her head… and perhaps more importantly, discover what she is, what her powers mean and what she is actually becoming

I really like the romance in this book - and yes this is me saying this who is normally not a great fan of romances. I think Nalini Singh has generally done a very excellent job with the Guild Hunter series by working well with many of the tropes that make me despair so in romance - but this book, i think takes it to an extra level

I think because Holly and Venom could be SOOO TROPEY. She is wounded and vulnerable and hurting after suffering terrible abuse and *gasp* he may even have to kill her if she turns out to be dangerous *angstangstangst woe!* and he is so much older and more powerful than her. And she doesn’t have clearance but wants to be involved and he is protective and sheltering and there would be Spunky Agency as she does, just, ALL the stupid things and he will lock her up for their own protection and every scene will be full of them hating each other while spending entire paragraphs commenting on each other’s arms/muscles/breasts/eyebrows/belly buttons.

And none of this happens! Yes, Holly has had a deeply traumatic past, yes it still haunts her and yes she has flashbacks and nightmares. But that doesn’t mean anyone - not Dimitri, not Venom, no-one - is putting her in a little box to keep her safe nor does it render her incapable of being a valued member of the team. Yes Venom is much older and more powerful than Holly, but he easily recognises the unique power and abilities she has, respects her as a force to be reckoned with, helps work with her to develop those powers (though, even better, Dimitri is the one who assumes the role of mentor and their ENTIRELY NON ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIP is paternal) without in any way regarding her as anything but an equal. Young, but an equal - and age is something she can acquire. And yes, her unexpected powers means she may be unpredictable and dangerous which both are wary about - but also mature and sensible and recognise why it this is the case and don’t dwell on it. And while Venom comes to love her not once, not one time, does he decide to put her in a small box and protect her. He will recognise when his skills are more appropriate but he is happy to work with her on operations and doesn’t spend time angsting that ZOMG SHE IS IN DANGER. And he even recognises there are times when she even has skills and contacts and abilities that he doesn’t have.

And while they do both acknowledge the attractiveness of the other they spend far far far far more time on banter and sarcastic insults than ever they do on drooling. And it’s so much fun.

I can’t stress enough how much this relationship flies in the face of so many established tropes - laying the foundation for all of these and then not running down the same very very very very very very tired paths

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Preacher, Season 3, Episode 5: The Coffin

Tulip wants to kill Marie and save Jesse  but she does belatedly realise that Marie is Jesse’s grandma and he may have an issue with this murdering of kin thing so she checks in with him first

But this also is when TC and Jody realise that Cassidy has escaped and realise who is behind it - so it’s time for a fight. I’m surprised that TC lasted as long as he did against Tulip - but eventually she wins and she ends up pointing a gun at Jody’s head (Jody has easily defeated Jesse) - but then Marie arrives with her magic and forces them all to stand down. This ends up with Jesse locked in a coffin at the bottom of the bayou - reminding us just how utterly hellish Jesse’s childhood was. And Tulip is chained up by Jody who guards her and thwarts her attempts to escape.

While TC and Marie think about what to do with Tulip - and Marie is all for soul nomming but TC wants to distract her from this as Jesse loves her and is likely to be a little annoyed by all this soul eating stuff. His distraction involves Confederate soldier sex play… which… I’m just going to file under “Preacher.” But Marie loses her temper when it’s apparent TC isn’t that into it and it’s time for soul eating

Except Tulip is Tulip and Jody’s attempts to guard her end up with her escaping and him chained to a radiator - and she goes to murder Marie. Marie is quite strong for her age but eventually Tulip strangles her to death

Jesse manages to escape his coffin (in which he is having weird wild west dreams which may be escapism his way of dealing with the horrific trauma of being in their or, y’know, Preacher) my Mcgivering (really spellcheck? This is a word?) his clerical collar some cigarettes and a lighter. He arrives just in time to a) realise Tulip is no damn damsel and needs no rescue and b) see Tulip is dead

While Marie resurrected Tulip she also took hair and fingernails to bind her life to Tulip’s - kill Marie, you kill Tulip

This is a great failsafe

It would be a far better failsafe if she’d advertised the fact before Tulip tried to murder her. Oops.

Which means with them both dead, Jesse then uses CPR and adrenaline to bring Marie - and Tulip back

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Killjoys, Season 4, Episode 1: The Warrior Princess Bride

At the end of the last season Dutch, Aneela and Khylen went into the Green to hunt down The Lady and everything got juuuuust a little surreal

And in this green zone we have everyone wearing fur and Dutch apparently injured with veins of greeness heading to her brain which is super super dangerous. Khylen’s solution is to tell a story. A story of her and Johnny

I’m not sure whether this is an appropriate healing strategy but a) I love Khylen’s formal storytelling style alongside their irreverence and b) Dutch/Johnny flashbacks are THE BEST

Seriously? Throw out all this metaplot, I don’t need it. I just need Johnny and Dutch roving across the Quad being awesome. Give me this!

So this goes back 7 years ago to Dutch and Johnny before they were Killjoys but after they met but both having trouble getting by given Johnny is a thief and Dutch thinks she’s being hunted by lots and lots people because of her fleeing Khylen

They have lots of wonderful shenanigans with Johnny scamming and Dutch rescuing him with violence and getting them a legitimate job - to deliver some goods to the Quad. Yes this is the story of how they first arrived on scene. This comes with lots of snark from Lucy who is not happy with Johnny for trying to steal her and a lot of clear indication Johnny doesn’t know anything about her past.

Also Johnny has eyeliner and he makes it work. Oh yes yes he does.

They arrive in Westerley and quickly find how corrupt the place is by having all their goods seized - and their ship. Not a great introduction. They end up in Pree’s trying to think of a way to get out of this difficult spot (not with Johnny becoming a sex worker, alas). This involves them getting into a fight with a Killjoy. No, they don’t know what a Killjoy is and Dutch, after beating up so many many many many people, shoots him in the foot. Which does not amuse him and he arrests them and questions them - which works on Johnny but Dutch is happy to mock the lie detector by announcing she’s a carrot.

Only the Killjoy finds his warrant has been hijacked by the Company: the crates they were delivering which were seized have their contents stolen and ol’ company stooge Hills wants them arrested for stealing from the company and a few other things. At this point Johnny shows off his tech skills and Dutch her assassin skills in them discovering how the goods were stolen and what the goods were - a high end professional assassin poison.

Helpful Killjoy (I want to call him Joseph but, hey I could be wrong) points out that this would mean Hills kind of revealing he lost some poison AND a high class assassin. Which looks bad on his resume. Instead Joseph has a plan: Hills leaves his warrant alone, he will find the poison and the assassin, get a big pay deal and clear everything up. Hills goes for this

Naturally Joseph wants to recruit Dutch and Johnny to help and Dutch makes a deal: she will do it for immunity so they can leave the Quad. Which Joseph would do except she kind of shot him in front of everyone so she kind of has to bring her in. She’s ok with this - and deals for immunity for Johnny alone.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Wynonna Earp, Season 3, Episode 1: Blood Red and Going Down

Wynonna Earp is back! And we need to deal with the important things first!

Waverley - that hair is tragic. But not as tragic as Jeremy’s moustache. No, Jeremy, no.

The gang is all together hunting Revenants with sniper rifles, a mechanical bull, lots of alcohol and wit and one liners. They want information about Bulchar, this season’s big bad and the one who cursed the Earps in the first place.

There’s a lot of angst though. Wynonna and Doc are not quite talking because of their missing baby Alice they had to give up last season. Doc is ignoring all of this and avoiding Wynonna while pouting and moping. While Wynonna is also avoiding the issue by training extremely hard with Doc and day drinking so much all the while having lots of sexual tension with Doc and, to a lesser extent, Dolls. So the love triangle is still on but kind of ok compared to most shows as there’s a distinct lack of hissing at each other over it.

But there’s a new threat in town - Vampires. On a stripper bus and wearing super super shiny clothes. They glamour Nedley who happily welcomes them into the town

From there they unleash a horrible massacre which the gang investigates. All the dead people come with extra symbols for Balshur, which Nicole has read about from some Black Badge files - there have been massacres for Balshur since the 1920s and now it’s come to town. It also seems to hit Nicole especially hard. Investigation is delayed somewhat because Nicole and Waverley both get glamoured by a vampire

Purple fog also hits Doc’s bar and Jeremy and Doc get glamoured as well (with Jeremy asking the vampire’s thoughts on Twilight). Doc is taken to the stripper bus to be tested by one of the vampires who clearly has history with him. She wants to prove that he’s the real Doc and she’s doing that by torture. This may also be because of their bad history and also because she doesn’t seem to be especially amused by the idea that he’s no longer his hedonistic self and now has friends and stuff.

Wynonna also bails from the investigation - to visit her mother. Yes her mother is about - apparently she’s been locked up in a mental institution for some time and it’s been a dark family secret. She hears voices and some of those voices are about Balshur - unfortunately she’s not very coherent so she doesn’t have great information to share. But Wynonna meets Dolls there and he’s happy to get her her mother’s medical records.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Justice Calling (The Twenty-Sided Sorceress #1) by Annie Bellet

Image result for justice calling annie bellet

Jade Crow has been on the run for quite some time but she's finally found peace in Wylde, Idaho. The supernatural community is attracted to Wylde because of the ley lines and the town is actually home to a plethora of magical creatures, though shifters seem to make up the majority of the population. Jade has built a fine life for herself, including friends and her own business.  Everything comes to a halt however when a Justice ( the shifters version of judge, jury and executioner) arrives in town, certain that Jade has committed some terrible crime. 

Because the Justice is able to read the truth of someone's answers, Jade is quickly let off the hook. Trouble however still finds Jade when a resident is found frozen in their animal form. Jade must now decide whether to help the sexy Russian Justice who just happens to turn into the biggest tiger ever and her friends, or flee before her abusive ex boyfriend shows up and makes a snack of her to gain her power. 

Justice Calling shouldn't really be called a book because at best it's a novella. It gives us a peak at the world and the rather large cast of characters, without really giving us a chance to know any of them in depth. Even Jade Crow, who is the protagonist is pretty much a mystery. All we learn about Jade is that she is a sorcerer, is on the run from an abusive ex and is a total geek. It really feels like Bellet was going through a check list when she was creating these characters.  There are LGBT characters, and Crow it seems is a protagonist of colour. Part of the reason why it felt like a check list is because there's no real characterisation to flesh them out, let alone cultural references that situate them properly. Bellet seemed more concerned with geek bonafides because she filled the book with gaming, movie and pop culture references that would have the geeks grinning with glee, even though they didn't really serve well in terms of character development. 

There's really not much tension in Justice Calling and I am going to crack this up to the fact that it's a novella masquerading as a book.  There are no twists and turns to speak of. Even the antagonist is so basic that it's hard to give him that label.  There's a budding romance between Jade and Justice but it's so paint by numbers that it's not even remotely interesting and there's no real reason to invest in this relationship.  We don't know much about Justice but I really didn't like the way he accused Jade of not having a life because she was thinking about leaving. It's clear that we are meant to see Jade as an abused woman and having a safe space from a known abuser is not cowardice or even selfishness as I feel that Justice implied but a matter of life and death. 

Having Jade be an abused woman could have been an interesting story point and it makes me ill saying that but Bellet didn't offer much meat to the story Bellet could have made this book into a novel by delving into Jade's past and how she came to reside in Wylde but instead she skimmed over the details barely giving us any real perspective. The story really could have been Jade the survivor. By making the decision to treat Jade's past in this fashion, Bellet cheated Jade and she absolutely cheated her readers. I assume that Justice Calling was meant to sell this series but it did a marginal job at best. It wasn't chessy enough to be good fluff and just enough fluff to not be taken seriously.  There's nothing to get lost in here at all.