Friday, July 21, 2017

The OA, Season One, Episode Eight: Invisible Self

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Okay, we've made it to the end of The OA and we still don't have any real concrete answers.  We learned how Prairie got away from Hap and in the process was seperated from the others but we still don't know the end result of the new fangled yoga moves, or if Prairie was even telling the truth. The only thing we know for certain is that French found a video of a blonde woman playing the violin in the NYC subway and that Prairie was missing for seven years.  

It begins with another meeting of Prairie's cult and she starts her story right where she left off, with Sheriff Stan finding them trapped in the basement.  At last, Hap has been caught.  Hap however isn't without cards to play because Evelyn, the Sheriff's wife is dying of ALS.  Hap explains that he's been doing research with people who have survived an NDE and that if given the chance, they can heal Evelyn.  At first, Stan wants nothing to do with this and demands that Hap stand to be handcuffed, but it turns out that the temptation to end his wife's suffering is just too much.  We watch as Prairie and  Homer are led upstairs.

Alone with Evelyn, Prairie and Homer discuss helping her. Homer rightfully understands that if they fail to heal Evelyn, that Stan will arrest Hap and they will go free.  Prairie argues that since they have the ability to help that they should. As Stan and Hap watch via CCTV, Prairie and Homer begin their weird yoga routine. It's not long before Evelyn awakes. It seems that Evelyn had her own NDE when she was just a child and was given the fifth movement. Evelyn was told that she would have to wait a long time and that she would be in a lot of pain before she was called upon to share it with others.  Evelyn sits up in bed, much to the amazement of Hap and Stan and she does the fifth movement, as Homer and Prairie watch.

Stan is so excited to see his wife sitting up that he runs into the room, leaving his gun behind.  Hap stays and watches the entire movement on CCTV. When Hap enters the room, he finds Prairie and Homer hugging and Stan hugging Evelyn. Hap promptly shoots Stan and Evelyn and orders Prairie to get away from Homer. Hap drags Prairie out of the room, as she desperately calls out for Homer. Hap then drugs Prairie.

When Prairie awakens, she's in the back of a car.  Hap stops the car and drags Prairie outside and dumps her on the ground. Hap climbs on top of Prairie and starts to scream about not needing her anymore and that she's not as special as she thinks she is.  Hap reveals that he now knows the fifth movement and he has Homer.  Hap slashes open Prairie's dress before getting back into the car and driving away. A distraught Prairie gets to her feet and tries to follow but she obviously cannot keep up with the car.

When Prairie finishes telling her story she finds that she's ripped open her top while telling her story and that she is surrounded by her parents, as well as the parents of the kids who have come to listen to her tale. Nancy takes off her jacket, puts it around Prairie's shoulders and then the two of them walk home silently.

Later, the Johnsons try to reach out to Alfonso's family, only to be rejected. Alfonso comes rushing outside and reveals that Prairie told them everything that happened to her and that he is going to make it his mission to prove that she was telling the truth.  Nancy is shocked that Prairie didn't confide in her.

Being caught in the house with a bunch of teenagers and BBA brings more unwanted attention to the Johnsons and so they are forced to retreat to a hotel to get away from the media. Tensions are high for the Johnson family but Prairie finally starts talking about what happened to her.  Nancy is moved to tell the truth about the note to Abel. Nancy says that the reason that she didn't give Able the note is because Prairie wrote that she was going to see her father.  Able isn't buying this excuse because what bothered him was that Prairie was missing, not that she called another man father.  Nancy is finally forced to come clean and explains that she wanted Prairie because she was blind and thought that Prairie would always need her. Nancy believes that it was her neediness that finally drove Prairie away. 

French breaks into the Johnson home looking for more information to prove Prairie's story.  Under Prairie's bed he finds an Amazon box containing books on Angels, Russian Oligarchs, NDE and Homer's Illiad.  It's enough evidence for French to believe that Prairie made the whole story up. Before French can leave the house, he runs into Rahim.  Rahim tells French that allowing Prairie to tell her story helped her and that what he did was to take on aspects of Prairie's pain. Later, an upset French meets with the group to show them the books and tell them that he now believes that Prairie made it all up. 

Some time has passed, and Prairie is working with Able in the garden.  She explains that she's tired and excuses herself to take a bath.  Prairie is now wearing an ankle monitor, indicating that the police got involved after she was discovered in the house. 

Confederate: The Show We Do Not Need

David Benioff; D.B Weiss (Credit: AP/Vince Bucci)

If there was any doubt that we are not living in a post racial world, surely the election of that orange shit stain should have made it clear to all the doubters by now.  In a world in which many have even dropped the pretense of using coded language to attack Black people, for some ungodly reason, HBO has decided that what we need is a show called Confederate, whose premise is to question what would have happened if the south had won the civil war.  From the imagination of the creators of Game of Thrones, we will be treated to a program in which African-Americans are still slaves.

Understandably, the announcement about Confederate created quite a backlash. Certainly, HBO needs to fill in the gaping hole that Game of Thrones is going to leave but why fill that in with a White supremacists wet dream?  If Confederate is going to aptly depict slavery, it will most certainly come with scenes of absolute brutality and rape, rising to a level of torture porn and broken Black bodies for the sake of entertainment.  It’s bad enough that we have been subjected to the deaths of Philando Castille, Eric Garner, and Alton Sterling on repeat. Thanks to our 24 hour news cycle when African-Americans are murdered by the cops it’s all that seems to be reported on for days on end. In our hyper connected world, social media adds to the trauma with videos automatically playing on Facebook. Black death is now appropriate for the consumption of the masses.  It is absolutely important to recognise the brutality of these deaths yet it’s clear that the very frequency and availability of the footage is already leaving far too many people desensitized to the pain and suffering. Is it any wonder that David Benioff and D.B. Weiss feel emboldened enough to pitch a series about Black suffering?

HBO absolutely could have gone another way if it wanted to share a slave narrative, especially given the fan outcry when Underground was canceled by WGN when the network was purchased by the hyper conservative Sinclair Broadcast Group. Certainly, Underground didn't have the audience that Game of Thrones does but it did feature a narrative of Black empowerment.  Rather than focusing solely on Black suffering, Underground showed the courageousness of those who chose to follow ol’ Moses and liberate themselves. Underground fits quite better with Black Lives Matter, and the push to tear down civil war statues. Is it any wonder that Black liberation suddenly doesn’t have a place on television?

Even as Black people are trying to disassemble hallmarks of the former confederacy, White supremacy seems quite determined to not only celebrate it as though it represents a golden era but to return us to it. We don’t need Confederate to tell us how bad slavery was, there are plenty of first hand account slave narratives still in existence.  We don’t need Confederate to create some fantasy about African-American suffering because the extra judicial slaughter of Black men and women, combined with the housing crises which targeted Black people regardless of credit,  the cancelling of television shows with large casts of colour, the prison industrial complex and the lack of generational wealth all tell the story for anyone who has common sense enough to connect the dots.  This isn’t about education, this about subjugation. This is about reminding Black people that we are still very much viewed as second class citizens despite, the vast accomplishments in the face of white oppression.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Threads: The Reincarnation of Anne Boleyn by Nell Gavin

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It's impossible to know the real truth about Anne Boleyn because much of the stories about her are written by her known enemies and detractors.  Gavin strives to give Anne a voice upon the moment of her death.  As she reexamines her life and relationship to Henry Tudor, the truth about what they mean to each other is revealed. Through the centuries, Anne and Henry are always together and there is a reason for this - they are soulmates.  What happens to love when you're soulmate is the one responsible for your death? 

I will admit to being instantly draw to Thread: The Reincarnation of Anne Boleyn the moment I saw the title. I've long been a history buff and have been quite fascinated with the British monarchy.  Thread: The Reincarnation of Anne Boleyn is fantasy in that it assumes thoughts and idea which historians most certainly could not verify and because it enlarges the story of Anne and Henry to encompass various incarnations throughout the centuries. Anne herself appears in ancient Egypt, in Europe as part of a traveling Romani circus, the 1800's New York, and in Brooklyn during the seventies. Each new life is a chance to grow and to pay for the sins of the last life.  As a prostitute working in the Valley of the Kings in ancient Egypt, Anne would amuse herself by mocking and bullying a fellow prostitute who had an extra finger, causing her to be born as Anne Boleyn and also have an extra finger which she would strive for the entirety of her short to life to hide. 

Because this is a historical fantasy, certain liberties were clearly taken with Anne and Henry's lives. Thread: The Reincarnation of Anne Boleyn is not an academic text and most certainly does not read like one.  Anyone familiar with the history however might enjoy the speculation into what Anne might have been thinking when Henry broke off her engagement, or her loss at dealing with the fact that despite her supposed power, so much was really outside of her control.  I'm not sure that Gavin's tone always rang true but that didn't detract my enjoyment with the story.

I found that when the story switched to Ancient Egypt in particular, Gavin really set a beautiful stage and I could picture all of her characters vividly and their setting. Henry as a gay male prostitute who craved the love of a family because he was rejected by his own, made sense to me. I do however wish that the only LGBT representation of sexual identity had not been reduced to prostitution and dependency on a straight woman for companionship. 

The premise of Thread: The Reincarnation of Anne Boleyn, is that Anne keeps returning to earth after each death to pay a penance for the mistakes that she made in each previous life and to continue to grow as a soul. Anne learns early on that she and Henry are soulmates and have been twins, husband and wife, friends many times over. They are continually drawn to each other.  Also in Anne's orbit are many people that she met in her lifetime as a queen. Some come back as her children and still others are her friends.  Percy, Anne's betrothed for instance was a regular customer of hers when she was a prostitute in ancient Egypt, while Katherine turned out to be her daughter. 

Obviously reincarnation is not a new idea, nor is the concept of learning lessons with each additional life new. I'm not disturbed by the idea of Anne and Henry being soulmates, particularly because they had varied relationships in the different lives.  What I am disturbed by is Anne reviewing her lives in order to find a way to forgive Henry.  By every definition possible, Henry Tudor was a very abusive, angry man.  He raped Anne and then had her head cut off.  Gavin worked hard to suggest that because of Henry's syphilis ( a condition that has only been speculated about and not proven) that Henry was not himself and therefore entitled to Anne's forgiveness. It was very much implied that Anne could not move on if she didn't find a way to forgive Henry.  Even in fiction, perpetuating the idea that an abuser is deserving of forgiveness from their victim is harmful.

Shadowhunters, Season 2, Episode 16: Day of Atonement

Bad decisions, angst and over-emotional drama

This is how I sum up the Shadowhunters and, really, how does the Clave get anything done?

I mean, Alec, in their eyes just failed by letting Valentine escape (because they kept having Sebastian/Jonathan hanging around without any kind of background check) so they decide to send an envoy to check it out

That would be Richard. Alec and Izzy’s father. Because if I want to investigate someone I would totally send a close relative to do it. But then the Inquisitor made Jace the head of the Institute for the simple reason of being her grandson. I mean they’re not even subtle about their nepotism.

For additional problems not only do we have relatives constantly mixing family and business is that every single damn family is DROWNING in the drama

So, Izzy and Alec are facing investigation by the Clave (again) and the dominant story is ZOMG YOU CHEATED ON MUM!!!!

Also, this is like the fourth time someone has tried to justify their bullshit to Alec by saying “YOU SHOULD UNDERSTAND BECAUSE YOU’RE GAY and this whole comparison is not only ridiculous but offensive as well!!!”. The next time it happen, I’m going to need Alec to impale them with a rainbow flag.

Valentine himself is being held by Jonathon/Sebastian his long lost son who has a plot that affects everyone, the world setting and and involved, complex motivation and.. Hah nah, this is Shadowhunters. He has daddy issues. So many daddy issues

Basically Valentine, deciding he didn’t really need any of those “world greatest dad” mugs, decided the best thing to do with his son was to inject him full of demon blood and experiment on him (as he injected Clary and Jace with Angel blood. He likes to present this as science, I think he has a peculiar habit of injecting babies). He was super proud when his evil son killed and skinned a werewolf as a small child but then deeply horrified when he turned out to be an evil serial killer who loved murdering

Raise a child to kill, inject them with demon blood and encourage pre-teen murder and torture and the kid doesn’t turn out all that great. Who knew?

So he decided the best thing to do with said son is banish him to Edom (hell). Because sending him to his room wasn’t dramatic enough. There Jonathon was both horrifically tortured (hence his scars) and learned all of his evil demon magic tricks. Really, Valentine, is a perfect Shadowhunter - his every decision is awful.

Jonathan is ready to throw his evil dad into Edom himself, along with the mortal sword, but Valentine confesses his eternal love for his tortured, evil serial killing son and lo all is forgiven

Travelers, Season One, Episode Three: Aleksander

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From the moment that Philip took over the body of a heroin addict, I worried that his body's addiction would be swept under the rug.  This is something that often happens when addiction is introduced into the storyline. Instead, we've watched as Philip struggled to resist the lure of heroine, only to become sick and even a threat to the teams objective.  

The team of Travelers is off on a mission to meet a new Traveler, who is about to enter a host. Their mission gets cut short when they are approached by a child and told that their mission is to be aborted.  Rather than settling Philip down, this agitates him. Philip wants to go and save the life of the man who is scheduled to die but the others don't agree to participate because they aren't supposed to change things. Philip points out that it would just take a few minutes of their time but MacLaren is quick to shut Philip down. 

For Philip, heroine quickly becomes about more than his body's cravings but about escaping the harsh reality of his existence.  Philip is plagued by survivor guilt to start with.  When Philip inhabited his host, he could have saved his host's best friend who was dying next to him with a simple call to 911 but doing so would have broken protocol.  The Travelers are not allowed to intervene in history which means no killing anyone and no saving anyone. The guilt of leaving a man to die ways so heavily on Philip that he attends the funeral of the dead man and even arranges for Ray to drop off some money to the man's parents.  Ray tries to advise Philip that this isn't going to make the family forget that he failed to save their son but that doesn't stop Philip from doing what he can.

At this point, Marcy is the only one who is aware of Philip's addiction and she watches him carefully. Marcy tells Philip how much heroin he is allowed to take to manage his addiction, making it clear that if he takes more than that she'll know that he wanted to and report him. Marcy reminds Philip that they are supposed to slip into their hosts life and Philp reminds her that his host was a junkie, so there's nothing for him to do.  When Marcy leaves, Philip gets high and starts writing down the names and dates of everyone who is going to die. 

Jeff is busy researching personality changes. He's not over the fact that he's no longer able to intimidate or brutalise Carly.  A fellow officer gives Jeff a copy of the video of Marcy being attacked and then rising to her feet and defeating her attackers.  This gets Jeff to thinking and he decides to do some research.  Jeff heads to see David and informs him that Marcy hasn't been seen at her job or her apartment. As Marcy's social worker, Jeff is curious to know if David knows where she is and if she wants to press charges.  David explains Marcy's behaviour as her going into flight or fight and claims that nothing has really changed about her. Jeff leaves but it's clear that he is still suspicious. Marcy leaves the bedroom where she was hiding and thanks David for lying for her. At this point, David is keenly aware that Marcy staying with him is breaking the rules and so she blithely suggests that they simply don't tell anyone. 

MacLaren is having his own issues with fitting in. It seems that in the future, all humans are vegan, making him disgusted with the idea of eating meat. MacLaren suggests eating vegan to a very surprised Kay, because of course the original MacLaren is absolutely carnivorous. Okay, I'm going to say boo on the not so subtle vegan messaging here. Maclearn's next mix up is when he is informed that he missed a date to play squash with his partner Walt. These are the kinds of things just weren't in the information when the Travelers were researching hosts. MacLaren is stung a third time when he proves himself to be a perfect shot, something which his host clearly wasn't.

Trevor's experience with food is quite different to that of MacLaren.  He sits at the same table of a young girl who is clearly shy and not at all popular.  Clearly, Trevor hasn't prepared himself for highschool politics.  Trevor is all excited about the taste of corn when Renée shows up and shoves the shy girl off the bench, breaking her phone in the process. A shocked Renée looks on as Trevor helps the girl up and picks up her belongings.  This of course means a trip to the principal's office for Trevor and Renée, where they are lectured about the harm of bullying.  Trevor listens to every world and even tells Renée that she is not nice. The principal is shocked when Trevor offers to pay for the broken phone before asking to be excused. A shocked Renée goes chasing after Trevor and even kisses him on the check but he tells her to stop, much to Renée's surprise. Trevor leaves when he gets a text to meet from Philip.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Blood in Her Veins (Jane Yellowrock short stories) by Faith Hunter

This is a book of short stories from the Jane Yellowrock world - and it is huge. It may be a collection of all the short stories that there’s ever been in this series.

And it is excellent. It’s excellent because Faith Hunter is very very good at her short stories - the majority of them add something compelling to the main series. They add a little something to Jane’s past, to her relationships, flash out some elements of various characters’ back stories

I’m not saying they’re all perfect by any means - but the general tone of this whole book is to add a lot of richness and value to the whole series, filling in blanks, adding colour, expanding, adding realness - filling in all those things that would bog down a main book or get in the way or be unnecessary but still have value. That is a perfect use for short stories and compiling them all in one book removes the whole treasure hunt feel you can get trying to find a series’ supporting work.

We Sa and the Lumberking previously appeared in Have Stakes Will Travel developing Jane’s history before the series begins and continuing to keep her Native American ethnicity and experiences centreal

Similarly The Early Years also touches on another of Jane’s early moments, we’ve heard repeatedly that Jane was brought up in a children’s home but we’ve never really seen - Jane’s history in the children’s home and the people she met there and her first awareness of Beast and what Beast was beyond the ignorant attempts to explain that she got from the foster home. At the same time we get some excellent expositions of the flaws of the foster system and, really, how little it actually did to set up Jane for a successful life; not just because she didn’t fit - and Bobby due to his disabilities.

This is continued in Snafu her apprenticeship in security and private investigation, how she gained the skillset she had now, how she grew as a person, as a skinwalker, as a professional and as an adult. These three stories make an excellent arc for Jane’s early years and putting a great foundation of them.

This idea of using short stories to tell us how Jane got to where she is now continues with Kits which lays the foundation for one of the most important relationships in this book: Jane and her best friend and witch Molly. Their friendship, loyalty rough times and high times define so much of this series which means this, their first introduction so important. Especially as it really does explain how two people who are, by necessity, so private, managed to open up and really trust one another. Really, it sets the foundation for how Molly and Jane became not just friends, but family, which adds a realness to their relationship throughout the main series. Haints continues this with more looking at the supernatural world, more looking at how Molly fits into it (and, yes, using her witch skills to try and earn some money, even if dangerously. I like this because while Jane charges huge sums for her work, Molly doesn’t and as a mother of two, the extra cash isn’t just a throwaway resource to her). This also appeared in Have Stakes will Travel along with Signature of Death further cementing this awesome relationship and making them almost required reading for the series. But, I have to say like I did in Have Stakes Will Travel that the sheer amount Jane has reached out to Molly makes me even more disappointed when Molly turns on Jane for a couple of books in the same series. Yes there’s good reason - but these short stories show immense life-saving help Jane has given Molly in the past; I feel Jane deserved better than this. Which, of course, makes me even more happy to see them reconciled in later books

Preacher, Season 2, Episode 5: Dallas

So last episode Jessie discovered Tulip was previously married and now Jessie angrily drags Viktor to his own torture room and hangs him up in the newly vacated harness. Tulip begs him to stop, apologises, pleads, tells Jessie she was just there to get divorce papers.

He doesn’t listen to her and tells her to leave - using the Genesis Voice. She takes Viktor’s daughter with her and goes back to Cassidy - to punch him in the face for telling Jessie because she knew this would happen. She also assures Cassidy there was no way Viktor would hurt her

He asks Tulip why she would marry Viktor - and she points to all the money, “anyone would”. Cassidy doesn’t buy it - why would SHE do it.

Viktor has that answer for Jessie - because Jessie is an arsehole and Viktor made Tulip happy and was good to her

Time for a flashback

After the disaster with Carlos, when Tulip lost her baby, Tulip and Jessie fell into an utter rut. They stop doing jobs for their criminal contact (even refusing to kill her husband) and Jessie settles for a life of watching John Wayne on television and drinking beer all day. He also has a fellow slacker friend Reggie. While Tulip goes out, gets a conventional job and comes home to cook and get Jessie his beer...


In between drinking beer and watching television they have lots and lots of joyless sex because Jessie is desperate for Tulip to get pregnant again. He also slips into religiosity which rather clearly makes Tulip uncomfortable and she tolerates it.

This grim existence continues for a long long long time and Tulip doesn’t get pregnant until Jessie finds her stash. It includes money which she is getting not from a legitimate job, but from returning to a life of crime. And it includes the pill - as in the contraceptive pill - Tulip has been taking without telling Jessie. She doesn’t want to be pregnant. She doesn’t want this life. She’s an O’hara, she doesn’t even understand this life (a stark call back to her upbringing). Before Carlos, she loved what they were doing, they had fun - she wants to return to that

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Pocket Apocalypse (InCryptid #4) by Seanan McGuire

Alex, the God of Scales and Silence, has been asked by his girlfriend Shelby to help with a problem in Australia - her home where her family still fights to protect Cryptids

They’re having an outbreak of werewolves.

The Lycanthropy-W disease is one of Alex’s worst fears and one of the most devastating things that can afflict a country; especially Australia that has never had an outbreak before.

Of course, while the 36 society has no experience of Lycanthropy, Alex has no experience of Australia - and he has a very healthy respect for how dangerous the continent can be. And that’s aside from Shelby’s family

This book takes Alex and Shelby to Australia. I was struck with their being one major, vital point about Australia. There are no Aislinn mice in Australia.

I mourned, I sulked, I pouted, an Incryptid novel without Aisline Mice is clearly sadness. Until:

“One foot bumped my rolling suitcase, which gave out a faint cheer.”

Hail! Hail the God of Scales and Silence! Hail the Airline Smuggled Mice! Hail!

Yes, the glee returns!

Obviously, with the InCryptid series, there are a lot of things I’m going to praise every book, repeating over and over again. I will always praise the world building, the concept of cryptids and how they fit into the world and how they fit into the natural ecosystem. I will alway praise how incredibly creative they are but also how they fit so excellently with the cycles of the world - like how hunting therianthopes caused lycanthrope-W disease to spread because of the clumsy hunting of the Covenant, or how hunting unicorns caused the spread of cholera.

I will always praise the writing with its excellent pacing, the excitement of the action, the awesomeness of the personal relationships, the excellently presented world buildings, and the perfect inclusion of humour among the science and fun. I am always torn between both not being repetive in my reviews while still having to mention this every book because it would be remiss of me not to remind everyone of the awesomeness

And the Aislinn mice. Who are awesome

But aside from the standard awesomeness of all of the above, I also like the exploration of a, well, a morality spectrum, how the 36-ers differ from the Price family in power and resources and in attitude, and an examination of Alex’s own morality and how he has reacted to the 36-ers own attitude