Saturday, October 31, 2009

Book review: Coraline by Neil Gaiman

In my quest to work my way through the catalogue of the prolific Neil Gaiman, I’ve sampled some of his movies, adult novels, short story collections, YA short story collections and graphic novels (to date, just Black Orchid, review coming to FMS soon). Coraline is the first children’s novel of his that I’ve read: it’s not a picture book, but it’s a little easier to get through than his YA stuff. That being said, Coraline is scary.

Coraline Jones lives with her parents in a flat in part of a big old house. They share the old house with the denizens of the other two flats: the crazy old man in the attic flat, who tells Coraline that he’s training up a mouse circus; and the Misses Spink and Forcible, aging actresses, with their sundry aging terriers. The big old house has a ramshackle garden around it and many rooms to explore in it, which is a good thing since Coraline’s parents, who work at home doing things on computers, all but ignore their daughter, too wrapped up in their work. The neighbors aren’t that much better: they pay attention to Coraline but can’t manage to get her name right. She reminds them (to no avail): “It’s Coraline. Not Caroline. Coraline.”

The Jones family flat has twenty-one windows and fourteen doors – Coraline counts them all one bored day. The fourteenth door is locked, however, and when she finds the old iron key and opens it, she finds a brick wall. Until she tries it again later and finds a passageway into another flat. This other flat is in another house that is very similar to Coraline’s house. There’s even another mother and another father who feed her things that she likes to eat and show her another bedroom with crazy toys. But as much as she initially likes it there, Coraline realizes that there is something wrong with the other mother and the other father, not just that they have black buttons where their eyes should be. The other parents want her to stay and live with them, there’s just something they need to change first …

There’s also the matter of the other children, the ones that were trapped in the house by the other mother so many years ago that they are only ghosts, hiding in mirrors now. Coraline is the only one who can rescue them, if she can figure out how to outwit the other mother with her terrible long fingers and snaky black hair, and the rats who do her bidding.

There is no question that Coraline is a scary story – I was a little scared and I’m thirty-something forty-something old a Stephen King fan. The other mother is scary, the rats are nasty, the thing in the basement that I’m not going to talk further about is totally creepy. But Coraline is a sensible, clever girl and she keeps her wits about her, and that is what children will connect with. I would imagine that Coraline would be a good book for children and parents to read together (although perhaps not right before bedtime), but I can tell you from experience that it’s a treat to read by yourself as an adult as well.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Aw, I wish the DVD player was hooked up

I just watched S2E6 of Castle on Hulu. It's their recent Halloween episode, entitled "Vampire Weekend," and in the very first scene, Nathan Fillion (as Castle) is shown putting on leather boots, a red shirt, tight pants with suspenders, a brown coat and twirling his revolver (not a euphemism). His daughter asks him what he's doing and he answers that he's trying out Halloween costumes - this one's a space cowboy. She points out that there are no cows in space and besides, didn't he do that one already about five years ago, and shouldn't he move on? Fillion/Castle, with a crestfallen expression: "But I liked it." Awwwwww.

It's Firefly references, y'all! Long live Firefly. (And then a few minutes later, some murder victim gets staked in a cemetery and Castle drops a Buffy reference too.) So now I'm all nostalgic and want to watch old Whedony t.v. shows. If I only remembered what box my DVDs are stuffed into out at the self-storage place.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Book review: Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman

As mentioned before, I tend to read and/or watch things in clumps, like three Terry Pratchett books in a row or all of Gossip Girl S2 in a mad marathon. The current clump is Neil Gaiman. Man’s a genius, I am completely convinced of it. I took three of his volumes out of the library last week - a book of short stories, a YA novel and a graphic novel – and read the short stories first.

Fragile Things is comprised of thirty-one “short fictions and wonders,” some stories, some poems. As with all of Gaiman’s work that I have experienced, these pieces are each part horror and part fantasy, with a little whimsy thrown in for leavening. I think my favorite of the bunch was "The Monarch of the Glen," which takes place several years after American Gods and follows Shadow’s adventures in Scotland. In the introduction to Fragile Things Gaiman remarks that he “enjoy[s] the gulf between Angelina Jolie’s portrayal of Grendel’s mother in the Robert Zemeckis film [the script for which Gaiman co-wrote] and the version of the character that turns up here.” Some of the other stories are:

  • A Study in Emerald – an alt-universe in which both Sherlock Holmes and alien overlords coexist
  • Closing Time - a ghost story with a twisty ending that I had to re-read a couple of times
  • Bitter Grounds – of course there are zombies in New Orleans!
  • The Problem of Susan – in which Gaiman addresses what happened to Susan from the Narnia books
  • Goliath – originally written for the web site for The Matrix, and posted just before the film came out

I love short story collections (another of my admittedly none-too-highbrow favorites, Stephen King, does some of his best work in short stories) and read one of Gaiman’s YA short story volumes, M Is for Magic, at the end of last year. I’d forgotten this, however, and so was completely perplexed when some of the stories in Fragile Things seemed so familiar, and yet other stories didn’t. Three of the M is for Magic tales are also in Fragile Things: "October in the Chair" (a ghost story told by October), "How to Talk to Girls at Parties" (a science fiction-y piece) and "Sunbird" (about "a group of people who like to eat things").

Although none of these stories demonstrate anything startlingly new, Gaiman continues to charm and entertain and I have no reason to think that the next book in my queue, Coraline, will turn out any differently.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Heroes episode recap - “Strange Attractors” S4E6 (airdate 10/26/09)

Los Angeles. Eew: Parkman and his slut of a wife are having sex. And I say “slut of a wife” not only because she used to cat around with Parkman’s former partner, but also because now she’s doing it with Sylar. In Matt’s mind, anyway: his body was actually getting to do the deed. Or something. But there’s Sylar in the afterglow, smirking at him on the couch, saying that forbidden fruit is his favorite kind. Parkman glowers balefully.

Georgia. Benet watches impotently as the sheriff’s deputy manhandles Jeremy (a/k/a the Human Touch o’ Death) into handcuffs. Benet protests to the sheriff that Jeremy’s just a kid, but the sheriff is not at all interested in or intimidated by the man in the horn-rimmed glasses. After the sheriff leaves, Benet makes a phone call and sometime later, Tracey shows up. Oh eew, again – is he enlisting her as his new partner? I miss the Haitian. Benet brings her up to speed on the current situation and tells her that she’s going to be posing as Jeremy’s dear Aunt Tracey to get him released into her custody: it’ll be easy, just “[g]o in, talk to him, sign him out.” Tracey is unsure at first but Benet is encouraging, and she goes into the sheriff’s department.

Arlington, Virginia. Claire and Gretchen lie in their separate beds, unable to sleep after the Gretchen initiated lip-lockage, and Claire thinks they should talk about her roommate’s inconvenient crush. Gretchen backpedals that what she did was stupid and impulsive and bad. Claire protests that it wasn’t bad – “you’re a good kisser” – but she doesn’t want to mess up this new normal life she’s got going on. She likes Gretchen a lot but … “Just not that way,” Gretchen sighs. Suddenly, a bunch of small, hooded figures burst into their room and start grabbing at them. Claire fights back, slamming one attacker into the floor. The attackers stop cold and pull off their hoods: “Jeez, Claire, don’t go all Buffy on us!” It’s Becky and the girls from the sorority, here to “kidnap” the new pledges.

After the commercial, Claire and Gretchen have been shoved into the trunk of a car per their sorority kidnapping. Gretchen gets all flirty for a bit and presses Claire as to if she really doesn’t have a chance with her. Claire’s all, “I don’t know.” “Awesome,” grumbles Gretchen. This is so awkward and badly done. When they are released from the car trunk, they and two other pledges have been taken to an old slaughterhouse for a scary scavenger hunt. One of the other pledge panics but not Claire – after what she’s seen, this is nothing. Gretchen is keeping pretty calm too, I note grudgingly. They start working the game, Claire solving the first puzzle after one of the other pledge girls gets sprayed in the face with about a gallon of fake blood. Is this going to be some PG-rated version of Saw?

Georgia. Tracey works her cover story and gets in to see Jeremy, who is currently feeling Very Sorry for himself. She tells Jeremy demonstrates her power and tells him her story: that the first day her ability manifested, she killed a guy because she was unable to control her emotions, and her ability is tied to her state of mind. She manages to get through to the boy; he breaks down, sobbing; she is touched. However, out in the bullpen, the sheriff has found some angsty teen murder/suicide poetry and inky drawings in one of Jeremy’s notebook and is convinced this is proof of his guilt. He refuses to release the boy while Benet squawks at him.

Frustrated, Tracey goes outside to call in a favor with her friends up in D.C. When she hangs up the phone, Samuel is there (ooh!). He asks her what’s next after she saves young Jeremy’s life: where will this troubled boy go? And then he works some mojo and transports them both to the Carnival. She’s understandably wigged out and Samuel speaks soothingly to her, telling her that everyone in the Carnival is like her, ability-fied. What is this place? she marvels. “Home,” intones Samuel, and Tracey allows herself just a glimmer of a smile.

Los Angeles. Parkman is still arguing with Sylar’s manifested consciousness. Sylar taunts him some more, saying that Janice is kinda hot, and what’s more important, the next time he takes control of Parkman’s body, he’ll be able to do anything he wants to Parkman’s wife (and his son – and he’s not talking sex here, these are threats, not leers). Parkman worries about this.

Slaughterhouse. The other two pledges split off from Gretchen and Claire to try their luck on their own. As our girls go down some stairs, some water ripples behind them – it must be Becky in invisible-mode. As they explore, Claire asks Gretchen how long she’s known that she likes girls. Gretchen says that it’s really not one or the other with her and she’s actually had more boyfriends (6 or 7) than girlfriends. Claire gets twitchy because she is still a virgin and Gretchen isn’t. This touching exchange is disrupted when a heavy hooked chain comes hurtling towards them. Claire throws herself at Gretchen, knocking them both out of the way.

Carnival. Samuel gives Tracey a tour, giving her the hard sell: this is where Jeremy should be. “Living in trailers? Drifting from town to town?” she snarks. Samuel points out that Jeremy has a gift, as does Tracey, and the Carnival is a safe place for people with these kinds of gifts. Tracey just wants to go back to Jeremy, so Samuel gives her one of those magic find-the-Carnival compasses and sends her on her way. After she leaves, Amnesia-Sylar approaches Samuel, saying that he’s sure he knows Tracey from before, he remembers her. Samuel reminds him that he doesn’t think that these memories belong to Sylar. And Sylar’s like, well, if this isn’t me, where am I?

Los Angeles. Parkman is packing a bag, panicking, and telling Janice what happened with him, Sylar and Nathan. He tells her that Sylar keeps taking over his body – it’s not safe for her or the baby to be around him now. Since he’s acting so sketchy, Janice is like, okay, I’m taking the baby and getting the hell out of here. After she goes, Sylar tells Parkman that was pretty smart – even for him – but the main problem is still unsolved: Sylar’s consciousness still here, stuck in Parkman’s brain.

After the commercial, Parkman leaves an urgent voicemail message for MOHINDER [nooooooooooooooo!], begging for his help. Sylar says, look, Parkman, just give me back my body. Parkman grimaces, sucking on a beer. Which, curiously, gives Sylar a headache. Parkman finds this wicked interesting and takes a big ol’ shot of tequila, sending Sylar reeling. Parkman grins: “I think I finally found a leash for this dog.” Greg Grunberg is pretty cute when he’s not playing all tormented.

Georgia. Tracey’s favor from D.C. worked and the sheriff releases Jeremy into her custody. Jeremy asks what’s going to happen to him and Benet tells him that he’ll move to D.C., live in the apartment next to Benet and go to Georgetown high school, where no one will know anything about him. “You’ll be invisible,” Tracey says, with a slight edge in her voice. Jeremy sighs and it’s not clear whether he’s pleased by this or not. They walk out of the sheriff’s department together (in slow motion), where they are confronted by an angry crowd. One man lunges at Jeremy and the boy panics, working his death grip on the man. The sheriff pulls a gun; Benet pleads with the boy to save the man; and Jeremy trudges expressionlessly back into the jail. See, Tracey, Jeremy can’t live on the outside – he needs the Sullivan Bros. Carnival. You should listen to Samuel.

Slaughterhouse. Claire thinks that there’s another ability-fied person stalking them, with the goal of knocking off Gretchen. Gretchen scoffs at first, calling conspiracy theory … and then realizes that Claire’s life is not at all normal and this theory could be true. The other two pledges find them and the girls all decide to stick together for a bit.

Georgia. The sheriff has had it with these city folk and refuses to let Tracey and Benet talk to Jeremy anymore. Unbeknownst to him, however, some of the deputies have taken Jeremy out the backdoor and wrapped chains around his ankles. One of the deputies gets in his face, daring him to take his best shot. Poor Jeremy shakes, angry and terrified, but just clenches his hands into fists without touching the other man. The deputy gives the go and a truck lurches forward, the length of chain spooling out from around Jeremy’s ankles.

Los Angeles. Parkman is getting hammered and Sylar grimaces, finally fading from view. Parkman thinks that’s awesome, but now he’s really drunk too. Janice picks now to return with Parkman’s partner (who, if you will remember, thinks Parkman is an addict). Parkman greets them and then passes out facedown.

Slaughterhouse. The other girls decide they do not want to join up with Claire and Gretchen any more. Claire and Gretchen find the final clue in the “killing room” but then Invisible Becky wraps a strap around Gretchen’s throat, choking her. There is a very un-awe-inspiring fight between Claire and Becky which ends up with Claire getting impaled, and then stabbing Becky. The distraction/pain of the wound causes Becky to become visible. The other two girls come back just in time to see Claire healing herself after Gretchen pulls her off the spike and Becky invisibling herself as she runs off. The other girls shriek. “Now what do we do?” wonders Gretchen. Claire makes a face that says: where’s the Haitian when you need him?

Georgia. Tracey and Benet finally find Jeremy, who has been dragged to death and left in the middle of the road. Tracey is crying, saying that they could have saved him and given him a real home. Benet doesn’t know that she means the Carnival. She heads for her car, and he chases after her, apologizing. He laments that he did what he thought was right, trying to save and mainstream Jeremy, but he was wrong - he’s been wrong for so many years. Tracey tells him not to call her again. When he walks away, she takes out the compass that Samuel gave her: it spins, then stops, pointing the way home.

Los Angeles. When Parkman sobers up, his partner hands him another AA chip, saying that they’ll start over. Janice says she loves him and he smiles that she’ll love him more after he takes a shower. When he leaves the room, however, Sylar is there and – surprise – he’s taken over Parkman’s body, slipping in when Parkman passed out. Now Parkman is the free-floating consciousness and Sylar is corporeal. Or something like that: I guess that now whom the viewing audience sees as Sylar, Janice et al. see as Parkman, but where we see Parkman, Janice sees nothing.

Georgia. A vengeful, black-clad Samuel stands in the middle of the street, watching as the sheriff and his men go into the sheriff’s department. Samuel clenches his fists and the ground shakes, flexing, until the entire building has collapsed into a sinkhole. He turns his back on the dusty rubble, stalking away.

Previously on Heroes / next time on Heroes

Friday, October 23, 2009

Three more by Terry Pratchett

I tend to, not get stuck in a rut per se, but read things in clumps. This clump is Terry Pratchett, as I just blew through three more of his books, the first three Discworld fantasy novels: The Colour of Magic (1983), The Light Fantastic (1986) and Equal Rites (1987).

The Colour of Magic introduces us to the Discworld by following the adventures of Rincewind, the mostly inept wizard, his new friend Twoflower, the Discworld’s first tourist, and Twoflower’s Luggage, hundred-footed sentient pearwood chest which is extremely loyal to its owner and extremely snappish to everyone else. At the end of The Colour of Magic, the three of them are left falling off the edge of the world which, being a flat disc, is entirely too possible.

Fortunately, in The Light Fantastic, Rincewind is the only person who can save the Discworld from a disastrous collision with a malevolent red start, so at least the fall off the world won’t kill him. In other events, Twoflower does get to play a game of cards with Death (who speaks IN ALL CAPITALS and is generally pleasant in skeletal, grim sort of way). And our heroes fall in with Cohen the Barbarian, now 87+ years old and toothless, but still the greatest hero around.

In Equal Rites Pratchett takes a break from Rincewind and Company, instead following the early adventures of Esk, the eighth son of an eighth son upon whom a dying wizard bequeaths his magical wizard staff. Except that Esk is a girl – which fact the wizard didn’t know at the time. On the Discworld, wizards are men and women with any magical leanings are witches, according to the lore, and everyone is pretty adamant about never the twain shall meet. But Esk has an overabundance of raw wizardish talent and so Granny Weatherwax, the resident witch in Esk’s village, takes it upon herself to help the little girl journey to the Unseen University, where wizards are trained. Esk’s parents are reluctant to let their only daughter go … until she turns one of her more annoying brothers into a pig. (Granny makes her turn him back.)

I am becoming a huge Terry Pratchett fan, much like I used to be a huge Piers Anthony fan (until his clever funny books devolved into merely strings of puns after reader-submitted puns). They are funny as heck, clever, observant of the human condition, fast-paced, convoluted without becoming obtuse, and recurring characters pop in from time to time. If you have a taste for smart fantasy that is more hilarious and self-deprecating than angsty and self-important, pick yourself up some Pratchett.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


Thanks to Pop Candy, I just found out about Roger Corman's new horror web series, Splatter. It stars Corey Feldman and after each episode, you can vote online as to who gets killed off next. Except Corey Feldman, I guess: the trailer shows him shooting himself and then transformed into a zombie, so I don't know if he's fair game or not. The first episode (of three) goes online October 29.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Heroes episode recap - “Tabula Rasa” S4E5 (airdate 10/19/09)

Opening montage: Sylar, safe at the carnival; Nathan’s empty office; Hiro in the hospital with Peter watching over him; Emma, clutching the cello, scared of the damage she has inadvertently wrought in her own home; Benet, working on his investigation.

Hiro wakes up in the hospital and Peter tells him that the doctors say he’s very sick. Hiro knows: “Brain tumor, I’m dying.” Peter offers his hospice skills but Hiro thinks that he’s not quite ready to go yet; perhaps he was sent to Peter to help him. Peter thinks for a minute, and then squeezes Hiro’s hand, absorbing his ability. I’ve got to go, says Peter.

Emma catches him outside, asking if he sent her the cello, and there’s something wrong with her ability. Peter says that he can’t stay right now, but she should talk to Hiro who knows everything about abilities. Then when her back is turned, Peter teleports away.

Carnival. Lydia and Samuel talk about Sylar, how he’s not what they expected (or had heard about). Lydia thinks it’s as though there are two sides at war within him. Samuel decides to have a chat with the man in question. He is nonplused when Sylar professes not to remember anything, not even his own name. Samuel says that he thinks that a great damage has been done to Sylar, and that he’s come to the Carnival to heal. Tell me, says Samuel, what name should I call you? Nathan, replies Sylar. They walk a little and Samuel asks about his powers. Sylar says that he’s all freaked about what he can do, so Samuel asks Lydia to take Sylar around, introduce him to all the other abilitified Carnies.

Washington, D.C. Claire stops by her dad’s apartment to hit him up for quarters for laundry. They are interrupted when Peter teleports in, landing himself in the bathroom by accident. “It’s been a long time since I teleported,” he says, embarrassed. Heh.

Carnival. Samuel consults with Edgar, saying that the wrong person is inside Sylar’s head. Also, they are concerned that “someone” who has been hunting Sylar may track him here. I say “someone” because Mr. Mouse was talking to me over the television and since I don’t have a DVR these days, I can’t rewind to see what I missed. I’m going to assume that they mean Ernie Hudson the cop though.

Peter tells the Benets that Hiro is dying and he needs help finding a Healer. (Claire’s blood won’t work because its regenerative powers will just make the brain tumor grow faster.) Benet digs into his files and finds one, a kid named Jeremy; Peter grabs Benet’s arm and they both teleport to Georgia to find the kid.

Carnival. Edgar introduces himself to Sylar, sort of, telling him that he knows that Sylar can steal powers from other people, and warning him that he (Edgar) has some tricks of his own. To prove his point, he throws three knives into Sylar’s hand; unfazed, Sylar TKs them out and into a post, and then TKs Edgar into a bucket of cement. Samuel decides to intercede before this gets too out of hand. He brings Sylar to a dreadlocked fellow named Damian, saying that in his hands, Sylar’s true memories will return to him. Sylar says he’s ready and Damian takes him into the House of Mirrors.

Hospital. Emma meets Hiro and immediately asks him how she can turn off her ability. It’s part of who you are, he exclaims. Thanks [for nothing], she says, and leaves.

Georgia. Benet notes that all the landscaping outside Jeremy the Healer’s house is dead … which is not a good sign. The house “smells like death” so Benet draws his gun and they let themselves in. They find Jeremy’s parents dead in their armchairs. Benet helpfully remembers that sometimes Healers can’t control the balance of life and death so well (like the kid in HBO’s Carnivale, who could heal but had to suck the life out of something else to do so). Then they’re shot at from above. “Jeremy, is that you?” shouts Benet.

Carnival, House of Mirrors. Damian lays hands on Sylar for a moment, and then leaves him. Sylar turns, watching the mirrors. Then memories begin to flash: his argument with and murder of his mom. “No!” he cries, horrified, “This isn’t me! Make it stop!”

That new 2010 Mustang is sure purty!

Hospital. Hiro tracks Emma to her office and demands to know about her ability, saying that he himself is the Master of Time and Space. She tells him what’s happening to her, saying that she wants it to stop. Then she runs away again.

Georgia. Peter wants to rush Jeremy but Benet says that he needs to talk to the kid first. He lays down his gun and slowly walks up the stairs. Jeremy, a little strung out, screams at him to stay away. Why?, asks Benet. “Everything I touch ends up dead,” says ol’ Jeremy. Yikes.

Carnival. Police captain Ernie Hudson has arrived at the Sullivan Bros. Carnival, Samuel having sent him some complimentary tickets. Meanwhile, Sylar is still getting the “This Is Your Life” treatment in the Hall of Mirrors, although it doesn’t seems to be helping him at all, just freaking him out more and more. Finally he lurches outside and vomits into a nearby trash barrel.

Georgia. Jeremy tells Benet that he accidentally killed his parents – he was angry and he touched them and they died. Benet says no, you’re a Healer. Jeremy: no, the power changed. Benet, insistently: no, you can do both. Jeremy is not appeased, getting more and more upset, and finally shoots Benet. But Peter intercedes, grabbing the gun and attempting to freeze time. But his control is not that good and the bullet smashes into him, and he falls to the floor, bleeding out.

Benet looks up at Jeremy: you need to lay your hands on him now – you can do this! Benet tells the kid that his own particular power is understanding people like him. He tells Jeremy to visualize Peter healing, regenerating, and opening his eyes. Resigned and afraid, Jeremy touches Peter’s shoulder. Peter jerks, coughs, groans, and is healed. Jeremy slumps against the wall in relief.

Hospital. Hiro is putting on a little magic show for the sick kids and when Emma shows up, curious, he pulls her into the performance. He stops time while the children are applauding so she can see the frozen colors. You know, they better be going somewhere with this because they are spending a LOT of time with this seemingly pointless power of hers.

Carnival. Samuel finds Sylar sulking after the Mirror show: “All those murders, those memories are in my mind but I can’t believe them.” Samuel tells him that he’s sorry for his pain but the truth can be difficult. “Difficult!” sneers Sylar, “I sliced open their skulls!” Samuel says that the people outside of the Carnival turned Sylar into a monster, but here, in the embrace of a community who would accept him as he is, he could become someone who commands fear and respect. Sylar ponders this. Then, Samuel plays his ace: that cop is here, and Sylar’s presence endangers all the Carnies ... it’s up to Sylar what he wants to do about it. Sylar stands and asks where the cop is.

Hospital. The nurses put Hiro back in his bed. Emma asks him how he can be focused on helping others when he’s so sick ... suddenly, he remembers Charlie, and is horrified that he forgot to add her to his “to be helped” list. Emma begs him to stay put until Peter gets back.

Georgia. Peter absorbs Jeremy’s healing power and jumps in a rental car to get back to NYC. After he leaves, Benet tells Jeremy that he’s rigged the house so that it looks like his parents died from carbon monoxide poisoning [… except that they’ve been dead so long that the bodies stink, so what are the police going to think about that?] and tells the boy that he’ll stay with him until he knows he’s okay. Aw, Benet’s finding his purpose again.

Carnival. Sylar goes back into the House of Mirrors where he finds Cop Ernie Hudson. Ernie pulls a gun and Sylar calmly tells him that he should leave as soon as possible. Instead Ernie shoots at him; Sylar stops the bullet in midair, and then zaps him with some electricity. “What are you?” gasps a wounded Ernie, struggling to his feet. Sylar advances on the frightened man, and then rethinks things, backing away. But then Edgar super speeds up and slices and dices Ernie into ribbons. Sylar gapes. Edgar: “Don’t just stand there – get’im up!”

Hospital. Emma goes back to the piano and starts to play – AARRRGGHH – smiling at the blue streamers of light. Hiro hears the music and wanders over to her. Other people seem to be drawn to the music too and they all applaud when she finishes. She tells Hiro to go back to bed but as he obediently turns to do so, he teleports out of sight.

Carnival. A shaken Sylar goes to Samuel who embraces him. The Carnies all gather around. Sylar is baptized – literally – and then there’s a party. As he and Samuel keep an eye on Sylar, Edgar notes that it’s a good thing that he was around to clean up the pieces – “what good is a lion that won’t kill?” Samuel says that they’ll just make Sylar the way they want him and then he’ll be theirs forever. Edgar watches Lydia snuggling up to Sylar and crankily practices throwing his knives.

Hospital. When he finally gets back there, Emma tells Peter that Hiro is gone. Peter finds a note: “Save Charlie.” Last scene: Hiro peering in that diner window and intoning “Chahlee!”

Still no Mohinder - woot woot!

Previously on Heroes / next time on Heroes

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Heroes episode recap - “Hysterical Blindness” S4E4 (airdate 10/12/09)

This time, Heroes recap compliments of, which worked great except that the scenes at night were very dark and nearly impossible to make out.

It’s very dark and I can’t see what’s going on – sounds like someone digging in loose dirt. A darkened figure staggers down the road, then is pulled over by the cops. The man turns as the light comes up and it’s Sylar - which would have been more effective if they hadn’t ruined it in the previews last episode. They seem to do that a lot.

Carnival at breakfast time. Several carnies seem to be empowered Heroes: one woman heats the wafflemaker with a touch of her hand. Samuel speechifies, saying that they need to bring other Heroes into the fold to complete their family. Edgar gives Lydia a look, clearly not entirely on board with the party line, but everyone else seems happy. Samuel promises that by day’s end, they’ll have a full table again.

College. Claire is all happy with her life, doing normal college girl stuff, hanging out with her new roomie. She and Gretchen are interrupted by Jackie from S2 of Veronica Mars, who is rush chairman from Claire’s mom’s sorority. Jackie’s name here is “Becky.” Claire is a legacy and they want her to join, inviting her to a rush function. Gretchen, being the “unconventional” character she is, of course doesn’t think the Greek system is a good idea, claiming that the sorority sisters will turn her new roommate into “Stepford Claire.” But Claire asks Gretchen to go to the rush function with her, she acquiesces.

Baltimore, police station. The cops have called in a psych consult for Sylar, played Simone, Emerson Cod’s girlfriend from Pushing Daisies). Sylar doesn’t know who he is or what’ happened to him, and the cops are all freaked out about him what with the bloodstains and the bullet holes in his clothes and the graveyard dirt and all. The head cop is Ernie Hudson from Ghostbusters, btw. As Sylar sits there, flashes from his past start to come back to him. He’s upset, crying. More importantly, he needs a haircut.

Emma, the deaf sound-seeing medical records clerk, is back at work. Her doctor friend thinks she has “conversion disorder,” a/k/a “hysterical blindness.” And, as it turns out, this doctor friend is actually Emma’s mother. Doctor Mom encourages Emma to stop wasting her life in records, to stop grieving for “Christopher’s death” six years ago. “I’m not grieving,” insists Emma, upset.

Angela Petrelli, stopping by Peter’s apartment ostensibly to see him but actually to see if he’s heard from Nathan, is slightly disturbed by Peter’s obsessive wall of heroic newspaper clippings. Peter wants to talk about himself, how he’s trying to make a difference in people’s lives, but his mother is far too distracted to pay any attention to him. Frustrated, Peter leaves for work, and Angela stays at his apartment, hoping Nathan will show up.

College, sorority house. Becky has organized a “get to know prospective pledges speed dating” event and splits Claire and Gretchen up. As Claire meets different people, it turns out that they already know about her as Gretchen seems to talk more about Claire than herself. This nonpluses Claire, as you might imagine.

NYC. Emma walks down the street, trying not to cry. She starts to see the sounds as colors again and, distracted, steps into the street into the path of a bus. Peter superspeeds up and sweeps her out of harm’s way. They recognize each other, but she’s still so shell-shocked that she just walks away from him. He grabs her arm, still not understanding that she’s deaf and asking if she’s okay. Emma pulls away from him. Annoyed, he tries to superspeed off, but can’t as his legs won’t accelerate. He kicks a trashcan in his frustration and sees a burst of yellow sparkles. Hmm … will he figure it out? Also, seeing sound as color is not quite so helpful to a heroic paramedic as superspeed.

Carnival. Lydia finds Samuel digging in the dirt. She wants to know who the new family member will be, but he doesn’t know yet. But he felt something move in the earth, something that hasn’t settled yet. Gosh, could that be Sylar, having dragged himself up out of the grave? “Guess we’ll just have to wait and see,” intones Samuel. What’s Edgar doing? I need more Edgar.

College, dorm room. Gretchen has appropriated some of Claire’s clothes and Claire struggles a little to it go. When Gretchen leaves the room for a moment, a book falls of the shelf and strikes Gretchen’s laptop. Claire takes a look at it and finds a disturbing number of Claire-related and jump/push/fall suicide web sites book marked. Weirded out, she sends Gretchen on ahead to the sorority mixer.

Baltimore PD. Sylar’s had a shower and a change of clothes (but not a haircut, unfortunately). He professes to the shrink that everything, every experience, seems new to him, even though he has the words to describe them. I’m bored – when is he going to start slicing people open again? The shrink decides to try a memory exercise, telling him to close his eyes and tell her the first thing he visualizes. Instead, he is distracted by hearing the ticking of the clock on the wall, as well as her watch, saying the time they’re keeping is off. She thinks this is significant. Cop Ernie Hudson interrupts them, telling the shrink that they’ve got an ID from Sylar’s fingerprints.

Hospital. Paramedic Peter, searching for Emma, is distracted by the colors rising from a bunch of kids singing for the patients. He finds Emma there too, watching, and they notice each other noticing the colors. She seems relieved to not be alone in this. Peter just gives her a totally goofy grin.

After the commercial, he discovers that this ability is new to her and tries to explain that there are Heroes with varying abilities. “That’s crazy!” she says, when he tells her about the flying, and teleporting, and mind reading. Then they play the piano together – ugh SO BORING. I really miss my DVR because I would be fast-forwarding this nonsense for sure. Anyway, at the end of their duet, she seems to believe him about people having abilities, although he really hasn’t done anything to prove it other than what she’s already seen. So he asks her to lunch tomorrow to talk about it some more, but Emma gets nervous and runs away again.

College. Claire arrives at the sorority mixer in a cute little red dress. Becky finds her at once, glad to see her, and introduces her around. Claire is chatting with some other sister when movement from above catches her eye. She shoves the other girl out of the way, stepping back quickly herself as a be-bannered flagpole plunges into the floor where they were standing. When Claire looks up, Gretchen is peering over the banister above her. Freaked, Claire walks off.

Baltimore. Cop Ernie explains to a still-befuddled Sylar that his name is Gabriel Gray and that he’s a watchmaker from New York who killed his own mother. Sylar thinks that’s awful and impossible – he’s not a killer. Cop Ernie gets tough, turning off the interview camera, and says that first he wants Gabriel’s confession, and then he’s going to throw him down a hole forever. The “down a hole” thing wigs Sylar and he puts his hands up defensively … which ignites his TK, subsequently tossing Cop Ernie through the wall. Sylar affects his getaway as an alarm rings. In the parking garage, the shrink has just gotten to her car when all the lights go off. She is startled when Sylar appears at her car door, begging for her help.

Back at their dorm room, Claire confronts Gretchen, asking if she dropped that flagpole on her to keep her from making new friends, or to expose her “freakiness.” Gretchen gets defensive, calling Claire paranoid. Claire shouts, “All I wanted was a normal life – I trusted you!” Gretchen protests, saying that she’s not really a stalker, well, maybe she’s just stalking Claire a little, then she swoops in and plants a big kiss on Claire. Claire staggers back, shocked, as Gretchen confesses to having a big crush on her. This tender and very frakking pointless moment is interrupted when the Psi Alpha Chi sisters barge in to invite both Claire and Gretchen to pledge their house.

Carnival. Samuel tries again on Lydia’s back to determine who their new family member will be, but the Swirling Tattoos of Destiny show him nothing. Samuel looks up as there’s a shimmer in the air: it’s Becky, the girl from Claire’s new sorority, who calls him “uncle.” She reports that she’s making friends with Claire … via flashbacks we see that she was the one who dropped the flagpole on Claire, and who dropped the book on Gretchen’s laptop to expose the stalking, and who pushed Claire’s original roommate Whatshername out the window. Seems Becky’s power is invisibility. Samuel asks if Claire is now on her way to the carnival but before Becky can answer, Lydia interrupts, saying that something else is happening. Samuel glances at Lydia’s back – we don’t get to see what he sees – and then sends Becky back to campus, saying that the carnival is about to pull up stakes.

In the shrink’s car, Sylar is still trying to remember who he is, insisting that he is not a killer. She points out that he’s at the least a wee bit violent and a kidnapper and carjacker. She pulls over and tries to get him to let her go and turn himself in. Suddenly the cops catch up to them. As Sylar raises his hands to surrender, electricity crackles between his fingers (ooh, I miss Elle) and the spooked cops open fire, hitting him in the chest numerous times. He tumbles into a ditch, taking the shrink with him, and they both watch in wonder as the gunshots heal themselves. She tells him to run, run!

Emma comes home to her quiet, empty apartment. There’s a cello in a stand and she picks it up, starting to play. Holding ceremonial candles, Claire and Gretchen follow the sorority sisters through the dorm as Becky shimmers into view behind them. Peter lets himself into his apartment, muttering to himself about not being able to connect with Emma, when Hiro teleports into view. “Peter Petrelli!” he grins, then collapses to the floor as Peter tries to help him. Emma’s playing gets more and more furious until the sound-colors make the wall in front of her crack. WTF?

Sylar runs and runs through the dark woods, the police close behind him. Then there’s a flash of color ahead and the Sullivan Bros. Carnival pops into view. Samuel beckons him inside. When the cops come into the clearing, there’s nothing there for them to find. Meanwhile inside the carnival, wherever it is, Samuel tells Sylar that he’s safe, and he’s home.

Hey: still no Mohinder! Is he supposed to still be in that deserted interment camp, researching? Didn't he get picked up by some shadowy government agency? Actually, I don't remember and I so don't care just as long as he stays away.

Previously on Heroes / next time on Heroes

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Book review: The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett

It’s a good thing that Terry Pratchett has written so darn many books, because I like his writing and intend to read a lot of them. The Wee Free Men is one of his YA novels, tangentially related to his more adult Discworld fantasy series. You don’t have to be familiar with Discworld, however, to enjoy TWFM: the story latches onto you from the get-go and never lets up.

Young heroine Tiffany Aching lives a quiet country life on the Aching family farm. She’s an odd girl, prone to too many thoughts and questions, but she’s hardworking and dutiful, and good at making cheese. She has a baby brother, Wentworth, who seems to be always sticky due to his always wanting to eat candies, and she’s not entirely sure she likes him that much – things on the farm were just fine without him. But because she’s a good girl, Tiffany watches Wentworth when her mother asks her too and only once or twice uses him as monster bait.

Strange things are coming down out of the hills: river monsters, headless horsemen and winter when it shouldn’t be winter. Tiffany, whose Granny Aching (excellent with sheep) was rumored to be a witch, and who rather thinks she might like to be a witch herself, consults with Miss Tick (also a witch) and learns that an invasion of these bad things is coming. And there’s no one to stop them, bemoans Miss Tick. There’s me, says Tiffany.

After having said that, however, the girl isn’t so sure since the witch wasn’t very forthcoming with the witchy education, only leaving a talking toad behind for advice. But when Wentworth suddenly goes missing, Tiffany takes up her weapons (a cast iron frying pan and her Granny’s book, Diseases of the Sheep) and enlists the help of the Nac Mac Feegle, also known as the Wee Free Men, tiny blue Scottish-ish pictsies (not pixies). The only thing the pictsies like to do better than drink is fight and, luckily for Tiffany, they’re really good at doing both.

Pratchett has an incredible ear for accents – and his Nac Mac Feegle are thick with a twisted brogue – and excellent timing to his sentences. His descriptions are marvelous and this is one of the most easily visualized books I’ve read in a long time. The plot hits the ground running and keeps picking up pace, throwing in wonderful characters, tweaked fairy tales, funny jokes and social commentary without missing a stride.

This is only the second Pratchett book I’ve read (the first was Guards! Guards!) and I’ve got to say that I’m totally hooked. I’m planning on delving into the stacks of the SLC City Library (ooh - what a library!) soon and hope that they have a decent stash of Discworld books for me. In the meantime, HUGE thanks to friend of the blog Kevin C. for introducing me to Pratchett’s worlds – and giving me these books.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Heroes episode recap - “Acceptance” S4E3 (airdate 10/05/09)

Gosh, a Heroes recap with no DVR for the first time in ages… very, very difficult. Wish me luck. Also, E4, which aired last night, will be recapped as soon as I watch in online ... it's so nice to be reconnected to the interweb!

Washington D.C. Boy, the producers really like the water-to-Tracey special effect, don’t they? Tracey’s back in her old life again, with a walk in closet larger than my current apartment, sassy clothes, etc. Too bad all that money didn’t buy acting lessons. Bruce Boxleitner, Governor Whatsisname from some earlier season is back again and, upon seeing her at a swank D.C. eatery, thinks she looks fabulous and schmoozes on up to her. “I’m back,” says Tracey. Great say the rest of us.

Tokyo. In this new reality, Hiro and his sister Kimiko are very close and she and Ando are getting married. Hiro forgets the new timeline for a minute then remembers the cover story, agreeing to give Kimiko away at her upcoming wedding to Ando. Ando’s like, okay, but you may be dead by then what with all the nosebleeds and time-freezes. But Hiro won’t listen to him, too intent on righting all the “wrongs” he’s committed through his lifetime. Then the Dial-a-Hero phone line gets a call: someone is about to jump off the roof of Hiro’s skyscraper. Hiro goes up to rescue the guy and we’re not a couple minutes in and I am so BORED already. Blah blah blah, this accounting guy who works for Hiro’s family’s company is going to kill himself because he was fired for getting drunk at a New Year’s party and photocopying some private body part. Let me guess: Hiro is going to go back in time to the party and keep this guy from getting drunk. Yeah, that won’t screw anything up in the timeline.

I HATE THESE HIRO STORYLINES. And I don’t much care for Tracey either. Please, please, let something else happen other than these two or I won’t make it through the episode.

D.C. Angela finds “Nathan” in his senatorial office. She’s brought him a bunch of yard-sale vintage crap from his life growing up Petrelli, trying to get him to recall his Nathan history rather than the Sylar memories that are intruding. She knows that he’s got that power that enables him to absorb an object’s memories and thus, by handling all this stuff that belonged to Nathan, should push the Sylar memories to the back. In theory.

Governor Boxleitner catches up with Tracey. He looks better than he ever did as Scarecrow, by the way. He hires her back immediately to ease the way with some particularly tricky lobbyists, and smarms that he’s so happy to have the “Tiger Lady” back. She looks a little troubled at this.

Also troubled: Benet is perusing the divorce papers he’s been served. He’s thrilled to be interrupted by Peter who wants to show him the spinning compass tattoo on his forearm ... but the tattoo has disappeared. Benet is feeling cranky and scoffs a little, saying he’s not really up for any adventures looking for speedy guys with knives. Peter lets himself out and is just in time to hug niece Claire when she’s come to visit her dad.

Tokyo. Hiro flashes back to now, having gone back in time to rescue Tadashi the Suicidal Accountant. Ando, of course, is confused, knowing nothing of what just happened. Just then the phone rings again: it’s Tadashi, he’s going to jump off the roof. Hiro, bewildered, rushes up there to find out what happened: the photocopy didn’t happen at New Year’s Eve, but on another holiday. Tadashi jumps, Hiro freezes time and then looks like he’s going to flash back AGAIN to save this total schmuck, but then we cut to commercial and I totally don’t care.

NYC. Nathan has tracked Peter down at the hospital. He’s totally freaked - and possibly wearing a Member’s Only jacket. Oh, Nathan – I don’t care about the identity crisis but that’s just not cool. He demonstrates some new TK, and tells his little brother that new powers are emerging daily. Pluswhich there’s all these memories that are not his own. Nathan looks bad. Peter still needs a shorter haircut. Blah blah blah, Nathan touched an old baseball cap and got some sketchy memories about an ex-girlfriend who may have been murdered. He decides to investigate. Peter doesn’t really seem all that interested, having his own disappearing tattoo issues to work through.

D.C. Claire is worried that her formerly focused father is currently plan-less. Jack Coleman and Hayden Panettiere have some very nice father/daughter chemistry together, I must say. And this new haircut she’s sporting makes her look older and very pretty. However, their scene is fluffy and pointless and I’m not going to recap the dialogue: she thinks he needs a job.

Nathan visits the former girlfriend’s mother, who happens to be Swoosie Kurtz, Angela’s friend from the end of last season. Her face looks a little funny, like some possible plastic surgery gone slightly wrong. According to Swoosie, her daughter, Nathan’s ex-girlfriend, disappeared during a weekend when her parents were out of town, and then Swoosie had hired a P.I. who subsequently proved that Nathan was in the clear and the girl ran off – so why is he bringing all this old pain up now? To those of us in the audience, however, it’s fairly obvious that something went wrong, and Angela or some other Petrelli or Company operative, covered things up. So Nathan wanders around Swoosie’s house and touches a bench by the pool, and flashes back to the girlfriend, drunk, falling and smacking her head on the diving board. So she must have died, and Nathan’s family covered it all up, using the Haitian to wipe Nathan’s memories of it to boot, but we cut to commercial instead.

You know, so little actually happens during a Heroes episode that I hardly even miss my DVR. (That’s a total lie. I completely miss it because I have to sit through all these damn commercials … thus enabling me to write these little editorial notes to you instead. So yeah, I lied: I totally miss my DVR.)

After the commercial, Angela catches up with Nathan, berating him gently for stirring up bad memories for Swoosie Kurtz. Nathan tells his mother that he’s sure the girlfriend died, not disappeared, and he wants to know what happened. Angela, frustrated, says yes, she cleaned everything up because otherwise, accident or not, the girl’s death would have ruined Nathan’s life. She begs Nathan to let this go – she’s given up a lot for her son and he should be grateful.

Instead, Nathan goes back to Swoosie Kurtz and tells her that her daughter died, and he was there: it was an accident but it was his fault, and his family covered everything up. Swoosie – who has SO had plastic surgery since Pushing Daisies, which is SO too bad – kicks him out.

D.C. Claire continues to grill her dad, trying to get him to hone his interviewing skills. Benet, however, is sad and regretful, saying that he doesn’t actually remember having helped anyone throughout his lifetime. You have, says his daughter, me. He kisses her on the forehead. You know who I don’t miss in this episode (aside from stupid Mohinder): Gretchen. Bet she’ll be back in full force next time. Sigh.

Tokyo. Hiro has flashed back again in his attempt to save the accounting drone. Christ on a bicycle, Hiro, just let this bullshit go. Ando tries to get him to refocus, to address the fact that his power is killing him, but Hiro gets another call from stupid Tadashi and has to go back up to the roof again. Blah blah blah, this time he talks to the accounting drone rather than time-traveling and ends up saving his life by just listening to the guy. And when Hiro goes back inside, he tells Ando that he’s ready to tell his sister the truth about himself. However, in the middle of telling her the truth, he gets a horrible headache and then inadvertently teleports away. Kimiko gapes blankly at Ando who really has no response. I mean, what would you say?

D.C. Tracey stops into Benet’s local sushi hangout on her way to dinner with Governor Malden/Boxleitner. She tells him that she’s employed again, but he’s unclear on what she wants from him since she’s gotten her life back. She whines that something’s missing, like she needs to be helping people or something. Benet tells her that maybe she needs to remember who she was to figure out who she wants to be … advice that he maybe needs to take himself. She seems to hear him though and thanks him before leaving to meet the governor.

When she meets Malden, she says that she wants to make a real difference in people’s lives. Malden: let’s skip dinner and go upstairs and bone for a while, just like old times. Tracey: would you excuse me? She runs to the ladies’ restroom, crying, and almost transforms into her water form before she can rein herself in. Resolute, she struts back out to the restaurant and says goodbye to Malden, walking out on him. Apparently there’s a kindler, gentler (or at least less evil) Tracey in town.

In some desolate parking garage, Nathan starts to call the D.C. homicide division to ‘fess up about the teenage girlfriend, but then wusses out. He gets out of his car and is immediately stabbed in the neck with something sharp by some thug I don’t recognize. Ho-hum. BTW, when do we get to see those new carnival guys?

Ooh – after the commercial, here they are! Lydia (tattooed lady) finds Edgar, who is pensive about the new people Samuel is planning on bringing into the family. Apparently Edgar and Samuel are NOT brothers – my mistake. Samuel interrupts them, cranky, reasserting his authority and pretty much reminding Edgar that what he (Samuel) says goes. Edgar looks slightly displeased as Samuel takes Lydia away for more find-the-Hero tattoo magic. This time she shows him Benet in the magic tattoo on her back, which Samuel finds disconcerting, saying Benet isn’t interested in them any longer. Lydia: he may have changed his mind.

D.C. Benet is compiling a new file about compasses.

Swoosie and Angela meet for drinks/dinner and Swoosie tells her friend what Nathan said about her daughter. Angela apologizes for her son, saying that Nathan hasn’t been himself lately. Intercut throughout this scene is the thug dumping a seemingly dead Nathan into a grave in the middle of the woods and then shooting him a few times for good measure. Then the thug makes a phone call, saying that “the package has been delivered.” The phone call is to Swoosie. Nice. She’s still a badass without the eye-patch and with the bad plastic surgery.

Of course, once the thug drives away, Nathan – I mean SYLAR – busts out of the grave, clearly not dead. Surprise (not)!

Bonus: no Mohinder (still) and no Gretchen (but then the much hyped girl-on-girl smooch is totally shown on the previews for next week – so much for any suspense the producers hoped to build).

Previously on Heroes / next time on Heroes