Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Mini book review: Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

Yeah, okay, I read it.  And while I didn't hate it, I truly don't see what the big deal is.  I mean, it can't hold a candle to The Hunger Games.  It's a love story, more than anything, which I find boring.  Edward as a vampire is interesting enough and dangerous enough - except for the fact that he friggin' SPARKLES and since when do vampires play baseball? - but the main flaw in this book is the heroine.  Bella is just such a doormat.  She has no personality except to moon over Edward and by the middle of the book, he is her total reason for existence.  She's supposedly beautiful and smart, and her uber-clumsiness is obviously meant to give her some character (but it's just completely stupid and unbelievable), but there's nothing to her.  As a character she is so uninteresting that I find it extremely difficult to believe that Edward would find her at all interesting, regardless of how yummy she smells.

I guess after my regular diet of Buffy Summers and Katniss Everdeen and Flora Segunda and Clary Whatshername and Dorothy Gale and all those other urban fantasy/horror heroines who actually think for themselves and make decisions and act on their own behalf have ruined me, because I find Bella Swan just so boring.

And did I mention the vampires SPARKLE?  I call bullshit on that too.  Now I'm going to have to see the goddamn movie to see how that comes off.  Grrrrr.

Thursday, August 25, 2011


Dang it, y'all.  I was really psyched to jump into the True Blood recaps for you, but this week is just getting away from me and now I don't think I'm going to be able to have another one up for days now.  I'm sorry.  Once I get my life back on schedule, I promise that we'll roll right through them.  Of course we will - I love this trashy, campy show!

(In the meantime, I am embarrassed to say that I have started reading Twilight.  I swore I never would - vampires should NOT be sparkly - but since I am such a devourer of YA supernatural/fantasy fiction, I realized that to be complete I'd need to at least read the first one.  I am totally prepared to hate it, however, and I haven't hated a book in quite some time so we may get a rant out of this.)

So, check back here next week and we'll laissez le Bon Temps rouler, so to speak!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

True Blood episode recap "Bad Blood" (S3E1)

I cannot tell you how glad I am to be back in Bon Temps!  And there's a lot going on in this Season 3 opener, as the show tries to remind us of where we left off and reintroduce us to everyone.  So let's dive in, shall we?

Sookie runs screaming out of the restaurant, shrieking for Bill.  Sam drives through the night to Magnolia, Arkansas, heading for the address of his birth parents.  Jason rushes home from Merlotte's, panicked from shooting Eggs, and heads straight for his fridge full of beer.  Tara crouches at dead Eggs's side, sobbing as Andy Bellefleur covers the body with a sheet.  Jessica has brought her snacked-upon trucker home with her but is surprised to find the bouquet of flowers Hoyt left for her on the porch.  Bill has been kidnapped by four really sketchy looking, leather-wearing rednecks who introduce themselves as "the Fuck-You Crew."  Then they poke at him with knifes and Bill screams us into the opening credits.

Deputy Kenya interviews Sookie.  She is more than a little skeptical that the vampire has been kidnapped - perhaps he just ran off after Sookie rejected his marriage proposal.  She tells a frustrated Sookie that they have to wait 48 hours before filing a missing persons report.

At Merlotte's, Sheriff Bud is taking witness statements.  Andy watches nervously, waiting for his turn since it was his idea to say he shot Eggs, to protect Jason Stackhouse.  Arlene yammers on and on and Tara snaps at her to stop sucking up to the sheriff.  "Oh shit," groans Lafayette, watching his cousin ramp herself up.  Arlene tries to pacify Tara: "I know you feel bad falling in love with a serial killer ... but seriously, who here hasn't?" Heh.  Tara screams that Eggs wasn't a serial killer and lunges towards the tiny redhead, so Lafayette grabs her and tells the sheriff that he's taking Tara to Sookie's house, "and we're also taking this here tequila, but I doubt that'd surprise any of y'all."

At Bill's house, Jessica has fed off her trucker too much.  She hears a car pull up outside - "Fuck!" - and stashes him in the crawlspace where she sleeps.  Sookie comes bursting into the house, looking for Bill.  She asks Jessica to call her and tell her if Bill comes home, even if he commands her not to.  "Uh, you know I can't do that," quavers Jessica but Sookie insists and flounces out.  Jessica: "Shit. Fuck. Shit. Fuck. Shit!"  She is rapidly becoming one of my favorite characters, y'all.  She checks on her trucker who seems to have expired in the meantime, or is at least close to it, so she desperately tries to feed him her own blood to turn him.

The Fuck-You Crew are rapidly draining Bill of his own blood, getting higher than high off the rush.  Bill doesn't look too good and points out that if their boss wants him alive, they'd better slow up or they'll kill him.

Andy swings by Jason's house and tells him that he has to stick to the plan and act normal, which means that he needs to get out there and get a whole bunch of tail, because that's normal for Jason:  "Conscience off; dick on!" That's an excellent t-shirt slogan, don't you think?

Sookie's next stop on the find-Bill tour is Fangtasia.  When she demands to see Erik immediately, a smirking Pam leads her to the basement where our first glimpse of him is nekkid, from behind, banging the bejeezus out of the club's new dancer.  He saunters up to Sookie and she makes a point of not checking him out.  She wants to know where Lorena is, thinking that if Erik doesn't have Bill, Lorena probably does.  Erik sighs, agreeing to search for Bill since he's duty-bound to help vamps in his jurisdiction as the sheriff.  Later, after Sookie has gone, Erik starts to get stressed out.  Pam thinks he should call Queen Sophie Ann and tell her about Bill's disappearance.  Erik thinks that is a particularly bad idea since the Queen will not be happy that the one vampire that can link her with the sale of V in Louisiana has gone missing.  Pam's all, fine, whatever.

Bill has decided to take matters into his own hands, snapping the neck of the driver so that the car crashes, rolling several times.  The vampire pulls himself out of the wreckage; other than the dead driver, there don't seem to be any other bodies.  That's curious.  As Bill staggers into the underbrush, he calls Jessica - which wakes her up, but she doesn't realize what just happened and just stares glumly at the still-dead trucker next to her.

Sookie goes home next, where Tara and Lafayette are indulging in tequila and painkillers.  They tell her what happened to Eggs and Sookie relays how he had come to her, asking for help remembering what he did under Maryann's control.  Tara is furious - "You signed his death warrant!" - and takes a swing at her best friend.  Lafayette drags her off and then drags her out, apologizing to a gobsmacked Sookie.

Sam is moping around his motel room when there's a knock at the door.  It's a shirtless and dirty Bill, who asks if he can use Sam's shower and borrow a shirt. Sam's all, I didn't really pack anything but I'll give you this one, and when he takes the shirt off, Bill nods appreciatively, breathing, "Nice."  Sam blushes and Bill asks if he'd care to join him in the shower (yes, Sam thinks he would) as he's heard that Arkansas water is very hard.  They lean in towards each other - squee! - and then Sam's phone rings, waking him up.  DAMN! The woman on the other end of the line apologizes for waking him but Sam mutters that he's really glad she did.  She has information on the Mickens family he's looking for: seems they own a garage on the far side of town.

Jason and Hoyt work their roadcrew job.  Hoyt beats around the bush and finally asks Jason if he can crash with him for a while since Maxine tossed him out.  Aw, roomies!  On the other side of town, Lafayette has gotten Lettie Mae to come over to watch Tara while he goes to work, since Tara "ain't right to be alone right now."  Lettie Mae has Reverend Daniels come by to preach at/talk to Tara, but from the look on Tara's face, I don't really think it's sinking in.  Sookie stops by the sheriff's office to ask for his help in finding Bill but Sheriff Bud already has human bodies stacking up like firewood and can't waste the department's limited resources looking for vampires.  Sookie gets all self-righteous and flounces out.  She does a lot of that, flouncing.

Sam goes to the garage but the kid working there says his name isn't Mickens - that guy left town months ago.  Sam doesn't believe him but doesn't press the issue, instead leaving his full name and taking his leave.  That night, after the garage closes, Sam follows the kid home.  He checks the mail in the mailbox: Mickens.

When Jessica wakes up that evening, she gags from the smell from the dead guy lying next to her.  She runs to get the phone - it's Hoyt, calling from Merlotte's to say he misses her.  She's happy to hear from him but distractedly says she can't talk right now and hangs up on him.  Hoyt goes back to the booth where Jason is entertaining a couple of roadtripping twins from New York State.  Without breaking a sweat, he manages to get both girls back to his place.  Hoyt isn't sure he's up for it, what with missing Jessica and all, but Jason isn't having any of that:  "Hoyt, if we're gonna be roommates, there's a certain amount of pussy overflow you're gonna have to be dealin' with."  Ha!

As soon as it's dark again, Bill digs himself out from the patch of dirt he was sleeping in.  He looks rough and in need of blood.  He finds a house with a lonely old lady inside.  She invites him in and he feeds.  Later, she is still alive and he glamours her, giving her money that he says is from her son and telling her that he was never here.  He also thanks her for her hospitality, because he's a polite vampire.

The Queen and the Magister arrive at Fangtasia and toss everyone out of the club so they can talk with Erik.  The Magister is investigating the rampant sale of V in Louisiana.  He believes that a vampire must be responsible for dealing the drug.  Erik promises to look into it.  The Magister departs, leaving Erik and Sophie Ann to rehash.  Erik doesn't think the Magister believed them so the Queen commands him to sell their entire supply of V - at half price, if he needs to - as soon as possible since she needs the cash.  He tells her that Bill is missing but she doesn't care.  She just wants the money - the IRS is leaning on her.

Pam runs errands: delivering the $10,000 to Sookie that Erik owed her for helping him find Godric.  While she's at Sookie's house, she gets a call from Erik, which makes her come over all shivery.  Sookie's all, hmm, can Bill call Jessica like that?  Pam heads to Merlotte's next where she gets wicked scary as she instructs Lafayette to sell every last bit of V by tomorrow.

Sookie goes back to Bill and Jessica's and asks her if Bill has called.  Jessica's like, oh yeah, that must have been what happened last night, and I sort of felt a location when it happened.  Sookie tosses her the car keys and says let's go.

The reverend finally leaves Lafayette's and Tara tells her mother that she's going to take a shower.  She locks the door and starts to choke down a bottle of painkillers.  When Lafayette comes home, nearly concurrently, he yells at Lettie Mae for leaving Tara alone and pounds on the bathroom door.

Things aren't going so well at the Stackhouse/Fortenberry bachelor pad: Hoyt is moping about Jessica and Jason can't get it up for the twins because every time he looks at them, he sees bullet holes in their foreheads, just like poor ol' Eggs.  The girls get freaked out and leave.  From the other room, Hoyt calls, "Y'all leavin'?  Really nice meetin' y'all!"

Jessica has found Bill's car, upside down in the ditch:  "I am a freak of fuckin' nature."  They drag the remaining body out of the wreckage, noting a tattoo on the man's neck.  Jessica does a quick online search at runes.com and says it's got something to do with "Operation Werewulf."  Sookie: "Werewolves?"

Bill runs through the Mississippi woods (the old lady told him he was in Mississippi).  He stops, surrounded by a pack of slavering wolves.  One of them approaches, eyes a-glow.  Bill drawls, "I should warn you - I've fed."  The werewolf growls nastily and Bill's fangs pop out.  He's ready for a fight.

Previously on True Blood / next time on True Blood

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Mini-cap: Harsh Realm E9 "Camera Obscura"

Camera obscuraA darkened chamber in which the real image of an object is received through a small opening or lens and focused in natural color onto a facing surface rather than recorded on a film or plate.

Last episode.  We start in church, with a Tom-voiceover about the origins and purpose of the Harsh Realm program as a military terrorism response training program that began with a nuclear explosion in virtual reality NYC.  4.5 million digital people were obliterated in 3.2 seconds and "they were the lucky ones."  The Harsh Realm world arose out of the ashes of the nuclear blast.  Tom is now sifting through the ashes, looking for volunteers to help him fight against Santiago.  Instead he finds a guy who wants to pay him and Pinnochio lots of gold to protect him and his family.  They're living in a power plant in NYC, however, which is ground zero for the nuclear blast, so Pinnochio raises the price, despite Tom's protests that they aren't mercenaries.  Well, he isn't.

When they get to Stewart's hidey hole, they learn that his family, who controls the power plant, is in a wicked feud with the McKinley clan, who controls the Federal Reserve building across the street.  They eventually learn that Stewart and McKinley originally came to NYC after the fabled vault of gold under the Fed, but one of them doublecrossed the other and now it's all out war.  McKinley can't get down to the vault because the elevators need electricity - hence Stewart's control of the power plant.  McKinley offers to double what Stewart is paying so Pinnochio sides with him, leaving Tom in the Stewart camp.  Complicating things further, Stewart's daughter and McKinley's son have a little Romeo & Juliet thing going on.  Complicating things even further is the presence of a Catholic priest, horribly deformed from the radiation, who has found a data stream in his cathedral that shows him what will happen next, and he uses this information to manipulate and control the two families.

The priest tells Stewart to turn on the electricity long enough for McKinley to head down in the elevators, then turn it off, trapping him there.  Thing is, it's Pinnochio and Tom who go down.  They are being affected by the high levels of radiation and Pinnochio gets a little nuts, clawing at the brick walls, convinced that the vault of gold is down there.  Tom ends up knocking his friend unconscious and dragging him back to the surface.  There, he tells the two families that yes, the gold is down there but it is so heavily contaminated by the radiation that anyone touching it will sicken and die.  The boys get in their car and leave; the two families give up their dream of gold and leave the city too, abandoning the crazy priest to shout and slobber in the deserted streets.  Down below, the camera zooms in on the little hole Pinnochio made in the wall - the camera obscura shot, I presume - and the vault is full of glittering, glowing deadly gold.

And that's it.  That's all she wrote on this poor little failed show.  No resolution to Tom being stuck in the game, no actual progress made in hunting down Santiago, a total abandonment of the real world/Sophie storyline and worst of all, we haven't seen Dexter the digital dog in ages.  Who knows, with better acting and better writing, maybe this could have worked.  The source material was a comic book, but it was more a noir/detective story, unraveling mysteries in the game world, not the military focus that the television show had.  I'm not inclined to go read the original but I'd be interested to hear from anyone who has how different and/or better the comic was.

Previously on Harsh Realm

Friday, August 19, 2011

Mini-cap: Harsh Realm E8 "Cincinnati"

In the Harsh Realm version of Cincinnati, Ohio, Tom, Pinnochio and Florence have a man on his knees with a bag on his head.  They pull off the bag: it's Santiago.

72 hours earlier:  Ah, a voiceover from Tom explaining how no one has tried to stand against Santiago until Native American rebels in Cincinnati took over an army depot.  Santiago sends Waters against them.  Outside the city, Escalante, the Republican Guard soldier whose life Tom saved in the last episode and who is now apparently sympathetic to their cause somehow, tells the gang that Santiago is planning to assassinate the rebel leader himself.  Tom sees this as an opportunity to grab Santiago for themselves.

Here's the thing - this episode is rife with those dang voiceovers, Tom droning on and on about Santiago's inner thoughts instead of trusting the audience to be smart enough to pick up on it from the acting and the story. STOP WITH THE EFFING VOICEOVERS!  The rebels plan to move their leader to a safe house; Santiago plans to ambush the convoy; Tom, Pinnochio and Florence plan to ambush the ambush, laying out explosive charges.  Santiago's men attack the rebel motorcade and Tom sets off the charges, blowing up shit indiscriminately.  There's a firefight.  They think they got Santiago but no, he's run off into the underbrush.  He finds a wounded soldier who says he's got a [miraculous gadget that seals up the worst wounds].  Santiago heals the guy's gut wound, then uses the gadget to (1) grow skin over the guy's whole face, suffocating him (Fringe used that to good effect in S1) and then (2) modify his own appearance so that he sort of but not really looks like himself anymore.  That's a handy gadget!  Santiago runs off deeper into the forest.

Back at Capital City, Waters thinks Santiago is dead but is reluctant to take control of the army.  Meanwhile, the Native American rebels think that Tom, Pinnochio and Florence, whom they have captured, are the erstwhile assassins.  Also meanwhile, Santiago trades clothing and dog tags with an old guy, then leads the rebels to him and after they shoot the old guy, everyone thinks that they've really killed Santiago.  The real Santiago manages to get himself a janitorial job with the rebels so he can keep an eye on their leader.  The rebels decide to hang Tom, Pinnochio and Florence but Florence manages to get them all free.  They and Escalante infiltrate the rebel HQ where the disguised Santiago sees his traitorous soldier and kills him.

It's kind of confusing and a little boring and I'm not really paying attention as Santiago keeps changing his identity and no one has any names.  Needless to say, the Santiago with the bag over his face is not actually Santiago but the rebel second-in-command, whose identity Santiago has stolen in order to get close to the rebel leader to stab him.  The rebel insurrection is quickly put down without their leader. Later, back at Capital City, Santiago puts his own face back on and demands that Waters bring him Tom and Pinnochio.

One episode left, thank goodness / previously on Harsh Realm

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Book review: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente

There are a lot of fantasy fiction books being published these days, it seems.  Harry Potter and the Twilight insanity has opened the floodgates and there is genre fiction out there for all tastes and all ages - vampires, werecreatures, zombies, witches and wizards and faeries for children, YA and grownup sensibilities.  A lot of it is rubbish, of course, but now and then a good one pops up.  Catherynne M. Valente's The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making is one of the good ones.

September is the titular girl, twelve years old and living in Nebraska around the time of WWII.  Her dad has gone off to fight in the war and her mom works in the factories, so September is left home alone a lot, reading fairy tales, washing teacups and generally not caring for her life very much.  When the Green Wind arrives on the Leopard of Little Breezes and offers to whisk her away to Fairyland, she jumps at the chance at chance for adventure - so much so that she leaves one shoe behind.

The Green Wind instructs September in the current rules of Fairyland, put into place by its present ruler, the Marquess, a strict and scary young girl with a very fine hat: (1) no iron allowed at all (except that which binds the fairies' wings, per order of the Marquess); no alchemy except for girls born on Tuesday; (3) transportation by air only by Leopard or licensed Ragwort Stalk; (4) all travel occurs widdershins (counterclockwise); (5) rubbish takeaway every second Friday; (6) all changelings are required to wear identifying footwear; (7) no crossing the borders of the Worsted Wood except for visiting dignitaries and spriggans.  Plus, the eating or drinking of Fairy food means you are bound to Fairyland for ever and ever.  September, being a capable and slightly stubborn girl, thinks she can handle all that and gladly charges onward.

The first folk she meets are a couple of witch sisters and their husband, a Wairwulf, and she accepts a quest from them.  As September continues on, she befriends A-through-L, a Wyvern (dragon with only two legs), and the adventures escalate from there, as they come into contact with a Golem, the Marquess, various fairies, shapeshifters, spriggans, pookas, wild bicycles, Marids (a water-based genie), talking furniture and Death, to name just a few.

TGWCFiaSiHOM is very much in the vein of Baum's Oz and Carroll's Wonderland books.  The heroine is a resourceful young girl but her adventures are not easy for her and her new friends: things are scary and painful and freezing cold and near-death and very often unpleasant.  Baum's and Carroll's books were much darker than the universally loved movies but even the Judy Garland version of The Wizard of Oz was frightening in spots - those horrible flying monkeys! the scary floating Wizard head! - and I remember being quite afraid when Alice fell down the well in the Disney cartoon.  Valente's book skirts the line between a children's book and a YA book: there are no coming-of-age themes in TGWCFiaSiHOM that might attract a YA audience, but there is definitely enough scary stuff that the youngest readers might not be ready for.

I really enjoyed The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making.  It has an old-fashioned feel without being stodgy, clings closely to traditional fairytales and yet adds its own embellishments.  September is a great heroine: clever, stubborn, brave, only Somewhat Heartless and sometimes foolish.  She loves Fairyland and through her, even we adults can remember how to love it too.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Mini-cap: Harsh Realm E7 "Manus Domini"

Two things, before I start this mini-recap.  First, "manus domini" is translated to mean "hand of God" and this episode tries to explore faith a bit, as in is there a God at work in a virtual reality made up of computer code?  Second - and I'm not saying the first thing is the cause of the second thing - this was another friggin' boring-ass episode.  Add that to the less than stellar acting and I can totally see why Harsh Realm was cancelled.  And yet, here we are, so let's begin!  Also: the third thing (there's a third thing) is that this episode is WAAAAAAAAAY heavy on Tom's effing voiceover, as he narrates a letter he's writing to Sophie, exploring the whole God-in-the-machine thing.  I hate those droning voiceovers.

Tom and Pinnochio are searching for/chasing after Florence, who has taken it into her head to go sprinting off through the Maryland forest.  She is searching for a group (coven/cult) of silent healing women like herself.  She finds where they were, and a man is there, saying that his son is sick, can she help?  Florence attempts to heal the boy but he isn't really sick; the man wallops her upside the head with a stick.  When she regains consciousness, she's tied up: some scruffy thugs think she can lead them to the "sisters" - seems Santiago will not tolerate the women's healing or their faith in a higher power.

Meanwhile, the boys follow Florence's trail through a field and soon learn it's a minefield, as Pinnochio steps on a mine.  Tom tries to defuse it but BOOM!  They are badly hurt.  The healing sisters appear, fix Tom up right there in the field, and drag Pinnochio off for further treatment.  When he wakes up, in a barn somewhere,  he is being tended to by a pretty young sister.  Problem is, one of his legs got blown off and it is beyond their ability to heal; every time a sister heals someone, it takes a lot out of her physically - the worse the wound, the harder it is for the sister to bounce back.  Pinnochio is so angry, upset, depressed about his leg.  And for good reason: when he was a real-world soldier, he stepped on a mine in Yugoslavia and lost both his legs, and pretty much half his face.  Soon after that, he volunteered for Harsh Realm so he could be whole again.  This loss is too much for him to bear.  He looks for his gun - I just need one bullet - and when the sisters look at him reproachfully, he scoffs at their belief that they are doing God's work: no God in the game!

Tom is still out in the minefield.  A lone soldier, scouting for one of Santiago's squadrons, finds him and they tussle, landing on another mine.  This time Tom manages to defuse it, and also gets the better of the soldier, relieving him of his gun.  Tom runs off to try to find Florence and Pinnochio.  He finds her but manages to get captured his own self.

Pinnochio is lurching around on a crutch, looking for another mine in the field to finish the job, sees the rest of the squadron show up.  He hobbles back to the sisters and says he'll help them.  When the soldiers move off, the sisters go out to the minefield and collect a bunch of mines.  Later, the bad guys arrive at the farm where Pinnochio and the sisters are hiding out, Florence and Tom in tow.  The bad guys step on the mines Pinnochio planted and there's a lot of gunfire, with both Pinnochio and another soldier getting shot.  Florence, showing no ill will, heals the soldier.  Pinnochio gets taken back into the barn where he woke up before, and the pretty sister kisses him and then regrows his leg for him.  He wakes up and catches her as she falls into his arms, dead and then digitized, having sacrificed herself for him.  Tom closes us out with a voiceover, saying that he (and possibly Pinnochio too) now has renewed faith.

But where was Dexter the dog in all this?  That's what I'm really interested in.

Previously on Harsh Realm / next time on Harsh Realm

Sunday, August 7, 2011

I done read some stuff

I've sort of been casting about for another fabulous book after inhaling the Hunger Games trilogy, and haven't really been entirely enamored of anything yet.  I did finally finish all the Harry Potterses and while I enjoy them, they're not incredible literature by any means (Rowling has a tendency to repeat characters' names ad nauseam which I find terribly annoying, both in books and in movies/t.v. shows - every sentence does not have to start with someone's name).  My most recent conquests have been back into the realm of urban fantasy with Kitty and the Midnight Hour by Carrie Vaughn and My Life as a White Trash Zombie by Diana Rowland.  Mixed results there.

Kitty and the Midnight Hour is pretty standard urban fantasy fare, starting with the cover which has a long-haired girl standing back-to, wearing a leather halter and low riders, so that her tramp stamp shows, with a snarling wolf off to the side.  The titular Kitty is a werewolf DJ who finds herself accidentally running a call-in  late night radio advice show for werewolves and vampires.  She is struggling to find her position in her wolf pack, has pissed off all the local vampires and has a hot werewolf hunter nosing around, plus a string of dead and mutilated bodies are popping up around town which may or may not mean a rogue werewolf.  There's a little rough wolfpack sex - nothing like the Anita Blake series levels, thank goodness, and hopefully the books in this series won't veer off into that soft-core format.  There are a bunch of books in this series but this first one compelling enough for me to explore further, I'm afraid.

I liked My Life as a White Trash Zombie much better, largely because it seemed so new and different: girl zombies are rarely the protagonists of urban fantasy books, so I didn't feel as though this was such tired ground.  Angel has a shitty house in a small Louisiana town, an alcoholic father and a drug-dealing part-time boyfriend.  When she wakes up in the hospital after a car crash, she has no injuries, a mysterious job offer with the coroner's office and a strange new craving for brains.  The book follows her as she tries to make sense out of what happened to her, track down a serial killer who decapitates his victims and keep herself fed enough to not disintegrate and attack living humans for their skull candy.  To her surprise, she's much better off dead than she ever was alive.  This is a quick, fairly funny read (Angel likes to blend her brains with tomato soup for added flavor) that puts a lively new take on a classic horror trope.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Mini-cap: Harsh Realm E6 "Three Percenters"

Note: this one was a bit of a bear to recap clearly ... I'll do my best to not be too obtuse.

A family - father, mother, young daughter - stagger down a road in the Adirondacks, hungry, thirsty and tired.  They've heard that a military unit has gone missing in the area and they're hoping to scavenge food/water/weapons from them.  First, though, they stop at a lake and drink.  That night, a mob of people approach them and there are doubles of the father and mother among them.

Turns out that Santiago's right hand guy, Waters, and his squad are searching for that missing unit ... and so are Tom, Pinnochio and Florence, who are also after possible food/water/weapons.  As they search the woods, Florence finds the little girl, Lindsey; Waters's men also find a Lindsey.  Tom and Pinnochio find the missing unit who claim to have lain down their weapons (deserters) and joined this peaceable camp where there's plenty of food.  Meanwhile, back at the car, that mob of people - with Lindsey's parents - collect Florence and a frightened Lindsey and take them to the camp.  (Dexter stays in the car.)  The other Lindsey leads some of Waters's men to the lake but there's nothing there, except for a strange reflection of the soldiers that lingers after they leave.

The deserters bring Tom and Pinnochio to the creepy, well-appointed camp where they are reunited with Florence and Lindsey.  After they surrender their guns, they are given big bowls of soup.  Pinnochio notices that all the folks in the camp are all Stepford-y, plus no one is eating the soup.  He knocks Tom's and Florence's bowls out of their hands.  When the contingent of Waters's men show up and don't care about Tom and Pinnochio, the latter is all this place is right F'd up and we're leaving in the morning.  That night, outside the camp, Waters finds a Lindsey who tells him that his men are in the lake.  Then she digitizes and disappears.  Also that night, a restless Pinnochio follows a camp woman down to the lake; his reflection gets caught in the still waters and that mob of people approaches.

In the morning, Pinnochio is all Stepford-y too and Tom finally clues in that something weird is going on.  He leaves camp to try to get the car - while he's gone, Florence goes to the lake and gets her reflection caught - and he overhears Sgt. Exposition telling Waters that there's a code glitch in that lake which is part of the Harsh Realm game's 3% error rate.  When Tom returns to the camp, he doesn't notice that Florence has been cultified (since she doesn't speak) and she manages to get him to the lake.  It turns out that the glitch in the lake scans its victims and creates a new, weaker copy - all the zoned out campfolk - while the real people are dragged off and locked up, growing progressively weaker as their copies suck the energy out of them.  Also, the real people are being hacked into pieces, limb by limb, and cooked into that damn soup.  EEUW.  Waters invades the camp with the remainder of his men and discovers all this, but not before one of his men eats some toe soup.

The real Tom rattles his cage.  When the real Lindsey shows up, she steals the keys and lets Tom, Pinnochio, Florence and her parents out.  They figure out that they have to kill off the copies to get their strength back.  Tom picks a gun off of one of Waters's men and shoots his own copy, as well as his buddies' and Lindsey's folks' copies.  They steal a Humvee and make their getaway as Waters's men annihilate the rest of the copies in camp.  Our heroes go back to Pinnochio's car and split up the boxes of food, water and ammunition that were in the Humvee with Lindsey's family, Pinnochio grouchy at having to share.  And then off to the next adventure!

Previously on Harsh Realm / next time on Harsh Realm

Monday, August 1, 2011

Mini-cap: Harsh Realm E5 "Reunion"

OMG! No voice-over to start us off!!  Tom and Pinnochio are in Harsh Realm's version of Columbus, Ohio, at Tom's mom's house.  They get captured there and dragged off to work as forced labor for a lumber camp, run by Tobin Bell (of Saw fame, not that I've ever seen any of the Saw movies).  Bell doesn't know who his newest conscripts are yet but it's only a matter of time before he checks their identities against the Most Wanted posters in his office; the boys need to escape.  There are a couple of problems with that, however.  The first is that all the laborers have had their noggins injected with a "skull bug," a tiny metal roboticized slug that are benign until activated by the camp guards' guns, at which point tiny blades pop out and the slug chews its way out of the victim's head, usually emerging through their forehead and effectively lobotomizing them.  The second problem is that Tom's mother - or the digitized version of her - is also at the camp, sick and dying from cancer and being cared for by a kind but creepy prisoner, and Tom doesn't want to leave without her.  Even though intellectually he knows she's just game code.

In the real world, someone has notified Sophie that Tom's mother is in hospital, dying of cancer.  Sophie goes to spend her would-be mother-in-law's last days with her.  And here, of course, we get some droning, whining voice-over from Sophie, in which she starts each sentence with Tom's name.  Annoying.  What is less annoying is that there seems to be some kind of connection between real Tom's mom and HR-Tom's mom, with memories spilling over between the two women somehow.

Harsh Realm.  Pinnochio notices that a couple of the other prisoners are planning an escape through the camp's sewers.  Tom says he's not leaving without his mom so Pinnochio heads off without him.  The guards are waiting for the potential escapees, however, and the other two guys are caught, their skull-bugs activated; Pinnochio is saved by the unnamed woman whom Bell forces to wait on him.  Later, Bell confronts Tom and Pinnochio, saying he is sure they know something about the escape plan and if they don't tell him, he'll turn on their skull-bugs.  Tom challenges him, saying that he thinks he can beat the guards and escape; Bell's like, okay, you can try.  Pinnochio is all, WTF are you doing, Tom?  Tom's just trying to play for time.  So, a little later, Pinnochio starts a fight with one of the guards and, with Bell's woman's help, actually defeats him.  Pinnochio's skull-bug malfunctions later that night so Tom and the kind, creepy nurse-prisoner dig it out of his head for him.  Then they knock another guard unconscious and use his gun-gadget to remove Tom's skull-bug.  (Question: that seemed easy.  Why has no one tried it before?)

Then they capture Bell and implant a skull-bug on him, take a truck and leave the camp with Tom's mom.  They take her back to her old house.  She dies there, Tom holding her hand - just as Tom's mom dies in the real world, Sophie holding her hand - and for just a moment, Tom and Sophie can see each other reflected in the dying women's eyes.  And in the real world, as Sophie wipes her tears, a kind but creepy doctor (the same guy from the camp! how weird!) thanks her for being with Tom's mom.


Previously on Harsh Realm / next time on Harsh Realm