Sunday, April 27, 2014

Mini book review: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin

I picked this one up after reading an NPR article about what other epic fantasy series might make good television, once Game of Thrones has been exhausted.  The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is the first book of the Inheritance Trilogy.  The heroine, Yeine Darr, has been summoned from her small, backwater northern land to the side of her paternal grandfather, a powerful Arameri, leader of the world.  As the only child of his only child, Yeine is named as heir and immediately thrown into the twisted intrigues of her vicious family, having to rely on her wits, warrior prowess and the kindness of a distant cousin to aid her.  She also becomes entangled with the gods of this realm, physically manifested, enslaved by the Arameri, and as petty, changeable and cruel as any human.

The pluses:  Yeine is a short, scrappy, mixed-race, curly-haired, not particularly pretty heroine, so that's different.  The world-building is novel and interesting.  The infrequent sex scenes are well-written, hot but not overdone.  Once you get past the appalling generic fantasy cover of the book, it's a fairly engaging read - I wanted to know what was going to happen next.  The minuses:  The villains are written thinly.  The novel jumps around - a stylistic choice meant for a reason - making it occasionally difficult to figure out what was going on.  The world-building is not nearly as detailed or well-constructed as The Song of Ice and Fire or Joe Abercrombie's novels (which, yes, continue to be the gold standard by which I judge all other works of fantasy).  The verdict:  I can see where NPR was going with this, but the special effects necessary to successfully incorporate the gods into a t.v. version would be prohibitive.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Bad Haiku about: Superhero Movies (VI)

The skiing conditions were sub-par last Sunday so instead I took myself to a matinee of Captain America: The Winter Soldier.  There's nothing I can say here that hasn't been said elsewhere - pretty good movie, Captain America is a decent, solid man confused and conflicted by our confusing and conflicted times, slight commentary about current drone warfare, blah blah blah.  I liked it - and liked the Winter Soldier's screechy techno-ish score - but found it a bit of a downer.  I know it's all a build-up to the next Avengers movie and so on, but still, I like my superhero movies to be uplifting and, you know, quippy.

Cap is a good guy
but Black Widow was
the best part for sure

That Anthony Mackie/Falcon was pretty darn adorable too - glad he's joined the party.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

OMG not a genre show (well, yes, technically, but not the genres I usually watch)

Mr. Mouse and I pretty much shun "reality t.v."  We do watch The Biggest Loser, Restaurant Impossible and American Pickers, but crap like the Kardashians, that Honey Boo Boo atrocity or people wrassling alligators in swamps makes me want to hurl.  It was with trepidation, therefore, that we turned on the History Channel's Down East Dickering.  Or, if you want to be accurate: Down East Dickerin'.  I must admit that I loved it.

Part of the charm is the entirely on-point accents.  I LOVE Maine accents and they are nigh impossible for anyone who is not a Mainer to get right (see any movie ever set in Maine, for example).  These guys are some wicked local - two of them appear to have some Canuck in them and their accents, while strong, are not quite as "Maine" as the others - and it's all kinds of awesome.  Even though I do not have a Maine accent myself, I have a tendency to pick up other's accents and by the time the last episode was over, Mr. Mouse was rolling his eyes whenever I said anything.  You can take the girl out of Maine but you apparently can't take Maine out of the girl.

The show follows three pairs of dickerers, guys who don't want to work real jobs and prefer to peruse Uncle Henry's for goods and services for which to sell, barter and trade.  One pair is located in the greater Bethel area (I used to spend a lot of time in Bethel and it's fun to see familiar places), one pair is up in Sangerville (Dover-Foxcroft region) and the third is somewhere off Route 1 (maybe Lincolnville-ish?) Technically, only the area around Route 1 is considered "down east" but I'll give them a pass.

I read an online article - which described the show as "American Pickers with a redneck twist," which is absolutely right on - where the author was skeptical about the potential hickifying of two characters' nicknames, "Codfish" and "Yummy."  She thinks this was unrealistic artistic license.  I think it's probably spot on.  The real name of the Codfish guy is "Cordwell" which is pronounced "Codwell" if you're from Maine.  It's not a stretch to nickname someone "Codfish" from "Codwell," in my opinion.  The other nickname, Yummy, could be a bit far-fetched, I suppose.  Except that back in the day I worked at a Maine seaside resort hotel.  One of the local lobstermen was nicknamed "Grunny," which was short for "Grunion" which is a funny little fish.  Grunny, Yummy - not that far apart.

I don't get back to Maine very often.  Now that I've found Down East Dickering, I can get my fix in between trips.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Back into the abyss

It's that age-old conundrum around these parts when the recapping goes on hiatus: WTF do I do next?  I suppose I'll pick up where we left off with True Blood, as that's sort of what we do over the summer.  But I can't start that yet because I'm finishing the final season of Fringe right now, and then after that I plan to rip through S3 of Game of Thrones, and then the final season of Spartacus.  And then we'll go back to those Bon Temps wackadoos (whilst also watching S2 of Orphan Black).  Television's gonna be busy up in here.

Reading-wise, I've been on a slight Gerald Durrell tear, re-reading My Family and Other Animals for the umpteenth time (along with my love for Greek mythology, that book was responsible for making me a huge Hellenophile, culminating in an Ancient Greek college major and a semester in Chania, Crete) and also Menagerie Manor and The Ark's Anniversary.  The latter two books are all about his wildlife park on the Isle of Jersey and his foundation's focus on conservation and saving endangered species; these volumes are not nearly as charming and funny as MFaOA but I was interested and found them quick reads.

Now I'm in book-limbo, needing to get back to the library.  To pass the time I'm re-reading The Hotel New Hampshire for the umpteenth time.  I've forgotten how funny - and dark - that book is.  Fun/weird stuff.  So, anyway, be patient and bear with me.  I'll get some updates here as soon as I can.  In the meantime, what are you reading/watching?

Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Walking Dead S4E16 "A" 3/30/14

That short delay got rather longer than I expected.  But here we go, season finale time, and we're sent into it with a Rick quote from earlier in the season: "We've all done the worst kinds of things, just to stay alive."

Flashback.  The group is at the prison, after the Woodbury folk were assimilated but before the Governor ruined everything.  There's Herschel, one-legged but alive!  He begins to work on convincing Rick to put down his gun and take up his cucumber patch (not a euphemism).

Now.  Rick sits on the road, leaning against a derelict SUV.  He seems to be alone.  His hands and face are coated in blood.  He is shaking, staring off into nowhere.

Flashback to slightly before now.  Rick, Carl and Michonne are camping out as they continue towards Terminus.  Rick teaches them how to set a snare for rabbits:  you find an animal trail, where animals are used to going, make it so they have to continue along that path into the trap, set the wire and hide it with plants so they can't see it until their neck is caught in the noose.  I don't suppose that's foreshadowing at all [sarcastic voice].  They hear a voice screaming for help and run to a nearby clearing where a man is surrounded by more than a dozen zombies.  Carl raises his gun to help the man but Rick grabs him, pointing out that there are too many walkers - there is nothing they can do to save the man and they would only bring the small herd of zombies down on them.

The three of them continue down the road (not the railroad tracks), complaining about how hungry they are.  They find that derelict SUV, dispatch the one decrepit zombie squirming nearby, and camp there for the night.  After night falls, Carl gets some shut-eye in the SUV while Rick and Michonne sit by the small campfire.  They discuss their hopes for Terminus, Michonne wondering if the place is really legit.  I don't suppose that's foreshadowing at all either.  They hear some rustling in the woods but no walkers come out at them so they settle back in ... until Joe and his hardasses sneak up on them, putting guns to their heads.  Joe: "Oh dearie me, you screwed up, asshole."  Rick sits there and from the look on his face, boy does he ever know it.

"Today's the day of reckoning, sir, a restitution!"  Joe is eloquent and jovial, very excited to have caught the man who killed one of his crew.  Then Daryl comes up, rejoining the gang.  He had been lagging behind and didn't know who Joe was stalking.  He pleads for his friends, saying that these are good people.  He offers himself in Rick's place.  Joe: "This man killed our friend [but] you say he's good people.  That's a lie."  And because of their code, two of Joe's gang start beating the shit out of Daryl, because lying is punishable by death.  Things start to get extremely horrible and uncomfortable now.  One of the men pulls a frightened Carl out of the SUV.  Joe:  "First we're gonna beat Daryl to death.  Then we'll have the girl, then the boy.  Then we shoot you and we'll be square."  The man throws Carl to the ground, tells him to stop his squirming and reaches for his belt.  Carl squalls.  Rick headbutts Joe, whose gun goes off by Rick's ear, disorienting him.  Michonne is clouted to the ground, Carl is close to getting raped, Daryl is in shambles on the ground.  Joe grabs Rick in a bearhug and grins, What are you gonna do now, sport?  Rick doesn't hesitate and moves his head forward, quick, latching onto Joe's neck with his teeth.  He jerks his head back, tearing out Joe's throat in a splash of blood.  Wow.  Joe's done.  The man assaulting Carl pauses, amazed.  Daryl rears up and puts down the two who were beating on him.  Michonne grabs a loose gun and dispatches her guy.  Rick staggers over to the guy on Carl and grabs him, sinking a long-bladed knife into the man's belly over and over and over again.  Michonne hugs Carl and they stare at Rick as he methodically guts the man.  The sound effects are pretty effective.

Flashback.  Blah blah blah, Herschel continues to try to humanize Rick and make him a farmer.  They discuss how Carl needs his father to show him the way (this is right after Carl shot that kid): which way is it gonna be?

Now.  In the morning/aftermath, Rick sits leaning against the SUV, bloody and shaking, while Michonne and Carl are in the car, Carl resting and Michonne watching over him.  Daryl brings Rick some water, suggesting he wipe his face.  "We should save it to drink," says Rick.  Daryl: "You can't see yourself.  They can."  Rick washes his face and hands.  Daryl explains how he ended up with Joe's crew - sort of glossing over what happened to Beth: "She's just gone" - and says he knew they were bad, but their simple code appealed to him.  Rick doesn't begrudge him since Daryl was alone out there.  "I didn't know what they could do."  Rick reassures him, saying it isn't on him - and that Daryl's rejoining them is a good thing.  "You're my brother," says Rick, and Daryl looks grateful for that.  Daryl: "What you did last night, anybody would have done that."  Rick:  "No, not that."  Rick acknowledges the darkness inside him and says that keeping Carl safe is all that matters.  Later, as they continue walking along the road, Rick asks Michonne if she's okay.  She says yes and he says that he's okay too.  She says she knows.  He asks how does she know?  Michonne: "Because I'm okay."

As they get close to Terminus, they get off the road and approach through the woods, hoping to observe the place without being seen.  They come up to the chainlink fence and observe for a while.  Carl stays with Michonne.  They have a conversation where she tells him how her son died.  She, her son, her boyfriend Mike and their friend Terry all went to a refugee camp.  It was grim.  She came from a run and saw the camp's fences were down, everyone dead, including her son.  Mike and Terry had been high when it happened.  They were bitten but not dead when she found them, so she let them turn, took off their jaws and arms and dragged them around with her, as we know.  "The walkers didn't see me - I was just another monster ... I was gone for a long time."  But joining the group brought her back.  She reassures Carl that he doesn't have to be afraid of her or his father.  Carl is all, I know, but I'm just another monster too, with these thoughts that I have.  You know, I'm finding Carl a lot less annoying these days.

Before they scale the fence into Terminus, Rick hides a duffle bag full of guns and arrows, "just in case."  Over they go.  They wander through the backside of Terminus (which is much less charming and flowery than the front entrance) and find their way into a building where a woman is broadcasting a "those who arrive survive" pro-Terminus message over a short-wave radio.  Other people are milling about.  Rick's all, hello?  One guy (Gareth) walks forward, saying wryly, "Well, I bet Albert is on perimeter watch."  Gareth introduces himself and welcomes them to Terminus.  He asks them to lay down their weapons, and our group does, nervously.  After a pat down (Alex saying to Daryl, I wouldn't want to see the other guy, and Rick responding, No, you wouldn't), Gareth asks "Alex" to take Rick's group out front to the Welcome Wagon.  Alex hands the weapons back to our heroes and asks them to follow him.  Rick starts to get just the slightest bit of hope into his expression.  They go out front to the flowers and vegetable gardens, and Mary/Tasha Yar at the barbecue.  Rick looks around at the others, noticing a backpack, a poncho, riot gear and a pocket watch in Alex's pocket.  He lunges forward and grabs Alex by the throat.  Daryl, Michonne and Carl pull their weapons and everyone gets all twitchy.  "Where the hell did you get that watch?" growls Rick.  He has recognized it as the watch Herschel gave to Glenn.

After a bit of a standoff, as quite a few Terminus-ers surround them with drawn weapons, Gareth has reasonable explanations on how they got that gear (poncho off a clothesline, riot gear off a dead cop).  Then Rick's group runs for it.  They get shot at, a lot, but the Terminus-ers are herding them down various alleyways, not actually trying to hit them.  Leading them along the trail towards the snare, as it were.  They run past a courtyard and Rick sees a pile of denuded skeletons: not dead zombies and not zombie-killed people, but skeletons that have been stripped of their skin and muscle. Like they've been, I don't know, butchered in the meat-packing sense of the word.  AND I TOTALLY CALLED IT YOU GUYS: TERMINUS IS EATING PEOPLE.  They keep running, past railroad boxcars with people inside calling out for help and into a weird shrine room, filled with lit candles and written on the walls: NEVER AGAIN, NEVER TRUST, WE FIRST ALWAYS.

They run out through the only unlocked door, finding themselves surrounded by Gareth and his now well-armed Terminus-ers, nowhere left to run.  Gareth is less patient now and more bossy.  Rick's group drops their weapons, as instructed, and Gareth sends them all into a boxcar marked "A."  The door is slammed shut and locked behind them.  As their eyes adjust to the gloom, there's movement from the far end of the boxcar.  Glenn walks forward, with Maggie, Sasha, Bob, Tara, Abraham and Rosita.  Everyone looks rather terrified. Glenn and Maggie explain that Abraham and Rosita saved them and are friends of theirs.  Daryl says: "And now they're friends of ours."   Abraham: "For however long that'll be."  "No," says Rick, "They're gonna feel pretty stupid when they find out ... they're fucking with the wrong people."  Well, he actually says "screwing," not "fucking," but it's clear that's what he means.

I don't exactly know why I got the feeling that they were eating people when I saw Mary grilling meat in the last episode, except that it didn't look like any cuts of meat I recognized.  I guess I just got a SPOILER FOR 1987 BOOK/1991 MOVIE Fried Green Tomatoes feeling.  This wasn't a subtle episode - you might have caught my issues with the foreshadowing - but it was pretty powerful, especially with the awful Joe scene and the unveiling of Terminus.  And I didn't hate Rick in it, which is amazing in and of itself.  'Til next season!

Previously on The Walking Dead / next time on The Walking Dead