aesmael: (it would have been a scale model)
Tried starting up a bookclub at the beginning of this year and it did not go well. I put a lot of the blame on having been swallowed up by work for nearly three weeks of the month, and on being struggling with school again. Even if I had been reading our first book (The Player of Games by Iain M. Banks) on my breaks I wouldn't have had the energy to be posting about it each week. And I wouldn't have been up for a group discussion on it this week at the end of the month either, because this is deadline week for half my grade.

Other people haven't been participating either. I put this down to my lack of doing my part as the organiser and instigator to bring energy and encouragement, at least initially to get things going. If I don't make a bookclub something people value in its own right and for themselves, they aren't going to put their own time and energy into it when I'm not up for that myself.

On the one hand that went quite badly. On the other hand, this means we have a fairly clean slate on which to try again for next month. Of course there is no guarantee that any of these problems won't recur or that new ones will not arise. However, the number and length of shifts I had in January is relatively rare and partly due to other staff being on vacation, and for me February will be between semesters so I am optimistic that we may be able to get some momentum going that will sustain the group through the next rough patch whenever that comes.
aesmael: (writing things down)

[there's some references at the end of this journal post because school and I felt like practicing]

Lasering this morning. Daring to hope I might be done after this round, in half a year. That would not be too long a time. Little bit frustrating that I took up a desire and occasional accomplishment of morning walks right around when I am experienced a laser-induced need to avoid UV exposure, so I look forward to the banishing of one of those duelling tensions.

Took a while to find where the shopping centre bookshop had removed itself to, then visited a few times on my outing. I don't buy books so often and when I do it is seldom off-line (the state of book prices in Australia is perhaps best described as 'exorbitant') but it was lovely to reacquaint myself a bit with the state of paper books as art objects.

Saw a beautiful edition of Mockingjay in passing. Lots of lovely editions of The Hobbit. Someone has decided to give all Brandon Sanderson's books a consistent look across settings and series; that shelf was a sight to see, so unexpectedly uniform. Robin Hobb's books are still in those beautiful, shiny covers that make me long to give over my copies to charity or second-hand, just to replace and see something so pretty on my shelves (too expensive, too frivolous, maybe someday...). The cover of Alastair Reynolds' On the Steel Breeze clashed weirdly with Blue Remembered Earth, as if they didn't belong together, so strange. Different editions or publishers or sharp change of art direction I suppose.

There were some boxed sets of the Song of Ice and Fire books which looked nice, though it would be nice to be able to do without having a permanent reminder of the television series affixed to the covers. Makes me wonder what looks the books may have when that series is complete. The Warriors anthology in three parts highlighting to me the absence of the Vandermeers time travel anthology since the last time I visited. The new edition of The Ice Dragon is lovely, the illustrations and the cover and the texture. Pretty book, book as art in itself. Could not find The World of Ice and Fire at first, the particular book I wanted to take a look at. Found it elsewhere after a bit, with all the trendy books. But I ended up not daring to take more than a quick flip through it, maybe I was scared of being thought a serious customer.

Looked for, could not find any copy of Kameron Hurley's The Mirror Empire. Did smile to see that, between times I visited the books, someone seems to have bought a copy of Ancillary Justice. Colours a bit too bright and busy and non-representational feeling for me on that one, but that's okay. Hoping it found a good home.

When I got home, was pleasantly surprised to see the set of dice I had ordered had arrived. I've never had dice before apart from the ones you get in department store board games and these are a delightful dusty green with gold numbers, fun even just to look at. I enjoyed taking some time to feel them and start learning which ones are which. Handy because now I can use them for pen and paper RPGs instead of using online rollers, and I've learned this difference matters to some (many?) who play such games.

Yesterday, on part of the way home listened to an episode of Ockham's Razor on cohabiting with wildlife in Australia. Was prepared to be disappointed, envisioning a lack of suggestion that perhaps people and society change their ways in order to minimise conflict and adjust expectations of what is acceptable. Ended up being mostly pleasantly surprised for the most part although perhaps I had set my standards excessively low. NB: a remark about dingo purity is potentially outdated.

Listened to an episode of Escape Pod through lunch. The story, "Shadowboxer", was okay but my main point of interest was how this story's threads weave with Death Note. If Kira's power were inherent, if he were of the USA and held as their instrument. Well, but I thought it was okay. Not inclined to launch into a lengthy criticism at this time. Judging by the comments many others found it much more strongly resonant. This was also the second consecutive podcast to reference research into intercessory prayer, although "Shadowboxer" claimed a near opposite outcome to that reported by Are We Alone? Big Picture Science.

That episode was rather fascinating in itself, covering language and power and other related aspects of headology. The general thrust of the episode I'd seen before elsewhere but, for example, I didn't know that the Curse of the Bambino in baseball was actually technically a jinx! Also appreciated the line of continuity drawn with European-derived cultures and others, and the explicit disclaiming that curses are not a matter of supposed primitiveness. Potential listeners should be advised that experiments are described wherein harm was done to animals, including death in some cases.

Finally from earlier in the week, a two-part program from All In The Mind on mental health in Indigenous Australian communities and approaches featuring storytelling and community involvement. I've little to say on the content itself, mentioned mainly in case of interest from others.

Except, a remark near the beginning of the first episode by the presenter: "Addressing mental illness is a vital component of the healing process for Aboriginal Australians". I found that rather incensing. They need healing? THEY need healing!? We got sickness running so deep we think it's a healthy way of being, to believe it's right and just and good to do what we do to people, to genocide or force it on them and try to make them sick too. That is what we need healing of, that splinter of ice in our collective heart.

Of course the indigenous people of Australia do need healing of the hurt done to them, but not I think in the manner implied by that framing, of necessary reconciliation to the pre-eminence of white society upon their land. That is... not it.

References 

Bentley, M. (Producer). (2006, June 14). Skeptical Sunday: Curses!. Big Picture Science Audio. Retrieved from http://podcast.seti.org/pages

Di Filippo, P. (Author). (2006, June 15). EP058: Shadowboxer. Escape Pod Audio. Retrieved from http://escapepod.org/

Malcolm, L. (Presenter). (2006, June 10). Aboriginal mental health part 1 - Tiwi Islands. All In The Mind Audio. Retrieved from http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/allinthemind/

Malcolm, L. (Presenter). (2006, June 17). The Long Grassers' legacy - Aboriginal mental health part 2. All In The Mind. Retrieved from http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/allinthemind/

Outred, J. (2014, April 15). Dingo declared a separate species.Australian Geographic. Retrieved from http://www.australiangeographic.com.au/

Temby, I. (Speaker). (2006, June 11). Wild neighbours. Ockham's Razor Audio. Retrieved from http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/ockhamsrazor/

Act 11 – Reunion, Endymion

In the previous chapter and this, there has been a lot of using a drawing of a bunny as shorthand for character’s referring to Usagi. First noticed around when they were on the Moon and, I think it was Sailor Venus, joked about her being a real moon bunny. I’d known for a long while her name was a reference to the moon rabbit, but had not expected her to be depicted so directly with one.

I pretty much always find mind control plots distressing.

Coincidentally illuminating Game Centre conversation explains to us which stones the Four Kings are named for and represent.

Oh, princess. It is not kind to rename your minions in ways they don’t like.

The happenings here are strange. I thought at first Usagi was dreaming again, but apparently she actually made her physical way to the game centre.

This whole chapter is difficult to follow. Apparently more unspecified time is passing and it doesn’t feel like anything is going on but time passing. All the urgency about rescuing Tuxedo Mask or investigating the stone sword or anything else seems very intermittent, almost a token gesture while a long span of nothingness or ominous seduction is going on. Found it difficult to recognise Minako and Makoto or distinguish them from each other – Ami and Rei are much more distinctive to me in their appearance and it is significantly easier for me to recognise them and their contributions to the story.

I didn’t like at the end that Makoto was vulnerable to Endymion’s hypnosis. Found it a bit more understandable that Usagi would be shocked and delayed in her ability to react, but puzzled that apparently the others were there, and yet it seemed like Sailor Venus fighting alone. Also, how is it that Beryl is able to show up everywhere at the end of fights?

aesmael: (just people)

Act 10 – Moon

I’m having increasing difficulty recognising where are the boundaries between these chapters.

Tuxedo Mask / Endymion captured, a portion of the power of the Legendary Silver Crystal absorbed into his body. Surely the stage is set for a bold and dramatic rescue of not only our heroine’s love, but also the aspect of that which she guards that is contained within him.

Fortunately the Dark Kingdom is utterly foiled by whatever ineffable magic is going on here. I would think it is something related to the unity of their hearts, so that though he now holds the active part of the Legendary Silver Crystal’s power within him, and she possesses the crystal which once contained it, the both shall remain inert until brought together again in a moment of romantic honesty.

We shall see how well that bears out.

Cats, travelling a small eternity from the Moon to Earth in little tubes. Seems deathly dull and tedious, can see why Luna might not want to remember that.

All this talk of awakening the characters to their past lives, ‘true selves’, it all seems rather romantisexual. “[H]er awakening happened in a way we didn’t anticipate” - falling for the reincarnation of her past love, mutual self-sacrifice and passionate desire to save one another. Awakening to knowledge and duty, but at the same time to love, and through love Sailor Moon has however inadvertently seized some part of her destiny to herself, away from the plans others would make for her.

Side effects of losing your prince may include becoming Rapunzel.

I like Rei’s eerie pronouncements but the lack of urgency in this part of the story was weird to me. Tuxedo Mask has been captured, but Usagi spends a week crying in her room before realising he needs rescuing? And then they wait however long it further takes for the moon to become full so they can visit the former kingdom and gain information. It’s suggested to be a necessary wait to do what they need to do but it still feels weird.

Was surprised the Moon (normally I might refer to the Moon as Luna, as a proper name instead of a descriptive label for that body. but we have a character named Luna in this story and that might be confusing) looks like its actual self. I was expecting some sort of habitable fantasy place.

Apparently the Four Kings were not revived in the previous chapter? Seems again like only Kunzite remains, and then an unknown time after the trip to the Moon he too is finally defeated back to gem form in their “second time in space”. Their story has grown a lot more tragic with backstory, now that we know their true mission is to serve and guard Endymion, but that they have been co-opted and taken over by Beryl and the Dark Kingdom.

The part where Endymion is revived to act as Beryl’s servant, I remember finding this part of the story annoying in the anime adaptation. But, we shall see. Also, Beryl’s insistence to Metaria that he is still useful alive puts me in mind of Vader to the Emperor about Luke, especially since she then does go and make a servant of him.

aesmael: (transformation)

Act 9 Serenity, Princess

Although from the feel of the narrative it was relatively easy to tell where this chapter began and the last left off, more or less, I still when it came to actually writing these got a bit confused as the title page does not match where the table of contents says the story begins (nor where it feels like the transition is, which is closer to agreeing with the TOC). At first I thought the TOC might be incorrect but it seemed to match with the previous chapters, so my current opinion is that this chapter has an especially long introductory segment before ‘giving away’ its title.

Apparently Makoto / Jupiter plays a large role in discerning the danger this episode and warning the others of it.

-5 points Sailor Moon being saved by Tuxedo Mask again

+ um, I don’t know, 20 points for the look on his face after she kisses him?

A wild title screen appears! But, it’s halfway through the chapter.

Heroic self-sacrifice, enabling the protagonist to recall her identity and powers (to an extent) thanks to the intensity of her grief. I feel sure I have seen that before but apart from Pokemon I am failing to recall where.

The forehead symbol-changing sequence looks unpleasant. I imagine it being accompanied by a wrenching sense of identity-shifting which is perhaps no less painful for Sailor V(enus) than for Usagi / Sailor Moon / Princess Serenity.

Also how this seems to be the culmination of a thread through recent chapters and pages of people, including Usagi herself, wondering how many faces she has to present to the world and how real the person she has been is.

And then we dive into the tragic backstory of the doomed romance between Serenity and Endymion, their long-past lives. Star-crossed lovers, forbidden by the laws of just how things are. So not only was Endymion the Prince of Earth as Serenity is the Princess of the Moon but Beryl was Queen of the Earth, presumably his mother.

That’s a big shock. I hadn’t been expecting so close a relationship between them, although I had been wondering what each of their domains were and whether it might be Earth. And apparently Jadeite, Nephrite, Zoisite and Kunzite are the Earthly counterparts to the Sailor Scouts, the gems of the Earth to match the gems of the heavens. Good thing we got a wave of healing silver crystal energy to revive them after their very abrupt departures earlier.

aesmael: (writing things down)

Act 8 Minako, Sailor V

Ongoing storyyyy!!

It feels a bit unfair to the existing cast to have Minako / Sailor V show up to announce she’s the princess they’ve been assigned to find and protect, and that she’s been keeping a hidden training eye on them the whole time. Especially that she’s already taken care of hiding away the ‘Legendary Silver Crystal’ that’s so important, too. She is gracious and princessly though, taking time to greet our heroes and commend them on their fine achievements so far.

I suppose if Luna was unaware of all this and was directing them sincerely that isn’t so bad. But, it comes across like much of what has happened so far has been misdirected, chasing shadow goals.

Of course I originally read this whole volume on a train ride and what’s actually going on (assuming there isn’t yet another retrospective recasting later) is fairly clear to see. Especially if you already watched some of the old anime adaptation as a child.

But now I am taking some time to dwell on this chapter by itself and I can’t decide. If I had been reading this in its original serialisation as it came out, would I have been bothered by these developments pulling story out from under me? Or would I have been excited at how it twists and turns and promises future adventure and development?

P.S. In looking up for the previous chapter to be sure ‘The Four Kings of Heaven’ was the correct term of reference I found that according to Wikipedia at least ‘Queen Metalia’ is an early mistranslation and officially it should be Queen Metaria[1]. Assuming that is the case I shall strive to use the correct name henceforth; I don’t know why this 2011 translation would preserve an error like that, except perhaps cultural inertia.

[1] What might be more difficult for me is not consistently misspelling this as ‘Materia’.

aesmael: (tricicat)

Act 7: Mamoru Chiba, Tuxedo Mask

Usagi, holding up Tuxedo Mask’s glasses in his room:

"Why didn’t I notice before?"

In fact I could have sworn she had noticed before, except flipping back through the first volume this does not appear to be the case.

And she has fallen for him so haaard. I suppose, narratively speaking, this is the point where the characters reveal and discover the strength of their feelings for each other before circumstances of drama conspire to keep them apart. The long journey before their love can be fully manifested into their lives.

Thinking thoughts about how to construct a romance story and where the tension comes from.

And of course at this point his identity, background and motivations remain still hidden even to himself. Especially because Luna has been keeping information from the protagonists to dole out at whatever time is deemed appropriate.

Queen Metalia! Up to this point, pretty sure I believed Queen Beryl was the apex villain here, answering to no one. So that was a shock.

Bit odd having a queen serving a queen, but I suppose the real world throws up such oddities too? The actual exchange between them puts me in mind of Volyova waking the Captain to consult with him in Revelation Space.

Now that Queen Beryl has been revealed as having a greater evil she serves there is room for her to develop an inner monologue, room for her to contemplate regret and the conflicts of her own desires and perceived destiny.

That this story again continues directly on from the previous one makes me feel like it is finally moving, as if we have gotten beyond the introductory phase and onto more ongoing narrative.

At this point suspicion should be encouraged of any new craze or institution suddenly springing up in the city. It’s also a bit worrying how everything gets worse when Ami tries to analyse the videotape at the game centre. The horde of mind-controlled people is quite scary , although cured and dispersed with the typical ease of the story so far.

Inducement of the general populace to do ill in Sailor Moon seems to be like a fog of the mind, and shine a bright enough light it will disperse quickly, because people for the most part are decent and not willing to serve evil ends.

I had been meaning to remark on how swiftly and easily the Four Kings of Heaven were getting killed off in each of their confrontations, but it has been growing less so on each occasions. In this case he seemed - I did not find the story clear on which this was - he seemed quite tough and unable to be done in by the three who were there to face him. Until of course Sailor Venus shows up to defeat him in a dramatic cliffhanger reveal at the very end, right when she is finally needed.

Plotful in motion!

aesmael: (transformation)

Act 6: Tuxedo Mask

So that’s the whole group now? And Usagi is pleased and surprised to be announced the leader despite that she has been leading them through several chapters now.

"The Moon Stick is a new item. It is sure to aid you in your battles with the enemy. I’ll teach you how to use it later."

No, Luna. Surely you should teach her how to use it approximately now? That just seems like begging for trouble when something comes up before Usagi has learned to use it.

Intro has shifted from describing Usagi as her regular self to describing the Sailor Scouts as a group. But I suppose this story is also different in following directly on from the previous chapter rather than an indeterminate number of days later like the others had been.

Mamoru Chiba shirtless by a big plate window drinking from a bottle. Reckon that’s meant to be a spot of enjoyment but with the art style doesn’t quite do anything for me (much cuter when he’s calling Usagi bunhead a couple of pages on >__>). A bit weird for Makoto to be teasing her for having an interest in multiple guys when unseriousness in love and lack of monogamous intention was such a hot button for her last chapter.

Found the action and art in this difficult to follow again at the climax. Feels a bit tensed and rushed, maybe? Or maybe I am reflecting my own feelings reading it. And the resolution felt abrupt too, just activate the Moon Stick and the day is saved.

I suppose that is not the real climax, however. The real climax is Tuxedo Mask revealing he knows who Usagi is and then her waking up in his apartment with him as Mamoru Chiba, thereby finally ending the tension of their not knowing each others’ dual identities. I shan’t be missing that.

aesmael: (friendly)

Act 5: Makoto, Sailor Jupiter


So I was right that ominous storm at the end of the previous meant the coming of Sailor Jupiter.

Still with Usagi introducing herself at the beginning of each chapter.

I found the art and story confusing to follow in this one. Had to look hard a few times to be almost sure that was Makoto who pushed Usagi out of traffic, and who Usagi was mooning over right after. And I had no clue until rereading to write this that she also later saved Usagi from a stray baseball.

Am amused by Sailor Moon’s surprise when Makoto turns out to be one of the team. The getting new people pattern has been running strong so far.

Finding Makoto very appealing, like with Rei. So far her only traits are being tall and strong and courageous I suppose, but those are pretty excellent traits to have. Someone I can potentially identify with.

aesmael: (nervous)
I was disappointed in this book, maybe because I expected the wrong things from it. I didn’t realise at first this was a prequel to the main series with different characters. Suspect I was also mistaken about the general premise, that it is not mysteries solved under the direct spiritual guidance of the deceased Aunt Dimity, although since I’ve not read any of the others I don’t know for sure how they normally go.

The mystery wasn’t very interesting partly because it largely felt like it resolved itself. Same for the romance. There were some feel-good moments but that was largely counterbalanced by the class stuff and the way the lead Emma Porter gets pushed into the shape of this story and the destiny chosen for her whether she wants it or not.

I’ve read romances I like more — The Nightingale Sings by Charlotte Bingham — and some I like much less — The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller, which I’d rather call something like Masculinity Theatre than romance.

I don’t think I’d read another Aunt Dimity book but I suppose I don’t hugely regret reading this one.
  1. Aunt Dimity and the Duke, first section
  2. Aunt Dimity and the Duke, second section
  3. Aunt Dimity and the Duke, third section
  4. Aunt Dimity and the Duke, fourth section
aesmael: (probably quantum)
11. Good and Valuable Consideration [Jack Reacher vs. Joseph Finder] by Lee Child vs. Nick Heller

Lee Child’s Reacher books were the only ones I’d read any of prior to this anthology and I’d liked them, so I had been looking forward to this story. I suppose it was a little disappointing in that sense, for lacking any grand quest to resolve?

Instead, a constrained little story wherein our heroes meet by chance in a bar and take it upon themselves to help out some hapless soul who’s been selected for violent blackmail. It wasn’t much, but it was okay. I may or may not check out the Finder stories in future.

Also, amusing because Finder and Reacher very much come across as counterparts, cut from a similar mould. It made sense to put them together like that even though I would think normally you want to avoid having two similar characters together.
aesmael: (writing things down)
10. The Devil’s Bones [Cotton Malone vs. Gray Pierce] by Steve Berry vs. James Rollins

I liked that there had been allusions in the characters’ books previous to this story that they knew each other, so that it played out more like a reunion. Not so much fond of the proliferation of hyper-competent agents of US political will and the agencies that employ them, but one almost cannot get super-spies without some form of imperialist chauvinism, and I do like a good bit of super-spy action.

Also not liking: saving the Amazonian natives from murderous band of gun-toting villains; another plot of protect + capture Pandora’s flask of death (bioweapon in “Pit Stop”, deadly neurotoxin in this story), although perhaps I shouldn’t fault multiple stories in a collection like this for drawing on the same such trope; conveniently disposed source of super poison so no one has to worry about it showing up in a future story; surprisingly literal use of Chekhov’s Gun to save the day once the box is open.

And yet I liked this story overall and liked the heroes. I’m interested to read more of their adventures but suspect I might miss the way they played off each other here, in their own books.
aesmael: (it would have been a scale model)
8. Pit Stop [Sean Reilly vs. Glen Garber] by Raymond Khoury vs. Linwood Barclay

This one was a bit forgettable and I suppose that sums it up fairly well. With Barclay apparently not using series characters these days, and the one he last wrote being of a sort to completely avoid involvement in the scenario presented, we end up with one half of the duo who mainly brings to it the terror of potentially losing one’s rather young daughter, while Sean Reilly of the FBI handles the active parts of the story.

Except he doesn’t, quite, because mainly the day is saved by Garber’s 10-year-old daughter Kelly thinking inventively while held hostage, and Reilly to clean up. So perhaps it is really more a team-up of Sean Reilly and Kelly Garber. Barclay not having a current series character I suppose is excluded from my evaluating “Do I want to read more of this character?” that I’ve been doing, although not-appearing-in-this-story Zack Walker sounds maybe interesting. Can’t really tell from this short whether I’d want to see more of Sean Reilly either.
aesmael: (transformation)

7. Infernal Night [Michael Quinn vs. Repairman Jack] by Heather Graham vs. F. Paul Wilson

Like “The Laughing Buddha” this story had explicitly supernatural elements, which makes the lack of them in “Gaslighted” more puzzling. And yet I find it weird this continues to bug me, as the story works well for what it is, and it’s hardly as if I am familiar with the source material and thereby bothered by an unfaithfulness.

Anyway, this one was interesting with lone wolf for hire ‘Jack’, “just Jack”, he would say, and every time I could not help thinking of that character from Will & Grace who I never liked - lone wolf for hire “Jack” hired all the way down from New York to New Orleans for a suspiciously simple request by a suspiciously wealthy and loosely moral benefactor.

Suspicions borne out when he manages to avoid a fight with Michael Quinn and conferring they discover they’ve been set against each other. It’s all to do with tremendously perilous ancient artefacts they’ve both had experience with in a way which comes across as tying strongly to the ongoing mythology of both characters. I’m not familiar with either of them, but in this story it feels very well integrated. Quinn is an agent of another (Danni Cafferty) as the muscle protecting people from dangerous magic, and although Jack seems to be mainly in the business of mundane dangers he’s had run-ins with magic too. The tale he tells sounds too specific and significant for me to think it wasn’t covered in one of his prior stories.

This story seems to be weaving Jack’s past into Quinn’s present so well that it makes sense for it to have an ongoing impact on both characters and their future stories. Pretty good on that front then, bringing together two characters and making me feel like of course they would share a setting, of course. Think I’d be interested in checking out both their series.

This is another example of what I was talking about wert “Gaslighted”, New Orleans as the mystic well of America, the place where magic lives and from which white heroes draw fantastical adventures. It also put me in mind of Alastair Reynolds’ stories in his Conjoiner setting, particularly the planet Yellowstone and the character of the Mademoiselle[1]. Makes me wonder if the imagery for that may have been drawn somewhat also from New Orleans.

[1] Apart from having a similar name to Madame de Medici, they are implied to have similar backstories according to my reading of the relevant stories.

aesmael: (tricicat)

6. Rhymes With Prey [Lincoln Rhyme vs. Lucas Davenport] by Jeffrey Deaver vs. John Sandford

This one I also liked from the start, especially being back to detectives working together to solve crimes. Had some fun of ‘thinks like me’ with the way they were considering even unlikely possibilities before deciding which approaches to focus on. That was enjoyable - it seems like actual detective stories are surprisingly rare among crime fiction, or maybe this is more a matter of how it goes in the short form (admittedly these are technically more thrillers than anything else).

I didn’t like the way it felt like BDSM was portrayed as inherently unpleasant, unhealthy thing to engage in. If there must be a villainous BDSM-interested character (not convinced of this), why can’t this be investigated by characters who are non-disgusted or even kinky themselves? Would help to draw a distinction between what people do and abusive or murderous corruptions of that. Reading this, that got to me a bit. I’m increasingly fed up with this sort of portrayal in fiction.

I was also put off by the later twists and turns in plot development, which seemed to come out of nowhere or to be drawing a very long bow of coincidence and connection. That was also a bit disappointing because it felt like the story just kept going on past when it should have ended, but also as if things were happening to fast (maybe I was in a rush because lunch break?). I also was put off by some tendency to the male to discuss their attraction to their female assistants. It felt very ‘pending romance’, and it felt very male-gazey in terms of appearance and relation focus.

Despite all this, I liked it enough to continue to plan to read Deaver’s novels, and to potentially look into Sandford’s too. I do worry this is some kind of betrayal of principles to continuing reading work by authors when I found this piece objectionable in so many ways that seem like they should be important. But I suppose I can read whatever I want. Assuming I continue to want to.

aesmael: (tricicat)
5. Surfing The Panther [Paul Madriani vs. Alexandra Cooper] by Steve Martini vs. Linda Fairstein

This one mostly interested me after a confrontational start - I’ve become rather averse to arguments, so the initial back and forth put me off a little. But once the story itself got underway I was interested the ‘lawyers attempting to uncover the truth of a case’.

The resolution bothered me because near the beginning there were some possibilities I saw, and dismissed on the basis of that didn’t seem to be where the story was going and if the characters weren’t picking up on it I was probably being over-alert for tropes not being invoked here. And yet - you guessed it - turned out what I suspected at the beginning was roughly what was actually being pulled here. This diminished my appreciation because it meant the characters were being unalert at the beginning of the story.

Still liked the part where Madriani and Cooper were cooperating, and somewhat interested in checking out their books in future. But this is still dampened somewhat by how the story overall turned out.
aesmael: (Electric Waves)

4. The Laughing Buddha [Malachai Samuels vs. D.D. Warren] by M.J. Rose vs. Lisa Gardner

I think this story was inherently going to be disappointing for what I wanted out of these. Like the previous story this one was hero vs. villain, not hero teaming up with hero as the first two were. Worse - from my perspective - Samuels is a protagonist villain, ever-slippery evading the grasp of the law, so this is effectively forbidden from being a story in which D.D. Warren gets one over him.

Since I’m not familiar with either character I can’t tell how usual or not this one is for their stories, but here Samuels is not the direct villain. Just someone who gives off villain vibes and would rather get hold of key evidence to satisfy his personal goals.

Ultimately felt unsatisfying, like it was just some stuff that happened without resolution. Seemed particularly not a good recommendation for the Malachai Samuels stories, as I get the impression he is on a quest treadmill and perhaps never quite gets to further his goals. Maybe if I were familiar with and already liked the characters I would have enjoyed seeing them in action again.

aesmael: (haircut)

I know I made a post just recently about my wish that adapting sff genre works from prose to television would become commonplace, but now news is going around about one such adaptation that I'm skeptical about, the Foundation series.

The Foundation stories are so much a bundled set of short stories with cast and time period changing what seems like every few thousand words, I wonder how they're going to manage any sense of continuity. At that rate I'd expect a cast turnover every couple of episodes.

Then again, Asimov's writing was so distant and sparsely characterised for the Foundation stories, maybe it would be a great opportunity for writers to dive in and explore character drama at length. Not as if there is much pre-existing material for them to conflict with here.

aesmael: (haircut)

3. Gaslighted [Slappy the Ventriloquist Dummy vs. Aloysius Pendergast] by R. L. Stine vs. Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

I dreaded reading this because I am not a fan of horror. It is a genre I am perhaps oversensitive to, one that lingers with me for days if I am lucky. A couple of years ago, for example, I read a short story by George R. R. Martin, “The Monkey Treatment” in The Year’s Best Science Fiction: First Annual Collection. That one gave me difficulty sleeping for a few weeks after and some of the imagery still haunts me.

In the case of “Gaslighted” it was not so bad. I was not affected by it like a horror story but still found much of it to be a difficult and unpleasant read because, as the title suggests, Aloysius Pendergast is indeed being gaslighted and that is almost always distressing even when I don’t know the characters concerned.

I was disappointed by this story not being really Aloysius vs. Slappy, in that Slappy’s appearance here is entirely as a figment invented through the true villainous doctor’s experiments in memory manipulation. Although being a horror anti-fan of course I have not read any of the Goosebumps books. Maybe this is true to Slappy’s usual presentation. But I had been looking forward to seeing such an excessively heroic character as Pendergast take on the evil machinations of an actual ventriloquist dummy.

Pendergast’s own exploits recounted here put me in mind of a reel of rejected X-Files plots, perhaps for being too outlandishly extravagant. I could not help but hear his speaking voice as played by David Hyde-Pierce, which I side might be fitting for this urbane, lethal, super strong albino FBI agent from New Orleans. I was a bit curious to read more of his adventures but am wary of how they might shade macabre enough to fall into the horrific. Plus despite a strong sense of adventure showing through it seems like he may just be a bit too perfect to be a satisfying read - this being why the narrative of his series was so plausible as the fantasy trauma retreat it was being presented as.

I also feel a need to mark hesitance regarding this character being from New Orleans. A place regarded in American folkloric and media culture as a source of dark magic and sinister happenings, it is not surprising this deliberately exotic albino FBI agent should hail from there but it is discomfiting. As a trend in fiction, as though that region is having its history washed away and re-purposed into the national mystery zone. Basically, African American culture and others raided for mysticism to fuel the adventures of white characters.

aesmael: (nervous)

2. In The Nick Of Time [John Rebus vs. Roy Grace] by Ian Rankin vs. Peter James

I want to call this a nice little morality play but I’m not sure that’s quite right. Guy’s on his deathbed, insists on making a confession of the time he got away with killing someone back in the sixties during the Mods and Rockers riots.

Well of course you don’t just take someone’s word for that so Rebus has to head down to Brighton and follow up on this with Grace. As it turns out, our confessor got it mixed up and didn’t kill who he thought he had; instead he disabled someone else who is quite eager to make an ID.

The morality play part comes in when they head back up to Edinburgh to get that witness confirmation. The confessor has had a miraculous remission of his cancer and wishes to recant his words to Rebus now that he has a future to lose again. It is of course far too late for that now. As the cops noted earlier, had he confessed the guilt gnawing at him back then he would have served his sentence by now. How much that might have distorted his life away from the now in other details is not touched upon.

I would be tempted to look into the stories of Peter James more except the way Grace’s assistant Norman Potting kept flirting with Rebus’ assistant Siobhan Clarke put me a bit off that idea.

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aesmael

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