aesmael: (Electric Waves)

[Wrote this on Wednesday; some additions before posting Friday due to the passage of time]

I think I must have mentioned the acquisition of fragmentary older archives of SETI Radio (now Are We Alone?) previously because memory says I have written of starting the podcast listening over again and going through an initial set of Planetary Radio alone.

It continues to irk me that I do not have access to the full, original run of Are We Alone? from 2002 because I do remember seeing those listed in iTunes back in 2005-06 or thenabouts but of course at the time did not have the bandwidth - or possibly even the storage space - to download them then. The same is true for some other shows like Planetary Radio, but at least they still have their entire run available on the website.

But since then, as I have been distracted from writing by school and workplace commitments, we have moved on successively to first a truncated second playlist where The Naked Scientists originally came in, and then a third beginning at the point where the earliest available episodes of Are We Alone? from https://archive.org/ begin.

Probably I mentioned that early Planetary Radio featured heavily guests and projects connected with the Planetary Society, such as SETI@Home, before moving on to a strong Mars focus for the historic close approach of Earth and Mars in August 2003 and the launches of several robotic missions to Mars; that focus has continued to where I am currently at in listening, late January 2004 when the second of two rovers (Opportunity) has only just landed on that planet.

I feel like my insistence on pinning these podcasts as near as I am able into a chronological order is vindicated by occasions such as the landing of the Spirit rover (and now Opportunity) when I have each of these three science shows reporting on the same events from their own particular perspectives and sources. It gives me an enjoyable feeling of synergy, a sense of time and place that these programs really do relate to each other in some meaningful way.

The current list, Playlist 3, is I am sure by far the longest that will be in at least terms of span covered. It starts at the beginning of November 2003 and extends to January 2005, when Playlist 4 will begin with the addition of The Philosopher's Zone from ABC Radio. To that point, every single podcast in my list which extends so far back in time is one also broadcast by radio, which seems odd to me. The first which exists purely as a podcast (and I suppose in that sense as an entirely amateur production[1]) is the one following, Slacker Astronomy, which is also the earliest podcast on my list to no longer be active.

It continues to be strange to me that The Naked Scientists hosts a call-in contest “Science Fact or Science Fiction” wherein callers are presented with a claim and asked to judge whether it is true or made up, because there is a similar game in the podcast The Skeptic's Guide to the Universe [2], Science or Fiction, in which the hosts are challenged to pick the fake science news stories from the genuine ones.

Nearly finished the book I'm reading[3] at the moment and have nearly a week to wait until I can get hold of the sequel at earliest. In the meanwhile as well as working on that placement report I can hopefully make sure to get some more writing done on what I think of the various books I've been reading over the past year. Most of them do have partial or complete notes written up already, it's just a few gaps that need filling so I can finish off and actually put them up in the order they were read. Am quite looking forward to getting that done because I do tend to enjoy talking about what I am reading and what I think of it, even if this is mostly awful.

So, objective for the next few days: work on placement report, work on not-reviews, also hopefully put together a nice meal for people which will likely involve fish.

Getting up to date on not-reviews and on my reading database are the two main personal projects I feel backlogged on currently. Maybe after those are up to date I will feel free to write more and to play games, both of which I feel I am missing out on. Therefore, the perpetual cry of diligence and energy!

[1] Although of the four which precede it, two are on public, non-profit broadcasters and the other two, as I understand it, rather rough or humble beginnings before acquiring their polish.

[2] Which doesn't start until 2005 but due to more extensive RSS availability I listened to a lot of in my first attempt at podcast catch-up – it was nearly the oldest one available by that approach.

[3] Now actually finished, during a lovely lunch in a café yesterday after my endocrinologist appointment.

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: (sexy)

Sometimes I worry that I am too critical of things and that I am no longer capable of enjoying any new story I encounter. That seeing flaws in a story prevents me from also enjoying that story. But then I read something like the story I am currently reading and it has all sorts of issues and I feel like Data's tone here nicely conveys how I am enjoying it, even aside from any consideration of its various problems.
aesmael: (sudden sailor)

I wanted to keep more of a diary again. Guess my first attempt at making a post of this getting accidentally deleted is as good an excuse as any. That's what happens when you have a part-written post in a browser window and then reboot the computer.

Earlier in the week I finally got an ultrasound for my wrist. Unfortunately no sign showed of what is causing the pain I have been in experiencing there. People seem to be treating that as good news which puzzles me - if there'd been an affirmative discovery of a problem, couldn't I have got something done about it? Now I'm in the position of waiting another month with painkillers and hoping it goes away before I can get a referral to a rheumatoid specialist for further investigation.Has been feeling a bit better the past couple of days, which I suspect is due more to having had several days off work than to taking extra care with my posture and typing since if I were to say I managed that half the time I'd be being generous. Can't hurt though, I hope.

[at this time the author takes a break for approximately 4 days or more]

I suppose I don't know what else to say. So far as resolutions go - that tradition of the new year - I suppose what I want to do is to occupy myself sufficiently with personal projects and activities to spend far less time haunting social media. Of course there's school, but I would like to, to have myself together enough to get writing again sometimes too. And games, and reading... I've been trying to persuade a book club into existence and also have been very enthusiastic of late about role-playing games. Aspiring to run and perhaps even to play in some this year.

Been focusing on Pathfinder first with vague plans to try running some practice adventures and hopefully cobble together a Star Wars themed campaign (Starfinder) based on an authentic [personal profile] ami_angelwings  idea. But first I'm trying to read up a lot on advice for running games well so that I can hopefully do a good job and help everyone involved have fun.

Right now, right next, I need to work hard at school. I worry I can't manage both school and much in the way of hobbies. Every attempt I make to manage my time well so far ends in weeks of anxious fretting and bursts of panicked labour. But I keep hoping and I keep trying. I suppose there is not anything else I can do.

On which note I better actually be doing that schoolwork now.

[started this January 1st, a few days later than I wanted to, and finished writing it yesterday. I do not want to abandon social media so much as I want to fill my life with enough satisfying industrious pleasure that I find myself less dependent on and habituated to it.]

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.

1. Red Eye [Patrick Kenzie vs. Harry Bosch] by Dennis Lehane vs. Michael Connelly

So far I’ve yet to read anything by Michael Connelly I did not enjoy. Admittedly that is not much - a novel, The Poet, and a short story “Father’s Day” in the collection The Blue Religion. The latter is all I have otherwise read of his main series character Harry Bosch. I’m not previously familiar with Dennis Lehane or his work but this piece worked so well I’m inclined to give him a look.

This was a refreshing, exciting change from what I had been reading but at the moment I seem to have my reading patterns set up well enough to generate that feeling nearly every time I switch from one book / series to the next.

At the point of writing this, having nearly finished the book I can say in retrospect that Red Eye gave me much more of what I had been wanting and hoping for from this book than many of the others in it. My belief continues to be evidenced that anthologising often involves managing reader response by opening and closing with especially strong stories if available.

Red Eye played out in a way I imagine - am led to believe - many superhero crossovers don’t quite manage to do. We have one protagonist pursuing a case into the territory of another, who picks up a separate lead to the same target. They cross paths and … don’t fight. I like a lot the way Bosch and Kenzie came to each other’s attention in a sort of surveillance triangle, each keeping an eye in the house and on this strange guy who also seems to be watching it.

From there it plays out quickly, each having half the puzzle which put together demands they resolve the situation now. The two get to play their roles as the heroic white crime-fighters who really care about justice and will step outside the rules if need be to thwart serial rapist-murderers of young black girls who would otherwise slip through the cracks of judicial apathy.

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aesmael

September 2017

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