<em>To Eternity</em> July 24, 2014 To Eternity Wesley Allsbrook and Barrie Potter If all things were normal, Stuart would be considered quite a catch. Brisk Money July 23, 2014 Brisk Money Adam Christopher It's hard out there for a robotic detective. A Short History of the Twentieth Century, or, When You Wish Upon A Star July 20, 2014 A Short History of the Twentieth Century, or, When You Wish Upon A Star Kathleen Ann Goonan A rocket story. The Angelus Guns July 16, 2014 The Angelus Guns Max Gladstone There's a war in heaven, outside of time.
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Showing posts by: Alex Brown click to see Alex Brown's profile
Wed
Feb 19 2014 12:00pm

Do the Stars Align for Star-Crossed?

Aliens have gotten the short shrift on television in the last few years. As has the science fiction part of SFF, for that matter. Star-Crossed (CW, Mon 8p), loosely inspired by Romeo and Juliet, attempts to rectify that imbalance, with moderate success. As an episode of television, this particular pilot does its job. It introduces the key players and sets up the central conflict—interspecies conflict versus moony love—while hinting at a much larger and more sinister conspiracy looming at the edges. But what you really want to know is if it’s worth watching. All I can tell you is yeah, sure, why not.

[“They’re never going to treat us like equals.”]

Mon
Feb 17 2014 1:00pm

The Walking Dead, S4 E10 “Inmates”

As has been noted before, The Walking Dead is very good at premieres and finales. The intensity and drama take a sledgehammer to the audience’s building disillusionment with everything in between. But instead of sweeping clear the broken crap that didn’t work, the writers have a nasty tendency to glue the pieces back together and hope we don’t notice the cracks. The show is also great at standalone episodes, ones where the events function independently of the bigger storyline while affecting the characters participating in it. “After” is a prime example of both situations, and “Inmates” what happens after the high wears off.

Last week, it took a lot of work to keep my gushing praise under 1400 words. This week, I’ll be pleased if I make it over 1000 without spiraling into frustration. In some ways, “Inmates” mirror “After,” but without any of the dramatic flair or character development. It was like an anthology of short vignettes, some more interesting and impactful than others.

[“We can live here. We can live here for the rest of our lives.”]

Mon
Feb 10 2014 11:45am

The Walking Dead, S4 E9 “After”

TBH, watching The Walking Dead is rather an ambivalent experience for me. I love the tense drama, the philosophical debates, the clash between morality and the will to live. Heck, I even love the zombies. On the other hand, almost every character is infurating inconsistent or frustratingly unknowable. Practically every major narrative arc on TWD has failed, then been dug out of the trash and reused with diminishing returns.

[Sometimes TWD gets it wrong—but once in awhile it gets things oh, so right…]

Thu
Jan 23 2014 5:00pm

Immortal Odd Couple: Fragile Spirits by Mary Lindsey

Fragile Spirits Mary Lindsey

Paul Blackwell takes front and center in Fragile Spirits, a new YA novel by Mary Lindsey set in her Shattered Souls universe. Paul is a kid from the wrong side of the tracks whose special talents landed him in the biggest house in town. In his world, there are three kinds of people: humans, Speakers (a person who can commune with the dead), and Protectors (those who guard the Speakers). Speakers and Protectors are monitored and paired up by a secret global organization, and that pairing will last lifetimes. They are basically immortal. They can die, but they always come back in a future version of themselves.

Paul is a Protector awaiting his Speaker. When she finally arrives, she’s a hot-tempered wannabe goth who despises Paul and everything he stands for. Vivienne is brash, outspoken, intense, and volatile, while Paul is calm, considerate, thoughtful, and planful. Are they opposites or complements? If they plan to work together for the rest of eternity, they’ll have to sort out their feelings toward one another. But first they’ll have to battle a paranormal evil set on re-killing one of their fellow Speakers. Vivienne will have to decide if revenge is the most important thing in her life, and Paul will be forced to choose between duty to his job and loyalty to his Speaker.

[“Immortality has a certain appeal, don’t you think?”]

Wed
Jan 8 2014 6:00pm

Living Dead Girl: The Pretenders by Charlaine Harris and Christopher Golden

Charlaine Harris Christopher Golden Cemetary Girl The PretendersCharlaine Harris and Christopher Golden’s first book in the Cemetery Girl trilogy, The Pretenders, tells the story of Calexa Rose Dunhill. That is not her real name, but, then again, the poor girl can’t remember what her real name is. She was left for dead in a cemetery, with only a few scattered memories of her life before to keep her tethered to sanity.

Maybe she died when her body was dumped. Maybe that’s why she can see the spirits of the dead as they rise from their graves and head off to the Afterlife. Or maybe she could always see ghosts, and her current predicament is an old habit refusing to die.

[“I’m pretty sure I died. For, like, a minute at least.”]

Mon
Dec 9 2013 6:00pm

After the Big Sleep: Something More Than Night by Ian Tregillis

Something More than Night Ian TregillisWhat do you get when you let the dude who wrote about Nazi superhumans battling English warlocks write a story about a murdered archangel, a tool of righteous fury, a heavenly host of pissed off beings that can alter the very shape or reality, a dead femme fatale, and a chain-smoking wannabe Philip Marlowe? What you get is something that shouldn’t work. At all.

Like any good detective story, Ian Tregillis’ newest book Something More Than Night (a book which got its title from a like from a Raymond Chandler story), is set in a world of murder, dames, a missing valuable, and lies and betrayals, all involving plot twists upon plot twists. Thrusting together 1930s-style hardboiled detective noir with a physics-drenched fantasy about cosmic beings should mix about as well as oil and water. Something More Than Night should feel jarring and disconnected, full of purple prose, slow plotting, and mismatched tones.

It shouldn’t work, but it does. And it is glorious to behold.

[“She was golden, she was silver, she was cold moonlight.”]

Mon
Dec 2 2013 12:15pm

The Walking Dead, S4 E8 “Too Far Gone”

This episode was the first in a long stretch that felt like it flew by. Normally—and even with the really good episodes—I can practically count the minutes ticking by. But this one was over and done before I even realized it. Not that any of it was particularly good, but at least it was an exciting way to go out. This was yet another one of those episodes TWD is notorious for, one where characters do things simply because the writers think it looks cool or because they need a particular plot point to happen, not because it’s something the characters would actually do. Like the Governor burning Woodbury so he could stand in front of it for a promo shot. Visually arresting but signifying nothing.

[“Liar.”]

Mon
Nov 25 2013 1:00pm

The Walking Dead, S4 E7 “Dead Weight”

The Walking Dead Dead Weight Governor

And there’s the Governor we all know and loathe. This time he has a whole pond to play with, rather than just heads in fish tanks. Last week saw Brian pulling himself out of rock bottom with the love of a good woman, a can of spaghetti-o’s, and the world’s most annoying little girl. This week Brian got the old heave-ho and the Governor took his place on the throne.

Martinez makes the big mistake of believing Brian’s con that he really is a changed man, a con Brian himself seems to have bought into. When Martinez expresses doubt at being able to keep the camp safe—a not unrealistic fear, given the circumstances; it’s less being pessimistic about their odds and more being pragmatic about the harsh realities of the Endverse—Brian snaps and kills him in cold blood by bashing him in the head with a golf club and feeding him to a pit full of zombies, all while crying “I don’t want it!” Clearly homeboy’s a wee bit conflicted.

[“Everybody loves a hero.”]

Mon
Nov 18 2013 12:00pm

The Walking Dead, S4 E6: “Live Bait”

Raise your hands if you were dying to know what the Governor has been up to all these months. Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Well, you’re in not-luck with “Live Bait.” Normally, I’d be all for watching David Morrissey brood for an extended period of time, especially in a Jane Austen novel, but not when it comes to his ridiculous villain in The Walking Dead. His reappearance at the end of “Internment” nearly retroactively ruined the episode, and I was not looking forward to his continued existence in last night’s episode. Even now I can’t say my fears were eased, but neither were they stoked.

So. Woodbury. Last season, the Governor went on a vengeance-fueled killing rampage after Rick’s rescue mission. At some point he returned to the scene of the crime and burned the town down. Or, at least one building. Not sure why he’d even bother, catharsis maybe? Whatever. Point is it looked cool having him stand, head cocked and face all a’glower, in front of a burning building.

[“I’m never gonna let anything happen to you.”]

Mon
Nov 11 2013 5:00pm

All Hail The CW, Television Overlord of SFF

Something magical is going on at The CW. Over the last few years, they’ve quietly become the one of the best channels for genre television, and, more specifically, SFF. In some ways, it’s not entirely surprising. When the scrappy little channel was birthed from the flames in the wake of the 2006 collapse-slash-merging of UPN (half cheesy teen melodramas and half network version of BET) and The WB (half cheesy teen melodramas and half Joss Whedon), few people gave The CW any thought. Home to Gossip Girl, America’s Next Top Model, and One Tree Hill, the channel became a laughingstock to the network powerhouses lower down the dial. Everyone joked that the only people watching The CW were hormonal teenage girls.

The CW dabbled in genre fare, offering up Veronica Mars (which it canceled a year after the merger), Smallville (which, by that point, was largely a (boring) young adult melodrama), and Supernatural (which has never managed to secure the larger audience it deserves). But speculative fiction was only a drop in their programming bucket and never seemed to be much of an interest to the Powers That Be.

[“The CW is killing it. In a good way. No, seriously!”]

Mon
Nov 11 2013 12:30pm

The Walking Dead, S4 E5 “Internment”

Well, fellow zombie lovers, we made it all the way to episode 5 before The Walking Dead took its first dip in quality this season. That’s high praise, given the show’s track record. Not that last night’s episode was bad, per se. Just not to the same high standard set by previous Scott Gimple-helmed episodes. It was still a solid episode, overall, even if it was severely hampered by some major plot holes and poorly thought out story logistics.

[“You’re a tough son of a bitch.”]

Wed
Nov 6 2013 5:00pm

Don’t Touch That Dial: General SFF

And now for part two of “Don’t Touch That Dial,” a seasonal series in which I, your friendly neighborhood television addict, break down some of the shows screaming for your attention. In this very special episode we’re covering new SFF shows: Dracula, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, and The Tomorrow People. Be warned, these reviews contain moderate SPOILERS—nothing worse than what you’d get by checking out the show’s summary on its network site, but still, don’t come into this post expecting to keep your televisual virginity intact.

[“Such potential, such lackluster results.”]

Mon
Nov 4 2013 5:00pm

Don’t Touch That Dial: Witchcraft

Don't Touch That Dial Fall Television Witchcraft

Welcome back to “Don’t Touch That Dial,” a seasonal series in which I, your friendly neighborhood television addict, break down some of the shows screaming for your attention. In this very special episode we’re covering new shows involving witchcraft: American Horror Story: Coven, The Originals, Sleepy Hollow, and Witches of East End. Be warned, these reviews contain moderate SPOILERS—nothing worse than what you’d get by checking out the show’s summary on its network site, but still, don’t come into this post expecting to keep your televisual virginity intact.

[“Screw the Charmed reboot. What the world really needs is The Craft.”]

Mon
Nov 4 2013 10:00am

The Walking Dead, S4 E4 “Indifference”

The Walking Dead season 4 episode 4 Indifference

It only took 3 showrunners and 4 seasons, but The Walking Dead has finally come into its own. We’ve had a run of 4 straight good-to-very good episodes in a row—an unprecedented feat. My big fear at the end of last season was that, what with the introduction of the ex-Woodburyites, the prison would become Hershel’s farm 2.0. Gimple and his writers have (mostly) figured out how to balance the quiet talky scenes with the action-y horror spurts in such a way that they don’t feel dragged out or jarring. Gimple has obviously learned from the mistakes of the past and has done everything he can to redress the problems. He’s proven the show can handle the gross-out zombie violence and the slower but equally as important moments of character development. And with the recent, not so surprising news that AMC has renewed the show and Gimple for a 5th season, it looks like we’re in for a good, long haul.

The 4th episode of the season split its time between the two traveling groups, giving the audience a much needed break from the depressing prison and fretting over the plague and giving the plot a breath of fresh air, literally. Rick and Carol got some alone time as they went to scour the suburbs for painkillers and cough drops, while Daryl, Michonne, Stookey, and Tyreese wandered back around to the vet hospital then headed the long way home. Fun times were had by all.

[“It was a nice watch.”]

Mon
Oct 28 2013 12:15pm

The Walking Dead, S4 E3 “Isolation”

So far we’re 3 for 3 in good episodes this season; well done, Gimple. “Isolation” is one of the slower turns that we’ve seen in a while for The Walking Dead. Fortunately, it was a well-used slowness, one that developed characters badly in need of it while not being boring or meaningless.

In order for the story about the plague wreaking havoc in the prison to work, the audience has to care about what happens to more than just Rick and co. To that end, background characters are finally being given more agency, which allows the audience to get to know them outside the context of being cannon fodder. (It also allows us to grow attached to and then grieve the loss of characters we care about without having to whittle down the core group of Rick, Carol, Daryl, Michonne, Glenn, Maggie, Hershel, and Carl.)

[“We all got jobs to do...We don’t get to get upset.”]

Tue
Oct 22 2013 3:30pm

What’s In The Box?! Dying Is My Business by Nicholas Kaufmann

Dying is My Business Nicholas KaufmannSo, Trent. No last name, just Trent. He’s just this guy, you know? A guy who can’t remember anything from more than a year ago, when he woke up in New York City. He knows how to do everyday things, and can keep his newly created memories, but everything else is gone, vanished, non-existent. Or so he thinks. Even worse, Trent can’t die. Well, he can die, but he can also come back by stealing the lifeforce of the nearest living thing. Given that his chosen profession requires associating with various ne’erdowells and ruffians, he dies a lot, and the list of souls he’s stolen grows longer and longer.

Trent is “rescued” by Underwood, a crime boss who tortures people because he doesn’t have anything better to do. He convinces Trent he can help him find answers to his situation, but only if he works for him as a Collector—a fancy name for “thief.” Underwood sends him on a routine job to retrieve a mysterious box, and instead Trent walks into the middle of an attack by a pack of gargoyles on a werewolf and a witch, two more sets of competitors for that frakking box. Trouble is, someone else is waiting in the wings to get their corpse-y hands on the box, too. Trent soon finds himself wrapped up in a war between a necromancer and her army of zombies, a gargoyle battalion and their seemingly invincible king, and a pack of magic-enhanced thieves, with nothing less than the fate of New York City at stake.

[“It’s not as easy as it looks to come back from the dead.”]

Mon
Oct 21 2013 12:30pm

The Walking Dead, S4 E2 “Infected”

Fun fact: The season 4 premiere of The Walking Dead got the highest ratings of any non-sports show in cable history. According to Nielsen’s Live+Three Day returns (ratings that include those watching live and the first three days of DVR viewership) brought the total to 20.2 million viewers. It even beat out High School Musical. By 2 million. And 13.2 million of that 20.2—65%—were in the key 18-49 demo, and that’s *without* counting in the Live+Seven Day returns. If I lost you at all those numbers and jargon, let me translate: HOLY FRAKKING FRAK.

After the troubled high from the season premiere last week, The Walking Dead settles into some good old fashioned storytelling in “Infected.” A clear, not illogical and idiotic multi-episode arc is starting to appear, and, surprisingly, it doesn’t entirely suck. And once again, Greg Nicotero delivers on some gag-inducing, skin-crawling zombies.

[“I’ve got you under my skin.”]

Mon
Oct 14 2013 10:00am

The Walking Dead, Season 4, Episode 1: “30 Days Without an Accident”

And we’re back with the fourth season of AMC’s (and one of basic cable’s) biggest hit, The Walking Dead. In season 1, the zombies kept the rag-tag band band of survivors constantly on the move and hunting for a cure. The show functioned more like an extra-long zombie movie, with scene after scene of nameless, lineless extras run through the grinder. For season 2, the slashed budget pushed the writers into creating more or less a season-long bottle episode out of Hershel’s farm. It was a time sink in the worst way, with everyone turning into idiotic ciphers and backstabbing cockwaffles. No one was interesting, no one was likable, and CARL WOULDN’T STAY IN THE GODDAMN HOUSE.

Last season, the writers tried another tactic. Instead of running in mindless fear or holing up in the most boring place on earth, Rick and company split their time between building a fortress out of a prison and going on walkabout in the surrounding countryside. It was an action-heavy season to counteract the sandboxed previous season. But at least the (defanged) Governor kept popping up to piss people off and wreak havoc. And we got rid of Andrea. There’s always a silver lining.

[“Because I don’t want to be afraid of being alive.”]

Tue
Oct 8 2013 10:00am

The Lustful Frolicking Ostrich and You: Beautifully Unique Sparkleponies

In September of this year, football player Chris Kluwe compiled several previously written articles and even more never-before-published essays into a book with the greatest title in the history of titles, Beautifully Unique Sparkleponies: On Myths, Morons, Free Speech, Football, and Assorted Absurdities. I drove to a library 3 counties away just to get a copy the day it released. Now I wish I’d just bought the darn thing in the first place, because it’s killing me to not dogear every page and underline all my favorite quotes (in other words, to underline every sentence on every page).

BUS came about when Kluwe was inundated by requests from publishers begging him to write a football memoir. Every athlete ends up releasing a dull, ghostwritten autobiography about how [insert sports team] changed their life and how much God loves them and blah blah blah. Kluwe shucked tradition and wrote an intensely profane and profanely intense series of personal and opinionated essays, articles, poems, and listicles on every topic imaginable, from politics to philosophy, theology to technology, introspection to activism. He takes on Ayn Rand and the moons of Saturn with equal aplomb and fervor.

[“Everything Is Better With Dinosaurs”]

Thu
Oct 3 2013 10:00am

The Warm Glowing Warming Glow: Fall 2013 TV

Warm Glowing Warming Glow Fall 2013 televisionThe Fall 2013 television season has just gotten underway, and it’s already disappointing. “I’m not nearly as excited about this as [network] thinks I should be,” is the theme of this season’s new crop of shows.  It’s still too early to get the ball rolling on cancellations, but, depending on how you look at it, it’s also a fairly good/completely depressing sign that we haven’t had any outright flops. In other words, it seems like studios have decided this year to take as few risks as possible while also pushing creative boundaries.

[“Thanks to TV I can’t remember what happened 8 minutes ago.”]