Monday, July 31, 2017

On the Run Part V

The base was cool after the sweltering heat. It felt good to be safe again after so long. He and Anna had stood there for the longest time, just drinking in the sight of each other, embracing, not wanting to let go. Neither one had said a word- nothing needed to be said- they had made it. They were in the command center now, seated at the round table in the middle of the room, and he was eating the first real food in days. Anna watched him with a mixture of amusement and concern.

"I'm alright," he said. "Just hungrier than a... so did you come out right here?"
"Yes. No one here when I arrived. Figured you might be right behind, so I set the prox alerts and made myself at home."
"So where are we?"
"Eridanus 4. Remote sensor location. Middle of nowhere."
"Staff?"
"Two technicians. One's pretty new, the other's more experienced."
"Where are they?"
"Missing. They were gone when I got here. Something about ruins to the northeast, couple days to survey. That was two weeks ago, according to the log."
"Not good."
"Nope."
"So... what do you want to do?"
"Get out of here. as soon as possible."
"What about the technicians?"
"Not our problem, is it?"
"No. But they're people. Our people. You just wanna leave?"
"Well, we're not a rescue team. Don't you think it's best if we report back and let them send in the troops? We've got bigger fish to fry, arguably. Our own thing has gone sidewise about three times now, don't you think? Why push it?"
He sighed. She was right. It didn't feel right though. Who knew how long it would take the Alliance to send someone? If they even did...
She moved in close. "I know, I don't like it either. But I just got you back, and now we're going to hit some alien ruins we don't know anything about? That's not our deal."
"If it was us, I'd want somebody to look."
"Yeah, I know. I would too. But we're not really equipped... no body armor."

He thought for a minute. "Does Control know where we are?"
"I don't know. I haven't gotten a response. If they're tracking our beacons... probably." She threw her arms up. "Who knows?"
"Yeah. We could just Gate out I guess. Doesn't feel right though."
She took his hand, and they sat there for a while in silence. Then something occurred to him.
"Anna. Are the ruins Precursor- related?"
She just looked at him. That in itself was an answer.
"Eric. You're not going to let this go, are you?"
"Anna, if they're PreC ruins then they're technically Gate- related. We have every reason to at least check 'em out. And if we find the techs' bodies, at least we'll know. We can just take a look and bug out."
She got up with a sigh and walked away. Not happy. He felt a twinge of regret, but at the same time he'd seen the towers. If they were Precursor then the urge to explore was there, warring with his desire to get Anna and himself out of there. Tough call. He watched her as she paced around the room, pretending to check various consoles.

"All right." She turned to face him. "I'm not sure it's wise, but let's do it. In and out, and no extracurriculars. At the first sign of trouble..."
"We're out," he agreed.

That was when the proximity alarms went off.

Game of Thrones: The Queen's Justice

Image result for game of thrones S7

We start again this week at Dragonstone, and amidst the pounding surf we have the arrival of Jon Snow- the King in the North- to meet with Dany. It's all staged very well, with Jon and Davos Seaworth coming ashore and being met by Tyrion and Missandei. Jon agrees to relinquish his weapons and he and Davos are escorted up the long walk to the fortress. It was nice to see Tyrion and Jon reunited, and I rather like Davos as Jon's spokesman. They're both plainspoken and not given to airs, and with Tyrion on the other side of the conversation, the narrative possibilities are endless.

Spoilers for this episode of Game of Thrones, and for the books as well.

The Jon/ Tyrion moments are done well here, including Jon commenting on the scar Tyrion has picked up since they last spoke. It's been a long road for both. It was nice too to see them discuss Sansa briefly, with Tyrion indicating his respect. There was a bit of humor too, as Tyrion reflects on his being drunk throughout his long road, and Jon diving for the ground when one of the dragons flies by. Speaking of which, the dragons- again- looked phenomenal.

The meeting between Jon and Dany was handled well, neither budged from their position, and it was interesting to see Tyrion a little uncomfortable, as he clearly cares about both Jon and Dany. How to serve both? Jon doesn't have proof of his claims about the walkers or the army of the dead, so it's not hard to imagine his hosts being skeptical. But Tyrion knows Jon is an honest man, so there must be something there. And indeed he prevails upon Dany to allow Jon to mine dragonglass underneath the keep, so at least we're making progress in the battle against the walkers.

This episode was a mixed bag for me in several ways . First of all, I think the Jon/ Dany interactions were done well. I must confess I was hoping for a dragon to come by and take to Jon, but that didn't happen. The parts that didn't work for me were in Kings Landing. Euron returns with Yara, Ellaria and Tyene in tow and parades them, through the city, to the cheers of the throng. That scene just felt wrong. As a book reader it's been made abundantly clear how much the common folk despise Cersei- remember her recent walk of shame?- and to see them cheering for Euron, who frankly they wouldn't even know, was jarring. Part of the problem too is Euron is so small minded here- the Euron Crows Eye of the books is a legitimately dangerous, terrifying figure, especially given recent developments, and the Euron of the show suffers in comparison.

Also would Cersei really let him ride his horse into the throne room, and approach within touching distance of the throne? It's just ridiculous. That whole scene was awful, and Euron taunting Jaime? I can't see Jaime of the books tolerating that, one hand or no. And that brings us to Jaime- still defending Cersei, still onboard with her mad scheming. So disappointing to see a character like that written so badly. The scenes with cersei and Ellaria, while acted well, were hard to watch and too long. We already know Cersei is horrible, and that Ellaria is due for some payback, but the sadism of it, as so often on this show, just makes me irritated.

It was disconcerting too to see the Iron Bank representative so impressed with Cersei, given the fact that in the books the Iron Bank seems to have washed its hands with her, financing Stannis and treating with Jon, etc. And Cersei being rather open about Jaime in her bed- why do that? Of course people will talk and she's validating all the rumors, including of Jaime being the father of her children. Seems reckless, which is a Cersei trait, granted, but it could bring her down. She's reckless, not stupid.

Melisandre and Varys meeting was nice, on the windswept cliffs. Mel indicates she's going to Volantis- anyone guess why?- but that she'll return. Varys doesn't seem to like her does he? She tells him she brought ice and fire together- a nice moment. And we end on a high note, relatively speaking, with the Lannisters taking Highgarden (after losing Casterly Rock, which they didn't defend very vigorously) and Jaime meeting with Olenna Tyrell. Nicely done conversation, with Jaime giving her a painless way out, but after she takes the poison she admits to him that she had Joffrey poisoned. She tells him she wanted Cersei to know.

Random Thoughts

"She's letting on," says Jon wryly when Tyrion remarks that Sansa is smarter than she lets on. 

"I'd say you get used to them," says Tyrion to Jon, "but you never really do." 

Is this the first time we've seen Melisandre and varys interact alone? Varys really came after her, intimating she wouldn't be safe if she returned to Westeros, but she had the last word. She tells him it's her destiny to die in Westeros, as it is his. That throws him.

"Terrible mistakes," she admits making to Varys. 

Nice Torrhen Stark callback when Dany reminds Jon that his ancestor bent the knee to Aegon the Conqueror all those years ago. But Jon stands his ground. 

"This is making me hard," Euron tells Yara as he drags her through Kings Landing. Oh can they write Euron any worse? How childish. The looming threat he poses in the books- wasted. 

Did anyone else think Bran was a bit creepy? Especially in the godswood. No wonder Sansa walked away. 

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Sunday Post #205


The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer

It's been a busy week. Started out w/a hot air balloon festival and it was a great night for it, although weather the night before prevented them from going up. And Comic-Con was huge last week, I've included highlights. Some of my favorite shows had some pretty good panels- The 100, Dark Matter, 12 Monkeys. Orphan Black has been killing it - can you believe there's only three left?? I've got some SDCC fun below and then I take a break this week from the cyberpunk images to revisit another fave artist.  




The Secret History of UsA Map for Wrecked Girls

Song of the week



PULP COVER OF THE WEEK: 

Image result for exit dying pulp cover

NEW ARRIVAL/ UPCOMING REVIEWS:

The Collapsing Empire (The Interdependency #1)The Good Neighbor

BOOKISH LINKS

The Comic-Con 100 panel

Friday, July 28, 2017

Bookcover Spotlight #111

Midnight at the Electric

I like the cover of this one- not sure why- maybe the big top tent with the electric lights and the night sky?  

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Valerian


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Valerian is a tough movie to review for me- there is just so much happening. I have a lot of different thoughts, but I think if I had to summarize it would be like this. Valerian is an ambitious, visually stunning movie with a weak story and uninspiring leads, but I'm still glad I saw it because it has heart, especially towards the end. Valerian and Laureline are agents in the 28th century who are called on to investigate strange goings- on in the massive space station Alpha. It's all over the place, with aliens and other planets and like I said amazing visuals. After hearing so much about the visuals, I didn't think they were the greatest thing ever, so don't be jaded about that, but they are pretty good. 

Imagination is on full display here, and even though this movie is based on French comics  you can see that Luc besson, the director, has put his stamp on it as well. Remember The Fifth Element? That was his movie too, and this is like that movie but maybe on steroids? I loved seeing some of the habitats and strange environments they found themselves in. I think a highlight of the movie for me though was the first set piece, a prolonged sequence where the agents must liberate a McGuffin from a nasty crimelord. The twist is that the mission requires them to infiltrate a market that is in another dimension, forcing them to use special glasses to see this other world and interact with it. 

Again this was an amazing (at times) sequence and sets the movie up very well. It's too bad the movie couldn't carry that through the rest of the way. Valerian and Laureline very nonchalantly do their thing, running through an other dimensional market while being chased by all manner of creatures, and it's really cool how they blip in and out. They've clearly done these kinds of things many times, but that leads to one of the problems. Valerian in particular is supposed to be very experienced and badass, but the casting is... bad. 

Dane DeHaan is cast as Valerian and he looks way too young and not nearly physical enough to fill that role. He is portrayed as a bit of a rogue, which is kind of laughable when he's trying to deliver his dialogue. Cara Delavinge is his partner Laureline, and she's much better here. Not exactly an acting clinic, and some of her dialogue made me cringe, but she holds her own and is much more convincing as a badass agent. In fact I rather liked her in this role, she has a wry smartass way about her and puts Valerian in his place quite a bit. With a better co- lead I think Cara Delavinge could have killed it in this role. 

The story is kind of silly too, and Clive Owen seems wasted here as a very one dimensional bad guy. In fact, Clive Owen would have been a better Valerian. But Cara does her thing and there's enough imagination here to make it worth watching, even with the occasional  eye roll. And there are some poignant moments, including a pretty good emotional performance by Rihanna as a shape shifting alien. The three little aliens that wander all over the station selling information were a nice touch also. So this is not a good movie- that would be a stretch- but I still, weirdly, think it's worth a watch if you're an SF fan. 

Starship


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Starship is a classic science fiction book that I've wanted to read for a long time. It's also a generation ship story, and I'm fond of those in general, so it had that going for it as well. This was written in the 1950's so I wasn't sure how it would work but after a rough start I got into this. It's the story of Roy Complain, a member of a primitive tribe who are only vaguely aware they are on a starship, and his journey to discover the truth. 

Roy is initially not interested in exploring the ship, but when he loses his wife to a raiding party from another tribe, he loses status and falls under the sway of a priest named Marapper. The priest has more than a little con artist in him, and has come into possession of something that hints to the true nature of their world. So Roy, now alone and being turned out of his home since the loss of his wife (housing is at a premium), decides he has nothing left to lose, and joins Marapper's expedition. Along with a few others they leave the clan and set off into the ponics- basically a jungle of mutated plants that grow so fast they have taken over entire parts of the ship. 

The journey through the ponics is hazardous, and they run afoul of other tribes, mutated rats, and encounters with other mysterious creatures, including the Giants- who are apparently men but are much taller than the tribesmen. We're left to wonder exactly why the tribesmen are so small, but Roy soon discovers that these Giants can travel between decks of the ship through hatches and other shortcuts. But who are the Giants? And when they capture Roy, why do they later release him? 

This book has a well known twist that I won't detail here. Suffice to say that the trip to Procyon, their original destination, has gone horribly wrong and now the initial mission has been altered somewhat. The tribes of course have largely forgotten who they really are, but there are people in the Forwards section who remember more. Marapper has an inkling of how to get to the Control center, but that turns out to be difficult, and when Roy meets Vyann in the forwards we get a romance subplot as well. 

I'm a big fan of the generation ship concept, and as this is one of the original stories I was especially keen to try this. The cover always appealed to me too, with the primitive look and the hint of technology just below the surface. I actually didn't like this book in the beginning but I stuck with it and I'm glad. The first two thirds of the book weren't really my thing, although there were some interesting observations about life and how it might adapt to circumstances like what happens here. But the last third of the book had my attention and I was really anxious to see what would happen. 

I wasn't sure about Vyann at first- I didn't think she was going to play a large role but then her and Roy get involved, and I was soon rooting for them to survive as all kinds of things start going wrong. You have mutant rats, telepathic butterflies, a ship that may have no one at the helm, a running battle between different decks of the ship- I had a lot of fun with this towards the end. I got a kick out of the romance too- Roy and Vyann were soon calling each other "darling"- this was the '50's- and while it wasn't instalove it was insta- relationship. But that's okay, I liked 'em, and considering that I didn't like any of the characters at first, that's an accomplishment. All in all I'm glad I read this- the twists are awesome and I'm glad to have finally taken the journey. 

Tuesday Tagline #49

Obsidian and Stars (Ivory and Bone, #2)

A DEADLY JOURNEY. AN IMPOSSIBLE CHOICE. Well that seems a little dramatic, but it's essentially true I suppose. Pretty good tagline, and it was a pretty good read. 

Monday, July 24, 2017

On The Run IV

He fell to one knee as he came through the Gate. The nausea was worse than ever and it took a moment to catch his breath. He looked around and to his left was water, as far as the eye could see. The booming of the surf was at least familiar, and the sky looked more or less the right shade, so he lowered his guard a bit. Took a moment to compose himself, make sure everything was working. To the right was jungle, a riotous profusion of sound and color. Tropical, he thought with a smile. You always could pick 'em, Anna.

So, first things first. He checked his weapon, wincing at the charge on his pulse rifle, and checked his other stuff. Everything seemed in order. He scanned the area, carefully looking for any sign of movement or hostiles but could see nothing, other than various birds and the usual kinds of creatures. He looked back at the Gate and saw that it was quiet now, maybe inert. Thank you, he mouthed to anyone who was listening, and then sat down with his back to it, exhausted. He felt like shit.

Later he stirred- had he fallen asleep?- and noticed the day seemed to have moved on. He was sore but otherwise feeling better, so he got to his feet with a grimace and started moving. The jungle was the same everywhere he looked, and the beach he was on seemed to be a sheltered cove, he could see the headland forming a sort of half moon. Cozy. He skirted the jungle for a bit, looking for any sign, but there was nothing. Then he saw it. Something sticking up from the sand. Was it... yes! A proximity alarm. Hope flared in his chest- it had to be Anna! Who else? The beacon had brought him here, to this place... it had to be her.

As he approached and looked it over he could now see two others, half hidden by foliage. So someone clearly wanted to know if anyone came through the Gate. No doubt the alarm had already gone off, somewhere. Was there a base here? Heart racing, he plunged into the trees and thought about calling out, but decided against it. Not a smart thing to do. He wouldn't go far, but he needed to know if she was close. The day was hot and insects were everywhere, he had to swat them out of his eyes. With all the thrashing he was doing she would probably hear him coming a mile away.

The ground began to rise and the trees thinned, and he quickened his pace. There were some heights ahead and he hoped he was going the right way. He could see something else now, as well. They looked like towers, in the distance, over the treetops. Strange though- they had a different shape, almost domed at the top. Hard to tell for sure though in the haze. He turned in that direction, wondering exactly where this was. What planet was he on? He went a little farther, trying to decide if he should go back, let her come to him, and was just about to turn back when he came into a cleared area. It had clearly been carved out of the surrounding jungle, and he immediately knew what it was. So there was a remote base here after all.

No sign of activity, all was quiet. He was scouting the area with his eyes, from the treeline, when he saw someone. In the entryway. Quiet and partially in shadow. Probably watching him. He hadn't exactly been quiet. He squinted, trying to get a better look. Was it her? He decided on the direct approach. Slinging his rifle over his shoulder, he came out of the trees slowly, hands up. Approached the entry. He could see that whoever it was, they were armed. The weapon was definitely pointed at him. He swallowed and kept on. Somehow he knew. As he approached the weapon lowered, and he heard an intake of breath.  Then  she came to meet him.

Anna.

Game of Thrones: Stormborn

Image result for game of thrones S7

Dany is in Westeros! It's been long in coming but last week we saw her and her entourage set foot on Dragonstone- the first step toward her conquering Westeros, and restoring a Targaryen to the throne. It was interesting seeing her in the chamber of the Painted Table, where Stannis used to hatch his intrigues. With Tyrion by her side who knows what will transpire next? Where will she strike first? Who will she ally with? Let's find out. This will have spoilers for the latest episode (and the books). 

We start off on Dragonstone, during a storm, as Dany is in war council with Tyrion and Varys. Things get heated right away when Dany confronts Varys about his service to King Robert, and about him sending assassins at Robert's behest. Things look a little dicey for the whisperer, and even Tyrion looks a bit concerned, but they work something out. I look forward to a similar exchange in the books, if they ever meet, as Martin writing that scene= priceless. This scene was very well done, and in fact I thought the whole first part of this episode was great.

From there we go right into a meeting between Dany and Melisandre, who has just arrived. This was another great scene, without useless antagonism but instead getting right to the matters at hand. There's not a lot of depth to the red priests on the show, due to time limits, but the fact that Dany acknowledged the red priests for helping in Meereen, and the fact that Mel acknowledged Dany as the freer of slaves, was a nice touch for book fans. And I thought Dany and Mel played off each other well. Mel makes Dany aware of Jon Snow and his kingship of the North, and suggests a meeting.

They also discuss the prophecy. First of all there's lots of debate as to whether Jon or Dany are the Prince that was Promised - here they are keeping that ambiguous with the gender neutral nature of the prophecy. The other thing is the mention of dawn. Now this could just be referring to the dawn that comes after the Long Night, after the Others are defeated. But what if there's more? There is a Valyrian steel sword called Dawn that is the ancestral weapon of House Dayne- we haven't heard much about this on the show, but how cool would it be if not only was the prophecy referring to the prince or princess, but also the sword of House Dayne being used against the Others?

We check in with Cersei trying to peel Lord Tarly off from the Tyrells, and this was a disappointing sequence for me because Jaime seems to be all in with Cersei. After blowing up the sept and everything she's done, I thought he was about done with her, but apparently not. The portrayal of Jaime is one of the most disappointing aspects of the show. In the books Jaime is independent by now, trying to do the right thing, but here there is none of that. We also see that slimy Qyburn is working on a huge ballista apparently to combat the dragons. Whatever.

I could have done without the Jorah sequences frankly, not only because I'm not a big fan of Jorah but also because I didn't need to see his greyscale being peeled off. And- Nymeria is back! Arya is heading to King's Landing but when she runs into Hot Pie (!) and finds out Jon is king in the north, you can hear the squealing of tires as she does a U-turn. I can't wait to see Arya and the reunion, although he'll be gone- so she'll get to see Sansa first? And yes Nym turned away, but I would bet she will rejoin her at some point.

The conclusion of course was the sea battle, as Euron sneaks up on Yara's fleet and lays waste to it. From what I could see there was only one ship- Euron's- although maybe we're supposed to assume there were others? Yara's fleet is wiped out. I actually thought this whole thing was lame- the scene where Euron boards by swinging down on some dragon plank or something- that was bad. They tried hard, obviously, to make this visceral, and it was very violent, but it was obviously a CGI fest and I didn't feel pulled in. If they want to show a realistic sea battle they should take a page from Black Sails' playbook. I know the budget isn't there though to go to those lengths for one battle. But this was clearly a move to get certain players off the board- the Sand Snakes and Ellaria are not necessary for the endgame, so sweep em off.

One last thought on the sea battle. There's a theory out there called "eldritch apocalypse" that posits that Euron is going to smash the Redwyne fleet and take Oldtown in the Winds of Winter. The theory is the brainchild of a blogger named PoorQuentyn and the theory is an awesome read, if perhaps farfetched. Or is it? The theory says that Euron's bloodbath on the seas is going to serve as a sacrifice of sorts which will cause the Drowned God of the ironborn to rise. Problem is the Drowned God is not a humanoid deity but a creature of cosmic horror, a true monster of the deep. Not really germane to the show, but that imagery... you can see the theory here

Random Thoughts

Incompetence should not be rewarded with blind loyalty, Varys tells Dany during their talk. Seems like it has modern relevance?  

I love it when Melisandre tells Dany to send for Jon. Even though he exiled her, she still wants to fight the good fight, and I've always thought Jon had a good ally in Mel.  

"Prophecies are dangerous things." Another great line from Melisandre. 

 Who do you think is the Prince or Princess that was promised? 

Dawn is probably the most famous Valyrian steel sword in Westeros, given that it was wielded by Ser Arthur Dayne, said to be the greatest of the Kingsguard. I think this lends more credence to the above theory about dawn being significant, although it's still probably a long shot. 

Dickon Tyrell is introduced, and it's none other than... Tom Hopper, who played Billy Bones on Black Sails. Woot! 

Loved the council with Dany and the other women- Yara, Ellaria, and Olenna Tyrell. Ellaria's a piece of work. Well, she was.  

I loved the storm scene at the beginning- Dragonstone looked as forbidding as it should. 

Will anyone miss the Sand Snakes with that awful dialogue they got? 

"A boy. A girl. Depends on the port." Yara to Ellaria as they begin to get down. She's loving that role. 

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Sunday Post #204


The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer

This has been a good week. Quiet, not a lot happening. Trying to get caught up on shows and read a bit.  I'm finishing up on Shetland and looking for something to watch after that! I bought a Paperwhite this week too (don't laugh Karen!!!). 

Part four of On The Run will be up early in the week. And I'm reviewing Game of Thrones on Mondays, so stop by! Oh and a little news I found interesting- one of my favorites has expanded into Chicago. Yes the Safehouse is now providing safe haven for agents on the run (or who just want a drink). I've been to the original many times but I think the Chicago location looks great w/ updated decor. If you're in Chicago area check it out. It helps to know the password...   



This week I reviewed Obsidian and Stars and I have a review coming up for The Secret History Of Us, which I really liked. 

Obsidian and Stars (Ivory and Bone, #2)The Secret History of Us

Song of the week



PULP COVER OF THE WEEK: 

The House Without a Key (Charlie Chan, #1)

NEW ARRIVAL/ UPCOMING REVIEWS:

A Map for Wrecked Girls

BOOKISH LINKS

I'm not sure if this looks great or not. 

 

Things got a little out of hand maybe!