TV Show Review: Revolution (Warning: Ranty)

I almost stopped watching this show over the opening. Right here at 0:41: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y4Bq-h2JCSE

If you go to 0:41, you will see a jumbo jet spinning to the ground.

Let me explain why I raged over this. The premise of the show is something happened that caused all electricity to stop working. Later in the show, it’s explained that there are nanobots in the air, absorbing all electrical current. This means computers won’t work, cars that run on gasoline don’t run, etc.

Okay, I can suspend disbelief for that. In fact, I’m a really easy person for the most part to convince, because I always want to let myself sink into a story, and will happily go with the story as long as it’s internally consistent.

Whoever came up with the jet spinning out of control clearly seems to think that electricity has something to do with lift. It doesn’t. That’s not what happens to a plane when you have an electrical failure unless the pilots are complete frelling asshats.

Engine failures are something pilots are drilled on – to adjust the speed of the plane to maximize the distance you can cover, and try to reach something flat enough to make a decently smooth crash landing. Gimli Glider anyone? If the engine fails in an aeroplane, it does not suddenly drop like a stone or spin out of control like crazy.

That’s an engine failure though. That’s assuming that what happened would cause the engine to fail. An electrical failure does not cause an engine failure in an aeroplane. An electrical failure is an electrical failure. Your electronics will stop working. With the Gimli Glider, the battery eventually ran down, and they were stuck using a ram turbine to power the hydraulics that moved the control surfaces. That’s likely to fail under the circumstances of the show’s premise as well, so I can believe that the pilots would have lost control of the plane entirely. However, they’re more likely to end up in a spiral dive then. That spin? Completely implausible. They’d definitely be in a shitty position – trying to make a landing with no control over the plane, or next to none, over ground that appears as nothing but black, since all the lights on the ground are out, and it’s dark. They will probably crash if they try to land, but they won’t spin. Those planes are built to be aerodynamically stable, and resist spinning.

But here’s the kicker, and you probably haven’t even thought about this yet. Okay, so presumably the plane is in this death spin because of a lack of any electricity working. It’s affected by this no electricity phenomenon, right?

THEN WHY ARE THE POSITION LIGHTS STILL ON?

Why? Because it’s night, and we wouldn’t be able to see the plane in it’s dramatically implausible spin if there wasn’t something lighting it up, and clearly that’s more important than internal consistency to the premise.

Ugh.

This is particularly bad because this is the opening scene, and the scene introducing the premise, so the audience is using everything they see right now to interpret how the premise works.

Anyway, that’s why I almost stopped watching the show.

Now to why I kept watching the show: Rachel. And some Charlie, but mostly Rachel. She’s introduced as a damsel in distress. She’s a prisoner of the Big Bad, and the characters have to rescue her. She falls nicely into the mother-desperately-trying-to-protect-her-children trope. She’s also a scientist, so she’s uber smart, which is also cool.

And they’ll play up all these elements, and then suddenly remind you that she’s also freakin’ badass. Give her a gun, and she’s not the sort of woman who stands at the back whimpering, hoping she’s not forced to make the decision to pull the trigger on someone and then when she is, can’t bring herself to take a life. No, that’s her husband. Rachel? She will shoot your ass. She gets to be brainy, a middle aged mother, and still gets to be a fighter.

And Charlie’s her daughter, and because Charlie is introduced first, you don’t realize right away that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree when it comes to badassery. Charlie is kind of another subversion of a trope, because she’s the protective character who’s sworn to look after her younger, sickly brother (he suffers from activity induced asthma). The trope is just gender swapped. She’s an archer, so right away has warrior characteristics. She gets a romantic subplot, but it doesn’t overshadow anything else about her.

There’s another warrior female character too, so there’s three major female characters who kick butt. They didn’t just go with the token honorary male character, they’ve got three of them. And the male characters, the writers weren’t afraid to make them weak – Rachel’s husband, and then the teacher character are both non-fighter types out of their element.

Anyway, I’m kind of glad I got over my rage over that four second clip of the plane spinning. The male to female roles are well balanced, and the women in the plot are there as more than arm candy to the male characters. And of course I’m a sucker for post-apocalyptic settings.

And it’s on Netflix, for Americans and Canadians who can hack American Netflix.

Book Review: Mockingjay

People warned me that I might not like how this story ends. I have really mixed feelings about this book. It has some aspects that kind of drag – I get that Katniss is suffering from some pretty severe PTSD, and through the whole book, she’s barely holding it together. It does get to be a bit much, though, and I wonder if it might have been better written in third person point of view, and switch POV characters every so often, to give us a break from Katniss’s slow mental degradation. It wasn’t a problem in book one – it wasn’t old then. But in book two it was getting old, and in book three it gets tiresome. The author had already established that this was a first person, single POV series in book one, though, and it was probably too late to change it. I think that’s why many people have found the movie, especially the second one now, more palatable. The movies don’t drag you through Katniss’s mental anguish ad-nauseum, however plausible that mental anguish is.

The story itself – I though was great. The last book really puts the finishing nails on a theme, and it’s not just a theme about oppression, or poor versus rich, or even about reality TV. It’s a theme about media, and the massive amounts of power that control over information gives the people who have it. In this book, Katniss is no longer a pawn of the Capitol, she’s been rescued and brought to district thirteen. Where now she’s a pawn for district thirteen.

Her act of defiance in book one makes her a mascot for rebellion in book two, which she desperately needs to suppress, but fails miserably. Now in book three, she’s asked to embrace that role, but finds, as in book two, that she can’t act to save her life. They end up taking her into combat situations in order to force something genuine out of her, because her acting is so terrible, they can’t otherwise put together any footage of her that would inspire people.

So now we have the Capitol and District Thirteen in a media battle, with Beetee periodically wresting control of the airwaves to broadcast inspiring footage of Katniss, while the Capitol is trying to vilify her.

I couldn’t help but think that District Thirteen’s leader was given a name like “Coin”, with it’s capitalist connotations deliberately as foreshadowing.

I won’t bother spoiling the climax, but the climax was great, as was the followup to it.

Then there was these last five pages tacked on the end that fucking ruined it all.

*spoiler alert*

Of course she had to resolve the Peeta/Gayle thing, right?

No. No, she didn’t. Katniss spent the entire story progressing towards a mental state where I couldn’t believe she could ever have a healthy relationship with anyone, let alone either of them. The story ends with her a shattered human being, the world and the war having left her that way. She gave more than her life, she gave her sanity, to fight for a better world, and she paid a price and that’s the way the story ends.

And then there’s the last five pages that basically go “And then a couple years later, I got over it, Peeta was still around so we got married and had kids and lived happily ever after. Gayle? Who’s Gayle?”

I felt betrayed by the author, but have a theory. My theory is that the author submitted the manuscript without that tacked on the end. And my theory is that her editor or agent told her, “You have too many fans who won’t be satisfied with that ending. You have to resolve the Peeta/Gayle thing.” And I think they made her add that. Or maybe it wasn’t her editor, maybe she just felt so much pressure from fans to give Katniss a happy ending, that she caved, even though she knew how the story should really end. Because that bit on the end feels tacked on as an afterthought – it’s so out of sync with the rest of the book, it doesn’t feel like it’s part of the same story.

That’s what I think, and I’m just going to keep imagining the book without that bullshit last couple pages.

Finished Edits – And Title Change!

This has taken longer than it would have if I were just working, rather than working and flying, but my planned revisions on the novel I had been calling The Eyelet Dove are done. I’m pretty happy with it overall, though revisions have a tendency to take the shine off of things.

I’ve been considering changing the title for quite some time though, despite The Eyelet Dove being a phrase that nicely rolls off the tongue. The thing is, it makes it sound more like a novel aimed at female readers, and it’s really not. Not at all. I mean, there’s female characters, but they like to blow a lot of shit up, you know? Which is not to say women won’t enjoy it – I just want to make sure it doesn’t sound like something that only women would enjoy.

At the time I came up with the title, I hadn’t come up with a call sign for the character Michel. When I finally realized that I had subconsciously cannibalized my very first novel (practice novel – will never see the light of day – I can’t even look at it without cringing) for a lot of the themes in this one, I decided I might as well use the same theme for call signs as I had for code names in that old novel. Which was songbirds, and Michel’s call sign became “Redwing.”

Redwing makes a much better title, I think. The feel of it reflects the type of story it actually is, so I’m going with that.

Anyway, I’ve revised my query letter, and I’ve sent out a couple queries. And I’m done that in time for NaNoWriMo to start. Those who know me know I do that every year. I don’t know how well I’ll do this year – I’ve made it to 50k the last four years, but not the three years before that when I was going to school while working. Now I’m in school again, so that has to come first, but I’m hoping I’m prepared enough to be able to make it again. After all, I have a 20 chapter outline already. But I’ll post more about the next project closer to November.

In other news, I’ve posted a review of Jay Kristoff’s Stormdancer on the Punkettes Blog – go check it out – the book was everything I was promised and more. I think I’d call it the best steampunk related work I’ve ever read. Book two just came out yesterday, so I’m off to go pick up an e-pub copy.

Safe landings, all!

Book Review: Thunder Road by Chadwick Ginther

I put down Mockingjay to read this one.

I don’t normally read urban fantasy at all, but it’s a first novel written by a local author and acquaintance. You know that fear, when you go to read a book by someone you know, that it might not be very good, and you sometimes just hope you’ll be able to find a few nice things to say so you don’t make them feel bad? Well I can’t say I’m surprised, but I certainly didn’t have to search for nice things to say about this one. It didn’t read like a first novel. I’ve read a number of debut novels by authors I really liked, and there’s often a precocious, unpolished quality to it. Not so here.

The novel follows Ted, who’s inadvertently got dragged into the plots of mythical figures from Norse tradition. I probably don’t know enough about Norse mythology to truly appreciate the amount of research the author’s done – the worldbuilding is rich with it. But at the same time, it’s modernized. The characters of myth have adapted to the modern world.

I think Chad knew that every urban fantasy with a male protagonist that came after the Dresden Files is going to be compared to the Dresden Files, so the main character, Ted, is definitely not a Dresden clone. He’s rougher around the edges, and not the gentleman that Dresden is. He’s a jock, and believably so. It’s not an archetype I’m very familiar with – it tends not to be one you see often in genre fiction. I figure it’s because it doesn’t tend to be one that readers often identify with – the people who would identify with it, don’t really read genre fiction. But I think it was made real enough to make up for it.

Loki was a great character. I think the author has done his job in making a character who’s entertaining comic relief, sympathetic at times, but you’re never really sure if he’s a “good guy” or not. Which is exactly what a trickster god should be, I think.

I think the ravens were underrated as well, though. They’re a voice that fills in gaps of information for the main character, and they might have been annoying as deliverers of exposition, but their sardonic tone made them entertaining enough to overlook that, and I enjoyed them.

Right, there was a romance, wasn’t there. Yeah, I’m not a romance person, so it was good that the romance wasn’t the entire point of the story, but it was also nice to see a character with a battered heart get some romance. Ted’s not such a young guy, and he’s got an ex that he still has feelings for, which is totally understandable. Tilda, the new girl, has her own hangups. She’s wound up in her  fate, and feels trapped by it. Fate is a major theme of the story, and I get the sense that the series is going to be exploring whether fate is written in stone or sand. Tilda certainly seems to think it’s written in stone, but Ted doesn’t. I’m hoping this doesn’t end up being too Damsel-in-distressy in later books. I’d like to see Ted supporting her while she breaks free of her fate, rather than rescuing her from it.

The only other female characters so far are her mother and grandmother, and her mother is a pale background character. The grandmother was an old battle-axe character type, though – she was cool, but it would have been nice to see more of the middle aged mother character come out – it’s one you don’t see much of in genre fiction. Maybe there will be more in book two, I’m looking forward to it.

Book Review: Catching Fire

I finished this one a while ago, just haven’t got around to the review. There’s lots of reviews on this book out there, so I won’t go too in depth – this will just be a weigh in.

Most people have said that the second book wasn’t as good as the first one. And you know what? I do agree with them. The Games themselves, the arena, the spectacle, the first time around, it was all new. This second time around, it’s not new anymore.

The first half of the book I enjoyed more – the victory tour and the emotional turmoil involved in that. The political maneuvering, and the whispers of revolution promised me something. Only it promised me something that never got going in this book. I was waiting for it to build into a revolution, and instead, it’s back to the arena.

But the thing that bothered me the most about this installment is that in this one, very little that Katniss does has any effect on the story. It’s not as if her desperation and helplessness isn’t believable – it is. But it’s her helplessness that’s frustrating as a reader, because I like to read a story where the main character takes action, an in this book, Katniss is an oblivious pawn in a game played by those around her.

That said, it’s not a total wash by any means. It’s just not *as* good as the first book. I’m heading into book 3 now, and I’ve heard two schools of thought on the third – one is that the books get less good as the series goes on, and that the third one isn’t even as good as the second, and the other, that the second book is less good, and the third is better. From what I hear, the revolution I was promised is going to be coming into fruition, so I expect I might be leaning towards the second opinion.

I’m curious to see how things turn out on the Gale vs Peeta front, not because I’m really into the love triangle, but because I’m curious to see why some people were upset by the ending. I’m not really a “Team Gale” or “Team Peeta” sort of person. If anyone asked me, I’d probably say I was “Team Katniss” because that girl has more important things to worry about than which guy she’s going to have kids with, especially since she’s made it quite clear so far that she does not want kids.

If I were writing it, I dunno, I think I’d probably kill both of them. Actually, no. I’d kill Katniss. And she would die a heroic, fiery death as a martyr doing something that will seal the rebel victory, or at least make sure they have a shot. Or I’d kill all of them. Yeah, I think I’d kill all of them.

Review up on The Punkettes Blog: The Warlord Of The Air

My poor blog has been neglected, and I’m behind on the reviews on the books I’ve read lately for pleasure, but I’ve finished up the review for Michael Moorcock’s The Warlord Of The Air over on The Punkettes Blog, among others.

As for my flying below the radar blog wise of late, I’ve been very busy making arrangements to start flight school. Crazy tons of stress, trying to organize a student line of credit, figuring out which course I’m going to take, doing taxes (yeah, I’m a bit behind on that), etc. But don’t think I’ve been quiet because I have bad news on that front. I just keep thinking, ok, I’ll write a post once I have something official to post about it, but I keep running into road blocks and stalls. But I have official stuff now – conditional approval on the student line of credit, and an official start date with a letter of proof of enrollment, so I’ll whip up an update in the next day or so. I’m so excited, and I can’t wait to start.

Review: Novel Writing Software – Liquid Story Binder

I’ve been using this program a couple of years and managed to hook a couple of writer friends on it too. I’ve been using it long enough and like it enough, that at this point I would be terribly annoyed to have to do without it.

Pros: I love how it gives me the ability to organize my work to the extent that it does. It makes it easy to reorganize scenes, and have multiple windows open in front of me at a time.

Cons: The program has a bit of a learning curve – things aren’t in really intuitive places, and there’s so many things it can do, it’s hard to get as much out of it as you can right away. I can deal with that though.

Having been working with it for a while, I’m finding two huge cons. First, you’re limited to three windows at a time of the same type (if you open a fourth, the first window closes automatically.)

And second, there are issues with exporting documents. If I export it the wrong way, I lose formatting. Or I get an error when I’m trying to convert it into an e-pub. Or it creates a document that’s the entire thing written on top of itself on the first line, in pale grey coloured font. Or it strips all the quotation marks out. That last one’s the most annoying – I don’t always notice it right away.

And it’s hard to remember which way to do it, for which purpose. I’ve hit the point where it’s just safer to build the manuscript, and then copy and paste from there rather than actually exporting it.

I’ve loved this program a long time, but I’m sad to say that now, with a finished manuscript, the exporting issues are annoying enough to make me start seriously thinking of looking for an alternative. As much as I’d prefer not to give apple more money than it needs, I’m considering trying out scrivener, at least for the trial period.

Movie Review: Flight

Denzel Washington plays a commercial airline pilot with a drinking problem, who, faced with a broken plane tries a crazy desperate move to stabilize it, saving the lives of most of his passengers. But then they find out he was intoxicated at the time, and the powers that be are going to try and pin the blame for the crash on him, rather than the failure of the plane due to lax maintenance that actually caused the crash.

It was a great movie, and Denzel Washington plays a very convincing drunk, speaking from the perspective of someone who’s lived with one.

What I found interesting though, was mostly because I’ve been working my way through Writing 21st Century Fiction: High Impact Techniques for Exceptional Storytelling in Modern Fiction, by Donald Maass. I just finished a chapter on emotional arcs, and of course I was watching the structure of the story told in the movie in terms of what I’d learned form the book. It followed those techniques very well, and escalated the moral conflict in the main character right to where he hit rock bottom. It was one of those plots where the main character  could have chosen any moment to end the story, and turn his life around, and the story would have ended there, but he didn’t – he continued making bad choices until he reached that low point where there was no return.

And the writers could have written a story where he wasn’t presented with those choices where he made the wrong decision, but the writers knew what they were doing, and paced out crises, and the main character was forced over and over to choose to lie to protect himself, presenting characters who are facilitating the lies, encouraging him. And to cope, he falls deeper and deeper into the alcoholism that got him into the mess in the first place.

Anyway, good movie – well structured, well acted.

Punkettes Blog Launch Today!

Come one, come all! The Punkettes blog officially launches today, so come tune in, follow the blog if you’re so inclined, to win prizes, and check out what we’ll be posting and reviewing. There’s already 50 people following the blog, and tons more on the Facebook page, so this is great so far.

The Early Bird prize has been drawn, but there’s tons more, books, art and accessories.

I don’t know if there’s anyplace before this to go to find reviews on just Steampunk books – maybe there is, and I just haven’t seen it. But I think the balance of the three of us is going to make it a very eclectic combination. I love my social upheaval, intrigue and adventure, but romance is always a hard sell for me, but we’ll have the other two for that. Plus it’s not just Steampunk – we have the Clockpunk and Dieselpunk going on too, so quite a bit of variety, considering we’re trying to focus on a small set of niche sub-genres.

So, for authors looking to have your book reviewed, we should be able to find one of the three of us who would enjoy your book, be it romance, adventure, or what have you. (As long as it’s either Steampunk, Clockpunk, or Dieselpunk, of course.) Just contact any one of us with a review copy, and we’ll figure out who to review it.

 

Graphic Novel Review: The Last Unicorn

I got this for my birthday. I knew it existed, but it was one of those things that would be too expensive to buy for myself.

The art is beautiful. They couldn’t have picked a better artist for this.

It was interesting to read, having seen the movie, and read the book, and now seeing yet another re-imagining. The artwork is not the same as the movie, and yet, it’s clearly inspired by it – based on it, even. The costumes of the characters – they’re the same, but with more detail. The faces are less cartoony than the movie, and more realistic, but you can do that in a graphic novel, where you only have to draw the face once per shot. But  Schmendrick’s hat has the same two toned fabric, and stitches holding it together, like the movie – all, or most of the details like that, are still there from the movie. But there is license taken – Mommy Fortuna looks quite different, and if you thought she was creepy in the movie, she looks awesome in the graphic novel.

In contrast, the story doesn’t follow the movie exactly. If you’ve read the book and seen the movie, you know the movie skipped both the town the characters were visiting when Jack Jingly found Schmendrick, and Jack giving the password, and Hagsgate town, where Lir’s biological father explains the curse on the town and Haggard’s castle.

Those are brought back into the story in the graphic novel. They didn’t skip anything important, like they did in the movie. They fixed it.

At the end, there’s also a feature of a bunch of art from other artists. It’s quite neat to see renditions of the characters in so many different styles of art. After that is an editor’s note, on the struggles of producing the graphic novel, and how he wanted very much to be as true to the original work as possible. And then there’s a story of Olfert Dapper, the dutch physician to whom the original work was dedicated.

They didn’t screw anything up. Any die hard fan of Peter S. Beagle would love this.