The Omen Machine

512jJDaPiILEight years ago, I declared myself free from a hell of my own making. Eight years is a long time, you know? Not as good as getting a ten year chip, but pretty impressive nonetheless, right? Don’t worry, I’m not buying it either.

Yeah, I’ve done something horrible. I thought I was hate-reading, and it would be entertaining after the fact. But instead… yeah, there will be spoilers everywhere. I do this so you don’t have to even though you never would have, purely because I am stupid. Learn from Observe my mistake, and laugh well.

What happened was, Goodkind wrote more books even though the series was over. And I eventually (a long time ago, really) bought the first one. We’ll never know why, I’m sure. The Omen Machine picks up very soon after the series ended, with a purpose other than objectivism, unexpectedly! Would that I could say it was a purpose other than screeds, though. See, there’s some dude with a bone to pick[1], and via means that are not at this time particularly clear, he starts seeding minor, clear as day prophecies all over the place. Then Richard Rahl[2] spends hundreds of pages arguing with his subject nobles individually and in groups, or sometimes with his friends instead, about how nobody should pay attention to prophecy in the first place, but they all (well, his friends less so) keep insisting, “but we waaaaaaana!”, so while never changing his initial opinion, he also argues that at the very least, leave prophecy to the people who understand it, that is to say him and his friends.

I mean, nobody could have interest in all of this back and forth in the first place, but it’s really critical to note that Ayn Rand’s most commercially successful disciple is making even a partial argument from authority that his pissy strawmen should stop choosing for themselves and let the government take care of it.

Also, your faithful reviewer adds as an aside, there’s a really cool AI in the basement that can see the future and is struggling with the whys and wherefores of its existence. I am really disappointed the book couldn’t have been about that instead, you know? But that’s what Goodkind does. He takes the kernel of a good idea, and plants it in a sea of shit. Which I suppose is how gardening is supposed to work, but not everyone who understand the principles of gardening has a green thumb.[3]

[1] Who we meet for a hot minute in the middle of the book, never to return. Because, God help me, there are more books.
[2] The main character of the series, you may recall.
[3] Nice try, metaphor. Thought you were going to escape me, didn’t you?

Gardens of the Moon

51Fl5aumCbL._SL300_First thing: I’ve read Gardens of the Moon before, but I’ve never reviewed it. Some number of years ago, I tried to read it again in conjunction with the person who maintains this site for me, but he failed me, so I only got through like the first third. But now, in the wake of having gotten an Audible subscription in order to listen to the Nightvale book for “free”, I decided that maybe the thing to do is use that book a month to listen to series that I would otherwise have to reread to get caught up on.

This has as its upside that I can read new books in the meantime, and as its downside that I have been slowly, by piecemeal, listening to the same book since February. As you can imagine, that’s way, way too long to hold onto a book[1] if you aren’t previously familiar with it.

That said: these are an exemplary series. I know I like later books a good deal more than this one, but everything that was troublesome about it has been rendered fine and dandy by my general knowledge of the world, and what is left behind is a beautifully meandering prologue into what promises to be an even more beautiful story of the end of the world. As opposed to Martin, who while also writing a story about the end of the world, is writing the grim, filthy version of it.

Last, the narration: it took me a while to warm up to Ralph Lister, but in the end, it turns out he’s an incredibly talented artist. I cannot come up with as many different voices as he has done, much less keep them all straight in my head over the course of a doorstop fantasy novel. That said, the direction or perhaps assembly of the book leaves a lot to be desired. You know how scenes change within a chapter, and there’s a line break in the book to delineate it? There damn well needs to be a pause in the audio to match that, or things can get very confusing, even when I have read the story before. Man, I hope they figure that out by the next book, or, ever.

[1] I feel bad for my father now, to whom I’ve been reading It for better than two years. Um. Oops. I’ve been busy?


MV5BMTc1MDQ1MDI4OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMzgxNjg0ODE@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,674,1000_AL_This is good, because, finally being caught up on reviews, I can finish reading the top secret book of awfulness I’ve been slogging through for the past month. (It’s possible, possible that hate-reading is a bad idea. Like, if I were mortal or something, I’d have a lot of regrets eventually.)

Note: what follows appears to have tons of spoilers, but really I’m just describing the premise as established (for the most part) in the first 20 minutes or so. Honest.

Anyway, though, yeah, I saw Warcraft on Friday. And I saw it in the way that a lot of people who get paid to do this see most fantasy movies, which is without the faintest clue of what’s going on. I played Warcraft 3 back in the day, so I know from Lich Kings or whatever, but this is apparently set generations before that. See, there are these orcs[1], composed of multiple tribes banded together into a Horde, and the one with the glowing green eyes has figured out how to open a comically oversized portal into a new world, but only long enough to send out a roving warband. See, the comically oversized portal requires death magic to operate it, and the warband is going to capture enough people on the other side to perform more death magic so the support people, you know, the orc smiths and orc farmers and orc nannies, can come across next time. Mind you, if the portal had been like 12 feet high instead of a thousand, maybe the death magic would have burned through more slowly and they all could have made it in one go? But then again, the orc with the glowing green eyes is kind of a dick, so maybe it was comically oversized on purpose so he could use more death magic.

On the other side of the portal, a bunch of humans, composed of multiple tribes banded into an Alliance (also some dwarves, and a couple of elves with comically oversized breasts who, unlike the dwarves, seem to serve no other purpose in the film) are hanging out congratulating each other on everything being peaceful for the first time in forever. Only, not so much anymore. Then the orcs and the humans (and sort of the dwarves, but decidedly not the elves with the comically oversized breasts) start fighting each other, like you’d expect in a movie named Warcraft, and in the meantime some things that make no sense at all happen, and I was prepared to throw my hands up and sound like one of those reviewers who get paid by saying that this movie was fantasy tripe bullshit, but it turns out that patience is a virtue and all the things that didn’t make sense do make sense after all, I was just missing some information at first.

Long story short, it’s a very pretty and entertaining (if maybe less entertaining than it is pretty) fantasy movie where a whole bunch of people beat up a whole bunch of other people, and several of the characters have fascinating motivations, and the ones who have dialogue without having fascinating motivations at least have a kind of handwavy excuse for why their motivations are cartoonish instead of fascinating, and pretty makes up for a lot. If you don’t believe me, go find a review of Snow Falling on Cedars written by the kind of person who gets paid for this type of thing.

[1] Okay, I lied. I had at least a few clues as to what was going on, in that I know what an orc is, while the kind of people who get paid to write reviews are allowed to pretend they don’t, since it’s been more than 10 years since The Return of the King was released.

X-Men: Apocalypse

MV5BMjQxMjY5MzU1NV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzgyNjY0NzE@._V1_SX690_CR0,0,690,999_AL_I saw the new X-Men movie a week or two ago, and I liked it, but what with being busy and behind on internets and seriously really busy what with houses that don’t clean themselves and weddings that don’t plan themselves and jobs and the whole being an adult thing, I’ve maybe lost track of anything I might have said about it.

Apocalypse, as you will learn in the opening moments of the flick, is set in a tenuous 1985 between the recent First Class and Days of Future Past and the original X-Men movie that due to timeline manipulations may not even exist anymore. See, there’s this Egyptian guy who I haven’t gotten to in my readings of the source material[1], and now that he’s awake again, he wants to rule the world as is his wont.

And then, you know, mutanty things happen. It seems like there should be more to say, about themes or some such? Maybe I waited too long, maybe I expect more than is necessary from a perfectly fine X-Men slugfest. Either way, I’m seeing a movie tonight that I will perhaps review more timelily, and this is what you get.

Final thought: Psylocke, another character who I have not gotten to in comics, seemed kind of shoehorned in just for the purposes of costume fan service. Which is kind of lame.

[1] Unless I have? But if this dude is based on the Living Pharaoh, he is much, much cooler in this movie than in the comics he was drawn from.

Hack/Slash: Final

71itNyUBO5LAnd thus comes to an end (at the auspicious and (let’s be honest) inevitable volume 13, no less) the adventures of psycho killer killer of psychos Cassandra Hack and her longtime partner Vlad. Looking back, this is definitely a series that would have benefitted from binging, in that it started out episodic but then turned out to have a guiding arc that I didn’t spot until far too late to pay the proper amount of attention. Like, as of Final[1] I have pretty much wrapped my head around most of what’s going on, why I care about it, and what it means for the characters. But there were two or three previous books where I was definitely floundering, which is a pity, because the series ends very strongly indeed, which maybe means that it was strong back when it felt like it was a slog, too.

So yeah. If you like snarky, cheesecakey horror comics that will probably never win any feminism awards despite frequently passing the Bechdel Test, this series is probably the only example of that. Enjoy!

[1] It is important to note that there are two new volumes that have been published since the so-called final one. Not loving that, especially because it ended so cleanly.

Captain America: Civil War

MV5BMjI3ODEwMTA0MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMDg3MDczNzE@._V1__SX1859_SY891_I saw the latest Captain America movie on Friday morning, with the intention of getting a spoiler-free review up quickly. It was going to reflect on the difficulty of setting up a scenario in which the good guys could get into serious fights over matters of policy and morality without turning some portion of themselves into bad guys, and then acknowledge that I felt like it was done quite well, such that I empathized most strongly with the apparent wrong side of the debate in reality while also admitting that of course in context I would pick the apparent right side. Then it was going to slyly approve of the many characters brought into the conflict, the various ways this was done, and how plausible each such character’s position was. Not to mention how great it is to have a movie series with enough depth as to be able to do that without stretching to 4 or 5 hours, because we know these people from more than what was shown on this particular screen today.

Also, I might have praised the venue, with its history of awesome pre-show perks and (although I missed it) a secret menu whereby you order something they used to serve with a previous Cap movie by whispering “Hail Hydra” to your server.

But right after the movie I had to pick up an engagement ring that I had been waiting on for rather a while, and then later in the afternoon my oldest friend (from the age of 12!) died from complications due to cancer, and then on Saturday I was at a renaissance fair getting engaged, and by now everyone who would read this has seen the thing themselves, so I guess I won’t bother to write a review after all.

If I’m wrong, though, it was really pretty good, and you should go ahead and see it.

Witches Abroad

513Bs4HYbmLI seem to be reading more lately? I dunno. House is more unpacked than not, and things that are left to do, I cannot really progress on without outside interference. Either way, I’ve also been reading more of the partial series I have scattered all over the map, instead of new stuff. In a way that’s good, because progress, in a way it’s bad because there’s so many things I still have no idea about even though they’ve been talked about lately. That is the problem of lacking infinite free time, I suppose.

So I read another Pratchett. In Witches Abroad, he studies the nature of fairy tales, mirrors, and family relationships[1]. Mostly the nature of fairy tales, though the characters say it’s the nature of stories. That said, the characters are analogues for the Fates, so any story they’d be in would have fairy tale elements nearly by definition. See, this one fairy godmother (only distinguishable from any other witch, so far as I can tell, by her possession of a magic wand) died prior to handling all her affairs, so she sets the witches from Wyrd Sisters[2] on a quest to wrap things up. So they head off to Genua, which is to say New Orleans, and proceed about their appointed tasks.

I know I’m very near the threshold where these books are basically always of high quality, so it’s nice to be able to say that yep, this one was really quite good, very funny throughout and with the characters who are currently my favorites. Yay, Discworld!

[1] The last one is a bit of a stretch, in that it’s not untrue but also in that most of these books have been about family to some degree, especially if you accept “the family you choose” as fitting the paradigm.
[2] Who I suppose will be henceforth known as the witches in any of the Discworld “witches” books.

Much Ado about Nothing (2012)

MV5BMTgxNjQ0MjAwMl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNjI1NDEyOQ@@._V1__SX1859_SY893_Legend has it that when Joss Whedon was filming The Avengers, he was forced by union rules into a two week break. During that break, he decided to adapt, direct, and score a Shakespearean comedy, because that’s just the kind of guy he is. (Okay, technically, probably only the principle photography happened during the fortnight and the rest came before and/or after, depending on what would make sense. But I have no way of knowing it didn’t all happen during his vacation, so!) It being the 400th anniversary of the bard’s death, the Alamo Drafthouse has been showing lots of adaptations lately, and Monday night, off we went to sup on the fruit of this legend.

Despite my utter lack of qualification to review Shakespeare, I’m kind of forced to by circumstance. The acting is as good as you’d expect[1], and the direction was modern and noirish, both of which displayed some… well, I can’t tell if flaw is right, but it probably is, and that’s my English Lit degree focussed on mid-millennium British masters bias showing. So, let’s say, displayed some flaws in Bill’s work and then see if I prove my case.

Much Ado about Nothing has two plots. In the first and far superior one, two acid-tongued frenemies reunite after the fellow of the pair returns from campaigns abroad, and their friends trick them into either falling in love or admitting their real feelings for each other[2]. As far as I’m concerned, this story has no problems and is basically 100% hilarious. In the second story (which contrary to my ordering appears to be the main plot of the thing and the source of the title), the prince sets up his best friend with their host’s daughter after the friend has fallen in love at first sight, but the prince’s bastard[3] brother arbitrarily decides to interfere in the pre-wedding proceedings.

That story… well, first it does the “we love each other after five minutes because we’re both so very pretty” thing that Shakespeare parodied in Romeo and Juliet, only this time he plays it straight, which while not a story-breaker is certainly an odd choice. But then when John the Bastard enacts his evil plan to make it look like the host’s daughter bangs random people on the verandah every night, the prince’s friend doesn’t just break up with her, he publicly humiliates her at the altar. Which, you know, some people are assholes, and that’s fine. But her father joins in on the humiliation, and that’s less fine, although I’m forced to acknowledge that virginity in the 1500s was more important than family, however insane that sounds.

But least fine of all is that she wants him back and everyone sets about proving her innocence to win him back. I mean, the innocence, sure, but she wants him back??? That’s too skeevy, even for the 1500s.

But okay, that’s Shakespeare and the 1500s, and what can you do? It’s central to the plot, and however delightful Benedick and Beatrice are, whether in banter or askew courtship, there’s not enough there to fill both reels. The biggest failure was Joss’s alone. At the big wedding scene in the finale, the prince’s friend (now penitent and set to marry the host’s other female ward by way of apology for embarrassing the first daughter unto death[4]) says that he’ll marry whoever he’s been asked to marry, even “were she an Ethiope”, while the camera lingers on a black lady standing nearby, who we had never seen before and, the movie ending some five minutes later, were certainly never to see again. And it’s like, I get what he was going for, “look how uncomfortable this line that Shakespeare wrote is, you guys!” But it just didn’t work. I can’t really explain why, scenes that were far worse have worked far better for me[5], but after my gasp of shocked laughter acknowledging what Whedon had pointed out, I couldn’t really agree that it was worth the scene existing.

But these are, if not nitpicks, certainly neither of them enough to detract from how wonderfully presented the so-called backup plotline was. Lovely film, would watch again.

[1] I mean, yes because they’re all Whedon alums, but also because it’s Shakespeare. I assume it’s that people won’t submit slipshod quality if it’s the bard rather than that his writing is so good, people are forced to be better actors.
[2] Reader’s / viewer’s choice, really. Take your pick.
[3] Bastards are evil by virtue of their ungodly births. It is known.
[4] Because, 1500s. JFAM, the past, what is wrong with you?
[5] Tropic Thunder springs frequently to mind. “What do you mean, ‘you people’?” “…what do you mean, ‘you people’?!”

Cinderella: From Fabletown with Love

815fU8q1ldLImplausibly, I’m like six years behind on the Fables series of interwoven comics. At least, it seems implausible to me? There’s probably no good reason why, though.

From Fabletown with Love marks the second spin-off of the main series, this time focused on Cinderella. Who, awesomely, is an international interdimensional spy in the top secret employ of Fabletown’s law enforcement / governing apparatus. Aside from that premise, though, there’s nothing much to talk about here. It’s a first book, and mostly all that is established is her credentials. So, if you like the Fables series generally, no reason you wouldn’t like this, and also no reason you’d be six years behind like some people I could name. If you don’t, I don’t see this one winning you over.

Unless you really like spies, and that’s what’s been keeping you away until now, I suppose?

The Walking Dead: No Turning Back

517KPsoOcxLFor a wonder, the latest Walking Dead has a title that isn’t trite and a storyline to match. No Turning Back chronicles the aftermath of Rick Grimes’ meeting with the latest, direst threat to his community. See, everyone is scared and reactionary, because of the spoilers at the end of the last book. Now Rick has to decide how far he will go to hold it all together.

Which, y’know. Yet another big threat, I’ve seen all that before. Rick struggling to decide whether his soul or his community’s safety is more expendable, that’s the kind of human drama I can still get behind. I’d be annoyed that the question isn’t resolved in this volume, but if it had been, it would definitively be in favor of him not taking some action that crosses The Line, so uncertainty is the best I could have hoped for.

Downside: still more books coming.