August 1st, 2011

good mris pic

The things you do right

There is a drawback to doing something right with your television show that almost no one else is doing, and that is that if you backslide and get that thing wrong, it's more jarring and more upsetting. This happened with Veronica Mars--you cannot have a show that is about consequences and then do the happy Hollywood clean slate out of the blue for an entire sad pathetic season. And there was an episode of Flashpoint that made me think they were screwing up in that way. The remaining episodes in the season corrected for it a bit, so I have every hope that this is not a permanent problem. But I was deeply disappointed in "The Other Lane," and I have a few other issues with Season 3.

I often refer to Flashpoint as a Fantasy of Police Non-Violence. It's a show where the cops really, truly believe in the rule of law, and where any deaths--whether caused by criminals or by Our Heroes of the Strategic Response Unit--have weight and meaning and consequence. When Our Heroes have to kill a murderer or can't stop a suicide, the show does not let the viewer look away from the dead person's family or the effects on the cops themselves. And each time an officer has to shoot someone, there is an investigation into whether it was a "clean" or "good" shooting--whether it followed rule of law. Every single time. Every once in awhile you'll hear a show's thesis statement coming out of the mouths of its characters; in the middle of S3, Wordy says, "That's why I became a cop and not a cowboy," and then later, "We gotta do this the right way." They do. This show attempts to undo the cop show watching instincts that say, "Shoot him! Shoot him already!" and put in their place the murmured, "No, no, oh please no, put the gun down, don't make him/her do it," that we would like to feel.

Except. The episode "The Other Lane." Collapse )

Books read, late July.

Mike Carey, Lucifer: Devil in the Gateway and Lucifer: Children and Monsters. I like Mike Carey's prose work enough to try his comics. I still like his prose work much better, but these were enough fun to be worth continuing to read borrowed copies of the series, and he moved on from several things I thought were kind of trite or "done" early on.

Colin Cotterill, Killed at the Whim of a Hat. This is the first of a new series, modern Thailand rather than historical Laos. And there were things that were fun about it, and I will probably keep reading, but it did not catch my heart the way the Dr. Siri books did. Also: I am about ready to be done with books where Idiotic Quotes From A Particular Politician are the chapter headings. We have already done that. We don't really need more of it. Even though George W. Bush gave ample fodder. Please move on.

Minister Faust, The Alchemists of Kush. Kindle. This is a fascinating book, a braided narrative with a modern setting and a fantastical/historical one. The modern setting is in the African immigrant community in Edmonton, and it was so familiar--when he phoneticized dialect in spots, it was the accent of our Somali and Eritrean neighbors here, and Minneapolis was part of the world in a very real way that we don't see much of in fiction. It was like the first time I read War for the Oaks and realized that Emma had set it in my Minneapolis--this Edmonton is not my Minneapolis, but it's in the same world in ways that nothing I've read before has been--very genuinely, very accurately. I think that this window on a very different nerd community would be interesting to a lot of fans as fans, as well as being just a good read.

Mikhail Gorbachev, Perestroika: New Thinking for Our Country and the World. Grandpa's. So I picked this one up because I didn't want to let the project of reading Grandpa's books languish indefinitely. As a book, it's the sort of self-serving fluff you expect when a world figure puts out a book about what he believes he's been up to lately. There was very little in it, except that he was Just Sure (or had to say he was Just Sure, or his handlers were Just Sure) that the Soviet system was strong and not going anywhere! And everyone just loved being part of the same country as Russia! And etc.! But the part that was fun for me was knowing what my grandpa was like in the late '80s when this book came out, and imagining him picking it up to find out the thinking of the Soviet premier and making all sorts of disgusted noises and disparaging remarks. So in that sense it was very successful. I cannot recommend it to anyone else, though, unless they're doing a major project about perestroika, the end of the Cold War, and the propaganda used in the West attendant thereto. (Also: there was no translator or co-author listed, and I find it very difficult to believe that there was not one. So I wish I knew that person's agenda more.)

Sigurdur Gylfi Magnusson, Wasteland With Words: A Social History of Iceland. Emphasis on Wasteland. Holy crud, is this appalling. Late eighteenth and nineteenth century Iceland was completely alarming. The head funguses, among other things. Uff da. I mean, it was edifying. But wow. One of the most depressing books you will ever want to read, with side orders of disgusting to spare.

Michael Merriam (mmerriam), Last Car to Annwn Station. Kindle. I have talked in the past about the trepidation with which I face friends' first novels. You would think this would be lessened when I've read a bunch of the friend's short fiction, but Michael cleverly managed to trump that by writing in a sub-genre I generally don't like (paranormal romance), and by reading the part of this book that is most thoroughly romance-y at the reading I'd attended. And yet to my way of thinking there are some friends who are good enough friends that you just don't skip their books. It's just...not what we do. So I was greatly, greatly relieved to find that the most romance-y part of this book was the part I'd heard, and that the rest is a solid and fun fantasy novel. My favorite line in context was, "I happen to have a heavy stick," but there were lots of parts that made me smile, and I particularly liked how the nerdery of the characters didn't line up perfectly with the nerdery of the universe they were actually in. (Knowing what Tindalos hounds are does not make the supernatural creatures you're dealing with Tindalos hounds!)

Garth Nix and Sean Williams, Troubletwisters. Children's fantasy in fairly classic mode. Very much setting up a series. I ended up feeling like the obstacles up until the final one were too easily overcome, but I liked the way the final one went. I'll read more of this series as it comes out, but if it weren't Garth Nix, I'd probably be willing to wait and get them from the library whenever.

Nnedi Okorafor, Akata Witch. This is another classic mode young people's book, but this one is classic YA where the Nix/Williams is a bit younger. The setting in modern Nigeria was well-used, and the characters were beautifully developed, and...this is the sort of thing that makes Okorafor one of my favorite authors at the moment, I just realized. So okay then.

Charles Stross (autopope), Rule 34. I am a bit amused that I have been bracing myself for sexual violence/creepiness in SF, and then in the one that's named after Rule 34 and features future vice cops, there is creepy stuff of that nature, but not nearly as much as I'd been worrying about with other stuff I've read lately. A conversation with porphyrin gave me an easy metric: if you liked Halting State, you'll probably like this; if you didn't like Halting State, give this one a pass. (You still hate the second person. So. Very. Much.)

Shaun Tan, The Arrival. "Reading" is not the right word for this, as it has no legible words in it. But for as much as I say I'm not visually oriented, this was truly lovely. It's the story of an immigrant arriving in a fantastical city, and the lack of words in legible script transcends gimmickry to truly convey being a stranger in a foreign place, adrift and confused, literally not sure which end is up. And the settling in, the later part of the immigrant experience, is lovely also. I really enjoyed this and would recommend it highly.

Dan Wells, Mr. Monster. This is the second in its series, and the places where I felt the first one went weird were also places where I felt this one went weird. I don't mean the supposedly sociopathic kid and the demon-slaying; that's not really weird by my standards. I mean the part where none of these characters are Mormon and yet they have all the same cultural signifiers of being decent/nice people as Mormons? Such as the absolute obsession with Brooke's baggy clothes, and in fact pretty much everything to do with Brooke, the love interest? Yah. That. Also...I get that John is the hero and is going to get to do the heroic stuff. But seriously, can nobody else do anything with agency? Particularly nobody else female? I'm told that the third one goes different places with that, so...we'll see.