The Strain – “The Disappeared”

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Bad things are coming, and much like Gus in this episode, all we can do is run and never look back.

Jim is officially gone, along with Matt. Eph saved Zach just in time before the man he hates most (though Fet is trying to take that honor) had a chance to turn his son. The gang splits up for the present time. Eph and Nora stay at his ex’s house to wait for her, while also disposing of Matt. Zach hangs out with Setrakian while having a good heart to heart with the man. Fet and hot hacker chick go back to her apartment. There we get to see classic Fet in action, giving her stoner neighbor a nice blow to the head. Although I’m not sure how he didn’t get nicked during the attack. Again, the creatures have terrible aim when it comes to main characters. Most people get a direct hit to the neck, while the closest they came to our heroes was a nick to Jim.

Poor Gus. Had to do his best friend between the eyes. Even worse is that he doesn’t know the severity of this plague yet. He’s not aware that the person he shot was not his buddy, it was a whole different creature entirely. I’m sure it’ll only be a matter of time before he meets up with our motley crew. That is if he can survive the night by himself. The kid can box I’ll give him that, but fists don’t do much against these stingers.

It was a strong episodes for flashbacks. Young Setrakian gets his first crack at The Master, which leads to his hands being crushed, a small victory if anything. It would have been a death sentence considering he’s useless without his woodworking ability. Eichorst had no choice (and an easy one I’m sure) but to send him to the executioner line. With imminent death facing down on him, a little luck came his way. One of the allied forces bombed the German camp at just the right moment for Setrakian and his fellow prisoners to escape. He would, as we obviously know, live to fight another day. 

Say one thing for The Strain, say how it knows how to end its episodes. We get our first full glimpse of The Master. As Del Toro-ian as I’d imagine. He seems to rejuvenate a wavering Eichorst, by putting a large worm into his arm. I’m not totally sure what it means, but something dark is on its way. Whether it’s The Master, New Eichorst, Eph’s ex, or more scenes with little Zach, things are heading for the worst.

Random Thoughts

  • Fet pays homage to Arnold with his, “I’ll be back” line.
  • Eph’s wig was pretty bad this episode. Especially during the sex scene with Nora
  • So yeah, not a huge fan of Zach. Makes Carl from The Walking Dead seem like Daniel Day
  • Not only does Eph dislike Fet, but we see Fet trying to connect with Nora. Will the time come where Nora needs a man a little more like the big exterminator?
  • What’s up with that cop transporting Gus? He witness his partner get killed by something as they crash, and doesn’t call for back up or anything. It’s like the people in this world keep ignoring there are STINGERS COMING OUT OF MOUTHS.
  • I miss the hooded zombie/vampire gang

“The Broken Eye” – What Middle Book Syndrome?

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It’s no secret reading is my favorite hobby. Day and night, shine or snow, it doesn’t matter. My preferred genre of books is fantasy, and to be specific epic fantasy. There’s nothing better than four to six thousand words focused in one world, with characters evolving every step of the way. It’s a glorious journey. There is, however, a drawback to this format. The middle books are almost always the worst of the bunch. The story drags or there’s no growth to the characters. The pacing may be off. Anything could go wrong. When you write such an ambitious story, over x amount of books, there will inevitably be garbage in the middle. It’s certainly not always the case, but there is a sample size. Personally I can think of The Wheel of Time, Mistborn, The Lord of the Rings, Thomas Covenant, the last few books of A Song of Ice and Fire. It’s all personal preference, but there is a stigma out there. I’m glad to inform Brent Weeks fans, this is not the case in his Lightbringer series. Weeks goes three for three as The Broken Eye may just be the best in the series yet.

The Blinding Knife left off with Kip as Zymun’s captive, Gavin now Gunner’s slave, Karris as Mrs. Guile, Liv still with the Color Prince, Andross more powerful than ever, and the after effects of the Battle at Ru on generally everyone. It was a cliff hanger that nearly destroyed me. We catch up with all of the characters except most notably Liv. She only has maybe three or four chapters in the whole book. I was actually fine with this, as I never thought her POV chapters were the most interesting. Scenes with her father were missed, though. We do get one great scene between the both of them, and it’s worth the wait.

Kip is where the majority of the story comes from, though there are about seven different characters who have POV chapters throughout the book. We really witness Kip coming of age. He gets in better shape, accumulates more confidence, and is slowly beginning to understand the responsibility he bears. He realizes how alone he is without Gavin, and at the same time that he isn’t truly alone. That didn’t make sense, but it kind of does. He doesn’t have Gavin to save him from the dangers abound, he is aware of that now, but there are people who care about him. He’s not truly alone, but he is responsible for his life and others. Kip, to my joy, becomes less of an annoying, self loathing  child. He’s no Thomas Covenant on the irritating hero scale, but he was close. He still pokes fun at himself but it is toned down.

Gavin’s role is significantly reduced in book three. Not as much as Liv of course, but we are used to seeing him all the time in the last two installments. And make no mistake, this is not the Gavin of old. As we know, his powers are vanished. Clearly due to the Blinding Knife. He is now just a mortal man. Superman without his powers. It’s the most vulnerable we’ve ever seen him and it’s hard to watch. The mighty has fallen, and oh how far he fell. Have to say though, he was my favorite character to read about in the book. I can’t wait to see his rise back to the top in book four, or if in fact he rises to the top at all.

The character who I would give the “Most Improved Award” if this were a sports league, would be Teia. I ate her chapters up, and there are many. She is a vital part of the story now as we find out how powerful paryl really is. Being able to draft paryl is like hitting the assassin jackpot. And that’s pretty much what Teia is turning into. Her story arc introduces us to one of the more intriguing characters in recent history, Murder Sharp. Yes, his first name is Murder. Weeks did a wonderful job with Teia and she’s just as big a character as Kip going forward.

Overall there weren’t many big battle scenes. Everything happened more on a personal level, save for a long escape scene near the end of the book. Certainly nothing like the Battle at Ru. There’s plenty of politics, though. It’s so much fun to see Kip and The Red go at it. Equally as beautiful are the conversations between Karris and The White.

If I had any complaints, it’s how at times it felt a bit repetitive. All of the Blackguard training specifically. But hey, when you write a book over six hundred pages it’s bound to slog from time to time. Other than that, The Broken Eye was near flawless. As usual, Mr. Weeks leaves us thirsting for more. Get excited for one of the best cliffhangers in recent years. We find out who is the real puppeteer (supposedly), discover a whole new side to a character, and finally, return to an all too familiar place. “Color” me excited for The Blood Mirror!

BoJack Horseman

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“Why so gloomy, roomy?”

Netflix is truly a gift. I would have never gave a show like BoJack Horseman a chance if it were on regular cable. Hell, I doubt it would be on television. But since it’s already out there, all episodes finished and ready to be devoured, I gave it a try. And I’m glad I did.

BoJack is a washed up former actor. He happens to also be a horse. The character is pretty much every character Will Arnett has every played, but as an animal. The show seems to be about his rise back to some sort of relevancy. His first step is writing a memoir. Easier said than done you can imagine.

The show has a bunch of different comedic elements to it. From throw up gags to horse puns. Some hit, some miss. It never gets dull, though. The characters are what stand out. First you have Todd, BoJack’s stoner roommate. He’s played by the beloved Aaron Paul. My favorite character of the cast, he just nails it. The writers give him good material and he doesn’t let it go to waste. Amy Sedaris portrays BoJack’s ex-girlfriend/manager. She happens to also be a cat. I don’t think they really care about the compatibility of animals when it comes to dating on this show. Or animals and people for that matter. And finally we have, Mr. Peanutbutter. He’s a dog. He’s charismatic. He’s BoJack’s arch rival. It’s hilarious watching those two exchange words.

It’s only been the first episode so far, but it’s certainly promising. I strongly recommend it for anyone who likes animated comedies. If you like Will Arnett and Aaron Paul then you’ll be doubly pleased. Keep it up, Netflix. You’re making all the right moves.

The Strain – “Creatures of the Night”

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Our eighth episode has a Stephen King vibe to it. Where our heroes are trapped in one location attempting to get out. On top of that, one of their own has been infected. It was a mix of Stephen King/Dawn of the Dead/Old School (Come on, it had “Here I Go Again”). Really it’s like a mini horror flick.

Eph, Nora, Jim, and Setrakian, meet Vasily Fet. He claims to work alone at first, but was quick to learn he needs help to survive. And that the old man is a total bad ass. The group came up with another way to kill these vermin, using UV lights to simulate sunlight. It’s an efficient way of killing the Strigoi but unfortunately led to Jim getting nicked by a stinger. The episode deals with trying to escape the gas station but truly it’s about Eph coming to grips with having to do what needs to be done. Jim had to be put down.

The dynamic has changed a bit after this episode. Eph was the uncontested leader of the group. Sure, Setrakian was the most knowledgeable but he is also old and frail. There is only so much he is capable of. The group’s introduction of Fet brings up some issues. He sees all of the Strigoi as vermin. Even the ones who haven’t been fully turned yet. Eph is still in the midst of seeing them as people who can be treated. People and friends, and I’m sure later on, family. He has hope for curing this disease yet, and the mere fact that he still thinks of it has a disease and not a plague says a lot. Setrakian is trying to make him see what this epidemic really is. Fet is more easily swayed, but Eph will have to buy in eventually.

We learn The Master can see through all of the vampires. Making them do his bidding. That’s unfortunate for our protagonists as they are number one on his shit list. In the end we lose Jim (in cold blooded fashion thanks to Fet), but gain the hot hacker chick. As much as I love Sean Astin, I’ll take that switch. No Eichorst. No Gus. No hooded vampire slayers. Still an intense episode with a deadly finish. Eager to see how the group evolves over the next handful of episodes.

The Strain – “For Services Rendered”

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I planned on reviewing episodes seven and eight together but this episode was too damn good. Shall we start with that opening scene? I mean, come on. That’s how you do horror. Frantic woman trying to convince too relaxed guy? Check. Idiot cab driver who doesn’t drive away when he witnesses a fanged tongue shoot at him? Check. Relaxed guy’s face when he figures out his wife is a monster (or more of a monster than usual)? Priceless. The actor may I add was fantastic in the way he freaked out over the creatures. It’s honestly what I would have sounded like. A thrilling start to the episode, with it cutting just before his wife fully gets her stinger out.

Setrakian explains to Eph that to defeat this disease you need to cut the head off the worm. Clearly Eph is skeptical, seeing as how that makes no sense in the scientific world, but if he hadn’t noticed, there are fucking vampires on the loose. I think science is off the table from now on, old pal. The way to get to “The Master” is first through Jim. He’s the backstabber, he’s the first link. Funny to see how Eph refused initially to go back to his betrayer. It’s incredible how people hold grudges. Even during the end of times.

We get deeper and deeper into the relationship between Eichorst and Setrakian. Their conversation about having a choice and taking a chance was riveting. The conversations between Eichorst and both old and young Setrakian are always my favorite part of the episode. It was a perfect lead in to the chase in the subway. I’d never seen Richard Sammel before. Apparently he was in Inglorious Bastards. The man does a bang up job in this show as the villain. The way he said, “Consider your wife dead” to Jim was harrowing. He almost seemed perky. Really great stuff, and adding that with Setrakian’s hatred towards him makes magic.

The highlight of the hour was the caretaker and her reluctance to bring those children back to their house. We knew it wasn’t going to end well for them. They eventually went back to see their father on the verge of turning and a fair glimpse of what their mother has become. All of that was great, it was intense, but it didn’t hold a candle to what came next.

Those hooded guys were BAD ASS. They are like zombie Daryl’s. I’m assuming they are some vampire half breed. They can talk. Clearly they do not like the infected. The way they dealt with the woman’s daughter was dark (although well deserved. If she’d only listened to her mother). Their appearance on the show just piqued my level of interest up a few notches. Maybe this show has a little more depth than I anticipated.

I honestly don’t know what to think of this show. It’s still not the highest of quality, like Breaking Bad or Game of Thrones, but it’s more than just snack food television. It’s on its way to being above The Walking Dead for me. It seems they have a genuine story, from front to finish for these characters. Well, of course they do. It’s already been written as books. But where as The Walking Dead only shows the after math, The Strain is showing everything as it happens. And even more, with Setrakian’s flashbacks. And Eph has been wearing hats more than usual to cover up that awful hair piece. This show is on the rise.

We didn’t get any Fet this episode, and only a few minutes with Gus in jail. I’m sure we will hear more from them in the next episode. Which I will be watching in a matter of moments. A top notch episode with one hell of a finisher.

LONCON 3 – Friday

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Second day of the convention. It’s not going to be the cake walk that was Thursday. People tend to get one day passes for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. These next three days the que for book signings and all other relevant panels will be hell.

After my morning tea, complimentary my gracious hotel, I stroll down to the convention center. The sun was shining bright this fine Friday. Strange. All my life I’ve been told of how gloomy London was. The weather was nothing short of perfect the week and a half I spent there. I decide to do my loop around the information desk, noting any activities that seem appealing. I signed up for chocolate tasting on Saturday. Time will tell if I remember to attend it or not.

First up on my “to-do” list was a book signing. Where Pat Rothfuss had his own personal signing, the next one consisted of about eight authors next to each other. I wanted to get my Half A King signed by Peter V. Brett. I hadn’t read any of his work, but I knew him and Abercrombie were friends. It would be a nice addition to the non Abercrombie signings in his book. The two people behind me both brought copies of Unfettered, the short story collection made to financially support Shawn Speakman after his cancer treatment. Neither of them knew each other. I assured them I do indeed have the book, but in Kindle format. Not much I can do there in regards to a signing. When it’s finally my turn I try to inform Mr. Brett why I’m having him sign a book that is not his. Unfortunately I talk too fast and too low, and frankly, sound like I’m mentally unstable. He’s still nice enough to do it, while laughing of course. He takes a picture to show Joe since their hotel rooms are right next to each other. Success!

I shimmy over to the George R.R. Martin book reading. Easily a seat is obtained. I can barely contain my excitement for an hour long reading of The Winds of Winter! Clearly I was not thinking straight. He instead read passages from his upcoming “The Sons of the Dragon”. I’m pretty sure that’s what it was called. It’s back story into the House Targaryen. As entertaining as it was, my enthusiasm had been shot. I must admit that George is a great story teller. Obviously in writing, but also vocally. The audience had a good chuckle over him stating that this book was due out four years prior, “like all of my other books”.

It was time. The coffee roundtable with the big dog himself. Joe Abercrombie. Got there as fast as I could. Joe and I walk in at the same exact time, both forgot to pick up coffee or tea. As we are all waiting for the other lucky fans to arrive he comments on how awkward this is. He had no idea he was to bring his own refreshment. Before I even had the chance to, this girl, for the life of me I cannot remember her name, perks up and offers to run and get him a cup of tea. I cannot express the hatred I have for her, but dammit do I respect the woman. After the rest of his fans arrive—nine of us total—we begin our chat. The first few minutes are him going on about what we should talk about. After a bit of nervous giggles from the fans (okay, mostly me), there was plenty of talk. The majority of the questions I’d heard him answer before in different interviews. How different was it writing Young Adult? When will we see more Logan? Do you plan to write in the world of the First Law again? I asked him some dumb questions about his current movie/television watching habits. Talked a bit about Arrow, and how damn good looking everyone in that town is. Mr. Abercombie was everything you want in a hero. Stayed long to chat with us. Didn’t mock anyone. Just a generally nice person. Very, very witty. You can tell that the humor from his books is all him. It’s just flowing out of the guy. Extremely nice and even got a picture with him.

Joe Abercrombie, Jack Black, and I

Joe Abercrombie, Jack Black and I

Two breakfast burritos later I go to a panel about book covers. I’m always curious on how much say authors have on this issue. Some covers are just atrocious. And no surprise here, it’s all about what sells. The panel was called “The Politics and Economics of Cover Art”. The standouts here were Irene Gallo and Justin Landon. Irene is the art director for Tor books and Justin is the guy behind Staffer’s Book Review, and also did the Tor re-read of all the Joe Abercrombie books. Justin looks like an all American jock who in no way would read fantasy. As it turns out he’s one of the coolest guys in the world. If you ever have a chance to meet him at a con, or any type of event, I strongly suggest it. The guy is super knowledgeable about fantasy, too. There was some ribbing about hooded figures on covers. It’s whatever sells. That’s literally their only motivation. Justin says there is an attempt to try to get less sexist covers out there, but it’s a slow process. According to Irene the authors get SOME say as to the covers. It varies on author. Typically they are to write up a short summary of the book, and characters in the book to the artist. Just so they have something to work with. And I found out Bane has terrible cover art.

Next was the “Imagining Fantasy Lands: The Status Quoe Does Not Need Worldbuilding”. This panel was, interesting. The majority of the time was spent talking about Tobias Buckell and how he deals with being a white Caribbean. Don’t get me wrong, the whole panel was interesting, but didn’t really deal with the topic. By the way, Tobias wrote up a classy explanation for the talk, seeing as how it got a bit controversial. I didn’t notice but I’m an idiot so, there you go.

My last event was the “The Problem with Making a Living Writing SF&F: Have We Become Too Niche?” panel. There were oodles of aspiring writers at this one. This was my first chance at seeing Scott Lynch. I was pretty depressed about missing his signing earlier. It was worth missing because I got more Abercrombie time, but damn did I want his signature. In line I met Susan from Germany and Kim from Australia. My goodness was Kim the talker. Extremely friendly but talked my ear off. Wanted to know about my whole life practically. Seeing as how my life is awful, this bored her quickly. Still she’s one of those people that can brighten a person’s mood instantly and I’m glad to have met her. Scott Lynch talks about how he accidentally posted his novel online and that’s how he got a book deal. He bashed the state of fantasy with other bloggers online so much, that finally someone said, “Why don’t you guys just write your own then?”. Scott took up that challenge and wrote the first chapter of his first book. The rest was pretty much history. Someone saw it, sent it to a publisher, and they asked for more. Lynch hadn’t written more but he said, give me two days and wrote his ass off. The author of the book HEX looked fifteen. And he was about to become a pretty rich man, thanks to American book and movie deals. They all agreed to increase your presence on social media, but not in a way that’s always promoting something. One of my favorite panels so far. Good authors, good discussion, good friends, good times.

Chatted with Robert from Cardiff afterwards for about fifteen minutes. Felt that eight o’clock tiredness coming and decided to call it a night. Once Upon A Time In Mexico was on when I got back to the hotel. It was the perfect finisher to a wonderful Friday. So thank you everyone at Loncon 3 on Friday, and thank you Johnny Depp. 

The Strain – “Runaways” and “Occultation”

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We’re finally at the stage where the main character desperately tries to convince people of the danger surrounding them. It’s one of my favorite sequences during every horror film. The naysayers always get what’s coming to them, and our protagonists can only give them the “I told you so” look.

Eph is aware of how real this threat is. Unfortunately for him, the government believes he’s killed a person. While Eph did murder in cold, ergh, white blood, the victim was certainly not a human being. Now he has his own government against him, on top of trying to control the spread of this virus. As boring as his story line with his son has been, it paid off in this episode. You could tell how frantic Eph was trying to convince his ex-wife to get out of New York City. After hearing Setrakian tell him about how the “Strigoi” go after their loved ones first, I have a feeling someone in Eph’s family isn’t going to make it. And seeing how the show is setting up Nora as the love interest, it looks like Kelly Goodweather might be in for some dark days.

It’s flashback time as we’re given a glimpse into Setrakian’s past. We now know Eichorst and the old man go way, way back. Setrakian is confirmed as a survivor. One who was kept up all night during Eichorst’s feedings. I’m really excited to get deeper into the back story of these two. We’re already aware of the death of his wife. I can only imagine how much pain this monster has put the “Jew” through. I know this is Eph’s story and he’s our good guy, but man am I connected to Setrakian. Already I emphasize with him and yearn for revenge. He’s had a life long battle with these creatures and he’s ready to settle the score. It appears he’s also a victim of his old age. Strigoi killing isn’t as easy as it was thirty years ago, eh?

Gus and Fet both encounter the diseased for the first time. Fet being visibly shaken by what he sees. He just HAD to go check out what was freaking out his rats in the sewers. What he found were a pack of vampires gunning for his throat. It’s funny how great the vampires aim is when attacking non main characters. But once Fett or Eph confront one, they’re ducking and dipping like Floyd Mayweather. Not a big deal, just an observation. No different than Daryl one timing every zombie or stormtroopers never being able to hit anything at all. Fet comes across a weakness to the creatures, though. They are prone to turning to dust whenever sunlight hits them. Unfortunately for his co-workers, he had to open the shades and light the infested up . Very powerful when he did it to the chick in his office. The way they filmed it and the fact he genuinely cared for her.

Poor Gus had to find out how much of a boss Eichorst really is. While he is quite the skilled boxer, he’s just no match for a long dead, blood sucking monster.On top of that, it looks like his portly friend is not long for this world. I couldn’t tell if he got the worm all the way out of his hand, but I think the police got to them both before the deed could be done. Typical cops, am I right?!

We get some good scenes from our early turned vamps in these two episodes. The poor wife of the shed guy was found hung by her own hands by Eph and the old man. I know this isn’t real life, but you have to feel for the kids of that family. Well, I guess you have to feel for all of the kids. Their world is about to be turned into a vampire’s playground. Bolivar is wreaking havoc as usual. Taking out that hot chick first, and then the guy who came to clean up his mess. For some reason I can never take Bolivar seriously. I don’t know what it is but I always just end up laughing when I see him. The best scene involved the lawyer who was one of the four survivors. The scene where her black housekeeper tried to get the kids out of the house was fantastic. Very tense. I’m hoping she doesn’t bring those kids back, ever. If I saw someones eyes blink like an alligator, I too would get the hell out of dodge.

New York City is getting closer to infestation with each new episode. It’ll only be a matter of time before the Strigoi outnumber humans. That’s fine with me. More chances to see Setrakian behead these bastards.