Tuesday, December 24, 2013

On The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson - REVIEW

Synopsis (per Goodreads):
More than anything, Joel wants to be a Rithmatist.  Chosen by the Master in a mysterious inception ceremony, Rithmatists have the power to infuse life into two-dimensional figures known as Chalklings.  Rithmatists are humanity's only defense against the Wild Chalklings - merciless creatures that leave mangled corpses in their wake.  Having nearly overrun the territory of Nebrask, the Wild Chalklings now threaten all of the American Isles.  

As the son of a lowly chalkmaker at Armedius Academy, Joel can only watch as Rithmatist students study the magical art that he would do anything to practice.  Then students start disappearing - kidnapped from their rooms at night, leaving trails of blood.  Assigned to help the professor who is investigating the crimes, Joel and his friend Melody find themselves on the trail of an unexpected discovery - one that will change Rithmatcs - and their world - forever.

Review:
Decided to take a trip back to the YA zone.  Picked up The Rithmatist at the local library.  The story is that of a young man/boy (age: 16) who goes to an elite school that, on top of their standard classes, also teaches Rithmatics for those chosen by the Master to be Rithmatists.  It's explained in the synopsis what Rithmatics is, but incase you skipped over that section (you wouldn't do that, would you?), Rithmatics is the power to use chalk to a) give life to little chalk creatures (Chalklings) as well as create defensive / offensive structures (mostly based on circles and lines).  Joel (our protagonist) is not a Rithmatist, though yearns to be one.

The story carries a rather cliche structure, but behind that structure is an interesting concept - chalk-monsters and spring/gear-punk.  While chalk does not sound exciting and/or scary, Sanderson has a way of making it interesting.  These are not pretty unicorns (mostly) running about to make the world a more beautiful place.  Spiders, monsters, amorphous blobs, are drawn and have the ability to rend a man to nothing but bones.

There are few twists and turns that one doesn't necessarily expect.  As well as twists and turns that one would expect.  Regardless, this was a pretty easy read and another interesting world that Sanderson has created.  Again, this is the first of a new YA series he will be continuing.  I look forward to see more growth in the American Isles and Rithmatic studies.

Never did Joel think he was going to make it in the Melee.  Gonna be a Rithmatist, he thought.  Give Nalizar a run for it.  You know how the story goes.  Up, always up.  Never down.  Gonna study his ass off and learn all there is about Rithmatics whether he becomes one or not.  Let the stuck-up Rithmatists at Armedius look down upon him!  You know he'll come out on top.  Down to the wire.  Never give up.  Gonna take Rithmatics by storm!  Run towards the danger.  Around politics.  And in the end, Rithmatist or not, Joel will be there.  Desert, Nebrask, the tower of Chalkling power.  You just wait.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

On Control Point (Shadow Ops #1) by Myke Cole - REVIEW

Synopsis (per Goodreads):
Army Officer.  Fugitive.  Sorcerer.

Across the country and in every nation, people are waking up with magical talents.  Untrained and panicked, they summon storms, raise the dead, and set everything they touch ablaze.

Army officer Oscar Britton sees the worst of it.  A lieutenant attached to the military's Supernatural Operations Corps, his mission is to bring order to a world gone mad.  Then he abruptly manifests a rare and prohibited magical power, transforming him overnight from government agent to public enemy number one.  

The SOC knows how to handle this kind of situation: hunt him down-- and take him out.  Driven into an underground shadow world, Britton is about to learn that magic has changed all the rules he's ever known, and that his life isn't the only thing he's fighting for.

Review:
I didn't intentionally read this right after reading Steelheart.  Two books with different takes on Stan Lee's "with great power yaddayaddayadda." Opposite ends of what Magneto would hope to strive for.  In Steelheart, the powered populace essentially run the world (what's left of it).  In Control Point we see Magneto's greatest fear.  Government.  What does the United States (or any) government due when something threatens its way of life?  It regulates the shit out of it!  All powered individuals in the army...  now!

Control Point is heavy into the military side of things.  The plot, dialogue, acronyms.  This is military fantasy fiction.  And Myke Cole knows his stuff.  That's him on the right looking like he can rip your head off (and he probably can).  Three tours in Iraq and still a reservist to this day.  How did Patrick Rothfuss word it?...  "He's a hell of a nice guy, and a bit an an exception to the fantasy author cliche.  He's not a bearded pudgy ex-D&D geek.  He's a clean-shaven, military-fit, ex-D&D geek." Well put, Mr. Rothfuss (as always).

Control Point is a man questioning his decisions, his government, all of the rules and regulations that had guided his life.  Who does the government serve?  In whose best interest is a war beyond the realm of the average citizen?  The questions don't all have answers and Oscar does quite of bit of reflecting over these points (again and again...  probably the biggest downside is his repetition of the same questions to himself).  As a whole, the book is certainly interesting.  My experience in military fiction is...  well...  this.  So, I'm pleased it kept my attention.  And I have added book #2 to my "to read" list (I know...  book #3 comes out soon...  I'm behind *cough*Warcraft*cough* leave me alone).  

And who doesn't like stories with super powers?  

I give it...  Professor X firing Wolverine (click the link for the video).


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

On Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson - REVIEW

If you plan to read this book and know nothing about the story, skip the synopsis, skip the review, and just read the book.  The opening pages are much better if you don't know what the synopsis tells you.  

NOTE:  Comments to this post may contain spoilers

On a side note - this is post number 50 for me.  /cheer.

Synopsis (per Goodreads):
There are no heroes.

Ten years ago, Calamity came.  It was a burst in the sky that gave ordinary men and women extraordinary powers.  The awed public started calling them Epics.

But Epics are no friend of man.  With incredible gifts came the desire to rule.  And to rule man you must crush his wills.

Nobody fights the Epics...  nobody by the Reckoners.  A shadowy group of ordinary humans, they spend their lives studying Epics, finding their weaknesses, and assassinating them.

And David wants in.  He wants Steelheart - the Epic who is said to be invincible.  The Epic who killed David's father.  For years, like the Reckoners, David's been studying, and planning - and he has something they need.  Not an object, but an experience.  

He's seen Steelheart bleed, and he wants revenge.  

Review:
Who really created Spider-Man?  Was it the radioactive spider that bit Peter Parker?  Was it Peter Parker?  Or, was it Uncle Ben?  Because it was Uncle Ben's wisdom and with Uncle Ben's death that Peter becomes more than a man in a mask...  with super powers.  He becomes a hero.  Well, what if there were no Uncle Ben?  What if there was no one to tell all the super humans that "with great power there must also come -- great responsibility"?  


John Emerich Dalberg-Acton, 1st Baron Acton, was quoted as saying "power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.  Great men are almost always bad men." Steelheart explores this concept with a world where man is given super powers, and man corrupt man is corrupt.  

I was surprised to find Steelheart amongst the YA novels in the library.  Perhaps it is known that this was to be a YA novel, but I had always thought of Sanderson as an adult fantasy writer, and I didn't do much research into the novel, so it was a mild surprise to find it there.  A few pages into the story, and yes, it is a YA novel.  The protagonist is 18, has no parents, and has all the answers.  The profanity is limited to "sparks!" or "Calamity!" or "slontze," etc.  This is not to say there is anything wrong with YA novels.  I just wasn't expecting it.

This is another revenge story (amazing how I come back to revenge stories over and over again), but set in a dystopian future of super powers and advanced technology.  It's the world after Magneto takes the homo-superior race to reign over the homo-sapien.  It's the story of mankind's fight back against the super powered oppressors.

I had been trying to find a good novelization of something with a comic book feel to it.  This is the best I have seen so far.  The setting is dark, but the characters still have a sense of humor.  David, our protagonist becomes known as the guy who cannot make a good metaphor.  The supporting cast is mostly one-dimensional having one significant quirk that makes them stand out from the others.  Regardless, the story is intriguing as the crew try to figure out how to get through Enforcement and super powered body guards to Steelheart, a man considered indestructible.  

The novel was a lot of fun, excellently fast-paced, and contains its share of unexpected twists.  

Well worth the read.  I give it...  Stan Lee and Kevin Smith...  web-slinging!  


We can't stop here, this is SPOILER country
(Seriously...  major spoilers will be "discussed" below)


Twist #1 - Prof and Megan are Epics.  I'll admit that at first, I didn't quite see this coming.  I had a suspicion about Megan, but was completely thrown off by her death.  But once Conflux was "captured" and it was determined that gifters couldn't gift to other Epics...  my thoughts went right to a) Megan was/is an Epic (since she couldn't use the tensors) and b) Prof is an Epic and the tensors are based on his powers.  So maybe Sanderson played the cards just a little too early.  That last clue was maybe just a little too big.  

Therefore I was not the least bit surprised to see Megan again at Soldier Field.

However, Twist #2 - Megan is Firefight.  Mind blown.  Did not see that coming.  A Brent Weeks-ian twist of "Epic" proportions.  And with book two of the series to be titled Firefight...  

Thursday, November 14, 2013

On The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman - REVIEW

Synopsis (per Goodreads): 
Sussex, England.  A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral.  Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother.  He hasn't thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (the pond that she claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back.  And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.

Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road.  Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways.  The darkness was unleashed, something scary and incomprehensible to a little boy.  And Lettie - magical, comforting, wise beyond her years - promised to protect him, no matter what.  

Review:
I'll be honest.  I didn't even read the synopsis.  I saw "new Neil Gaiman book!" and that was enough to get the book priority seating on my "to read" list.  

You are looking for something to eat.  A snack.  A dessert.  And what you find is a small slice of chocolate cake.  Certainly this isn't enough food, but being the snack available, you indulge.  Your fork slides through the cake with ease, as it is light and airy, yet there is more.  Layers of chocolate creme that are moist, thick, sweet with a bit of salty.  One bite and the program code is already causing a reaction to your senses.  And even though this was merely a small slice of a cake, you find yourself sated.


This is much like The Ocean at the End of the Lane.  A small novel (181 pages) that starts rather simple in premise, but escalates into the mystical and fantastical.  The novel, much like Stephen King's Joyland, is a man thinking on his youth.  The novel is a magical story with monsters, witches and kittens.  But above all, the novel is an adult's reflection of the innocence of youth, of the loss of wonderment that comes with responsibility of adulthood.

I'm not sure I can go into much more detail and do the story justice.  It is short and simple, strange and beautiful, full of myth and wonder.  Highly recommended, and at just 181 pages, surely you can fit this in.


Sunday, November 10, 2013

On The Necromancer's House by Christopher Buehlman - REVIEW

Synopsis (as per Goodreads):
Andrew Ranulf Blankenship is a handsome, stylish, nonconformist with wry wit, a classic Mustang, and a massive library.  He is also a recovering alcoholic and a practicing warlock, able to speak to the dead through film.  His house is a maze of sorcerous booby traps and escape tunnels, as yours might be if you were sitting on a treasury of Russian magic stolen from the Soviet Union thirty years ago.  Andrew has long known that magic was a brutal game requiring blood sacrifice and a willingness to confront death, but his many years of peace and comfort have left him soft, more concerned with maintaining false youth than with seeing to his own defense.  Now a monster straight from the pages of Russian folklore is coming for him, and frost and death are coming with her.

Review:
Back in 1994, when I was (dsjfhjdsbjs) years old, most of the television I watched was cartoons.  As such, most of the advertisements I would have seen would have been geared towards children.  So, when my friends said to me, hey Szever, let's go see The Crow," I had no idea what that was.  I don't remember much of the incident, but I'm sure I put up a little of a fight for seeing something I didn't know what it is.  They gave me the briefest of synopses, and I was still reluctant, but in the end we went (and we were under 17 for that R rated movie...  Sssssshhhh!).  The movie is amongst my favorite of all time. This story has a purpose (as they usually do on here).  Read on.

For reasons yet to be determined, the bodies of the recently deceased are returning to life...  no...  that's not right.  For reasons yet to be determined, I have been oddly fascinated with all things Russian lately.  So, when I saw the synopsis of this, my brain focused in on "a monster straight from the pages of Russian folklore is coming for him," and that's about all I saw.  I didn't really read the rest of it because why does that matter?  It's about Russian folklore.  It was The Crow; a book that I had only the vaguest notions on the premise, but pushed through anyway.  And it was well worth it (broken writing rule #3. And don't start a sentence with a conjunction).

The book was NOT what I was expecting (though I suppose it might have been had I read the synopsis).  I was expecting horror - almost to a cheesy level.  This was like a horror that was written by the lovechild of China Mieville and Jim C. Hines.  It very much has a Libriomancer feel to it (thus it is little horror and more...  thriller, maybe).  A modern story of magic, but some of it is so absurd (in a good way) that it has a China Mieville feel too.  Buehlman, however, does not break the famous rule for writing (as Mieville is apt to do) #22. Never use a big word when a diminutive one would suffice.

The story is about an American warlock, wizard, necromancer, whatever you want to call him, his lesbian friend, a Russian rusalka (think undead mermaid...  sort of), Baba Yaga, and revenge (who doesn't love a good revenge story? - that sounds familiar)!  It is an easy read with very short chapters (making it good for reading when one is...  indisposed).  The pacing is a little slow to start off as you need to learn about the magic in the world Buehlman has created, how it works, who can do what, etc.  By the end, the pace is frantic, the action is high, and the magic is fun and interesting.  There are twists, and the outcome was certainly not what I would have expected (maybe Buehlman writes more novels in this world...  Buehlman?  Buehlman?  Buehlman?  Frye?  Frye?).

On Goodreads I went with four out of five stars - as much as I enjoyed it, I can't put it in the same company as Patrick Rothfuss, George RR Martin, etc.  But 4/5 may or may not still be on my recommended list (and The Necromancer's House has made that cut - I recommend to fans of Jim C. Hines, to fans of modern magic, to fans of fun/funny/horror/thriller stuff).

My blog ratings tend to be more fun.  Let's see.  Buehlman created a world where things are not always what they seem to be.  As such...  It's a rocket ship!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

On the 5th of November


"Where once you had the freedom to object, to think and speak as you saw fit, you now have censors and systems of surveillance coercing your conformity and soliciting your submission.  How did this happen?  Who's to blame?  Well, certainly there are those more responsible than others, but, truth be told, if you're looking for the guilty, you need only look in a mirror.  I know why you did it.  I know you were afraid.  Who wouldn't be?  War, terror, disease.  There were a myriad of problems which conspired to corrupt your reason and rob you of your common sense.  Fear got the best of you, and in your panic you turned to the now-High Chancellor.  He promised you order.  He promised you peace. And all he demanded in return was your silent, obedient, consent."

"Remember, remember, the fifth of November.  The Gunpowder Treason and plot.  I know of no reason why the Gunpowder Treason should ever be forgot."

V for Vendetta

Saturday, November 2, 2013

On The Republic of Thieves (Gentleman Bastard #3) by Scott Lynch - REVIEW

I should open this by stating that if you haven't read books one and two of the Gentleman Bastard series (which I highly suggest you do), this post may contain inadvertent spoilers (I know there are some blogs I follow and who follow me that are doing a read along of this book, so I will keep this spoiler free in terms of The Republic of Thieves).  

Synopsis (per Goodreads): 

Having pulled off the greatest heist of their career, Locke and his trusted partner in thievery, Jean, have escaped with a tidy fortune. But Locke's body is paying the price. Poisoned by an enemy from his past, he is slowly dying. And no physiker or alchemist can help him. Yet just as the end is near, a mysterious Bondsmagi offers Locke an opportunity that will either save him - or finish him off once and for all. 

Magi political elections are imminent, and the factions are in need of a pawn. If Locke agrees to play the role, sorcery will be used to purge the venom from his body - though the process will be so excruciating he may well wish for death. Locke is opposed, but two factors cause his will to crumble: Jean's imploring - and the Bondsmagi's mention of a woman from Locke's past . . . Sabetha. The love of his life. His equal in skill and wit. And now his greatest rival. 

Locke was smitten with Sabetha from his first glimpse of her as a young fellow-orphan and thief-in-training. But after a tumultuous courtship, Sabetha broke away. Now they will reunite in yet another clash of wills. For faced with his one and only match in both love and trickery, Locke must choose whether to fight Sabetha - or to woo her. It is a decision on which both their lives may depend.

Review:

"Life boils down to standing in line to get shit dropped on your head.  Everyone's got a place in the queue, you can't get out of it, and just when you start congratulating yourself on surviving your dose of shit, you discover the line is actually circular."

Scott Lynch has a way with words.  I don't say this about many authors.  Patrick Rothfuss falls into this category as well.  Ok.  Let's hold the train a moment.  Patrick Rothfuss writes prose as if it were poetry.  Words flow effortlessly into a whispering wind of elegance and beauty.  Scott Lynch takes Patrick Rothfuss' "way with words" and turns off the profanity filter.  His characters cuss like...  someone that cusses an awful lot.  But there is an elegance to it.  The dialogue is still deeply philosophical without being preachy about it, lovelorn without being overly dramatic, humorous without ruining the drama.  

The Republic of Thieves is part three of The Gentleman Bastard books, and Mr. Lynch carries Locke and Jean into another situation they will need to lie, cheat and steal their way through.  Mind you, book three is nothing like book one or book two of the series.  Scott is not afraid to take his characters in new directions (maintaining decisions within character).  Book one was a fantasy "Ocean's Eleven." Book two was a retooling of "Pirates of the Caribbean" (not to say it was an outright copy or anything, but any fun/funny piracy has the PotC feel nowadays).  Book three puts the con artistry in the backdrop of an election scandal.  In the end, this book is more about Locke and Sabetha than any con.  A love story told through a play, childish pranks, and an election.  


If I had one criticism to the previous chapters in the life of Locke Lamora, it would be Scott Lynch's use of "Interludes" to tell the backstory.  All three novels are told in two time periods - the "present" scam and the "interlude" (which takes place earlier in the life of Locke).  I don't entirely have a problem with the use of two time periods; however, in Lies (book 1) the "interlude" periods went from an explanation of Locke's childhood to exposition of city life, backstory to obscure characters, and explanations of various aspects of Camorri civilization.  Republic does away with the exposition and gives us two concurrent stories...  present and past.  It gives us the meeting and development of the relationship with Sabetha as well as the reunion with her.  It's two stories for the price of one.

I was slightly disappointed in the "origin" of Locke (assuming it turns out to be true).  Hopefully that gets downplayed a little in the next novel.  I am, however, looking forward to the comeback of the other character (leaving that intentionally vague).

Simply put, The Republic of Thieves was a fun advancement of Locke's character, a nice introduction to Sabetha, and a great setup of the next book.


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

One Word Wednesday - AMC Spin Off Fever



Rules:  
Every Wednesday one question will be asked based on some recent tidbit of news.  You must answer this question in one word.  To emphasize your point, your one word answer may be accompanied by one picture.  One question, one word, one picture.  We'll call it One Word Wednesday.  
Note: You may explain your one word in a sentence or two (or three - ok, you have free reign to go crazy) at the end of the post.  

If you choose to play along, add the link to your post in the comments, and hop around to see what other words are being added.
One Word Wednesday:
AMC.  I don't know anyone was watching AMC.  Executives said...  we need to fix this.  Idea - Let's put on good shows.  BAM.  The Killing, Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, etc. etc.  But The Killing has changed, Breaking Bad is days away from ending, The Walking Dead is...  well, polarizing - some love it, some hate it.  So what does AMC do?  Announce a bunch of spin offs!  Breaking Bad will have a prequel spin-off called "Better Call Saul" and The Walking Dead will have a spin off that it not tethered to the comic book world already created.  

In one word, describe AMC's spin off strategy.

One Word:  Dorothy


In 1992, Golden Girls came to an end as the quartet sold their Miami home with Dorothy having married and left (yes, I like The Golden Girls, what of it?!).  So to attempt to capitalize on the star power of Blanche, Rose and Sophia, CBS decided to spin off the series with the remaining characters purchasing a hotel, but uh oh! the staff is gone!  Shenanigans ensues.  The show failed after one season.

What went wrong?  Dorothy.  The Golden Girls is not be The Golden Girls without the entire ensemble in place.  Removing one piece from the machine resulted in a complete shut-down.  This is not the first series for this to happen to (Baywatch Nights, Joey, etc. etc. etc.), nor will it be the last.  What makes Breaking Bad so good is Walter and Jesse.  Saul is comic relief, and let's face it, a spin off will likely just be a sit-com.  It will be completely different, and it likely won't be long until Walter and Jesse make appearances to attempt to save it (Dorothy made 2 appearances on Golden Palace, but that wasn't enough to save the train wreck).

There have been some successes though (Frazier, for one).  And perhaps The Walking Dead will be able to succeed solely because the openness of the premise.  They're creating a spin-off not tied to the comic book world...  so, in other words, you're making a totally unrelated zombie show.  That could work.  But it would need to be a compelling story, because Bea Arthur has taught us, you can't run a hotel with only three old ladies.


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

On Prince of Thorns (The Broken Empire #1) by Mark Lawrence

Synopsis per Goodreads:
When he was nine, he watched as his mother and brother were killed before him.  At thirteen, he led a band of bloodthirsty thugs.  By fifteen, he intends to be king...

It's time for Prince Honorous Jorg Ancrath to return to the castle he turned his back on, to take what's rightfully his.  Since the day he hung pinned on the thorns of a briar patch and watched Count Renar's men slaughter his mother and younger brother, Jorg has been driven to vent his rage.  Life and death are no more than a game to him -- and he has nothing left to lose.  But treachery awaits him in his father's castle.  Treachery and dark magic.  No matter how fierce his will, can one young man conquer enemies with power beyond his imagining?

Review:
Starting with how I would normally end one of these posts; I really enjoyed this book.  In Goodreads speak I rated the book four stars ("really liked it").  I am greatly looking forward to continuing Jorg's saga.


Now to tackle the big heffalump in the room.  You cannot get through more than a few reviews before finding a complaint about the sexual violence and the "bad" protagonist.  Obviously these people who complain mustn't read Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series (or does that no longer count because of its mainstream popularity?).  The largest complaint seems to be the nonchalance of Jorg as he and his crew discuss and perpetrate rape and murder.  Murder is discussed in some detail, but there is no "on-camera" rape that takes place.  Not that I am condoning the violence (sexual or otherwise), but it is not gratuitous and serves a role in character development.  Jorg is a broken individual leading a team of miscreants on a voyage for personal revenge and global domination.  The journey is not for the faint of heart.

This is not the first novel to tell the story of a man driven to extremes to exact revenge on another, nor will it be the last (I'm a sucker for revenge stories).  And why must these extremes be wholesome?  The impetus to Jorg's descent to darkness, that which leads him on his quest for vengeance, is vile, gruesome and described in such detail that one can't help but feel some semblance of sympathy for the character.

When discussing whether not a character is relatable I always fall back on The Magicians by Lev Grossman.  The Magicians is the story of Quentin Coldwater, a high school student who enters an exclusive college of magic.  Quentin is a spoiled brat of a child with NO redeeming qualities given throughout the novel.  Even though he never escalates to rape and murder as our younger Jorg does in The Prince of Thorns, Quentin has no motivation behind his behavior.  He is just an unlikable tool.  Jorg is hurt physically and emotionally, is used, is betrayed, and is forced to act beyond his years.  Regardless of how bad the character is acting, you learn to understand him, and because of that, I have no problem with following along and rooting for the anti-hero.

The world-building was interesting.  The Broken Empire exists in a world that is so far beyond post-apocalyptic that it has cycled back to medieval.  As such, the arms, travel, and general feel is that of a typical medieval fantasy, but behind the curtain is the skeleton of modern times.  Little development is given to the understanding of who "we" were, but that is something that perhaps will play a larger role in future books of the series (don't tell me if you know - I would also be ok with Lawrence pulling a Scott Lynch and not giving any concrete detail as to how the world came to be as it is).  Twists this unique make me like a book more, even if it doesn't play a large part.

Recommended.



Tuesday, September 10, 2013

One Word Wednesday - The Expanse


Rules:  
Every Wednesday one question will be asked based on some recent tidbit of news.  You must answer this question in one word.  To emphasize your point, your one word answer may be accompanied by one picture.  One question, one word, one picture.  We'll call it One Word Wednesday.  
Note: You may explain your one word in a sentence or two (or three - ok, you have free reign to go crazy) at the end of the post.  

If you choose to play along, add the link to your post in the comments, and hop around to see what other words are being added.

One Word Wednesday:
News of another adaptation to the small screen:

Alcon Entertainment announced that the writers of the Iron Man and Children of Men movies will pen the pilot of the adaptation of the James S.A. Corey (Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck) science fiction series "The Expanse" (novels include Leviathan Wakes, Caliban's War, and Abaddon's Gate - with at least three more novels to come).  The announcement describes the show as "an hourlong scifi drama with elements of a detective procedural, centering on a cover-up of the discovery of alien life."

In one word, describe your thoughts on yet another fantasy/sci-fi title being adapted for television.

One Word:  EASY


Even when reading the Expanse novels, it has the feel of something that can be translated into a visual medium (I must admit I thought movie, not television drama).  With the success of the Star Trek reboot and the Star Wars universe now expanding, and with the success of Game of Thrones, True Blood, the optioning of Patrick Rothfuss' novels, it must have been an easy jump for TV execs to make, using Corey's work to hop on the fantasy/sci-fi bandwagon.  The novels seem made for visual reinterpretation.  

Honorable mention to the word "unsurprising."

Thursday, September 5, 2013

On The Way of Shadows (Night Angel #1) by Brent Weeks - REVIEW

Synopsis per Goodreads:
For Durzo Blint, assassination is an art- and he is the city's most accomplished artist.  

For Azoth, survival is precarious.  Something you never take for granted.  As a guild rat, he's grown up in the slums, and learned to judge people quickly - and to take risks.  Risks like apprenticing himself to Durzo Blint.

But to be accepted, Azoth must turn his back on his old life and embrace a new identity and name.  As Kylar Stern, he must learn to navigate the assassins' world of dangerous politics and strange magics - and cultivate a flair for death.  

Review:
This book started with a few strikes against it (having nothing to do with the book itself or the author).  Thus far in 2013, the books I've read have been heavy on the fantasy side, with a small smattering of science fiction (plus the Joe Hill book).  As such, upon finishing Codex Born - a book I was really looking forward to - I had wanted something different.  My "to-read" shelf holds Insane City by Dave Barry and The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman.  However, I consider both of these library books, and my local library had both checked out at the time. So, I stared at my bookshelf, and LE insisted I pick up The Way of Shadows.  I read (and loved) Weeks' Lightbringer books, and LE and I have this thing where we can insist the other read something, so it jumped to the front of the list even though I was not in the mood for fantasy.  Strike One.

Strike Two is that I have already read the Lightbringer books, a series started by Weeks after the Night Angel trilogy.  After reading a few pages of The Way of Shadows it became obvious that his skills as a writer have greatly progressed with experience.  


But I pressed on.  And because of my own mood, because of some other household things, it's taken me a month to get through the book (does not necessarily reflect the quality of the story - maybe a little - keep reading).

The story follows Azoth, the guild rat, as he transitions to Kylar Stern, the wetboy (let's call it magic assassin).  The novel portrays the abusive life of a child's growing up on the streets, the politics of war, and complexity of emotion.  Azoth starts out as a young child, living a tormented life of poverty, and follows his leaving of that life behind to train with Durzo Blint to become a magic assassin.  He changes his name, he makes friends and enemies, he kills, and all of this is over the course of 10+ years in training.  

Much like Peter V. Brett's Demon Cycle books, the most interesting points of the book take place at the end of the character's growth (after the x year jump to the character's settled age for the remainder of the story).  

Thus, this book dragged for me in the beginning (and I use the word "beginning" loosely).  The e-book I was reading was listed at 497 pages (so, let's round to 500 for easy math).  The most interesting and exciting part of the book accounted for approximately 30% of the total (roughly 150 pages).  Those 150 pages were fantastic; fast-paced action, character revelations, plot advancement, the Brent Weeks twist (not nearly as twisty as Lightbringer, but Weeks is certainly the M. Night Shyamalan of the fantasy novel world - but better than M. Night and his recent goofy stuff).  But the preceding 70%, the slow character development and world-building, I really struggled through.  Maybe this was due, in part, to my own anti-fantasy mood.  

Which begs the question, how do you rate this?  My gut reaction after finishing the novel was three 1/2 stars (feeling torn between three and four), which I rounded down to three ("liked it" in Goodreads speak).  I did give The Warded Man a bigger break for the slower introduction and a higher rating, so maybe I need to rethink this.

Part of the problem is having read Weeks' Lightbringer books first.  Those books were so original, so unexpected, and I loved every page.  The Way of Shadows just did not live up to his later works - and that makes sense in a way.  I took creative writing.  You get better by writing, writing, writing.  And though 70% of the book was on the slower side, that last 30% was fantastic.  It took me a month to read the book - I read that last 30% in maybe two days (which leaves me a little more excited about moving forward in the trilogy than I had been).  So, I will revise my rating to three 1/2 stars, rounding up to four ("really liked it") for a fantastic ending and future potential.

On a side note, the cover art of the third Lightbringer book was recently released.


I love the strangeness of the color choice.    

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

One Word Wednesday - Kingkiller Chronicles


Decided to make a game (ok, possibly rip off a game from elsewhere, but that's neither here nor there) in order to help myself post a little more and to tackle topics that may not come up during the course of a book/movie review and/or genre rant.  Feel free to jump in.  

Rules:  

Every Wednesday one question will be asked.  You must answer this question in one word.  To further your point, your one word answer may be accompanied by one picture.  One question, one word, one picture.  We'll call it One Word Wednesday.  Easy.  You may explain your word in a sentence or two at the end of the post.  

One Word Wednesday:

It's hard not to use this to make another OHMYGODBENAFFLECKISBATMAN post.  Let's let that go for a while.  Instead, let's go back a little further to a tidbit of news that was released surrounding San Diego Comic Con that never got much follow-up.  It was announced that New Regency Productions and 20th Century Fox Television have optioned Patrick Rothfuss' Kingkiller Chronicles to develop a drama series.  The only names currently attached are in the Executive Producer and Producer roles.

In one word, describe your reaction to the adaptation of Rothfuss' masterpiece.

DANGER!


I can't help but feel the transformation of Rothfuss' beautiful and complex world will never live up to the standards I'd expect with handling this masterpiece of modern literature.  Game of Thrones has set the bar high and I seriously hope the production team shows the Kingkiller Chronicles the respect it deserves.  

Monday, September 2, 2013

On Back to School (an A - Z list)

There's something about Labor Day weekend that brings a bout of nostalgia.  So many years removed from High School (and College at this point) those first days of September still manage to hit you over the head with the "Back to School" fear.  Now that I have little ones of my own and they are first learning what back to school actually means (it's still a fun thing at their age), I wanted to take some time to reminisce on what life was during those wonderful/miserable years.  What better way to dissect adolescence than with a list.  Let's rehash the A to Z list.  I bring to you my high school/college years in alphabetical order.  This is a more personal post as opposed to my normal book/movie reviews.  Feel free to skip if it's not your thing.  Or do this on your own.  Who doesn't love a good list?


Anime
I was a real Otaku for several years of my life.  The number of anime VHS tapes I owned...  Let's just say it took up a lot of space and cost me a lot of money.  I did a number of Otakon conventions in Baltimore - costumed up and all (costumes ranged from Ranma - Ranma 1/2, Akito - Martian Successor Nadesico, Waldo - Where's Waldo (ok, not really anime, but it was a lot of fun)).  Got to see some great foreign films, hit up the merch tables, take loads of pictures of people cosplaying way better than myself - though Waldo got me in A LOT of pictures - some of which I would find after the con as people post online pictures from the upper floor down where I'd been "found" wandering the halls.  Good times.  

Bram Stoker's Dracula
Cheating by using this as a 'B' instead of a 'D'?  Maybe.  But I want the 'D' for something else, so deal with it.  Dracula was the first book I picked up outside of the school curriculum.  Other English classes were reading it.  Mine was not.  And I felt vampires would be interesting so why shouldn't I read it.  So, I read it.  And then I needed more books.  So it was quickly followed by other Horror and Fantasy books, and I haven't turned back since.  My late-developed love of reading started with Dracula.

The Crow
The "the" totally doesn't count as a word for lettering purposes.  I watched a lot of TV in those years.  For some reason though, when a friend of mine suggested we see The Crow I had no idea what it was.  Chances are I disapproved of the movie choice, but thankfully gave in the end.  I was 15 at the time and therefore we had to pull the old "mom buys the tickets, gets us in, and leaves" trick.  I don't know how many times I watched this in total.  And now I hear they're talking about rebooting it.  Mixed feelings.  

Danzig
Brutal honesty here.  I really never was a HUGE Danzig fan.  Sure I liked the commercial hits - Mother, Her Black Wings, Can't Speak, etc. (and a few of the non-commercial songs), but I wasn't a strict follower of his.  Never seen him live, never really cared to.  However, I list him here because I did like his music enough to give his name a coveted place on my backpack - yes I painted band names all over my backpack with whiteout (who didn't?).  The reason this means anything is because it was that backpack that caused LE to say anything to me in our Educational Psychology course.  I believe the exact line was "I haven't seen anyone proclaim their fanship for Danzig in years." (Not sure Glen would be too happy about that, but the probability of him ever coming across this is nil).  Sparks flew, there was an elevator incident, and today we have two little brats and a dog (soon to be two) and a wonderful old house together.  

Honorable mentions for Dracula (noted above), Diablo II and Denny's (a diner-esque restaurant, if you don't have any of those near you).  

English/Education
The stars were aligned for me to enter into the business world.  I was a piss poor English student in high school.  The only subject I did relatively well in was Math.  My father is partner in a CPA firm in Manhattan.  All the ducks were lined up for me to get into college and get working on that accounting or finance or marketing degree.  Something changed along the way.  My father is still a CPA, so it wasn't that.  I don't remember where the change came from, if it was a specific course, or if it was just me saying "damn the man," but I changed my major to English with a Creative Writing focus, and then took up grad work in Education.  If one believed in fate, God, the Seven, what-have-you, you could say that this happened so I could meet LE in the aforementioned Educational Psychology class.  All I know is, the education thing ended up not working out for me, and I ended up back in the business world - ok, dad, you were right (thankfully, he doesn't read this).  But I got exposed to a number of good books and good friends during my English and Education days, including my best friend and wife.

Football
I was always a hockey guy (see 'H').  Then one year hockey went on strike...  for the entire year.  I needed to fill the sporting void in my life.  So, I watched some football.  Even then I didn't care for it as much as I do now.  But, there was a team in the Baltimore Ravens that was winning due to their great defense, much like those New Jersey Devils I loved in hockey.  So, I latched onto the Ravens as my football team.  Now, with it's 16 game season and weekly games, football is just so much more accessible than any other sport, and it's the only one I follow.  Looking forward to the opener on Thursday night (go Ravens!).  

Goth
Nine Inch Nails led to Ministry led to Skinny Puppy led to more poppy industrial dance like VNV Nation, et. al.  Around my early college years I started going to a goth club in Newark (not a nice area for those not in New Jersey).  I spent many hours drinking myself silly and sweating up my vinyl pants to the industrial/gothic beats there.  Then it spread to clubs in NYC and Philadelphia.  They were the best of times and the worst of times.  We are contemplating making a trip back to the old stomping grounds in the coming weeks (Alas, it will be jeans, t-shirt, and sneakers for me these days.  Long gone are the knee-length boots, pleather pants, and fishnet shirts).  

Hockey
Scanning through the rest of my answers, you probably wouldn't think me the sporty type.  I wasn't.  Except when it came to hockey.  I started playing when I was around 12 or so, and I just loved it.  I played on ice.  I played on the streets.  I played in organized leagues.  I played in pick-up games where we couldn't get a goalie and used a garbage can.  Hell, we played in the back parking lot to a movie theater on weekend nights.  I watched it on TV (Devils) and watched it again on VHS ("and a save by Potvin, who didn't even know he had the puck" ...  that one's for you, Lenny, if you read this thing).  I got cut up, scraped and bruised.  Friends ended with a broken nose or collar bone.  How can you not love it?

Iron Chef
And I mean the dubbed Japanese version of the show ("I thought white asparagus came from a can").  This show was probably the start of any interest I have in the culinary arts.  The Food Network needs to go give the original Iron Chef a big hug for that initial audience grab.  Because let's face it, Iron Chef America...  not the same.  

Jenkinson's
This is the majority owner of boardwalk space at the Point Pleasant Boardwalk.  When you watch Jersey Shore on TV, that's Seaside Heights, a little further South.  Pt. Pleasant is a little more...  maybe you can call it a little less sleazy.  I don't know how much weight I put on in pizza, funnel cake, cheesesteaks, etc.  Or how much money spent on rides and nonsense games for crappy prizes.  But it's an escape, and what else are we looking for during this time of our life.  

Killer Klowns from Outer Space
I've mentioned this in a previous post.  There was a stretch of time where a friend of mine and I would go to the video store and rent a horror movie.  Return it and do it again.  We must have seen every horror movie there.  Killer Klowns from Outer Space I would count as my first real B Horror movie - this was before the MST3K (Mystery Science Theater 3000, for those who don't know) days.  I loved every ridiculous minute of it.

Live
Technically, the first concert I ever went to was Aerosmith.  However, the people I went to the Aerosmith show with were not my core friends.  Live was the first concert experience with my core group of friends.  They put on a good show, but in the end, I've seen so many great ones since then that Live really only stands out as a first outing with friends rather than any merit to the band's performance.  

Marilyn Manson
Manson was probably the height of my "weird" phase, which is saying a lot because I did go to a few goth clubs in some choice outfits afterwards.  But, there was something about that Marilyn Manson crowd that just let you escape reality for a while.  I listen to him now and cringe a little, not believing I actually enjoyed it.  I like to think that it was more the experience than just the music, so we will go with that.  I will give him credit though, he does a great job of covering songs.  

Nine Inch Nails
I don't buy much music.  I have, however, needed to purchase multiple copies of Pretty Hate Machine and The Downward Spiral.  Nine Inch Nails was the beginning of me finding myself.  NIN was the gateway into so many subcultures - the goth look, the industrial music leading to the industrial dance leading to synth pop, the teenage angst turned on myself instead of lashing out at friends or family.  NIN killed the first attempt at re-instituting a Woodstock for a new generation.  Trent continues to create, and maybe he's changed, or I have, but the new music just doesn't hold me the way it used to.  Still, I can't think of a more complete album than Pretty Hate Machine.  

Honorable Mention to Nintendo.

Othello
Everyone is forced to read Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, and Macbeth at some point.  Multiple times.  And it gets to the point where you think "this is what Shakespeare is." Othello was the first non-ubiquitous Shakespeare play I read (I ended up reading a lot of Big Willy S's works in college - yeah, we roll like that) and it changed how I felt about the bard.  Perhaps it's just that those first plays become a sort of cliche unto themselves with the numerous rereadings, retellings, reimaginings, etc.  Or maybe it was that I could relate to the anger and mania of Othello, or Iago, the bad guy with no motivation other than being bad.  This opened the door to so many other works I wouldn't have bothered picking up, like Titus Andronicus (considered by many Shakespeare's worst play - I thought it fun) and then into the histories and romances.  Of all the books I owned from my English major days, I wish I held on to my highlighter laden, notes-filled Shakespeare books.

Pizza
One of the perks of working at the movie theater (see R) was getting to know some of the other businesses in town.  What started off with us trading free passes to a local pizzeria for some pizza now and again turned into a few of us could just walk in there whenever to grab a slice, and we would just let them into the movies - no passes needed (and we wonder why the theater closed all these years later).  Needless to say I ate a lot of pizza.  

Honorable Mention to the hours I spent playing Pokemon on Gameboy (even dressed up as James for Halloween one year).

Queen
Honestly, I got nothing for Q (will likely come across the same issue with X - EDIT: Nope, X wasn't bad.  U is the problem).  But I jumped on the Bohemian Rhapsody bandwagon when Wayne's World came out.  Though that was likely before my High School days (yeah, that would have been middle school...  let's call it close enough).  

Regal Cinemas
I took a job at Regal when I was 17, which was also the inaugural year of the location.  I worked concessions, box office, at the cafe, but none of that compared to my last position there - projectionist.  I was in charge of getting the movie on screen on time, fixing any problems that arose with the film (brain-wraps in the winter...  it got so bad at some point we took turns standing by one print with a piece of fabric softener to the film to cut back on the static).  Free movies for me was like heaven.  I saw nearly everything that came out - the only movie I actually walked out on was Spy Kids 3D, which was back before 3D was popular and it was just TERRIBLE.  We watched movies after hours.  Midnight releases became popular.  No problem.  Szever would just thread a movie through the projector screening to the public, then instead of leading it to the table, would lead it across the room to another projector, thread it through there, and have it end on that table.  Wallah, now there's a public showing and a private employee showing no one needs to know about while using only one print (the tough part was getting someone upstairs with you to hit the "start" button on both projectors consecutively).  

Honorable Mention to Rutgers University - where the Danzig story takes place.

Stanza
My first car.  A 1990 (I think that's right) Nissan Stanza.  No A/C.  Constant oil leak issues.  Eventual engine burnout.  Some good times with that car.  Not for this blog to hear about.

Trench Coat
Yeah, I had one of those.  Yeah, I got talked to by a cop after Columbine like I was hoarding a mass of assault rifles.  Meanwhile, my time in school passed in a weapons-free, drug-free and (mostly) alcohol free uneventfulness.

Ummmm
My last letter in terms of how I am writing this.  Stumped.  I wasn't a huge Under the Bridge fan.  Underdog, Ukelele, Ursa Minor, Usagi Yojimbo.  U Can't Touch This.  Under the Dome is too recent, and the TV series isn't living up to the novel, IMHO.  In Utero is technically "I" or even "N" for Nirvana.  /sigh.  *Pass*

Vampires
I'm writing this after I wrote the "Z" section.  I thought making this list would be easy, but I did this as things came to mind, not necessarily in alphabetical order.  Now that I'm nearing the end, it may be getting a little tougher.  Vampires are certainly more popular today than they were back then.  But back then Anne Rice's vampires took the spotlight with Interview with a Vampire getting its cinematic makeover.  This opened the door for Blade and (totally unrelated to any of it) Vampire Hunter D (the anime) got a new release.  Like I had back in "B," it was Dracula that started my love for reading so we will give vampires the "V" spot.

World of Warcraft
Ugh.  So many hours.  If it wasn't for the little ones, I'd probably still be playing.

X-Men
I was never a HUGE X-Men fan.  Spider-Man was my go-to comic book when I was younger, and nowadays my comic haul is limited to Deadpool, X-Force and Batman '66.  But the X-Men movies started during my college years and that, if anything, reinvigorated my love for the genre.

Y: The Last Man
The best non-superhero comic book I've ever read.  Constantly in talks for being made into a movie or TV series.  IMDB has it categorized as "In Development." The latest scuttlebutt is that New Line hired Dan Trachtenberg to helm and David Goyer to produce.  Maybe it will happen one day.

Zombies
Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Shaun of the Dead, Day of the Dead, World War Z (the book), Marvel Zombies, Walking Dead, Resident Evil, playing Undead in WoW, the world was taken over by zombies over the last decade or so (figuratively, obviously...  but it's a good thing I have that assault rifle hoard from my "T" post just in case).  I've cut back on my Z cinema as LE has a love/hate relationship with zombies, but for a long time, they were the monster of choice.

That was a fun flashback.  If you made it this far, maybe you know me a little better.  Feel free to comment, question, copy the idea.  

Sunday, August 25, 2013

On The World's End


Where do I begin? 

Edgar Wright.  Now, as an American with no too much free time on his hands, I have not seen EVERYTHING Edgar Wright has been a part of.  I have, however, seen every major theatrical release to date.  So, I feel it safe to say that Edgar Wright can do no wrong.  Shall we take a quick tour through his filmography?

Shaun of the Dead: Probably the best romantic comedy disguised as a zombie movie ever.
Hot Fuzz:  Carrying that same brand of humor into the police buddy-comedy.
Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World:  How perfect was this comic book adaptation?  Perfect.  

And now, The World's End.  IMDB synopsis:  Five friends who reunite in an attempt to top their epic pub crawl from 20 years earlier unwittingly become humankind's only hope for survival.

The World's End marks the end of what is being called the Cornetto trilogy.  The name stems from the Cornetto ice cream that appears in each of the flicks (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World's End).


But there's more that ties these movies together.  There's running gags (failed fence-jumping scenes) and there's the important thing.  All of these movies take ordinary people and place them into ridiculous situations.  But no matter how ridiculous the situations are, the stories are something of a bildungsroman.  That's not exactly correct as these aren't children coming into adulthood, but rather adults learning to "grow up." The movies are laugh-out-loud funny in the complete absurdness of the situations these characters are put in, but are also touching, heartwarming, and fully relatable.

The World's End is no different.  It is a story about growing up, about admitting there is more to life than those childhood fantasies of forever doing nothing but having a good time, and behind it all, it is the story of aliens attempting to take over the world.  Simon Pegg is fantastic in his Sisters of Mercy loving, alcoholic, broken man role.  Nick Frost, for a change, gets to play the straight character - no longer the bumbling comic relief, and he does it well.  The friendship between Simon and Nick outside of the movie universe gives the emotional scenes a sense of realism.




The movie is incredibly funny.  It's almost unfair but is inevitable that the movie be compared to Edgar Wright's previous offerings.  It's unfair because Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz have benefited from multiple viewings.  I can admit that I grew more fond of Hot Fuzz after subsequent watchings.  It's almost like Super Troopers - a comedy that really needs additional viewings to catch all of the more subtle comedy that is easily missed the first time around.  As such, The World's End doesn't seem to quite meet the standards of the first two in the "trilogy." The setup to the pub crawl is a bit on the slower side.  But once the movie gets going, it is relentless.  Action.  Laughs.  This definitely has the potential to grow on you as it is easily re-watchable.


Not owning Shaun of the Dead or Hot Fuzz, I can certainly see myself purchasing a box set of the trilogy upon its inevitable release.  Highly recommended.


On a side note, Edgar Wright's next movie will be Ant-Man for Marvel.  While I was never much of an Ant-Man fan, I am very excited to see his take on a superhero movie.




Wednesday, August 21, 2013

On True Blood and Escalation

Spoiler for the end of True Blood season 6 in here somewhere (let's put something right here).


Suppose that will help with my female audience.

With the end of the sixth season of True Blood, I wanted to take some time to reflect on the season and the series as a whole.  I should start out by restating I have not read any of the Sookie Stackhouse novels, so this post will avoid my trend of "but in the book..."QQing.  

The True Blood series went to the George R.R. Martin school of escalation.  In the beginning you take a story that is mostly grounded in some form of reality - with some *slight* twists - and over the course of many seasons or books or what have you, the amount of "magic" that exists in the world escalates.  In Game of Thrones (book one of ASoIaF), we barely get a taste of white walkers, the dire wolves are just pups, and dragons don't appear until the very end of the book/season.  As the story moves forward we get the addition of dragons, warging, giants, white walkers, red priests, etc.  So, how did True Blood follow this path?

Season One:  Yes, there are vampires, and yes Sookie is a telepath, but the story is really about Rene.  Push comes to shove, season one is a human season.

Season Two:  Eric and Godric, the anti-vampire church, Bill and Sookie - Season two really focuses in on the vampire aspect of the True Blood universe.

Season Three:  Werewolves.
Season Four:  Witches.
Season Five:  Back to vampires, but now we have a developed vampire Authority.
Season Six:  Vampire God.  Faerie Vampire.  Fae.  

Which leads the show to where it's heading: Season seven - the aftermath of the release of hepatitis V.  Did this setup not look like True Blood jumping on the zombie bandwagon?  


Pitcher:  We want zombies in next season.
Executive:  I don't know.  There's a lot shows with zombies in them these days.
Pitcher:  Wait.  I got it.  Vampire zombies.
Executive:  Shit, now we're talking.  Go on.

The problem with this escalation - if it's not done carefully it can come across as over-the-top.  GRRM was very careful not to slap the reader in the face with the fantastic elements of his universe.  He made the story about his characters.  The "magic" becomes a tool to further those characters' stories.  True Blood I think has a tendency to cross that line into the camp-zone with all the sub-plots.  There can no longer be simple human sub-plots in the True Blood universe.  No, there needs to be witches, fire/smoke demons, shifters, voodoo masters, were-leopards, gods, clairvoyance, fae, mediums, ghosts, etc. etc. etc.  All of this is on top of the extreme personality humans in the anti-vampire church/government.  

What True Blood does though, is keep at least one story-line interesting.  Ok, so Sam's girlfriend dies, and here's another chick, and now she's pregnant, and there's werewolves out to get them, but not this one werewolf, and who cares anymore?  But, systematic, bureaucratic, state-sponsored, persecution and murder of vampires in small-town Louisiana; that's interesting.  There's always that one element within the overarching season that keeps me coming back.  I'll expect the vampire-zombie apocalypse to be no different.