Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Debra White Smith reviews: Possibilities

I just realized I still haven't finished these reviews. So I'd better do it so I can move on to more interesting postings.


And luckily, I can end this on a high note. Possibilities is the last in the series, and is again quite well done. The characters translated well, the story line fit, and it was overall a very entertaining read.

Allie had been dating, for quite some time, the gardener of her family’s Georgia peach plantation, Frederick Wently. However, upon learning he would soon propose, she tells her Aunt Landon, who is horrified. When Frederick proposes that night, she is so distraught she winds up fleeing and trips, breaking her leg. While incapacitated Aunt Landon tells Frederick to leave. He does so, quite bitterly.

Ten years later, Frederick’s sister and brother-in-law, the Crosbies, come to rent the plantation, as they own a cannery. Frederick comes too, a decorated war hero and pilot.

Even though at first the actual setting seemed a bit odd, it soon felt very natural. The only problem with this book is that it’s hard to see Frederick actually promising to marry the Louisa expy, who he clearly thinks of as a wild younger sister rather than a love interest. (In the original, Wentworth obviously saw Louisa as a potential love interest, though it was pretty clear Anne was the one he really wanted.) It felt rather contrived. However, the rest of it-Allie’s transformation, Macy’s obvious need for attention, the delightful Crosbies-was done extremely well.

Even the Mrs. Smith character was a fun one, this time instead of being an ailing widow, is a successful doctor who just happens to be from “the wrong side of the tracks” (a phrase which, given it is applied by the snobby characters toward a black woman, carries the subtle implication of racism as well, without the author needing to be anvilicious about it). She performs the same task as Mrs. Smith in the books, in an interesting twist.

I especially enjoyed Allie’s role. Like Anne, as she becomes more confident she also becomes more active. I won’t spoil it, but the way she finds out the Mr. Elliott expy’s terrible secret is quite…amusing.

This is third on the list, and definitely one to re-read.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Whisperer in Dim Lighting (A Parody)

The movie starts with a farmer poking at things with a stick.


FARMER: Let’s see…drowned fish, drowned squirrel, drowned person, drowned…well butter my butt and call me a biscuit. This feller has wings. I don’t know anyone around here who has wings.


MEANWHILE, IN ARKHAM


Albert Wilmarth decides to wander into An Old Abandoned House in search of a Tome of Eldritch Lore.


WILMARTH: Hmm…I wonder where it could be.
CONSTRUCTION WORKER: All right guys, get ready!
WILMARTH: Maybe over here…?
CONSTRUCTION WORKER: I sure hope no one’s digging around that old mansion for a Tome of Eldritch Lore.
WILMARTH: Maybe in this safe…?
WRECKING BALL: *threatens*
WILMARTH: Ah, there we go.
HOUSE: *rattles due to wrecking ball*
WILMARTH: Oh, that was today, was it? Whoops.


After finding his Tome of Eldritch Lore, Wilmarth hears about the Buzzy Wingy Things drowned in the Vermont floods, and winds up in a newspaper battle with Charles Fort, who isn’t saying it was aliens, but it was aliens. He also gets letters from Henry Akeley, who apparently has Buzzy Wingy Things sneaking into his house and eating his cheesecake.

Then Wilmarth thinks it’s a great idea to have a debate with Fort.


WILMARTH: How do you know it was aliens?
FORT: How do you know it wasn’t aliens?


Fort wins.


Afterward, Wilmarth steps out for a smoke and is accosted by Akeley’s son, George.



GEORGE: Golly gee whittakers, Mr. Wilmarth! We have Buzzy Wingy Things eating our cheesecake!
WILMARTH: Yeah that’s nice.
GEORGE: And whispering things at us from the darkness.
WILMARTH: Title drop, uh-huh.
GEORGE: And I have photographs and recordings of their arcane rituals!
WILMARTH: SCIENTIFIC DATA FTW.


So Wilmarth and his RPG friends go to some study or another with Fort to look at the photographs.


FORT: My God, if you look at these photographs with this old school device, you can see them clearly! Clearly their molecules vibrate at a different rate. It’s just like Superman’s face!
WILMARTH: I am still a skeptic.
FORT: You’re no fun anymore.
WILMARTH: Fine, fine, I’ll take a look at all this.


Wilmarth listens to the recording, and some guy with a Large Ham accent leads some Buzzy Wingy Things in a song to Nyarlathotep. The lightning flashes, and…


WILMARTH: Ward, my RPG friend who sneaks up behind people in the dark while they’re listening to creepy things! What’s going on?
WARD: You fool, don’t you recall all our sessions of D&D and Masks of Nyarlathotep? YOU ARE DOOMED, I SAY, DOOMED!
WILMARTH: Dude, it’s an RPG. Don’t take it so seriously.
WARD: DOOOOOMED!


So Wilmarth and Akeley continue writing letters back and forth, Akeley has this Super Magic Wizard Rock from the Buzzy Wingy Things’ home planet of Yuggoth, and he decides to send it with George, who is so overwrought that he has decided moving to California is a good idea.


The rock never arrives, and the next letter to Wilmarth is as follows:


“Lol so Wilmarth all that stuff about the Buzzy Wingy Things being evil? Totes not true. They’re like my BFFs now. You should come for a visit, and we’ll all eat cheesecake together. There’s so much awesomeness I need to show you!”


WILMARTH: Sounds legit.
RANDOLPH CARTER: YOU’D LIKE TO THINK THAT WOULDN’T YOU?


So Wilmarth, defying all common sense, goes to Vermont to visit Happy!Akeley. He is met at the train station by a guy with a hammy posh accent.


NOYES: Wilmarth, it…is…nice…to…MEET…you.
WILMARTH: Ah, you must be trying out for the role of Captain Kirk.
NOYES: Oh yes, for I am a VERY LARGE HAM!
WILMARTH: I noticed.


So on the trip to the farm, Noyes makes exceptionally creepy comments foreshadowing the DOOM ahead. He is about as subtle as Brian Blessed driving a killdozer.


WILMARTH: Sounds legit.


Then the rain starts, and they come to a bridge where This Guy is looking at the flood.


THIS GUY: We cannot get out. Drums, drums in the deep.
NOYES: Wrong creepy comments, my dear boy.
THIS GUY: Oh, the bridge is out. You can walk or you can drive two extra hours.
NOYES: Yes, those two hours would be terrible.
WILMARTH: But it’s pouring down the rain. I mean what’s two extra hours? We’re in a dry car and you can make some more totally legit comments.
NOYES: TWO. HOURS.
WILMARTH: Oh fine.


So Wilmarth trudges across the fields, sees a Plot Relevant bi-plane in a shed, and stops at a farmer’s house for directions.


MASTERSON: Oh, it’s that way. AND YOU ARE DOOMED, I SAY, DOOMED!
HANNAH: Sorry my dad’s weird…
MASTERSON: HANNAH BACK IN THE HOUSE BEFORE WE’RE ALL DOOMED.
WILMARTH: Thanks!


Wilmarth arrives to the house, and finds Akeley wrapped head to toe in a blanket, looking oddly plastic.


WILMARTH: I didn’t know asthma did that!
AKELEY: Go eat that totally legit food and then I WILL TELL YOU A SECRET.
WILMARTH: …okay?


Wilmarth eats the legit food but finds the coffee to be not legit.


WILMARTH: Did someone put a fish in the percolator?
WINGY THING OUTSIDE: Dammit! I thought you told me humans LIKED fish in percolators!
OTHER WINGY THING: It’s not my fault!


Then he goes back to talk to Creepy!Akeley.


AKELEY: So, basically they worship strange gods, but they’re not that bad. I mean, sure, tentacled and creepy, but not bad. They want to show us the universe! But since our bodies can’t handle space travel, they turn us into brains in a jar! Like over there!


Wilmarth hooks a Brain In A Jar up to a machine, and the guy talks.


B-67: YAH WILMARTH THIS IS TOTES LEGIT! I mean you won’t believe the vacation spot on Yuggoth!
WILMARTH: …the hell?
AKELEY: So yeah, I will whisper some cool things to you that the audience won’t hear.
WILMARTH: …ketchup? …blogging? …distortion? …UWE BOLL’S MOVIES?
AKELEY: I know right? It’ll be awesome, trust me. Now I’m going to sleep, and you should too.


Wilmarth tries to sleep, but can’t, and when he gets up he hears B-67 arguing with Noyes and Buzzy Wingy Things.


B-67: GUYS THIS IS TOTALLY SKETCHY!
BUZZY WINGY THING: SHUT UP!
NOYES: Yes shut up!
B-67: *sigh*


Wilmarth sneaks out, only to find HANNAH in the hallway. She points him the way out, and he takes it.


Instead of running the hell away, he then decides to peep in the window. He sees Akeley stand up, only for someone to pull off a mask and hands, revealing a Buzzy Wingy Thing in silhouette.


LOVECRAFT FANATICS: I THOUGHT IT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE NYARLATHOTEP!
BUZZY WINGY THING: He’s busy trolling Unforum.


NYARLATHOTEP: Next I shall tell them that Alex was phone! LAWLZ.


Afterward, they argue with B-67 some more, culminating in Noyes executing him via electroshock.


B-67: Nooo my pathetically short role in this film!
*he dies*


So then Masterson comes back with the bad news that Akeley has, in fact, escaped.


NOYES: That’s not possible! We would have noticed him fleeing over all the noise we were making! Well, perhaps we should check out this window.
HANNAH: I totally saw him running across the fields. The opposite direction in which you want to look.
NOYES: What a smart child! TO THE BUZZ MOBILE!


Noyes and Masterson nope away across the fields.


BUZZY WINGY THING: Hey. Hey kid. I have candy in my van.
HANNAH: I NEED AN ADULT.


So after that weird segment, they conveniently leave, and Wilmarth runs in.


He starts looking at the Brain Jars, then finds Akeley.


WILMARTH: Akeley! You poor fool!
AKELEY: Do you realize what they’re about to do? They’re about to do the arcane ritual of doom that will open a gateway to Yuggoth! Then more Buzzy Wingy Things will arrive, and Nyarlathotep will be able to troll us PERSONALLY!
WILMARTH: I suppose I have to go stop them, don’t I?
AKELEY: After you electro-shock me so I don’t have to live as a brain anymore.
WILMARTH: …nah.
AKELEY: Bastard.


Then Masterson returns, and starts ranting, shooting at that Tome of Eldritch Lore mentioned in the first act, and then kills himself.


MASTERSON: I’m sure my daughter won’t be completely traumatized by this.
HANNAH: I NEED AN ADULT!!!
WILMARTH: Quick, Hannah! To the Plot Relevant Shed!


They hide in the Plot Relevant Shed, which is covered in Elder Signs.


Advertisement: Protect yourself with Elder Sign!


WILMARTH: You know, I had a daughter once.
HANNAH: That’s heartwarming I’m sure BUT MY DAD FREAKING KILLED HIMSELF AND THERE ARE BUZZY WINGY THINGS LOOKING FOR US AND THE END OF THE WORLD IS NIGH.
WILMARTH: Right. I should do something about that. BRB SAVING THE WORLD.


So Wilmarth climbs the hills until he reaches the cave. In there he finds Akeley’s body hooked up, sans face and hands.


WILMARTH: Well damn.


He then climbs up a rickety ladder to see a Crater O’ Doom. Some cultists, Buzzy Wingy Things, and Noyes in an alarmingly odd samurai get-up are there.


NOYES: BECAUSE ALL WORSHIPPERS OF NYARLATHOTEP HAVE TO BE FLAMBOYANT.


So he starts doing the ritual, and Ye Olde Portal begins opening up. Noyes apparently plans on throwing himself into the portal, completing the ritual, because he’s just a smart guy?


Before he can, Wilmarth throws some object or another into the portal. It promptly closes.


PORTAL: Screw this.


The Buzzy Wingy Things are so enraged they begin slapping Noyes to death.


BUZZY WINGY THINGS: How dare you let a random object fall from seemingly nowhere into the portal!
NOYES: …what?
BUZZY WINGY THINGS:  JUST GO WITH IT OKAY?


Then Wilmarth flees, some guy falls down the ladder shaft for no apparent reason, and he makes it back to the Plot Relevant Shed.


WILMARTH: Quick, Hannah, I briefly mentioned flying a bi-plane in the beginning. THIS MUST BE USED.


So they get the plane cranked up while Buzzy Wingy Things fly all around, and they take off into the air.


HANNAH: Mr. Wilmarth?
WILMARTH: Hannah, I can’t hear you over all this water the prop guys are throwing on me!
HANNAH: Can’t the Buzzy Wingy Things fly?


They can, and they begin dive-bombing. Yes, everyone, a bookworm is in a dogfight with flying aliens.


WILMARTH: It’s legit!


One lands on the wing, and its mechanical eye leers at them and pretends to be General Grievous, and then Hannah hits it with a fire extinguisher.


HANNAH: TAKE THAT BITCH!
OTHER BUZZY WINGY THING: TAKE THIS BITCH!


The Buzzy Wingy Thing grabs her up and her shoe falls off.


HANNAH: LET ME GO LET ME GO!
BUZZY WINGY THING: Lol okay.
HANNAH: NOT—LIKE—THAAAAAAAA—
WILMARTH: Well damn. There’s only one thing left to do.


Wilmarth starts flying at the ground.


BUZZY WINGY THING: Uh…Wilmarth? Buddy…? You gonna…You gonna stop? This is like the Wronski Feint, right? RIGHT? WILMARTH THERE’S A GROUND…!


SCENE CUT!


Suddenly we hear Wilmarth narrating and his RPG friends finding his house empty, and a newspaper talking about this super cool new planet Pluto which is totally Yuggoth. Then we see, bizarrely enough, WILMARTH FLYING A BI PLANE WITH A HOT BLONDE, who for some reason is listed as the star on IMDb.


HOT BLONDE: It’s legit.
WILMARTH: I love these realistic fantasies! Oh, anyways, as you can see, I’m a Brain In A Jar, and it’s AWESOME.
AUDIENCE: WTF.


The End.


NYARLATHOTEP: …I had a sce—
PRODUCER: IT WAS CUT FOR TIME.
NYARLATHOTEP: …fine. I’ll just tell Uwe Boll to make another movie.
PRODUCER: D-:


THE END.


LOVECRAFT FANATICS: BUT BUT THERE WASN’T A PLANE AND HE DIDN’T GET PUT IN A JAR AND HE JUST WENT HOME AND BABBLED ABOUT PLUTO AND—
ME: When I was your age Yuggoth was still a planet!
BUZZY WINGY THINGS: D-:<


THE. END. SERIOUSLY.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Partial Book Review: The Yard by Alex Grecian


Once again, I found a book I could not finish. This time, however, it was not from a disgust of the characters, nor of the story. The author’s style is not really that bad, but it has the fatal flaw of being mildly ADD.

The Yard (at the time I read it, not yet published, so it could certainly have been edited and improved by the time it hit booksellers) is about the newly formed Murder Squad of Scotland Yard dealing with the homicides of London. When one of their own is found murdered, they set out to find the killer and prove to the city they can keep the citizens safe.

It starts out with a bustling scene at King’s Cross station. Since this is historical, no wizards are found anywhere.

They do, however, find one of the twelve detectives assigned to homicide stuffed in a suitcase.

The newest detective is on the scene with Professor Kingsley, one of the first forensics nerds the world has seen. They make a thorough examination while people rubberneck and the other detectives and cops hang around, looking very awkward and uncomfortable.  The reputation of Scotland Yard is on the line, as they just failed in the recent Ripper investigation.

The story line diverges, as the Murder Squad try to find out who killed one of their own, and another detective goes on a crusade against a chimney sweep who let one of his young workers die in a chimney. Meanwhile, we get glimpses from the main villain’s point of view, and they are very terrifying.

The characters were written very well; all of them bustled with life and color. The setting was depicted well too; 19th century London is vivid in its underworld squalor. And the descriptions of early forensics work was fascinating. The problem began with the author’s attempts to pad out the story.

I say pad out, rather than add detail and life, because that is exactly what it felt like. The author felt the need to diverge into character back story, chapters at a time. This in and of itself is not bad. But what was told through mounds of back story had already more or less been told through the characters’ actions and thoughts. We already knew, for example, that Hammersmith was the son of a coal miner, and he was particularly sensitive about the plight of the city waifs. Yet right afterward we had an entire long chapter explaining his experiences in the coal mines, ending with what amounted to “and that’s why he didn’t like how children were treated”. It was unnecessarily repetitious. Again, with the protagonist, we hear rather constantly about how much he loves his wife but feels he cannot provide her with the life she had as the daughter of a wealthy couple. And yet, we then were treated to how they got together, though it had no bearing on the actual plot.

Characterization and back story are fine, but when it draws attention away from the actual dilemma of the novel, it becomes a mere distraction instead of added color.

To contrast, I’ll use an example from “Relic” by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child:

“The week before had been a write-off—the service for her father, the formalities, the phone calls. Now, she couldn’t lose any more time.”

That’s what introduces Margo Green’s side issue. It’s mentioned a few times through the book, but never overtakes the main plot. Chapter 11, which is the only chapter completely dedicated to Margo’s dilemma with her family, is approximately two pages long. Likewise, the authors have diverging plot lines, but they all tie in together and don’t distract from the main problem, adding rather than defusing tension.

Long novels are not always bad. But they aren’t always good either. Some great novels are also rather short (Relic being one of them). This is a particular focus with me because it is also my particular focus in my own writing. I have to actively work against the thought that “Oh no, this is way too short”. If it is well-written, it doesn’t matter.

As I said at the beginning, this is only an advanced copy I was able to read. I may check it out again to see if it has changed. Either way, this book simply was not my cup of tea.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Book Opinions Are So Changeable


It’s interesting to look back and see how a book which affected you when younger, affects you as you grow older.

A good example of this is Mansfield Park. Over at the Republic of Pemberley, I’ve heard many of the users comment on how much more they appreciate the heroine Fanny Price. I never had a problem appreciating her; in fact, I would say my problem is that I felt almost too involved in the story.

Most of the story occurs when Fanny is a shy 18-year-old. I read the story as a shy 18-year-old. Although I had a much better life growing up than poor Fanny did, I still felt everything she felt rather acutely. (This is why I believe that many of the critics who are very negative toward Fanny were probably of the more outgoing, confident sort-I haven’t met many of those types that can really sympathize with shyness.)

However, several years later, having worked with, and met more, people than I did at 18, I don’t feel quite as much likeness now. I still can empathize, but my feelings as I read through the novel have less to do with sympathy and more to do with a longing for justice. I want to get to the part where Mrs. Norris gets her just desserts, Mary gets a well-deserved put down, and Henry realizes he really did mess up. This can probably also be chalked up to less self-focus. I don’t feel for Fanny because she is like me; I feel for Fanny because no person should be treated as she is.

Currently, my favorite Jane Austen novel is Emma. It’s a strange thing, because I’ve never been anything like Emma. But somehow, I find it easier to see Emma’s good points, even when she is screwing up. It takes a few metaphorical 2X4’s to get through to her, but it does work. And what is better than seeing someone redeem themselves and find a happy ending?

With regards to other books, I find my feelings at the beginning of Lord of the Rings very different. Upon my first read, I was excited for the coming adventure. But now, I find myself more and more sympathizing with Frodo’s wish to simply stay peacefully in the Shire, and the bittersweet realization that he “saved the Shire, but not for himself”. This may be in part due to knowing the trials the characters will go through before the end, but I think it’s also connected to moving halfway across the country at the tender age of 19.

Personally, I’m looking forward to going back over these books in another 8-10 years, and seeing how they affect me then.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Things Everyone Should Check Out

Instead of reviewing one thing, I have many, many things to review. So I'll throw out some short little blurbs about each.

The H. P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast
These two guys, Chris Lackey and Chad Fifer, decided to dedicate a podcast to reading and reviewing every single one of Lovecraft's stories, even the crappy ones he had to edit for less talented writers. (No, seriously, it's hilarious.) Chris and Chad share a bizarre sense of humor and a love for Lovecraft's work, and it shows in this podcast. They have a variety of talented readers that lend atmosphere to the stories, and occasional guests with a wide knowledge both of Lovecraft and the authors who influenced him most. Andrew Leman is a regular reader and guest on the show, and he is probably the only person in the world that could make a fanfic about Cthulhu's incredibly boring day sound deadly serious. So go check them out. They're nearing the end of Lovecraft's stories, but we've been promised further fun as they consider what direction to go next.



Yu-Gi-Oh: The Abridged Series
You don’t have to see the actual cartoon. Everything is here in this handy-dandy abridged series by the Internet god Little Kuriboh. Every episode is explained in about five minutes, and the unimportant parts are skipped over.

It’s hilarious. Affectionate parodies are always awesome.

IN AMERICA!



The Coyote VLog

Coyote has her own YouTube channel, in which she answers questions about being a proxy.

That’s right, the spacey, slightly awkward girl is a hilariously successful servant of the Slender Man.

Who occasionally orders her to do things like bake muffins.

Further proof of my theory that Slender Man is Inglip. Speaking of…



The Dark Lord Inglip

Inglip is an eldritch abomination that speaks to its followers through Captcha. He seems pretty nice, as far as eldritch horrors go. Sometimes gives bizarre orders, like reading 700 pages of Latin text, and watching a pony.

 




Movies In Fifteen Minutes

This site is my inspiration for Parody 5. Cleolinda decided to poke some fun at a movie, and it just kind of took off from there. After only her second parody, she was offered a book deal, and it is awesome.

YODA [in floating La-Z-Boy]: Damn kids these days! When a padawan I was, levitate uphill both ways we did! If lose our lightsaber we did, make new one from rocks, we had to! No temples we had! Only dark caves! [Shaking cane] And liked it, we did!

So go check out Cleolinda’s blog. So far her book is only available in the UK (and whatever libraries happen to have bought it), so it might take some work to get it. But it is worth it.