Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year's!

In just a few short hours, it will be 2015, and people will get very, very drunk and act very, very silly.



Meanwhile, I shall be watching Paul McGann and his Hair save the world while the Master and Grace fight for his affections while the Master turns into a snake for some reason and Grace falls in love with him about as fast as girls on Doctor Who usually fall in love with people.

Wait your turn, Master. You'll get to snog him soon enough.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

CELEBRATE! CELEBRATE! CELEBRATE!

Remember what I said about "Daleks" and "Christmas"?

Image from nerdapproved.com


Obviously the Doctor will never see past its clever disguise.

Have a very Merry Christmas, everyone!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Some Christmas Eve fun

First, Neil Gaiman reads A Christmas Carol aloud according to Charles Dickens' directions. I haven't listened to it yet, but it's amazing because Neil Gaiman.



Also, I want to remind everyone that a Christmas song about a Dalek does in fact exist. Here, I'll just post the video again!



This will never get old

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Book Review: The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

     Previously, I read a book about a woman in black. Now, I have read a book about a woman in white.



     Walter Hartright is making his lonely way home one night when he is startled by a woman dressed in white, frightened and trying to find the way to London. He directs her to London, but once there overhears two men searching for an escapee from an insane asylum. He is disturbed by this, but has no time to fret. The next day he has taken up the position of art teacher to two young ladies at Limmeridge House. There he meets the plain but sharp and intelligent Marian Halcombe and her beautiful younger half-sister, Laura Fairlie, who bears a strange resemblance to the woman in white, Anne Catherick.

     It doesn’t take long for the two young people to fall in love, but Laura has already promised to wed another man, Sir Percival Glyde, who has some connection to Anne Catherick. Anne Catherick sends a strange, cryptic warning letter to Laura, but has to flee when Sir Percival arrives. Walter leaves the distressing situation, but after Laura’s marriage, odd things begin happening in her household. Marian begins to suspect both Sir Percival and his strange Italian friend, Count Fosco, of plotting a way to seize Laura’s wealth.

     I actually thought this was a rather riveting novel. Apparently this is known as the first Victorian sensation novel, following on the heels of the popular Gothic novels of the late 1700’s and early 1800’s. Collins sets up a very elaborate plot, but manages to hold all the threads together quite well. Walter was a bit dull at first, but once he got deep into investigating, I started thinking he should quit art and open up a detective agency. (Hartright/Halcombe detective agency? I’d read that book.) Laura was a bit boring, but sweetly inoffensive.

     I enjoyed Mr. Fairlie, who seemed like a dark spiritual successor to poor Mr. Woodhouse. His constant whinging and the different ways people manage him was amusing, although not so much as with Mr. Woodhouse. Mr. Fairlie is all selfishness.

     Marian was an absolute delight. She was intelligent, resourceful, and active. The woman crawls onto a wet roof to eavesdrop! That takes gumption. Alas, she falls prey to Victorian “I got rained on” syndrome, but at least it was depicted as more than just a cold. (I have a feeling a simple cold wouldn’t have kept her down.) Honestly, I kept hoping Walter would give up on Laura and just get with Marian. (Detective agency, remember? Maybe I’ll write that one day.) This is the woman who nearly managed to outwit Count Fosco. (This is why I think she suddenly developed a severe illness. Otherwise, Count Fosco would have been defeated very quickly.)

     Speaking of Count Fosco, he was just as wonderfully slimy as he was in Brimstone. Messrs. Preston and Child translated him into the modern era very well. He is a colorful (in all senses of the word) character, steeped in high culture yet clearly capable of horrible brutality. Marian very quickly discerns that Count Fosco is the real threat, and Sir Percival is a mere bully. What is so frightening about Count Fosco is his absolutely amorality. He is absolutely convinced that nothing he is doing is wrong. He is the embodiment of “it’s not wrong unless you get caught”. This is demonstrated in a very interesting dialogue between him, Laura, and Marian regarding criminals who escape justice.

     That said, I feel like the final ending-the sudden appearance of a global conspiracy, the coincidental connection to Walter’s Italian friend, and the way Count Fosco is brought to justice-was starting to stretch the story too long. I believe Collins was trying to eke out another paycheck or two from it. If anything, it felt like it came from some different story altogether. Perhaps Collins considered writing that and just threw it into this one. Still, the story was coherent, interesting, and had very real and detailed characters that drove the plot forward.

Seriously, Hartright and Halcombe Detective Agency.  That would have been awesome.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Quick Lit/The List Formerly Known As Twitterature December 2014

Over at Modern Mrs. Darcy, it was decided to stop calling this Twitterature, since most of us are going way over 140 characters. So...Quick Lit. It sounds like a library program.


So as you all know, I finished NaNoWriMo, and promptly realized how terrible my novel was written. I've signed up at Scribophile for writing critiques, and we'll see where this goes.

So, I have more reading time! This means I can get started on the second of the LotR trilogy.

1.) The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien

A literal illustration.


     Once again, I was struck by how far Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli run. I can't even run down the block. What if I have to catch some orcs?
     Wait, I have a car. I'll just use my car.
     Also, Legolas meditates while running. That's talent.
     With the fellowship broken, Aragorn is forced into the difficult decision of which way to go. Should he follow Frodo and Sam into Mordor, and try to speed them on their way as best he can, or should he follow the orcs and rescue Merry and Pippin before they are brought to Isengard?

In case Legolas didn't make that clear.

     The first scenes are so tense, and then you see the kind of mistreatment Merry and Pippin are undergoing, and realize it's going to get so much worse if Saruman gets his hands on them, and you realize how high the stakes are, even if they aren't the main players in this. We also get a look at orc politics and realize it's not much different from today.
     Also, Treebeard is nothing but awesome. Pure, unmitigated awesome.
     I was reading this before bed, but then I started getting close to Helm's Deep, and I'm like, "I can't read this right before bed. I'll never sleep." So that's reserved for another day. What I am reading before bed is...

2.) The Sumerians by Samuel Noah Kramer...Still.

     You saw the cover last time.
     I'm moving much faster on this now that NaNoWriMo is over. It's fascinating just how much information they've gotten on this ancient culture, and how much more they're still finding.
     On interesting tidbit I noticed last night was one of the myths about Enki. Apparently the poor gods weren't even able to get enough to eat, because the goddesses were eating them out of house and home, or something. So Enki asks his mom to create servants for them out of clay. She does so, and people get right on that making bread for the most powerful beings in the universe.
     Then Enki decides he wants to make people too! Unfortunately his first attempt went...not so well. The person he made lay there like a lump and did nothing, and the other gods yelled at him and cursed him.
     One wonders if this information was available while Tolkien was writing The Silmarillion. It sounds a lot like the origin story of the dwarves.

3.) Alone with the Horrors by Ramsey Campbell



    "Campbell Country" is the British version of "Lovecraft Country". Most of his stories take place, not in the back woods, but in run down urban areas. There's also a ridiculous amount of class angst, but that's the British for you.
      Refreshingly, most of these are not solely based off the Lovecraft mythos, but are still quite creepy. I've seen authors that write well within the mythos fall apart when trying to come up with their own thing. Campbell has given us: Y'Golonac curses I have doomed us all!; spiders dressed up as people, because of course they are; and an evil pram. No, seriously, an evil pram.
     One thing I noticed is the very surreal quality to stories, even if they start out completely normal. This works well to set up the atmosphere. It throws off the reader and lends a sinister quality to everything, and makes you second guess the narrator.


     Now, I must go write Christmas cards. Because I am actually going to write Christmas cards this year. What madness is this?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A quick word about a certain Preston Child...

No, no, not Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. Preston Child. It's totally his real name guys, really. Sure, he was inspired by Doug and Linc's technothrillers, to the point it practically sounds like a Lincoln Child novel, but that's totally his real name. Sure, he has used pseudonyms in the past, and uses stock photos for his pictures, but he's really, incredibly legit. And if people bought his books thinking that they were by the other guys, well, it's not his fault. At all.



GUYS. HE'S SO SAD. LOOK AT THE SAD FACE EMOTICON. HE'S VERY SAD.


The Nostalgia Chick knows that tears are an important part of every balanced meal.

You know...even if that really was his name, he probably should have realized how it would be perceived. Instead, he and his deranged fans lament the madness of the evil Amazon bullies who leave bad reviews and use the word "rip-off" You know, kind of like...

GUYS HE'S A MALE, THRILLER-WRITER VERSION OF STEPHENIE MEYERS.

This actually explains everything about this situation. (Given that most of the reviews that are not obviously sock puppets are pretty bad.)


Monday, December 8, 2014

ClassicWho Reviews: Robot, The Sontaran Experiment, Genesis of the Daleks, and Revenge of the Cybermen

Robot

     The Doctor is a bit confused after his regeneration. He isn’t quite sure who all these people are (although he’s happy enough to latch on to Sarah Jane with a death grip), tries on various silly costumes before dressing like a deranged hobo, and insists being grown up means being able to act childish (while throwing a slight tantrum at the Brig trying to confine him to a hospital bed). Also he shoves Harry Sullivan into a chest.

Poor Harry gets abused a lot, actually.


     However, when a mystery crops up, it immediately catches his interest. Parts of a disintegration gun (to be used in traffic, obviously) are being stolen. While UNIT moves out to protect the different factories, the Doctor gets distracted by crushed flowers and lounges around in Bessie with his hat over his face.

     Meanwhile, Sarah Jane looks into the Nation Institute for Advanced Scientific Research, known as “Think Tank”. There she learns they are testing a robot called “K1”to perform dangerous tasks, but she finds out the actual creator of the robot, Kettlewell, thought he had disassembled it. When she goes to see the robot, she finds it torn between conflicting programs to kill intruders, and to protect humans. Sarah Jane expresses sympathy, but the director of the robot program, Winters, scoffs at this.

     After she leaves, K1 arrives at Kettlewell’s place and attacks him, but the Doctor arrives in time to defeat the robot with his scarf. K1 flees, only to be handed the disintegrator gun and ordered to steal papers from a cabinet minister-launch codes for nuclear missiles!

     Sarah Jane’s investigations lead her to the conclusion that many of the scientist at Think Tank are members of the Scientific Reform society, who believe scientists should be in charge of the world.

     Also, one believes science is just too hard for girls. Sarah Jane gives a devastating burn in response, and it is beautiful.

     With the realization that Reform now has the nuclear codes and can enact their plan, it’s a race against time and a size-changing robot that is not Optimus Prime.

     This was a pretty good introduction to the Great and Powerful Tom. He was suitably manic, and his eccentric way of solving the problems just set the tone for the rest of his run.

Tom Baker, showing off the majority of his facial expressions.



The Sontaran Experiment

     Mr. Potato Head and his clones are back again! The Doctor, Sarah Jane, and Harry Sullivan teleports to Earth from the Nerva space station (previous serial, could not find). They find Earth apparently abandoned. While the Doctor works on the teleporter, Harry falls down and Sarah Jane is surprised by an astronaut named Roth, who claims he was captured and tortured by an alien. The Doctor, meanwhile, has been captured by the other astronauts. After a rescue effort, they go back to the crevasse where Harry fell, only to Field Major Styre, a Sontaran who has been experimenting on, and killing, the astronauts. Styre has been preparing for an invasion of Earth.

     This was…apparently a fairly forgettable one, as I don’t remember much about it. Styre was suitably evil, subjecting Sarah Jane to frightening hallucinations and being pretty much a jerk (as Sontarans tend to be). The Doctor was, of course, awesome, because Tom Baker. He also takes great joy in picking on Harry.

He apparently gets excited over mines as well.


     Possibly part of the reason this didn’t make an impression on me is because of the next one.


Genesis of the Daleks

     The Doctor intends to take Sarah Jane and Harry back to Earth, but the Time Lords grab the TARDIS and land it on Skaro, telling the Doctor to stop the creation of the Daleks. The trio exit the TARDIS only to find themselves in a war zone reminiscent of a World War II movie. This is near the end of the thousand-year war between the Thals and the Kaleds. When a poison gas is released, the Doctor and Harry are captured by the Kaleds while Sarah Jane is left outside, unconscious.

     Sarah discovers the Mutos, the partially mutated victims of the war who have been abandoned by both sides. One saves Sarah from the others, but before they can make any plans, the Thals capture them and force them to load radioactive materials into a missile.

     Meanwhile, the Doctor and Harry meet the main players on the Kaled side: General Ravon, Security Commander Nyder (looking about as Nazi as they come), and Ronson, a more thoughtful scientist who discovers, to everyone’s surprise, that their captives are alien.

     Then, Davros arrives with a Dalek.

THIS IS WHY WE CAN'T HAVE NICE THINGS


     To everyone’s further surprise, the Doctor calls it a Dalek, something that Davros had literally just come up with. A few of the scientists collude with the Doctor to help him escape and stop Davros’ experiments.

     The Doctor and Harry manage to slip out and rescue Sarah from the Thal dome, but while there, they discover Davros providing the Thal leaders with deadly chemicals. The Kaled dome is destroyed, and the Daleks are unleashed on both the unsuspecting  Thals.

     The trio, along with the Thal and Mutos survivors, sneak back to the Kaled bunker. The soldiers are instructed to destroy the bunker, while the Doctor goes in, hoping to stop the Daleks in their tracks.

     There’s a reason this serial is held in such high regard. It gives us a very visceral look at the war that started the Dalek race, and it hits on a lot of different points of the war: the helpless victims caught in between, young people going out and dying, the horrible deaths that result, the desperation and loosening morals, and the relief when people think it’s finally over. The World War II analogues were quite obvious. Both sides seemed  represent the different terrible aspects of Nazi ideology. The Thals were the vicious, warlike people (to begin with), and the Kaleds were the ruthless scientists. Neither side was particularly good at the end.

     It also gives us a couple very iconic moments. The first is Davros’ speech about holding the fate of the universe in his hands. If the end was in his power, would he cause it? Oh, you bet he would. (As he demonstrates clearly  in Journey’s End.) It’s very chilling to watch-someone who has been so warped by war that he would kill everyone just for the sake of his ego.

     The other moment is the image of the Doctor holding the two wires together, debating with himself about whether or not destroying the Daleks while they are helpless is truly the right thing to do. (Yes, he mentions the Hitler argument during his debate.) This sets up a very common moral dilemma for the Doctor. How far is too far?

"Doctor, what vexes all men?"
"The dichotomy of good and evil?"
"You're...you're not normal, are you?"


     This was a fantastic serial. It introduced Davros, it showed us what circumstances it took to cause the Daleks, and it gave us some fantastic acting from Tom Baker.

10/10 would watch forever.

Something about Davros seemed so familiar...if only I could figure out what...



Revenge of the Cybermen

     If it ain’t Daleks, it’s Cybermen. I tell you.

     Our heroic trio arrive back at the Nerva space station, a few thousand years in the past, only to find wacky hijinks are afoot. A plague has hit the station, leaving them under quarantine and isolated, with only three men to continue running the beacon to warn ships away from the nearby planet of Voga. When an alien warning comes through transmission, it seems the only source could be the planet, but Professor Kellman insists that there was no life on the planet when he visited it six months previous.

     Meanwhile, on Voga, there is in fact life on the planet. The alien who attempted to warn the space station is dead; the military leader has some kind of plan, and is in contact with someone on the station. (Three guesses who, and the first two don’t count.) The Vogans (lol) are tense from the nearby Cybermen, who are monitoring transmissions.

     On the station, the Doctor realizes the Cyberman are involved; Voga is known as the “planet of gold”, and gold is known to weaken the Cybermen. The planet was a very important asset in a previous war. Then, Sarah is bitten by a cybermat, the real cause of the deaths on the station, and the Doctor manages to get past Kellman’s sabotage of the transmat system to send Sarah and Harry down to the planet, filtering the poison from Sarah’s body. Unfortunately, the two are captured by the Vogans. There, they discover there is a conflict between two sides. Vorus, the military leader, wants to stop hiding from the Cybermen, and has a plan involving the humans above. But the chief councilor Tyrum wants his people to use caution. Sarah and Harry are caught up in the fighting, while on the space station the Doctor tries to fix the transmat system to bring them back.

Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil.


     However, before he can, the Cybermen arrive on the station, so they can destroy the asteroid and the main source of weapons against them. They send the Doctor and two of the men on board to plant bombs throughout the asteroid. They have fourteen minutes to make it back to the transmat system (almost impossible), and if they try to take the bombs off, they’ll blow up anyways.

     This was a pretty fun serial. The chief of the action, however, takes place as the Doctor makes his way across the asteroid with a bomb strapped to his back. It was really a tense scene, as it wasn’t entirely clear how the Doctor would manage to get out of it. Kellman was a bit transparently evil; but on the other hand, it was nice to see the Cybermen back (even if it led to complaints that their weakness was too ridiculous.) It had a slow start, but the end was worth it.

     
"If you're so technologically advanced, why do we need to do this?"
"IT IS LOGICAL THAT THE CLIMAX BE ILLOGICAL."
"That...that doesn't...oh, never mind."