Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Binge Review 2: Jessica Jones

Okay so I'm only three episodes in but here's my first impression:  Because the series revolves around the titular character, who is also a private eye, they created this wonderful Film Noir opening credits scene.  The conventions of Film Noir are all there too.  Tough hard-drinking P.I.  Glass front office door with the name in gold letters (that get's smashed in the first five minutes) gritty streets, a bigger mystery, all narrated by the main character herself in a seen-too-much confessional style.  So it seems like it's a conventional detective series, only it's not.  It's Marvel which means there's a twist, she's a superhero with PTSD hiding from her past and the villain that made her jumpy is alive, even though he's supposed to be dead.  This villain, Kilgare, played by David Tenant has the power to control minds, which makes things a tad weirder.  It's a dark and gritty vision for sure, and a little grimier than previous Marvel offerings.  Even Daredevil, which I loved for its darker tone didn't get into gutter sex in the first five minutes like this one and it's not even the only one.  We get three sex scenes in the first episode, so fair warning, not for kids, and maybe not for this adult either.  Your mileage may vary.  And the ending of the first episode?  Well not to spoil anything, but it's brutal.

Still, I'm not sure it works.  It should be right up my alley.  I love superheroes, I love Film Noir detective movies, and I love psychological thrillers, all three genres are right up my alley.  I should be over the moon, but this really only works on the last level, the psychological thriller, which fortunately, is pretty darn good.  The detective angle feels tacked on frankly. As far as the superhero plot line goes, I never read the comics, so I have no expectations, which isn't bad.  Daredevil was a franchise I knew well, so it's nice to be surprised by this one though if this is anything like DD I'm sure it strays pretty far from the source material, while still giving fans the appropriate Easter eggs and aha moments.  They earned a lot of trust with Daredevil so I'll probably be sticking this one out too, though more cautiously.

Binge Watch Reviews! Man in the High Castle and The Expanse

Curse this age of online binge watching!  Don't they know I have things to do?  Oh well.

Okay, I finished watching Man in the High Castle last night and since it was already past midnight, I decided to throw the early release of SyFy's The Expanse on the pile as well.

Here's my review of both.

We truly live in the golden age of production design, both of these are beautiful with amazing attention to detail.  Let's start with MitHC.

It's beautifully acted and the performers deserve a lot of credit for keeping you involved.  I say that, because it drags...a lot.  There's an overarching mystery of course, some conspiracies, a resistance and a whole lot of Nazi and Japanese nastiness, but hey that's what they're there for.  What you don't know is what the plot is there for, because they tease an awful lot but really don't resolve anything.

What I'm there for is the performances.  Rufus Sewell is amazing - and horrifying - as New York SS head John Smith.  At first this America seems impossible but after his portrayal you really begin to believe in an Americans could sign up for the third Reich, enthusiastically. He's by far the most interesting character. Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa is just brilliant as trade minister Tagomi as well, but much outside those fantastic portrayals, it begins to feel tedious.  It's amazing to see this world constructed, but I couldn't give two figs for the leads playing Blake and Crain.  I know, I know...they're conflicted, everyone's conflicted. I just don't care. I was rooting for the Marshall at points.  I do care about the films however, but I'm nervous.   The main mystery at the heart of this, the films and the identity of the mysterious eponymous Man in the High Castle, is barely teased.  I feel as if I am being baited.  I've watched a lot of high concept stuff get LOST in the weeds, if you know what I mean, because the writers didn't really know where they were going.  They were just peppering the drama with mysteries with no idea how to resolve them.  Let's hope that's not the case, but I've been burned so many times before, I'll remain wary, though I will check in for the second season, the acting is just that good.  Basically we get an alternate history that is really mesmerizing in its detail and conception overlaid with what can only be described as a paranormal mystery which is a head-scratcher that seems to be moving in the general direction of a big reveal.  It is, after all, based on Philip K. Dick, so that was to be expected.   Let's hope they don't blow it.

Now on to The Expanse.

It was just the first episode but again, just gorgeous, and more importantly, we have ships laid out like real spaceships with decks at perpendicular angles to the engines instead of like the decks of a cruise ship.  They move like real spaceships with thrusters and hard G turns instead of swooping around like biplanes in a vacuum.  No artificial gravity or inertial dampeners either.  Though our expectations of zero-g sex are probably too high, and we still can't seem to get around dark gritty corridor porn.  Seriously, where does sci-fi get this obsession with oodles of dark corridors?!  Outside the Enterprise in Star Trek it's like the future world has never heard of lighting.  Heck, even the dingiest modern oil tanker today isn't this depressing.  Oh well.  Other than that it portrays a believable near future with asteroid dwellers called belters and an inner-solar system political conflict between Earth, Mars, and the human colonies scattered around the asteroid belt fighting over freedom and resources.  The whole thing begins with an amazing fly through shot of the colony on Ceres while some revolutionary is monologuing about oppression,  Any show that gets the science and society that well deserves a prolonged look, it's just...well I'll be honest, it seems utterly conventional beyond that.  The characters are all stock issued, hard nosed detective, handsome leading man, natural leader, and a missing girl who's certain to be at the heart of a mystery that's going to change the fate of mankind...blah, blah, blah.  I hope it rises above this.  All expectations from the book suggests it will.  It is a good but not brilliant beginning.  I will definitely still tune in though.

Okay and now for some house cleaning.

Look I'm not going to bore you with the descriptions of my last few years.  Unemployed author gets serious depression and drops off the radar for years?! The Dickens you say!  Yeah, yeah, I'm a living stereotype, but I've been wanting to come back for a while now, still working on...well...a lot of things, but this review seemed like a good way to get back into the blog and kick it all off.  The hope is to return to the sequel of Limbo's Child and a bunch of other projects.  If you are still there after I've abandoned you for so long, well...thank you, and I hope there is more to come.  More reviews, more writing and more stories.

Thanks for sticking with me.


Monday, February 23, 2015

Sincerity as shock value

People know I'm a fan of Lady Gaga.

Still, if you've made a career of wearing meat dresses and over the top performances, how do you shock the masses anymore?

By an act of pure unadulterated sincerity that really proves you've got the pipes, that's how.


Friday, February 20, 2015

"Holy crap there's a lot of dust bunnies in here."

"More like dust mammoths.  Geez, when did you last clean up this place?"

"I don't know, years maybe, it's not that bad really."

"Not bad? Are you serious?"

"No I think it has a kinda benevolent neglect vibe going on, a sorta shabby chic thing, y'know?"

"Shabby Chic?  Shabby chic is lightly peeling paint on a charming Gothic revival manor, this is more like unsealing the tomb and feeling the  5,000 year old putrid breath of the mummy on your neck kinda chic."

"Ha-ha, very funny, Travis.  Are you going to help or not?"

"Fine, Jonah, give me the power hose.  It's going to take a lot to wash away all these drop shadows."

"What's wrong with the drop shadows?"

"Nothing, it's the finest aesthetic 1998 has to offer."

"Oh shut up and get to work."

"As soon as I get my tetanus shot, fine."


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Black Friday Giveaway!

The book will be available FREE on Amazon Kindle the Friday, Saturday and Sunday after Thanksgiving.

Just my way of saying Thanks to all the fans.

Share the book with all your friends.


Friday, October 19, 2012

Reviews Disappearing

In the last several days, four of my positive reviews have disappeared from Amazon. I have contacted Amazon and they tell me they can't discuss the matter with me, but they told me reviews are either removed by the reviewer or because the
y didn't meet the guidelines. I contacted one reviewer and they say they didn't take it down. It appears I am under some kind of attack. Someone is challenging positive reviews on some technicality, getting Amazon to take them down, and a new one disappears each day. If you've read the book and haven't written a review, please write one. If you have written a review, please check to make sure it's still there, if not, please write a new one. Thanks. Jonah.

PS, and please share the book with everyone you know.

Here's the link: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B005XHABAO

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Secret Prologue: The Mummy

Here it is:  The first part of the new first chapter of the sequel to Limbo's Child.  Those of you who know me, know I like to do this a lot.  I get the plot settled and then BAM!  I have to change it all at the last moment.  Oh well.  It's a goodie.

This might make it in the final book it might not.  I meant it to replace the old first chapter (available here) but my wife begged me to keep that one in.   At the moment I consider this a "secret" chapter.  That is, it's not really crucial to the rest of the story, it just contains relevant backstory that would make the story more enjoyable.  These "secret" chapters contain some mild spoilers, but nothing too bad, but you've been warned, so no whining if you read on. Ok?  BTW - this has been through exactly one edit, by me, and not my editor, so it's kinda rough in places.

Parts II and III will be posted later this week.  And I will be doing a live reading of the entire chapter on Livestream this week so stay tuned for details.

And with all that throat-clearing out of the way...I give you, The Secret Prologue:  The Mummy Part I.

The Secret Prologue:
The Mummy

The body had been dead for forty days, but Pepy was still terrified of it.  It wasn’t that he was squeamish around bodies.   As the head royal embalmer he had mummified twenty-two royal persons.  As apprentice to the last head embalmer he had assisted with forty-five!  No it wasn’t dead bodies that bothered him.  It was this particular dead body.
She was a lovely thing, young, no more than fourteen, a daughter of one of the pharaoh’s minor wives, but a favored one, but it wasn’t her age that was so troubling, many died young, even in the palaces of the god-king.  No, it was the manner in which she died.  She was found, in the dawn, pale and lifeless on her own bed, safe in the palace.  The only mark on her was a subtle wound on the neck, two tiny punctures, small and needle like, like the bite of an asp, but the fang holes were so far apart, it could only have been made by an enormous asp with a mouth the size of a hyena.  Not another  trace of disease or injury was on her, but there she was, calm and peaceful, like she was sleeping with her arms crossed, as if someone had arranged the corpse for death, but the doors had been locked, from the inside.
The priests were beside themselves with anxiety and thought it a terrible omen.  They wanted her chopped into pieces and tossed into the Nile but the pharaoh forbad it.  Things only got worse from there.  Pepy himself had to make the small incision to remove the internal organs in preparation of embalming, but when the knife cut the flesh, it was utterly bloodless.  Not a single drop of blood was left in the girl.  Her flesh was as bloodless as a piece of salted beef in the marketplace.  Half the priests and nearly all of his assistants attempted to flee the room at that point until forced back at the point of the guards’ spears.  Pepy had nearly blanched himself, but he carried on.  Ramses the Great was not a man you wanted to disobey.  He had to carry on alone though.  The others wouldn’t pull themselves away from the walls.  Pepy dutifully removed the lungs, stomach, liver and intestine and placed them for preservation in the four sacred canopic jars with the heads of the four sons of Horus.  He took the heart, he yib, the seat of truth and knowledge and placed it carefully back into the body.  She would need it when her soul would be judged.  He packed the empty abdominal cavity with linen and natrun, the sacred salt that dried out the body, but he had to say all the prayers himself.  The priests were too scared.
Now he was back to finish her.  The body had been sealed in this chamber forty days ago.  She needed to be wrapped in the precious linens and resins.  When he broke the seal and entered the chamber, everything seemed normal, but that all changed when he pulled back the mummies linen covering.  In forty days the mummy should have browned, the eyes and cheeks becoming sunken, the lips taut.  She had hardly changed at all.  There was some anxious foot-shuffling on the stone floor when they saw her, but the others kept their tongues.  There was nothing to do but get on with it.
            As he went about wrapping her body in the resin-drenched linens, placing the sacred eye of Horus over the small incision on her stomach, intoning the sacred prayers beneath his breath because the priests were too scared to, Pepy couldn’t help but think that everything about this was wrong.  These rituals should be completed in the daylight, with great ceremony, but here they were in the middle of the night, with only a handful of priests and guards.  The pharaoh had insisted it be done as soon as the fortieth day had set, so here they were, after sunrise, in the embalming chamber with only a few oil lamps to light the way.  The pharoah had procured a dozen large jars of the most precious resin for the process, but he could only persuade two of his apprentices to come, so he had to carry two of the jars himself.  But the worst part, the very worst part of it all was him.
            He had arrived late, dressed in long blue-black linens and wearing the mask of the jackal-headed god Anubis, which completely covered his face.  When he entered the guards and priests turned their backs to him and studiously stared at the walls, avoiding even looking at him, almost as if pretending he didn’t exist.  Pepy’s assistants obviously didn’t know the protocol, but quickly stumbled over each other to shove their noses in the nearest corners of the room they could find like naughty school-children.  He was tall and gaunt and though no one saw his eyes, you could tell he was watching you, intently.  Pepy didn’t even know who he was.  He wondered if anyone did.  He had never seen him before.  He had only heard rumors.  He was nameless, faceless and appeared only at the most dire times, plague, famine, war or perhaps the death of a pharaoh.  He never spoke, and even the Priests of Amun were afraid of him and bowed and backed away whenever he entered.  If he ever spoke or held counsel with anyone, it was only with the Pharaoh and then only in private.  He could disappear for years, but in times of distress, he would appear, and it was rumored that he had been doing it, since the days of Djoser the Great more than a thousand years ago.   No one could be certain it was the same figure behind the mask but everyone thought so.  Some said he was the god Anubis himself, others, only that he was an ancient magician.  Pepy wasn’t given to idle rumors or superstition, but the fact that he appeared here, at the embalming of a minor princess was troubling and Pepy was already nervous enough. But he couldn’t do his work with his nose to the wall, so he carried on, and tried not to think of the bloodless corpse, the fang marks or the ominous figure hovering over him like a vulture.
            Soon, however, he found his rhythm despite his fear and worked quickly but carefully through the night, wrapping the body, working from the abdomen to the feet and then from the feet back to the head, placing the sacred amulets between the folds of linen at their proper places.   He placed the golden finger-coverings on each of the dead princesses’ delicate digits, then placed the ankh, the symbol of life in the palm of her hand before wrapping each hand carefully.  Then he folded the arms across the chest and wrapped them against the body, binding them tight in layer after layer, so that she had the same repose she had had when they found her dead.  He worked carefully this way through eleven layers of linens and resins until he reached her neck and head.  He placed a tiny amulet in the shape of a headrest, behind her head, an emblem of the hope that she would at last find rest in the afterlife.  It was nearing dawn, under the best conditions it took days to properly do the job, and with his assistants’ noses planted firmly against the wall, it should have taken even longer, but somehow he had managed it, and gave the princess a respectable wrapping.  He was about to place the last amulet, the eye of Ra, over her mouth and finish the wrapping when the “vulture” spoke.
            “Stop.”  The black draped figure behind Pepy said in a low voice.
            Something clattered to the ground.  Pepy spun around.  He checked his hand.   He hadn’t dropped the amulet.   Thank the gods! That would have been sacrilege.  He glanced around.  A guard was slowly crouching down to retrieve his spear from the floor.  By Horus! thought Pepy, what courage! he thought sarcastically, but then he noticed he was clutching his own heart with the hand that didn’t hold the amulet.  It was pounding.
            The figure for his part, was calm and inscrutable.  For a minute Pepy wasn’t certain he hadn’t imagined it speaking, but then it took a step forward and spoke again.
            “I will finish her.”
            Pepy froze, blinked and knew not what to say.  Was the menacing figure a royal embalmer as well as a magician?  Pepy looked around the room.  The guards were frozen, the priests were muttering prayers for their own salvation, and his assistants were grinding their own faces into the relief sculpture as if they were hoping they disappear into the decoration.  Pepy looked down at the mummy of the princess, her pale face shining and all too life-like and then at the amulet in his hand.  When he looked up a pale, gaunt, corpse-like white hand had reached out from behind the tall figure’s robes.  It had fingering coverings of its own, made of silver, as if it were a mummy itself!  Pepy decided not to question him.  He put a knee to the ground, bowed his head, and offered up the amulet.  The black masked figure took the amulet and moved past him noiselessly. When it reached the other side of the chamber it inclined and its head to them and spoke one last time.
            “Go.” He said again in a voice like death. “Seal the chamber, return in thirty days to entomb her.”
            No one waited for a second command.  The guards and priests piled up at the door, only a scornful look by their master kept Pepy’s apprentices from doing the same.  They danced on their feet until he got to the door, but couldn’t bear it anymore.  Once it was clear they were outside.  Pepy would have to reprimand them later.  He was a master embalmer after all and they should have followed him dutifully out of the tomb, but their scolding would have to wait.  He too was anxious to leave.  At the doorway Pepy looked back at the black figure standing over the body of the princess.  “Seal the doors?” he thought.  There was only one door to the embalming chamber.  He opened his mouth and nearly spoke the question, but then he looked into the empty eyes of the Anubis mask and thought better of it.  Best not to question the mysterious person.  He certainly had his own way of getting out.  Or at least he hoped he did.  He would hate to come back and find him there, though something told Pepy the mysterious figure could survive the thirty days internment without any effort.   Pepy gave one short bow from the neck which the figure graciously returned, though more slowly.  Pepy swallowed hard before he pulled the doors shut.  He quickly pulled a cord from his side and ran it through both door handles and tied it off.  He then produced a lump of soft beeswax mixed with clay from a small pouch and pressed the wax tightly around the knot.  As he pressed the seal of his signet ring into the wax he spoke over his shoulder to his frightened apprentices.
            “No one is to speak of this. Understood?”
            Pepy turned around but his inquiry was met only with the sound of sandals on stone departing into the predawn darkness.  He huffed an angry sigh for the moment, but then, alone in the dark, he decided to drop his remaining dignity and follow his apprentices’ prudent example and fled.