Monday, April 29, 2013

Supernatural: War of the Sons (Based on the CW series)

Many of us love Supernatural on the CW, and one just finished reading a tie-in book War of the Sons by Rebecca Dessertine & David Reed.  She reports she enjoyed the story and the characters, but almost threw the book across the room a few times because it was so full of dumb mistakes that could easily have been corrected by a good editor.

The angel Abbadon sends Sam and Dean back to 1954 so they can acquire some Dead Sea Scrolls from an auction at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City. This gives the authors a chance to contrast life in the 1950's with the Winchesters' life today. But they get a lot of it wrong, and it is grating. In the most egregious (and easy to have checked) example,  Don sent some other things back as well because a character draws the Arch to tell Dean she's going to St. Louis. But construction of the Arch started in 1963 (one of our member saw the photos her cousin took as it was built). We just checked her memory on Wikipedia, so the authors or editor could have done it as easily as we did. There are other painful errors that anyone who had stayed in a big fancy hotel in the 1950's would recognize (no ice machines then, or vending machines either. You want food or ice, call room service.)

Clearly the book was written by young people for other young people, and the publishers didn't believe it was worth investing in fact checkers for a genre book like this. But we suggest they have one of their older editors read such things in the future because it would have saved them a lot of embarrassment. The Arch error is ridiculous.

So the geezer in our group have now finished grousing about the stuff that drove her nuts, and calmed down enough to say what she enjoyed. She liked the premise that a demon was trapped in the  jars to protect the scrolls. She liked the characters, especially semi-clueless Walter and his daughter, Julia. And the demon-wife of Lucifer, Eisheth. Walter's plan to stop the Apocalypse was definitely in line with Spock's "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few," but not with the Winchesters' "you don't kill fellow humans" philosophy. How Sam and Dean foiled it was clever and the ending was really satisfying. It fit right in Season 5, when the Winchesters were doing everything they could to avoid being Michael's or Lucifer's vessels.

So after all the discussion, the opinion was it was a pretty good book that could have been a lot better if a little more care had been taken with it.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Missing in Machu Picchu by Cecilia Velástegui

We had never heard of Cecilia Velástegui before we attended the mystery authors panel at LiteraryOrange, but after reading her latest book, Missing in Machu Picchu, we are glad we did. She gave everyone who attended a copy and we thoroughly enjoyed it, though we didn't like everyone in it.

The story contrasts two old Peruvian/Incan women, Taki and Koyam, and a gaggle of American women who are "Ivy League educated" empty-headed morons. The setting is the Inca Trail that leads to Machu Picchu. The villain is a self-deluded womanizing hunk named Rodrigo who Taki and Koyam know to be a complete scoundrel, and they decide to follow the Americans when they go off on a hike with him as their trail guide.

Taki and Koyam are wonderful. They are very different women but life-long friends who complement each other. Koyam is the keeper of ancient secrets, and uses that knowledge to help the Americans. Unfortunately, we all believed the women deserved everything that was about to happen to them. What a bunch of losers.

Why do we say that? Because most of these women are shallow, self-centered snobs. They stupidly believe an Ivy League diploma is a guarantee of superiority (they've obviously never talked to anyone outside their narrow circle of friends and acquaintances). And they are too dumb to detect a fake one. They came on this hike to break their habit of relying on online dating sites to find a man, though it isn't obvious why they think a strenuous hike in mountainous terrain in a totally foreign country will do that. They gripe when they don't have internet or cell phone signals. Each one of them is deluded enough to believe Rodrigo is their own personal replacement for the loser men they've been dating. Of course he plays on that perfectly, and because they are oblivious to everyone and everything around them, they can't see what would be obvious to someone who pays attention to their surroundings. We cheered when bad things happened to them.

We almost liked the woman who insisted the hike conform to the sales pitch, and who insists on taking the luxury train. Obnoxious as she was, at least she stood up for herself.

Taki and Koyam made the book. We decided people should read the sections about them, and skim the rest. And GoogleEarth the Inca Trail because it probably is a wonderful hike, if you go with a reliable guide.

Nancy Holder, Lisa Morton, Benjamin Kane Ethridge and Horror at LiteraryOrange

We all took a long break after the long, seemingly never-to-end campaign season that ran into Christmas that ran into the winter blahs. But around WonderCon we began to snap out of it, and the final straw was the great LiteraryOrange festival we attended on April 6.  There were probably 300 people there, most of them middle-aged women. A few men. Hardly any youngsters. The panels were eclectic and the whole event was fun.

The best panel was Horror: Dead and Loving It. What a line up! We were really excited to learn the panel included Nancy Holder and Lisa Morton. My daughter was a big Buffy fan (at 6 she was Buffy for Halloween, during its first season, when no one knew who Buffy was. She wore black clothes and a backpack with a bottle of holy water in it, and even carried a wooden stake she carved herself.) And we really enjoyed hearing from a newcomer (to us) Benjamin Kane Ethridge.

The panel members covered a wide variety of topics, including:

  • The decline of horror after the glut in the 1980's (does anyone still have their Goosebump books?)
  • How gore in movie released in the first decade of this century killed the word "horror" and no one wanted it associated with their movies
  • The affect of smart horror shows like Buffy and Angel and Supernatural, where the writing was never dumbed down. Supernatural is a horror show a week in itself (and who doesn't like those hot guys?)
  • The glut of vampire movies, books and TV shows. The panelists said vampire popularity seems to run in 20-year cycles.
  • zombies
  • The Horror Writers of America and the help it can give aspiring writers. Anyone can join and help support others, even if one doesn't write oneself.
  • The rise of self-publishing and the critical need for editing. How many of us have read books lately that cried out for editing: lousy punctuation and sentence structure, anachronisms (I threw a book across the room just yesterday for being so out of synch with the time in which it was set.), lack of continuity, misuse of words, etc.
We were really entertained by the writers' stories about writing. Nancy Holder watches a horror movie every morning to put her in the mood. When she first started writing she submitted articles to all kinds of obscure magazines, and collected rejection letters from all of them. Even from a magazine aimed at cement makers. But she explained there are all kinds of business-related reasons your submission might be rejected, and not everything is personal.

We also liked the reasons the writers gave for writing horror:
  • Mr. Ethridge said his horror books sold better than his fantasy ones. Horror is a unique genre where the author is trying to get an emotion from the reader: Fear. A romance writer is not trying to get the reader to fall in love.
  • Ms. Morton wanted to write horror ever since she saw The Exorcist as a child. She wrote screenplays until she decided she didn't want her name on lousy movies anymore.
  • Ms Holder started as a romance writers and found her readers loved Stephen King.
They also explained the actual work of writing is only part of the work. There's a lot of associated activities for which a writer does not get paid, like doing research and promotion.

Naturally we bought their books and talked to the authors after the panel. And I ran home and ordered Nancy Holder's Buffy: The Making of a Slayer. Too bad there weren't more people at the panel. The last time I saw Ms Holder at Comic-Con the lines to get her latest book were huge.