No Bones To Pick With Hannibal

There are many things our family loves about living out in Western Canada – the open spaces, the mountains etc but the weather can be a bit trying at times.  The last week of April saw spring like conditions finally arise only to have it all undone by snow the last two days.  It is very deflating to wake up to see snow falling at this time of the year.


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Hannibal  – really enjoying this atmospheric and intelligent take on Thomas Harris‘s characters.  Especially the show’s serialization of story – not killers! – carrying the impact of Graham’s shooting of serial killer Hobbes in the third episode.  The show has done a great job of avoiding the case of the week syndrome that the CSI clones do.

The sub-textual handling of Bella Crawford’s – so nice to see Gina Torres again –  cancer and Graham’s  realization of it during the questioning of a suspect was wonderfully played. Both actors gave very controlled but amazingly poignant portrayals.  Highlight of the episode.

And a wonderful example that what is NOT being said or is only being intimated, can be just as powerful, even not more so, that what is being shown or told.

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Prophet of Bones by Ted Kosmatka  – literally a real page turner.  I knocked off over a 100 pages in my first sitting.  This is a Michael Crichtonesque style thriller.  The prose is lean and clean – complex emotional beats and ideas reduced to tight single lines of writing.  It all revolves around a unique find of ancient human bones and the book is filled with much scientific jargon around genetics but never becomes dull or boring.  The book dwells in the same conspiracy theater that books such as The DaVinci Code do.

The interesting thing about the author is that he works as a writer for the videogame company Valve – maker of the classic Half Life series and Portal games.  He writes the same brisk pace and economy of words employed with video games.  Not my normal cup of tea but I enjoyed.

The major caveat with the book – as with most books of this type or TV shows – Hello Lost & X-Files – the buildup surpasses the payoff.

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Wool & Double Nickels

Finished Hugh Howey’s – Wool.  Howey is one of those “overnight success stories” self-published writers on the wave of a new publishing path paradigm.

A good book.  A very good book.  No signs of this being a self-published book in terms of edit checks and proof reading.  The book hangs together very well with only a slight sag in the last quarter where the pacing is a bit off.  Things drag a little in that section and then rush few some big moments in the last couple of chapters.

Howey has built up a very interesting concept in a dystopian future and peopled it with engaging characters most notably the protagonist – Juliette or Jules. And she is a jewel..  There are many touching moments. All of it takes place in the small 140 level world of the Silo. Where society classes are built based on level location and function.

I look forward to further tales in the world of Wool.

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55.
Wow.  Time flies.
Freedom 55 as the London Life marketing calls it.  

Slow Spring

Spring continues to snooze.  Third week of April and finally the snow has begun to recede.  Most of it was lost due to overnight/early morning rain late in the week.

Now the outdoors look like a great sandstorm has blown through.  Gritty streets and sidewalks bear witness to the amount of sand that is used during the winter months.  Soon the street and sidewalk cleaners will be out gathering it all up for reuse next year.

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Not much new on the TV front. Still processing the conclusion of Spartacus.  It’s been a while that a show has engaged that emotionally and just been pure entertaining from start to finish.  What a great cast of memorable characters.

Been watching the latest superhero show – Arrow – in big gulps.  The show moves quickly and is not afraid to shake things up.  The cast is uniformly good.

I don’t feel the show has adequately explained Oliver Queen’s modus operandi with him dispatching the bad guys with arrows.  If the focus was kept squarely on the names in his book hit list – after giving the victim of the week a chance first to turn themselves in – it would be more palatable.

The problem is the bulk of his dispatching occurs with the hired hands.  Yeah they are bad guys but Queen never gives these red shirts the same consideration that he gives to the named offenders.  A bit of a conundrum the show just skates around.

The real delight has been in the guest casting the show has pulled off.  Actors such as Seth Gabel from Fringe, Manu Bennett as Craxus from Spartacus, James Callis and Rekha Sharma from Battlestar Galactica, and Ben Browder from Farscape.  None of them get a real chance to develop their characters as its usually a one and done deal. The exception has been Manu who has had a recurring role playing an Australian Secret Service Agent – Slade Wilson in flashbacks from Queen’s time on the island where he was shipwrecked for 5 years.

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Been reading self published author Hugh Howey’s Wool which hit a chord with readers where it was available as an e-book in the Amazon store.  From there it has been picked up by a traditional publisher and sold in paperback.  Howey is on the vanguard of a new publishing path that is now possible with the continuing rise of eBooks which bypass traditional methods.

It’s still takes a lot of luck to get a book published and noticed that way and you have to have the skills to back it all up.  So far from the reading I have done of Wool,  Howey has proven himself to be able to let his work speak for himself.  The book is well written, technically and artistically.  It’s a page turner peopled with engaging characters all taking part in a bigger story that has interesting twists.  Some characters, especially the bad guys, are a little two dimensional but there have been traditionally published books with far worse examples.

Wool is an enjoyable and entertaining read which I highly recommend if you like dystopian/mystery/thriller types of stories.

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Went to my second meeting of the Edmonton Writer’s Group and have been enjoying myself.  It is very interesting to listen to other people’s feedback from the same story.  Opinions vary widely and I am constantly amazed at the differing reactions to story points that I either had no problem with or even considered.

It’s also evident that there is a great support structure here as the group keeps each other apprised of upcoming writer/book events.  It is also been helpful from a motivational perspective too.  Glad I checked it and I will continue to attend.  One more meeting and I will be considered a full time member.

Does that mean I earn my first letter?

Double Feature Victory

My, my.  Where does the time fly?

It’s been over a week since my last blog entry and the time gap is due to how busy I have been keeping.  Finished reading Owen King’s wonderful novel – Double Feature, saw the last two episodes of Spartacus – wonderful end to an emotionally engaging series, and have been nursing a sore back back to health.  The back injury was perplexing – was out walking the dog, felt something shift in my spine which caused the muscles in my lower back to seize up and then leave me with intermittent spasms over the rest of the week.  Each day the muscles relaxed more.  It has taken over a week for the spasms to cease.

It’s looking like Mother Nature didn’t make the mailing list for this year’s calendar. Mid-April  and we are still getting snow. Not just here but all over the country. Climate change is a much more apropos term than the more popular global warming tag bandied about these days.  Anyhow, time for a bit deeper dive into…

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Double Feature is a true delight! Congrats to Owen King. I am left with the conclusion that he is a man wiser than his years.
DF is a book filled with great characters, great life insights. It covers the spectrum of emotions and several set pieces that made me laugh outright at several passages.  There are some great ruminations on the nature of life as well.
What more can one ask for in a book?

Did anyone figure out who Bea’s boyfriend is?  I inclined to think it’s – GASP! – Tom.
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To die a free man is a noble thing.

Spartacus: War Of The Damned – Series Finale – Victory

To all involved with Spartacus I only have one word – GRATITUDE! 

A tip of the hat to the creative team behind this series – Steven DeKnight ignored the naysayers and took this bloody, bawdy, no holds barred approach to the series – including same sex partnerships; all done in an operatic style that conveyed the immediacy of those times in contrast to the largely sheltered life most of us live today to dramatize the cost and pursuit of freedom.  This was done on the macro scale thematically throughout the series and in parallel the character arcs of the major players mirrored that struggle.  Spartacus, whose real name is lost, the Roman name given to a Thracian slave became more than a name.  The name became legend and a symbol for freedom.   At the start of the rebellion Spartacus driven by revenge for the death of his wife at Roman whim. At the end he had grown beyond his own concerns and forfeited his life so that the woman, children, and the less fortunate unable to protect themselves could find freedom.  In this way he honored his wife’s memory.

Contrast that with Gannicus, a fellow gladiator who had won his freedom as a slave and had reluctantly joined the rebellion out of guilt at having slept with his comrade’s – Oenomaus wife.  While he pledged his sword to the cause, he kept a distance too, constantly refusing Spartacus’s entreaties to accept a leadership role until the very end when he became touched by the plights of the lessor.  He and Spartacus ended up at the same place but by widely divergent paths.

The finale played with expectations by constantly providing moments of hope where even though the outcome is known in history books.  So when Spartacus finally fell after several close battles with Crassus and Gannicus had the expected return engagement rematch with Caesar; gaining the upper hand only to be thwarted in delivering the killing blow when overcome by other Roman soldiers,  their outcomes were more difficult to take while feeling even more worthy because of those tantalizing moments of possible victory.  Gannicus being crucified and seeing Oenomaus and the cheering crowds of the arena once more were a fitting end for him.  Just as Spartacus lay dying waiting to see his wife once again.  And to hear her speak his real name.

It was a thematically interesting approach for the show to take where the major characters were often defeated by unseen attacks from the back.  Crixus, Spartacus, Tiberius, and much later, and more famously – Julius Caesar.  The irony of Caesar’s derivise jibe to Gannicus after he has been hoisted up on the cross – ‘Such an ignoble ending.’ – is replete with irony.
What a great end to an outstanding series.  A series that was criminally under watched.  The nod to the original Spartacus – Andy Whitfield – at the end was well done too.
I shed a few tears as this one played out.  This series entertained with the best of them.

Red Planet Blues / Green Planet Glory

On Tuesday, April 3rd I went to Audrey’s Book Store in downtown Edmonton to see SF Writer – Robert J. Sawyer do a reading from his new book – Red Planet Blues – a mystery noir set on Mars.  I haven’t been able to attend on of Rob’s readings since we moved out west so it was a real treat to see and hear him again.
We chatted for a few moments – he actually remembered who I was! – and compared notes as to what we had been up to lately.  His reading was excellent.  Quite funny in fact.  Rob joked around that he had learned that the best way to entice readers was to make sure his reading selection included nudity and action.  I thought he was just kibitzing with the audience but Rob was telling the truth. His reading contained both and a lot of humor too.
There was a question period afterwards which was interesting. His nex project is based on, ‘The Psychomatic Zombie.’  Sounds like Rob is trying to tap into the serial killer/zombie craze.  Fascinating stuff.
I have his latest book on my To Be Read pile.
RJS entertains with his reading.

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So we went west for Easter Weekend and stayed at an inn in Lake Louise.  The trip was gorgeous and the roads were practically deserted.  The first shot below is typical of the both scenery and traffic.

If you scroll back to my previous post you can see what Lake Louise looks like in the summer.  This is what it looks like in the winter.  Truly gorgeous.
We ate very well – too well for me, I felt like the 10 pounds I have lost since the start of the year all came back that weekend.
A splendid time was had by all and we plan to visit Jasper in the summer.
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Off to my first writer’s group meeting with the Edmonton Writing Group tonight.  They meet twice a month and do group reviews of each other’s writing.  Looking forward to hanging out with some other writers and sharing thoughts and feedback.