Monthly Archives: August 2014

The Silkworm by J.K. Rowling

thesilkwormYep, another JKR mystery novel, written under the nom de plume of Robert Galbraith. Her main character, Cormoran Strike, continues his work as a private detective around London.  Though his usual cases involve the shady sides of the capital, he’s gained a bit of fame since the last book, following the Lulu Landry case. He also continues to work with Robin, his temporary-turned-permanent assistant, who is smart and very eager to learn about the business.

The Silkworm takes Strike and Robin into the publishing industry for a case, which is very interesting to me.  And obviously it’s an industry of which JKR has a unique (not insider, not totally outsider) viewpoint.

Strike is approached by a woman whose unfaithful, egotistical, mediocre husband is missing. He’s just submitted his newest novel, and Strike soon learns that this novel contains enough that is slanderous and hideous to make almost all of his friends and associates want to hurt or kill him.  It’s a long list of suspects.

And she takes us all through the publishing industry.  From the old-school agents with smoker’s cough and very little profits, up to the slick publishing houses in Soho. Owen Quine, the missing man, showed promise early on, but hasn’t impressed anyone in the industry for a while. On the other end of the spectrum, Michael Fancourt is a literary darling, akin to Will Self or Salman Rushdie.  He is egotistical and pompous, as you might expect.

JKR’s tour of the publishing industry is not particularly flattering, but probably fairly accurate. Cormoran’s search for the killer (yeah, it turns into a murder investigation) is hindered by the fact that almost everyone seems to have a reason to have killed him. He was a pretty shit person, and nearly everyone hated him.

These books are not challenging to read, but they are fun. JKR has a good mix of the methodical approach to solving a mystery, and a leap of intuition that takes Strike to the solution. I like Strike and Robin, though I do find myself comparing them to Harry Potter characters.  I don’t think I’ll ever feel the same amount of affection for anyone in these books as I do for even minor characters in Harry Potter. But that’s true for almost every book that’s not Harry Potter.

My only real complaint about these books is that there were a few too many characters. I had a hard time keeping everyone straight, particularly when most of them are involved in the same industry. But, on the other hand, we learned more about Robin and Cormoran, and I continue to like them both and want to learn more about them. On the other hand, I really hope that they don’t end up together.

My other complaint isn’t a real complaint, just a …preference.  I’d rather she as writing more in the Harry Potter universe.  I like reading these books; I liked this one even more than the last one.  But…it’s not Harry Potter. I believe I said the same thing when I reviewed The Cuckoo’s Calling. But if you’re looking for a light and quick read, this is a much better choice than Dan Brown or …whoever else people read when they want quick stuff.

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Orphan Black, season 2

tumblr_n2w6c7vKaA1rh0u2ko1_r3_500How ironic that I am moving to the UK and will no longer be able to see this BBC America show. Wait–is that irony? Alanis Morissette has completely ruined my ability to discern irony. Whether it’s ironic or not, it’s definitely annoying and stupid.  I really love this show. I think it’s a good show, and I think Tatiana Maslany is spectacular.  The fact that she hasn’t been nominated for an Emmy at this point is an actual crime.

There’s a scene where Sarah is handcuffed to a shower (happens to the best of us), and Helena appears with a massive knife.  I’ve never seen anyone look as afraid as Sarah does in this scene.

0Particularly when you consider the fact that a-the person she’s pretending to be afraid of is herself, and b-there was no one there to react to at the time. The Helena part was added afterward.

Season one ended with a focus on Sarah and Helena, who are apparently twins, born to the same surrogate mother. We also saw the inner workings of the Dyad Institute, including the clone-in-charge, Rachel.  Season two begins with Mrs. S and Kira gone, Cosima and Delphine ‘infiltrating’ the Dyad in order to learn more about the clone program. Alison is turning to drugs and alcohol to deal with the fact that she let her friend die–note to self, never run the garbage disposal while wearing a decorative scarf. Or any scarf, I suppose. Most disturbingly, Cosima is starting to show signs of the illness that killed Katja.  I swear, if they kill of Cosima I’m done. She’s my favorite.

Helena is a close second.  Helena is amazing.

timthumbShe goes through some shit this season. Kidnapped by a creepy Eugenics cult that seemed to combine the most horrifying parts of Mormonism and Nazi medical experiments.  Very very gross. Forced to wear horrible clothes out of Little House on the Prairie, and injected with (her own) eggs fertilized by the creepy prophet/cult leader.  Nope, nope, nope. On the upside, she gets to have a dance and a kiss with a guy in a bar, and she eats a lot of food.

The season focuses on a few things. Rachel, the uptight psycho who runs the Dyad Institute and treats herself and her fellow clones like subjects in a science experiment, but secretly harbors extreme anger over her loss of her parents, and her inability to have children. Major rage issues. The clones all learn more about themselves, both through Cosima’s work in the lab and by finding their ‘creator’, who also served as Rachel’s adoptive father, before he went into hiding. They (and we) learn that the clones are infertile by design (Sarah and Helena are the only known exceptions), and the respiratory problem (caused by tumors) can be treated with stem cells–from Kira.  We also meet Kira’s father, who looks and acts like Aiden from Sex and the City, but clearly has something to hide.  The question is, what did he know when he was dating Sarah?

I love all of the characters in this show, and I really enjoyed the plot. Shows like this have to walk a tightrope. Reveal too much and you lose audience interest. Reveal too little and you frustrate everyone (e.g., Lost).  Orphan Black does a great job answering questions and keeping interest.  You feel like you’re getting somewhere, even if the somewhere you’re getting is into deeper trouble for all the characters.

My only real complaint about the season is the same as everyone else’s, I think. Tony.

orphanblack_2x08_tonyLook, I have no issue with seeing transsexual characters on TV–it’s great for improving acceptance.  But this was not well done.  Tatiana Maslany didn’t do that bad of a job with the acting itself, but there were a few big issues.  One–the terrible pasted-on, barely-there facial hair.  No.  Do better.  The look overall, actually, was quite badly done in my opinion. Look at Boys Don’t Cry for better examples.  Actually, that terrible Amanda Bynes movie She’s the Man made a more believable male character.  Of course, Tony isn’t actually male (anatomically). He’s a pre-op transsexual, if memory serves.  He’s taking hormones, which would account for facial hair and a deeper voice. But I was thrown by the long hair and feminine eyebrows they retained.  But other than just the appearance, the writing of this character was not good.  He wasn’t likeable, and the pseudo-flirtation between him and Felix made me feel a bit gross, just because…Sarah is Felix’s adoptive brother and best friend, and this is basically Sarah’s twin.  I find it weird when people date their best friend’s family, particularly if they look similar.  Part of why Harry and Ginny bother me as a couple. The whole episode just made me unhappy and it broke the cognitive dissonance and left me cringing. I was also annoyed by his appearance, his possession of cryptic information, and then *poof*, he’s gone.  Annoying. I’m ready for him to never come back.

Setting us up for next season, they also introduced Marion. Marion is above Rachel in the Dyad Institute and whatever else they are connected with. I recognize the actress from her turn on True Blood, so I was all ‘Danger, Sarah Manning!’. She cannot be trusted.  Or killed, if she’s anything like her True Blood character.

Orphan-Black-210-Marion-Sarah-CharlotteCharlotte is the little girl in the foreground of this picture.  Marion tells us that, after hundreds of attempts, Charlotte is the only clone they’ve produced since the first batch.  Sarah’s face kind of says it all–imagine coming face to face with your 8-year-old self.

I’m going to have to figure out a way to watch this next year, because I really like it. It surprises and amuses me, and how often do both of those things happen in a TV show? That being said, I hope Tony only makes one more appearance, relaying a cryptic but important message before being tragically killed.