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Becoming Human

So, I just watched Becoming Human, the spin-off from the BBC’s excellent Being Human. Which takes a minor character (vampire) and adds a werewolf and ghost. New characters, but the same basic concept as Being Human. I thought I’d watch it because I love Being Human and I didn’t think it would be up to much – I thought it would be a bit samey and quite hard for them to differentiate it.

They set it in a school. The vampire has the body of a 16 year old and feels he needs some more education. So he goes back to class and meets a werewolf who’s being stalked by the ghost of a murdered classmate. And that was enough to make it work. I really enjoyed it.

Anybody else see it?

100 Books in 2011 review: Dead as a Doornail

Dead as a Doornail is the fifth in Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse series. In honour of the fact that there’s a review for each one on this blog I’ve created a new category just for these. (Having just done that, it appears I missed one. There’s no review for Dead to the World, which I’m sure I read, but I don’t keep books so can’t go back to it. Annoying.)

Anyway, moving on. When I started reading the Sookie Stackhouse series it was because I was really enjoying True Blood and I was curious to see how the TV series would be different to the book. With season 2, True Blood diverged quite a bit so it was not really possible to compare it with Living Dead in Dallas. There is one point that is still worth picking up.

That point is about character. Almost all of the supporting characters have greater depth in True Blood. I said that I thought this was a combination of first person POV in the books and the greater space for character development in the TV series. By book five, I’m beginning to wonder if that’s really what’s going on. The characters that have been in the books from the beginning are still quite thin, with the exception of Eric who is more real. It was notable in this book that the characters that are here for just this story are a name, a brief physical description and a tic or two. While the writing is noticeably more competent than it was in the first book, characterisation isn’t much better. Having read lots of first person POV books in the last couple of years (and having been paying attention to the writing) I don’t think that this POV necessarily leads to poor characterisation. Some writers manage to do it well.

What really rankled was the poverty of female characters. There was a lot about Sookie that made her a great female character to start with and I felt that some of this is becoming lost. Tara is Sookie’s best friend but she has barely any impact on the story. In this novel, it felt like she was only there as a plot device. The best friend relationship is never established except for Sookie telling us this. The two of them don’t seem to spend time together and Tara is not who Sookie goes to for emotional support. She is certainly not the intriguing, complex character that she is in True Blood. The same is true for Arlene. In Dead as a Doornail, Sookie is surrounded by various supernatural men who are desperate to get with her. They are literally lining up. Which basically makes this a book about a hot chick who has all the dudes after her and no meaningful relationships with anyone. Disappointing. And much less feminist than it was because it reduces Sookie to an object to be possessed.

Sookie’s feminist credentials also slip in terms of the plot of Dead as a Doornail. In Dead until Dark, Sookie investigates, takes action, and eventually saves herself and I loved that. In Dead as a Doornail, stuff is done to Sookie, she’s manipulated into participating into things, and other people save her. The plot is that someone is shooting shifters and her brother is implicated. Or at least, it says he is on the back of the book but I didn’t feel that came across particularly well. In fact, the culprit is a minor character who appears to have the red shirt role. At the end, I felt a bit cheated by the resolution of the plot.

In spite of these major problems, I did still enjoy Dead as a Doornail. It’s an easy read and not very long. It’s fun and undemanding.

30 Days of Buffy meme – Part 5

Day 25. Favourite Buffyverse saying. See, I think this is about catchphrases and Buffy didn’t really have catchphrases. There was great dialogue and some amazing lines, and a slanguage all it’s own, but no catchphrases. This is a one of its strengths. There are few things more annoying than having catchphrases endlessly repeated at you. I definitely went through a phase of adding ‘-age’ to nouns though.

Day 26. Favourite Scooby moment. The bit in Primeval where Buffy, Giles, Willow and Xander gather to discuss the things that were said in The Yoko Factor. They are not ok as friends but they decide to do what needs to be done anyway.

Day 27. Cutest moment. Anya dressed as a scary bunny in Fear, Itself.

Day 28. Character you love to hate. This really has to be Buffy. She is often whiny, miserable and self-righteous. She struggles to find the fun and hides behind her responsibilities. But then, she does get put through the wringer and you can’t help but empathise with her.

Day 29. Episode you hate that everybody else loves. Don’t know what everyone else loved. I wasn’t overly keen on Him in Season 7.

Day 30. What you think made Buffy so great. So many things. The wit, the music, the feminism, it had vampires. It had great characters: the heroes were a little bad and the villains were a little good. There was some awesome dialogue and great chemistry. It didn’t take itself too seriously. Buffy had It, the X-factor, that indefinable thing that makes something greater than the sum of its parts.

30 Days of Buffy meme – Part 4

Day 19. Character you like that everyone else hates. Again, not sure I know who everyone else hates. People seem not to like Kennedy and Glory; I thought they were ok. Glory had some great lines and a really good plot device in the form of Ben.

Day 20. Best Spike-centric episode. They’re all great, obviously. But I think I like Lovers’ Walk largely because of this piece of dialogue from Spike: “You’re not friends. You’ll never be friends. You’ll be in love ’til it kills you both. You’ll fight, and you’ll shag, and you’ll hate each other ’til it makes you quiver, but you’ll never be friends. Love isn’t brains, children, it’s blood. Blood screaming inside you to work its will. I may be love’s bitch, but at least I’m man enough to admit it.”

Day 21. Best Willow-centric episode. Doppelgangland. I love vampire Willow and this is close on one of my favourite episodes of the whole show. It’s a little slice of a different imagining of Buffy, how it might have been if Whedon was a grittier, darker writer.

Day 22. Best Xander-centric episode. Xander doesn’t have that many episodes to be centric in, does he? I think The Zeppo from Season 3 because Xander gets to take care of himself and learns that he can. The Triangle is fun too, but I’m not sure it’s really Xander-centric.

Day 23. Two characters you wanted to get together that never did. Spike and Faith. That would have been hot. And also Joyce and Giles, even though they kind of did a bit in Bandcandy.

Day 24. Favourite example of 90’s special effects. There’s a training montage moment in When She Was Bad in Season 2, where it is clearly SMG’s stunt double.

30 Days of Buffy meme – Part 3

Day 13. Favourite potential slayer. The potentials didn’t really become individuals for me until Season 8, but I’m not really counting that. I’m going to go with Kennedy, mainly because she’s the only one I can remember.

Day 14. Favourite female villain. Faith. She rocks. If I was a female villain, I’d be Faith.

Day 15. Favourite male villain. Spike. Close runners up are Caleb and the Mayor.

Day 16. Episode you like that everyone else hates. Well, I’m not sure that I know what episodes everyone else hates. A few people seem not to like Dead Man’s Party, which I quite enjoyed.

Day 17. Character you relate to the most. Faith, definitely. For a lot of the time she was deeply unhappy and, particularly at the time it was on tv, I was pretty unhappy too. She takes independence to a paranoid extreme and I get why. Possibly not to quite the same extent.

Day 18. Character who didn’t get enough screen time. Faith! Or possibly Caleb. Or Cordelia, she was hilarious, and I was gutted when Season 4 opened and she wasn’t in it. As I remember I had to wait a week to find out she was in Angel.

Thoughts on reading: Twilight

People have had lots to say about Twilight by Stephanie Meyer. I probably wouldn’t have picked this up if I hadn’t read so much criticism of it and it got to the point where I really wanted to know what all the fuss was about.

While I do subscribe to the view that all published fiction has something good about it, I recognise there are levels and types of goodness within that. So, in comparison to other published fiction that I have read, is Twilight any good? Surprisingly, it is. I wasn’t expecting that.

Plot-wise, there’s not much to it. Aside from Edward and Bella the characters are pretty lifeless. Bella’s friends and family are ciphers and she doesn’t seem to like them much. Edward’s family are more vivid, in the sense that I know what they’re supposed to look like, but by the end only Alice has a distinct personality. Edward and Bella are more fleshed out, especially Bella as the book is in first person from her POV. I can’t say I found either Edward or Bella particularly likeable. It’s an easy read; it’s 434 pages and I got through it in less than four hours.

The description of setting is variable; natural settings are brought out well with good writing but the town and buildings are vague and somewhat sketchy. Weather is also done well. The dialogue is ok, although Meyer is overly found of expressive dialogue tags, of which I think I found ‘snickered’ the most irritating. In fact, both Bella and Edward do quite a lot of snickering and chuckling and it is part of what contributes to making them unlikeable.

Yet, Twilight has something. By page forty, I was so engrossed I nearly missed my stop on the train and that doesn’t happen often. The relationship between Bella and Edward starts off in a standard Mills & Boon format. Edward starts off as angry boner man directing a violent and unpredictable temper at Bella. Then, about half way through, he ‘fesses up. Edward opens up and reveals that his anger stems from his insecurities. He still is a bit of a dick, but not so much as he was shaping up to be.

The romance between them is the intensely emotional yet virginal kind that you only experience as a teenage. This isn’t a young girl seduced by an older man, it is two teenagers experiencing first love. Edward may be a 100-year old vampire but in this respect he is a seventeen year old boy. There is a bit of touching, face, neck and arms only, four kisses with no tongue, and that’s it. Yet, it is so sexy. The passion between them is overwhelming and in the end that’s what pulls you in.

The writing is ok (it generally gets better towards the end), neither plot or character are compelling, but the relationship is absorbing. Twilight is good; it’s not great, but it’s not awful either.

30 Days of Buffy Meme – Part 2

Day 7. Least favourite male character. Oz. Just didn’t get him. He didn’t seem to add much to the mix except as Willow’s love interest, and both Kennedy and Tara were more interesting.

Day 8. Favourite friendship. Not sure about this, because it’s not something I paid too much attention to. I think I’m going to go with Buffy and Willow because it’s played out over the most time and explores the way friendship has to adapt when life circumstances change.

Day 9. Favourite romance. Buffy and Spike. Okay, it was dysfunctional and not very romantic, but Buffy was more interesting when she was with Spike. I wished the writers would let her get off her moral high horse and enjoy him.

Day 10. Least favourite season. Season 1. It just doesn’t have the depth the rest of the cycle does. From Season 2 onwards you can see the whole story arc that results in the Season 7 finale, or at least you can if you’ve watched all the Seasons in an epic Buffy marathon, as I have, (several times). I remember not liking Seasons 5 and 6 all that much when they first aired, but when watched as part of a whole I gained a whole new appreciation of them. Season 7 couldn’t have happened without the storylines of Seasons 5 and 6. Season 1 sits outside of that grand arc. Also, it has some really annoying episodes (and one or two good ones).

Day 11. Least favourite romance. Willow and Oz. Didn’t get the chemistry, thought Willow could have done better.

Day 12. Least favourite episode. The Puppet Show.