Hodgier and Podgier

Blaugust 2015 Day 12

I enjoyed writing yesterdays’ disjointed rambling, and decided to do it again. Enjoy.

Fox’s Law

Murphy’s Law states, anything that can go wrong will. I watched a pilot for an upcoming variation on the police procedural last night and really liked it. So in the storied tradition of Firefly and Almost Human, I’m sure it’ll be cancelled after the first season. There’s also a high probability that episodes will be aired out of order.

Amateur Appreciation

Swimming competitively even though it was only at the high school level has immensely helped my appreciation for and understanding of Olympic swimming events. Even though the athletes competing were operating at a level far beyond me, my background still let me notice things that others watching didn’t see. Similarly after playing KSP, I feel like I get a lot more out of watching rocket launches than I did before. I know what a lot of the terminology means, and have a basic grasp of the difficulty involved.

One the other side of that though, watching the ISS spacewalk earlier this week really brought home how complicated even basic activities are. Listening to all of the steps involved in just “stepping outside” and cleaning some windows was really incredible.

Silver Linings

I was listening to a podcast while at work today that covers Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series. They were discussing the short-lived SciFi (at the time) TV adaptation and spent most of the podcast talking about how awful it was. While they did make some good points, I thought they missed one crucial good thing about the show. It brought a lot of fans to the books that may not have known about it otherwise.

In 2007 I was a fantasy snob, I only read high or epic fantasy trilogies. I’d never read any urban fantasy. At the time I felt like mixing real world elements with fantasy was like putting pineapple on pizza (which should be illegal).

A commercial for the upcoming Dresden Files show peaked my curiosity though and when I saw it was based on a book series I decided to order the first one and check it out rather than wait for the TV pilot to air. The book showed up a few days later and a few days after that I finished it, and loved it. I ordered the next three or four that were available and had caught up on the series within a month. So not only did the show get me into the books, but it got me into the urban fantasy genre, and two of my favorite authors: Jim Butcher and Patricia Briggs.


Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 0-8-4

The second episode was better than the first. The various team members were all able to develop a little bit, and more importantly the team as a whole started to develop.

The most interesting thing to me about the episode was starting to understand the role Coulson is going to play in the series. He is arguably the star of the series, he is certainly the big draw for fans of the Marvel movies. I had assumed that in a S.H.I.E.L.D based series he would take more of a central role, but it seems like his role here is largely the same as it was in the movies. He is a midground character. He adds some humor and exposition and keeps the plot moving forward. Even though he’s quite capable, he voluntarily takes a secondary role in order to help his team find its legs.



**** Spoilers ****

My only complaints with the episode are the bit with Sky at the end and the Fury cameo after the credits.

While I’m glad that the Rising Tide subplot wasn’t dropped, but it felt a little cliched to me. I’m giving the writers the benefit of the doubt, until I see otherwise, but I’m hoping we don’t end up seeing the usual betrayal and change of heart scenes. I also hope this isn’t a subplot that’s drawn out over multiple seasons.

The Fury cameo really didn’t seem to fit in the episode at all. While it was cool to have Samuel Jackson make an appearance, the scene itself didn’t really add anything and the fish tank bit was goofy.

Joss and S.H.I.E.L.D.

I was reading the Entertainment Weekly interview of Joss Whedon while waiting on my wife to go to bed so I could have the TV and was reminded several times why I love his work so much, for example:

Is there anything from your previous TV experiences where you’re like, “Now I know this, therefore I’m doing it this way”?

Well, don’t work for Fox.

There’s more to that answer of course, but I had to stop laughing before I could read the rest of it.

As for the pilot episode of SHIELD, I loved it. It was everything I was hoping for. An interesting ensemble cast, some great cameos from both the Avenger’s movie and previous Whedon shows, and good dialog. I wasn’t quite sure what the special effects were going to be like given it’s a weekly TV series, but they were better than I expected and more numerous as well. Of course maybe they blew half their FX budget on the pilot but I really doubt that.

I’m really looking forward to watching the different characters develop during the next few episodes. One of the weak points of having an ensemble cast and less than 60 minutes of air time is you can’t develop all of them at once. The pilot focused on Sky, which makes the most sense since she’s an outsider so there’s a built-in reason to explain things to the audience.

Burn Notice Debrief

Like I mentioned when I talked about The Giveaway, I’d ordered the other two books based on the Burn Notice TV series, The Fix and The End Game, to read during my vacation earlier this month.

I could definitely tell that The Fix was the first novelization from the series. Having read the third book in the series already, it was noticeable how much more comfortable Tod Goldberg has gotten with the characters. Most of the issues I noticed were small repetitions and odd word choices in the dialog, nothing that interfered with my enjoyment of the story.

The one major problem I had, with The Fix, was a difference in how Tod handles changes in perspective from Michael to Sam and Fiona. The book sets it up like Michael is still narrating based on what Sam told him afterwards, but it didn’t feel quite right to me and leads to some confusing chronology.

The End Game was much closer, in quality, to the third novel than the first. Tod drops Michael as narrator when switching to sections focuses on Sam and Fiona. There were also less of the small repetitions and odd word choices in dialog that popped out at me in the first book.

Despite the small problems mentioned above, I would still recommend these books to anyone who is a fan of the show and wants to experience a bit more of Michael Westen’s life. They are all quick reads and make excellent vacation reading. Tod has a fourth book The Reformed due out in January, according to Amazon, that I’m looking forward to picking up.

Burn Notice: The Giveaway

There are two bookstores between the office where I work and most of the places where I eat lunch. This means that usually once a week I stop in at one or both places and browse the shelves. This is a bad habit of mine because of have a pile (which is not an exaggeration) of books that I want to read but haven’t gotten to yet, so buying more books is really not something I should be doing. Still, it’s a daily temptation to stop in and see what’s new and twice in recent weeks I’ve been pleasantly surprised.

My latest surprise was finding a Burn Notice novel called The Giveaway. Partially because it was in the Science-Fiction/Fantasy section (I’m guessing someone changed their mind and left it there). The show is one of my favorites, but my initial reaction was, “Bleh, a novel?” Out of morbid curiosity, I opened it up and read the first page to see what it was like. It starts out with, “When you’re a spy…” and then goes into one of the show’s trademark voice-overs by Weston. So now I was curious and decided to buy it and give it a read.

It was a quick read, took me a day or so, but I enjoyed it quite a bit. Enough, actually, that I ordered the other two books The Fix and The End.

The plot is a typical one for the show. Friend Barry, the money launderer, needs a favor. He has a friend, who’s a retired bank robber, that did one last job but ended up ripping of a motorcycle gang and now needs help cleaning up the mess.

The dialog, monologues, and action are all very true to the show. The book does bring something new to the series though, there are a couple of chapters written from Sam and Fiona’s viewpoints. This is not something that the show does and I’m not sure it would very well if they tried it, but it worked well in the book and made for interesting insights into the characters.

Castle’s Heat Wave

I am a huge fan of the ABC show Castle. For those who don’t watch it: Nathan Fillion (of Firefly fame) plays Rick Castle a mystery writer who is following Kate Beckett (played by Stana Katic) while researching a new series of books.  In a recent episode, Castle’s first book is released.  I don’t remember if I was just curious or there was something at the end of the episode, but I ended up going to Amazon and ordering the book.

It is a quick read, at just under 200 pages, but it is very well paced and doesn’t feel rushed at all.  The wit, humor, and style are the same.  The characters in the book all have analogues to characters in the show.  Instead of Kate Beckett, we have Detective Nikki Heat, and instead of writer Castle doing research for a book it is journalist Jameson Rook doing research for an article on the NYPD.  The book is plotted similarly to an episode of the show, starting at a crime scene and following the investigation through several plot twists until the case is solved.  Most of the story is told from Heat’s point of view and includes a lot of her inner dialogue, I’ll be interested to see how much of the Heat character shows up in the Beckett character later in the show.

My only complaint is that for $20 the book wa a bit short.  Amazon has it on sale now for $10.99, so if you’re a fan of the show buy it.

Slight spoiler: the only major departure from the show are the romance elements included in the book with Heat.