Thursday, February 22, 2007

Colossal squid! It's big.

I haven't written about giant squid in a while, so here's a link to a newly caught colossal squid, which is apparently like a giant squid, just heavier. (via Boing Boing)

Nostalgia central

Chris Roberson and I are having an interesting conversation in the comments here about TV shows and cartoons of the late '70s and early '80s. If you remember shows like Thundarr, Blackstar, Jason of Star Command, Isis and Greatest American Hero, please join in. In the meantime, here's a little inspiration:

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Fantastic Voyage cartoon

Here's the opening to one of my favorite cartoons I watched as a kid. I love the groovy music and oddball cast (Guru!) and I remember the show was very tense because their clock was always counting down.

My other favorite was "Journey to the Center of the Earth," but I can't find anything on YouTube about that.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Jason of Star Command

Jason of Star Command is coming to DVD in May. This is kind of exciting, if a little weird. I watched the show religiously when I was really young. I used to wake up at ungodly hours of the morning on Saturday to see it. Now, I remember almost nothing about it. There were two little robots and there was some kind of rock-covered spaceship, or something. And there was a bad guy. That's about it.

So now, the show will become available again and I'm faced with a dilemma: Do I watch it again and risk losing my good feelings about the show? Anytime I see a show from my childhood that I've completely forgotten, I wonder if it will hold up to the pleasant memories I have for it. For instance, years ago I bought a VCR tape of "Battle of the Planets," an animated show I loved as a child. Even now, I can think of the show I thought I watched when I was a kid and how cool it was. There were superhero-type characters, an evil villain with secrets, and cool science fictiony vehicles, especially the Phoenix. But then I saw it. So much time was spent on an R2-D2 clone with tiny wings that narrated the whole show. And Casey Kasem's voice was all over it (not bad in itself, but it's hard to make a character come alive when it sounds just like that top 40 guy.) The animation was poor. And it was just generally horrible.

I don't expect Jason of Star Command to be very good. It's going to have poor TV special effects. It's not going to take many risks and it's sure to have a moral at the end of every episode. And I'm sure those two little robots I liked so much as a kid will be annoyingly cutesy.

But there's always a chance I will like it anyway. Like Land of the Lost. It's totally cheesy, but it still maintains charm. And its general weirdness keeps it entertaining. But it's got dinosaurs and sleestacks. I don't think Jason of Star Command has anything so cool (and no, James Doohan is not cool enough.)

So, maybe when May rolls around I'll try and rent the DVDs. Give it a chance and see what I was poisoning my mind with at 9 years old.

Now, if only someone would put out Thundarr on DVD. That's a show I would pick up without hesitation.

Friday, February 09, 2007

The Scent of Shadows by Vicki Pettersson

I was one of 20 lucky people to get advanced reader copies of this book, the first of a new series. Pettersson says the book belongs to the dark urban fantasy genre on her Web site. I didn't know much about that genre by name, but it seems to be linked with writers like Kim Harrison, Laurel Hamilton, Charlaine Harris and others (none of whom have I read or know much about). It's a blending of horror, fantasy and romance elements. "The Scent of Shadows" has a little of all of that, as well as mystery, but I don't think the book would be misplaced if you called it simply fantasy or horror.

The book is the story of Joanna Archer, a young heiress of a casino fortune living in Las Vegas. She has a past marred by extreme violence. The book begins with probably the worst blind date in history. From there, the book moves at a rapid pace, introducing the reader to Joanna's life and then quickly destroying it as Joanna finds out who she really is.

She's a superhero, of sorts. She belongs to a group known as the Zodiac that participates in a war between Light and Shadow. She falls in with the Light side, but in the process loses much that is important to her. (I'm trying to stay vague here, because there are plenty of plot twists and turns that I would rather not spoil.) The new life she is faced with, after the one she has known for 25 years is destroyed, is a great choice on Pettersson's part. Trapped in another lifestyle outside her own experience causes Joanna to know herself better, and the reader right along with her.

The book is at its best when navigating the twists and turns of the plot. Pettersson writes action scenes that could be transcribed directly into a movie with martial arts choreography by Yuen Wo Ping (though Joanna's fighting style of choice is Krav Maga). She keeps those scenes moving quickly without ever losing the reader.

But Pettersson also takes plenty of time to explore Joanna's psyche. In particular, she explores the nature of violence, how it changed Joanna's life and how Joanna has used it since. In fact, for a book about superheros who can't be hurt, the book delves deeply into the effects of violence. Almost every main character in the book has been traumatized by violence in their past, and each of them reacts in their own way.

Pettersson's prose is typical commercial fiction. It hits high points when Joanna unleashes her sharp tongue:

Ajax's reptilian features had rearranged themselves as I spoke, and he now looked like a glowering python. "Thanks for the psychoanalysis, babe," he spat, "but all I really wanted from this weekend were a couple of easy lays."
This, I assumed was where I was supposed to throw my wine in his face. I didn't, though. I like Chateau Le Pin, and took a long, considering slip of the vintage '82 I'd made him buy. "And what? Your mother wasn't available?"

The prose hits low points when Pettersson gives into cliches such as "the hunter becomes the hunted" and probably the most sappy two paragraphs I've read in a long long time:

I stared past him and outside the window, where dawn waited impatiently. "I guess that's how you knew to leave the door open for me."
"Oh, Jo-Jo," he said, sighing sleepily as he gathered me tight to his body. "It was never closed."
Those low points, though, are few and much of the time I was too caught up in the plot to care.

Despite this being the first part of a series (the second book "The Taste of Night" will be out in April), the book manages to come to a satisfying conclusion, while leaving many mysteries and plot threads waiting to be resolved in future books.

If you're looking for a smart, action-packed novel that's not afraid of emotion, you won't go wrong with "The Scent of Shadows."