Monday, 27 May 2013

I'm here to save the world, who will save Supergirl?

Today's title is a little bit abstract of sorts. And instead of being a television or movie quotation, it's a line from a song. Music is funny thing with me. I tend to go through phases, listening to one album/particular set of albums at any one time. Currently, I'm in a phase where I'm near constantly listening to one of my (recently discovered) favourite bands, Halestorm. Specifically, their album "The Strange Case Of..." and this particular lyric is from the song "Hate It When You See Me Cry".

So I've established the context of the title. Now I have to explain how it has earned the label of "abstract of sorts". You see, today I have decided that I shall do a top ten list, as I haven't done one in a good long while. And in the spirit of vengeance that I have been possessed by as of a late. Before I go into the list, a tiny bit more context in terms of spirit of vengeance.

It involves one of the people dearest to my heart, as it often does when my spirit of vengeance is invoked. The Rhaegar Targaryen to my Lyanna Stark, the one known as Thief. To briefly surmise, someone is being evil to her. This person is known as The Harpy, The Garbage Scow or The Monumental Bitch (pardon my language). It is this person who has awoken my spirit of vengeance. And for this reason, it's time for my top ten fictional weapons. Useful for personal defence and exacting vengeance upon silly, useless Garbage Scows.

10: The Scythe (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

Not only featuring a neat little stake at the bottom, the Scythe as one hell of a blade which is excellent for slicing, dicing and making julienne preacher. As you can see, it has a rather pretty colour scheme and is capable of slicing Nathan Fillion into two halves. Just to repeat one salient piece of information...slices...Nathan...Fillion. Into two halves. For that it deserves a place in the top ten, but for the crime of splitting Captain Tightpants in two, it remains at number 10.

9: Ebony Warhammer (The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim)

So I've mentioned Skyrim a few times now. As of this moment, I'm at level fifty-two and thus far, only really at the point of using Ebony weapons, even though Daedric weapons are cropping up here and there, while Dragonbone weapons still elude my reach for now. As a result, I have discovered what could be considered a slight streak of House Baratheon mixed in with my House Stark-ness. And that is the use of warhammers as my favoured mêlée weapon. It's rather worryingly satisfying to beat down a horde of enemies with this particular weapon.

8: The Tesla (Warehouse 13)

Not a weapon for killing, but very, very satisfying for electrocuting/stunning them into submission. Invented by every self-respecting geek's favourite underdog scientist, Nikola Tesla. Wielded by many agents of the Warehouse and knacked (thank you, China Miéville for this usage of the term) handily by the brilliant Claudia Donovan into the Tesla grenade, it is a simple weapon. A civilised weapon, given that it doesn't kill. And it wipes short-term memory just a little. Handy if you're caught doing something you shouldn't really be doing...

7: RC-P120 (Perfect Dark)

One of only two projectile weapons to make it onto the list, the RC-P120 has the distinction of being the only automatic weapon on the list. With a clip capacity of (funnily enough) one hundred and twenty bullets, it is perfect for tearing into a crowd of enemies. It also has a neat secondary function (as all Perfect Dark weapons do) of having a cloaking device. There are two drawbacks - one, the device feeds off the P120's ammunition at a phenomenal rate and two, as soon as you pull the trigger, the cloak disengages. I favour the approach of jamming down on the trigger and taking down my enemies. It's rather effective I find.

6: Particle Magnum (Stargate: Atlantis)

Modelled here by its main user, the ruggedly handsome Jason Momoa (in character as Satedan native Ronon Dex), the particle magnum is...just...well...neat. A powerful handgun that fires red particle blasts, a slightly disconcerting way, it's an awfully pretty gun. But mainly it packs a neat wallop and hands down defeats the SGC's choice of the FN P90 as their default weapon. Plus, it's Jason Momoa's gun. That gives an instant cool rating.

5: Mjölnir (Thor)

Again modelled by a ruggedly handsome fellow, we delve into that awkward line between mythology and fantasy with the fabled weapon of the God of Thunder. Yes, it's the return of the mêlée weapons with Mjölnir. Now unfortunately, I have not read the comics. Well, except for a brief flirtation with the Secret Invasion story arc of the Marvel Universe. Back to the point, my experience with Mjölnir is mainly confined to Thor and I dare say, Chris Hemsworth does a lot of fun things with Mjölnir. Not only can it bash the ever-loving crap out of things, but it also helps Thor to fly. That's right. He can use the hammer to FLY. That's cool. Undeniably.

4: Honjo Masamune (Warehouse 13)

Warehouse 13 slips into the top ten once again, this time with a mêlée weapon - the ancient Japanese artefact, the Honjo Masamune. According to the wonderful Artie Nielsen, the Honjo Masamune is a katana so perfectly aligned that it can SPLIT LIGHT AROUND IT. And by doing so, it renders the user INVISIBLE. It's a katana that turns you invisible. This is quite possibly one of the most perfect vengeance weapons. Not quite the number one weapon, alas, but it' turns you frakkin' invisible. How cool is that?

3: Dark Energy-Infused Gravity Gun (Half-Life 2)

This one has, quite possibly, the most interesting definition of "weapon". It doesn't really fire things. It just...picks them up. Like a ball of dark energy, as illustrated above. The ball is then fired, which then disintegrates people. And in the final phases of Half-Life 2, the Gravity Gun becomes infused with dark energy, supercharging it. Not only does it pick up balls of dark energy, it picks up PEOPLE. Well, evil Combine soldiers. And from there, you can fire them into streams of dark energy. Which disintegrates them. It's awesome. Hence, it's in the top three.

2: Purple Flaming Katana of Self-Respect (Scott Pilgrim vs. The World)

We're closing in on the top spot and at number two, we have another katana. No official title as such, so I made one up. As featured in the movie Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, it is a purple flaming katana, pulled out of Scott's chest when he earns the power of self-respect. It's at number two for the simple reason that it's on fire. Purple fire. End of.

1: Moses Brothers Frontier Model B (Firefly/Serenity)

Shock horror, it's Firefly coming in at the top spot. Like all things in this corner of the Whedonverse, it's just a tiny bit pretty. I even have a replica of it in my room. There's something just so...simple about this weapon. It's a pistol. Nothing fancy, no great little secondary functions, just a simple handgun. It fires bullets. It gets Mal either in to, or out of, various hijinks. And let's not forget, "Every well-bred petty crook knows that the small conceable weapons go to the far left of the place setting". I just love that line. It has no real relevance, but oh well.

So there we have it. Potentially showcasing a worrying side of my psyche that finds weapons aesthetically pleasing, but, well...The Harpy shouldn't be making Thief's life difficult for her. It makes me vengeful. She won't like me when I'm vengeful. I'm a Stark of Winterfell. And no matter what she does, Winter is Coming. Plus, she's pissing off a Targaryen. Historically, not a good idea.

Now that's enough babble for one day. I'm hyper on tea and wondering if all of this was a good idea. Oh well. Should find out in the morning. Reminds of a good quotation from The Princess Bride:

"Good night, Westley, good work today. Most likely kill you in the morning."

(Song of the Mind: Hate It When You See Me Cry - Halestorm)

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Sitting Under the Shade of the Tree: Kraken

I don't know how the weather is for the rest of the country, nay the world depending on where you're reading this from, but down here it's taken a miserable turn. A shame after the beautiful weekend we've just had (which I may indulge upon in a subsequent blog post, but not today), but in spite of the gloomy weather, I feel it's the time of the year to justify switching the "literature segment" title to the spring/summer vibe one. And thus, today (or more precisely, for about the last month or so), I have been sitting under the shade of the tree enjoying Kraken by China Miéville.

Honestly, I fear that I'm turning into a bit of a fanboy. In fact, with the notable exception of The City & The City, the first China Miéville book I read, I have posted a review entry for every one of his books I have read since. Oh gods. I really am a fanboy...

(Also, amusing side-note, after bitching about gloomy weather - it's been rain today - the Sun poked its head out for a brief second. Frakkin' indecisive British weather).

Back to the matter at hand.


This is the first China Miéville book I have read which is set in a real place. The Bas-Lag trilogy (reviewed so far: Perdido Street Station and The Scar) is set in the titular world, with the focal point being the city of New Crobuzon. Embassytown is set on the planet Arieka, in the eponymous city. Finally, the un-reviewed (oh so very tempted to do a retrospective one now...) The City & The City is set in the parallel cities of Besźel and Ul Qoma. But our latest adventure, Kraken, is set in merry old London.

Well, perhaps not so merry really.

The book centres on Billy Harrow, a curator at the Natural History Museum, who one day finds that his prized specimen, a preserved giant squid, has been stolen. With no signs of forced entry or any evidence of how the large glass tank the squid was encased in was moved out of the building undetected. It is this incredibly bizarre set of circumstances that hurl Billy, unwittingly and unwillingly, into the dark and seedy underbelly of London's occult, where he will be caught between multiple warring gangs, kraken-worshipping cults and general all-out crazy random magic happenings.

Now my usual fanboy babble is about Miéville's construction of an environment that functions, or at least feels, like a character unto itself. But this time, I would go too far with that gushing praise. The trick here is that London is already a character - like many cities across the worlds, its citizens and citizens of the country that it's in, give it character. London has its own vibe. What Miéville masterfully does this time is take London's existing vibe, plunge into a dark box, and twist it mercilessly and brilliantly, stripping off the layers of what we know as London and creating a new side to the city. And this new face, the face of London's true underbelly (move over London Underground), is wacky and bizarre and utterly incredible.

Initially, while reading Kraken, I was taking it deadly seriously. But in retrospect, I realise just how cheeky that little book is. And it's fantastic. The characters are brilliant, realised amidst Miéville's near-scholarly mastery of the English language. I won't go into too many details, but there are secondary group of characters - the Metropolitan Police's Fundamentalist and Sect-Related Crime Unit, the FSRC, led by the constantly nonplussed Detective Chief Inspector Baron, aided by the highly unorthodox, completely tactless Police Constable Kath Collingswood. The FSRC are just one of the players in Kraken's events, which as the novel (and Billy Harrow's spiral into the chaotic world of magical London) progresses promise to be of apocalyptic proportions.

Finally, I'm going to delve into a little backstory - but for once, this babble is an afterthought, not the opening salvo. For you see, I had an interesting ulterior motive in reading this book.

I hate tentacles.

Honest to gods, the frakkin' things make me shudder. And I realise the dangers of openly admitting to this kind of thing on the Internet, but oh well. The thing of it is, I read Kraken mostly because I wanted to level the hell up. The mention of the tentacles and their suckers still make me shudder quite a bit, but I managed to get through it. They didn't make me want to put the book down. Which is both a testament to how damn frakkin' good the book, and by extension China Miéville's writing, and I sincerely hope an indication of how much I'm growing as a person. We'll see if I ever happen to cross paths with a squid.

I'll most likely scream like a little girl and run away.

Interesting side-notes - in the course of doing some quick Wikipedia double-checking for this blog entry, I discovered that the US Navy had a submarine in World War II called USS Kraken and that there's a body of liquid on Titan, Saturn's moon, called Kraken Mare. The random things you learn from those cheeky disambiguation pages.

Until next time, this has been my latest fanboy ramble about the awesomeness of China Miéville. If you haven't gone out and read any of his books, seriously...what the frak? Get out of your chair, right now. Or don't. Go to Amazon. Order it online. Buy it for your Kindle. Whatever. Dude. Seriously. Buy it. Right frakkin' now. I'm not kidding. Any of them. All of them.

I think everyone gets the message now...