What Is Art?: The Emperor’s Soul, Book Review

After trying Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson and disliking it, I was sure he wasn’t the author for me, despite the fact that many I know enjoy and are fans of his work. Fortunately, I decided to take another chance on Sanderson, remembering that even the authors I do enjoy always have at least a couple of stories that I just don’t like. The Emperor’s Soul was a definite win for me, and Sanderson’s simple way of writing really shines with a shorter story like this that quickly digs into various themes and ideas.

The Emperor’s Soul could easily be either fantasy or sci-fi, as clearly as the world is drawn in some ways, it’s purposefully or necessarily vague in others, and this empire could be set way back in time or far in the future. Either way, the characters and plot would still work. The magic and culture of the world in the book are drawn largely from Asian culture, and I personally thought of China because I lived there for a time and I have a signature chop of my own that I had carved with my Chinese name on it. Sometimes I stamp it on letters, but rarely do I write letters anymore. This story takes these chops, or stamps, to a new level, making them tools of magic that can change everything about an object or person. The magician, or rather, craftsmen, who do this are called forgers. Like art forgers, rarely are they creating something new, rather they are making an alternate version of something that already exists. Not so different from actual art, when considering the painting of a flower could also be called a forgery of an actual flower.

Stamping and forgery aside, the plot of the short novel–it’s less than 200 pages–is a cat and mouse game. Shai is caught in an act of thievery and must use all her skill and wits to complete the task her captors have assigned her and also escape in one hundred days. Gaotana, a government advisor, befriends Shai and also watches her work closely. Both characters know they are trying to manipulate the other person. As a shorter story, this plot was a good choice, as is the limited time, and limited setting of just a few rooms.

The magic in this world is more like a craft or a field of art. It is something that forgers have a gift for, but something they also must study. Shai states that anyone can learn how to forge the stamp, and although this does appear true, it is apparent that one must have an instinct and skill with research in order to be successful. The Heritage Faction that currently rules the empire considers forging an abomination, yet uses it often to preserve the heritage of past cultures, making junky clay pots into Ming vases, etc. Shai is right to wrinkle her nose at this hypocrisy. Is forging an abomination or is it not? The distinct rules of forging make it easy to understand, and although there’s quite a bit of telling involved, it’s not boring, it’s fascinating.

Forging a new soul for a person isn’t done, shouldn’t be done, and can’t really be done, but that is the task that the Heritage Faction has for Shai. With little other choice, she agrees to do it and soon finds herself relishing the nearly impossible task while simultaneously planning her escape. Here is where the true artistry if forging is showcased, for as Shai works, she researches every little detail about this person, much the way a biographer might study someone whose story they would like to tell. In the process, she also forges other things, turning her hovel-like room into something grand, impressing Gaotana, who despite being suspicious of forging, endeavors to learn what he can of it. This kind of forging is contrasted as “good” against another called blood sealing, in which a person’s blood is used to stamp and imprison them or hunt them down with skeleton monsters. The picture is, of course, life versus death.

What is art? That is a central question posed in the book, mostly by Gaotana. Shai already knows the answer because she’s in the business of creating art. Interestingly, Sanderson chose to make her an actual art forger as well, which is the way in which she is first introduced to both Gaotana and the reader. He is impressed by her forged painting, and only impressed with her stamp forging much later on when he has more knowledge about it. The question then becomes, what is an artist? Initially Gaotana thinks that Shai is wasting her talents, that she could be a great painter, then he sees how great a stamp forger she is and surely thinks her talents on that score are also being wasted. Interesting, again, because to his faction stamping is supposed to be an abomination.

Art is thought of, mostly by Gaotana, as something precious, not to be destroyed no matter what. It is something for future generations to benefit from, but he learns from Shai that sometimes it is necessary to destroy even the best art. From Shai’s perspective, it is clear that although she may be a primo painter, she doesn’t consider that her art. Forging the stamps is her art and she is a master at that. This forging of a soul is her best and definitive piece and it becomes so important to her that she risks losing her chance at escape to complete it. Her bond with Gaotana is such that she leaves the blueprints in his hands. Only he will know and marvel at the great piece of art that she’s forged. Marvel he does.

In the real world, the idea of forging or rewriting another’s soul sounds evil. In this world, it can only be done by those who know people well. This is the true artistry of Shai, knowing people. She has a natural talent that on some level just cannot be learned, much like a musical prodigy has a talent for music that studying music can’t quite match. In this story, the soul she must rewrite is someone who is otherwise gone. He in essence has no soul. Subtle connection is made between Shai’s gift at forging and also her faith. She prays to the Unknown God, which struck me as a reference to the Christian God, the Creator of the World. Paul refers to the Greeks’ worship of the Unknown God in Acts, and says, well, let me tell you about him. I’m not sure if that was the intended reference or not, but I liked it. I think that all art and craftsmanship and our desire to create and build things is much due to our Creator. He likes to create things and He made us in His image: We also like to create things, and there’s something fulfilling about working hard with all one’s skills and talents to make a work that truly reflects the beauty, love, and hope that God built into the world. It is satisfying, and is a reflection of the Creator.

The story doesn’t really tell us whether what Shai did in forging a soul was ultimately right or wrong. A wrong way of doing it was addressed, but that wrong way the forger ultimately dismissed. It is also unclear just how enduring this stamp Shai made will be, and if it will stand up to the test of time. In a way, she’s been playing God, but in another way, she’s healed a man. I really like the different ideas, questions, and possibilities in this story. It’s a story that makes one think about things and gives answers that fit into the story world, but leaves the real world implications and answers for the reader to ponder.

Did I mentioned I really like this book? The simple, almost mundane writing was perfect here, it really let the themes and ideas shine for themselves. It was vastly better than the flowery, longwinded, and tedious writing in The Goblin Emperor. Sometimes it’s better to simply be a storyteller instead of a Writer. I will definitely check out more of Sanderson’s books, but if this is the only one that resonates with me, that’s ok.

One last thing: On some level Shai is a thief and a con artist. Although she perhaps only learns how to invoke a better con job throughout this story, she learns from Gaotana that the best way to manipulate a person is with sincerity. Sincerity cannot be faked, or it wouldn’t be sincerity; it is a “stamp” that will stick and takes time to both implement and to master. Is sincerity necessary to make great art? In this story, yes. In the real world, it depends. There’s probably lots of things considered great art out there that the artist just made for money or without much thought. The implication in the story, though, is that a truly great artist doesn’t operate that way. This is why Shai cares little for painting and much for forging. Forging is where she puts all her effort and thought. Manipulating with sincerity. It’s just another way of saying, be yourself, everyone else is already taken.

Thursday, time allowing, I plan to have a review up of the Kdrama Extra-ordinary You, and the week after that something to say about the first three Narnia books. Enjoying the drama Doom at Your Service so far, and I’m trying out an ok Japanese drama called One Page Love. As for summer reading, my list changes by the day. I definitely plan to continue with the Narnia books and also continue with The Bowers Files serial killer series. Beyond that, much depends on whether I delve into my still-have-to-read bookshelves or visit the library frequently. Have a great week, everyone, and happy reading!

Book Review: The Murder of Napoleon

One would think that a reader obsessed with Jane Austen and romances from the Regency time period would know a great deal about Napoleon Bonaparte. Alas, that would not be me, so the book The Murder of Napoleon by Ben Weider and David Hapgood, told me many interesting things about the man. Now I must add a proper biography of the infamous emperor to my stack of books to read.

So, first of all, did I mention I don’t really know much about Napoleon? I figured he died in battle or something, so was surprised to learn he was exiled to the island of St. Helena off the west coast of Africa in the years before his death. Contrast that with the authors of this book and especially the other central figure in it, one Sten Forshufvod, a Swede who followed in his father’s footsteps by obsessing over Napoleon. Obsessing is the wrong word–passionate, Forshufvod was passionate about Napoleon, and how it paid off, for back in the 1950s-60s he discovered the possibility that Napoleon didn’t die of natural causes on the island, but was murdered.

The Murder of Napoleon is a great nonfiction read. It bounces back between detailing Napoleon Bonaparte’s surrender to the British and his last years of exile on St. Helena (1815-1921) and and the efforts of Forshufvod to figure out the truth about his death during the time period of 1955-1975. Some of it’s a lot of dry information, but mostly it’s a riveting read, not only the details and quirks about Napolean’s habits and character, but also about the fields of science dealing with poison and poison detection. The book is originally from 1982, so I don’t know if Forshufvod’s findings and speculations have been officially determined and listed by France, but even if not, it’s fascinating. I was particularly struck by just how charismatic Napoleon was with almost everyone, and how enthralled even the British soldiers were with him. It was sad to see, too, how scholars and scientists get stuck in their ways and can’t look at the evidence objectively. I’m sure that science and scholarship isn’t much different today. Sometimes people just don’t want to know the truth. They prefer to believe their own version of it. I’m the same with some things, and I get how painful it can be to deal with the truth, but it’s still sad, a sad part of humanity.

If you’re looking for a great summer read, I highly recommend this engaging book that delves into the history of one of the most remarkable men who ever lived. In it, Napoleon is alternately brilliant, infuriating, and often lovable. If it’s true that he was murdered in such an awful way, I am sorry that he suffered so horribly. How awful, too, for those around him to witness his suffering and to be unable or unwilling to do anything. I’m not sure if an emperor Napoleon was better for the people than proper royalty, and I’ve read books like The Scarlet Pimpernel in which the “good” side is the aristocrats and the royals, but it would have been interesting to see what life in Europe would have been like today had Napoleon remained emperor. One thing was definite about Napoleon: he was a born leader.

Mouse: Episode 20 (Spoilers)

With God, all things are possible, especially, and most importantly, forgiveness of sins. That was the ending message of this crazy horror story. And it fits. The horror genre often goes hand in hand with religious themes, probably because the horror or horrible things are often sins or things based on sins.

In episode 20 we and Ba Reum find out that the Secretary Chief in the government, Choi Young Shin, is behind the shady organization OZ. She chose to fund this organization through the National Intelligence Service without consent. This all comes out in public due to Ba Reum, who officially turns himself in, causing great stress to Detective Go, who finally–finally!–fully concludes that Ba Reum is the cross killer. Once again, Go is foiled in his plans by Ba Reum. The first was when he wanted to go to prison to kill the Headhunter, and this time when he wishes to kill Ba Reum.

The face offs between Bong Yi and Ba Reum and Go and Ba Reum are short but great. Ba Reum really does not want to see these people he love become killers, yet he feels their pain and anguish and knows that he does deserve to die for what he’s done.

Choi Young Shin is painted as the real monster here, as her goal in having OZ watch both Ba Reum and Yo Han was to make sure one of both of them did become psychopathic murderers, all so that she could get her abortion bill passed, a bill condemning babies to death before they have committed any crime. We, and Ba Reum, find out that although he clearly had problems as a kid and was harming animals, he didn’t actually kill any humans back then and wouldn’t have except the secretary and OZ set him on that path. It doesn’t excuse the murders he did commit, but it definitely puts them in a different light. Nearly all those who want to create a utopia or their version of a heaven on earth end up harming humanity in the process. Nearly all. And because most of these people end up in government to further their plans, it’s a very, very good reason to limit all powers of government.

PD Choi gets her wish, and the very good Yo Han is declared innocent in the public eye. She, however, too, manipulated Ba Reum, along with Dr. Lee, to get him to kill other serial killers. We also learn that she was the girl who helped the Headhunter lure at least one young woman to her death. PD Choi turns herself in for this and is arrested, though I’m not sure how that works in S. Korea, since she was a child and was clearly frightened and manipulated by the Headhunter. She is also properly reunited with her father, Detective Park, who lovingly puts the handcuffs on her. With Dr. Lee, we learn Ba Reum was the one who tried to kill him and Yo Han, the doctor, saved his life.

Ba Reum ends up going to prison, to death row, and there enacts a kind of justice, for himself, and for others harmed by the Headhunter. Ba Reum fakes going back to a coldblooded killer well enough that he gets close enough to his father, the Headhunter, and kills him. The clever Headhunter doesn’t even expect this, but then he’s been stuck in prison a long time and has probably lost some of his edge.

Like the mice in his biological father’s brain surgery experiments, Ba Reum is dying and doesn’t have much time left. He does his best to make amends with Go and Bong Yi, before dying in perhaps one of the most important scenes in the entire show.

I’ll get back to that in a second, but first want to say that this episode had a plethora of great scenes and acting, especially from Kwon Hwa Woon, who plays Yo Han, and Lee Seung Gi, who plays Ba Reum. They make us really feel for these characters who got a raw deal all due to Dr. Lee’s study of the psychopath/genius gene. Much food for thought about treating children as marked bad from the day they are born. Yes, we all have original sin, but it is true that if we treat people always expecting the worst from them, not only is that psychological abuse, it often can and does bring out the worst in them. (On a side note, this brings to mind the sudden persecution of those who choose to not vaccinate, treating healthy people as if they have a disease. Again, psychological abuse and so, so wrong. Our society should be ashamed of itself).

Other great scenes were Ba Reum meeting his real mother, the Headhunter’s wife, but even better was a scene between her and Detective Go. Go is plagued with guilt now, realizing he shot an innocent Yo Han, but she tells him that he didn’t really kill Yo Han. Yo Han would have lived, but the Headhunter finished him off in order to use his brain for his experimental brain surgery to save his son, Ba Reum. And the neurosurgeon didn’t save Ba Reum because he loved him, but because he thought the psychopath gene he carried was superior to regular people, and wanted his line to survive. Ugh. Ick. And also makes madam secretary’s wish to get rid of all these psychokiller people who think other people are ants or mice sound suddenly reasonable.

Mouse is the name of the show and we find Ba Reum a figurative mouse, literal experiment, sending himself into the snake or serial killer’s lair, all in order to kill him. Everything comes full circle from the beginning shot to that scene.

Ba Reum’s death scene is the best part, though. He dies in the church he once visited as a kid, angry with God and begging God to stop him from being a monster. Ba Reum appears to see his younger self in the pew there and gives him a hug, comforting him. Ba Reum tells the boy that God did answer his prayer: He now has feelings, especially of remorse and is full of repentance. He no longer has the will or desire to kill. Ba Reum dies at peace with himself and with God. I am not sure if he just goes to the church in his mind or actually gets to go there. Think the former.

Although I am so glad that Ba Reum came to repentance and that he does say sorry to both Go and Bong Yi, I wish the writers would have found a way to indicate that Jesus is really the reason why he would be forgiven. We are called by God to repent of our sins, yes, but the real reason we are forgiven is because Jesus Christ lived a perfect life in our place and also suffered and died for us, taking the punishment for all of our sins upon himself, and the defeated death by rising from the dead in the resurrection. Christ atoned for us, something we can never do, no matter how much we may repent. It’s a sobering thought.

Detective Go does give a nod to the Gospel message, though, by asking himself if God gave Ba Reum punishment or salvation? With a wistful smile on his face, we can guess he hopes it’s the latter, and perhaps it’s a bit much to expect a mainstream TV show to really dig into the person of Jesus. It’s rarely done; sometimes Christian movies don’t even directly talk about Him or explain how it is that He is our Savior. Anyway, I give the show ten out of ten just for all that, and coming so close to sharing the Gospel message, and it is a tough message for us to swallow sometimes, that anyone, anyone who repents and has faith in Jesus can be saved. We think certain sins should be unforgivable, but we easily forget that God is holy and sees any sin, no matter how small or insignificant to us, as enough to damn a person to hell eternally. Jesus Christ is the only way any of us can be saved, from a bubblegum thief to a rapist, to a literal headhunter.

Be Free: Conspiracies are Real

Happy Saturday afternoon all! Just in case you’re finally starting to question the C-word pandemic and the illogicalness of it all, here’s some links to Amazing Polly videos. It’s ok to realize the conspiracy theorists are right. We will try not to say “I told you so” … well, not too often. Stepping away from the MSM narrative, and even much of the alternate narratives is freeing. Rarely do I watch or even follow the news anymore. When encountering people hysterical about this cold virus, I have pity for them, real pity, because they’ve been brainwashed to live in fear. Sadly, one can only be reached until one starts to question, so I’m sharing this for you, the questioners, who will of course be very skeptical of what Polly is saying–as you should be! But the real question is, why are or weren’t you skeptical of all the experts and non-conspiracy theorists? Why do they have your trust? That question is what led me on my own journey of realizing that we have and are being lied to on so many levels, especially when it comes to health. Not all of it is malicious, much is stupidity, for we are surely far dumber than our ancestors, but some is malicious, and conspiracies are real.

The best thing Polly talks about is people returning to churches and faith, despite concerted efforts to keep people from worshipping. God is working! His truth is shining in a time when everyone else is speaking lies. God is using these people’s nefarious plans against them. And I have no doubt He will continue to do so.

Mouse: Episode 19

Spoilers, as usual.

Have to say that so far I am not digging the whole OZ secret organization plot line, even though it was integrated into the show from the beginning. It’s sounding like the government is basically continuing Dr. Daniel Lee’s experiment, and trying to determine if Nature or Nurture is the cause of psychopathic murders. Of course they don’t see the irony in allowing and even encouraging test subject Ba Reum to kill people. This is likely at the end of the episode why Ba Reum declares to the government official that Dr. Lee asked him to kill her. From a certain perspective, what she is doing could be considered worse than being a psychokiller.

The biggest shock this episode was that Yo Han could have lived and OZ his supposed father insisted on using his brain for the surgery. Wow. The Headhunter is truly despicable.

Everything now makes sense as far as PD Choi and her baby. The baby is not the biological grandchild of the Headhunter, but since his wife raised Yo Han as her son, she considers his child to be her grandchild. PD Choi, we find out is the missing daughter of Detective Park, who was assigned to the case of the Headhunter. With her altered mental state, his wife recognizes the baby as her biological grandchild, which is why she kidnaps him. Interestingly, PD Choi has known this whole time that she was Detective Park’s daughter and was too afraid to approach him or her mom. Again, wow.

Now everyone is suspecting Ba Reum, and with good reason. Detective Go and Bong Yi both exhibit a lot of alternate denial and anger, which is totally understandable. It may be a good thing that Ba Reum is going to die in short order from his brain surgery, as I’m not sure how the three of them will or would deal with all of this. He’s a “good” guy now, but he still wants to murder people, just those considered bad. But that’s who he killed before, those people he considered bad. Not a moral improvement, though I admit he is saving some innocents.

Great scene with the Headhunter and his wife. He is creepily charismatic and she doesn’t seem like the kind of woman who would fall for that, but maybe she was much different when she was younger.

The murder of Detective Shin was the worst! He’s only a minor character, but the kid has grown on me. A chaebol, or son of a wealthy family, who has a good heart and a good work ethic. They had to kill him when he’s on his way to see his wife and their new baby…just awful. But it did give Detective Go a chance to freakout with his emotions. He’s going to need to do that a lot in dealing with Ba Reum, OZ, and the Headhunter.

Except for the OZ stuff, looking forward to episode 20. I am not sure if this is the last episode or not. We’ll see.

Lessons from RomComs: Kate & Leopold

This past weekend at Bible Study, we talked about how leadership is really responsibility, and how it’s not so much that God has chosen men to have a special status over women, but how He’s given men more and a different responsibility than women in making them the heads in the household, church, society, etc. Even at the beginning of the world, with Adam and Eve, man tried to shirk his special responsibility. That’s not that Eve wasn’t to blame, certainly she was, but Adam went along with her in doing wrong instead of leading her to follow God’s command to not eat of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. For some reason this all made me think of the 2001 romantic comedy Kate & Leopold starring Meg Ryan and Hugh Jackman.

Yes romcoms are often dumb, and many think of them as frivolous, but they are far from that. Like romance novels, many truths about the relationship between men and women and society in general can be found in them. I took two key takeaways from Kate & Leopold: First, men have a certain responsibility towards women in a relationship and second, a person has a duty to integrity. The movie incorporates these ideas with a muddling time travel plot in which a duke from the 1870s is transported to modern–er, 2001, New York City. This happens due to the actions of a goofy physicist named Stuart.

Let’s begin with the second takeaway first: Integrity. It’s a sentimental view, but generally we today think of societies in years past having much more moral excellence and care in all that they did than we do now. On some levels that is true, but every era has its faults and strengths. True or not, our view of, say, the 1800s in our stories is largely flattering. It was a time when there were very clear rules for things like courtship, which is a world of difference from today’s dating world where many are left to flounder. Leopold is appalled that Kate, who works in advertising, would advertise items which have no quality and little health benefit for people. Sometimes to live and eat we do find ourselves promoting and getting behind things of little or negative value, and Leopold’s figurative cold bucket of water here is that we don’t have to continue on that road. Like Kate, we can choose to live lives of integrity. It might mean changing a LOT in our lives, but it is possible. Here, the change is a time jump, so rather supernatural, but the lesson is still there. Kate finds that true love is worth that jump.

The first takeaway is what really struck me in thinking of our Bible Study discussion. Leopold has a great interaction with Kate’s younger brother, Charlie, played by Breckin Meyer. Charlie takes Leopold out to meet his friends and Leopold gets to witness firsthand what modern dating can be like. First of all, Leopold is struck by Charlie’s behavior, which is perhaps not quite what the young man really wants to exude. Second of all, he’s baffled by Charlie’s eagerness to get the girl he likes to lead the romance, and Leopold sets him straight, explaining that it’s not a burden, but a happy responsibility. Okay, maybe not happy. Intriguing? Exciting?

Leopold says this, “As I see it, Patrice has not an inkling of your affections, and it’s no wonder. You, Charles, are merry-andrew.”

“A what?” Charlie asks.

“Everything plays a farce to you. Women respond to sincerity. No one wants to be romanced by a buffoon.”

Ouch! But he’s right, women do respond to sincerity. Men do too, I think, so that’s a good lesson for both sexes. Neither sides’ goal should be to come across as a buffoon. But it’s more complicated than that, for women also respond to humor, a guy who can make a women laugh has an in, and no mistake. I’m guessing the humor becomes buffoonish if the men fail to have a point. Women actually talk a lot without a point. We just do. The reasons we talk and the reasons men talk are quite different, but let’s just say for now, that men usually have a point when they are talking, so if that’s missing or appears to be missing, a man can leave the wrong impression on a woman. In the movie, the wrong impression is that Charlie doesn’t really like Patrice in a romantic way. She doesn’t know he sincerely likes her, because he hasn’t told her that, not directly, and not in his other words and actions.

Next, Charlie gets excited because he’s left the next step in the relationship between him and Patrice “in her court.” The ball is in her court. It’s her move, her play. Okay, on the surface this doesn’t seem so bad, right? It’s not wrong for women to make the moves in a relationship…necessarily. The trouble is that it very well may be wrong for the man to leave the responsibility of leading to the women. Leopold tells him, no, no, you want the ball in your court. You want to direct how this is going to go. That rang true at the time and still rings true today, for men are usually the pursuers. They woo the women. Women are really not so good at wooing, and, I think, would rather be wooed and won, no matter how much they protest to the contrary. Anyway, what a boost of confidence it is for Charlie that Leopold helps him learn how to court and pursue a women and he finds it working! Pretty awesome.

Two things from this: One, men say women can do the pursuing, but in reality that’s the surest way to lose a man. Deep down, men likely know this, it’s just not very politically correct to say these days. Two, women prefer the men to lead–unless they are buffoons–and again, this is just not very PC to say today.

Leopold’s view of the leadership responsibility men have in their relationships refreshing and a bit magical. His insistence on integrity is, too. Sometimes following the rules actually leads to happiness, and I think that Kate & Leopold showcases that to some degree. And, in true traditional fashion, Kate leaves her ultramodern world behind and goes to live with her man in Leopold’s world. Feminists may shudder, but she happy, really happy, and in love. She knows exactly how Leopold feels about her and what his intentions are because he’s told her and shown her. He is not afraid to show his figurative hand of cards to her. That takes a lot of guts and is also an act of leadership, of responsibility. Leopold has owned his feelings and used them to produce a positive, productive outcome, not only for himself, but also for the woman he loves.

Bonus: There is a third thing I took from the movie and that has to do with Stuart, Kate’s former boyfriend. Stuart, played by a wonderful Liev Schreiber, is funny and brilliant in his way, so it’s easy to see why she was attracted to him at one time. One wonders, however, why either keep the other in their lives. And they do because, well, it’s part of the plot, but also because the purpose of Stuart’s presence in her life has yet to be fulfilled. Stuart himself says it best: “Maybe the reason I was your guy is so that I could help you find your guy.”

Basically, the lesson is this: Don’t throw away people. A person may not be a certain “one” for you, but they may be in your life for a reason you can scarcely imagine. And it may be quite a good one in the end. Stuart is genuinely happy for both Kate and Leopold, and that speaks volumes for his character.

Next up: A review of Mouse, episode 19 is coming soon. Although 20 is out this week, I may not have time to write a review until next week. Currently also watching Extra-ordinary You, which I can’t recommend highly enough, and also Doom at Your Service, which stars Seo In Guk, enough said.

Mouse: Ep 18

Oh, this cat’s cradle of a plot! So much to keep track of, but well worth it to pay attention. The main point of this episode was that both Detective Go and Bong Yi are really considering that dead Dr. Yo Han might be innocent of the crimes. That next leads them to: Someone else must therefore be the cross killer.

Mixed up in all that is PD Choi and her poor, little baby, who at least now has his grandma watching over him. Grandma’s not such a good sitter, however, for the kid gets kidnapped by the much befuddled wife of Detective Park who was on the Headhunter’s case so many years ago and lost both his children in the process. Because Park’s daughter’s body has still not been found, he, too, is horrible to this little baby, and refuses to return it to grandma unless she asks her husband where his daughter’s body is. Former Mrs. Headhunter goes to meet with the serial killer neurosurgeon in prison.

The shadowy OZ, the cabal or organization watching both Ba Reum and Yo Han as children, is still a bit of a mystery. Dr. Daniel Lee was possibly connected to them, but now is not. PD Choi, too, knows of them and is working with Dr. Lee to maybe thwart them or, more likely, working with him in the hopes that they can show the world Yo Han is indeed innocent. What she’s going to do when she finds her baby is being held for information, I don’t know. Horribleness all around.

Finally, finally! At the end of the episode we see Detective Go and Bong Yi putting everything together. They were maybe ok thinking that Ba Reum was a psycho who killed other serial killers like the man who hurt Bong Yi. Now, they are confronted with the very real possibility that he is also the cross killer. Go processes a little more slowly, and only considers the other cases, not yet his brother. Bong Yi has probably suspected for awhile subconsciously, and now her memories are knocking at her door. She fought that killer off, she had contact with him. His fight with her in the church was personal. Maybe she didn’t pick up on that at the time, but she sure is now. And she remembers a very important scar.

On the redemption theme: Ba Reum is slowly being justified for a lot of moves his younger self made, and also revealing that he actually didn’t do a lot of killing, and if he did it wasn’t for psychopathic reasons, but more emotional ones like revenge. Is it going to end with both him and Yo Han exonerated completely? Because of OZ, which is likely run by either the Headhunter or the government or both? I would find that a bit disappointing. It’s great to see Yo Han shown as innocent, we are continuing getting details on that, and I was right, he was indeed trying to stop Ba Reum and decided to kill him if that was the only way. Not as satisfying if Ba Reum is given a pass, unless he really, really didn’t do any of it, but that seems a stretch right now. And if he really didn’t do any of it, what a let down!

One thing I don’t remember in trying to keep track of all these characters is how Bong Yi’s dad died. She says something that makes it sound like the cross killer murdered her dad, but I don’t remember that. I don’t remember how her dad died being discussed. Hopefully, that will be clarified or rehashed in the future for those of us with poor memories.

Still liking the show, but I want more Detective Go and less Ba Reum, more detective hunting the killer, rather than this mixed up possible killer psychopath trying to figure himself out. Ok, I just really like Detective Go, who acts like a bear half the time, but really is a sweet little puppy with a heart of gold. He and Bong Yi should just be together. They’ll barely notice the age gap, they’ve both been through so much, traumatized so much.

Next ep should be good, for we’re certainly to get at least one scene with the Headhunter.

RRRS: The Silent Governess and A Castaway in Cornwall

For contemporary writers of Regency Romance, Julie Klassen is my favorite. Borrowed The Silent Governess from the library. Not too bad of a read, but it ended with me wishing it had been set at the girl’s school her mother runs in the end. As with many of her books, I was more into a lot of the minor characters, like Croome, than the leads, but the leads weren’t bad, either. Olivia Keene is the governess in question, and through a series of coincidences ends up working at Brightwell Manor where Lord Bradley lives. Bradley alternates between being cruel and kind, fighting a constant chip on his shoulder, a fear that people will find out a family secret. Because the story begins with Olivia’s great talent in mathematics, I expected that to be fleshed further, but that wasn’t the case. Only in parts where the plot needed it, was attention called to her skills. Lord Brightwell, Bradley’s father, really impressed me at the end and now I want a whole story about him and Bradley’s cousin Felix and how he’s made into a proper lord. Would be a good tale.

As for A Castaway in Corwall, again my expectations just didn’t match the book. Unfortunately, I have read Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier in the past few years, which deals with Cornwall, wreckers, shipwrecks and the like, and although that story was mostly dreadful, few can beat the atmospheric writing of du Maurier, and so I was constantly comparing the two and thought it could have used more wreckers and smugglers. It was very interesting, though, to have a different perspective on the Nalopeonic wars and having characters be on the side of the new republic rather than on the side of the British or the royalists, per say. As the island of Jersey is brought up right away, I was hoping the tale would take us there, and it did, but then I just had the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society in my head, so again, comparing the books. Again, more of the minor characters caught my attention, but there was something a bit reckless about both Laura and Alexander, and they had rather good kissing scenes.

Now I am learning more about Napoleon by reading The Murder of Napoleon by Ben Weider and David Hapgood.

My favorites by Klassen still are: The Innkeepers of Ivy Hill series, The Girl in the Gatehouse, and The Apothecary’s Daughter.

Mouse, eps. 16 & 17

A lot of weirdness with this show, but it’s all coming together. As Ba Reum sorts everything out about himself and Yo Han, the details are all getting filled in. However, I may be wrong in Yo Han’s motivation as a genius to stop killer Ba Reum: It appears there some shadowy organization called OZ behind all of this. An organization bafflingly covering up Ba Reum’s crimes, and also keeping tabs on him. Turns out they kept tabs on Yo Han. Dr. Daniel Lee, who is still inexplicably alive, appears to not be working with OZ, but maybe once was, and the suspicious detective I had my eye on is connected with OZ. OZ is either part of or just a nickname for the Ministry of Science and Technology. Possibly. We shall see.

The good thing is, that the other main characters like Detective Go (love that man!) and the ever spunky Bong Yi are now also coming to the realization that Yo Han may be innocent and that they haven’t got the killer after all. What both will do when they discover it is Ba Reum, I have no idea.

As for PD Choi, she has a new babysitter for her child, the wife of the Headhunter serial killer, and, if Yo Han is really her son, not Ba Reum, biological grandmother to said child. PD Choi herself is trying to show her former lover innocent, mostly so that people stop treating her kid so poorly, but I think also she feels it’s the right thing to do, to set the record straight.

We learn a bit more about Ba Reum’s past. AKA Jae Hoon, he may not be quite the out-of-control killer we all thought he was. That is, he’s not and has not just killed for no reason. At least one murder has been in revenge for the man who killed his mother. Turns out, too, that Ba Reum and Yo Han crossed paths as children and Ba Reum was impressed by the latter’s smarts and kindness, wanting to be like him.

Where is all of this going? For now, it appears the big twist is that Ba Reum and Yo Han were part of an experiment. True, we know they were part of Dr. Lee’s study, but this is something bigger, probably, quite probably a grand experiment thought out and orchestrated by a person who is real dad to one of them: The Headhunter, the neurosurgeon Han Seo Joon. I really hope that’s the case, because he’s got a creepy good presence and makes a great villain.

Hoping Go and Bong Yi take all the killers down, that Go marries PD Choi already, and that Bong Yi starts a completely new and better life elsewhere. Lab rats no more, let them live their lives in freedom! And Ba Reum, he’s got remorse and I do hope he finds redemption, though it will likely come with his death, as redemptions often are wont to do.

Still really liking the show, but there’s a lot of busyness that abounds, and I almost wish they’d do away with some of procedural stuff and get more to the heart of the matter: Are we dictated by our genes, or by what we do? Or both? It’s there, the question is there, just hovering in the background. Ba Reum now is governed by both things, though perhaps he wasn’t before his brain surgery. It has to be pretty awful to become self-aware and find out oneself is a psycho serial killer. The stuff of nightmares. But that is what sin really is, a nightmare, and it’s in all of us. And only by God’s grace can we overcome it.

Mouse, episodes 14 &15 (spoilers)

This show has very good writing. Mostly, I’m just glad I’m right about the plot, but it’s more that I’m hoping I picked up on all the right cues from the writers, and that’s why everything’s fitting together so well. This may turn out to be a redemption story for our psycho killer, but that remains to be seen, as there’s one more episode.

All the excitement of episode 14 is the big reveal, and it’s done well, the audience finds out along with Ba Reum that he is the cross killer. It never was the doctor Yo Han. Yo Han is the good one, and it’s his brain power that’s giving Ba Reum his smarts and also his newfound emotions. I thought, I so thought, that Lee Seung Gi’s acting was hokey in the beginning episodes, that Ba Reum was a bit too nice to be genuine. It was too good to be true, for Ba Reum was acting the whole time, as often serial killers do. They can fake being nice guys. Perhaps women instinctively know this and that’s why we don’t really go for guys who are too nice…? But I digress.

Ba Reum is on the mend by the end of the episode. He’s accepted that he’s a serial killer who kills and enjoys killing serial killers, rapists, pedophiles, and the like. At first he thinks surely he can’t be with Bong Yi, but then he changes his mind, certain that he’ll find a way to punish these evildoers without killing them. That he can still bring them to justice and still get the girl. We get one of the only, if not the only kiss in the show. He friendship with Detective Go is also growing, as they now think of each other and older and younger brother.

How does Ba Reum figure out that he himself is the killer? First of all, he start having some hallucinations of himself as the psycho killer taunting him to kill, and also still picturing Yo Han taunting him. The biggest thing, is that through a series of coincidences he comes to realize that Detective Go and his brother both had similar lockets and that Ba Reum himself has one hidden in his house. Since Go has his locket, that can only mean one thing, that the locket Ba Reum possesses is the one owned by Father Go, the one the cross killer brutally murdered on live TV. The conclusion of that murder was that the cross killer considered himself to be God, a typically thing unrepentant sinners like to do. He also remembers that the necklace he made and gave Bong Yi is actually made of cat teeth. Ew!

It’s what he finds Bong Yi’s dear grandma’s brooch in his house that he knows for sure. He killed her, and before he ended up needing brain surgery. The old neighborhood where Ba Reum and Bong Yi lived is roped off to be demolished. Bong Yi goes there to his house and finds the underground lair–these killers always have lairs and hidey holes–and remembers other things, like holding the missing kid from a year and a half ago hostage while pretending to work with the cops to rescue him.

Excellent, excellent acting from Lee Seung Gi. He definitely seems like a generally good man finding out he is a monster. Episode 15 is largely the details, and well worth watching how everything came together to the present time. Many teases where Detective Go and/or Bong Yi finds out he is the killer, but that’s going to be saved for episode 16. Also, Ba Reum’s prison guard friends has now awakened from his coma and we find that Ba Reum tried to kill him too–and he remembers!

With his new empathy and emotions, Ba Reum’s Yo Han good side is practically dragging him towards a redemption, at least a works righteousness one. Inside, I think Ba Reum knows he can’t really make up for what he’s done, no matter how sorry he feels now, but he is compelled to try, though like what’s-his-name in Crime and Punishment, he’s reluctant to actually turn himself in. I feel so bad for Bong Yi. She’ll want to kill him when she finds out, and so will Detective Go. PD Choi will be more sympathetic, I think because she subliminally knows Yo Han is a part of Ba Reum now.

Redemption, redemption. God works in mysterious ways, and this is a fictional depiction of that. The cross killer and psycho kid who was angry at God for not stopping him from killing is now getting his chance, but God’s putting it on him, giving him the emotions and the will to change. It’s just too bad that he probably won’t be finding solace in the true forgiveness in Christ. Oh well, our entertainment rarely shows that truth. Will Ba Reum recognize this chance? Who knows, he may choose the dark side after all and Bong Yi may have to put him down. As for the stuff with Dr. Lee, I have no idea what’s going on there, but he doesn’t seem to know that Ba Reum was actually the real killer before getting brain surgery.

Continuing with the theme of the psychopath gene, PD Choi is struggling raising Yo Han’s child. People are awful, truly awful. And to a baby no less. And the baby will live and grow up with the shame of being a psychokiller’s child over them unless Ba Reum can successfully clear Yo Han’s name. Hopefully, that’s something that will happen.

The last big twist will likely be that Ba Reum is the son of the Headhunter, not Yo Han. Looking forward to that in episode 16. One episode doesn’t seem like enough to tie up all the ends, but I’m sure the writers will surprise me.

Until next time!