Thanks to my wonderful siblings TfD has a video out on YouTube!
Thanks to my wonderful siblings TfD has a video out on YouTube!
This series is a big reason why I miss Borders. If it hadn’t been at Borders I would have missed out on D.M. Cornish’s incredible world, for the new “American” series title and artwork are not nearly as dynamic as the first cover and title that caught my eye. I fell in love with MBT upon reading the first book, The Foundling, and was sad to see it was months before I saw it on the shelves of my local Barnes and Noble. One of Borders biggest strengths, in my opinion, was that they had a lot of awesomeness waiting to be discovered on their shelves.
Monster Blood Tattoo is the rightful name of this series, but for some reason it was deemed that Americans are too sensitive or something for this title, so it was changed to the bland The Foundling’s Tale. For me it will ever and always be Monster Blood Tattoo, and I will hereafter refer to the series as MBT. Australian author and illustrator D.M. Cornish spent some fifteen plus years creating the world of the Half-Continent. Think Napoleanic-era empire crossed with monsters and monster hunters. The result is as epic and as Tolkien’s Middle Earth with the addition of wonderful hand-drawn portraits of the characters. Add the lengthy, fascinating appendices, and it’s a veritable role-playing game waiting for geekdom.
The Foundling’s Tale as a name isn’t so far off, at least for the first three books (I am hoping there will be more), as it follows an orphan boy with a girl’s name, a kid who wants to be a monster fighter but ends up being a lamplighter on the emperor’s highway. Much like Harry Potter, Rossamünd has to continually reassess his view of world and the people and/or creatures in it. At times he’s just plain dumb, but then he’s a kid. The best character in the series is bonafide monster hunter Europe the “Branden Rose.” She’s one of those hard shell-soft core people for whom Rossamünd presents a dilemma. He insists on seeing the, well, “human” side of monsters, whereas Europe has grown up seeing them as threats only. She’s even had her organs surgically altered so she can fight the monsters with lightening. Interestingly, in the Half-Continent the majority of the monster hunters are women.
Why this could be The Next Harry Potter: Despite its rather simplistic plot at times, the series has great depth and great potential. Cornish has built a vast world meant to be explored in its minutest detail. The world and story can appeal to a wide audience, both kids and adults, and would easily adapt to the screen. The biggest challenge would be the terminology, as Cornish uses quite a few made up words much like HP or LOTR, but a talented screen writer would be able to incorporate these no problem. The series also boasts a wealth of interesting characters, both humans and monsters, political and social commentary, and the important theme that people and creatures be judged not merely for what they are, but for what they do and how they act.
Up next time: The Kingdom
ABC Family’s series Twisted is a show that fits in comfortably with another ABC hit series, Pretty Little Liars. Like PLL, Twisted follows three friends who are wading through mysteries and lies surrounding their childhood. Danny Desai (Avan Jogia), who in junior high murdered his aunt with a jump rope is out of juvie on probation and comes back to town seeking a renewed relationship with his childhood friends Lacey Porter (Kylie BunBury) and Jo Masterson (Maddie Hasson), both of whom were traumatized by what he did five years ago.
Twisted has two main things going for it: A fairly unique plot revolving around the question is Danny really a killer and a sociopath, and its casting. It’s refreshing to have a couple of main characters who are minorities, yet have characters that don’t hinge on that fact. Any race could play any of the parts, and ABC chose actors right for the role regardless of race. Avan Jogia does a great job playing Danny Desai and especially in the first few episodes, everyone is wary that they are being manipulated by his character. Kylie BunBury also does a fantastic job with Lacey, a girl who doesn’t easily show her emotions, and she comes off far more emotionally mature than Jo, who parades her emotions around for all to see.
That’s not to say that I don’t like the character of Jo. She’s fun, plucky, and the kind of person you’d want as a friend. However, the way the show portrays her in the last few episodes of season one is cringeworthy. She comes off as extremely childish and having to constantly be patronized by those around her. This is the big flaw in Twisted, that the last few episodes aired revolved around Jo dealing with something that for a teen is heartbreaking, but put a bad light on all of the characters walking on eggshells around her for something that they should NOT have to apologize to her for. Hopefully in the upcoming second half of season one, the writers will have corrected this issue. Twisted isn’t the “Jo show,” and if anything, should be the “Danny Desai show.”
Why Twisted Would Make a Good Book Series: The mystery behind Danny’s action promises to be unwrapped over several seasons and could also fill a few books. Not only is he hiding something, but so are the main three’s parents, echoing another ABC Family series based on a book series, The Lying Game (sadly this one was cancelled after a couple seasons). It also has the quaint, small town atmosphere begging for description and amusing side characters such as Jo’s friend Rico (Ashton Moio), who is adorably awkward and will make a nice fourth to the three mains once he comes into his own.
Aside from the past murder that occurred, Twisted hasn’t actually been that, well, twisted, but the mystery has promise of being a vast, unwinding conspiracy, and in later seasons we’ll likely find that the characters we are following are more complex than originally thought. An intriguing question is brought up early on: What is a sociopath and can you tell of someone is just that? The implication is that perhaps Danny or even one of the other characters is in fact a sociopath, manipulating everyone — okay, at least that’s where I hope the writers are going.
Twisted is back on the air next week on February 11th, 9/8 central at ABC Family.
In its first season, AMC’s The Killing took me a little while to warm up to, and I only watched a few episodes before deciding it wasn’t for me. I then rediscovered the series on Netflix and was hooked. The Killing, based on a Swedish crime show called Forbrydelsen, is set in Seattle, Washington, and follows a similar plot. Detective Sarah Linden (Mireille Enos) is called to begin one last case on the eve of her last day at work. She is planning to give up detective work and move to California with her son and to begin a new, married life with the man she loves. The discovery of a teenaged girl’s body in the trunk of a car presents an intriguing and heartbreaking mystery for Linden, and the detective finds herself continually delaying her departure for her wedding. Linden is joined in her investigation by a newly promoted narcotics officer, Stephen Holder (Joel Kinnaman), whose methods are slightly unorthodox.
Why The Killing would make a good book series: Its pacing and somber tone. The Killing is not for those who want quick action and resolutions. Much like a good novel or book, this series is slow-moving and character development is more important than merely moving the plot ahead. The doom the audience and detectives feel in the first episode slowly grows over time as the threads of mystery begin to unravel. It is a credit to the series that time and time again, things are discovered to be far different from first impressions.
The tone of the film is almost entirely due to its setting. Seattle is portrayed as a continually cloudy, gray city. The colors in each shot are subdued and the music haunting. The death of a girl is treated seriously, as are the efforts of the detectives, despite their obvious flaws. Detective Linden’s obsession to the case is easy to relate to, as is Holder’s eagerness to prove himself in his new position. The acting is much due to the fine characterization and writing of the series, though, I have to give Joel Kinnaman a special shout out for his awesome American accent.
For me, the series really came into its own in season three, where we find how truly flawed Detective Linden is, and how capable Detective Holder. The series balances highlighting the detectives faults against their perseverance and natural talent at mystery solving. So many scenes from season three shouted “literature” to me, due again to the mood of the show as well as the excellent characterization. Also, the detectives are never quite happy. This too, goes along with literary tradition. Few, if any book detectives, have anything resembling joy outside of their work. Their work is their happiness, everything else is secondary.
Something that makes The Killing stand out for me as well is that the victims are important. Too many murder mysteries focus solely on the smarts of the murderer instead of sorrowing over the plight of the victim. The important people in the series are the detectives, the victims, and the people who knew the victims. The murderers themselves are rightfully forgotten by the time the next mystery begins.
The BBC’s Ripper Street is much what one would expect: It’s gory, shocking, and not for the faint of heart or the squeamish. But then, that’s police work in general, even today. We may not have open sewers running down our streets, but we are plagued with much of the same problems police had to deal with more than a century ago when the most famous of serial killers leapt onto the headlines.
Taking place shortly after Jack the Ripper’s murder spree, Ripper Street is set in WhiteChapel, London, in the late 1800s, and shows a city plagued with disease, violence, and immorality. Our heroes are smart, worldly characters, who much like officers today, go where the average man would fear to tread. They are by no means perfect, but admirable in the risks that they take for their fellow citizens. The detective team is as follows: Detective Inspector Edmund Reid (Matthew Macfadyen), Detective Sergeant Bennett Drake (Jerome Flynn), and an American who specializes in autopsies, Captain Homer Jackson (Adam Rothenberg).
The refreshing part of the show is that it uses actual detection with the detectives using what they know about their surroundings and the time and neighborhood in which they live to solve crimes. It’s interesting to see how the burgeoning field of forensics plays a role in weeding out suspects, and how the Ripper murders have opened wide the possibilities of human deviancy.
Why Ripper Street would make a good book series: It rings of authenticity. Many a time I have tried to read mysteries set in Victorian London only to be disappointed at the lack of detail and attention to the time period. The detectives in Ripper Street, although obviously modern, do not feel out of place in the story. Their cynicism is matched by compassion and their practicality comes from experiences with the people and world around them. They are not modern to express modern views only. Like Syfy’s Haven, the Whitechapel setting begs to be penned in written description — smells, sights, and sounds more pungent than what we encounter today. Ripper Street is a show that could only be enhanced by novels digging into the details of both the crimes and the community in which it is set.
If Hollywood movies these days have lost their luster, things are quite the opposite on the small screen. TV is in somewhat of a golden age of offering engaging, epic stories with smart dialogue, plots and characters that audiences want to watch for years on end. TV is in it for the long term. The same can be said for a good book series. This week I will highlight four shows that I wish were a book series.
#1: Haven. The Syfy Channel’s Haven is my current favorite show. Loosely based on a Stephen King novel, The Colorado Kid, Haven is a procedural drama in which the main character, Audrey Parker (Emily Rose) strives to ride a New England town of its supernatural “troubles.” The plucky FBI agent is aided by local cop Nathan Wuornos (love that name) played by Lucas Bryant and slacker Duke Crocker (Eric Balfour), a smuggler who lives on a boat.
In season one, it wasn’t abundantly clear where Haven was going with all of their “troubled” townspeople. Now, with season four just wrapped up, the show has become somewhat of an epic mind game, a reminds me the most of LOST with a smaller cast. Haven has almost nothing to do with its source material, The Colorado Kid, but the premise of that crime story plagues me: Some mysteries have no answer, only theories that can’t be proven. I am somewhat apprehensive that the show will ultimately end on such a note, but the interim is exciting to watch nonetheless. The characters are engaging to watch and for the most part the show sticks to its strength of dealing with a unique “trouble” each episode. And the troubles are unique, with shades of The X Files, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and other shows involving paranormal problems or monsters. The townspeople’s otherworldly afflictions are often related to their inner psyche in some way, allowing for the show to delve into weightier subjects even if it’s only for forty minutes or so. The longterm arc of the show has so far presented many intriguing questions, many that also deal with similar issues of guilt, fate, faith, and how people deal with the fact that they aren’t perfect.
Why would Haven make a great book series? In addition to the plot, characters, and themes of the show, it’s set in a gorgeous seaside town (filmed in Nova Scotia, Canada) dying for literary description, and showcases fantasy elements that would be even more amazing in a reader’s imagination. In a book series, the characters’ inner thoughts could also be more specifically dwelled upon, as well as their pasts. Nathan and Duke, for example, had an interesting childhood growing up together as on and off friends. It would also be intriguing to visit the other years in which Haven was plagued by “troubles.”
Haven is due back sometime this year for 26 more episodes: http://www.blastr.com/2014-1-28/more-troubles-are-coming-syfy-orders-super-sized-new-season-haven