Book Reviews: Superheroes, Star Trek, Lady Detectives

As soon as she’d said it she knew she’d screwed up.
I eyed her speculatively. “Should I keep walking, or should I wait for the new girlfriend to arrive?”

How to Be a Superhero
In a nutshell, this book is about interviews with actors who’ve played superheroes, sidekicks, villains, antiheroes, and others. . . and it’s 588 pages long, so you can say it’s thorough.
After an intro where the author tries to prove the point that everyone loves superheroes, we go right into the interviews, but it isn’t just all the people who have played Superman and Batman and Spiderman; there’s Flashes and Captain Americas and Hulks, plenty of women. . . even Howard the Duck shows up. Not so much in Sidekicks and Supervillains, but for me the best part was Not All Heroes Are Super, which includes Spock, James Bond, even Agent Coulson. The book closes with questions for some of the creators: comic book artists, movie directors, screenwriters, TV series creators, even Marvel’s Chief Creative Officer. The interview with Stan Lee might be worth the price of admission alone.
Just like another book I recently reviewed on character actors, it’s the same questions over and over, though these are somewhat more pointed to the subject. Still, there are some unconventional questions that pop up every once in a while, and the best parts are when the interviewees appreciate them, especially if they’d never thought of it themselves. I’m not sure how much this would appeal to the causal movie fan, but if you enjoy superhero comic books, TV shows, or movies, this will probably be worth your while.

Star Trek: The Returned, Part I
For those familiar with the staggering amount of books written about the Star Trek Universe, this is the continuation of the series written by Peter David known as Star Trek: New Frontier. I remember reading the first collection of four stories a long time ago, and after a little research I’m quite surprised to see just how many there’s been since.
This starts with the aftermath of some big happenings in the previous story, which unhinge the main character; the first part is taken up with finding him and convincing him to come back to command his starship. Always fun when the Guardian of Forever is involved, even if only peripherally. Once he’s back the story goes into revenge for that thing that happened in the previous story, as well as a subplot involving his son and a couple of the main characters, who have changed dramatically since the last time I read about them. One of the reasons I originally read this series was the inclusion of the character of Robin Lefler, famously played by Ashley Judd in the Next Generation TV series. She doesn’t get much to do here, but since this story is going to continue past this book, it seems like a good setup for future involvement.
The best thing about the writing is the introductions of characters, which tells the newbie everything they need to know while not being too dull for those who know everything that’s going on. As someone in the middle of those two extremes, I found myself going from wondering who they were to instantly remembering them as soon as their main characteristics were described. But my point is this book can mostly likely be enjoyed by those who are coming in new to the series.

Rainy Day Women
This is another first person amateur PI story, the main difference from most being that it takes place in the late 60s, though it takes a while to realize that. Perhaps the author assumes you read the first in the series; it’s really not obvious until there’s a mention of the first moon landing. It takes place in Vancouver, which is one of my favorite cities in the world, mostly around the University of British Columbia and its chemistry lab, as well as the woman’s lib movement of the time, which is a huge part of the story.
It starts with a complete fakeout where you think the lead character’s trying to escape from an abusive boyfriend, only to find it’s something else completely. It made me laugh, so I forgive the author this joke.
While I enjoyed the setting and most of the banter, the plot—featuring more murders and attacks—and resolution. . . not as much. The author does a decent job of coming up with alternate suspects, but she stacks the deck too much for the reader to conceive it’s anyone but who it turns out to be (I know that’s vague, but I’m trying not to spoiler it).

Dead Man’s Legacy
A Royal Canadian Mounted Policewoman—though she mostly works on boats—is sent to the Bahamas to do some undercover work, becoming friends with a rich and famous diva of the past to find out if she’s being abused. . . at least that’s what her boss tell her. Don’t know how she managed to get this job, but I assume it has something to do with the happenings in the previous novel, which I have not read.
The first part takes place in the Caribbean, but then she’s back in Canada and the tone drastically changes. Later on there’s a few chapters in Vegas, but except for the ending and a small jaunt further north everything takes place in the waterways between Ontario and the US, which involve a lot more than someone who hasn’t been there would imagine. Plenty of historical places, as well as the personal history of the not-so-diva’s family, keep the story going, so it’s safe t say the settings are what really work here. The main character deals with no less than four—and maybe more—guys who have crushes on her or just want to sleep with her; at times this was amusing, others cringe-worthy. The famous woman turns out to be the best-adjusted of her screwed-up rich family, and the Mountie is quickly on her side, which I think ruins her objectivity as she tries to solve a case where she’s not even sure what the crime is: fraud, human smuggling, drugs?
A solid 4/5, thought a bit uneven.


Travel Thursday: Sand Gets In Your Bard

I couldn’t help but grin as I stood with the rest of the crowd to applaud; the last lines of The Comedy of Errors had pretty much encapsulated the whole work, tying it up neatly in a bow, one might say. While it wasn’t my favorite Bard yarn–not to be confused with barnyard–it was certainly more than entertaining enough to spend a few hours on an uncomfortable chair in a small theater, and unless I’d happened to run into some loose chippy earlier in the day–or one from my past–I had nothing else to do right now. . .
No, no point in thinking this way, I admonished myself. It didn’t get any better than Shakespeare, and that’s that. . . even if maybe Marlowe actually wrote it. . .
The thought of some people I know hearing those musings and going ballistic put me in an even better mood, though I wasn’t about to bring that up here; the last thing I wanted to do was have a fight in my favorite town of Vancouver. It’d been years since I’d last been to Bard on the Beach, and one of the reasons I’d taken this assignment was remembering it and checking the calendar, finding the festival coincided, plus it wasn’t one of the plays I couldn’t stand, like A Winter’s Tale or Richard III.
Talking some pleasantries with fellow Shakespeare-goers and grabbing a 7-up to go with the complimentary cheese and crackers could only keep me going so long; after a while that got boring and I headed outside into the cool Canadian air, looking off to the side and smiling wistfully as I remembered when the shows were held in a tent over the actual sand. . .
Ah well, progress and success, I sighed, heading toward the water. . . only to find the small jetty where I’d debarked closed. It hadn’t occurred to me to ask when the miniature boats, barely big enough for five people who didn’t mind getting to know each other better, would stop their runs from the north end of downtown to Vanier Park, nor did it enter my consciousness that it would be dark when the play was over. Wasn’t it supposed to stay light longer in summer? That’s how I remembered it, anyway. And I didn’t remember hearing the nine o’clock cannon blast, though Stanley Park was pretty far away. . . nah, shoulda still heard it.
Turning just in time to see the lights going out in the building, I moved to the side with the parking lot, which by now was empty, so no chance of hitching a ride or catching a cab. I could wait for the janitorial staff to finish, but who knew how long that would take, and if they claimed liability hassles I’d be stuck here anyway.
Now what. . .?
Toe power, that’s what. Checking my water supply with a sigh, I got going, hoping I’d run into a restroom if needed, rather than a tree or bush. Those tiny lights in the distance might be Grandville Island, I thought while sincerely hoping something better happened before that.
Then I told himself it was way too early to call for a cab, since I’d been berating myself about my sense of adventure, or lack of it, lately.
I’d been in Kitsilano before, but of course everything looks different at night. Since I didn’t expect much in the way of surprises coming from the water, I concentrated on the path in front of me, as always chuckling as I remembered George Carlin’s admonition: “The good thing about living at the water’s edge is you only have assholes on three sides of you. . . and if they come this way, you can hear them splash.” That got me through the next five minutes, though if I didn’t want to attract attention it was best to stop giggling as soon as possible.
A tunnel made me wonder what I was crossing under, but I couldn’t tell it was a bridge till I was pretty far away from it. Figuring it was Burrard Street, I looked around for stairs but didn’t spot any. I didn’t see a walkway to the west, nor any end to the bridge, so who knew how long it would take to climb on it that way. Sighing, I turned back, spotting Grandville Island or its doppelganger closer but not very much. To my left were small marinas with their occupants seemingly glowing in the water; in front of me was the thin thoroughfare which I took to be a bike path, a brightly-lit road under the five-story condos that turned the area into a higher-end Yuppieville, or whatever the Canadian version was.
And then I saw her. . .
She hadn’t seen me, which was obvious in the way she startled when I walked forward; for a moment she looked frightened, but quickly turned it into a nervous giggle as she saw I was grinning. With my hands by my sides and walking a route that would take me past her, she didn’t think I would attack her, but her “Hi!” was no doubt a little more squealy than she would have liked.
“Hi there. . . are you okay? The view not to your liking?”
“The view is fine,” she giggled again, this time not so nervously. “What I can see of it, anyway. Speaking of seeing, haven’t done that with you before.”
She blushed a bit, visible even in the dark. “I was trying to say I’ve never seen you before, but it came out convoluted.”
“I’ve never seen you before either. . . see how easy it is?’
“I do now, yes.” She grinned a little sheepishly, but seemed to be enjoying the inane chatter. “So why haven’t I seen you around before?”
“That’s better. Because I’m visiting, and I got stranded by those little boats, and. . .”
I made the story more dramatic than it had to be, but she didn’t seem to mind, only twice berating me mildly for not having checked the schedule. With a very easy comeback of “Then I wouldn’t have met you,” I swooped right into her good graces, or whatever she called them. Giving her a chance to figure out what she wanted from this new relationship, I took in the glittering view of downtown Vancouver, wondering what I would need to get a good photo of the skyline, other than a tripod, of course. . . well, a camera would help too.
For some reason she asked me what I thought of bacon, to which I quickly replied, “Bacon is like music to my nose and tongue!”
Thinking she could hold my geeky freakout for later teasing, if there was later between us, she told me the reason for asking by saying, “Did you know bacon has the same effect on the brain as cocaine and heroin. . .?
“So I’ve been getting high all these mornings without knowing it,” I mused.
“That’s what makes you great,” she agreed.
Marshaling my energy reserves for a few more minutes while talking to her, not expecting her to invite me to stay overnight, whether on the couch or her bed, I listened to her prattle on for a while, wondering at which point she’d remember that she hadn’t told me her name yet. She ended this particular verbal diarrhea by pronouncing I could meet her for lunch tomorrow at the observation tower downtown, flouncing away and into one of the condos before I could mention it wasn’t an actual tower, just a disk stuck onto the roof of a building.
“I’m screwed,” I muttered as I walked on, annoyed that she hadn’t thought to let me call a cab, instead going for her little drama. Would serve her right if I didn’t show up tomorrow. But at least the walk would let me burn off some frustration. . . mostly caused by not getting any bacon, now that I was salivating for it.
So I was more than a little sweaty when I finally got to Granville an hour later. Thankfully there were plenty of eateries still open, as well as taxis. By the time I got back to my hotel at the western foot of Stanley Park, I’d almost forgotten about her. . .


Travel Theme: Benches

It’s almost sad seeing the Jack in the Box empty at lunch time while half a block a way the In-N-Out has street overflow. . . almost sad; I think the stupid commercials Jack runs makes me feel a little better about it.

So, this week Ailsa feels like taking a rest, so she’s got benches on her mind for her travel blogging network. Had a hankerin’ to go with a piano bench here, but it really couldn’t beat my fave bench in the world, in Vancouver’s Stanley Park.

stanley park

And just to add one more, this was the base shot for my friend Genevieve’s CD cover, otherwise it would be an ordinary bus bench. . . well, it still is, but not with her on it. . .