Saturday, February 26, 2011

Review: Kindred by Octavia E. Butler

Dana, a modern black woman, is celebrating her twenty-sixth birthday with her new husband when she is snatched abruptly from her home in California and transported to the antebellum South. Rufus, the white son of a plantation owner, is drowning, and Dana has been summoned across the years to save him. After this first summons, Dana is drawn back again and again to the plantation to protect Rufus and ensure that he will grow to manhood and father the daughter who will become Dana's ancestor. Yet each time the stay grow longer and more dangerous until it is uncertain wehther or not Dana's life will end, long before it has ever begun.

Kindred (1979), by Octavia E. Butler, is a historical science fiction novel about slavery. The setting is 1970s California. Dana, a black 26-year-old woman, and her white husband, Kevin, find themselves in the hospital. Dana has part of her arm missing. How did this unfortunate accident happen to her?

The story begins with the first-person narration of Dana and how she travels back in time to the antebellum American South, Maryland. A red-haired boy is drowning in the river and she magnificently saves him. Suddenly, she is back with her husband. She realizes every time this little boy is in serious trouble, he summons her back into the past. She learns that slavery is legal and the boy lives on a plantation. The more she stays in the past, the more unfamiliar and dangerous it becomes as her ignorance of the culture catches up with her physically and emotionally.

Dana discovers that this boy, Rufus, is her great-great grandfather, the father of Hagar, her own great-grandmother. She must protect him if he is to ever produce Hagar when he becomes a man. She creates friendships with fellow slaves to learn her role in society. She meets Alice Greenwood, a free black woman with whom Rufus has a friendly—and sexual—relationship and resembles Dana in appearance and built. What role does she have that makes her so valuable? When Kevin also travels back in time and stays behind, Dana must find and rescue before anything awful hurts him. Dana must race against time before her own life ends in jeopardy.

I chose Kindred in honor of Black History Month, which coincidentally the 2011 theme is African Americans and the Civil War. Each chapter portrays an important event that happens to Dana and Rufus. In the novel, Butler tries to depict slaves as individuals and attempts to portray the slaveholders with equity, showing not only their cruelty but also their humanity. When you finish the book, you must re-read the first chapter in order to fully grasp the story. I discovered it makes the novel more interesting and admiring. Character development and narration is excellent. It has great compare/contrast examples between characters and events (i.e., Dana/Kevin and Alice/Rufus).

The novel's themes include interracial relationships, slavery’s impact on the past and present, the consequence of time travel and trust. This is not a painless novel and will make you think about your surroundings. I like how it engages readers to reiterate their own cultural history and how interwoven the characters are in the end. Thus, we cannot continue to ignore the legacy of slavery on American history and culture. This novel also made me experiencing what life was like for slaves and white people. This is what makes Kindred more empowering and frightening.

In 2001, this landmark novel was brought to life in an exceptional audio adaptation. Unfortunately, Octavia Butler passed away in 2006, but her memory has not been lost. There have been several fan sites compiling information about her life and accomplishments. There have also been discussions of making a movie based on the novel. It would be fantastic to see the book come to life on screen. However, the funding is not readily available. If there is a potential movie, I will happily update this review!

Overall, I highly recommend this novel.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Tyche: Does Planet X Exist?

Is there another planet in our system? In 2006, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) nixed the idea that Pluto was the ninth planet in our solar system. However, there might be another planet after all -- this one being nearly 15 million miles from the sun! John Matese and Daniel Whitmire of the University of Louisiana-Lafayette are causing a media frenzy with their claim that a gaseous object, estimated to be four times the mass of Jupiter, is within the sun’s gravitational field. The professors say evidence gathered by the NASA space telescope, WISE (Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer), will verify whether the planet exists at all. It is believed to be orbiting on the Oort Cloud in the outer reaches of the solar system. They call his planet "Tyche", which means in Greek,"goddess of love and fortune." Nevertheless, the IAU would have the final word on whether Tyche is the ninth planet. If it exists, this will be a major breakthrough in astronomy.

You can learn more about the mysterious planet in the links below:

Friday, February 18, 2011

Review: A Touch of Dead - The Complete Sookie Stackhouse Short Stories

A Touch of Dead (2009) includes every Sookie Stackhouse short story ever written by New York Times Bestselling author, Charlaine Harris, in one edition.

In Fairy Dust, Claude and Claudine seek Sookie's telepathic abilities to determine who murdered their sibling, Claudette.

In Dracula Night, The Area Five vampires celebrate the return of Count Dracula. While Sookie is invited to attend, there is an unexpected tasty surprise awaiting her.

In One Word Answer, Sookie receives startling news about her cousin's death, but she discovers the truth behind her murder.

In Lucky, Sookie teams up with Amelia to investigate who wants to tamper with Bon Teamps' most successful insurance agent.

In Gift Wrap, On Christmas Eve, Sookie receives a dangerous surprise and must set aside her depressing feelings to save a man's life.

I had never read any of the short stories prior to purchasing this book. However, it disappointed me for three reasons: 1) I thought there would be more than five short stories; 2) I realized Harris is not a good short story writer; and 3) the stories are arranged out-of-order. If you have not read all the Southern Vampire books, it will be difficult to pinpoint the time frame in reference to the series. Since this book is less than 200 pages, some of the stories ended abruptly. I did not have a favorite short story in A Touch of Dead; I thought the Blood Bank short story collection by Tanya Huff contained better substance. I only recommend this book to true die-hard Harris fans. Otherwise, you can easily read it in the library in three hours or less.

Stay tuned to the 12th novel in the Southern Vampire Series, Dead Reckoning

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Review: Nightwalker - Midnight Detective (2000)

Nightwalker: Midnight Detective (2000) is a supernatural mystery Japanese anime about a vampire detective who vows to protect humans from the darkness in his quest to regain his humanity. With his companions (Yayoi, Guni and Riho), he investigates and defeats his enemies, the ‘Night Breed.” These evil creatures escape to Earth and manipulate weak human souls to ‘seek the light.’ Latter episodes also explore how the main characters met each other in the series. Graphic scenes include Christian themes, sexual imagery and bloody action. This is a review of the DVDs.

Tatsuhiko Shido - He is a 200+ year-old vampire detective at Shido Private Detective Agency. ‘Shido’ is not his real name because the memories of his past have been lost since he was turned into a vampire. To regain his humanity back, he swears to protect humans from nightbreeds terrorizing the city. As a vampire, his eyes turn yellow like a cat, and his weapon is a sword made out of his own blood.

Matsunaga Yayoi - She is a NOS detective who gathers intelligence for Shido to defeat the nightbreeds since her family has a long track history with nightbreeds. Immuned to a vampire’s bite, she is often a treat to Shido during times of blood loss or sexual activity.

Yamazaki Riho - She is a high school student who works part-time as a maid at Shido’s agency. She lost her family to a nightbreed incident. While she has a crush on Shido, she does not know Shido is a vampire.

Guni - Shido’s little demon friend who travels with him occasionally. She is often very critical of Riho’s naivete. Despite her sarcastic behavior, she has a soft spot and tries to protect Shido.

Cain - The man who turned Shido into a vampire. While hundreds of years older than Shido, this handsome but cruel man wants Shido to return to the old days as his partner and witness the “golden dawn.” He holds the memories of Shido’s lost past.


First Night: A Visitor in the Night
They say there is a curse on the Bay Bridge in Tokyo. Victims have their body drained completely of their blood. These monsters, or nightbreeds, can take possession of any lifeform. Can Shido and Yayoi defeat this nightbreed before it terrorizes and feeds off more victims?

Second Night: The Terms of Stardom
Sukimura Yukia is an aspiring actress who must outshine anyone on the stage. When her understudy, Asahura Yohko, makes a deal with the nightbreed to take her body instead, Yohko has no idea what horror lies behind the deal. Can Shido and Yayoi defeat this monster before it manipulates and devours Yohko’s soul?

Third Night: A Man On the Run (Part 1 of 2)
A cop has been shot in the line of duty in the head, and lies in the hospital in a comatose state. Strangely, the cop, Taki, awakens—only a nightbreed has taken possession of his body. Taki’s fiancee asks Shido to find her missing husband, Taki. Unfortunately, Shido meets someone from his past he rather avoids. He must hurry before the “golden dawn” comes.

Fourth Night: The Golden Dawn (Part 2 of 2)
Victims are dying after seeing their blood in shock in public places. When Riho meets Megumi, Taki’s fiancee, who is now pregnant, it scares her to tell Shido and Yayoi. The mysterious man, Cain, comes back to haunt Shido. Cain also kidnaps Riho. Will it be too late for Shido to rescue Riho before the “golden dawn” approaches?

Fifth Night: Medicine for the Dead
A Chinese herb medicine is popular among high school children. However, suicides and strange incidents have been happening. When Riho’s friends, Shunichi and Mikako, search for her, they discover that Riho can no longer finish high school with them anymore. Shunichi overhears that Riho has been hanging out with an older man (Shido). Will this fear and jealousy destroy Riho’s friends?

Sixth Night: The Bottom of a Well
Shido is chasing after a nightbreed into the cemetery and construction zone. When a nightbreed kidnaps a little girl, Shido lunges and all three find themselves in the bottom of a well. While Riho and Yayoi try to pinpoint where Shido has gone, they discover the identity of the missing girl not so normal. Will Shido escape the well without harming the girl and freeing the demon?

Seventh Night: A Mother and Her Son
Dead animals with their organs eaten are popping around an apartment complex. Riho, now a vampire, walks in the rainy weather and spots a young boy, Shinji, with a kitten in his arms. His mother frantically commands him to leave the animals alone. Shido, Yayoi and Riho find the mother suspicious. Does she know more than she’s displaying?

Eighth Night: A Soul Lost in the Darkness
Family members plot a murder to inherit their grandfather’s estate. But when they discover that the old man has disappeared from the vehicle, they run into a wild goose chase to find the body. Asami seeks Shido’s services. Will Shido ever learn the truth behind this case?

Ninth Night: Someone Else’s Face
As Shido enters town on a dark night, he has a little fairy named Guni accompanying him. As he settles at a local hotel, he learns that two twin sisters, Matsunaga Kasumi and Yayoi, operate the place. One of the sisters, Yayoi, has bandages on her face. Shido knows something dangerous is happening, but will he discover the nightbreed that is skinning the faces of people before it’s too late?

Tenth Night: Tears of an Angel
Yuki seems to always have luck. Maybe she’s too lucky. Ever since she has found a pendant, the “angel” inside the jewelry promises her happiness. However, Shido and Guni sense the pendant as a nightbreed and urge the girl to discard it immediately. But she won’t listen and runs away. Will Yuki learn on her own that this “angel” is not what she thinks it is?

Eleventh Night: A Witch in the Forest
In the past, Shido arrives at a desolate town where only a woman exists in her home. She asks him if he has seen her ‘Schubek” who has gone away in a glorious battle. While Cain, former vampire lover, insists that Shido returns with him and forget the woman, he refuses. Will Shido rescue the woman or learn a dark secret that will haunt him instead?

Twelfth Night: Eternal Darkness
Shido and Yayoi face nightbreeds that happen to be Riho’s dead parents. After defeating them, Riho packs to leave Shido’s place. “People meet and people part.” Unfortunately, Riho causes much harm to the human world by abusing her vampire powers. Will Shido be able to save her before everyone close to him is in danger?

Several years ago, I ran across this series at Blockbuster Videos. It reminded me of previous vampire anime shows, including Vampire Hunter D and Blood: The Last Vampire. Overall, this is a great series for supernatural fans who love Japanese animatio. The animation is good but I am annoyed with the way the directors changed some of the characters' physical features half-way through the series so abruptly. The opening song, "Gessakai (Moonlight)" by BUCK-TICK is also awesome because it matches Shido's personality.

The DVD series (Nightwalker: Midnight Detective and Nightwalker: Eternal Darkness) include English dubbed or Japanese with English subtitles. Amazingly, the English dubbed version was executed very well. It also has storyboard art (cells and background visuals, basically the “Making of Nightwalker”), previews of other anime (classic and recent) by Central Park Media like The Harlock Saga, Angel Sanctuary, Project A-ko, etc. and other special features. The final episode, Eternal Darkness, wraps these series nicely and will keep the audience on the edge of their seats. Too bad this is the end of Nightwalker. I highly recommend this series.

Trailer featuring opening song: "Gessakai" by BUCK-TICK

Friday, February 11, 2011

Season 4 of True Blood Expected Summer 2011

I have more news about the upcoming fourth season of True Blood below:
True Blood Season 4 has been given the green light by HBO according to their press release! Many True Blood fans are extremely excited to hear that it is official that the series will be returning in the summer of 2011 for season four! Congratulations to the entire cast and crew of True Blood regarding this wonderful news! Here is the official press release from HBO.

It will contain 12 episodes. Check out the trailer below:

Monday, February 7, 2011

Review: Dark Road Rising (Vampire Files #12)

"As Jack tries to unravel the mystery surrounding Kroun's undead state, he gets caught between his charge's violent outbursts and some syndicate torpedoes looking to rub them both out, leaving him vulnerable to an even deadlier threat--the trheat of an old enemy desperate to unlock the secrets of Jack's vampire immortality..."

Dark Road Rising, by P.N. Elrod, is the twelfth novel in the Vampire Files series. It is the winter of 1938 in mob-ruled Chicago. Jack Fleming is owner of the NightCrawler Club. He is recovering from a maniac episode where he pulped his best friend, Charles Escott, to severe condition in the hospital. To make matters even more bizarre, Jack meets notorious New York mobster, Whitney Kroun, who should have died in a car bomb; instead, Jack discovers his undead secret!

While Kroun uses his blood to save Escott from a deadly infection, he leads Jack on a journey to a world of hidden secrets as he tries to recall the truth about his murder. His talented girlfriend, Bobbi Smythe, also wants to audition for Hollywood, and he rightfully wonders about his future in Chicago. An old nemesis also unexpectedly resurfaces and is determined to unlock his vampire secrets -- even if it kills him.

This is the latest novel in the Vampire Files series since Song in the Dark. Elrod ties up loose ends from a previous novel, Cold Street. Overall, this is one of the darkest plots about Jack. She continues to explore his mental well-being and the effects of torture on his worldview and relations around others. Furthermore, the book has two narrators -- Fleming and Kroun, which was a first for this series. I liked how I was vividly exposed to both men's thoughts as they investigated clues and survived danger.

The plot is full of twists and action. It started slow but quickly picked up pace. The ending is a mixed-bag: it nicely finishes the novel, and serves as an end to the series (I hope not!). Elrod understands this time period (Prohibition-era 1930s) very well and uses popular culture references to make this series legitimate and humorous. I have been following this series for over seven years now (during that time, I finished high school, graduated from college and will finish graduate school this summer!). I have become a faithful fan, and will continue to support the Vampire Files!

Will Elrod write another book for this series? It is a very good question, and it is currently unknown. If I have any latest news, I will post an update!

For fans, check out her latest novella, The Devil You Know.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Zoo Ape Can Walk on Two Legs!

Welcome to 2011! To begin the new year, a friend found this video of an ape walking on two legs in a zoo. I didn't believe it until I watched the video. It is remarkable! Has the species finally advanced in evolution? What is going on here?