What I’ve Read: LifeL1k3


Brief Summary:

In a post-apocalyptic version of the US, robots of varying AI are commonplace. Eve (our heroine) lives with her grandpa who is dying of the Big C, bestest friend Lemon Fresh with a sassy attitude, tiny robot Cricket who has a Napoleon Complex, and mechanical explodey dog Kaiser in the wastelands that used to be California, but is now an island of Mad Max gangs. After losing a gladiator bot execution, Eve’s world flips upside down when some magic higglety-pigglety occurs and then a beautifully perfect android appears out of the sky, only to tell her she is in trouble. Warring corporations, religious cyborg bounty hunters, crazy car chases in storms of glass, and angelic androids holed up in an ivory tower of radiation ensue with twists and turns along the way for good measure.

What works:

By now, if you follow my blog, you know I love Jay Kristoff’s books. The dude seriously knows how to write. His characteristic wit, goofiness, fun just oozes from this book. He still uses his lyric style to great ability here and even though this is a true YA story (as opposed to the stabby bitch of a daughter in Nevernight – his words) it still feels like a Kristoff book. The pace is super quick, and even though there are the world terms to learn, it is never expositiony or info-dumpy, it all feels natural, and once you learn them, you barely remember why you didn’t know them before.

And then in true Kristoff fashion, there are twists galore. No spoilers, but most were easy to see coming (YA level here), but the ending was a twist I saw coming, then BOOM, another twist I didn’t expect. The ending left on such a cliffhanger, but it still felt as if this book reached a satisfying conclusion. Yes, I know there is another book coming out next Spring, but even if it didn’t, I could be satisfied with the ending (though, let’s be honest, this story HAS to continue).

That said, I really enjoy the group of characters in Eve’s circle. Cricket and Lemon Fresh are really fun and I think they not only provide the comic relief, but also exhibit the true friend relationship that many books fail to show. While Lemon is this perky little street orphan who sasses the crap out of everyone around her, she does have this softer underbelly and loves Eve because she was the only one to see her as a person. And Cricket, even though he is programmed to love/protect Eve, he does challenge the Laws within the world. That and his constant quips about his shiny man parts reminds me so much of Bender from Futurama.

Eve is a wonderfully flawed main character. As the story goes on and she learns more about who she is, her confusion and coming to grips with those revelations are very realistic. Her emotions flare to either side all the time and I think that is something real people would do when they learn what she learns. Her relationship to the other characters is also something that works really well. Sure she has the YA love interest (see below…) but one thing you don’t see a ton these days in SFF stories is flat out friendship. I think that is missing in most SFF books because the focus tends to be on heroes saving the day on these massively detailed quests and journeys, and that usually entails the hero/heroine doing things alone, or when with a team, it is usually about the plot. Not in LifeL1k3. Kristoff makes this story about the characters and with Lemon, Cricket, Kaiser, and Eve, their friendship is just as important as the plot. And I like that.

The world itself is really fun. Dystopias are still chugging along but this world feels both unique and relevant to what we are dealing with today in the US. But what I really like about this world is that there are massive shout-outs to other artists without making them overt. I already said there is a Mad Max feel in the area Eve lives. Gangs on bikes wielding anything from baseball bats to flamethrowers. But then there is the city called Armada, made up of landlocked ships of all shapes, which obviously brings to mind China Mieville’s The Scar (not to mention the Kraken). Then toss in the AI androids of the Bladerunner series. This amalgamation of cool and differing stories really blend nicely in Kristoff’s world.

What doesn’t work:

So here is me harping on 1st person again…Here me out, though. In this story, we get 1st person flashbacks of an event integral to the plot. I don’t mind these, in fact, I really liked them. They fleshed out the story in important ways while also building that inherent conflict. However, there was a part in the middle where instead of brief flashbacks that were half a page at most, it went into a detailed backstory that lasted many pages. In that section, I was not a fan. Yeah it was important to the overall story, but to me, it was excessive.

I get it, this is YA and all, but I really didn’t care for the instant love story here. It connects to the flashback, but, yeah, not a fan. I really didn’t like the Lifelike’s “all I do, I do for you” mantra. I get it, he’s a robot and all that, but even when all the shit hits the fan, it felt contrived, too easy. I wish there was a bit more drag, more slowly developed. But eh, that’s just me.


4 out of 5

I really liked this book, I love all of Kristoff’s books, his style just speaks to me. This is a really cool introduction into an intriguing world and I’m interested to see where he goes with it based on the ending.

What I’ve Seen: Dark


Dark, a ten episode Netflix Original Series from Germany.

Brief Summary:

In 2019 a man hangs himself, leaving his son a letter to not be opened until after a specific time and date. The son, after a few traumatizing months in the nuthouse, returns home and heads to school to meet his friends. The same week a boy goes missing. Oh, and this town lives in the shadows of a power plant. When the son and his friends go to the caves where the boy’s drugs are, the youngest of the group disappears. The families are fractured and the search for the missing children unfolds, not where, but when…

What works:

Aside from the obligatory Stranger Things missing boy & weird town vibe/comparison, what really makes Dark amazing is the cinematography and the camera work. This town is eerie as sin and everything within it is creepy. The drone shots of the forest and the cave that is the crux of the story is beautiful, but also dour. The music hits all the creep factors at the correct moments. The constant rain. The setting really is the outstanding character for this series.

That said, I loved the characters – all three timelines worth! (Get to that in a moment) These characters, kids to adults, are so layered, so broken, so normal, so beaten its amazing. There is so much drama, that I hated then loved characters from episode to episode. I yelled at them for their actions, like literally yelled at the screen. Sighed heavily at decisions. That is what makes great TV! Each actor was great, even the minor side characters. The casting was spot on and each actor/actress nailed their roles.

Sidenote, I watched the German version with subtitles, I would suggest doing the same. I personally hate dubs but I think you truly lose the heart of the story if you don’t have it in German.

Holy crap how amazing was the time-travel aspect of this show? I mean it was simply awesome! The fact the show was such a sllllllllloooooooooooooooow build really helped it. You have mysterious strangers knowing things, three timelines, missing children, murders. All across 66 years. Like serious cyclical events happening. It was just downright great, I don’t know how the writers kept their stuff together, but it was flawless. As a viewer, we didn’t know what the heck was going on, which made the mystery all that more gratifying to follow. Even all three timelines (2019, 1986, 1953) had their unique aesthetic to them, just great stuff all around.

One more note on the slow burn aspect. I know most people, especially in the current era, we want instant gratification. We expect to know things quickly. But I thought the slow burn approach to this story was the perfect route to take. When the man hanged himself and left the note, the viewer doesn’t know what’s in it until episode three. That made the mystery worth it. Then we learn the truth about the time-travel, wow. That wouldn’t work if it all happened in the first episode. The luster would have been worn off.

This part might turn off viewers, but I absolutely adored the ending. Even if Netflix doesn’t make a second season, I think the ending was perfect. It doesn’t matter if there are so many cliffhangers, I think that was the point. I want to know who Noah is, what’s with the chair, what he says to Bartosz, when did Jonas go, does Ulrich get back to 2019? Like those are all important questions left open, but the point of the story was the cyclical nature of time. Is there fate or predetermination? Can we change that? Those are the basic questions asked by the show. I think the ending left it open for viewer interpretation and that, in my humble opinion, is brilliant!

What doesn’t work:

Really the one thing that is a bit flawed about this show is the giant cast of characters. Since it is only ten episodes, some characters get lost in the shuffle and their plots are weak (aka older emo son and rebel daughter). The problem is with three timelines and all these characters at different ages, juggling all of them is hard to do. Yes, the show did a great casting job that it is easy to see the transition of who is who over the time periods (moles, destroyed ears, other character traits), but there are so many characters to remember that it can be tough. It never would work if it was a weekly regular TV show.

My only other qualm is there were times when characters kept secrets from others. So the cheating part of Ulrich’s plot was fine. The cop and her husband’s marriage due to the husband’s gay preferences was fine. Those secrets are great story-telling. But there were times when the cop and Ulrich had info that could help solve each other’s case but they danced around the subject and didn’t say what they knew. I get it for drama aspects, but after a few times, it grew annoying. Like just tell them!


5 out of 5.

This show was fantastic. Every episode drew me further and further into this world and I didn’t want it to end. I can be happy with the ending if it stays this way. But I also want more! It was dark (intended), layered, genre-bending. I loved it, nothing more can be said about it.

What I’ve Watched: The 100 S4


Season 4 of The 100 on the CW via Netflix. Latest and most recent season.

Brief Summary:

Picking up immediately after ALLIE was destroyed, Clarke and her friends learn that a second nuclear wave is coming in 6 months. So the scope of the show finally slows in the world-building and reverts back into a smaller scope – how to survive the upcoming fire wave. With no Commander, Roan becomes king of the Grounder clans and with Clarke’s help, they begin to search for a way to save their people (once again). Raven deals with after effects of the AI chip, Jaha wants to redeem himself, Jasper accepts his fate, Bellamy hates himself, and Octavia tries to retreat to a less violent way. In the end, 1300 people can be saved in an underground bunker, some return to space, and Clarke is left on her own.

What Works:

The return to the smaller scope. I loved season 3’s expansion into Grounder lore, but I thought this season was great from the aspect that there was only one true foe, one that wasn’t a human. It gave the characters a common enemy to defeat.

With that said, the whole Grounder conclave was AMAZING. That was probably one of the greatest episodes of TV in some time. Violent, tense, gripping, jaw-dropping. Perfection. Sure the outcome was a bit predictable, but how it happened, didn’t see that coming at all.

Though I was so happy to finally see Jasper go, this season I softened on him from the last one. His death is coming, we should enjoy it attitude was brilliant. I liked how it came over other characters too. And his final goodbye to Monty was fitting.

Super Raven and the return to the Ark. Now that was an awesome thread. Pitting her against ALLIE and Sinclair as her Devil and Angel was pure awesomeness. And throw in her ever perfect love/hate relationship with Murphy, I couldn’t get enough of those scenes. Plus the full circle of characters back in space.

Which leads to the 6 year time jump! Wow, what balls by this show. In the grand scheme of things, the first 4 seasons took place within a 6 month time frame, so to skip 6 years was gutsy. But it sets up the next season by creating factions/groups. I loved it. I can’t wait to see how Octavia did with all the Grounders/Ark people in the bunker. How the 7 back in the Ark. And who the F*ck was in that spaceship???

One thing this season did a great job with was giving nearly all the main characters some sort of redemption thread. Clarke with her stopping ALLIE & starting the reaction saved her friends and then we see her with a child 6 yrs later, Bellamy and Echo, Murphy and Raven, Monty and Jasper, Abby and Kane, Jaha and everyone. All of this against the backdrop of certain doom.

What Doesn’t Work:

While I loved the idea of the second bunker, it almost felt too easy to me. Also, why couldn’t people stay at the bunker where ALLIE’s lab was???

Only other complaint was that the finale episode only focused on Clarke’s group, very little in terms of the bunker. I wanted to see what happened with Kane and the others a bit more.


5 out of 5

This season was just exquiste, there is nothing about this season that could be seen as anything other than awesome. The 100 really took strides forward and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

What I’ve Watched: The 100 S3


Season 3 of The 100 from the CW via Netflix.

Brief Summary:

With the destruction of Mount Weather’s people, the Grounders are allies with the people of the Ark. Clarke is missing, left on her own accord due to her struggle with her decisions. Jasper is a drunk, Bellamy is a leader in his own right, Raven is dealing with her injury, Octavia becoming more a Grounder each day and Monty is being Monty. The peace is hinging on Clarke being found. She is taken to the Grounder leader, Lexa, and forms the peace treaty (while falling in love with Lexa). Also, more Ark survivors are found, causing friction in the camp. Finally an AI plot. Lots going on.

What Works:

Though incredibly frustrating, the introduction of Pike is great for the story as a whole. His whole us vs them ideals are truly indicative of what the world has become. I dig it.

Clarke becomes better in this season, but only because of her plot with Lexa. Clarke, though a great main character, needed something like the Lexa storyline to give her that added oomph. She was fading in season 2 for me and this season she grew on me.

Kane continues to be such a badass character. He wants nothing but peace and will go to any length to get it, a total far-cry from season 1. His character is inspiring.

The AI plot was great. I loved how the City of Light would erase problems, but there were also limits. I thought it was great that the chip had to be taken voluntarily, but then the AI was willing to bend the rules to chip everyone. It was very tense when you didn’t know who was chipped or not.

The continued growth of this world is great. With the expansion of the Grounder faction, the mythos is larger and a deeper well to draw from. I loved the back-stabbing from the Grounder clans, especially the Ice Nation. And that battle with Lexa and Roan, damn. If you couldn’t tell I love Lexa.

Which leads me into this next point. Lexa’s death. I know this is spoilery, but it has to be said. With Lexa and Clarke’s love arc, it was the first true LGBTQ main character on a TV show. Lexa built up Clarke and vice-versa. Lexa was such a great character that her death sparked outrage (mainly due to how she was killed – a stray bullet and the classic “kill all your gays trope”). I get the backlash, her death should have been handled better, but her death was necessary for the character growth in Clarke. I found in incredibly important for the sake of the story for Lexa to die. It really drove home the hero storyline for Clarke – every hero needs a tragedy to overcome. This was that, but I wish it could have lasted longer…

What Doesn’t Work:

…Lexa’s death part two. Her death signaled the shift in plots of this season. The first half was all about Pike & Kane’s differing views on joining the Grounders. There was so much tension and story that could have been mined here. But instead, the show focused on the AI plot for the second half. While that plot worked also, I think the show would have been better served making this two separate season arcs. There was so much that could have been added to strengthen both…

Jaha again. God I hated him, but that was because of how frustrating he was. Though I loved the AI plot, Jaha was so boring and dull for me. I think it would have been stronger if this was another character (see my post about S2).

Bellamy’s decisions. For me, I don’t think Bellamy would have joined with Pike so easily. Yes, Bellamy has his flaws, but this blind devotion seemed forced for me.

Oh my God if I hear another “my people” quote on this show, I’m going to scream! The theme of this season was doing what was right for their people, but good gravy it was beaten in with a hammer. Like every single sentence. DOING THIS FOR MY PEOPLE….ugh. Though it does make for a good drinking game.

The small break with Mount Weather & Jasper. I combine them because they were both useless and unnecessary. Jasper should have killed himself in season 2 (as he was supposed to, but the writers changed their minds last minute) and Emerson coming back didn’t work.


4.5 out of 5

Season 3 was by far its best and most ambitious, but I can’t give a perfect score due to the fact it should have been two separate seasons. Both plots were awesome, but smashing them together was not the right choice, but who am I to say what is good TV.

What I’ve Watched: The 100 S2


Season 2 of The 100 on the CW via Netflix.

Brief Summary:

Picking up immediately after that cliffhanger ending of S1, S2 is all about the people of the Ark adjusting to the ground, and the 100 (those still alive…) stuck under Mount Weather. The mythos of this show is expanded exponentially in this season. Hundreds of people survived the apocalypse under the mountain and they use the blood of the Grounders to heal them using blood transfusions. Though it starts innocently enough, the people under the mountain want to use the blood of the 100. In S1, we are barely told much about the Grounders, but in this season, we learn so much more backstory. Clarke is torn by her decision in the S1 finale and doesn’t know what to do. The people on the Ark must come to learn their new surroundings. And Bellamy (who totally redeemed himself halfway through last season!) must be a secret agent in Mount Weather to save his people.

What Works:

The tension in this show is off the charts. Between the cruel torture of the 100 halfway through the season to Bellamy’s mission, to Clarke’s uneasy alliance with the Grounders, to the back and forth between the adults of the Ark, this show never has a dull moment.

The Grounder introduction and the Mount Weather people really opened the world of this show. There are nuances to each faction and the show could have played it simple and signified who the actual villains are, but there are so many shades of grey, that it was interesting to see what would happen next.

For the sake of redundancy, the fact that this show is willing to kill off annoying characters is awesome, even when they are one of the main players. That character (who shall remain nameless, though its not hard to guess who…) had little purpose in this season that it was good he was killed off quite early (though two episodes too late in my opinion).

John Murphy. Enough said. This guy is awesome as a character. From bit part villain of S1 to major POV, he is so good to watch on screen. A survivor to the core.

The double-crossing is amazing in this show. So much plot thickeners, tension-building and out of left-fielders. I loved it.

What Doesn’t Work:

Jaha’s return. I loved how he sacrificed himself in S1 for the sake of the Ark, but his return (and role in S3) truly was not my bag. I found myself saying “F*cking Jaha” every time I saw him on screen. But then again, that is the mark of a good character I guess. I just wish they could have used someone else for the role he plays.

The YA return in Mount Weather for spurts. I loved the Mount Weather plot, but there were times it was so teenage high school film style that it didn’t fit with the theme of the show. And Jasper’s instant falling in love with that girl was too YA for me. (But I liked Jasper later in the season)


4.5 out of 5

While there is so much more going on in this season than the first, it wasn’t as strong. But that is only by mere decimal points. Season 2 was very good and thought-provoking, asking the difficult questions survival would entail. It set up the series for much more in the following seasons.

What I’ve Watched: The 100 S1


Season 1 of The 100 on CW via Netflix. This was a second viewing (in a month) in anticipation of the 4th season being released (and to get my wife to watch it so I would shut up with my raving about this show…)

Brief Summary:

After the remnants of mankind escape nuclear destruction by forming a giant ark in space (truly, this spaceship is called the Ark), new rules must be enforced to ensure the survival of the species. So whenever a crime is committed, the person is floated – unless they are under 18 years old. The story picks up as the Ark is running out of air. So 100 18yr-old criminals are sent to Earth to determine if the ground is survivable. There are two plot arcs in this season – one on Earth and one on the Ark. And these are two completely different story-types – Earth = YA, Ark = A. But the lines get blurry. Lots of trials and tribulations happen to both parties and the season ends with the 100 realizing they are not alone on Earth.

What Works:

Episode 3 onward. Let me explain. The first two episodes start out super Young Adult style. Bunch of teenagers loose on Earth with no parents, straight Lord of the Flies. There is the obligatory Imagine Dragons song, the young vixen who rebels strips to her boy-briefs while two sex-crazed boys goggle, the older rebel boy wants to be in charge, the main character starts to develop the feels for the cool kid. All of that happens and though the first episode ends on a WTF moment that you don’t see coming, the show doesn’t shed that YA stuff until episode three when a semi-main character gets his throat cut by an unsuspecting character. From then on, this show goes dark with its themes and that works so well.

The dichotomy of the 100 and the people on the Ark (the parents and adults) are great. The Ark scenes are straight Sci-Fi and are very heavy. With the Ark dying, people need to be culled from it for the sake of the species. Those are questions that you normally don’t see on YA shows and I love it. The 100 on the ground are completely different. They all go back to our baser instincts as humans – survival. But varying degrees of it. Some characters want to do “whatever the hell they want” while others want to ensure they survive. It is a style of story that truly brings the viewer in deep.

Without going into spoilers, the introduction of other humans on the ground (called Grounders…come on its YA!) is excellent story-building and tension. The vixen character from above, sheds that stereotype when this happens and she becomes one of my favorite characters, as well as it creates the sibling tension of the older rebel brother.

Raven & Kane are such great layered characters. Though she gets so much better in later seasons, I loved Raven from the get. She was the kickass female without having to play to the stereotypes you would expect from YA. And Kane, holy crap what a character. He starts out the villain, turns good, then villain again, then again. He goes from hated to loved to hated. I love it!

The level of blood is great here. Even though they don’t go crazy this season with the gore, the show doesn’t shy away from it (mentioned above). This is important because a show like this needs violence.

What Doesn’t Work:

Clarke and Finn. I know  I know. Clarke is the main character – smart, leader, asskicker – but I find myself leaning toward other characters much more than her. The first season she is a strong character, but as the show moves on, I find myself caring less about her and more about the story. This is just my thoughts though. And Finn, ughhhh. He is annoying, but I can see why the intended audience would like him.

Abby Griffin. Clarke’s mother is a frustrating character (and trust me, she doesn’t get better). I mean she was April frickin O’neil from Ninja Turles II Secret of the Ooze, but in this show she flip flops her beliefs way too much for me.


5 out 5.

I absolutely love this show! I was hooked from the end of episode 1, but it took until episode 3 to truly make me a fanboy. And upon second viewing, I love it even more.