Friday, August 29, 2008

Proof That I Will Whore For Books

Wow - that picture turned out bigger than I thought it would be. Ahem.

I've heard good things about Nalini Singh about her paranormal series about were-people and psychics. Reading the descriptions, they sounded more like science fiction, but the two genres blend often enough, so who I am to quibble?

Anyway, she's having a contest in honour of her new book Hostage to Pleasure, and part of the contest is for me to blog about which fictional hero I'd like to hold hostage. If I get picked, I win a $75 book gift certificate. Yes, I will do anything for books (see the Julie Ann Long widget on my blog, that's for a contest, too).

Right now, the only character I can think of who I'd like to hold hostage would be Simon from Julia Quinn's The Duke & I. Not because he's particularly sexy (although he has he charms), but so that I can yell at him. Warning - spoilers ahead. In The Duke & I, he tells the love of his life Daphne that he refuses to marry or have children. When he eventually marries Daphne anyway to spare her reputation, he still refuses to have children (he relies on the time-honoured "pullout" method of birth control). The reason he refuses to do this? Because his Mean Ol' Daddy loved the Dukedom that Simon inherits and was obsessed with the idea of continuing his line.

Simon hates his Mean Ol' Daddy and says, "Well, I'm not going to marry or have kids and then the Dukedom will go out of the family! HAHA DADDY I WIN!"

So basically, I would like the chance to hold him hostage, preferably tying him to a chair so I can scream at him "ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?" Seriously. You're not having kids because your dad would like it? Your dad is DEAD. Who gives a shit about your dad? I mean, he has a reason to hate his dad (he was truly an asshole of the highest calibre), but this whole mysterious "I can never have children" thing, that will basically determine how he lives his life and how he lives his life with DAPHNE is based on a plan to spite someone who isn't even in the world of the LIVING anymore, well, it speaks to very dark, serious psychological problems that I would love to beat out of him.

And then, of course, I would invite Daphne in and than leave the room so that she can properly show him how fun baby-Duke-making can be.

Can you guess I'm a little peeved at emo, emo Simon? Just a tad. At least he marries a nice gal.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

"The Secret Pearl," by Mary Balogh

The Chick: Isabella Fleur Bradshaw - a.k.a. "Fleur Hamilton." Starving on the streets of London after fleeing from her obsessive cousin and trumped-up criminal charges, Fleur is forced to rely on the ultimate last resort to keep herself alive: prostitution.
The Rub: While she miraculously lands a job as a governess only days after selling her virginity, she is appalled to discover her new boss is none other than her first (and only) john!
Dream Casting: I read the description and thought immediately of Amy Adams - only slightly younger.

The Dude:
Adam Kent, Duke of Ridgeway. Dealing with frustrations in his personal life, he purchases a whore to vent his pent-up emotions on. Afterwards, taking pity on her (and feeling slightly guilty) he orders his personal secretary to hire her on as a governess for his daughter, Pamela.
The Rub: He's scarred from the Battle of Waterloo, but worse, he's married - to a woman who makes no secret of her preference for his younger brother, who was briefly Duke in his place while Adam was MIA after Waterloo.
Dream Casting: I was in a bit of an Enchanted mood while reading this, so I pictured Patrick Dempsey (with a scar), but Clive Owen would suit just as well.

The Plot:

Fleur: I need food!

Adam: I need sex!

Adam and Fleur: *unpleasant deflowering*

Adam's Secretary: You're hired!

Fleur: You couldn't have shown up any sooner, like, before I had to sell my body? Who's my boss?


Fleur: SHIT.

Matthew, Fleur's Creepy Cousin: Aha! Found you!


Adam: Hey, Matthew, creepy-pervs-whose-charges-against-their-cousins-are-totally-bogus-say-what?

Matthew: What? DAMMIT! *flees*

Adam: Fleur, you're finally safe, but we can never be together because I have a duty to my wife and my family.

Fleur: I understand.

Sybil: *throws self in lake* Splash!

Adam and Fleur: Hurray!

Romance Convention Checklist:

1 Orphaned Hooker with a Heart of Gold
1 Perverted Cousin

1 Case of *cough, cough* Convenient Consumption

2 False Accusations

1 Cheating Wife

1 Caddish Younger Brother

1 Noticeable But Still Sexy Facial Scar

1 Precocious Child

The Word:
In a word: exquisite. This book is probably my favourite historical romance of all time, and it's right at the top of the list of absolute favourite romances, period. And I knew this about fifty pages in. It almost made me want to go back and change all my previous A reviews because they weren't nearly on the same level with this one. It's that good.

Adam Kent, Duke of Ridgeway, comes out of a theatre and sees a woman in the shadows. He recognizes her as a whore, but a newly-minted one: thin, dull-eyed, and dressed only in a wrinkled blue silk dress, she offers no lures, uses no sexual wiles, or makes any real attempt to sell herself (pun intended). He purchases her anyway for reasons known only to himself. He buys a room in a cheap inn, orders her to take her clothes off and lie on the bed, and then he uses her. I really mean the word uses - he doesn't rape or (intentionally) hurt her, but this is no love-and-roses-and-miraculous-first-orgasm deflowering as is common in lesser romances. He has sex with her to vent his own lusts and frustrations and anger and gives no thought whatsoever to her comfort or needs. After the act is finished, he buys her supper and pays her triple her asking price.

However, after sending her on her way, he feels a strange responsibility for her. He knows she was a virgin when he bought her, and could tell from her behaviour that prostitution was her very last and very desperate resort. He decides to send his secretary to the nearest London employment agency to wait for someone matching Fleur's description to show up, with the intention of hiring her as a governess for his young daughter Pamela, who currently lives on his country estate.

Fleur, meanwhile, rouses herself from the depths of despair into which she sank after her foray into prostitution to visit said employment agency, and is overjoyed to be offered the job, although she is unaware of who her true employer really is. Hopeless and starving and on the run from nasty relatives, she had sold herself because her only option was survival. While she can't help but wish that the job offer had come only a few days earlier, she is determined to be the best governess possible and completely forget that one horrible night when she irrevocably lost her gentlewoman status and became a whore.

However, she can't forget. While her job is easy (Pamela's indulgent and lavish mother and elderly nurse insist the child is too delicate for rigorous learning), Fleur has terrifying recurring nightmares about the dark, ugly, scarred man who took her virginity for himself in a night of abasement and selfish pleasure. However, in the daytime she comforts herself with the fact that she will never see him again.

However, Adam finds himself obligated to return to his country estate when he hears that his wife, Sybil, is preparing another raucous and extravagant party for her select (and notoriously indiscrete) circle of friends in his absence. Their relationship is strained, mainly because she is a Big Fat Ho who takes several lovers but won't let Adam touch her. He decides he has to return to keep an eye on her - and also, secretly, to see how Fleur is doing in her new position.

When Fleur finally discovers the true identity of her employer, her feelings of horror and revulsion are beyond words. Frankly, she's about as unwilling as Sybil for Adam to touch her, although Adam makes no attempt to try. While she could always quit, she really has nowhere else to go and her nasty relatives could still be looking for her.

I think the main reason I adored this book is because it highlighted the difference between sexy and romantic. Lots of romances these days (mostly in contemporary but now in historicals as well), the two go hand in hand. Two people meet, fall in instant lust, have lots of sex and accidentally fall in love later. I prefer romantic, and Balogh shows how sexual attraction is good for romance, but not immediately necessary.

Fleur and Adam's first sexual encounter is one of the least sexy, attractive, or fun sex scenes I've ever read, and intentionally so. Although Adam is not cruel or hurtful, the context of the experience and Adam's self-gratifying method traumatize Fleur and leave her with a deep-seated fear not only of Adam, but of sex itself. Fleur, for several chapters after their reunion at Adam's country estate, is both psychologically and physically repulsed by Adam. None of this, "oh I do so hate that tiresome but secretly sexy manly man" hatred that almost immediately turns into passionate, uncontrollable attraction two chapters later, but serious, terrifying hatred. Seeing him makes her want to throw up.

The encounter isn't a cakewalk for Adam either. He almost immediately feels guilty for what he's done, not only because he cheated on his wife, but because he tried to lose his strangled emotions of self-loathing and loneliness in mindless sex, only for it to make him feel worse. While his marriage is pretty much a sham, he was in love with his wife once and he dotes on his daughter and so he resumes his duties to his marriage vows with all the strength he can muster.

The barriers separating Adam and Fleur are numerous and realistic and not at all contrived. None of this "I can't love you because your cousin's hairdresser's dog's groomer's brother killed my brother in a duel" bullshit. Adam and Fleur are intensely noble, loving, and, yes, moral people who are not willing to throw societal expectations and marital obligations to the winds in the face of their growing affection. But grow their affection does, and in wonderful, subtle ways. The Secret Pearl is a long book as far as romances go, so Balogh has plenty of room for Adam and Fleur to slowly and naturally lose their fears around each other and develop something more for each other.

All of this, of course, is paired with superb characterization and a gorgeously-described historical setting. None of the novel's villains (Sybil, Adam's brother Thomas, and Fleur's cousin Matthew) are permitted to be cartoonish, because that, in turn, would cheapen Fleur and Adam's own inhibitions. While the villains' actions are despicable and selfish, their motivations are undestandable or at least realistic - particularly with Sybil. With the first couple of chapters, I was convinced she was the Evil Whore Wife who cared only for her own carnal pleasure and whose fate was sealed from the very first Significant Dry Cough. However, by the end of the novel, while her actions are in no way less hurtful or immoral than they were before, her tragic history provides a reasonable and understandable motivation for her actions and makes her simply a misguided and sad human being with a story of her own, rather than a cardboard ho for the heroine to knock over on her way into the hero's arms.

Besides two sex scenes, and about a dozen kisses, Adam and Fleur share no other sexual contact. Since their first sexual act was so traumatic, their love for each other has to develop and exist independent of lust. It made the few moments when they were intimate that much more romantic and significant. This was a sweet, addictive, beautiful and satisfying read from start to finish, and I'll definitely be checking out Mary Balogh's backlist. It was not a very sexy read, but it was very romantic, and I found I enjoyed it more because of it. A+.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

"Sweet Talk," by Susan Mallery

The Chick: Claire Keyes, a world-renowned piano prodigy who returns to Seattle to help her fraternal twin Nicole and lend a hand at their famous Keyes bakery while Nicole recovers from gallbladder surgery.
The Rub: Her sisters (particularly Nicole) hate her guts for how her amazing musical talent broke up their family, and now even her amazing piano talent is pretty much moot thanks to increasing panic attacks when she tries to play.
Dream Casting: While reading this, I imagined Without a Trace's Poppy Montgomery.

The Dude:
Wyatt Knight (holy shit, I didn't realize how hilarious his name is until just now), Nicole's supportive, loving, and (soon-to-be-ex) brother-in-law, who wants to help Nicole through everything but also has a successful construction job and a deaf daughter to take up his time.
The Rub: All he knows about Claire is what Nicole's told him over the years, which has been nearly completely negative. Also nurses the heartbreak of his ex-wife leaving him three months after their daughter was born.
Dream Casting: Firefly's Nathan Fillion. Manly? Check. Rugged? Check. Hot? Double-check!

The Plot:

Claire: Hi Nicole! I flew in from New York! I can help!

Nicole: Really? Can you un-infect my gallbladder and make my husband an un-adulterer? I don't need any help from an egotistical, useless, manipulative, lazy...

All Nicole's Friends/Coworkers: ... narcissistic, selfish, pampered...

Wyatt: ... uncaring, ignorant, cold bitch like you!

Claire: *sniffle* But I brought muffins.

Nicole: Okay, you can stay. For a while.

Wyatt: Nicole says Claire is mean, and Nicole knows everything. And my heart was broken by a woman - surely all women are exactly the same!

Wyatt's Deaf Daughter: *signing* I need a babysitter/mom. Don't be a moron.

Claire, Deaf Daughter: *happy fun times*

Wyatt and Claire: *sexx0r*

Claire: I'm pregnant! Hurrah!

Wyatt: DAMMIT! All women are the same! How come all the women I fall in love with are capable of getting pregnant?

Nicole and Claire: *double-team sister glare*

Wyatt: Never mind. Marry me!

Romance Convention Checklist:
1 No-Good Cheating Husband

1 Relationship-Aiding Child

1 Deflowering (sans birth control, nice)

1 Use of Designer Shoe as a Weapon

2 Surgeries

1 Coming-Of-Age

The Word:
Man, and I thought my sisters and I didn't get along. Meet the Keyes sisters - fraternal twins Nicole and Claire, and younger sister Jesse. At the age of three, Claire displayed a miraculous talent with the piano, and her life changed. By the time she was six, she was taken away by her grandmother to develop her talent and start touring. While she amassed fame and fortune, she lived a rigidly scheduled, limited, and lonely life. Her demanding manager controls nearly every aspect of her life, she's grown up with no idea how to cook, clean, or drive, she barely remembers which hotel she stays in anymore, and to top it all off the stress of her clockwork existence is giving her panic attacks which prevent her from playing. She misses her home and her sisters, and longs for a life with family and warmth.

However, her sister Nicole sees things differently. Left behind to practically raise their younger sister Jesse and take over the household chores and the bakery after their mother left to tour with Claire, Nicole lived a life of sacrifice and hard work. Nicole looks at Claire's life and sees it as one of wealth, excitement, and ease, and bitterly resents how she got left behind to deal with the dirty work. She blames Claire for the hard life she's led and has convinced herself (and others) that Claire is a worthless, pampered, and egotistical princess-bitch.

Now, when Claire receives a phone call from Jesse telling her to come home, she's elated. Jesse informs her, rather vaguely, that Nicole is about to have invasive surgery and will need someone to help around the house and with the bakery while she recovers. Normally Jesse would, but things are "complicated." Glowing with happiness at the opportunity to reunite with her family, Claire practically floats over to Seattle, only to run into a rather nasty surprise.

Not only has Nicole not requested Claire come home, but Claire is just the rotten, mouldy cherry on top of the shit-sundae that has been Nicole's life recently. On top of the painful surgery, Nicole recently caught Jesse, naked, in bed with her husband Drew. After throwing out one backstabbing sibling, the last thing Nicole needs is another one to show up in her place.

While incredibly hurt, Claire also grows a spine. Instead of slinking back to New York with her tail between her legs, she refuses to waste what just might be her last chance to reconnect with her family and she stays put. Her efforts are hampered by the fact that Nicole, having grown up in the neighbourhood and with the bakery, has predisposed almost everyone she knows into believing Claire is a manipulative, thoughtless, and entitled woman who abandoned her family to be famous.

One of those predisposed people in Wyatt Knight - Nicole's best friend, confidante, and stepbrother of Nicole's soon-to-be-ex-husband. He's attracted to Claire nearly on sight and is appalled at his body's reaction. He loves Nicole and trusts her implicitly, albeit only in a brotherly way, and as Nicole has spent years painting a completely unflattering portrait of Claire, he has no reason to disbelieve it and feels guilty for lusting after someone he holds responsible for Nicole's hard life. If he had his way, Nicole wouldn't need Claire's help at all, but he also has a business and a deaf daughter to take care of, so he can't tend to Nicole the way she needs to be.

This novel would not have worked at all with lesser characterization. Claire, as the main character, holds the story together and keeps it working. While ignorant of many things thanks to her hyperfocused prodigy lifestyle, Claire is a kind-hearted, determined, and sweet individual. Even though she barely knows how to open the trunk of her car, she admits what she doesn't know and then learns how to do it, which keeps her from looking like a bubble-headed ditz. Claire doesn't win people over by being particularly brilliant or clever - she wins people over by continuing to be cheerful and sunny even after the nasty things people say to her.

Nicole is a harder character to like, but it's integral to the novel's plot that we eventually do. The first half of the novel is a little frustrating as Nicole either blames Claire for things that aren't really Claire's fault, or acts on envious (and often ignorant and inaccurate) assumptions of Claire's supposedly fabulous life. It's especially difficult as the novel is told mostly from Claire's point of view (and only rarely from Nicole's), so the audience has a full view of the kind, loving, and determined nature of Claire but only the barest of glimpses into why Nicole insists on insulting her. However, the second half of the novel, as Nicole begins to thaw, she's revealed as a woman who finds it easier to be angry and believe the worst than to trust someone and only be disappointed.

Third sister Jesse is a little waffley - she spends most of her "screentime" crying, begging forgiveness, losing her temper at not being immediately forgiving, and denying sleeping with Nicole's husband while at the same time refusing to explain what actually happened. It's obvious that the truth behind Jesse and Drew is being saved for her own book (Sweet Trouble), but it doesn't make her character any more understandable in this one.

You may find it odd that I've discussed the heroine and her sister more than I have the hero. Well, this is an interesting novel in that the romance doesn't exactly claim centre stage as much as I thought it would. The way I read the novel, most of the story deals with how Claire and Nicole overcome their differences and how Claire becomes a more well-rounded human being than with how Claire and Wyatt get it on. I also felt the relationship between Claire and Nicole to be better written and developed than Claire and Wyatt's relationship.

The biggest reason Wyatt doesn't want to get involved with Claire is because of the picture Nicole's painted of her. As Claire's actual behavior erodes away opinions built on hearsay, most of the obstacles Claire and Wyatt face are Claire's social inexperience and Wyatt's previous experience with heartbreak. Wyatt possesses a mild example of the "all women are alike" cliche - after being betrayed by the mother of his child, he's pursued by the haunting (and irrational) suspicion that every woman he meets will eventually do the same. Claire and Wyatt's relationship is a little uneven, and if it had taken up more room in the novel I probably wouldn't have liked it nearly as much. As it was, it played an entertaining second-fiddle. Claire finding love is merely one part of how Claire comes out of her shell and becomes a person and a sister, rather than just a prodigy. Sweet Talk was an incredibly fun read, and I look forward to reading the sequels, Sweet Spot (which deals with Nicole) and Sweet Trouble (Jesse's side of the story). B+

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

A So Bad It's Good Movie Review: "S.S. Doomtrooper," a.k.a. "Harry Van Gorkum Is An Indestructible Badass "

Yes, I know, I've done so many romance novel reviews that it's been forever since I've done a movie review. But I had to do this one - it was terrible. Terribly hilarious-awesome, I mean. Is it bad? Oh yes, it's bad. But let me describe it for you beyond the shallow labels of "terrible dialogue," "illogical plot," and "ridiculous production values."

It's World War II, and Nazi Lieutenant Reinhardt (Kirk B R Woller) arrives at a bizarre, possibly Mayan Temple-ish fortress inexplicably situated in the middle of France. He's come to inspect the laboratory of Eeeeevil Nazi Mad Scientist Professor Ullman (Ben Cross - who looks like Christopher Lloyd and Willem Dafoe had one crazy-ass baby), who has been working on an experiment to defeat the Allies.

Professor Ullman, having received his Ph.D in Eeeeevil Nazi Mad Science, knows intimately the two driving forces behind the science responsible for super villains and Frankensteins the world over: Radiation and Lightning. Boring, real-world science would tell you that these things, when applied to the human body, would give it nothing more than a painful slow death (cancer) or a painful quick death (electrocution), but Eeeevil Nazi Mad Science knows better. Ullman's combined the power of both electricity and split atoms in a contraption that looks like an Easy Bake Oven if designed for boys (it even has the dim light bulb on the inside). When tried out on one of Reinhardt's men, it swells him up like a piece of purple, glowing popcorn and turns him into a poorly-animated monster with disproportionately enormous arms. Look out, Allies!

Meanwhile, the Allies (comprised of two generals - one with a Passable British Accent and one with a Terrible British Accent), catching wind of the Nazis' dastardly plans, have called in crackerjack American soldier Captain Malloy (Corin Nemec, of Stargate SG-1) to assemble an equally crackerjack team to find this secret lab and destroy it. They inform Malloy that both sides of the war have been experimenting with atomic radiation, and while the Americans have been working on a bomb capable of destroying an entire city (Malloy makes a gallant effort to not to look at the camera and keep a straight face as he says, "A bomb destroy a city? I don't believe it!"), the Nazis have built a lab and are creating Big Nazi Monsters.

Normally, the Allies would just send planes to bomb the shit out of the place, but the Nazis, along with their Eeeevil Nazi Mad Science program, also have an Eeevil Nazi Advanced Radar System that spots and destroys planes with perfect accuracy. When Malloy shows up with his men, Terrible British Accent exclaims, with the obliviousness of Captain Obvious, "This is the biggest team of misfits I've ever seen!" Well, no shit! Can you think of any other type of team capable of foiling the plans of Eeeevil Nazi Mad Scientists?

The team is as follows:

Sergeant Digger (Harry Van Gorkum, who has previous experience in dealing with poorly-animated monsters as Lord Ossric from Dragonheart II): Friends with Malloy (they fought together in North Africa), he volunteers for the job.
Expertise: Explosives. Is also invincible. And AWESOME.
Best Quote: "There is no problem in the world that can't be solved with the proper application of explosives."
Fatal Flaw: Partially deaf thanks to blowing things up too much.
Dies By: Blowing himself up to destroy the Eeeevil Nazi Advanced Radar System, after being shot in the back by a --- OHSHITWAIT HE'S ALIVE! HELL YEAH!

Corporal Johnson (Jonas Talkington): Another person who volunteers for the job, inexplicably.
Expertise: Volunteering for stupid things, and dying first.
Best Quote/Final Words: "We could go up! Yeah, c'mon!"
Fatal Flaw: Sheer stupidity.
Dies By: Being shot by the Big Nazi Monster while trying to climb a ladder to safety.

Corporal Porter (Raicho Vasilev): an army thug convicted for "getting into fights" who is recruited in exchange for a pardon.
Expertise: Hitting people. No, seriously.
Best Quote: "I like to fight ... with my hands. I like to hit people, sir."
Fatal Flaw: Inability to identify situations in which hitting people is not a solution.
Dies By: Being maimed by the Big Nazi Monster after punching it in the face.

Private Andy Papadakis, a.k.a. "Pop-Up" (Asen Blatechki): a convicted felon recruited for the mission in return for a pardon. His exact crime is unknown, although presumably it's for killing people.
Expertise: Sharpshooting - "120 confirmed kills" (he says this with such an uncomfortably smarmy face I'm guessing not all the kills were for the war).
Best Quote: Pop-Up: "You ain't deserting, quitting, or doing anything else other than finishing this mission." Lewis: "Oh yeah, how're you gonna stop me?" Pop-Up: "I'll shoot you in your face."
Fatal Flaw: Uh - he smokes cigarettes?
Dies By: Being shot in the eye (through his gun's viewfinder!) by a Nazi sniper after Rhys-Jones fails to cover him.

Private Rhys-Jones, a.k.a. Jones (John Newton, who resembles Adrian Pasdar's gay cousin): a dandy aristocrat ("37th in line for the throne of England!") who was arrested for impersonating a high-ranking British general. Fights in return for a pardon.
Expertise: Languages and impersonation.
Best Quote/Final Words: "I will accept your surrender, as long as the person responsible for shooting me in the bum comes forward and apologizes."
Fatal Flaw: Cowardice.
Dies By: Firing squad of angry Germans after he shoots their base with a bazooka as a distraction to allow Malloy and the others to infiltrate it.

Private Parker Lewis (James Pomichter): A young recruit busted for stealing Jeeps, who joined in the hope that he'll receive a pardon so he can return and work in his father's bagel shop. Expertise: Can hot-wire/drive any vehicle
Best Quote: "Stupid Joimans!"
Fatal Flaw: Atrocious Jersey accent.
Dies By: Electrocution while hot-wiring the Easy Bake Oven of Doom - head promptly explodes.

Anyway, Malloy's team gets the go-ahead because, really, the Allies have no other option. The team boards a plane, but are forced to bail out when Nazis shoot down their transport. Digger, Lewis, Malloy, Porter and Jones all end up together, but Pop-Up and Johnson land elsewhere. Aware of the American presence, Nazi Lieutenant Reinhardt agrees to let Ullman try out their new Big Nazi Monster to see if it plays well with others.

Pop-Up and Johnson run into the Big Nazi Monster first. Johnson, being a moron, dashes out of hiding for no reason and crosses the monster's path to get to a ladder and is promptly shot. Yes, shot. The Nazis spent all this time and money turning a soldier into a behemoth capable of tearing people apart with its bare hands and they give it a gun. And a helmet that covers its face - either it was too expensive to animate facial expressions or it has some sort of Phantom of the Opera thing going for it, either way, it looks like a Boss from a Playstation One first-person shooter.

Pop-Up is saved when the others arrive and distract the Big Nazi Monster with grenades so that they can make a quick getaway. Meanwhile, Reinhardt gives Ullman tentative congratulations on his creation of a successful killing machine and sends a contingent of men to recover it. Ullman, sotto voce to his evil female assistant (whom we know is evil because she is blond and wears bright red lipstick, the whore), rather dourly reveals that they'll most likely end up killed by the monster as well. He didn't create the monster to please the lieutenant, he says, he created a monster to win the war. Well, he's a crazy scientist, what did you expect?

The Nazis overtake the Big Nazi Monster and attempt to relate to it with a rousing chorus of "Sieg Heil!" (the Nazi kumbaya, doncha know). Big Nazi Monster does not like rousing choruses, and proceeds to fry their leader with electricity that comes out of its hands and then shoots the rest with its redundant gun. One Nazi escapes.

While all this has been going on, our intrepid heroes have discovered the hideout of the French resistance, led by Mariette (Marianne Filali) who is friendly-French and Jean-Michele (Julian Bailey) who is nasty-French. Mariette offers helpful advice and informs our heroes of the sinister goings-on at the Eeeevil Secret Nazi Lab and the Big Nazi Monster's apparent invulnerability to harm. Jean-Michele makes sarcastic comments and makes overly-loud quips like "Stupide Americains!" Lewis suddenly remembers he's from "Joisey" and calls Jean-Michele a "joik" with a "croissant up his ass." That's some classy writing right there.

No one knows how to kill the monster, and everyone's running out of ammo, and the lab itself is incredibly tightly guarded, so Mariette suggests that the Americans take over a nearby ammunition depot - either to steal ammo and guns and explosives from it, or use the depot itself as a giant bomb to destroy the Big Nazi Monster.

The scintillating dialogue is interrupted by the Big Nazi Monster, who drops in on the secret hide-out completely unannounced. Everyone in the rooms shoots at it, to no avail, but brave meat-head Corporal Porter buys time for our heroes to escape by punching the Big Nazi Monster in the face. Sure, bullets and grenades don't work, but surely his manly meaty fists will! Sadly, neither him nor his fists fare well by the Big Nazi Monster, but the rest of the men are able to flee, along with two surviving members of the French resistance (read: the only ones to get any lines) - Mariette and Jean-Michele.

Meanwhile, Nazi Reinhardt is none too pleased about the Big Nazi Monster killing German soldiers. In an oddly intelligent move for a Bad Movie Authority Figure, he immediately recognizes that an indiscriminate killer does not make a useful weapon and orders the experiment's termination. Ullman responds by shooting him and his bodyguard point-blank in the chest. Oh well, that's what you get for making responsible decisions in a Bad Science Fiction movie!

The heroes decide the best way to get into the depot is to steal a tank. Easy enough - while Pop-Up readies his rifle on a nearby empty building, the rest of our band sneaks behind a slow-moving tank, trying to look inconspicuous. Despite Jones, who suddenly goes squirrelly and starts disobeying simple orders for no reason, they kill the tank drivers and Lewis gets in the driver's seat just in time for the Big Nazi Monster to show up. Distracting the monster with a tank-bullet straight in the gut, our heroes flee the scene yet again.

Arriving at the weapons depot, Jones (fresh from a stiff-upper-lip talking-to by Digger on looking out for one's teammates), impersonates a German to gain entry. When his creativity runs out and the Nazis get suspicious, Lewis leaps out of the tank and proceeds to slaughter them all with a machine gun. He misses two (somehow), but before our heroes get aerated loyal sniper Pop-Up takes them out with a merry wink at the camera. Digger shows up on scene with a drawn gun a full minute after the gunfire ends, with a slightly guilty look, to remind the audience that yes, he is Deaf, and has merely used his Sheer Awesomeness to comprehend the whispered commands and quiet noises directed at him up until now.

The plan is set - lure the Big Nazi Monster into the weapons depot, sneak out the back, and the blow the whole place to kingdom come. Waiting for the Big Nazi Monster, Jean-Michele and Lewis share an actual moment of camaraderie when Lewis reveals his post-war plan of making bagels with his dad. Jean-Michele looks surprised, and reveals that he, too, is a baker. United in their love of dough and yeast, their moment of boundary-crossing friendship is broken by the appearance of the Big Nazi Monster, who has been led to the depot by Malloy, Mariette, and a flamethrower.

Big Nazi Monster chases our heroes through the front door of the depot, but gets suspicious and turns back. However, our heroes (Jean-Michele in particular) remember in the nick of time to block the front door. Miffed, Big Nazi Monster uses his inexplicable electrical powers to zap the door from the inside - which doesn't open the door, but does French-fry Jean-Michele into a comical animated skeleton. Digger comforts Mariette by giving her the switch to blow up the depot. An enormous explosion ensues, complete with swirling coloured sparks that look suspiciously like fireworks.

Now that the depot (and, presumably, the Big Nazi Monster) are destroyed, our heroes' next task is to infiltrate the Eeeeevil Nazi Mad Science Lab to prevent more monsters from being created (unbeknownst to them, the Eeeevil Nazi Mad Scientist is already readying three more soldiers for the Easy Bake Oven of Doom). Crawling through a snowy forest, a German pop song wafts through the air, indicating that there are (dancing?) Nazis nearby. Pop-Up is sent out to eliminate the guard, and Jones is tasked with covering him.

It is now that Jones' stiff upper lip goes flaccid and he panics, trembling and sitting on his ass as his comrades look on in disgust and Pop-Up proceeds unprotected. Pop-Up, one of the more rational characters in the film, is rewarded for saving Jones' life by being killed by Jones' cowardice. To be fair, however, he's murdered by a truly excellent sniper - milliseconds away from firing his weapon, he's shot cleanly through the eye through the viewfinder of his own gun.

Stiff upper lip totally limp now, Jones makes a run for it, only to be shot about two seconds later and collapse. Only now realizing that Jones is a liability, his former comrades (at the behest of Malloy and Digger, whose stiff upper lip is still perfectly intact) leave his body under a tree with a vague promise to come back for him. A few minutes later, Jones comes to his senses, and pulls out his family crest which miraculously caught the bullet that should have killed him, and rolls his eyes as if even he is exasperated with the turn the plot has taken.

With Jones' acting expertise compromised by the lead projectile which seemingly punctured his chest, Malloy and Lewis are forced to try out their best German accents to try and fool the Eeeevil Nazi Mad Science lab guards. Dressed in dead soldiers' uniforms, driving a stolen jeep and armed with confiscated French booze, the best they can manage is "jah" as they try to distract the Nazis with a particularly fruity vintage. Lewis' "Joiman" accent is even worse than his "Joisey" accent.

However, it is at this point that Jones is able to redeem himself. Left behind by the others, he reaches the lab later and, pulling a bazooka seemingly out of his ass, fires on the lab, distracting the soldiers from the two Germans who seemingly know no German words that aren't "yes," "very good" and "wine." The Germans pour out of the lab like ants from an anthill and Jones is not only soon surrounded, but quickly finished off with a firing squad. Normal Bad Movie Henchman protocol is to take suspicious, smartass suspects with hidden talents prisoner instead of killing them outright, but apparently these must be the men of the Late Lieutenant, similarly trained in uncharacteristic common sense.

Now freed from undue scrutiny, Lewis and Malloy and Mariette (hidden with Digger in the back of the stolen jeep until now) stand watch, as Digger sets up the bomb underneath the Eeevil Nazi Advanced Radar System. However, Digger is spotted, and not hearing Malloy's warning thanks to his faulty hearing, is shot in the back. Wounded, he kills his attacker, but the gunshots attract the rest of the Nazi troops.

Malloy, Mariette, and Lewis, very much outnumbered, prepare to flee into the lab itself, entreating Digger to join them. But Digger is a badass, and his stiff upper lip bows to no man. In the name of Queen and Country, Digger valiantly throws the switch to the bomb - blowing up the Eeevil Nazi Advanced Radar System, while he is still underneath it. It looks like the end of him.

Our rapidly-dwindling band of heroes reach the lab and are almost immediately recognized and apprehended by the Blond Nazi Whore. They are escorted to the Easy Bake Oven of Doom, where they are treated to a lecture by Professor Ullman on the genius of his work, etc. etc. A demonstration of the Easy Bake Oven of Doom was also on the schedule but Malloy steals a gun and shoots the soldier/intended labrat dead before the Oven can work. Ullman's ointment attracts further flies when the Big Nazi Monster, still alive and perfectly healthy, busts into the lab and fries the Blond Nazi Whore, and events start happening faster. Lewis is finally shot, but in his final moments managed to hotwire the Easy Bake Oven of Doom, which hilariously causes Lewis' head to explode. Malloy shoots Ullman, and then fries the Big Nazi Monster with the hotwired Easy Bake Oven of Doom. As the Big Nazi Monster begins to dissolve into glowing monster chunks, Malloy and Mariette exit stage right.

Meanwhile, the Eeevil Nazi Advanced Radar System is a smoking, twisted wreckage, but underneath - LO AND BEHOLD! Digger is not only alive, but completely unharmed! With a merry wink, he dons his battered red beret, extricates himself from the debris, shoots some Nazis, and escapes with Malloy and Mariette. Through Sheer Awesomeness, his gunshot wound has vanished - there isn't even a hole in the back of his uniform. Malloy and Mariette are both suitably overjoyed at discovering their immortal badass companion is still immortal, and still badass. As our heroes flee into the woods, the fortress dissolves in a giant sphere of radioactive light that looks like an updated version of the lensflare option in Photoshop.

Malloy reports in to his superiors - not only were the Big Nazi Monster and the Easy Bake Oven of Doom and the Eeeevil Mad Nazi Science Lab and Eeevil Nazi Advanced Radar System destroyed, but none of the convicts he hired survived so those pesky pardons are no longer necessary. All is right with the world. Malloy, Mariette, and Immoral Awesome God Digger promptly hot-wire the general's jeep (RIP Lewis) and ride off into the sunset, thus concluding a truly awesomely bad movie.

Sunday, August 03, 2008


By Weird Tales magazine for "House Hunting." My manuscript got lost in the aether the last time I e-mailed but they responded to my re-submission fairly promptly. It got the dreaded "not for me" but the editor also said it was "well-written" so that's some consolation, I guess.