Thursday, December 18, 2014

REVIEW: How to Tell Toledo from the Night Sky by Lydia Netzer
Original Publication Year: 2014
Genre(s): Fiction
Series: NA
Awards: None
Format: Audio
Narrated by: Joshilyn Jackson

I do love suprises.  As long as they are pleasant and not accidental. For the first quarter to a third of How to Tell Toledo from the Night Sky, I wasn’t sure I was going to like it.  It was weird and it seemed just weird for weird’s sake. I don’t mind weird as long as it has a purpose and in the end I think the strange beginning of the book does serve a purpose. 

And maybe it’s not fair to call it weird.  It’s quirky.  It’s about two astronomers, George and Irene and it’s about their Mothers who raised them in Toledo. Their mothers were best friends growing up and decided that they would raise their children to be soul-mates using astrology and psychology.  They do it as an experiment and so that their children can experience true love and be happy.  It’s a quirky premise and in the beginning I felt like I was having trouble, connecting the dots and connecting with the characters.    People don’t quite interact with each other in any kind of normally acceptable manner.  There’s a side character who was raised by her priest father to not speak but only use music until he is arrested for child endangerment when she’s 5 or 6.  She speaks without inflection, she sits with her feet dangling out the window of her office at the Toledo Institute of Astronomy and plays an instrument.  Later she frolics in Lake Erie with Narwhals.  So. Quirky. 

George initially seems kind of stupid and shallow and wacky as he hallucinates gods and goddesses frolicking and speaking to him.  Irene is cold and practically devoid of emotion.  What kept me hooked through this first part of the book were the flashbacks to George and Irene’s mothers’ childhood.  Sally and Bernice’s friendship is real and it anchors the more surreal parts of the narrative. 

Then George and Irene meet and everything starts to make sense and feel more like real life.  The book never becomes fully grounded in reality but the important word here is sense.  It all starts to make sense.  George and Irene transform each other into real live human beings who are funny and sweet and smart and even a little wise. I'm pretty this shift is deliberate and its kind of awesome. Before these two “stars” align everything is just a little off kilter but as soon as they come together, order in some sense is restored.   In the first third of the book I could not in any way connect to the characters, once they meet I almost immediately began to sympathize with and love them.

“It’s more like every electron in every atom in the universe paused, breathed in deeply, assessed the situation, and then reversed its course, spinning backward, or the other way, which was the right way all along. And afterward, the universe was exactly the same, but infinitely more right.”
What else did I love?  There is all sorts of fun astronomy speak. It is laugh out loud funny at times. The writing is lovely. The ending was completely unexpected and possibly quite clever – is it real?  After I got through the first bit, I found it addictively readable. 

The narration was very good and fit the book well.  Like the style of the book, it did take me a while to warm up to it but once I did I loved it.

Final Verdict:  This book was a pleasant surprise.  Four out of five stars. ✪✪✪✪

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

REVIEW: The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani
Original Publication Year: 2013
Genre(s): Fantasy, Middle Grade or YA
Series: The School for Good and Evil #1
Awards: None
Format: eBook from Library
Narrated by: NA

 “In the forest of primeval
A school for Good and Evil
Twin towers like two heads
One for the pure
And one for the wicked
Try to escape you'll always fail,
The only way out is
Through a fairytale.”

The poem is a nice little summation of what the school in The School for Good and Evil is all about.  The school trains the Villains, Princes and Princesses that play out their lives in fairy tales. Our two heroines, Sophie and Agatha are a bit different from all their classmates as they aren't the children of fairytale characters but were plucked from a regular “mundane” village.  They were raised reading fairy tales not being part of them. 

Sophie and Agatha are different in another way as well.  Sophie is blonde and perfectly groomed – the perfect princess – while Agatha is dark and morbid and always dressed in black – the perfect villain.  However, when the two unlikely friends are dropped at the School for Good and Evil by monstrous birds, it is Agatha who is enrolled in the School for Good and Sophie who is placed in the School for Evil. 

So surely you can guess where it goes from there?  Of course Agatha, while grumpy and anti-social, is at heart caring, loving and brave.  Sophie, while beautiful, is shallow, lazy and selfish.  The “sorting hat” put them where they belonged despite their outward appearances.  Both girls must then deal with being the outsider as they don't fit the mold of their respective schools and their friendship also faces many challenges, namely a boy. King Arthur’s son to be exact.  In many ways, it is a strange little book that aims to thwart the usual clich├ęs while also affectionately embracing them. 

So at this point you are probably thinking ho hum, a silly little book about how appearances can be deceiving.  But hold up.  I myself felt that way early in the book though I nevertheless devoured it greedily.  It is a fun and snappy little story with engaging characters and a lot of humor and somewhere along the line this book surprised me.  It took me somewhere a bit deeper than I was expecting to go.  There was no profound life changing but it did become quite a bit more interesting than at first appearance.

The book is not just about not judging people on their appearances but also about not making the mistake of thinking of anyone as pure good or pure evil.  Humans are more complex than that and any institution that supports the idea of a strict dichotomy is corrupt and wrong.  It isn’t Sophie that is the Villain, though she does some truly horrible things, but the School for Good and Evil itself and even the society that insists on it existing that is the true menace.  All of these ideas are presented in a fast paced, funny, harrowing adventure story.  This was a very light and addictive read but it was also one that left me feeling surprisingly thoughtful at the end.
“You’re not evil Sophie," Agatha whispered, touching her decayed cheek. "You’re human."
FINAL VERDICT:  A fun adventurous fairy tale parody aimed at middle grade readers which may surprise you (in a good way). 4 out of 5 stars: ✪✪✪✪

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday - Favorite Books of My 2014

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme for bloggers who like books and lists.  It's awesome and is graciously hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

It's time to reflect on the year's reading and choose the best of.   I read more new releases then I used to in the past but my list is still going to be primarily books published outside of 2014 hence why I refer to it as 'my' 2014 in the post title. I'm not trying to claim actual possession of the year. Not yet.

My overall impression  of this year's reading was that it was so-so.  I don't feel like I found any books that I really love.  However, I did give 7 books 5 out of 5 stars which I was surprised at.  Upon revisiting to make this list I downgraded one to 4 stars but otherwise I stand by my ratings.  I must be going soft in my old age.  All the five star books are on here as books 1-6.  Then I'll have to choose 4 out of the 29 books I gave 4 stars to??!!  My overall impression of the year and my ratings don't really agree with each other!  So maybe it was a better year than I am remembering...

Finally, I have to say I think this is a tad early to be doing this kind of list.  I'm in the middle of a book right now that could potentially have made it on the list and I have at least three other books I'd like to finish before the end of the year.

1) Wild Comfort: The Solace of Nature by Kathleen Dean Moore

A lovely poetic and philosophical book about nature and grieving.  So many beautiful and incisive observations and so peaceful. 

2) City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett 

A 2014 release! I think this may be the only 2014 release on the list - sorry! A book that skates the line between fantasy and mystery with gods who interfere in every day life and a smart, funny and tough heroine.  Icing on the cake is fantastic world building.

3) The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

This book is set in 1950's England and cast as the journal of an old school Butler.  The voice is entirely unique and the way the book slowly unravels and brings home its point is mesmerizing.

4) The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern 

The hype around this book when it first came out made me avoid it for a long while, a fact for which I am now kicking myself.  This may be the favorite book I read this year.  Dreamy and atmospheric and utterly delightful.   This book mixes mystery, fantasy, historical fiction and romance in a way that I was completely absorbed by. 

5) The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

I think I am starting to see somewhat of a trend in that many of the books I loved this year ignored the barriers of genre.  The Shadow of the Wind is an epic historical romance and mystery which also flirts with the idea of the supernatural.  Great characters and great storytelling.

6) Magic Bleeds by Ilona Andrews

This is book four in the Kate Daniel's Urban Fantasy series.  This is a series that just keeps getting better with each successive book and I enjoyed this one so much.  They won't win any awards for lyrical writing but the story is fast paced and well plotted, the characters and setting are complex and interesting, the romance is hot and believable and not over powering.    

7) The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

A group of unlikely people, led by Jesuit priests, make first contact on an alien planet and it does not end well.  That's the basic plot but the book is so much more than that.  It's a book about religion and faith which is filled with tragedy that somehow manages also to have a great sense of humor.  An engrossing read that also happens to tackle some big ideas.

8) The Son by Philipp Meyer

A generational tale spanning a family in Texas from the mid-1800s to the 1980s.  It's a personal story of each of the three narrators which each have a very unique voice.  Through the narrator it manages to tell the tale of this one crazy Texas family and also of how the west was won or more accurately perhaps taken by force and corruption.  It's epic and brutal in the best possible way.  

9) The Monster Blood Tattoo series by D.M. Cornish (3 books: Foundling, Lamplighter, Factotum)

A fantasy middle-grade series that has a somewhat Dickensian flare and is based in a very rich imagination.  I would love for there to be more sequels.  It has one of the coolest and most interesting female characters I've encountered in a long time.

10) The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

The last one is always the hardest to choose but think this one edges out a few others listed below.  This classic Science Fiction Comedy novel just made me so happy.  Satire at its most lovable. 

Honorable Mention:  11/22/63 by Stephen King, The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins (not yet reviewed), Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed, How to Tell Toledo from the Night Sky by Lydia Netzer (review coming this week), In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, The Martian by Andy Weir, The Lunar Chronicles by Marrissa Meyer and The Lovegrove Legacy by Alyxandra Harvey, and just finished yesterday, Sabriel by Garth Nix.

I plan to do a post in the next couple - three weeks that wraps up my year of reading in a little more detail including a breakdown of genres and how I did on the challenges I gave myself.

What books had your toes curling in delight in 2014?

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Sundays through the Stargate - Stargate SG1 Season 6

Sundays through the Stargate is a weekly series that I am doing on Stargate SG1 which you can learn more about in The Beginning post. It is mostly for my own dorky edification but if there are any other fans out there I'd love to hear your thoughts!
Season six.  The season without Daniel.  It's the first thing to notice and say about the season.  In the penultimate episode of season five Daniel "ascended" and became a glowy energy being.  Being "ascended" is code word for Michael Shanks being in a contract dispute with TPTB but for now let's stay in fiction land.  He actually does make three appearances during the season.  Once to give Jack comfort and support while he is being tortured by Ba'al and once when Teal'c is on the verge of death.  Carter only has one life or death incident so she apparently does not need Daniel's intervention.  Daniel makes his final appearance in the last episode of the season to try and save Abydos and to plant the seed of The Lost City which will become season 7's obsession.

Daniel's absence isn't exactly a happy thing but his replacement, Jonas, is hard not to like. On a side note this is the third time the show has used the name Jonas (or some permutation), Sam' ex-fiance in season 1 was Jonas Hansen, Jack's alter-ego in Beneath the Surface in season 4 was Jonah and now we have Jonas Quinn.  I have no idea what the significance of this is, I just noticed it and its odd.  Anyhow, Jonas is the friendly scientist from Kalowna who stood up to his government to protest the use of the weapon they were developing and the treatment of Daniel Jackson and got exiled to Earth for it.  At the start of the season he is pushing hard to get on SG1 but Jack is resistant.  He finally only agrees to accept Jonas because he seems like the lesser of two evils when compared to having a Russian on the team.  Jack has some bad memories from the cold war.

Jonas is a scientist and insatiably curious but more than that he is extraordinarily smart.  Like not just Carter smart, like able to absorb and retain everything he reads and he reads EVERYTHING.  It starts out seeming like a lazy device on the part of the writers, to explain how he can be up to speed on everything so quickly but his special abilities actually become their own plot when he is singled out by Nirrti and then when he develops a tumor that enables him to see snatches of the future.  He takes over Daniel's role as the translator of crazy languages etc... but not necessarily as the bleeding heart of the group. Jonas is very friendly, appropriately geeky and pretty adorable.  He is very anxious to prove his worth and is a little like Carter in her first year really wanting to impress Jack who remains relatively aloof towards Jonas.  Surprisingly the team member Jonas develops the closest friendship with is Teal'c.  They are both aliens in a strange land and while otherwise very different, this fact bonds them. 
Hi I'm Jonas!  Aren't I adorable?
Jack has a particularly eventful season.  He's lost Daniel who despite clashing with Jack almost continually was really his best friend.  The dynamic within the team definitely changes and he seems to become closer to and rely more on Carter.  He starts treating her a little bit more like he treated Daniel.  He almost dies early in the season, gets implanted with a Tok'ra to save himself which then goes horribly wrong.  He goes missing and the rest of SG1 searches for him frantically.  He again goes missing for more than a month in the later part of the season, this time along with and because of Harry Maybourne.  It's worth noting as well that RDA starts to check out a little bit in this season.  He's not in some scenes that Jack would previously would have been in and is completely absent from at least one episode.  It isn't super noticeable in this season like it is in season seven but it's there.

Teal'c's wife dies in the very first episode and he has some bonding experiences with his son that help bring them closer together.  He also almost dies (actually everyone one on the team has a near death experience, hmm) when he is caught in a massacre of Jaffa and he keeps he and Bra'tac alive by sharing one symbiote.  This precipitates his and Bra'tac being the first two Jaffa to start using Tratonin to serve as their immune system and no longer carrying symbiotes. 

Carter has a hard year as well.  She is the most visibly upset at Daniel's loss though she accepts good-naturedly Jonas' inclusion in the team.  Then Jack goes missing twice, and the second time is just too much for her.  Her feelings for Jack re-surface and she starts to struggle more with them towards the end of the season.  She establishes a connection with the human form replicator Fifth but then is ordered by Jack to betray him against her wish.  The betrayal will come back to haunt them all in future seasons.

Anubis and the human form replicators are the big bads for the season and we find out exactly what is up with Anubis. He is a being that is mostly ascended but not entirely. He possesses some of the knowledge of the Ancients which means his technology is even further advanced than the other Goa'uld.  The human form Replicators are way cool and really rather creepy so having them in the mix keeps things interesting.


✮ = Episode has significance in the Stargate universe.  Important episodes.
☺ = A favorite episode of mine
♥ = Episode that has some significance to the 'ship (Sam and Jack of course!)

✮ Episode 6.1 Redemption Part 1

While Teal'c rushes to his wife's dying side, the Stargate Command comes under attack by Anubis and SG1 searches for a fourth member.  This episode has one of my favorite moments of the show, when Jonas asks Carter how SG1 knows what color to wear each day.  She just smiles and walks away and then shouts back that they call each other every morning:0).  So now Teal'c cares about his wife?  Lordy be.  She dies and Ray'ac throws a tantrum.  Blah, Blah, Jaffa, Blah.  Meanwhile an incoming wormhole on Earth will not shut down and is slowly building up energy to the gate so that it will eventually explode.  Carter finally gets to fly something when her and Jack go on a field trip to ask the Asgard for help. Also McKay shows up.  I think Carter volunteers to go on the mission just to get away from McKay. Nothing is going well on Earth so it is good that the Jaffa figure out what's going on and jump in from their end to try and help.   Ends on a cliffhanger.  And I guess I should mention Jonas is hanging around and has been for 3 months and he really wants to join SG1.  This two part episode is really meant to establish his character and how he becomes a member of the team.
THOUGHTS: A somewhat lackluster episode but I do really enjoy a lot of the humor and character interactions that occur.  The aforementioned uniform color conversation, Jack calling Carter an egghead and then getting shifty and making it worse by saying she pulls brilliant ideas out of her butt.  Finally solving it all by declaring he's going to eat cake. 
 [Col. O'Neill finds Carter sitting in her lab]
Col. O'Neill: I thought you'd be down stairs working this thing out with all the other egg-heads.
[Carter gives O'Neill a look]
Col. O'Neill: Not that you're an egg-head. [Pauses] Ok, you are, actually, but in a good way.
Maj. Carter: I couldn't think down there. They all kept looking at me for the answer.
Col. O'Neill: Well, you do have a penchant for pulling brilliant ideas out of your butt.
[Carter gives O'Neill a look]
Col. O'Neill: Head! Out of your head.

Maj. Carter: You have a habit of seeing things... [Hesitates] their simplest form.
Col. O'Neill: I'm gonna go eat some cake.
Maj. Carter: I think I'll join you.


✮Episode 6.2 Redemption Part 2

A continuation of episode 1, SG1 tries to stop the attack on the SGC from it's end while the Jaffa attack Anubis at the source of the weapon.  Poor Carter.  Outplayed by McKay. Sort of.  "For the record, I hate you. I'm rapidly working up to despise."  Tell us how you really feel Carter:o).  Carter gets electrocuted and then McKay tries to bond.  I do appreciate his speech where he pontificates on how science is as much an art form as it is about math.  It's true.  Creativity is just as important in science as in any creative art.  The idea to save the situation comes from Jonas and it is about the time that Carter is giving a pep talk to the "troops" that you realize that this episode is extremely Jack-lite.  Boo and Hiss.  But then he shows up again, all irritable with Carter and all is right with the world again.  The mission to release the gate in space is nice and tense.  I think after that last Sir, Carter really wanted to say I love you instead of good luck:).  The Stargate program is shutting down with the gate being destroyed and all.  But then, Ray'ac's success at destroying Anubis' weapon comes into play and the U.S. somehow acquires the Russian stargate.  Woo hoo - the Stargate program is back on.  "Good guess on the green."   Jonas joins SG1. 
THOUGHTS:  Why does Teal'c wear makeup and have a gold sheen to his face?  None of the other Jaffa do this.  The second half of this episode is a lot more fun than the first half so it's a little hard to judge.  There is also maybe the tiniest, teeniest bit of tension between Sam and Jack with him risking his life and all but its subtle and is likely only being seen through my 'shipper glasses that have become more desperate as the 'ship has been limping along, barely existent for more than a season.

☺Episode 6.3 Descent

The team investigates a Goa'uld mother ship that has come into Earth's orbit and surprise, surprise it's not there on a mission of peace.  Jonas is left behind on the glider with Teal'c and he's super whiny about it.  Colonel O'Neill plays the "because I told you so card".  It's good that he gets left behind because there is a hilarious interaction between he and Teal'c when Jonas suggests that as non-Earth natives they must stick together.  Teal'c suspects he's suggesting conspiracy:0). It's good to see Major Davis get some action.  Things "heat up" when the mother ship starts to dive into the Earth's atmosphere and crashes into the ocean.  Jack and Sam are trapped in an enclosed space as it fills with water and Jacob can't get the doors open.  It's stressful.  Mysteriously they get lucky and the security protocol that is keeping the doors closed erases itself.  So when rescue shows up, they have to stick around and figure things out.  Turns out it's THOR!  His mind had been connected to the ships computer and his consciousness is still floating around in there while his body has been in a coma on Asgard.  They are trapped again and this time Jonas is given the opportunity to save the day.  Then they fly frickin' gliders through the frickin' ocean and into the air saving themselves.  It's frickin' awesome!
THOUGHTS:  This is a nice episode in the sense that it cements Jonas into the team and allows him to be heroic and save everyone.  It's a favorite episode because of its teamy goodness and the level of tension the story creates.   I also found the solution to what was going on with the ship to be a creative one that ties in nicely to an episode in season 5.  SG1 isn't perfect but it does continuity better than a lot of shows which I appreciate.  By this episode it becomes apparent that one advantage of Michael Shanks taking a hiatus, Sam gets a lot more air time.  Not complaining about that though I do wish Daniel was still around.

♥✮Episode 6.4 Frozen

Research around the site of the Antarctic gate uncovers a million year old woman frozen in ice who comes to life when thawed and releases a deadly virus.  Things you need to know about this episode: Langly from the X Files appears on the show and almost dies and the ship, after a year + hiatus, makes a comeback.  How do we know?  Because the woeful song of Sam and Jack's forbidden love makes an appearance but it doesn't play it's sorrowful way onto the soundtrack until the very end of the episode so lets back up.  There are some interesting questions that arise with the discovery of the woman and what she means for human evolution - she's millions of years old but more advanced then we are.  Not only does she make everybody in the base sick including everyone on SG1but she also has the ability to heal everyone.  Unfortunately it is at her own expense and she ends up dying before answering many of the questions regarding her origins and before being able to heal Colonel O'Neill.  The Tok'ra are contacted to try and make him better with the healing device but it is beyond their power.  The Tok'ra offer another solution - implant a symbiote in O'Neill.  They wake him briefly so that Carter can talk to him and he initially refuses vehemently.  Then Carter explains that the symbiote may have vital intelligence and then pleads with him to accept.  In comes the oboe (or clarinet, I'm not sure) of woe and O'Neill agrees and is wheeled through the stargate.
THOUGHTS:  This is on the cusp of being a favorite episode but all the unanswered questions surrounding the frozen woman knock it down a peg or two.  I was so darn happy to hear the plaintive tones of Sam and Jack's song, but if the song hadn't played it would have been impossible to know that there was any of "that kind of thing" going on in the scene.  Carter's in a biohazard suit and O'Neill is barely conscious so it's hard to see much less read any facial expressions.  O'Neill might have agreed simply because of the needed intel - for duty's sake - but the song tells us that he is also influenced by Carter's desperate plea.  It's not much to hold onto but after over a year of drought it's good to see the 'ship sailing again no matter how limpingly.

☺Episode 6.6 Abyss

A Tok'ra operative appears to be escaping with a woman when he is captured by Baal and is revealed to be Jack.  Turns out that the symbiote put into Jack had some unfinished business which caused him to take over Jack and force him to leave the Tok'ra camp.  Jack once captured by Ba'al is subjected to torture.  Cut up and killed each day and then revived in the sarcophagus to face another day.  He starts to have visions of Daniel which actually aren't just visions.  Daniel is there in spirit to console Jack. He also offers Jack ascension which Jack responds to as you might expect - with derision.  It turns out that Canaan, the symbiote, had a relationship with one of Baal's slaves and seems to have headed back for her.  In the meantime, back at the SGC the rest of SG1 are tussling with the Tok'ra who are being especially arrogant.  Where's Jacob??  Sam comes up with the brilliant idea that the symbiote had used the slave to gain access to Baal's quarters and then when it blended with Colonel O'Neill it is affected by O'Neill's deep belief that you never leave allies behind.  They realize that must be where Colonel O'Neill is.  Back in Baal's base, Jack pleads with Daniel to end it as he is afraid that the next time Baal tortures him he will reveal that Canaan was in love with the slave and then Baal would torture her too.  Honorable to the end.  About the things that are important. It's worth mentioning as well that Baal has all these very cool magnetic prison cells and lattice works  - basically his whole facility is super cool.
THOUGHTS:  This is a really great Jack episode  - one of my favorites of the whole show.  It also doesn't hurt that it is one of Daniel's few appearances in season 6.  It's a nice little puzzle to solve for Sam, Jonas and Teal'c and they work well together to solve it.  I love logic chains especially when you throw in a little psychology.

Episode 6.9 Allegiance

The surviving Tok'ra flee their most recent base and end up on the SGC Alpha site where the rebel Jaffa are based and things between the two groups do not go well. Earth's allies seem to be increasingly becoming pains in the neck.  Jack has his hands full keeping the peace even once they discover that it is neither Jaffa nor Tok'ra killing members of the camp but an invisible entity.  He is particularly cranky and irritable which kind of makes him adorable.  The Za'Tarc machine makes an appearance and Sam and Jack share a quick self-conscious look when Sam brings up its ability to produce false positives.  This isn't the first time the show has done an invisible enemy but with the addition of the tensions between the Jaffa and Tok'ra it makes for a good suspenseful watch.  We also learn a lot about why the Tok'ra and Jaffa are uneasy around each other.
THOUGHTS:  Well the presence of the Tok'ra, Jacob, and Bra'tac help balance out the usually dreaded Jaffa.  Jacob and Bra'tac should get their own show with frequent appearances by Jack.  I would totally watch that.  Like the open-ish acknowledgment of the Za'tarc incident from season 4.

Episode 6.10 Cure
SG1 establishes relations with a culture that has just discovered their stargate and has a drug, tratonin, which keeps everyone in their population healthy.  Carter right off the bat is pretty suspicious. Things quickly become very cloak and dagger when Jonas and Teal'c receive a cryptic warning from one of the society's scientists.  When she mysteriously clams up they do some snooping and discover a pool full of goa'uld symbiotes in the facility where the miracle drug is made.  Turns out that Pangar has a Queen goa'uld who breeds all the other symbiotes.  "Glowing eyes, cliched behavior, evilness."  Jack's description of the Goa'uld.  The Tok'ra come and pronounce that the Queen is dying.  They are not especially concerned with how the humans are using the Goa'uld until they find out that this is actually the Queen Egeria, founder of the Tok'ra who they thought was dead.  Sam and Jack have their usual argument about the Tok'ra with Sam sticking up for them.  The dilemma is an interesting one - who deserves to live? The Tok'ra are going extinct - this queen could mean the continuation of their race. However without an antidote or the continued production of the tratonin many Pangarans will die.  The Pangarans who have recklessly used a living sentient creature to try and beat illness even though they little understood what they were doing - don't they deserve their fate.  But how do you condemn people to die when they had no malicious intent?  The episode is significant because the tratonin will become important for the Jaffa as they try to move away from symbiotes.
THOUGHTS:  I like that SG1 doesn't try to get too philosophical or deep but I do enjoy when they use Science Fiction for its highest purpose.  To create outrageous situations that pose moral questions.  I am generally happy with how they handle these episodes, not delving too deep but at least posing the question a little ala Star Trek. Jonas appears to be getting a little flirty love action from one of the Pangarans but it doesn't go anywhere.

Episode 6.11 Prometheus

Part 1 of 2. The Earth is developing a new spaceship that can use a hyperdrive but it is stolen before it is even completely finished - with SG1 on board of course.  The invention of the advanced space ship Prometheus will be a game changer for Earth's ability to engage in space travel and fight off invaders from space.  In a way it's kind of a bummer  - things were more fraught and they had to be more creative when they didn't have the technology.  Carter is super bad ass - cutting her way out of a storage room on a deck with no shielding in the nick of time and doing some sabotage before needing a little help from O'Neill and Teal'c who have boarded the ship secretly.  It's kind of funny that she seems unsurprised to see them.  Of course they figured out some crazy way to board the ship.  Once they've done away with the bad guys their troubles are just beginning as they have made a hyperdrive jump and they have no idea where they are.  Thankfully Thor shows up but only to announce that the Asgard need their help as the replicators have overrun their home world.
THOUGHTS:  I like the twists and turns this episode takes and then even when it should be over it isn't.  Maybe a little meandering but in a pretty good way.  The beginning of the episode - a reporter accosting Carter about top secret information - is a long long way from the end - stranded in the middle of space light years from earth with the Asgard asking for their help.  Just an average day for SG1!  The team is so in sync now that Carter doesn't even ask where the Colonel and Teal'c came from when they appear on Prometheus.

Episode 6.12 Unnatural Selection

SG1 agrees to help the Asgard with a little replicator problem and discover that the Replicators have evolved.  Y'all this is where the Replicators get super awesome and creepy!  The Asgard made a very fun little trap for the Replicators.  They created a time dilation device that would bottle up the replicators in place and make time pass very slowly for them relative to regular time.  It would give the Asgard plenty of time to figure out how to deal with replicators while they are trapped.  Unfortunately the plan didn't work and now the Asgard want SG1 to fly in, figure out what's wrong with the time dilation device, turn it on and then get out again.  Of course by the time they reach the replicators the crafty little buggers have reversed the time dilation device so that time has sped up for the replicators and they have used that time to evolve into a human like form.  I love these new humans forms because they are creepy and awesome (they can reach their hands into people's heads) and also because their leader, First, is Ian Buchanan whom I loved so dearly as Duke on General Hospital when I was a wee thing.  Fifth is not yet crazy loco and Sam gathers another of her alien admirers.  She likes Fifth and would have taken him with them but Jack gives her a secret signal to set the timer so that Fifth will be trapped as well.  It turns out to be a very bad call on Jack's part as the future will tell.
THOUGHTS:  It's interesting to speculate what might have happened if Jack had made a different call and let Fifth go with them.  Would that have been equally (or perhaps even more) disastrous?  We don't get to know Fifth well enough here to feel anything but sadness at what happens to him.  He is 100% trusting so it feels a bit like Jack kicking a puppy.  Jack occasionally makes these hardcore decisions that are a little unsympathetic and I do like this complexity in his character.  He's basically a good guy, ethical and fair but he's also a career military guy.  Despite his irreverence he takes his job to protect very seriously.

☺♥Episode 6.15 Paradise Lost

Jack gets stranded with Maybourne on an alien moon which starts having a strange and homicidal affect on the men.  The 'ship!  The 'ship is back after a long time floundering in the doldrums.  More on that later.  I think this may be the first episode where we learn that Jack is a horrible griller:0).  Is Jack drinking Guinness??  My love for him just got deeper.  Maybourne, whatever you want to say about the little weasel, he is a master manipulator to get past Jack's mistrust.  Again and Again.  Oh, Sam. So perky about breaking and entering, little do you know what awaits you.   Knowing what I know about what happens later in the episode the first shot of the alien planet is very pointed.  Sam is very hard on herself for letting Maybourne take her weapon.  She also gets very testy with the scientists helping her which is not like her. She yells at Dr. Lee!  Look at how patient she was with McKay.  Teal'c is giving her all sorts of speculative looks.  Jack wears a bracelet on his right arm - wonder what it is?  Initially Maybourne gets exceedingly paranoid while Jack does not - it was a nice little mystery the first time around on top of the question of where O'Neill and Maybourne have been transported to and what happened to the Utopian community.  The Tok'ra do a scan of the plant and find no life signs. Teal'c busts into the women's locker room to check on Carter who is quietly crying. He comforts her and they hug which I think is the first time we've seen Sam and Teal'c be affectionate.  Jack shows his smarts by figuring out that there is a plant that is making them paranoid.  It's such a lovely moment when Carter figures out where Jack is.   Jack and Maybourne are on the moon and have been there for at least a month.  I like that they don't get rescued until everything has played out between Jack and Maybourne.  Jack shows how decent of a guy he is by agreeing to help Maybourne escape and not return to Earth. 
THOUGHTS: Maybourne always makes things interesting and Jack is at his irascible best when Harry is around.  One question is how the Zat took Carter out for several minutes but didn't even stun Jack enough for him to be unable to grab Maybourne.  The other interesting thing is that this episode wakes up the 'ship again after a long and drowsy nap   - the last REAL shipper episode was back in late season 4 (Entity).  As per usual you could dismiss much of the emotional distress that Carter is going through as being related to friendship and the recent loss of Daniel.  In fact she says as much, but Teal'c's behavior in the episode is what gives weight to the 'shippyness of Carter's response. And the fact that she yells.  It's interesting to speculate how this episode might have gone if Daniel was around.  Would he have been as upset as Sam?  Would he have been the one to notice the depth of her distress and the one who comforted her?  I'm kind of glad it is Teal'c who is there for Sam - it deepens their friendship a bit and nicely leads into the events of the next episode.   So why is Sam so upset?  They lost the Colonel earlier in the season too and while she was dogged and tireless in finding him, she never let her emotions take control of her like they do here.  At the root of things is that she really does feel like she let him down and failed him by letting Maybourne take her weapon - she feels responsible and incompetent which is not a usual feeling for her.  Also, while she flounders on the ground after being hit by the Zat, Jack struggles up and tackles Maybourne making her feel even more useless.  The idea that she has let the Colonel down and that he might think less of her is VERY upsetting to Sam.  I think this episode also wakes up many emotions which she has been willingly suppressing for the last season and 1/2.  Jack has pretty much been clamped down tight since Entity and she has responded in kind.  This episode brings those feelings back to the surface for her and, I think, starts her wondering about Jack and whether he still has feelings for her.

☺♥Episode 6.16 Metamorphosis

Nirrti comes back to bite 'em in the ass
SG1 attempts to save a population from Nirrti's experimentation.  I love the cute little exchange between Jonas and Carter at the start of the episode where Carter is making fun of Jonas' flirting skills.  I'm always surprised when everybody who knows her doesn't flirt with Carter but in another way I'm glad they don't go there. Carter kind of screws up again forgetting that Nirrti can make herself invisible.  There is a little bit of 'shippyness when Carter is taken to be put into the machine.  Jack tries to go in her place and then looks very concerned as Carter is led off.  Carter is then very sick and does not think she will get better.  Jack orders her to get some rest, she exchanges a meaningful look with Teal'c who very deliberately turns away from she and Jack while she proceeds to lean into Jack and lays her head on his shoulder.  He looks bemused but does not move away.  I LOVE this scene.  Turns out, Jonas is special.  More evolved than the Earth humans.  Later Sam is out of it enough that she doesn't even move when O'Neill is taken.  When the mutants finally rebel and attack Nirrti, Jack pleads with them to keep her alive as her knowledge is necessary to heal their people, but when they ignore him and kill her he inadvertently reveals that his primary thoughts were all for Carter.  The mind reader says he took what knowledge was needed from Nirrti before she died which makes Jack rush to the cell to scoop up Carter and carry her upstairs to be cured. Carter, adorably, very weakly says "Sir." If they ever do get together, I'm not sure how she is going to break that habit.
THOUGHTS:  This episode is a little over the top but I still love it.  I think it is because it is the first tiny bit of real angst between Sam and Jack in almost two seasons.  It makes the little moments and pieces of emotion in the episode that much more sigh worthy.  I love that Teal'c is complicit with Sam in orchestrating a moment for her to get comfort from Jack.  It is a nice carryover from she and Teal'c's bonding of the previous episode. With Daniel gone, Jack and Sam have seemed to rely on each other even more than usual and been very close this season but they've kept their emotions pretty well under wraps.  Jack's month long disappearance last episode has brought Carter's feelings for him closer to the surface and when she is hurting and dying she can't keep them from making an appearance.  Jack is a little more circumspect but he doesn't stop her inappropriate actions because he is very worried about her and wants to give her that comfort.

☺♥Episode 6.18 Forsaken

SG1 runs into a shipwrecked crew of humans off world and as they try to help them they begin to be attacked by some other aliens.  This is one of those stories where everything is not as it seems.  It's clear from the moment they meet the humans that somethings isn't quite right and when all is revealed it's a pretty satisfying twist.  They also encounter the folks they meet in this episode in another fun episode in season 7.  One of the interesting things about the episode is Carter's interaction with the Captain of the ship.  At heart I think Carter is actually very trusting and it gets her into trouble (Linnea springs to mind immediately). She tells the Captain when he notes that Colonel O'Neill does not trust them: "Trust is something you have to earn with us.  The Colonel is just less concerned with hiding his distrust."  It's a good observation but I think it's true that Jack is the one least likely to trust though perhaps it's better to say he has the best instincts about people which is why Maybourne is so surprising. Anyway, Carter establishes a flirty little banter with the captain which leads her to totally let down her guard. At one point, and the only reason this episode has a 'ship tag he asks her if she has anyone special back home and she responds: "Nothing I care to discuss." to which he replies "Now that's a little too interesting for me to let go."  So say we all.  Do tell Carter. Do tell. Sadly he does not press her.  When asked what her name "Samantha" means she replies, "That my father wanted a boy."  She's revealing all sorts of things to this random stranger.  And soon thereafter finds a recording on the ship indicating that the ship is a prison ship and discovers that her radio is missing.  Oh Sam, that's twice in 4 episodes you've let your stuff get taken.  Then you let yourself get ambushed.  This is a great episode for Jonas as he saves the day with a neat and brilliant little trap.
THOUGHTS:  The team is a little scattered in this one which brings it down a notch or two in my estimation.  I enjoy the puzzle and seeing a more relaxed and playful side to Carter even if it does end up badly for her.  It's clear that she enjoys all the flattery Corso heaps upon her and the light flirting but gets uncomfortable when he pushes it.  She is still very much at heart someone who is eager to please though it doesn't stop her from doing what's needed or right.  Jonas doesn't do too much in the episode until the end when he figures everything out from off world and sets a trap for the bad guys.  He does it by making an obscure linguistic connection and because he's never trusted girls who "kiss on the first date."  Oh Jonas, I'm going to miss you!

✮Episode 6.19 The Changeling

Teal'c is having dreams that he is just a regular human serving with Carter, O'Neill and Jonas as a firefighter on Earth.  I'm not a big fan of Teal'c centric episodes but this one is pretty significant.  Bra'tac and Teal'c are almost killed in an ambush and only one symbiote survives between them.  By the time they are found the symbiote is almost dead as well.  The Tretonin introduced back in episode 6.10 comes into play in order to replace both Bra'tac's and Teal'cs missing immune systems, so they can exist without a symbiote.  The Tok'ra have developed it further than the Pangarans.  It signals some hope for the Jaffa as the need for symbiotes to stay alive keeps them dependent on the Goa'uld.
THOUGHTS:  This episode is team lite with Teal'c being the focus.  Daniel makes an appearance as well, to help Teal'c through the ordeal he is going through.  So Daniel has come back to help Jack, to help Teal'c - what about Sam?  I guess she hasn't had a rough enough ordeal this season to warrant it but considering she was the most upset about his leaving, it seems a little cold.

Episode 6.22 Full Circle

Abydos is being threatened by Anubis so SG1 steps in along with special help from Daniel Jackson who can't quite keep himself from interfering. Seriously the Ascended don't seem all that ascendy.  The scene between Jack and Daniel is pretty delightful - Jack's so ornery but Daniel knows him well. Jonas is great but I definitely miss the friendship between Jack and Daniel.   Jack is also cute being all fatherly with Skaara.  When Skaara announces his wedding and asks Jack to come it causes another adorable scene with Carter over confusion about whether Jack and Carter will be coming to the wedding together.  Carter grins at seeing Jack squirm and then shares a big smile with Skaara.  Again, Daniel kind of blows Sam off which is actually starting to piss me off even though Sam seems all right with it. Things get bad with lots of bullets and fighting.  SG1 finds the artifact Anubis wants and they manage to hold off the Anubis' Jaffa but Skaara dies which is super sad.  Thankfully, someone helps Skaara ascend.  Meanwhile Daniel has gotten excited about a tablet which refers to a Lost City that the ancients built which has weapons that would help in Earth's fight against the Goa'uld.  Also the ascended?  They are the ancients (and probably the lady they found in Antarctica earlier this season was one of them who did or could not ascend).  Also Anubis?  He is a partially ascended being.  And he has a really fancy new ship that does amazing things and explodes like 10 of his enemy's mother ships.  Daniel and Anubis go head to head because Anubis is going to destroy Abydos - whatever happens it does not go well for Daniel and Abydos is destroyed in a special effects palooza.  Turns out Oma ascended all of the Abydonians so they are okay  but Abydos as it was known is gone. 
THOUGHTS:  I like this episode especially because as it's name recalls it brings things full circle - to the movie and the start of the show.  The special effects in this episode are pretty great as well.  It's good to have Daniel back in the mix even if he does blow Sam off.  I also enjoy the more light-hearted bantery side of the 'ship making an appearance.  It's usually all angst all the time.  The Lost City concept will pay dividends in the next season.


The season actually ends on kind of a downer note with Abydos being destroyed, Skaara dying and Anubis doing something very bad to Daniel. There is the hope of the Lost City but otherwise things aren't looking all that great.  An unusual  note for Stargate which is usually not quite such a downer. 

Despite the lack of Daniel, I actually really like season 6, more than season 5 really.  I like the new incaranation of the Replicators, I like Sam's more prominent role and I like the re-appearance of the 'ship in a more subdued form. 

Speaking of the 'ship, it is in this season that it becomes driven a little more by Sam.  Jack has firmly tried to put his feelings in lockdown and developed a generically friendly professionalism in regards to Sam.  In season 5, it was just more straight up professional so its nice to see that he has been able to balance it a bit with friendship in season 6.  For the most part though, that's where he stays.  There are some moments in Metamorphosis where his more affectionate feelings surface but even then he keeps it tightly reined in and pretty well hidden from Sam.  Up until this point Sam has been following his lead but in consequence of Jack being twice lost and also the loss of Daniel, Sam begins to question and wonder.  She's probably hit her mid 30s at this point and along with the re-awakening of her strong feelings for Jack, probably has her starting to question what she is doing in her personal life.  Going through all that anguish while he is lost has also got her wondering if Jack still has feelings for her as well.  Metamorphosis represent her beginning to test those feelings at least sub-consciously.  She will continue to do so in seasons 7 and 8 - push and prod him and Jack will for the most part sidestep and resist because that's what he thinks is best for her.  Season 6 is the beginning of this shift in their relationship.

Top Five Episodes from this Season:

1) Episodes 6.6 Abyss
2) Episode 6.12 Unnatural Selection
3) Episode 6.3 Descent
4) Episode 6.16 Metamorphosis
5) Episode 6.18 Forsaken

What are your favorite episodes from this season?

The Rabbit Hole 

The rabbit hole is where I point out other places on the web where you can waste spend a lot of time reading about Stargate SG1.

GateWorld  Everything you ever wanted to know about Stargate as well as discussion forums for each episode. 

FAN FICTION: SG1 is pretty much the only show where I have extensively turned to fan fiction to try and deal with the frustration about how the actual writers of the show handled/"resolved" Jack and Sam's relationship.  I definitely have two favorite authors: Rachel500 and Annerb.  Both of them are talented writers whose stories could easily be imagined as actual SG1 episodes. They both write the characters spot on.   Also on a personal preference level - the things they imagine are exactly how I would have liked for things to go down and they both have an admiration and reverence for the character of Sam in particular.  I'm sure there are other good writers out there but after wading through a lot these two are my reliable go tos.   Basically, give them both a shot! Below is a recommendation for seasons 3 and 4. 

Aftershocks III (Season's 5 and 6) by Rachel500:  This is a collection of TAGS or missing scenes, from season's five and six of SG1.  It's what happened with SG1 in between their missions and adventures.

Season 1
Season 2
Season 3
Season 4 
Season 5

Well that's it for the Stargate this week.  Next week season 7 Daniel's back but Jack starts to become inexplicably scarce.