A City Dreaming by Daniel Polansky


I’ve never read any of Polansky’s other books, but I have heard of his Lowtown series and have much respect for his efforts. A City Dreaming is not part of the Lowtown series, as far as I can tell. It’s a new Urban Fantasy novel, with an unnamed protagonist that we  simply call M, a man of  very long and indeterminate age. Since M is not described in the book, (most of the characters aren’t), I was free to imagine all of them however I pleased. I imagined M (short for Man With No Name, although I suppose that does count as a name), as a British Black man, who looked like Idris Elba, or Chewitel Ejiofor, depending on my mood.

The book is easily read, but more a little confusing, in that it has the barest bones of a plot. Most of the book consists of M, who happens to have minor magical abilities, getting into adventures with his friends, drinking, doing drugs and looking for sex. 

There’s no plot as far as I can tell, but that doesn’t stop the book from being enjoyable. M has some pretty funny and amazing adventures. His friends are not as interesting as him, but when they show up, it usually means there’s some problem needs solving, and it’s M who has to figure it out. I love the dialogue, which is wonderful. The book is very easy to read, although the only really great character is M, who sort of reminds me of Constantine, able to talk his way into, or out of, various magical dilemmas, using mostly wit and an an ability to lie a lot, but with less death.

Where the book really captured me was the adventures he had. It’s sort of like taking a grand tour of multiple Earths. A kind of “Day In The Life Of M”  series of activities, that he encounters after returning to NY, from some not quite detailed hiatus abroad. The first time we meet him, he’s trying to save his friend, Boy, from the Pirates of the Gowanus Canal, a group of people so enamored of the movie “Pirates of the Caribbean”, that they have willed into existence a  pocket universe, “pirate lifestyle” in the middle of the city. This entire scene is hilarious. Later, he gets caught in a feud between the two Queens of NY, talks some sort of coffee God out of taking over the earth, takes a train trip to the crossroads of reality via Hell, and gets stranded in a steampunk version of Victorian NY. At no point during the book do you get the impression that M’s life is at all in danger, though, which  made this a fun, pleasant,  read for me.

I found M’s ruminations on his life and friends, his jaunts, and activities, pretty funny. My favorite is when he crashes a posh, uptown party and upon finding  that the waitstaff are all zombies, disrupts the spell that makes them compliant. The zombies break free and immediately begin eating the party-goers. The wizard who bespelled them only compounds that problem by summoning something much worse.

So yeah, it’s an enjoyable read if you can get past the serial nature of the rather barebones plot. It’s mostly M’s descriptions that hold everything down, and keeps you reading, but you’re  just moving from adventure to adventure, in each chapter. The downside is that it gives the book an unfinished feel, as if maybe the author forgot to add those details that would tie all these events together, as  most of the adventures remain unrelated to each other, except that M and his friends are  involved in them. Polansky has so many wonderful ideas for settings. There were a few I wanted developed in greater detail, so I could spend more time there, before moving  on to the next outing. Some readers might become frustrated at these little tidbits of a much larger universe.

I kept waiting for all these events, and people, to come together, for some kind of big blowout at the end, but that’s not really what happens, and the end was a little underwhelming because there are so many other world saving events throughout the book.

This was worth reading because it’s Summer, and  I like zany adventures, with snarky heroes. If you approach this book like a series of short shorts, you will find it worth reading, too. 

A City Dreaming will be available on Kindle, Hardcover, and Audio, on October 4th. Thanks to  Netgalley for this pre-release copy in exchange for a review.

The Strain Season 3 – Bad White

This second episode shows a tightening of the script just a bit. Since the show has fewer episodes this season, if the writers want to wrap as much of it up as possible before the season ends, they have to jettison a lot of extraneous plotlines. This episode didn’t involve a whole lot of movement, so much as a whole lot of maneuvering, which is to be expected in a second episode, as various characters lay out goals or aims, and move into positions to achieve them. It’s a little slow in that we are still dealing with the fallout of last season, but we have got movement on the nature of certain people’s goals, and the layout for this season.

Ephraim Goodweather : Has got homework in the form of trying to steal the Occido Lumen from Setrakian, so he can exchange it for his son. For the first time he and Quinlan meet and it’s kind of awesome. Quinlan sees right through Eph’s bullshit almost right away. He is not fooled for a moment, although Eph is able to distract him, by throwing his suspicions back at him. This is one of the most well written scenes I’ve seen on the show. It was actually fun to watch. 


I still don’t like Ephraim, but he’s a much more interesting character, now that I understand these purposefully built flaws. Eph is an alcoholic. With that comes a host of recriminations and bad decision making skills. Eph is frustrating to me exactly because of his weaknesses, and I don’t think the viewer is meant to like, or identify, with him. He genuinely loves his child, although I’m still not sure what he feels for Kelly as that’s never made clear. Kelly is a cipher, anyway.

As it stands, Eph is really, truly alone in the show. He doesn’t have anyone in particular to attach himself to, now that Zack is gone, and Nora is dead. Note: there’s a brief conversation had by Setrakian and Eph about Nora, so at least they remember she existed, which is more than I can say for some shows, where the characters simply move on without remembering one of their comrades has died.


I’m looking forward to more interactions between Quinlan and Eph, as that relationship looks explosive. (I do like what I see developing between Fet and Quinlan, which looks like they have more in common with each other, as they’re both warriors, to-the -manner, born.) Eph and Quinlan are either gonna fall in love, or try to kill each other, they are such different men. Quinlan is a very controlled, self contained, thousands of years old vampire, with clear goals, and little patience with human messiness. Eph, is a weak willed alcoholic, with no clear goals for his life, but has deep emotional ties, and is smart as a mf. This can only end in tears and betrayal, or bro-hugs, as far as I’m concerned.

Dutch: What is it with women being named Dutch in TV shows? Why is this a popular name suddenly? Anyway we get some Dutch action as she throws in with a group of old, but thoroughly useless, hacker friends, who are trying to ride ou the current wave of what they believe to be merely urban discontent, by stealing stuff from rich people. Their way of handling this is by breaking into rich people’s homes, and buildings they believe are abandoned. Now they know about “the plague”, as its called, but I’m not entirely certain they understand its nature, or if they do, they don’t care. In fact, the leader seems to think it was caused by overpopulation, and that its some kind of reset button for the human species. He’s not exactly wrong, but he ain’t right either. 

You can tell by the artfully torn pants and watch cap, that this guy is a rebel.

Dutch does try to warn them about how dangerous it is, but they just poo- poo her concerns as Dutch being hysterical. Consequently, they all die, when they break into a high-rise, and get waylaid by the vampires, which I saw coming as soon as they laid out their plans. Dutch, who thanx to Fet, has definitely  been “born again hard”, is one of the only ones to survive, decides this is not the group for her, and coldly leaves them to their own devices, after beheading their worm infected leader, which is some of the coolest shit I’ve seen her do, since the beginning of the series. You can tell the plot has been tightened up because all the things that just  happened would’ve taken seven episodes of the last season, watching Dutch dither around, until she felt like leaving. This all happens in about fifteen minutes and we get some nice vampire action too.

Zack and Kelly: Unfortunately, we also get some Zach and Kelly scenes, but the upside here is that these scenes  would’ve taken to the middle of last season before. Now that Zack has his mom, he’s been whining about  seeing his dad, and being just as snarky, and disrespectful to her, as he was to Eph, so at least his lack of character remains consistent. I’m never gonna like this actor, who is conistently awful. He finally gets to see what type of creature his mom actually is when he catches her feeding on another child, and tries to make a break for it. I don’t know what the outcome was for this scene, (other than he didn’t escape, ), because I noped the fuck out of watching any more of it. I was ready to move on. I really don’t care about Zack even half as much as Ephraim does.


Vasiliy Fet: Gets his ashes hauled. This show should avoid any and all love scenes, as they are, every one of them, entirely cliche. I don’t know who his new woman is, or even if she’s staying, but she didn’t make a great impression on me, becasue I’m not particularly interested in watching people hooking up during the apocalypse, although I guess that’s what’s happening. The city is going to Hell, and people are short on food and medicine, but the bars are still open apparently. See, it’s scenes like that that confuse people into thinking maybe the apocalypse isn’t so bad. For every scene of people enduring hardship and danger, we then get a scene of people who seem to be just living it up, as if nothing were happening. My expectation would be that the streets would be thoroughly empty at night, and full of people running around during the day, because no vampires can go out then. The show seems to have this a little backwards,with everyone running around at night (or like Set and Fet, just casually walking around), and off the streets in the daytime. 

The budget is so low for this show that they keep reusing the same helicopter shot, and an overview of the city with a few fires in the distance. I wished this network cared enough about this show to give it a budget, instead of trying to do such an epic idea on the cheap.

Eldridge Palmer: Has discovered that Setrakian has been using vampire goo to extend his life and is desperate to get his hands on it, so we’ve gone back to this character’s original motivations from season one. This goo, called The White, is distilled from vampire worms, and Palmer has funded a laboratory, to figure it out, but experiences a setback when the lab leader quits.  Palmer goes to Set, to plead for The White, in exchange for taking himself off the playing field. Set turns him down, explaining to Fet later, that The White is only given to very special and specific people, in exchange for their service against the vampires, and it only extends life, not immortalizes, as Palmer seems to think. Eichorst,the smug little maggot that he is, gets to smirk at Palmer a lot, but otherwise doesn’t get much done in this episode. He does mention the blood factories he intends to set up later, and that they need to increase the number of people to sign up to have their blood typed. Why?


I feel like this  plotline is a mistake and can be taken out of play. It serves no purpose other than to make Eichorst appear more diabolical, otherwise he doesn’t have much to do. It doesn’t serve the vampires much as they seem to have very little trouble procuring meals, (what with humans just wandering around like there’s no danger), and I don’t see how this helps The Master, because he doesn’t either. In fact there’s not much purpose in The Feelers, although they’re interesting to watch. 

Overall, not a bad episode, but not good either, just like the first one. Stay tuned next week when I may or may not review the next one, because there’s going to be interesting new shows airing.

The Strain Season 3: NY Strong

So, I watched the first episode of season three and I can’t say I was impressed. I didnt hate it, but it wasn’t exactly memorable either. The show picks up very close to where it left off in the season two finale, when Eph’s vampirized wife, Kelly, finally kidnapped her son, Zach, and killed Nora. Setrakian finally managed to gain The Occido Lumen, and we had no idea where Gus went.

Eph is, predictably, getting drunk and waiting at his home for Kelly and Zach to drop by. We know this because he has a nightmare that Zach has been turned into a vampire and he has to shoot him. Its a very harrowing dream and this is one of the few times I actually felt for Eph. I want to snark about how it’ll be the last time I have feelings for Eph, beyond wanting to punch him in the throat, but I’m gonna let it go because he’s discovered snark and  actually made me laugh during the following scene.

Setrakian has a voice-over about the sitrep in NY. Its been 23 days, the plague has spread to other cities, and we get some shots of people running about, some fires, and military vehicles, and personnel. Its good that the military has gotten involved but they have their own agenda which doesn’t seem to involve wiping out the vampires, but only containing them.

The Navy Seals are working with Fet, who is their guide around the underground places of NY. I think that’s an excellent use for him, and he is still one of my favorite characters, but he doesn’t work-work with them. He’s  in contact with the Seals by radio, so you know they’re expendable. Like a lot of military personnel in movies they are overconfident. They do make a point of stating that they should be careful not to get any fluids on them, as the fluids from the vampires contain the worm infection, but none of them are wearing contamination gear, even though there’s fluid flying all over the place, when they shoot the vampires.

So, its especially eye-rolling watching Eph get into a fistfight with one of the vampires later in the episode. If you’re trying not to get infected with the worms, fist-fighting the vampires is not the way to stay uninfected. (Yet, Eph does remain so.) Eph fighting in an abandoned parking garage, while trying to steal gas, is one of the better action scenes in this episode, though. He spends a lot of time running around alone as if he were daring the vampires to attack him. Anyway between running about gathering up supplies, and drinking, he works on his bio-weapon against the vampires, a bio-weapon which is beginning to be less effective as the vampires evolve into something else.

Image result for THE STRAIN NEW YORK STRONG

I would prefer that he worked out some kind of inoculation against the infection, instead. That seems like it would be easier to accomplish than killing the vampires one by one, or making them sick. Perhaps a combination of both, so that when they bite people, the people don’t become infected, and make the vampire sick too, but I’m not writing this show, so that idea is gonna die in its infancy.

The show is still taking a pretty casual attitude towards the apocalypse, even though the season has been shortened to just ten episodes. On the other hand, this particular episode was fairly tight, there wasn’t a lot of filler, and we didn’t have to spend any time on Dutch’s boring-ass social problems. We’re introduced to the characters again, find out where they are and get some idea of the problems that will beset them at some point during the season. The trailers for the rest of the season look great, but I have it on good authority that the next two episodes are just as casual in their approach as usual.

We got to see Kelly and Zach interacting. Yes, Zach is still awful, so there’s some consistency there. Now that’s he’s with his Mom, he’s begun whining about his Dad, but at least there’s less of him. Eventually, Eph does get a visit from Kelly, who tries to bargain with him for The Occido Lumen in exchange for their son. There’s a brief appearance by Eichorst baiting a Navy Seals team into following him into an abandoned church, which I could see was a trap as soon as Fet mentioned that it was an abandoned church.

Setrakian and Quinlan teamed up at the end of season two and we get some scenes of Setrakian reading The Lumen and talking about how we aren’t going to get any action scenes out of him this season because he’s got reading to do, while Quinlan looks on impatiently. Quinlan goes to visit the vampire authorities in order to have something to do in this episode. I still think its hilarious how everyone else is deathly afraid of the authorities, but Quin acts like he’s having a friendly conversation with his uncles, or something. He’s totally not scared of them.

The councilwoman, Ferraldo is as spunky as ever. She seems to care deeply about her city and is trying really hard to convince people outside of it, that it needs to be saved. If only politicians acted like her in the real world.  I could’ve done without some of the jingoistic dialogue and cheer-leading by the citizens of NY yelling “NY Strong!” at each other. That was deeply cheesy and they sounded like NY cavemen.

Image result for THE STRAIN NEW YORK STRONG

A lot of information is imparted during the episode, while almost none of it is shown. Its mostly characters talking about how bad things are. This plague is supposed to be a countrywide thing but the show only seems to have enough budget to show snippets of the carnage, and I wish we could get a better overview of what was going on in other cities. We see some fires in the distance and there are lots of sirens. So basically, a louder, smokier version of present day NY city.

One way the show conveyed how dire things have become is when Eph goes to trade medicine for food on the streets. The quarantine of NY mostly just caused a supply shortage, so the citizens have set up a brisk trade market of supplies.

Image result for THE STRAIN NEW YORK STRONG

Gus is back home and trying desperately to save his  mother from her vampiric condition. Even going so far as to give her his own blood. He can’t save her and he knows it, but he tries anyway. He’s as devastated by his loss as Eph and I wished the writers had shown more of that last season. As it stands, Eph barely mentions the death of Nora.

Well, with a shorter season, the plot will have to move forward, and we won’t have much time to watch Gus trying to feed his mom for five episodes, or Setrakian reading until episode nine.

So, while not a bad episode, the show really has not changed too much from the rather casual management of the apocalypse of last season either. The action scenes are always well done, when we can get them, but once again, the acting and dialogue need some help. At least there’s a lot less Zach, and that is a blessing.