Television Review: Endgame (2011)

Endgame (2011) is available on Hulu Plus (which we finally got working at our new place). There is only one season available and it ends on a bit of a cliffhanger, but it was a good binge watch all the same.

endgame image

Summary from TV.Com

Arkady Balagan is a genius who found fame as the world chess champion but who, since witnessing the murder of his fiancée, has become rather agoraphobic and has been living in a posh hotel in Vancouver. Out of money and with his tab being called due he stumbles into helping find an abducted child. Realising (sic) he could make some money as an unofficial consulting detective he takes up a new profession and hires one of his chess fans to do the work which requires leaving the hotel. Arkady continues to work with Pippa Venturi, his late fiancée’s sister, to solve the murder of Rosemary Venturi, his fiancée, and her old friend Greg Lamont.

Balagan is an agoraphobic Sherlock Holmes. He is a genius who solves mysteries with chess strategic thinking. Since he is agoraphobic he enlists the help of a younger chess player, a maid of the hotel, and a bar tender in the hotel. He finds smart people to help him and doesn’t discriminate who that intelligent person is based on their job description. He is able to walk through what people probably did based on his extensive knowledge of how people work because of his chess playing background.

I like this show because I like smart people, and the entire ensemble is a cast of smart people. They all play off of each other beautifully, and there wasn’t a secondary character that I didn’t like or who was just there to fulfill some quota. They all contributed in their own way and each character pushed the show forward seamlessly. Balagan is a great character beautifully played. Sometimes he comes off as the biggest jerk, that smart kid who always thinks he is right, because he usually is. But, Balagan is smart because he understands not only the rules of a game, but how people think. His ability to understand other people gives his sometimes jerk character warmth and charm that really endured him to me.

My favorite episode was “I Killed Her” where a killer shows up at the hotel and confesses everything to Balagan, but in a way that he can’t be caught. At every turn the killer outsmarts Balagan, which was quite exciting to watch. In the end, it is Balagan’s understanding of human character that resolves the case. In a very touching scene Balagan figures out the psychology of the killer and what ultimately drives his behavior.

If you like binge watching television about smart people solving crimes in unusual ways, check out Endgame (2011) on Hulu Plus.

Book Review: The Rook

The Rook by Daniel O’Malley is by far one of the best books I have read this year. I do not say that lightly. The intricate plot full of conspiracies, murder, and science fiction absolutely blew my mind. I put it on par with the emotional artistry of The Night Circus and the great world building of Ready Player One which were my top two books of last year. Like my other top book of this year, Bitterblue, The Rook crosses genres and breathes life into an unusual character, even for the Urban Fantasy arena, and creates a world that is full of rich details and a complicated history. It was simply, an amazing story.

Myfanwy Thomas comes to herself standing in the pouring rain with two blacks eyes and no knowledge of who she is or why she is standing there. In her pocket are two letters. The first letter tells her how to pronounce her own name, rhymes with Tiffany, and gives her a choice. Follow the clues in the old Myfanwy’s letters back to the beginning like Leonard Shelby in Momento or leave behind the crazy notes, Polaroid photos, and tattoos living a quiet existence with a lot of money on a remote island based on a locker and combination number, or she can open the second letter. Myfanwy tears apart the second envelope and is thrown into a whirl wind of government espionage, supernatural abilities, and paperwork.

Myfanwy learns that she is part of a secret group of government agents that use their supernatural powers to keep people from knowing about the paranormal subset of the human world. Her position of Rook has many advantages, money, an awesome assistant, and more paperwork. The old Myfanwy was a wiz at administration, she was able to dig through papers and read numbers and manage things behind the scenes. In fact, she was so powerful at being an administrator that there is someone in her organization who is out to kill her body and the new Myfanwy must figure out who this is while learning to use her powers, avoid detection that she took over someone’s body, under the the ever watchful eye of her overly competent assistant.

By che via Wikimedia Commons

The juxtaposition between the new Myfanwy and the old as seen through the continuous influx of letters is such a brilliant contrast. The new Myfanwy never felt the lost of being abandoned when she was a child and without that fear to hold her back she is assertive and commanding. Who would I be tomorrow if I woke up without any history, without any fears, without any knowledge of what I could or couldn’t do? How would that free the construct of myself? O’Malley’s story explores the concept of how our history plays into who we believe we are and how we react to situations. It was though provoking and exciting.

While the main plot line of secret government agents and mutants wasn’t anything new, the story telling and world building definitely were. O’Malley’s prose was delightful and insightful. His humor was sly and hard to catch if I wasn’t paying attention. I also was quite amazed that this story about a woman was written by a man. Several times I was thought, ‘Oh that is totally what I would have thought or done in the situation’ and double checked the front cover to see that yes the story was written by a man. I’m not sure what kind of research O’Malley has done but he nailed down how this woman thinks and reacts. I was also so in love with the power of the administrator that O’Malley pointed out very subtly throughout the book. I enjoyed that the heroine had a well paying job and her life had complications and disasters aplenty that added poverty wasn’t need to make it a more interesting.

CC Gary Bridgman (own work, via Wikimedia Commons

This paranormal thriller will have you rapidly turning pages, though I caution about reading ahead, it’s just confusing. I do this far too often with books, I know, and I try to stop myself, but sometimes I can’t. Here it only served to confuse and frustrate me to no end, and I finally realized I just needed to read the book cover to cover. Maybe this was partly because the book takes a while to get into the action of the story, but it will be worth the wait I promise. I really hope this book is made into a movie, it would be glorious. I was pleased at how the ending came together in an epic way that ties together all the threads and leaves you feeling like you are made brilliant for having read such a wonderful book.

See what other bloggers have to say in raving about O’Malley’s debut book here, here, and here.

Doctor Who Chess Set

I’m not a big fan of chess, I prefer card games, because I can win at card games. And don’t ever ask me to play Monopoly, I have never in my entire history of existence won Monopoly. But ask me to play Dutch Blitz (and now my Mennonite is showing), and I will beat your pants off. I told this to some college roommates and one of them was like I’ve been playing since I was twelve, so. . . I told her, I’ve been playing since I was seven. And then I beat her, severely.

They never asked me to play again. Even though I always help the person on my right get their cards out too. (Ok, yes, so technically that is to my advantage, still.)

Anyway,  this chess set is uber cool. [via]

The Game is Afoot

Check out this lovely Sherlock Holmes chess set. And then enjoy some giggles at Sherlock after the jump. 

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Little Links

Here are some cool links and discoveries that aren’t quite enough for their own posting. Enjoy all the goodies!

I discovered a quirky little blog of short stories in the supernatural vein including books of demons and zombies. The author, Deidra Alexander, has a refreshingly witty voice. Her blog posts are full of fun, family, and humor. Check her out!

This fun looking pirate game, Ghost Pirates, needs some crowd sourcing to help it get made. Check it out here. For $10 or more it’s yours, if the game is funded, and it is nearly there. [via io9]

Speaking of games, check out this vertical game of chess at Geekosystem. The internets are acting wonky I can pull up an image and save it to save my life. But you don’t have to imagine, just go to the Geekosystem link and if your internet isn’t acting wonky you’ll see the awesomeness of the vertical chess set.