20 March 2018

My Spring TBR (with a twist)

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.

This week's topic is books on our spring TBR. And this is where we get to our twist:

I don't have any books on my spring TBR. 

I no longer want my ambitions to put any added pressure on my already busy schedule. I'm currently re-reading The Grand Design by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow and I'm reading it at my own my pace. And honestly, I don't know what book I'm going to pick up next. I do know that I want to start reading books that I already own, as opposed to doing review requests or going to the library (although, you should totally support your local libraries!).

But just for the fun of it (and because I do like making lists) here are ten books on my bookshelf that I'm most excited about this season:

1. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

I got a sneak peak at the first few chapters. It promises to be an interesting read.


2. Leviathan Wakes by James A. Corey

Just like with The Bell Jar, I already got a running start on this chunky space opera. With big epics such as this one, it usually takes time for me to really get into the story.

 3. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

It's been a long time since I last read that book, and I feel another re-read coming up. This time, I aim to finish the whole series.


4. Intercept by Gordon Corera

Wiretapping, espionage, and political games. What else do you need? Oh, and did I mention it's non-fiction.

5. Endymion and The Rise of Endymion by Dan Simmons

Parts two and four in the Hyperion Cantos saga. The first two books were a treasure for me to discover, and I hope the last two won't disappoint.

3977  11289

6. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Well, I finally own a copy of this classic.


7. It by Stephen King

Fresh from the fantastic audiobook version narrated by Steven Weber, I now want to give my own inner narrator voice a try.


8. Salem's Lot 

More Stephen King. Always fun.


9. Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Twilight (Season 8 comics) by Brad Meltzer and Georges Jeanty

Got this copy on sale, and I'm looking forward to reading about Buffy and Angel (SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS!)


10. The Simpsons And Their Mathematical Secrets by Simon Singh

Another re-read that is way overdue.


16 March 2018

The X-Files: "RM9SBG93ZXJZ" (Spoiler Review)

Remember when I said that this season has been very consistent and sure of itself? Well, about that...

"RM9SBG93ZXJZ" is the seventh episode of season eleven of The X-Files. The title translates to "Followers" in Base64 code. It was written by Kristen Cloke and Shannon Hamblin, and directed by Glen Morgan. A tribute to the British Netflix show Black Mirror, "Followers" shows us what may happen when technology runs amok. 

In the tease, a robotic voice tells the real-life story of the Microsoft chatbot that was launched on Twitter in March 2016, and how in just under twenty-four hours, the bot began mimicking toxic and offensive tweets from some of Twitter's more "outspoken" users before the creators deleted the account. 

This story becomes the basis of the episode: AI learns from us, so we must be careful about what we teach it. It's something that Mulder and Scully will have to figure out by themselves when, after refusing to tip the robot staff at the fully automated sushi restaurant, the agents become harassed by their home appliances and their smart devices. As the attacks begin to escalate to the point when Mulder is being chased by tiny drones, and Scully's furnace explodes after a gas leak, the agents throw away all of their portable tech (including Scully's "personal massager") and run away. 

They seek refuge in an empty factory, in a sequence that is way too reminiscent of the last act of Terminator to be a coincidence. But the machines attack them here, too. The agents get cornered by a mean looking robot that "hands" Mulder his smartphone and gives him the last chance to tip the robot sushi chefs. In the weirdest and least motivated ten seconds of the show ever, Mulder makes the last second decision to donate the smallest possible amount. The machines cease their onslaught and let the humans go.

In the final scene, we see Mulder and Scully having a quiet breakfast at a diner with an all-human staff. Mulder tips the waitress, Scully takes his hand, they smile. Fade to black. 

"Followers" is the most unusual X-File of this season so far and is a departure from how the show usually looks, sounds and feels. From the very first scene at the sushi restaurant at which Mulder and Scully are the only guests, you know this episode is going to be different. There is barely any dialogue, and most of the time when the characters speak they are trying to communicate with their smart devices. The episode looks different, too. It feels almost as if our heroes have been transported into a different world, where futuristic technology is the norm and the streets of Washington DC are deserted during nighttime. 

All of the stylistic and storytelling choices in "Followers" exist for the benefit of what the writers want to say about the way technology controls and permeates our lives. In their interview with SyFy Wire, Cloke and Hamblin make some interesting points about what having a smartphone with us at all times may actually mean to us:  

"I think it also adds to that isolated feeling that the obsession with technology and your cell phone and all that stuff [gives you]. You feel like you are engaged all the time, but maybe you're even more alienated by not really engaging." - Hamblin.

"A lot of being on your technology is spent there, filling space. We all want to fill the space, and that's why phones have taken over our lives. They are really great space-fillers." - Cloke.

If you want to take a deeper look at what "Followers" is trying to say about technology, I recommend reading the review by Tony Black of Cultural Conversation, as well as the SyFy Wire interview (links down below). Here, I can only add one thing. 

Movies and shows like Black Mirror do a great job speculating about how technology can become our foe exploring all sorts of nightmarish scenarios. But it wasn't until I saw "Followers" that I realized that none of the Black Mirror episodes depict the simplest and the most trivial ways technology can be frustrating and destructive. As anyone who has punched the CAPTHA code countless times before the system finally realized you weren't a bot or had the pleasure of "talking" to an automated service to book their delivery from IKEA will recognize themselves in "Followers". 

Fearful Symmetry

Is technology our friend or foe? Is AI indeed learning from us, and if it does, do we have a responsibility to be better teachers? Have we gone so far as to let technology take over lives and our minds? These are all incredibly interesting and relevant questions and for the most part, the episode deals with these questions pretty well. Unfortunately, it does that at the expense of the characters and the story itself. 

Take for instance the aesthetics of this episode. "Followers" looks great. I like the pedantic symmetry of shots in Scully’s home, and the contrast between the hyper-futuristic sushi restaurant and the homely mess of Mulder’s house.

The problem here is that this isn't The X-Files. "Followers" is a thinly veiled homage to/rip off of Black Mirror. The reason I find it problematic is that The X-Files is too strong of a show to be borrowing from other shows, and "Followers" relies too much on this borrowed imagery.

Back when the show was still young, and when Scully was still wearing shoulder pads, the writers did make themselves guilty of “paying homages” to iconic sci fi movies. The most notable example of it is the season one episode “Ice” which is basically the TV version of John Carpenter’s The Thing. But as the show got more confident, it developed its own visual style and its own very recognizable iconography, one that many shows that followed in Chris Carter's footsteps have been eager to emulate. 

The X-Files has always had its own trademark look, and the latest season and a half have been very good at keeping the balance between maintaining that look and making the show look new and fresh. Enter then "Followers" which looks nothing like any of the episodes we’ve seen so far. This isn’t a bad thing per se, and I applaud both Morgan and the writers for their desire and courage to experiment, but in this case, it felt like I was watching a different show. 

I may sound like a pedantic fangirl criticizing the stylistic choices of "Followers" but to me the Black Mirror aesthetics is symptomatic of a bigger problem I have with this episode.

In many ways, "Followers" is the outlier of this season. The rebellious kid who just won't fit in. Again, there is no problem with trying something different. The real question here is, how does it affect the characters and the season in general? "Followers" reminds me of the Treehouse of Horror episodes of The Simpsons. These Halloween specials feature the same characters, but they depict a different universe and the events of those episodes are not a part of the Simpsons canon. Finally, almost everybody in these stories acts out of character. 

And just like that episode where Homer Simpson starts the Apocalypse by accidentally making the computers rise against humans, "Followers" finds itself in this uncanny valley where the world is just a little bit off and the characters behave in a way that makes them a little less recognizable. 

For instance, take the no dialogue thing. Mulder and Scully are sitting at an empty sushi bar, taking selfies and not saying a word to each other. When you think about what the writers are trying to say about technology and its role in our lives, the choice to not have any dialogue makes sense. However, it is such an awkward scene because Scully and Mulder would be the last people on Earth to choose social media over having a conversation. This is such an out-of-character moment, especially when you think about all the fantastic lines shared between these characters. 

Conversations on the rock 

If you're going to make your characters do something radical, like not speak for the majority of the episode, there has to be an in-universe explanation for this choice. In the critically acclaimed episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, "Hush", a group of demons called the Gentlemen steal people's voices so that nobody can hear them when they harvest their victims‘ hearts. For two thirds of the episode there is not one line of dialogue spoken by any of the characters. In "Hush" that premise works because there is a legitimate reason for there not being any dialogue.

Take then "Followers" where two of the most eloquent characters on TV barely say two words to each other because the writers wanted to make a statement. It's a good statement to make but not when it comes at the expense of the characters. 

I know, I know... I just spent the last three paragraphs ranting about how Mulder and Scully aren't talking in this one. But this is just one of the choices that the writers make that makes this episode stick out like a sore thumb. Since when does Scully live in a "smart house"? Since when can she afford one? Are we supposed to believe that Washington DC - the twenty first largest city in the United States becomes deserted when the sun goes down? It’s these seemingly small details that take the me out of the story, and frankly make me wish I was watching Black Mirror.    

To me, "Followers" is a confusing episode. I’m not going to lie, after the first viewing I was intrigued. It felt to me like this episode was trying to say something profound, I just didn't know what because I couldn’t look past its glossy surface. As with all the previous episodes, I watched this one twice - once as a fan, and then the second time to prepare for the review. But if in most cases, I found a lot more to enjoy on the second viewing, "Followers" was the first episode which was a chore to get through the second time around. I felt like I had watched a TV episode with an admirable level of ambition, but that was less sure of itself than its predecessors. 

And the whole concept of being attacked by your home appliances just isn't scary anymore. I wonder why? 

"Life's a glitch, then you die"

"Followers" isn't bad, and its weaknesses aren't unique to this one episode. In fact, they're more emblematic of the general quality of the AI/tech episodes of The X-Files. Take the cyberpunk thriller "Kill Switch" from season five. "Kill Switch" is a plot-driven episode, and none of the events there are of any consequence to the characters. The episode puts the tech-heavy plot on the forefront and the characters are just there. "Followers" suffers from a similar affliction. Let’s just say Cyberpunk is not The X-Files' strongest side. 

The exception here is "This", but in that episode the Matrix-like simulation plot is secondary to the story that asks questions about world politics, about Mulder and Scully's place in the world, and the concept of soul. The stakes here are high because they're personal. And all those philosophical questions are discussed by our heroes, which makes the themes of the episode more relevant, and the heroes more relatable. 

I’m not saying that every X-File has to relate to the characters personally. But this is a character-driven show, and when you put your themes before the characters and before the story itself, it almost feels like a betrayal.  

Links and sources 

The X-Files – ‘Rm9sbg93zxjz’ - Cultural Conversation 

Twitter taught a Microsoft's AI chatbot to be a racist asshole in less than a day - The Verge

EXCLUSIVE: X-Files writers Kristen Cloke and Shannon Hamblin explain 'RM9SBG93ZXJZ' - SyFy Wire

13 March 2018

Ten Books That Had Great Impact On Me

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme by That Artsy Reader Girl.

First, I want to say that I'm way behind on my X-Files reviews, I've been studying for the big exam this past week, and everything else had to take a back seat (I hate it when that happens!). Also, there are now only two episodes left, and I don't really know how to feel right now #sonotready

Now, this week's topic is books that had great impact on us. I feel that this should be an article onto itself, rather than a top ten list. But here's a sample of what books have nurtured my mind and my imagination, so to speak.

1. The Ukrainian and Russian Notebooks: Life and Death under Soviet Rule


This was the first graphic novel I had read. Italian artist Igort translated his interviews with people who have survived the Holodomor in Ukraine and the atrocities of the Chechen War into beautiful but brutal illustrations. You can read my full review here, but I'll just say that this book was a sharp reminder of how screwed up our world can be.

2. The Shining


If you think that you have heard me go on and on about this book before, you're right. It almost always makes my “Best of”- lists. I often wonder if this isn't my favourite book of all times. Stephen King is famous for his horror, but The Shining isn't so much horror as it is a family tragedy with a horror twist. It was one of the first "adult" books I have read, and it has shaped the way I look at literature.

3. The Martian Chronicles


Another gem that always finds its way to my "Best of"- lists, Ray Bradbury's dreamy surreal short story collection is a tapestry woven with fine golden threads. I read this book way back in my early teens, and it took me away to a different world. Still does.

4. The Investigation


This crime novel by Stanislaw Lem had a different kind of impact on me. It taught me that if you don't respect your readers, and don't have the common decency to solve the mystery in the end, you should rethink your life choices.

5. Feed


As much as I love my adult dystopians, I had to put this YA dystopian by M.T. Anderson on the list instead. Feed really messed me up for some time. It gave me a glimpse into a world where not only is there no privacy, and where advertisement rules the world, but where empathy and compassion don't count for anything.

6.  Station Eleven


Emily St. John Mandel wrote the most fascinating and thought-provoking post-apocalyptic story I've read in a long while. Post-apocalyptic is a genre that has been done to death, but Station Eleven is so different from the rest. Most of these stories tend to glamourize the depressing post-fallout/pandemic/alien invasion world. Station Eleven doesn't do that. It was the first book that me realize that if our civilization were to fall, I would really miss the little things, like the Internet, and my mundane everyday routines. 

7. You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost)


Back when I was still new to the blogosphere, Felicia Day's quirky memoir taught me a lot about how to find my own voice in this vast, noisy and even hostile world we call the Internet. She is the living example that there is more than one path to success and that sometimes, failure is a good thing. You can read my full review here

8. Jane Eyre


I'm not much for romance, especially if it involves corsets and gothic mansions. That's why I was surprised when I fell in love with Jane Eyre. I still don't know if I'm happy with the ending, but that only shows the complexity of this story and its characters. Charlotte Bronte wrote this book in 1847 but so much of what she wrote still rings true today. Click here for full review.

9. Where the Evil Dwells


What would a list like this be without good old Clifford D. Simak? This book introduced me to and made me fall in love with the concept of parallel universes and alternate dimensions. In many ways, this book shaped my taste in science fiction. To this day, parallel universes remain my favourite sub-genre of sci fi.

10. The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos


Which brings me to Brian Greene and this wonderful book where he tackles the possibility of parallel universes from a scientific perspective. The ideas and theories presented here are so thought-provoking and they make my imagination go wild. 

4 March 2018

A Month in Books: February

It's that time of the month again: time to make a list of all the books that I read and /or bought this past month. February was a bitch to me. It gave me the flu so for the most part of the month all I did was stream Frasier (so it wasn't all bad). I did get some reading done, though. And since February is also the month of the annual book sale, I bought a bunch of books, too. Not too many, just enough to keep me from going on any more shopping sprees the next few months.

Books read

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

So I finally read this critically acclaimed post-apocalyptic novel, and I loved it. All the hype was justified. This book is a masterpiece.

The X-Files Origins: Devil's Advocate by Jonathan Marberry

The Mulder half of this prequel duology was a fantastic YA mystery that really got The X-Files vibe right. The Scully half? Not so much. It's been a while since I read a book that left me with a bad aftertaste.

The Girl with Seven Names: My Escape from North Korea by Hyenseo Lee

I finished this book in one night because I just couldn't put it down. I'm weary of reviewing nonfiction books, especially memoirs, since they're about real people and their personal experiences, so I'll just say that this was the most tumultuous book I have ever read.

And now to the good stuff...

Books purchased

Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions 
by Edwin. A. Abbott

Who Goes There? 
by John W. Campbell

Rama II, The Garden of Rama, Rama Revealed, and The Final Odyssey
by Arthur C. Clarke  

The Scarlet Letter 
by Nathaniel Hawthorne

by Walter Scott

The Affinity Bridge 
by George Mann

The X-Files Season 11, parts 1 and 2
by Joe Harris, Matthew Dow Smith, and Jordie Bellaire

1 March 2018

The X-Files: Kitten (Spoiler Review)

"Kitten" is the sixth episode of the eleventh season of The X-Files. It was written by Gabe Rotter, directed by Carol Banker and stars Haley Joel Osment and Cory Rempel as young Walter Skinner. 

At the FBI Headquarters, Deputy Director Alvin Kersh is questioning Mulder and Scully about the whereabouts of Assistant Director Walter Skinner. It seems that Skinner has gone AWOL and the Bureau wants him back. In no ambiguous terms, Kersh lets the agents know that Skinner is in trouble, and then tells them that the reason Skinner never advanced up the FBI career ladder was his loyalty to the two of them.

Scully and Mulder's search for their renegade boss leads them to the small town of Mud Lick where someone is killing locals. All the evidence points to Skinner being the murderer, but the agents immediately suspect that there is something else at play. The agents also find out that most of the residents of Mud Lick have been losing their teeth for no apparent reason.

Meanwhile, Skinner is in Mud Lick to pay a visit to his old war buddy, John "Kitten" James after having received a cryptic message from him – a severed ear and a note that says, “The monster are here”. Instead of James, Skinner meets his now grown-up son, Davey. Through flashbacks and the strained dialogue between Skinner and Davey we learn that both Skinner and James have been exposed to an experimental weaponized gas during the war. The exposure made Skinner hallucinate and transformed James from a kindhearted young man to a sociopathic killing machine. James got court martialed for his war crimes and Skinner was forbidden from mentioning their exposure to the poison gas. James was committed to a mental institution outside of Mud Lick where, according to Davey scientists continued experimenting on him in their pursuit to perfect the weaponized gas.

A true conspiracy theorist, Davey is convinced that the military is exposing the public to this gas by spreading it with the help of pesticides and commercial air traffic. According to Davey, they do it as a means to mind control the population. 

Davey offers to take Skinner to his father but instead lures him into a trap, injuring Skinner in the process. He is rescued by Mulder and Scully. They then chase Davey into the woods, until he’s killed by one of his own booby traps.

While Scully is tending to Skinner's wound, she and Mulder have a heart-to-heart with their boss. Instead of confirming their fears that his allegiance with the dynamic duo has stagnated his career, Skinner admits that it was his loyalty to them that helped him maintain his moral compass, and not to ignore the hard truth about his job. He then vows to do right by his friend who had been wronged by the government.

In the last shot of Skinner, we see him pull out one of his teeth. And in the epilogue, we see a crop duster spraying a field with a yellow gas as Davey's warnings about government conspiracies are repeated in voiceover. 

Is it too late to ship these two?

Before delving into the depths of this episode, I want to go back twenty-two years, to the late season three episode, titled "Avatar". In that episode, Skinner's loyalty to Scully and Mulder becomes a problem for Cancerman, so he tries to frame the A.D. for murdering a prostitute. Skinner gets cleared much thanks to Mulder's faith in his innocence. This was the first episode to focus on Skinner, and it contributed greatly to exploring his character and his relationship with our heroes. 

I can't help but notice the similarities between these two episodes, and in many ways, "Kitten" can be seen as a long-awaited sequel to "Avatar". Both episodes offer tiny glimpses into Skinner's traumatic and paranormal experiences in Vietnam; in both cases Skinner is being punished for his loyalty to his children agents; finally, both stories take Skinner's relationship with Mulder and Scully to a new level. 

"Avatar" first aired on April 26, 1996. Since then, there has been a small number of Skinner-centric episodes, but none that delved as deeply into his background as "Kitten", which came over two decades later. Needless to say, Skinner-centric episodes are rare. This may have something to do with the way he was written from the start. A stern stuffed shirt who's married to his job isn't the most fun character to watch. But that doesn't mean that Skinner is a one-dimensional character. He’s actually one of the most complex and controversial characters the show has ever had.

Skinner's background has been revealed bit by tiny bit as the show progressed, and we have seen him grow more with each moral dilemma that he and his agents have faced. In fact, one way to see Skinner's character progression is by looking at how his relationship with Scully and Mulder has changed over the years. Since we don't know much about what kind of man he is outside of his work, we can only measure his growth by looking at the choices he makes as the Assistant Director.

It's still too early to say anything conclusive about season eleven, but I'm going to make a very careful statement and say that so far this season has been very focused. We've had five standalone episodes, and all of them have either been connected to the main mythology or contributed greatly to the characters' growth. So far, we've seen both Scully and Mulder reflect on their lives and reconcile with some of their more difficult choices. Now, it's Skinner's turn.

And yet, "Kitten" almost didn't come to pass. It’s strange how an episode that deals with the backstory of one of the main characters isn’t something that Carter has thought about doing. The idea for the episode was actually pitched by writer’s assistant Gabe Rotter, who thought that it'd be fun to take a deeper look at Skinner's Vietnam experiences, and to explain his loyalty to the most underappreciated FBI agents on the payroll. 

Skinner is one of the most important characters in the entire show, and not to have an episode dedicated to him in what will most likely be the final season ever would have been a terrible betrayal of the character. Not to mention a big middle finger to the hardcore fans.

But is "Kitten" any good? 

I have to say that the first time I watched this episode, I was a little disappointed: I mean, chemtrails? Really? It felt to me that the writers just took from a grab bag of Internet conspiracy theories. It is something that the show has been guilty of ever since the first season. Be it alien abductions or the Chupacabra, Carter and co have always been happy to borrow from the diverse catalogue of urban legends and conspiracy theories rather indiscriminately.

But as clumsy and on the nose as the poison gas/chemtrails trope may be, it actually serves a great purpose in pushing one of the central narratives of the show; that is the government's crimes against its own citizens. And having Skinner as the main character, the writers can tackle some pretty heavy subject matters, such as the horrors of war, and the government's treatment of veterans. 

The chemtrails trope may be older than the urban legend itself. In the season two episode, "Blood" people are being manipulated into committing violent acts after having been exposed to a chemical agent in a pesticide that is used to provoke fear in insects. Similarly, the gas that Skinner and James have been exposed to in "Kitten", provokes fear and violent reactions in the subjects.

When the Smoking Man goes out for 

So much for the plot. What about the episode itself?

The truth is that after all those Stranger Things and American Horror Stories I have been so desensitized to horror that it's become easy to forget how scary and disturbing The X-Files can be. For instance, I recently rewatched "Squeeze" which is the very first monster-of-the-week episode and I was genuinely creeped out both by the atmosphere and the monster. The scariest of The X-Files are the ones that don't over rely on the physical horror, but instead strive to create a chilling atmosphere and memorable villains. "Kitten" has both.

The star here is, of course, Haley Joel Osment who plays not one but three different characters: the timid pre-poison gas John James, the cold-blooded murderer he came to be, and his tinfoil hat-wearing, animal-abusing, veteran-killing son Davey. Davey is a grade-A creep and Osment's performance will without a doubt put him on the same "wall of fame" with such Big Bads as Donnie Pfaster and the Peacock family. The scariest monsters on The X-Files are humans.

[Insert lazy Sixth Sense joke]

Director Carol Banker does a fantastic job creating a chilling atmosphere, and the actors make you feel the unease and paranoia that these characters are experiencing. There is one particular detail that stuck with me: outside of Davey's dilapidated hunting cabin we see several domestic animals in cages, including a cat. We also see a half-skinned deer hanging in the background. Which begs the question: just what was Davey going to do with these small animals? And the whole time we spent outside the cabin, I wanted to yell at the screen, "Somebody please take those animals out of their cages! They're going to freeze to death!".

Visually, this episode is beautiful, and may be the best looking one of the six we've already seen. There is the familiar X-Files iconography, like the dark woods. There are a lot of dark shadows, and long suspenseful shots. I love the sense of isolation and claustrophobia that Banker creates. There are several shots that remind me of M. Night Shyamalan's The Village (say what you want about that movie, but it is scary). And the Vietnam flashbacks feature some of the show’s best action moments. "Kitten" is an episode that is as ambitious as it is competent.

Bildresultat för the x files kitten
Think fast, agent Mulder!

There are a few missed opportunities in this episode, though. For instance, if the people of Mud Lick are being exposed to an agent that provokes violent behavior how come the only visible effect of the exposure is the loss of dentition? Logically, the mass effect would be similar to the one seen in "Blood", with otherwise normal people going on killing sprees. Instead, we get a trip to the dentist.

The running theme of this episode is monsters. Both Skinner and James saw monsters when they were exposed to the gas; Davey lures Skinner to Mud Lick with a note that says, "The monster are here". Finally, Davey himself dresses up as a monster when he kills. The message is not a very subtle one: war turns people into monsters. You can also say that the people who were experimenting on James were themselves monsters.  

I also want to mention some details that I thought were fun. I have been studying dentistry for a year and a half now, and hearing Scully drop terms like "bicuspids" and "periodontitis" made my ears perk up. And now I wonder what exactly that gas is made of if it makes people loose their teeth.

The other "detail" that I thought was fun was the brief return of Deputy Director Kersh. Actor James Pickens Jr. was able to take a break in his busy schedule filming Grey's Anatomy for this little cameo, something that I'm grateful for. Kersh was first introduced in season six, as yet another antagonist to Mulder and Scully, and one more tool of the Powers that be to keep the agents from doing their job. In many ways, Kersh was filling in for Skinner, whose allegiances have shifted early on in the series. And Kersh filled that role pretty well. His antagonism towards the duo culminated in the season nine finale, "The Truth" immediately followed by his last-minute redemption, when he helped Mulder escape from prison.

Seeing him now, sixteen years later as the same unsympathetic suit with a stick up his behind is a disappointment. But maybe our heroes do have a reluctant ally in Kersh. After all, he could have ordered any other agent to look for Skinner, but he chose Scully and Mulder. And I do read his little speech in the beginning as a warning for the agents to tread carefully. 

I didn't mean to ramble on about Kersh so much, I just love seeing secondary characters make appearances, however brief they may be.

"Kitten" works on many levels and has many things to say about politics, war, and the effect the two can have on the human psyche. Above all, "Kitten" is a much welcome, and a very well-done study of the character that has meant so much for the show and its success. With Cancerman's secret still being safe with Skinner, the A.D. is still not out of the doghouse (as far as the viewers are concerned), but just like Mitch Pileggi himself, I like to believe that what Skinner says about Mulder and Scully being his moral compass is true. Skinner is a complicated person. His worldview may have been shaped by his environment, but he has worked hard to find his own place in the government food chain, and to stand up for what he believes is right, even at the cost of his career and - in some instances - his own life.

Bildresultat för skinner scully mulder

Sources and links 

SyFyWire Exclusive: X-Files' Mitch Pileggi and Writer Gabe Rotter Spill the Secrets of Skinner's Past

TV Line: The X-Files Star, Scribe Break Down Skinner's Devotion to Mulder and Scully 

27 February 2018

Books I Could Re-read Forever

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week's topic is books we could re-read forever. There are a number of books that I never tire of coming back to. Some books work on many levels and you can discover something new with each re-read. Other books are just so good and comforting and make you feel good about yourself.

1. The Caves of Steel

It's no surprise that I love Isaac Asimov's Robots series (my e-mail address gives that away pretty well). I love everything about these books, especially the friendship between the robophobic cop Elijah Baley and his robot partner, Daneel Olivaw.

2. Anything by Ray Bradbury

This one is a no-brainer.

3. The Shining

I've read this book at least four times, and every time I discover something new. Stephen King may not be my favourite author, but The Shining just may be my favourite book.

4. Sherlock Holmes stories

There is something about the original Sherlock Holmes short stories and novels by Arthur Conan Doyle that makes me coming back for more.


5. They Walked Like Men

I've read this alien invasion novel by Clifford D. Simak more times than I can remember. Simak wrote both hard science fiction and high fantasy. Regardless of the genre, he created worlds that I love revisiting.