SEASON FINALE: The Unexpected Rise and Fall of the WB and UPN is, as author and former WB executive Susanne Daniels notes, already a relic of another time: the struggle to become the Fifth Network after Fox became the Fourth looks laughably pointless from the vantage of the streaming era. That said, it’s interesting to see how the two networks struggled to build a media presence without owning any stations (having a station committed to airing your programming is a huge advantage when hunting advertising dollars) or having any idea what to air. UPN scored a strong start with Voyager, then foundered while the WB did better in the long run with Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Seventh Heaven (both of which are now known to have had a sexual harasser on the show — though I’m not sure it says anything beyond how endemic harassment is). Eventually tight budgets, competition and the constant ownership shuffle as the networks’ parent companies passed to new management did them in and gave birth to the CW (which is now undergoing its own ownership drama with Discovery buying out Warners). This told me way more than I cared to know — a lot of the behind-the-scenes stuff isn’t gripping — but that’s not the author’s fault.
Rereading DC’s Enemy Ace as part of my Silver Age reread, I began wondering if there was any truth to his characterization as an honorable knight of the air. That led to me reading MARKED FOR DEATH: The First War in the Air by James Hamilton-Paterson, which argues our view of the air war as heroic single combat (in contrast to the brutality of trench warfare) has blinded most historians and fiction-makers to how lethal it was. Not only could you die from an enemy bullet, planes were unstable, often defective, easily exploding or snapping, and pilots didn’t get parachutes (primarily, though not entirely, the fears of the military brass that they might not fight as hard with an easy out).
In answer to my question, this shows that yes, Von Hammer’s gentlemanly conduct wouldn’t have been out of line with reality (though as the war dragged on, it was in short supply), and neither would his grim certainty that the “killer skies” would sooner or later claim him and everyone else who challenged them. An excellet history though Hamilton-Patterson’s outrage that Peanuts treats the Red Baron as a fit figure for humorjust makes me roll my eyes.
CITY OF MIRACLES by Robert Jackson Bennett wraps up his Divine Cities trilogy following City of Stairs and City of Blades. After someone assassinates the protagonist of the previous book, her right hand Sigrud sets out to avenge her. This leads him to discover a demigod has been absorbing the other divine children to build his power to that of total godhood; he’s almost there, which needless to say will not end well for nyone else. Bennett does a remarkable job making divine power feel truly miraculous and this gives the trilogy an excellent finish (a thorough one too — if there’s another book, it’ll have to be a prequel).
Much as I like Amanda Quick’s regency adventures, her WHEN SHE DREAMS left me almost as cold as the earlier book in the series, The Girl Who Knew Too Much. The protagonist here is a psychic dreamer whose boss just received a blackmail letter. The protagonist hires an ex-cop turned private eye to help her investigate, leading to encounters with a mad scientist, a grifter and a lurking killer. The dialog is remarkably stilted and the chemistry between the leads doesn’t work at all. Disappointing.
#SFWApro. Cover by Joe Kubert, all rights to image remain with current holder.