Sunday, December 23, 2012

Narcissus in Chains--chapter 20

So Anita finally reaches her house. She explains that she rented the house because it has few neighbors, and if she has a crisis she doesn't have to worry about shooting anybody. I did that in one sentence. It took LKH six. Plus a couple existential statements about trees.

Apparently Anita's house is full of people. So many people she has to park down the street from her own house-with-no-neighbors. My first reaction is to shout "WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS SHIT" and go charging in. Hers is to sit in the car and look at it.

For a vampire hunter with a kill count longer than most rap sheets, Anita sure doesn't do much.

Anita also apparently never thought of Nathanial as a person. Why is she our heroine again? And just because she isn't terrible enough, we find out she always thought of Nathanial as a poor, abused child she had to take care of. This tells me two things:

1. If Anita were a man, everybody would be screaming "chauvinist" at her. I've met men with this attitude. They turn women into something for them to rescue, admire, and care for, and in the process ignore the woman's real wishes and ambitions. When I meet men like that I usually revive my "Women in the military" arguement because it is fun watching them go up in flames. This is called objectifying. Anita has turned Nathanial into an object she has to take care of, and not a person that she has to deal with. This is not okay.

2. Anita is a patronizing, egotistical waste of skin. But we already knew that part.

I know I keep getting hung up on little stuff, but writing is all about little stuff. And these little things are hints of extremely unhealthy and abusive behavior. They are inadvertant on the author's part (I hope) but they're FREAKING THERE. And turning a person into an object of value is the first step in turning them into an object of abuse. If "my wife" or "my husband" ever equals "my dog" or "my boots" in someone's attitude, they are the LAST person who should have a significant other. And then a couple paragraphs later...

My breast was aching, faintly, from his teeth marks. We’d shared a bed so often that it felt odd when he wasn’t beside me. But I still didn’t see him as a grown-up. Sad, but true.
Moving on.

Nathanial explains what Anita will need to do for the ardeur. Apparently Jean Claude explained it all to him, because poor Anita is too fragile to handle information that will keep her from hurting herself or other people via sexpire powers. I'm starting to miss sparkling vampmeyers and stalkering, because compared to Jean Claude's passive-aggressive bullshit Edward Cullen was a paragon of well-adjusted masculinity.

Also, fuck you Jean Claude.

Nathanial is also worried that Anita isn't going to sleep in the Circus of the Damned. A couple days ago I responded to a comment by mentioning that Jean Claude's behavior re: Anita so far has been textbook for cult leaders trying to brainwash someone. This HAS to be unintentional because it's really subtle, but if you're looking for it it kind of jumps out in neon. Anita should have been taken home last night. She should have been given a shower, a set of comfy PJs, time to fix herself something warm and comforting to drink, and allowed to sleep in an enviroment that was not so highly sexualized it could make a dead stick stand up and salute. The human psyche is VERY vunurable to suggestion in the time after emotional trauma. Anita is isolated from everyone she trusts (She loves JC, but she's never ever ever EVER trusted him. Nathanial is not a person to her, Jason is JC's boy toy) verbally abused, and then force-fed information while she's given positive experiances, such as they are. JC is repeating over and over, you can't control yourself and you need me. And the fact that HE isn't comfortably letting Anita go home is another sign of an abusive situation.

NOTHING  about this book is healthy, in other words.

After rehashing everything they talked about in the last chapter (Seriously, this book is almost as bad as City of Bones in the stand-around-and-talk-about-it department. It's not exposition IMHO if it's been mentioned NINTEEN OTHER TIMES in the previous chapter) Anita and Nathanial finally leave the car. She's met by two of the other wereleopards, a male named Zane and a girl named Cherry.

If this were any other book, I wouldn't have noticed. I do not think I can trust a female character in vampire/shapeshifter erotica who is named Cherry.

Also, apparently the way to greet your Nimir-Ra is to get on your knees and rub your face all over their hands like you're a for-real cat. This is the "Formal" greeting.

I used to do this when I pretended to be a cat...way back when I was six. These are grown-ass professionals. And they're doing it in Anita's front yard. When they're done with the hand rubbing, they then twine through Anita's legs like a hungry house cat.

These are not shape-shifted wereleopards. They look perfectly human. They're just down on all fours rubbing their whole bodies against Anita's legs.

And then we meet the pard's central trouble-maker, Elizabeth.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Laurel K. Hamilton's nuanced and sensative description of an antagonistic female:

It was Elizabeth. Her walk was always a cross between a strut and a glide, the ultimate hooker’s walk...Her hair fell in curls to her waist, a brunette so dark you would have called it black if you didn’t have my hair to compare it to. She was pretty in a pouting, lush sort of way, like some sort of tropical plant with thick, fleshy leaves and beautiful but deadly blossoms. She was wearing a skirt so short the tops of her black hose and the garters that held them up showed... The shirt was sheer enough that even by starlight you could see she wasn’t wearing a bra, and she, like me, was a woman who needed one.

 I seem to remember in one of these books--I think it was Kiss the Dead--that Anita showed up for an interrogation in a short-short-SHORT skirt, tiny blouse and five inch heels and said that it wasn't her fault, her live-in "stripper sweetie" (AKA Nathanial) had picked her clothes out for her. A LARGE portion of the cast in this series are sex workers. And I don't mean a realistic representation of sex workers. I mean LKH's idea of what sex workers are like. I do not remember if Elizabeth is one of them, as I suspect she's not going to be around much longer. My point? I do not think a respectful depection of a marginalized group is one of LKH's priorities., Anita sure is a catty b--

Aw, come on! It fits!

Anyway, I don't think we've got Elizabeth truely established as an antagonis--

She fake-pouted at me. “Oh, did our little Nimir-Ra get her feelings hurt because I wouldn’t come and sleep naked beside her?”
Yep, there we go. Dresses like an oversexed clubbing idiot, check, is promiscuious (re: sleeping with the guy escorting her) check, and is nasty to Anita. Check, check, and check.

Anita threatens to kill Lizzie here for not watching over Nathanial like she was supposed to. Personally, I'd go with a severe maiming. Lizzie says it's no fun, Nathanial has "standards now." Anita says "Which means he won't fuck with you" and Elizabeth gets pissed. And frankly, I'm seeing no difference between these two characters at all. It's like when two women show up at the party wearing the same hat, only in this case it's personalities.

Also, the word "sweetie" is starting to not look like a word anymore. I had a boyfriend who called me sweetie. It didn't last long, and after a while the pet name just kind of grated. A sweetie is a kind of candy that you blow through in two seconds. It's not somebody you feel strongly attached to.

And then we are introduced to Gina. I don't know who this girl is, but I think she's a "friendly" female.

Women in this book seem to be sorting out into two groups. "Bad" girls, who are girly, sensual, attracted to Anita's men and not fans of Anita, and "good" girls, women who show up in steriotypically "man" clothes (ie a t-shirt) who don't go for girly frills, who are not attracted to Anita's men and who are fans of Anita. By this I mean that if you are an antagonist, you're in a mini-skirt and thigh-highs, and you're single. If you're help, you're packing heat and already married. It's almost like a virgin/whore complex. Let's call it "Matron/Whore", 'cause in this book virgin is pretty much a synonym for victim.

Anyway, Gina shows up in a t-shirt, is beautiful without makeup and strikes Anita as dangerous. Either she's gonna be a "good guy" or LKH is trying to be subtle.

And then we find out that one of the Leopards, Vivian, is dating Gregory's (the wereleopard being held by the werewolves) twin brother Stephen, who is a werewolf.

Werewhatever is supposed to be rare in this universe, right? So what are the odds that identical twin brothers would be struck by two different strains of lycanthropy? Was this established in another book? Because without a DAMN good plot I think we're approaching "bolt from the blue" odds here.

And then everybody starts questioning Nathanial about who he slept with, because apparently they made a new rule without Anita's imput that Nathanial has to run his potential sex partners by the whole group first. And Anita gets nervious about it, hides the fact that she's the one who slept with Nathanial, is forced by the group to confess, and is taunted by Caleb, who turns out to be one of Micah's leopards.

Sadly, Anita doesn't just shoot the bastard.

It keeps going. Apparently Elizabeth wants a real shape-shifter as a Nimir-Ra and is trying to force Anita out. Anita isn't standing for it, and...uh...

I looked at her, and I let the darkness fill my eyes that was my own version of a beast.
What the fuck does that even mean? Her eyes are her beast? What the hell?

And then Micah shows up, and the description of him is basically this:

Micah insists Anita show him the bite marks from having not-sex with Nathanial. She does. This scares the shit out of Elizabeth for some reason, and Lizzie starts repeating "You can't be Nimir-Ra for real. You can't. You can't."

And then Micah tells Anita that they are soul mates. Literally:

He held my face in his hands, making very serious eye contact. “We are a mated pair, Anita. It’s legend among the leopards that you can find your perfect mate, and from the first moment you have sex you’re bound, more than marriage, more than law. We will always crave each other. Our souls will always call to each other. Our beasts will always hunt together.”

This is still the dude that raped Anita yesterday. There are no words, boys and girls, that can ever make this okay.

Anita still has to deal with Elizabeth, though. For the record, I was kidding about maiming a a punishment. Anita, however, is not:

I shot her twice in the chest, while she was still telling me I wouldn’t shoot her. She went over backwards, spine bowing, hands scrabbling at the road, legs kicking while she tried to breathe. Everyone had cleared a big space around her. I stood over her and stared down while she tried to breathe, and her heart struggled to beat around the hole I’d put in it. “You keep saying I can’t kill you like a real Nimir-Ra by tearing your throat out, or gutting you. Maybe that’s going to change soon, but until then I can shoot you, and you’ll be just as dead.”
Our heroine, ladies and gentlemen. Sorry. There is nothing bad-ass about walking up to somebody and shooting them in cold blood. Mostly because the build up before this is too long and drawn out, and too devoid of emotional energy. Also, because Elizabeth is just fucking standing there.

Oh, but Anita murdering Elizabeth is alright, because Elizabeth has an unconsious death wish and really, really wants to die. She just doesn't know it. What. The. Fucking. Hell.

The only person in the group turned off by this display of sociopathy is Caleb, the bad guy. Everybody else is pleased as punch that Anita just filled another person full of holes. Lizzie heals up while they watch.

We get the required "Anita is a badass exchange" which we don't buy any more than we did the last one, the plot is over in a corner sobbing quietly to itself, and the chapter has ended. 

Next chapter: They're taking the leopards to the lupanar. Or, as my brain just put it

You're welcome.


  1. "For a vampire hunter with a kill count longer than most rap sheets, Anita sure doesn't do much."

    For real. She brings up sooo much in Skin Trade what a stone-cold executioner she is, how she's an assassin, how many kills she has...and then she kills a total of NOBODY in the book. She doesn't even make a wound on anyone.

    "If Anita were a man, everybody would be screaming "chauvinist" at her."

    I scream "chauvinist!" at her all the damn time anyway. She's misogynistic as fuck, and this extends to traits seen as feminine being seen as lesser, femininity equated with weakness, and so on--hence how Nathaniel, who is submissive and weak, must therefore be 'feminine' and ends up making biscuits and cleaning house and wearing pearls and being Anita's 'wife'. Likewise, she mindwipes/rapes a guy in Flirt and he becomes her 'Bride', another feminine term. Because being owned by someone is for women, so these men are referred to in feminine terms when they are made into objects. It's so fucking creepy. I mean, the being made into objects is creepy enough, but then there's the extra gender-stuff creepiness for good measure.

    "We’d shared a bed so often that it felt odd when he wasn’t beside me. But I still didn’t see him as a grown-up."

    ...well, she ends up fucking a teenager who is still in high school by the most recent book, with their first time being when he's sixteen, so I'm not surprised by this.

    Yup, it was Kiss the Dead that she showed up in that outfit in. Because I guess she can't even dress herself anymore. How does she even keep holding a job?! Also, if other women dress like that, they are evil slutty awful people. When Anita does it, it is sexy but not her fault.

    "Oh, but Anita murdering Elizabeth is alright, because Elizabeth has an unconsious death wish and really, really wants to die. She just doesn't know it. What. The. Fucking. Hell."


    she was unarmed. she was doing nothing. nothing makes that okay. ever. at all. good gravy.

    I CAN'T.


    1. Quoted for truth:

      "Staring down at her, I realized something I hadn’t before. Elizabeth wanted me to kill her. She wanted me to send her to wherever Gabriel was. She probably didn’t realize that’s what she wanted, but if it wasn’t a death wish, it was close enough."

      Right there in black and white: justification for murder. They really, really wanted it.

  2. This book makes me scream with rage inside whenever someone tries to make the argument that Anita just has to be so tough because she's a human dealing with a group of paranormal creatures much stronger, faster, etc than herself. No she doesn't. She's a sociopath who gets off on bullying others. Shooting Elizabeth was a terrible solution. She created an enemy and left her at her back all for the sake of the satisfaction of creating a grandiose gesture. This is an example that LKH has no concept how teamwork and leadership really works.

    This book is infamous in certain circles for how LKH came to leave her original agent and publishers around the time of its publication. Many people say her original publishers flat out refused to publish it and LKH severed her relationship with them and signed with Penguin only with the promise that they would publish NiC as she had written it. The attitudes about rape, sex, violence, women, relationships and politics are obviously something that were very important to her. The fact that she gained a lot of new readers that appeared to relish the supposed erotic content seemed to fuel her sence that she was on a mission. Of course, many of her older readers were appalled, as were others that quickly saw with each succeeding book that she keep adding more and more preposterous levels of sexual content and pseudo gender/sexual politics that degenerated to little more than pissing contests with any one that disagreed with her that she had lost the plot and possibly her mind.

    I couldn't find an email tab any where on your site I am just throwing this on the bottom. I read Starbleached last night and Blue Ghosts this afternoon. I think you do yourself a disservice by saying that you don't write on the level of some of the authors that you mentioned when you began this adventure in dissecting NiC. You caught my attention well enough that I bought the rest of the catalogue that you have for sale on Amazon. I didn't notice that Tales of a Winterlord was in Silver Bullet so now I am the proud owner of two copies of that title on my iPad. You certainly have a voice and a genuine talent for storytelling. Hope 2013 brings you continued success.

    1. Anita is more powerful than *any* supernatural creature she's faced so far, IMHO. Every time she goes up against a bad guy she gains yet another power that makes her victory easy. And then she does stupid bullshit that creates half of her own problems. Stupidity is not empowering.

      I think that's what pisses me off the most about LKH. She has access to editors and resources most published authors can't get, and she's refused to use them. Somebody tells her no, she simply jumps publishers from one that (obviously) cares about what it publishes to one that doesn't.

      And anybody who could value the bullshit in this book is a legitimately terrible person. Termites in their smile level awful.

      Re: the books...thanks. :D I hope it does too. I am SO self conscious about it, OBVIOUSLY. So far the trip has been...ah...bizzare and fun to say the least. We'll see what happens next year.

  3. Okay, so I stumbled across your book-floggery via the LKH_Lashouts page and then read all of your NiC posts in very quick order. ^_^ And, since LJ/OpenID sign-in is being hateful, I'll be Anonymous. But call me Crunchy.

    So, here's the thing: I read the original hardcover of this book in the bookstore. I actually stopped reading the series during a scene in the next book where Asher is clawing at the bedroom door and begging not to be sexed up by Anita.

    This book creeped me the fuck out, even when I was a teenager. At the time, though, I labelled NiC as a mistake, a hole that Anita would have to dig herself out of, and possibly a transition book.

    (Then I promptly gave the series up as lost halfway through the next book, during the Asher-gets-raped scene. JC told Anita that he wanted to take Asher as his other long-term lover and Anita could either accept it or break up with him, because Asher was a non-negotiable to JC. Naturally, Anita chose the third option: to flip out at JC and rape Asher (who very emphatically didn't want to have sex with Anita.) Anita frames raping Asher as being romantic and done for Asher's own good. And the out-of-town vampires might be mean to him! And it doesn't really count as rape since Asher ends up participating and orgasming. And it's not really sex since there was no penile-penetration!

    ...Take a moment to retch and seethe. Then note that the seeds for Asher's rape are all in this book, in the last few chapters.)

    The problem with this entire series is that LKH has many good idea-germs but her execution always leaves something to be desired.

    Jean-Claude, for instance, could be a compelling (NOT moral or good) character in this novel if his blase-ness toward rape/sexpiring and general 'what the hell is your problem, Anita?' attitude were portrayed as either:

    1.) Cunning Machavellian scheming designed to break Anita and make her his tool, or

    2.) He's really screwed up and not yet dealing with the events of his, uh, life. (Un-life? Sexual slavery? All of the above?) Centuries of abuse would warp anyone. (And, since this is the LKH universe, there was probably a lot of it.)

    But the problem with that second option is that it sounds like the version that you're reading excised JC's info-dump about the misery of being an incubus. (Ideally, this info would have been threaded throughout the previous books as ominous bits of info about JC but I'll take what I can get.)

    But, since JC seems to have no driving force of his own, he's left being unsympathetic and reprehensible.

    And then there's poor Elizabeth who I liked for not automatically falling in line with the Anita-parade. Also, I liked her because she seemed to dislike ALL of the other leopards, save the old boss-leopard. And she didn't even seem to always like him.

    Anita was always a rude bully and a psychopath but in this novel she actually finds a line to cross so that she can become just as awful as the things she gets paid to kill.

    ...Where's Edward when you actually want him in the narrative?

    1. Glad to have you.

      I think JC's angsty info-dump is still there, I just didn't want to touch it. Having a terrible past is a terrible thing, but it's not an excuse for passing your old misery on to others. And that's what JC does there. My bullshit endurance died about the time he started using Anita's OWN RAPE to slut-shame her into using condoms. I couldn't handle his "but it happened to me worse than you!" speech.

      I've yet to find any entertainment value in this book. At all. And I don't mean that the rape shit turns me off. I mean that the STRUCTURE of this book is wrong. No pacing, no plot, the cast is ballooning by the minute, long established facts are retconned beyond recognition. This is all why I quit reading the first time, I think.

      And I don't want Edward in the narrative. Then the nasty spooge flying around would hit him, too. :(

    2. Crunchy here!

      A terrible, terrible past definitely isn't an excuse for being terrible in the present but it could be a compelling character motivation, especially since it holds true to life. (This is not to say that people who do terrible, terrible things all had a horrible past or ought to be excused for their current crimes/behavior if they had such a past.) Admittedly, the time that I saw this excuse used compellingly, it was used by a serial killer's defense attorney. Arguably, a defense attorney's entire job is to be compelling and make a truly unlikeable client at least somewhat sympathetic. (It worked too. I wanted the attorney's client to go to jail forever and never, ever see the possibility of parole but at the same time, I understood how the client had been ruined by his early life.)

      The thing is, LKH doesn't write JC's long, sad past even half as compellingly as that small town defense attorney wrote his client's short, sad past in a few sparse sentences. JC's speech doesn't make him sympathetic to the reader, especially since it left my teenage self with the impression that his incubus/succubus powers were a magical STI that he'd deliberately hidden from his sexual partner(s).

      But JC could have been a compelling if reprehensible character, despite the slut-shaming and general 'my life was harder' speech, just like Anita could have evolved into a likeable character. (Even as a teenager, I preferred the legions of secondary/tertiary characters to the main character. I just wanted Anita to go away.)

      But then, JC is billed as a cunning Machiavellian manipulator, especially after his debut in the first book, but if a reader truly considers his purpose in the plots, JC isn't any such thing. And the same thing holds true with Edward. Like JC and Anita herself, Edward doesn't live up to billing. Worse, like Anita herself, Edward appears in several plots/scenes that would've been stronger without him. (I've always liked Edward! It is a sad, sad thing when a fan of a character can say that entire scenes/books would've been better without him in them.) And, well, pacing has never really been a strong suit of the series. But these are all long-running narrative flaws that span the length of LKH's work.

      The reason that this book can't rise above them the way that previous books did, however, is that it doesn't have the same driving plot that the other books had. The plot is supposed to be that Anita gets a wonderful new boyfriend, falls in love with said boyfriend, and is betrayed by the new boyfriend who works for the secret big bad. Anita is supposed to kill the main villain, the boyfriend, and all the merry minions at the book's climax. (Overlook the fact that Anita was never supposed to have called the police in the original narrative structure. For a law bringer/enforcer character, she's crap at her purpose.)

      But LKH writes Micah.

      And then LKH can't/won't bring herself to follow the plot. She can't/won't let go of Richard and Jean-Claude. She can't/won't let Anita kill Micah. And she can't/won't let Anita farm Micah's death out to Edward, the one time that Anita's bringing Edward in to do something for her would have made sense.

      So instead of an actual plot the reader gets several hundred pages of flailing, the nastiest STD in the history of trashy vampire novels, and a series of actions/reactions that make no sense because LKH is forcing her story out of the original narrative shape that she set down for it. But LKH refuses to scrap the novel and start over. And someone was apparently foolish enough to look at this manuscript and publish it as-is.

      I was right when I was seventeen. NiC is just one, long mistake... but not in the way that I thought it was.

  4. "It’s legend among the leopards that you can find your perfect mate, and from the first moment you have sex you’re bound, more than marriage, more than law. We will always crave each other. Our souls will always call to each other." it's like love at first sight then? But more powerful? More absolute? Like...gravity moves?

    Oh HELL no. Not this. Not this, of all the sexual fuckery in this book....fuck.

    This is shit, just so you know. Just from that one quote I'd have hated the book, even if I knew nothing else about it.