Monday, January 21, 2013

Narcissus in Chains chapter 47

I am not perfect. Okay? I am not a good crusader for human rights, though if you ask me to I'll get in the trenches and fight for them with you.  I am a very poor feminist. Give me a good enough story, and I will ignore any objectionable and/or offensive material within said story because the writing is just that good. How much offensive stuff can I put up with?

One of my favorite sci-fi series is Donaldson's "Gap" saga.

This is like admitting to drowning kittens.

If Narcissus in Chains is a terrible book for subject matter alone, the Gap series is a crime against humanity. If you are at all familiar with the series, you just cringed and dove for the brain bleach. If you do not know what this series is, well, if you took Ghost and the latter half of the Anita Blake series, reduced them down to their sheer fucking wrongness, amputated the sense of humor and placed a several month long abduction and rape sequence in the core of the plot (it's the entire first book, folks. That's all it is) you'd have the Gap saga. Donaldson makes Ringo look like lobotomized Tolkien. He makes LKH look like a toddler.  It's that bad.

And if you asked me to rate the series on Amazon, it'd be one star for the first book, and then five stars for all the rest, flat across the board. 

The plot of that series...oh my God. The plot. I can never recommend this series to another soul (if you're morbidly curious, for the love of God skip the first book) and I feel very, VERY dirty every time I read it, but that series has, no shit, the best combination of military hardware and political plotting in any series I've read, ever, and the character development would be in textbooks if a primary story arc were not the redemption of the biggest piece of shit rapist in the history of writing. The offensive content makes it almost unreadable, but the story itself almost makes it a must-read. Also, yes, a horrible crime against a female character is what starts the whole plot rolling...but that crime is never treated as okay. There's nothing casual about the awful things that happen in the Gap series. Even the rapist eventually admits his own actions were irredeemable and awful.

He admits this right before he saves the world. Like I said: the series is very, very, very fucking wrong. 

(Interestingly, I still cannot finish the Thomas Covenant books. Mostly because at least the Gap series never pretended Angus was the good guy. Also, there's only so much "poor me, I'm a leper" I can take before I start rooting for Lord Foul, and Donaldson took care of that well before the end of the first chapter. I made it to the incest scene in the second book before my brain imploded.)

(...and I was also thirteen and stupid when I read the Gap series. My parents policed my TV habits something fierce, but my mother actually recommended I read Thomas Covenant when I was ten years old. I don't think she remembered Lord Foul's Bane as well as she thought she did)

Why do I bring this up? 

Because Anita is going to the Circus of the Damned and it took me forever to remember why. You can pull off a complex plot. Fuck, kids, a complex plot with political intrigue and shapeshifters will make me forgive a hell of a lot of wrong, as evidenced by my reading habits to date. But you cannot pull off a complex plot if you ignore critical parts of it for twenty fucking chapters.

We're rescuing Damian.

The vampire that Anita owns somehow, that she fucked over by going MIA for months and months when he needed her for some kind of mental support.

This is not a dropped plot thread, kids. This one just plain never existed.

It made me realize my biggest issue with this book isn't the content (Trust me, I have issues with the content) but with the writing itself. I can acknowledge wrongness and offensive material and keep right on trucking if the writing is good enough. But the writing here is just that fucking bad.

Seriously. What the fuck does Damian have to do with the ardeur, Richard, or the missing alphas? We went from having NO PLOT AT ALL to having sixty threads thrown at us all at once. You can't do that. You want a densely plotted novel? You don't take a twenty chapter break in the middle of it. I think the point of this is to put Jean Claude and Micah in the same room together, because sex I guess, but there are a million other ways this could have happened, starting with "Hey, Jean Claude, do you know anything about missing Alphas?"

Apparently the leopards have never been to the Circus of the Damned before. They comment on fanged clowns (...there's another kind?) and the zombie raisings, which Anita takes offense to because it's disrespectful towards the dead. Oh, wait, no, it's because she won't use her God-given talents for "Entertainment purposes". Fuck the dead, man. It's just not good for her talents. Anita goes off on a tirade about how she's turned down more money than she's accepted, and how people want zombies raised for a party and one person wanted Marilyn Monroe raised for one night, no questions asked, and one of the other were leopards says the dumbest thing I've read in fiction this year:

"You're deeply moral,"

Ah, but what makes Anita the good kind of moral is, she'll break her own moral code if someone she loves or she herself happens to be in danger. 

We have those kind of people IRL too, Laurel. We call them hypocrites. (like...uh...being offended by rape in books when you kind of sort of like the Gap series) But seriously. If you violate your moral code at all then you're not deeply moral. You're a hypocrite who expects other people to adhere to your rules when you yourself would not. 

And then...*Sporfle*

Alright, there are a few hair styles I hate. Mullets are number one (I find them funny, but I hate them on people). Another is what I call douchebag hair. I don't know why, I think it's because sleezebags from the 80's wore their hair like this. You have long curly 80s perm hair, and you put it into a pony tail wet. Half of it is slicked straight to your scalp and the other half looks like a brillo pad. It looks stupid, and it looks sleezy, and that's exactly how Micah is wearing his hair, so I think it's supposed to be exotic. 

...his hair lay like brown velvet on....HEY, I thought Micah was a blonde. I could have sworn the text said blond. Okay, whatever, Brown it is.

Anita stresses about introducing Micah to Jean Claude. Hey, Anita? If you're doing the polyamory thing it's a good idea to get it cleared with everybody BEFORE you agree to a new serious relationship. 

With your rapist.

...well, it's still not as fucked up as the Gap series. 

Micah asks her what's wrong. Anita says she's nervy about Jean Claude meeting Micah. Micah says he'll behave. Anita says this: 

“Don’t take this wrong, Micah, but I’ve been disappointed pretty badly recently by the men in my life. It’s a little hard to trust that anyone can pull it off.”
...I just realized that I am actively offended by a woman emotionally blackmailing her rapist into being a good little boy in front of her other rapist. 

Okay. This is almost as fucked up as the Gap series. 


We get new body guards. Anita does the "I don't need body guards just stay behind me" dance again. Anita, honey, let the bodyguards take your bullets. It's their job. Grandstanding because you're the bigger badass in your own mind isn't helping them at all. 

Description of clothing, description of weapons, more grandstanding, more discussion about who is screwing who. CAN WE GET TO THE RESCUE ALREADY? This is Nathanial and Gregory all over again.

And then it is implied that the weres present will be "entertaining" the vampires, the way the Sabine women entertained the Romans.

 And the chapter ends. 


That's all it is, folks.

And hey, bonus round: Comfort trash. I've brought up mine. What's yours? What goes against every principle you ever had, that you can't make yourself stop liking?  


  1. "One of my favorite sci-fi series is Donaldson's "Gap" saga."

    'Hello. I'm Steve Donaldson, and these are my many many issues with women.'

    My guilty reading pleasure? The Narnia books. Despite the constant bullying of characters by a mean-spirited and judgemental narrator, despite the massive and many incidences of worldbuilding failure, despite the fact that Aslan is a huge self-righteous asshole, I still enjoy those books.

    The Chronicles of Prydain are better though.

    1. I'd say Thomas Covenant is more so. Angus is a piece of shit, but as I said, nobody pretends Angus is a good guy. Morn is the heroine. Covenant, on the other hand...

      I did manage to get through Lord Foul's Bane, in which Covenant is healed of his leperocy by a sweet innocent village girl, and he celebrates his new whole body by raping the sweet innocent village girl until she runs away. He also half-asses his way through defeating Lord Foul because he doesn't actually believe any of this is real.

      And then we had the Illearth Wars (I think that was the name) where Covenant comes back about a decade after he destroyed Lord Foul, and he finds out that the sweet innocent village girl not only spent her whole live pining for Covenant, but she gave birth to a daughter.

      Who is the person Covenant is currently screwing.

      Thomas Covenant, who is CONSISTANTLY the "good guy" hero through the entire series, has an incestuious affair with the product of his rape of a virgin--and the daughter knows it THE ENTIRE TIME.

      And that's when I stopped reading. I did make another game attempt at another, far later series, and while there was no overt wrongness, I kind of wanted to burn the books to make the nasty go away.

  2. "Ah, but what makes Anita the good kind of moral is, she'll break her own moral code if someone she loves or she herself happens to be in danger."

    So basically she's moral when it's easy to be.

    1. Yep.

      It's kind of like when the anti-abortion crowd have their lives complicated by an unplanned pregnancy. "Well, it's okay just this once..."

      *rolls eyes*

    2. Yeah, exactly. (have you ever read 'My abortion is the only moral abortion?' If not, google it, it's worth a read)

      As far as enjoying things that are terribly sexist, I don't think that makes you a poor feminist. It's perfectly alright to enjoy things that have problematic issues with them, just so long as you recognize those issues for what they are (versus denying them, internalizing them, etc.) and are enjoying the work in spite of those things instead of because of them or claiming it doesn't have them in order to justify liking it. Which it sounds like is the case with Ghost--you don't like it for its sexism or deny that the sexism exist, you enjoy the good parts of it APART from the terrible bits. That's a-okay for a feminist, or for anyone.

    3. Hahaha, oh dear, I may be morbidly curious about this Gap series!

      And my comfort trash is Anne Bishop's Black Jewels series. They are grandiose and purple as hell, flipping the usual fantasy gender cliches...the women have all the power in that universe, and thus the men are objectified and suffer all sorts of horrors at the hands of corrupt Queens. This is every bit as bad as the usual system where powerful men take advantage of women, of course. There is also a Mary Sue of Mary Sues, lots of Ominous Prophecies, a Tragic and Tortured Bad Boy who just needs the power of True Love to heal him...I could go on and on. ;)

      And yet...I LOVE THEM! There is just something about the way Bishop tells a story, and this stubborn sort of life to the characters that she's trash, but high caliber trash!

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    5. No idea why my comment posted twice, sorry about that. >_<

    6. RF: I do not know why I like Ghost. Probably, it is because Ringo can write, same as Donaldson, and unlike Donaldson he is fully aware of just how fucked up he is, and he dedicates ALMOST as much time to the "this shit is wrong" disclaimers as he does to the actual wrongy-ness.

      Firesongvx--it's a well written series, and if it weren't for Angus Thermopyle's (aka the rapist piece of shit) character arc I'd recommend it anyway. Morn Highland's story arc (from extremely broken rape victim to survivor to holy fuck she saves the universe) is mostly good. You just have to ignore that she had to team up with her rapist to save the universe. I just can't figure out if the horribleness makes it a well written crack series or well written garbage. Thankfully, I don't have to figure that out. Yet