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.
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.
Gil is around. Anita. WHY DID YOU BRING THE OBVIOUSLY DAMAGED WEREFOX TO THE MEETING BETWEEN THE VAMPIRE AND THE WERELEOPARD? If you're going to think about somebody as a child then LEAVE THE CHILDREN AT HOME.
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?