Saturday, February 23, 2013

Caress of Twilight--chapter 20

I have worked all night and one question has become very pressing in my life:

Who was the first person to pick up an oyster and say "I'll bet there's something really good to eat inside this OBVIOUS ROCK," and how hungry were they?

Seriously. I must have shucked more oysters than I care to count tonight, and that was just because the shucker was not at his post when we got a few orders tonight. WHY DO PEOPLE EAT OYSTERS? Why is "oysters on the half shell" the dish that decides where you eat? YOU ARE EATING WHAT LOOKS AND FEELS LIKE SNOT. THIS SHOULD NOT BE YOUR PRIMARY GOAL.

Anyhoo, I'm gonna return a big favor tonight and point ya'll in the direction of A Sporking Rat, the blog of the lovely RF and the person going through most of the later Anita Blake books. It's a wonderful thing and it should be shared with all.

Unlike this book.

I've been pretty consistant in calling Queen Anadais "Queen Crazy" or some variation thereof.It's kind of funny, but under the funny I am dead serious. In the four books i've read with her in it, she comes across as a kind of dangerous crazy that should be confined and under supervision. And by "supervision" I mean "Large, strong, trustworthy-but-dangerous person within six feet of her at all times". Because I don't think Anadais has schitsophrenia, or some other disorder that has disconnected her from reality. I think that she's a psychopath with an underlying paranoid disorder, and if you did not suddenly feel your gut drop in terror you do not properly understand what that is.

It's not a coincidence that most serial killers have some form of socio- or psychopathy. The disorder is marked by a failure to observe certain social norms, mostly the ones pertaining to not hurting other people for their own personal gain. The difference between a sociopath and a psychopath is very subtle, very simple, and very frequently not even worth observing. A sociopath--Ted Bundy, for example--understands that the social rules they are bucking do apply to them. They just don't care. Hence, why he was so very, very careful to hide what he did, and why he refused to admit it until he had nothing left to lose. A psychopath, on the other hand, believes that the social rules do NOT apply to them, and do not understand why their behavior is unacceptable. In both cases other people are not real things to them. They cannot understand that my emotions are the same as your emotions are the same as theirs. The only thing in their world that is real is them...and, if there is a complicating disorder, the things going on in his head.

So a psychopath with a paranoid disorder could decide that you are out to get them, and that the only way to stop you is to kill you, and they might even decide to do it because it's Wednesday and nothing's on TV, they're just that bored.

And if you want to never sleep again, try this fun fact on for size: The estimated ratio of socio/psychopaths to people who are not? It's one in twenty four. If you are in a room with more than twenty four people in it, the odds are one of them is a sociopath.

Like I said, have fun trying to sleep tonight.

However, I do have to say that if you are describing a psychotic queen with paranoid dilusions and you want me to buy that she is fucking dangerous to be around? This?

THE QUEEN WORE AN ELABORATE BLACK BALL GOWN, WITH black satin gleaming in the candlelight, black ribbons to hold back the flounces, black satin gloves to cover her white arms, black straps over pale shoulders.
Yeah. "Flounces" and "Crazy as fuck" should never be mentioned in the same sentence. Unless you are trying to imply a certain childishness, and in that case there should be blood involved, and you need to be a MUCH better writer.

And she's also doing this business call from her bedroom. Because yeah, we all need to do important political stuff with this thick glaze of sex. That adds so much to the conversation.

They give restrained hellos--restrained because any word at all could set Anadais off.

Okay, look. I grew up around people who were basically land mines, okay? it's not fun. Sometimes I can be a land-mine too. Anadais is just a cacurature of this. She's every nasty steriotype about unstable people bundled into a shiny white package with Sparkledog eyes and a ball-gown. Which, as Merry insists on pointing out, would never fit on Merry because her boobs are too big.

And that's why I don't buy the Queen as a serious character. When you are around a land-mine, your first thought is not, "Damn, I could never wear that dress." It's rather "Fuck, are my clothes going to offend them? Do I have the right perfume? If I ask what they need, will that piss them off more?" and GOD FORBID you have to ask an actual question they might not want to hear. Merry is not reacting right at all. It's still all about Merry. And yes, I get that she's a Mary Sue. But the only way to buy characters who aren't your VP character is through how the VP character reacts. And if Merry has enough room in her thought processes to think about how big her boobs and ass are, she's not scared enough of the Queen.

And then you have the Rules of Politeness, which make no fucking sense:

“I don’t know if I’ve seen your bare breasts before, Meredith. They are a little large for a sidhe, but very nice.” Her eyes didn’t hold lust, or kindness, only a dangerous light. All that she’d said so far could be mistaken for politeness. She’d never seen my breasts bare, so she should compliment them; but only if I was trying to be attractive, which I was not. I just happened to have no clothes on. I did not feel the least bit luscious around my aunt, and there was more to it than just being heterosexual, much more.
First off, The Queen is a jerk for commenting on Merry's body type with that subtle a put-down. Second...what kind of society has rules like this? Seriously, when was "Damn I think you're sexy" a polite way to start a conversation? "Nice Breasts" as an opener would probably get you slapped in most places. I hear "Nice Breasts" and I don't hear a compliment, I hear "The configuration of your body parts is more important than you are." And third...WHEN THE HOLY BLUE FUCK DID HETEROSEXUALITY COME INTO THIS CONVERSATION? I mean...was there more to this paragraph? Did the part where orentation became an issue get lost at Alberqueque? It's like...HELLO, THE FACT THAT I AM NOT ATTRACTED TO THE PARANOID PSYCHOPATH MURDERESS OUT FOR MY BLOOD MEANS THAT I AM HETEROSEXUAL. IMHO it would mean that you are interested more interested in your own safety and survival than you are in having sex with somebody who'd like to kill you today rather than tomorrow. Besides,  Merry just got done screwing a man. The scene was highly disturbing, but it pretty much confirms that she likes men. We've established this firmly enough to not need continued commentary.

And then Anadais demands that Doyle stand up and let her look at him naked, and I understand that this is all about showing off how WONDERFUL Merry is, that she can land so hot a man in bed.

Because the attractiveness of our lovers totally equals our own self-worth. Gotcha.

Worst thing written by a human. I'm telling you.

And then we have...a...uh, strip show? I read this three times and I don't really get what Doyle is doing, other than playing sexy-peek-a-boo to keep Anadais from going over the deep end. ( with a baby. They're playing shiny-shiny object with the primary antagonist for the series so far. Words fail me.)

And when Anadais gets hot and bothered, he does the subtle, Fairy version of "If you like it then you should have put a ring on it" (If I never hear that song again I die happy) Because remember, Anadais said her guards couldn't have sex with anyone but her, and then she refused to have sex with them for a thousand years...while she's bringing under age human men into her bed for fun and torture times. Knowing exactly what watching a parade of nubile young things was going to do to the hundred-odd men she'd just forced into perpetual monkhood.

So it's a psychopathic sadist with paranoid dilusions. In a position of power. With potentally fatal magic at her disposal.

That's the scariest combination of words in the English language. And LKH has to dress it in ruffles.

but Andais might hurt me in a fit. She might regret it later, but dead is dead.

Yeah, this is the point when a person becomes insalvagible. It's ugly, and I'm sorry for saying it, but if you are so far gone that you'd kill someone during a rage fit? You've got that few limits? You need to be put where you can't hurt anybody, and you can't hurt yourself, and that's not in the middle of a royal court that is ALMOST as screwed up as you are.

Look, I'm going to be on this subject all night because it's actually something I have researched for my own writing, so I'm just going to lay it out in black and white: I'm simultaneously disturbed by Anadais's characteristics AND by her impotence. LKH is simultaneously shoving every single scary thing that can go wrong in the human brain into one package, and is minimalizing it by putting it into a fluffy lace dress. It's hard for me to be funny about her because there isn't much funny about her, and I know too much about the subject to go "Oh, look at the funny potential serial killer".

So I'm going to leave this here. Find this book, read this book, memorize this book, and understand that THAT is the world we live in. (And also that our culture has for some reason unknown to god and man decided that women can't be this kind of offender. My family has been in and out of social work for longer than I've been alive. It's bullshit. Yes, fighting sexism is very good and very nice and very important, but not letting psychopathic predators hurt other people is more important. So insert "people" everywhere it says "men" and you'll be good to go. And hope that nothing gets me started on non-violent predators like con artists because then we will be here all year)

And then Anadais says "the Nameless is free" and Doyle freaks out because something that has no name is scarier than a queen who thinks seeing what color your guts are might be interesting.

Which is sad, because the Nameless is actually pretty fucking scary in its own right:

The Nameless was the worst of both courts, Seelie and Unseelie. It was the last great spell that the two courts had cooperated on. They had stripped themselves of everything too awful, too hungry, to allow us to live in this new country.
In other words, kids, this is a thing made of all the other things that a race of bloody psychopaths decided was too scary for human consumption.

This is like Ted Bundy deciding to visit a councelor because there's an aspect of his personality women might not like. It's made of everything that scared THEM. Not things that might scare us or be bad for us. Nope. It's the things that scared THEM.

You know where I said something was the scariest collection of words in the English language? It just got trumped.

And that's why this book sucks. The potential here is great. Psychotic queen, check, psychotic king, check, marginally sane protagonist and primary cast--well, I'd rather have magic in the hands of someone with barely functioning empathy than no empathy at all, so check. THING THAT SCARES EVEN THE PSYCHOTIC KING AND QUEEN. MOTHERFUCKING CHECK.

But because the person at the wheel thinks that the sex is more important than everything else, We will never be allowed to connect with any of this emotionally. Including the sex. Because God does LKH suck at writing sex.

I mean...seriously, this is just dropped into the bedroom via a magic mirror phone call AND IT IS THE THING THAT SCARES THE FAIRY.

You know, at least the vampire baseball in Twilight gave James and Victoria something of substance. It wasn't a lot, but at least they appeared in the fucking book prior to the dance studio scene. The Nameless won't even get that bit of dignity.

And then we get the unavoidable info dump: It's unstoppable (read as: Stopping it will probably involve sex of some sort) it's unbelievable, we don't know who let it go and it's headed west, but oh, don't worry, I'm sure the fact that it's moving in the same general direction as our Mary Sue Protagonist (TM!) is just a coincidence. Can I interest you in a time share in the Brooklyn Bridge?

At several points the discription of the Nameless pauses for a discription of the Queen's nearly naked backside. And hey, you know what I DON'T miss from Narcissus in Chains? I DON'T miss all of Anita's "Richard is more interested in looking good than actually doing good/morality is a crutch and ethics are bad" bullshit every time I turned around.

“(Taranis) will not claim its parentage, so he will give no aid, for to give aid is to admit his part in its making.” “That is foolishness.” She nodded. “He was always one more interested in the illusion of purity than in purity itself.”

Yep, we just had to get another dig at conservative morality in there, didn't we? Couldn't have gone one whole book without pointing out how much BETTER you are than anyone else, could you, Laurel?

Meanwhile this conversation about what will be the antagonist for this novel is equally divided between info dumps of information we could have gotten over the course of several chapters...and Anadais's sexual frustration. Because the sex is the only thing that's important here.

And then...oh, good fucking Christ, then we find out why the Queen never screwed Doyle. It's because she didn't want to have "puppies".

“His grandfather was a phouka so evil that he bred in dog form with the wild hunt itself and lived to tell the tale.” She smiled, and it was sweetly malicious.

It's like reading really bad fan fiction where the author only cared about making sure that every character was paired up and screwing another major character, only instead of it being Pokemon or Code Lyoko we're talking about the entire Celtic mythos. WHY COULD YOU NOT LEAVE THE PHOOKA AND THE WILD HUNT ALONE? THEY WERE NOT HURTING ANYTHING.

Because this is the first major time the Hunt's been brought up, and we don't find out what it is, or what it is composed of, or what it does, and we don't find out what a Phouka is or what it needs or what it does, but we sure as bloody hell have just found out what it fucks! Yep, that's the way to show the reader a mostly-dead mythology in its full light and glory. SEX. IT IS EVERYTHING.

Then we have a conversation where Doyle implies that he is literally hung like a horse, and it's too rancid for me to copy and paste into the blog. Let's just say that Phookas are not getting out of this shit-fest easily. Please, Laurel, what did the scary little monsters ever do to you?

And then the conversation moves onto what measure of equality Doyle would require if he were to be King. Because having a co-ruler AKA a check on your own power is apparenlty a bad thing.

The chapter basically repeats itself from there on out before finally, finally winding down and ending with them going "Do you MIND that I'm a horrible cacurature of a black man part dog and part hell-dog?" "Oh no, snuzzle-wumpkins, let's go tear each others' backs off again."

Seriously. Why is the only alpha-dude with dark skin in this book a direct descendant of dogs? Why would you write that and not see what the problem is?

Worst thing written by a human. The worst.


  1. Of course we have to be told Merry has big boobs. Of course.

    And yeah, not enough to be told her aunt is a landmine. Merry has to act like it, or it's not believable, as you pointed out. do you mate with the Wild Hunt and why is it evil to do so specifically in dog form? That statement might carry more of an impact if we had any idea why it was A Bad Thing.

    And yaaay, thanks for the plug! Just got up the first spork of Bullet a few minutes ago btw =D

    I don't get eating shellfish either. At all. It's gross. No. Just, no. I love fish, but anything else that comes out of the sea should not be on my dinner plate. Blugh blugh blugh

  2. I'm a huge fan of seafood, and I love sashimi. I even like smoked or cooked oysters. But I will not eat the damn things raw, because they taste like a the drainage from a sinus infection.

    From what I've heard, the terms sociopath/psychopath are in flux right now thanks to new research. One of the interesting things that's been found is that the majority of people with these disorders are, for the most part, law-abiding citizens. Douchebags and deeply selfish jerkasses, yes, but law-abiding. Because it's in their own self-interest to be so, and if you don't obey the law you end up in prison - Where the majority of old studies drew their populations from, thus skewing their results to focus on sociopaths/psychopaths with lousy impulse control.

    I refuse to touch the rest of this chapter.

  3. "LKH is simultaneously shoving every single scary thing that can go wrong in the human brain into one package, and is minimalizing it by putting it into a fluffy lace dress. "
    Out of curiosity - what does it matter that she's in a fluffy lace dress?

    If a crazed serial killer is flouncing around in a neon thong, flashing LED nipple pasties, and clown wig, does it make her any less deadly? I mean, if a bunch of ogres clad in denim miniskirts and latex halter tops come roaring at me, I'm not going to comment on their fashion sense - I'm going to run.

    Just to take a film example, it doesn't make Caligula (in "I, Claudius") any less scary when he's made up like an eighty-year-old grandmother trying desperately to cling to her teenage years and wearing the predecessor to Princess Leia's golden bikini. He's still an insane psychopath who could have everyone in the room murdered for lavishing anything less than exquisite praise upon his exotic-dancer act.

    I'm enjoying the sporks so far, but that just seemed like a strange objection. :|

    1. The problem is that a good villian, like Caligula, is established as being psychotic long before his clothing and behavior become outlandish. Another example would be the scene in Silence of the Lambs where Hannibal Lecter beats up his guards and then pauses to listen to classical music before he cuts that one guy's face off. Isolate that from his conversations with Clarice and his creepy behavior, it's hilarious. But combine it with that build up, and you realize that you're looking evil in the face, and it really likes classical music. There is a LOT of background work that goes into selling a villian as a villian before you put them in the crazy wig and have them dance around and mutter "I'd fuck me".

      LKH skipped all that and went straight for that goddamned dress.

      The way you frame a character for the first introduction is very important. That impression is going to stick through the rest of the book. Darth Vader had a scary black helmet to "show" that he was an impersonal robot-man of death. Hannibal had the mask. This is LKH's chance to "Show" us how dangerous Andais really is, this is her chance to begin a build up to something else, and she blows it hard by describing an impractical ball gown before she does anything else with the character. She could have gone with "Eyes like daggars" or an expression, or the glimmering blade of a knife twisting in the folds of lace and whatnot. Anything to lodge the image of violence in the reader's mind before we get to the pretty dresses. Instead, LKH goes straight to the ruffles, and it kills the character. Ribbons and flounces are silly, little girl things, so two sentences in we've given Andais this air of silliness and innocence. The impractical dress implies that she's impractical. And there's something really sad about being in a party dress and not having a party to go to, a kind of implied loneliness that is reinforced during the conversation with Doyle. All of this leaves the reader with the impression that under all the knives and ugliness Andais clothes herself with, there's a sad, lonely and silly little girl in desperate need of a teddy bear to hug. It implies that the dangerous personality is simply the wrapping and not the whole package.

      If she'd started off with ANYTHING ELSE, the dress is immaterial. It's window dressing. But because of her sloppy writing she's minimalized a dangerous character into something that could be fixed if it only got a little love. It's sloppy writing, and it's DANGEROUS writing, because I've been in that "but we only need to love it" trap. It's re-enforcing an awful steriotype that gets people hurt every day, and it could have been avoided if LKH cared a little bit more about character development and a little bit less about her readers getting every glittery ruffle and rainbow skin-tone right.

  4. ^THAT. Is fucking brilliant right there.
    I can't tell if I'm supposed to be terrified or pitying of Andais. A better author could do both. LKH... can't.
    But this analysis of why the first description matters and how we read into things? Awesome. Just had to say that.