Monday, May 27, 2013

The Wolf Gift--Chapter Eight

Memorial day is the day when Americans all gather together, be respectful towards servicemen, and then go harrass the everloving hell out of people in the service industry because they don't have to go to work on a Monday.

In other words? I AM TIRED, MY LOYAL BLOG READERS. SPLIT SHIFTS. EVERY DAY. Oh, and it is now summer and in the low to mid ninties. I WANT TO GO SOAK MY HEAD IN ICEWATER.

I am going to do this review, edit more wases out of the next Starbleached book, and then go build things in Minecraft for a while.

I'll be happy to post screenshots.

So where are we?

...right. Anne Rice discovered superheroes, and Ruben is off to research the million dollar mansion he would have bought spur-of-the-moment if its owner hadn't died and willed it to him on the spot.

...WHY WOULD YOU NOT SEE THE PROBLEMS IN THIS PLOT LINE? Better yet, why not have had the first chapter be Ruben and Marchant signing papers re: the sale of the house or something and then go get into bed. WHY IS IT SO IMPORTANT THAT RUBES ONLY KNEW HER A COUPLE HOURS? THIS DOES NOT IMPROVE ON HIS CHARACTER AND--

Okay. I'm stopping. I know. We're way past that point. It still bugs me.

So Ruben calls the lawyers and asks if he can go visit the house he inherited under suspcious-as-fuck circumstances because Plot. Lawyers are all like "yeah you can, here are the keys PLEASE TALK TO THE CARETAKER WE ARE TIRED OF DOING YOUR CHORES FOR YOU".

And because there couldn't possibly be anything modern in the World's Perfect Mansion, Ruben brings his second, old computer (...yeah at this point anybody over the age of twenty-one has the new computer and the old computer so I'll give Rubes a pass on that one) and, very specifically, Bose DVD players.

I kind of like brand-name love in books, because it's a part of life. Mt. Dew. Malibu (as in the coconut rum and not the place). Nissan, Hewett-Packard, Exxon. It's kind of hard to write a book in modern times without having somebody pass a McDonalds, a Wal-Mart and a Starbucks along the way.

(...Unless you live in my city. We broke our Starbucks so they went away. Some people mourned their ability to purchase overpriced coffee in which "tall" equals a small and something quasi-italian replaced "Large". I did not. Like most sane people, I didn't like the coffee. Mostly because I could buy a decent book for the same price)

THAT. SAID. There is something very sad about the brand-name drops in this book. Y'all HAVE watched Megamind, right? (If you haven't, go fix it right now. We'll wait) You know how Megamind keeps mispronouncing words? Metrocity becomes MeTROSity, revenge is REVANGE! and it's basically showing you that Megamind is a shut-in who reads a lot and doesn't talk much. Yeah, Anne Rice's brand-name drops are kind of like that. It's like she came across this weird object in her mental processess and wikied it, realized Diet Coke is a thing to the rest of the world, and decided to use it in the book without properly understanding the social connotations (namely, that Diet Coke tastes like floormats, and you shouldn't be drinking it)

Also? I googled Bose DVD players. I have a passing familiarity with the brand because it's the sterio system Rush Limbaugh continually pushed during the 90s (When my dad listened to Rush, and only Rush, on long drives back before MP3 players were a thing. I don't really know which was worse, actually, three hours of enforced Rush Limbaugh discussing Why Monica Lewinski Sucks--I think at one point he used those exact words--or three hours of Silly Songs with Larry.)

(...actually, let's go with Silly Songs with Larry. It kills fewer braincells.)

Anyway, Bose makes MASSIVELY overpriced speaker systems (FIVE HUNDRED FUCKING DOLLARS FOR A FUCKING CD PLAYER ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?) and cables and many other things, but you know what my google-fu has failed to find? ANY HINT OF BOSE DVD PLAYERS. And I've looked. Amazon shows no evidence of these things, nor does Best Buy. Nor does Bose's own website. Which makes sense, because THEY ARE A SPEAKER COMPANY. NOT A DVD PLAYER MANUFACTURER.

Please. If anyone can find me a Bose brand DVD player, PLEASE LINK ME TO THE SUCKER. Otherwise, I assume that Anne looked at her personal entertainment units and read the brand off the speaker hub rather than the actual DVD player.

 ...I'm not even off the first page yet. Help.

Ruben thinks that he has to get alone to control his powers and see if he can put off the transformation, or force it, depending on how he feels:

Whatever the case, he had to get away from everything, including the voices that had drawn him into the slaughtering of four people. He had no choice but to head north.
I like how the murder of four (admittedly awful) individuals is just dropped in there like an afterthought. "OMG I HAVE THESE POWERS, AND THEY'RE KIND OF COOL, AND THEY TURN ME INTO A WEREWOLF AND I CAN HEAR EVIL DEEDS AND I CAN TELL IF YOU ARE EVIL JUST BY SMELLING YOUR BO and I accidentally sort of killed four people. oops. " 

Ruben is starting to make Bella Swan look downright altruistic.

And you know, Anne Rice's downright refusal to use the words "werewolf" outside of Ruben's research into his own condition is kind of weird:

The Man Wolf— that’s what they’re calling him. You could get a cut from the mugs and the T-shirts, you know. Maybe you should trademark ‘Man Wolf.’
Nah. That couldn't have ANYTHING to do with weird-as-fuck-writing choices.

He calls his boss, Billie, on the way in.

“You scored again, Boy Wonder,” said Billie. “I don’t know how you do it. It’s been picked up by the wire services and websites around the world. People are linking to it on Facebook and Twitter. You gave this monster, the Man Wolf, some metaphysical depth!”
Uh...yeah. About that...anybody ever heard of Amy's Baking Company? Google it. I'll still be here when you're done. Linkings to twitter and facebook don't equal quality. It's more likely to be one of those point-and-laugh kind of things.

 So after blathering about the werewolf for a few more pages, Ruben asks Billie about the missing forty-two students and teachers, and it's basically like "Nothings happening. Back to the werewolf"

Billie suggests that the werewolf save the kids in the name of Vigilante justice. Because no way Spider-Wolf here could have thought of that on his own. Ruben feels faintly ill when he remembers killing people, and then is all like "PHHH, they were murderers and rapists and they don't deserve my guilt" and he continues driving.

Human!Ruben has no redeeming qualities whatsoever.

Ruben hears people talking about the werewolf being a costumed crusader--seriously? Did Rice just, like, suddenly discover that superheroes exist? Did one of her grandkids take her to see Rebooted Spiderman? Or has she been saving up seventy plus years of pop culture for one huge fucking ripoff grand explosion of literary frenzy?--and so he decides the best thing he can do is go to Wal-Mart and buy a costume.

For the werewolf.

It involves big boots and raincoats.

And then...Anne Rice drops completely out of third person and into first for half a second:

Around four o’clock, he reached the forest road leading directly to Marchent’s house— well, our house, that is. The news sang on.
Either Rice forgot to properly format someone else's thought process, or she is literally living in Marchant's house with Ruben, and either way an editor would have cleaned that right up. Just saying.

There is a LONG discussion of werewolf spit, and then an itty-bitty footnote about one of the kidnapped children being found dead off the beach. And of course it's a little eight year old girl, and Rice would probably have dressed her up in victorian lace if she could have gotten away with it.

And then he reaches the house and it's like "What little girl? I HAVE AN AWESOME HOUSE!"

Then we're back to the dead little girl.

And then we're back to the house.

And then we move on to Ruben's supper.

The handyman fixed it for Ruben. The handyman's wife cooked it. Well, actually, she just drove out to the restaurant and picked it up, but she was the prime mover behind its manufacture! WE NEEDED TO KNOW THIS, BLOG READERS. WE NEEDED TO KNOW.

The handyman's name is Leroy. I am now imagining this guy:

and I will be very put out if Ruben doesn't demand that Leroy give him back his shoes at some point.

Ruben reaches the point where he almost died and has a poorly-described panic attack. Leroy rants about how the mountain lion that got Ruben took his dog and he's hunting it now, permit or no permit.

We get a three page description of the house's furnature, thanks to Leroy.

There's also a ramble about how Marchant hated TV and she brought friends up here all the time, which is WEIRD because I could have sworn the beginning of the book implied that Marchant had only recently inherited the house and was trying to offload it before her brothers wrecked the place. Apparently this involved lots of dinner parties, but no television. Ruben asks for one. He demands it be a "good flat screen".

You know. As opposed to all the other kinds of TV they sell in electronic stores these days.

It'll probably be Bose. Like his DVD players.

We also get a long ramble about how awful the brothers were for dragging out the silver and scattering it everywhere to make it look like a robbery. It being Marchant's murder. Because, you know, making a mess with the serving stuff totally compounds the brutal stabbing murder of your own sister.

Ruben realizes he isn't hungry anymore:

Eating right after a “death” had always revolted him. He remembered when Celeste’s brother had died in Berkeley. Reuben had not been able to eat or drink anything for days, without vomiting. haven't eaten a damn thing since you killed four people? AND WHY IS DEATH IN RANDOM QUOTATION MARKS?!? Also, how terrible that he suffered after Celeste's brother died. How awful. Her brother's death was all about Ruben.

Please go die in a fire.

Ruben then orders Leroy to buy groceries:

And stock the freezer and the pantry, you know, with all the usual stuff. I know how to defrost and cook a leg of lamb.
Yeah. I wanted to make lamb stew once. Also, my restaurant did leg of lamb for Easter, and got sent a leg of mutton instead, and my boss, when she figured this out, called our supplier and had a "talk". The kind you save for when there are no customers because the language will peel the finish off the wood. I know exactly how much lamb costs. Fuck you, Ruben. Fuck you.

After getting yet another tour of this fucking house--seriously, this book is almost as bad as the dude from my old writer's group with the Texas Mystery-and-possibly-Nazi-House. (It was in Lamar. It had a three-storey basement. I remember all the details because that was all he brought to writer's group: discussions about the house. Not actual pages on the house. Just more pictures and more unwritten stories about the house.)--the handyman leaves and Ruben settles in for another night.

End of chapter.


  1. Bose 3-2-1

    But again, it's mostly a sound system. DVD player plus speakers and subwoofer, which means you need to buy the screen if you want to actually use that DVD player for, y'know, digital VIDEO. Honestly, you're better off with a Samsung player and screen and Bose sound system.

    A leg of lamb is a lot of meat for one person, and lamb doesn't keep well for more than a day in the fridge. Either Reuben is planning on eating three straight meals of lamb or he's going to waste a lot of meat. Or he could make lamb stew and freeze it, but he just doesn't seem the type to plan his meals that way.

    Good Lord, you know a book is dull when you critique the protagonist's shopping habits. Getting off of that...

    I hope Reuben tips well, because cops don't provide crime-scene clean-up services. So either Reuben paid to have someone come in and clean up the stains from the brutal murder of his fling and her brothers, or this housekeeper had to scrub bloodstains from the floor. Either way these people have just endured the brutal murder of someone they've known for years.

    1. The housekeeper scrubbed the blood off the floor. We got a DETAILED account of how hard he worked, how much wax (as in floor, not candle) he had to take off the floor to get the blood off (Inches of it. I did not think floor wax worked that way) and how you can't hardly see any of it.

      Visualizing it as LeRoy from Bad Seed cozying up to Ruben, and trying to engraciate himself to his murdering employer helped. A little.

      I did not blog it because it was basically Tour of the House Part Deux and I am sick to death of that fucking mansion.

      I think the implication re: the lamb is that the wolf is going to eat the leg, not the man. Which makes no sense because Ruben has been eating people every time he changes, and he hasn't exactly been remourseful for the munchining.

      And RUBEN might be mourning Marchant, but the handyman sure as fuck isn't. Good point.

    2. HOLY FUCKING SHIT I was looking at that review and they linked to THIS THING:



      Jesus Christ. If I'm paying FOUR THOUSAND DOLLARS for a thing it had better fucking give me a massage and serve Beluga caviar and perfectly popped Pop Secret Theater Butter popcorn and come with a fully stocked bar and a bartender who knows how to make a halfway decent cosmo.

      Apparently all this one does is make noise and pretty pictures. NOT ENOUGH, BOSE. NOT ENOUGH.

      Ruben is now UTTERLY PUNCHABLE.

    3. So the housekeeper scrubbed huge bloodstains off the floor - And possibly had to clean up some chunks of meat - but shows absolutely no signs of being troubled by that?

      Reuben, fear your housekeeper. Really.

  2. A big part of fun for me is making faux-brandnames--Pineapple Republic (Banana Republic), Stellastags (Starbucks), Cardinal Coffee (Caribou Coffee), etc.

    I was likewise confused by the random quotes around the word "death"

    My dad will listen to conservative radio too when I'm trapped in the car with him, my sympathies D:

    1. My favorite time was during the Monica Lewinski scandle, when Rush said "Okay, Dads, switch the radio over to Disney or whatever," and then started in on this hypothetical situation where a bunch of school children were lead into the oval office and caught Bill and Monica in flagrante.

      It was funny because he flipped it over IMMEDIATELY, and then flipped back every five minutes or so, listened, and then slammed the radio off so hard it's a miracle he didn't crack the thing.

      I was thirteen and highly amused. I also didn't understand what a blow-job was, exactly, so I assumed that Bill and Monica had had sex on the presidential desk.

      I would drink coffee at a place called Stellastags. Espeically if they cater to the hunting crowd, because no redneck alive will drop five bucks for a cup of coffee and you could probably order it without sounding like you've got glossolalia.

  3. Some thoughts about superheroes:

    Clark Kent/Kal-El/"Superman" - Working class farmboy. Raised by generous, extremely humane adoptive parents (Methodists, although Clark stopped going to church when his supersenses developed and is shown taking on aspects of Kryptonian belief later in life). Later discovered that his birth-parents didn't abandon him, but rather put him into a lifeboat and fired him into the void based on nothing but desperate hope. Given how that hope was paid off, it makes perfect sense for Superman to believe in the best in human nature while Clark investigates the worst of it.

    Peter Parker/"Spider-Man" - Another working-class kid, from an adoptive family. Raised by an uncle and aunt who strongly valued personal responsibility and hard work. Peter was hit with his powers in his teen years, rather than developing them slowly, and reacted the way you would expect a teenaged boy to react to superpowers - "I'm gonna be famous!" This blew up in his face, and he fell back the values learned from his uncle and aunt to carry him through.

    Diana, Princess of Themyscira/"Wonder Woman" - Born to rule, and raised to set an example through work and service to the people she lead. Decided that work and service were more important than rulership, she defied her mother's orders to compete for the right to represent her people in the wider world.

    Reuben really doesn't seem to fit in here... Maybe Iron Man...

    Anthony Stark/"Iron Man" - A rich entitled weapons-monger. His parents are inconsistently portrayed, but are most commonly shown as being busy all the time and distant from their son. Tony happily sold weapons and warmachines to the highest bidder, enjoyed a life of personal luxury and pointless excess, and thought nothing of the consequences of his actions... Until it all blew up in his face and he was dragged kicking and screaming to to see exactly what his happy life cost the rest of humanity.

    Well, maybe there's some comparison with Tony and Reuben here, mainly in the personal backgrounds. But Tony was maimed, permanently. He was enslaved. And he worked desperately hard to free himself, but the truth is he wouldn't have escaped if someone else hadn't sacrificed their life to save his. Tony Stark was dragged down and and made helpless, and forced to experience what he had done to other people, and he paid attention and learned from it.

    Reuben... Seriously, it sounds like someone else, this man-wolf persona, is doing all the hard work while Rube rides high on the 'I'm A Hero' thrills. And the death of Marchant means what to him exactly? He knew her for maybe an hour, cheated on his girlfriend with her once, and that's it. As far as superhero origins go, this is weaksauce. To be honest, 'got powers through a traumatic accident and decided to go on a joyride with them' is more of a supervillain story.

    1. That last bit on the superman description makes my imagination go "ping" as I'd never thought about that part...

      I think that's why I like Peter Parker the best out of the Marvel heroes (I am equally divided between Superman and Batman on the DC side of things). It's one thing to have a super hero be genuinely good 100% of the time and be motivated out of the goody goody goodness of his good little heart. It's another thing to have the hero's prime motivation be his biggest fuck-up. I do wish Spiderman wasn't quite so "Beat the Cutie" (and that he was still married, because FFFFFFFFFFFF)

      But still...I like the whole "I'm humble because the last time I got proud of myself it got my Uncle killed" thing.

      Ruben is a punchable idiot, and Anne Rice doesn't understand superheroes. At all.

  4. And while I'm on the subject... Self-important jerk who slaughters people because they set off his "evil-detecting radar"? Classic C-list villain. Villains like this exist to remind the audience why superheroes typically don't kill - Because they might be wrong, because killing people is often disproportionate to the actual crime, and because roasting people with heat vision or tearing them apart with superstrength or suffocating them with webbing would be grossly cruel acts.

    1. To be explicitly honest, I'm not staunchly against the death penalty...mostly because there have been people in history who needed the death penalty (Specifically, I'm thinking about Ted Bundy. The only thing Bundy valued was his life. The only thing that could have penetrated his inner world was taking that away.)

      If this makes me a terrible person, I accept this.

      THAT. SAID.

      There is a HUGE difference between killing someone after due process and killing something because the magical powers/voices in your head tell you that you need to do it. There's a huge power trip involved in that, that is very very much not okay. That's what Ruben is getting off on here.

      Capital Punishment, you can debate on how right or wrong that is, but it's not in any one person's hands. They get a good defense, the prosecution has to prove their case, and more than one person has to decide who to listen to. Yes. It's often wrong. Yes. It often goes against minorities, and that is so wrong I don't have words to express it.

      But what it isn't is one dude on a power trip deciding that he's got the right to take a life away based on the actions being preformed before him.

      You don't get that right. I don't get that right. Nobody gets that right. Ever.

  5. I will have more thoughtery on superheroes tomorrow when I have time, but regarding Batman:

    Bruce Wayne/"Batman" - Understands intimately that crime and victimization are, from the target's point of view, essentially random and that no matter what you do sometimes you just aren't safe. Spends millions through charity trying to help people but can't overcome social inertia, corruption, and a neglected city infrastructure. Has taken in multiple foster children and (Depending on continuity) adopted at least one of them.

    (Although YMMV on that last one, since he also uses those kids as a private army. Which is more than a little crazy.)

    And yes, the Spider-Man makes a pact with the devil story was pretty fucking stupid. The only other modern storyline I can think of that is as bad is the New Krypton/War Of The Supermen/Grounded crap.