Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Wolf Gift--chapter 23

So Ruben's brother Jim shows up. Then we take a step back and find out what Rubes and Laura have been doing today (looking for Marrock's things. Because, you know, stuff is more interesting than an actual person when that person is an icky brown color) Then we take another step back and find out that Jim got today off and that is rare. Unfortunately the author didn't take yet another step back and realize that she could have written this story about an immortal asian werewolf Knight of the Round Table, and decided that focusing on a rich white infant was much more interesting.

Ruben moans about how his seperation from his family is agonizing. Yeah. I'll bet. Self imposed wallowing in indolence and drugs werewolf and sex is always such a chore.

Immortal asian werewolf Knight of the Round Table.

Jim breaks out his confessional garb. Because using a religious sacriment to cover your OPEN DISCUSSION OF MURDER is a respectful way to treat your belief system. And he basically drops Marrok's murder in Jim's lap and says "Deal with it" and goes off on a tangent about how WONDERFUL the wolf-power is. Which is what EVERY ADDICT EVER says. Oh I can't give it up. I can't. I can't.

Yes you can. You just won't.

Oh, yeah, I went there. I have lots of sympathy for people suffering with addictions. I have no sympathy for the "Oh, I can't, it's just too hard". "Can't" implies that it is physically impossible to do so. But you know what? It's always possible to give up an addiction. It's not probable, though, because human beings like to avoid pain, and every stage in recovery involves pain. Real physical pain, real psychological pain, and real social pain. I don't condemn anyone who wants to avoid that pain, but I also don't condone using denial to avoid the obvious: YOU CAN ALWAYS CHOOSE TO LET GO. Always. It is NEVER too late to quit addiction as long as you have a pulse.

Anne Rice is glorifying the worst sort of addictive behavior. That early stage, recreational glow. Late stage addiction is ugly, but it's also a lot closer to rock bottom. You can't glorify it. There's nothing there to praise. All there is is guilt, shame, and numbing. Something every human being EVER has the right to walk away from. You don't have to carry guilt or shame. In fact, most addicts cling to their guilt and shame because it justifies that next drink or fix. Let go of the guilt, you might have a chance to get your life back. But that's the ugly part, the end-stage. This is all the shiny golden rave-y newness, and she's making that attitude a GOOD thing.

Jim reacts perfectly:

Jim’s eyes were moist, and his face sort of broken with sadness, with worry. But he only nodded, waiting patiently, every time Reuben paused, for him to go on.

Yeah. Everything Ruben said before this paragraph is so very much a cry for help, it's fucking textbook. And Jim is doing exactly the right thing by sitting there and not being judgemental. The problem is he doesn't back it up with enough hard-ass to make it effective. I love you, you are wonderful, is nice, but it has no power until you add but if you get high one more time I'm kicking your ass to the curb. 

And Ruben just keeps right on at it, talking about eating the mountain lion. And then Rice drops this gem:

How could he break through the tragic expression on Jim’s face with some flash of how dazzling and even sublime this was?
 This is what happens when an addict talks to a sober person. When you're high you might think you're describing something wonderful, but the sober person sees all the things that happy glow is hiding. And I do not get it because this is actually good. Werewolf as a drug allegory. This could be salvaged if Rice is willing to rake Ruben over the coals for the rest of the book.

Jim info dumps everything that's happened in the book so far, in case we weren't paying attention and...how can the dialogue in this book be getting progressively worse?

“I know what you’re going to say,” said Reuben. “I know what you’re going to tell me. But there is no one who can help us with this. No one. And don’t tell me to call this or that authority! Or to confide in this or that doctor. Because any such move would spell the complete end of my freedom and Laura’s freedom, and the complete end of our lives!”
That's the worst paragraph in the book, which is amazing because I found the worst paragraph in the book LAST chapter. And who says "Spell the end of my freedom and the complete end of our lives!"? Did we fall into bad fanfic when the publisher's back was turned?

They discuss Laura. Specifically Ruben's bringing Laura over, and good fucking GOD Rice SO wanted to write another damned vampire book it's unreal. Anyway, Laura won't get bit because it could kill her precious widdle female stem cells and that would be bad.

But you know what? Father Jim just became the best character in the novel: 

 “You killed them, Reuben. You killed them in their sins! You terminated their destiny on this earth. You snatched from them any chance for repentance, for redemption. You took that from them. You took it all, Reuben. You snuffed out forever the years of reparation they might have lived! You took life itself from them and you took it from their descendants, and yes, even from their victims, you took what their amends might have been.”
Of course it won't be allowed to stand, because Ruben is Anne Rice's mouthpiece, but OH FUCKING THANK YOU YES.

The point--that Justice is more than making bad things go away. That Justice is about making sure the bad people are equally protected and that their punishment is no greater than necessary--flies right fucking over Ruben's head, but he does admit that he murdered and he feels no remorse.

We really ought to stop right there, because that's the entire problem with Ruben right there. Sociopaths make shit viewpoint characters. It worked a little bit for Darkly Dreaming Dexter, but that wore off quick. Benedict Cumberbatch does a sociopath great, but even in Sherlock the VP char is Watson, not Holmes. (I would also argue that Sherlock Sherlock is not a sociopath because he frequently moves in ways that have a poor outcome on his personal life, but that's a debate for a less stupid post). Remorse in fiction functions as a release valve for that sense of wrongness readers tend to register every time the main character blows somebody's head off. Todd Snyder said "In America we like our bad guys dead!" and this is true. But we also like our heroes to drink until they pass out afterwards because we want them to feel guilty for it.

The info-dumping continues, and we finally start speculating that the werewolves are immortal.

Because of course they are.

Basically, the rest of the chapter is a rehash of everything we already know, including another mention of the Russian doctor from Paris that Ruben's mom contacted. Ruben fake prays and stares into the woods for a while. Jim really prays and then leaves. End of chapter.

Yeah. Jim is just that monotage episode long-running TV series have to do every once in a while to keep their viewers in tune with the show. EXCEPT THIS IS A BOOK AND YOU SHOULDN'T HAVE TO DO THAT.


  1. Anyway, Laura won't get bit because it could kill her precious widdle female stem cells and that would be bad.

    What? Does Rice mean ovum? Because those are not 'pluripotent generative stem cells'. Those are gametes. If anyone is going to be sterilized from exposure to wolfy fluids, it's Reuben.

    All of this is just a set-up for the inevitable "Reuben's wolfy fluids are CHANGING THE BAAAAAA-BYYYY OH NO!" scene, isn't it?

    1. No, I meant "body", as in turning into a werewolf might kill Laura, which means precious little Laura can't be put at risk for becoming, you know, an actual functional character in this book. But I said "stem cells" because apparently the "wolf fluid" does something to adult stem cells to trigger the change.

      Because adult stem cells and embryonic aka pluripotent stem cells are EXACTLY the same (No. No they're not.)

    2. Sociopath!Sherlock is a popular modern interpretation. Which is odd given that in the source material he is openly compassionate and social. He's an upper-class Bohemian with a fondness for nicotine, cocaine, and heroin, but he's no sociopath.