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Sunday, May 18, 2014

Narcissus in Chains Chapter Eight

Dottie's breakdown is here

Chapter Eight 

The entirety of this chapter is a dumb dream sequence so I'm just going to post the whole thing. 

"I dreamed I was running, being chased through the woods at night. I could hear them coming closer, closer, and I knew that what chased me wasn't human. Then I fell to the ground and I was running on four feet. I chased the pale thing that fled before me."

It took me five re-reads before I could parse what the fuck is supposed to be happening here. Also ugh. I admit it, there's a dream sequence in No Deadly Thing so I suppose I shouldn't be too tough on LKH here, but goddamn this is cliched. I obviously have nothing against dream sequences in particular, but at least give me some characterizing details. Also please, dear god, I need some clarity. Am I meant to imagine Anita as a wolf? A leopard? What is chasing her? What is she chasing? Just saying shit like "pale thing" is lazy and not nearly as mysterious as LKH thinks it is. There isn't enough going on in this scene to make it meaningful and/or stunning in a sensory fashion. It's flat and confusing. 

Oh, we can't? More bullshit dream sequence. God, fine. 

"The soft thing that had no claws, no teeth, and smelled wonderfully of fear. It fell, and its scream was shrill, it hurt my ears and excited me. My fangs sank into flesh and did not stop until they tore meat. Blood poured scalding hot down my throat, and the dream faded." 

I think part of what is going on here is something to do with her inner zoo. It's meant to convince us once again that Anita is so BADASS and PREDATORY but again I just find it odd. Being a predator animal doesn't necessarily make you a sadist, though it is of course debatable how an animal feels at any given time. Still, a lot of predators believe caution is the better part of valor, and aren't hulking snarling monsters 24/7, if ever. So basically once again Anita is just terrible. This isn't something justified by her inner animals, in my opinion. This is just evidence that Anita likes hurting the helpless. 

Also, I know it's tempting, when writing in first person, to write as though the story is a stream of consciousness. Don't do this. It's clumsy and weird. 

"I was in Narcissus's bedroom on the black bed. Jean-Claude was tied between the posts at the end of the bed. His chest was bare, covered in claw marks, blood running down his skin. I crawled across the bed towards him, and I wasn't afraid, because all I could smell was the sweet copper scent of blood." 

J.C. is the one who is tied up and injured, but our attention is supposed to be on Anita's fear. Again I crave a narcissism GIF. 

LKH is trying so hard. 

"He stared at me with eyes gone solid, drowning blue."

There it is again! It's like LKH realizes that this is one of the only good things she's ever come up with, so now she's determined to ride that shit all the way in to the ground. 

"Kiss me, ma petite." I rose on my knees, my mouth hovering over his lips. He moved towards me, but I stayed out of reach of those kissable lips."

If you are tied up like that, you're very limited in how much you can move. I can't believe I have to explain that. 

"I moved my mouth lower, until it was just above his chest and the fresh wounds that decorated his skin. "Yes, ma petite, yes," he sighed."

Since I have to be a nitpicky asshole in every post at least once, here's today's: above his chest is a fucking weird thing to say. Be more specific. These are all instances where she could add color and depth to her writing, but she never takes the opportunity. I also think "I moved my mouth lower" makes it sound like her mouth is on the end of a stick and she's moving it down his neck like a squeegee. 

Holy god, how many times can this woman repeat the same words? 

"I pressed my mouth to his chest and drank. I woke, eyes staring, heart thudding. It was Richard above me. He still had the leather collar on. I tried to raise my arms, to hold him, but my left arm was taped to a board. There was an I.V. in my arm. I looked at the darkened room and knew I wasn't in a hospital. I raised my right arm to touch his face, but it was heavy, too heavy to lift." 

Fine, whatever. Medical shit we're supposed to care about. Nonsense about Richard, because apparently she loves him again. This relationship confuses the hell out of me. 

"Darkness spilled over my eyes like warm water rushing in, as my fingertips brushed his skin." 

Something about this just doesn't work for me. Maybe it's because it's weirdly placed. She already described the room as dark, but this reads like she's just waking up and discovering the state of her surroundings. I also don't think the darkness = water analogy holds, but admittedly that's subjective. 

"I heard his voice. "Rest, Anita, rest." I think he kissed me, gently, then there was nothing." 


INTERMINABLE. God, fine, here we go.

"I was wading in water to my waist, clear, icy water. I knew I had to get out of the water or I'd die, the cold would steal me away." 

Mercedes Lackey called, she wants her dream sequence back. Except hers was quite a bit more compelling than this. (And okay fine, it was an ice field but same diff) 

"I could see the shore, dead trees, and snow. I ran for those distant trees, struggling in the icy water."

I'm sorry but I find it hilarious that she thinks it's best to run in water as opposed to fucking swimming. Our heroine, everyone. 

"Then my feet went out from under me, and I fell in to a deep hole." 

"The water closed over my face, and the shock of the cold hit me like a giant fist. I couldn't move. I couldn't breathe." 

I need to keep a tally of how often she uses the same terrible analogies. 

"The light faded through the clear, shining water. I began to drift down, down into the cold dark water. I should have been scared, but I wasn't. I was so tired, so tired."

First draft. This has to be a first draft. Water water water cold icy icy dark dark dark water cold. That's what these paragraphs are like.  

"Pale hands reaches for me, coming from the light. The sleeve of the white shirt billowed around his arm, and I moved my hand towards him. Jean-Claude's hand wrapped around mine, and he pulled me towards the light." 

That entire thing is awkward as fuck. This whole chapter reads like blocking instead of an actual scene. This is sort of like what I would write as a placeholder, the barest of scribbles intended to remind me: dream sequence goes here. It's in no way a finished scene. It says something about her lack of skills as a writer, too, because dream sequences have no limits. You can put whatever you want in a dream sequence. Break out the imagery! 

"I was back in the dark room..."

I should also tally up how many times she's used dark, room, icy, and water. I'd say do a shot every time, but if I adhered to those rules I'd already be wandering the streets covered in my own vomit. 

..."but my skin was wet,, and I was cold, so cold."

Oh, and cold. Tally of that as well. If it were shots I'd be dead.

"Jean-Claude was cradling me in his lap. He was still wearing the vinyl outfit. Then I remembered the fight. I'd been hurt. Jean-Claude leaned over and kissed my forehead, laying his face against mine. His skin was as cold as I felt--like ice pressed against me."

How do your lay your face next to someone else's face, pray tell? Also omg, guess what YU GUISE it is TOTES ICY. This reminds me of the infamous fuck me fuck me fuck me fuck me fuck me bit, except it lacks even the grotesque cringe-y amusement a bad erotic interlude can offer.

"The shivering was worse; my body danced in small involuntary movements." 

No shit. That's what shivering is.

"Cold, I said. "I know, ma petite, we are both cold." I frowned at him, because I didn't understand."

You don't understand that you're both cold, even though J.C. is a walking corpse and you just said aloud that you're fucking cold?

"He was looking at someone else in the room. "I have brought her back, but I cannot give her the warmth she needs to survive." I managed to turn my head enough to look around the room. Richard was standing there with Jamil and Shang-Da and Gregory. Richard came to the bed; his hand touched my face. It was hot against my skin." 

You guys, I cannot possibly overstate how much I love semicolons. I want to get one tattooed on myself forever. But while these uses are technically correct, they're awkward as hell and don't add to what LKH is trying to communicate.

"Richard came to the bed and touched my face. His fingertips felt so hot I thought they'd surely leave a burn behind."

That's not great either--I just dashed it off--but hopefully it shows that there's no particular reason to use a semicolon here.

"It was too much, and I tried to move away from his hand."

Hand hand hand. Recently in a Goodreads group a few people suggested that if an author takes the time to bash someone else's novel, they must be jealous. Of course I reject this outright, because I don't have a single drop of jealousy in me for LKH's success, besides seriously side eyeing an industry that would allow a person to get rich off of such tripe. Maybe one of these days I'll take a chapter and rewrite it. I bet you'd all find it objectively better, but maybe I should put my money where my mouth is.

"Anita, can you hear me?" My teeth were chattering so hard, I could hardly get it out, but finally I said, "Yes." 

I don't understand why they don't go to a hospital or a police station. Now, the cops in this universe are portrayed as either corrupt or bigoted on a regular basis, so if I accept that about the rules of this world I can understand why they might shy away from involving the authorities. The police where I live are notoriously corrupt too, and I have pretty much given up on calling them. But Anita has plenty of clout with them, I think, at this point in the series. There's no reason she can't get Richard, who is still passing as human, to take her to the hospital.

Instead, they almost kill her because they're a bunch of idiots: "You've got a high fever, a very high fever. They put you in a shallow ice bath to bring it down. But your body reacted like a shapeshifter's. The low temperature while so much damage was healing almost killed you." 

1) Why does it work that way? I want to know. 2) Why are they telling her this? She's sick. I've had fevers that hit 104 degrees. You hallucinate at that point. In my childhood home my parents allowed us and all my friends to draw on the walls in the basement. I was bundled up on the couch there, and I was convinced all the monster sketches a friend had done had come to life. I called that friend and babbled nonsense until she hung up on me. Point being, words don't even make sense because your brain is essentially stewing in its own boiling juices. This is not the time to try and get Anita to comprehend her circumstances. They need to take action to save her life, not talk at her.

"I frowned at him and finally managed to say, "Don't understand."

As much as I hate her tendency to bumble around like a goddamn fool all the time, I'll give her this one for the reasons listed above.

"The involuntary jerks were getting stronger, strong enough that it hurt the wounds. I was waking up enough to feel how very hurt I was. Things hurt that I didn't remember getting injured. My muscles ached."

At least LKH let Anita take a serious hit for once. However, I don't understand why they haven't called any doctors in. Don't they have Dr. Lillian, and isn't Cherry a nurse? The mind boggles. 

"You need the high temperature to heal, just like we do."

So if high temperatures are good for shapeshifters, shouldn't they be incapable of getting fevers in the first place? Okay so one could argue that it's more like the difference between the sun and a sickness, but still this is one of those times where I crave more worldbuilding.

"I didn't understand who the "we" was. "Who..." and a spasm shook my body, tore a scream from my mouth."

As opposed to what? It can't exactly tear a scream from her asshole or her ear.

"My body fell in to convulsions and pain smashed through me. If I could have breathed, I'd have screamed more. My vision began to disappear in large grey patches. "Get the doctor!" Richard's voice." 

Oh, so they DO have a doctor. I'm a bit surprised no one is monitoring Anita then. If she's convulsing that's a very serious thing and doesn't bode well for her future. If she's in such a state, she ought to be monitored round the clock.

"You know what must be done, mon ami." If this works, then I've lost her."
That's a weird thing to say. If this--presumably something to help Anita--works, Richard will lose her? Um? Wouldn't whatever he's about to do be about saving her life? I think this is meant to imply that he's going to try and call her wolf and force her to shift and heal.

As an aside, this is what made me want to try the whole main character powers up constantly thing to see if I could do it well. Being more than one supernatural thing will come up in the Twisted Tree universe. We'll see if I can handle it better than LKH does.

Moving on:

"My vision cleared for a few seconds. Richard was stripping out of the tight pants. It was the last thing I saw before the gray swept up over my eyes and sucked me down."

Thank god that's over.


  1. I lover your snarks so much. I always look forward to them. Also, +1 for Red Dwarf!

    1. thank you! they take me forever so I'm glad the effort is appreciated. Also omg Red Dwarf is one of my favorite shows ever, since I saw it on PBS as a thirteen year old :)