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Friday, July 24, 2015

Cerulean Sins Chapter Twenty Nine Part One

This chapter opens with the dumbest fucking thing I've read yet:

"Nathaniel had gotten one of the extra crosses out of the glove compartment. I always carried spare crosses, just like spare ammo; when you hunt vampires, running out of either one is really bad."

Holy fuck beans, so we went through that whole eyes vs. cologne cloud reckless driving eating perfect strangers nonsense because everyone forgot there were crosses in the glove compartment?

Her only defense for this fuckery?

"Sometimes I'm a bit slow."

Anita is trying to describe her physical state in contrast with how beautiful the day is. This is how LKH sees fit to do so: "it was one of those glorious end of summer days, sun-warmed, sparkling, bright, and soft at the same time."

Adjectives are like culinary lavender: one bud too many and your cookies taste like dish soap.

What follows is one of those paragraphs you really only find in LKH's books and the books of her imitators, where so much is wrong I don't even know where to begin. Let's go with the fact that Anita says something angsty about being cold in a way no blanket will fix, then immediately jumps to Nathaniel being curled around her lower half like a blanket. I see what you did there, and I don't like it.

Nathaniel is somehow wedged between the floor and Anita. What kind of magical clown car does this woman own that this is possible? She goes on an extended tear about how Nate is like a dog, and that's great because dogs don't think about sex (?) and she needs a dog and not a person and Nate sometimes isn't a person.

Anita ponders the fourth vampire mark. Apparently it will make her ageless and immortal as long as J.C. is around. Holy shit, talk about power creep. She does go in to some interesting ideas about her Christianity versus being immortal, which in a better book would be truly fascinating.

Also let me just pause here and say that I am religious. I practice minority religions but I do believe that Christianity is real and applies to its adherents. And as a religious person, Anita's take on it chafes. She is the epitome of Sunday Christians, the kind who are only Christian when it suits them, who are only Christian because they go through the motions. Her idea of what God is, is ultimately self serving. The handful of times we've seen God through her eyes, He's essentially just showing up to sign off on all of her depravity. He's not a God, an almighty being with plans and desires and needs of His own. Rather, He is a toy for Anita to play with, a handpuppet that says whatever Anita wants Him to say. That's not spirituality, it's narcissism.

Someone is following them. Earlier in this journey I might have felt a twinge of excitement, a little relief from the endless ruminating, off putting fucking, and misuse of analogies. But now? I know this will amount to exactly nothing. I honestly don't know how she can let her first drafts be published. If I had to publish a first draft I'd drive off a cliff Thelma and Louise style.

Anita doesn't know why people are following her because the two cases she's working on don't have any stand out features. Is this what Anita considers working? I have absolutely no clue how many days have passed since the beginning of this book and I'm hazy on whether she was asked to raise someone's ancestor then because this meandering wordy dung heap is so thick. I mean, though, even if its only been like three days, that's enough to get you fired in most places unless you're having a legitimate issue.

Nathaniel suggests--rather sensibly I might add--that the people following them might be Belle's daytime servants. These differ from the type of servant Anita is because they don't have any vampire marks. They're called Renfields and generally want to be turned in to vampires themselves. I don't know how I feel about all of these terms culled from Dracula. I think it's potentially a cool idea, but because it's LKH it feels lazy. She uses the terms, throws a faint sketch out there, and that's it.

They think they've lost the car, but then the smell of roses happens and Anita's cross starts to glow. Anita is all, Belle can't roll me with a cross on. Caleb asks her why and she says because she has faith in God and faith that the cross will work. She adds that she's not sure how Caleb can doubt God's existence and power. Again this annoys the piss out of me because she doesn't really have a relationship with God. She hardly prays. She doesn't live her life according to anything approaching Christian values. She doesn't study her faith or think about how to apply it to her situation. She references God when she's trying to justify her deeds and when she needs something, e.g. the cross glowing. God never requires anything of her. He's just there to give her a hug sometimes.

Belle is here and her eyes are honey fire and her hair is like a cloak and oh my god whatever. Then she and Anita are menaced by darkness. How do I know? Because Anita proceeds to use the word darkness eleventy billion times:

"The room that Belle had constructed of dreams and power collapsed, shredded like the dream it was, and what ate at the corners of that bright candlelit room was darkness. Darkness absolute, darkness so black that it held shines of other colors, like an oil slick, or a trick of the eye. As if this blackness was a darkness made up of every color that ever existed, ever sight that had ever been seen, every sigh, every scream, since time began. I had heard the term primordial darkness, but until this moment I had never understood what it meant. Now I understood, I truly understood, and I despaired."

Holy fuck balls is that awful. It is one of the most awkward and overwritten things I've ever read, even in contrast against other things LKH herself has written. The stuff about oil slicks and tricks of the eye is serviceable at best, and sadly it's probably the most coherent part of this entire ungodly paragraph. Anita once again can't decide if she's an early 00s tough as nails vampire hunter in St. Louis or a character in The Castle of Ontranto. It's also so clearly just LKH riffing on the page as she goes, and I personally don't want to read that shit. Riffing is first draft business, not meant for the light of day.

At least I sincerely hope that this is a first draft, but hope starts to wane as I soldier on...oh before I quote the turgid slime I am about to subject you to, let it be known that Anita by her own admission is looking in to the abyss, in to primordial darkness, but she's not afraid. No siree! Anita is not afraid of a Lovecraftian monstrous thing from before light itself existed, this unnameable beast that even draws a scream from Belle Morte. And as pathetic as all of this posturing and telling is, what sucks even more is that making a character this supposedly badass just strips her of anything the reader can sympathize, let alone empathize, with. We don't want to spend time with her, and she's not well written enough to make us fascinated to the point where we'll accept the fact that she's despicable and go along with things because my god, we just need to know what happens next.

So here we go: "My mind kept trying to find words to describe what it was. It did loom over me like a mountain, because it had weight and that claustrophobic feeling of a mountain poised to come crashing down, but it was not a mountain."

Wow, thanks for clearing that up. The primordial darkity dark darkness of shadowy doom is not, in fact, a mountain.

"It was more like an ocean, if an ocean could have risen up taller than the tallest mountain and stood before you, waiting, defying gravity and every other known law of physics."

Soooooo it's NOT a mountain NOR is it an ocean, yet somehow it IS both an ocean AND a mountain because I don't know.

It is extremely embarrassing to watch LKH try her damndest to pull out her top shelf writing chops and fail so miserably. Moments like these are where great writers shine. Hell, even middle of the road writers often know how to capitlizie on their skills and give a good mood/description sandwich, spread thick on delicious story-bread. Here, it's like the time I made the mistake of going to a Denny's in Fargo and received a very dubious 'sandwhich' for my troubles, that despite retaining the general shape one expects had zero to do with food. When I purchased it this 'book' had all the characteristics one looks for, but a proper cover and an ISBN can't take the place of actual writing. LKH is the dry floppy mystery meat of literature, or maybe that weird crunchy hard thing you come across in your burger patty that fills you with a special kind of unnameable dread.

She continues meandering about this, eventually figuring out that this is the first vampire, only to end with: "There was a time when she walked among us, fed on us, and when darkness falls, somewhere in the back of our skulls, we remember the hungry dark."


CHRIST. Not that He's going to turn up or anything, because this is a serious situation that can't be fixed by patting Anita on the back and really, what purpose does god have other than showing up to rub Anita's balls from time to time?

There's very little I hate more than when Anita tries to wax philosophical. She's dithering on about how light overcomes darkness. She starts to pray to Mary (?) and conveniently she has her cross in the dream, and the darkness dissipates. She spent like a million years of my precious life describing the darkity dark as the most powerful gloomy shadowy dark black darkity dark LIKE EVUH and she managed to push it away with a single prayer.

Also this chapter is endless so I am going to stop here in the interest of posting this damn thing.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Cerulean Sins Chapter Twenty Eight

I'm sorry I've fallen so behind Dottie but because of the way I do these, they take FOREVER. 

Back to Anita Blake

Richard starts screaming and Anita leaves because everyone else is better at taking care of him than she is. She also thinks that Richard let himself get this bad without calling for help because he's trying to commit "passive suicide."

At one time I was annoyed with Richard because he was still complaining about being a werewolf eleventy billion books in, but then I realized that Richard is dead on. Why? Look at what werewolves and werecreatures in general do. They rape. They torture. They murder. When they don't control themselves, they get the urge to cannibalize one another. It is a death sentence. It makes you in to a monster. Yet Anita thinks he's weak for not wanting to be a werewolf. 

Jason drives, because he's afraid Anita might have another fainting spell. Anita points out that since all the doors at the Circus have crosses on them, she shouldn't have any difficulties. People, this is the first time in over twenty chapters that the 'plot' has made an appearance, and now only as an aside. So has Musette just been waiting in her room this whole time, while Anita cries and fucks and forgets to put conditioner in her hair? I like the idea of all the vampire stereotypes actually working, but surely after thousands of years vampires like Belle Morte and her agents would have found a way around them. I mean, what's the point of having human servants if they can't sneak around and remove a cross or two?

So Anita, Caleb, Nathaniel, and Jason are all driving along. Anita does this truly aggravating bullshit where sometimes she starts channeling a woman from a trashy Victorian novel, to whit: "if you throw a furry through a windshield, do they not still bleed?" 

Jane Austen she is not.

Anita starts to smell roses and Belle Morte starts filling her head with cliche garbage about how Anita is going to feed her forever and ever till the end of time and there's nothing she can do and mine is an evil laugh.

Oh did I say farts? I mean roses. Yeah, that's it. Roses.

LKH hits me with halfway decent imagery of Belle Morte rolling around on a veritable carpet of hunky sweaty man flesh, feeding the ardeur. I love erotic horror and have since I picked up the Hot Blood anthology at fourteen years old, so the fact that Belle literally fucks so hard and long she kills people (Anita sees at least two dead men in this vision) is great. She's making JC watch it too, as punishment for leaving her. Now THAT is the glimmer of a good character.

Of course it will only be a glimmer. It's a shame that these characters never realize even a quarter of their potential, because I think all of them could shine if given the chance and the hand of a creator with actual skill at the craft of writing. I don't think those of us who spork this series would do it if we didn't see so much wasted potential.

Nathaniel touches her and the ardeur "roars through" her. The paragraph where she attempts to describe its effects is straight up evidence that LKH does not edit. A grim faced squad of fedora wearing special agents ought to show up and draw a chalk outline around it:

"The heat rushed over my skin in beads of sweat, brought my pulse pounding, rising like some ripe fruit to fill my throat, stop my breath, so for a moment I was drowning in the beat and pulse of my own body. I could hear my blood like a roaring flood. I could feel every pulse, every drop to the tingling tips of my fingers and toes. I had never been so aware of how very much blood was coursing through my veins as I was in that one heart-stopping moment." 

I have a huge pet peeve for using the same word over again shortly after the first use (aagh using and use!), but I think even without that being a particular aggravation of mine, the text above is offensive. 

She starts sniffing and pawing Nathaniel. Not only does he smell of sex and blood (sigh) his hands also smell faintly of everything he touched that day. I hope he hasn't taken a shit or eaten any asparagus then. 

Okay so it's not actually the ardeur, but blood lust. We also discover that Anita is very serious about keeping her seat belt on at all times because her mother wouldn't have died had her mother been wearing one. Huh. How that's never come up before, I don't know. Especially considering I've been dying for something characterizing about Anita since I started reading this godawful drivel. 

Sorry not sorry, LKH.

Anita does her best to eat everyone in the car. Jason starts driving like a maniac so she'll be thrown about instead. She gets in the back seat and tries to eat Nathaniel, then Caleb. This actually isn't bad. It's creepy, it's dangerous, and it's forcing her to make moves on someone she actively dislikes. Anita starts to want Caleb sexually, too, but Belle forces her to want his blood instead. She wants Anita's desires to mirror hers, and I think that's a fairly effective way to show us how Belle functions as a villain.  

Anita's power menagerie starts to gallop around. I don't object to her having multiple powers, but it's like at the end of a play where all the actors have to come out and bow to the audience. And here we have Anita's necromancy! And Anita's beasts! And...and...and. 

Anita is full on molesting Caleb at this point. I'll just skim over the consent issues because that's a given at this point. Hilariously, Anita says Caleb's nipple piercings are "like a toothpick in your sandwich, they were in the way."

I legitimately and literally laughed out loud when I read this. I am sure that's not what LKH was going for. She then follows this up with a vicious comedy right hook: "I tore my arms through Caleb's shirt..."

I need a fucking diagram, people. How you do this? Also the awkward as fuck writing makes this a billion times better as I imagine Anita hulking out like some shrieking sex banshee while screaming I DON'T KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH MY HANDS!

Except they missed my copy, sadly.

Caleb is wondering what the fuck is going down, and Jason tells him it's his turn to "take one for the team" and "you're going to get munched on."

This made me cold with rage and disgust. Rape is such an overarching theme in this series that I truly wonder at its inclusion. I don't know if it's better to think that LKH doesn't realize, or that she does. Remember too that Merle forced Caleb to be here, with threats that made him cry with terror when Anita initially suggested he stay home instead of coming with them. So now he's going to get mutilated, because when you're near Anita you should expect to be rape fodder at any and all times.

To Anita's credit she tries to resist the impulse to treat a man she barely knows and doesn't like as a chew toy.

Belle Morte informs Anita that without the fourth vampire mark she doesn't really belong to J.C., because it's just more convenient to have the bad guy explain all the hero's weaknesses to her so she can handily fix them before whatever 'climax' is going to happen in this book.

Oh my fucking god, this whole bullshit is so Anita is forced to call on Richard to help her cast out Belle Morte. I hate Anita AND Richard. Anita is a rapist and doesn't understand why Richard didn't enjoy it when she shattered his trust and crossed all of his boundaries, and Richard is a sad sack with the personality of a bowl of oatmeal. (Frankly I might be being too generous; I like oatmeal)

See, and this time? Richard is too weak to push her away so doesn't bother to try.

Well, Belle Morte is all no you shall not have your wolf, and I will give you all the vampire marks and steal you from J.C., because of course I want a completely ineffective aggravating political idiot for a servant because that makes sense. Honestly J.C. would be better off if he killed Anita. She's horrible for him. She's a psychopath and a narcissist but doesn't have the intelligence or ability to imagine the future that might make her effective. So instead she bumbles around messing up all of J.C.'s plans by being completely and utterly tone deaf to anything that doesn't directly benefit her in the present moment.

So Belle keeps on this track about how she will own Anita and everything she loves blah blah and her eyes are like huge brown flames and honey and roses and omg Belle is sexy and she loves to sex people to death and blood and...

Anita has a glimmer of caring about other people when she realizes that Belle can control the pard through her if she gives up control. I think it's one of the only time she's ever referred to having friends. Not only is that the most pathetic thing I've ever heard, the metaphysical battle for Anita's soul is expressed through a giant pair of disembodied eyes (Belle) battling a cloud of potpurri (Richard's power).

No, I'm serious. That's what Anita sees and feels. When Belle is winning her eyes get closer and closer, and then Richard's power has to counter with a bigger cloud. This scene has potential, what with Belle trying to control her in a car actively barreling down the highway, but with that kind of imagery there's no chance I can take it seriously. Plus, she's just randomly screaming help me! at everyone else as if they're supposed to know what's going on.

Richard fills Anita with his beast. Belle's eyes retreat and hover near the roof of the Jeep. If that's not comedy, I don't know what is.

"I'd never felt Richard's beast so thick inside me." 

"It was if I was a purse, a bag, holding his beast..."

Oh my god you guys, there is so much wrong with the use of the word purse in this scene, not least of which is that it makes me imagine Richard's all powerful beast as an anemic Chihuaha named Coco.

It's as if this dog is saying: "Excuse me, knock off all that vampire shit okay? I'm trying to nap."  Thanks for being the voice of reason, Mr. Kibbles.

Belle is all, fine, your wolf may protect you for now, but tonight at the banquet I will be there through Musette, and then you will be my ma petite! Bahaha! At this point the 'plot' is so muddled that I have no fucking idea if this banquet has been mentioned before now or if LKH just straight pulled it out of her ass.

"Vampires were always trying to kill me, or own me. God, I hated being popular."