Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Let’s get ready for the continuing adventures of absolutely fuck all taking place. I’m already half-drunk so that might make this go faster. Let’s do a shot and get this started.
In which there is an asteroid, more poor world building, and still nothing happens
So I guess this is where all those questions to Dan Wasserman come into play about artificial gravity, but, hey, why should Vaughan actual bother with the science in a science-fiction book when we’re already 84 pages in? Also, I don’t care how the asteroid has artificial gravity when I’m slowly inching closer to the end of this book.
Anyway, D’abu says they should take Caleb to “Durty [sic] Nelly’s” and not only does Vaughan unnecessarily italicize this, but she deliberately uses that spelling because this book only exists to hurt me.
So Nelly’s has live sex shows and I curl up around my ever increasing alcohol stash in the hopes it would protect me from Vaughan’s ID fantasies, which I find increasingly worrying.
Anyway, Sarhaan and Kai Xuwicha go to meet with Dorados’ head of security. And, once more, I have to ask what the hell the political structure is?
So Dorados is a station built on an asteroid. I think. Let’s just assume that it is. On this possible-station there’s a security force, which suggests there’s an owner or at least some sort of command structure. But since the Republic/an has no power off Earth (unless Vaughan has changed her mind on that again), how does this work?
(Also, since the ship is now “invisible to all known air traffic control systems,” how did it dock? I mean, since the traffic control can’t see it, they couldn’t have cleared the ship or helped signal them in. They should, by all rights, have died in a fiery ball of death, and why do you deny me these simple pleasures, Vaughan? Why?)
As seen later, the asteroid has restaurants and hotels and apparently mines, so is there one owner who rents out space, sort of like a mall? Is it a mall asteroid? Why would you open a sex show in a mall? Does Dorados act as a sort of space truck stop? Is it like that place on Firefly where they stopped and River had problematic food and Jayne got that awesome hat from his mom? Why am I putting this much thought into it when I could be drinking myself into a stupor?
This chapter ends with nothing else happening. That brings the total to 87 pages of not a damn thing going on that moves the plot, such as it is, forward. Awesome.
DUN DUN DUN ending: “Good morning. Welcome to Doradus. I’m Seth Loftin, chief of station security. What say you gentlemen stow your weapons in the locker over there and we have ourselves a little chat?” (Note: Don’t get your hopes up—nothing remotely interesting results from this. It fades to black and we never follow up on Seth Loftin again. It’s like Vaughan deliberately sets up situations that might prove interesting for the sole purpose of finding the way to make them boring as hell and enraging me.)
In which D’abu proves he’s smarter than both Sarhaan and Caleb, Vaughan rips off Joss Whedon, our dear fucking heroes go to Durty Nelly’s, where Vaughan’s ID roams free
We start with Caleb and D’abu, who are looking at pictures of the murdered prostitutes, and I am confused because this smacks suspiciously like plot. It’s been so long since we’ve had any whiff of the point of this book that I’m scared—I don’t like change.
Anyway, thank god D’abu is there because he apparently is a thousand times smarter and more observant than Caleb and notices that the burns from the wounds mean the angle of the shot wasn’t clean. D’abu suggests bringing in Sarhaan, Kai Xuwicha, and Naslund because they are the only other soldiers who have names.
Then there’s this: “Somehow, hearing Daphne’s suspicions confirmed brought her death back to Cal in a way he hadn’t anticipated. When he’d thought it all might be in his head, it could still seem like a big mistake. There was a chance that it really was just a random mugging. But D’abu was taking away even that small hope from him.”
Oh good, more wallowing. I was just thinking there wasn’t enough of Caleb being ineffective and feeling sorry for himself. I’m just glad Vaughan didn’t make Daphne a real person or this might actually be touching.
Anyway, D’abu says that the shots are sloppy and since they are all genetically engineered super soldiers (I’ll still act surprised when it’s revealed) and “qualified in the top one percent” of their class that they couldn’t be bad shots even if they tried. I bet if they drank as much as alcohol at me at this point they could be such bad shots they ended up shooting each other in the face…and thanks to Vaughan that phrase is now linked to gay porn forevermore in my head and I can never unsay it. Thanks, Vaughan, thanks a lot.
Anyway, Caleb wonders why they would bother killing prostitutes and blaming Sarhaan’s unit. I find myself asking the same question because I’ve read the entire book and I still have no idea of the answer.
Sarhaan comes back and Caleb ogles him, providing us about the seventy-fifth description of Sarhaan in black leather pants. Again, this is so Vaughan’s ID peeking out that it’s not even funny.
Now we get to the point where Vaughan blatantly rips off Joss Whedon. Apparently on Doradus the sex trade is legal and there are Recreational Time Specialists (RaTS), which are “something of a prestigious occupation. Companionship and time were something to be savored and appreciated.” So they’re companions. How original.
Anyway, they go to the space asteroid of space whores for engine repairs but they’re going to be stuck there anywhere from 50 to 100 hours waiting for said parts. That should be enough time for Caleb to be even whinier and get himself into even more trouble that Sarhaan will have to rescue him from. I can’t wait.
Caleb shows Sarhaan what he and D’abu, but mainly D’abu, found about the dead hookers and Caleb decides to look into it further. After ninety-one freaking pages Caleb comes to the decision this needs further investigation. I hate this book.
Sarhaan asks Caleb to go with him to the space hooker infested asteroid and Caleb responds thusly: “What did he say? Staring up into those incredible eyes, dark as the night sky and a thousand times more beautiful? Autopsies and burn marks went out of Cal’s head like a dream upon waking.”
And this pretty much sums up why I hate Caleb: he is a selfish, self-centered, whiny brat. Look, okay, I get that he’s in love (although I don’t know why since Sarhaan has done nothing even remotely likable). And I know that love can make you self-centered and crazy and all of that, but Caleb’s best friend was brutally beaten to death and he barely thinks about her.
If my hetero lifemate died, not even murdered to hide some conspiracy about dead prostitutes, I would damn well be devastated. Even if I did find someone and fall in love with them soon after she died, I would still be completely wrecked about her death and would definitely not completely forget about her just because the object of affections wanted to take me to a live sex show. Also, I hate Vaughan for making me write that last sentence.
I understand that Vaughan’s main focus is the romance between Caleb and Sarhaan, but by focusing exclusively on that is detrimental to everything else about the novel, especially the portrayal of Caleb. By only mentioning Daphne when it’s convenient to make Caleb look like a hurt puppy only actually makes him look like a callous, selfish little bitch.
Moving along because this chapter is long and actively taunting me, Sarhaan and Caleb go out to dinner, and I suppose I should care that they’re getting close, but since I find them both unlikeable I don’t care.
We do learn that Caleb has no “credits” (and I’m glad to see that Vaughan didn’t put any thought into coming up with an original currency), which will be important later, and that his parents will probably disown him. Apparently Caleb never got a girl to be his beard to please the folks, who he doesn’t have a particularly good relationship with.
Goddamnit, Vaughan, show us and stop telling us. This would all be more effective if perhaps there were flashbacks of Caleb’s crappy home life. It’ll help characterization in that maybe I maybe wouldn’t want Caleb to die in a fire.
We then move on to Durty Nelly’s, which is super popular and full of miners. Apparently in the future all asteroid miners are gay and outer space is just one giant gay orgy. I am just what-the-fucking my way through this.
The sex show starts, and during the live blow job Sarhaan gropes Caleb because he needs to make his mark or everyone else will be all over him. Well, they will until they find out how annoying he is.
This part ends before the next show starts.
DUN DUN DUN ending: Caleb speaking, “Fuck me? Please?”
In which there is even more fucking and I slide into a dark pit of despair
So the next part of the show starts and…oh god, I don’t know if I can do this. The entire chapter is only ten pages but it feels so much longer than that, possibly because of the excruciating detail Vaughan goes into for the sex act. If she spent this much attention on the rest of the book, like plot and pacing and characterization, then Off World may stand a chance of being good.
The live sex show involves double penetration and that’s all I’m going say because I find the entire thing to be more gross than sexy and it made me uncomfortable. And just to clear it up, it isn’t the graphic sex being described that makes me uncomfortable. I read a lot of sex scenes (not because I love porn but because as a writing student I read a lot in every genre). A lot of the sex scenes are so incredibly graphic that at the Association of Writers and Publishers conference there was a panel on sex scenes and authors read some of them aloud, and all I could think was, “That’s not a sex scene, that’s the equivalent of a fade to back before the sex starts.” My next thought was, “Oh dear god, do I really read that much porn?”
So when I say that this sex scene made me uncomfortable then you can fill in the blanks of what she actually wrote (and if you are really that curious then let me know and I’ll e-mail you the file).
Moving on, Caleb and Sarhaan are so turned on they get a room at Durty Nelly’s, which comes with complimentary sex toys, and have sex that includes cock rings. There’s more fucking, and Sarhaan is all “don’t deny us” with Caleb while I start chugging the Jagermeister and cry on the inside.
After they’re finally done, Sarhaan notices there’s a hidden camera and someone was watching them the entire time. Of course. Christ. Excuse me while I drink this entire cabinet full of booze.
Text message of the chapter: I hate this book and want to die.
DUN DUN DUN ending: “It wasn’t the goat, thank God. It was the tiny camera disguised there.”
In which the sex club doesn’t seem to be going away and Vaughan injects a shot of plot contrivance into this ailing book
I really don’t want to spend any more time at Durty Nelly’s then I have to so I’m going to be brief where Vaughan isn’t because she loves her some gay porn. Basically whenever you get a room at Durty Nelly’s you’re agreeing to allow them to film you for people who get off by watching other men have sex (note how Vaughan also fits into this category). Also, Caleb is all insecure and whines that he’s not sexy blah blah blah, Sarhaan reassures him and I die a little more on the inside.
The manager and part owner is Joe Sotheran, who joins the ranks of characters with no motivation or characterization, which is everyone not Caleb and Sarhaan…actually, include them in that, too. Sotheran says that no one saw Sarhaan and Caleb going at it, and I scream that’s not true because I’ve been subjected to 108 pages of them either fucking or thinking about fucking and it’s just not fair oh sweet zombie Jesus why me.
Sotheran offers Sarhaan and Caleb a contract to work at Nelly’s. And oh my god, Vaughan, for the love of everything good and wonderful in this world please tell me this isn’t going where I think it is. Tell me that for some contrived reason Caleb isn’t going to think Sarhaan doesn’t want him anymore and since he has no credits he has to take a job at Nelly’s and Sarhaan isn’t going to have to rescue his useless ass. If this is what happens then you are dead to me, Vaughan.
They go back to the ship, traveling through a series of airlocks because Vaughan remembered this book is supposed to be science-fiction and not gay porn. Nothing happens for a couple of pages, which is just shocking because this book is usually a thrill a minute. Back on the ship still ridiculously named Kai Xuwicha informs our unlikeable lovebirds that Bartok got kicked out of Nelly’s for harassing performers and trying to get a contract. If he wants to perform public sex in front of anonymous strangers that badly then maybe he should try being a horrible, whiny bitch like ODFH because apparently that’s what gets gay miners of the future hot.
Bartok was dragged back to this ship by the sheriff, and this speaks to the power, or lack thereof, of Vaughan’s prose that I have no idea if the sheriff is supposed to be a figure of speech or if there’s an actual sheriff on the space asteroid station of homosexual companions…I mean RaTS, who do not at all even remotely resemble the companions from Joss Whedon’s Firefly.
Sarhaan hangs back and Kai Xuwicha tells him that some dude named Alex is working at Nelly’s and Sarhaan acts all concerned and guilty and asks if Alex is doing okay. Hey, Vaughan, was I supposed to do some background reading for this book? Because this reveal would perhaps be more dramatic and effective if you gave us any hints about who the fuck Alex is. I’m just going to finish this bottle of Jack Daniels while you submit your answer to me in the form of an apology.
Sarhaan is all castigating himself for not getting Alex out of “there.” Kai Xuwicha tries to console Sarhaan by telling him it’s not his fault, and I continue to drink until I figure out what the hell they’re talking about. I may be put on the waiting list for a liver transplant before that happens.
After thanking Kai Xuwicha for once more making sure nothing Sarhaan does is ever his fault or comes with consequences, Sarhaan goes into the room where Caleb says he heard everything and he thinks he wants to know who Alex is. That makes two of us. Oh god, did I just agree with Caleb? Either I’m too drunk or not drunk enough. Either way I’m drinking some more until this, and by that I mean the entire book, goes away.
DUN DUN DUN ending: “I think I want to know who Alex is.”
In which there are pages and pages of exposition because our heroes are too damn stupid to figure anything out on their own, Sarhaan is guilty of rape, and he and the rest of the interchangeable soldiers were made by eugenics, which frankly I did not see coming at all because the absinthe has finally struck me blind
Without counting, because that would require effort this book does not deserve, this chapter is the longest without any porn being involved because Vaughan realized she needed to wrap up the plot and, once more, break our fucking heroes up oh god why does she hate me?
Deep breaths, Jayne. You have a lot to recap here. You can do this. Your friends Absinthe, Jagermeister, and Jack Daniels are here to help you through this.
But before we do I just want to say this: “He wasn’t okay. Cal ached inside and wondered how much more he could take” had me shouting “SHUT UP SHUT UP YOU STUPID SELFISH HORRIBLE PERSON I HATE YOU.” I swear to god if I have to sit through one more goddamned page of Caleb feeling sorry for himself I will find a way to break all the known laws of physics and reality to get my uncontrollable strangly hands on him.
And now for the first part of the giant exposition dump. Remember that super special resort alluded to in the first chapter? Yeah, from that one mention we were supposed to have somehow gleaned that Alex was involved. Truly Vaughan’s mastery of writing leaves me in awe.
So Sarhaan and Kai Xuwicha and D’abu were sent to Earthly Delights (my god, how clever) for some R&R for a job of Inuit killing well done. Alex, a RaTS, was assigned to Sarhaan and Kai Xuwicha. Yes, in that way. After a week apparently Sarhaan and Kai Xuwicha could not live without Alex and tried to get him out, but since everything was under surveillance and recorded they failed hilariously because the eugenics project gave them failgenes by mistake. Once more: Worse. Soldiers. Ever.
And, again, Vaughan really makes us care about Alex because she makes him a real person with descriptions like these: “He was sweet and funny. Sarcastic as hell. We all laughed a lot, I remember that.” Alex may not have a personality but already I like him more than ODFH.
Apparently Alex was on a drug called Pink Diamond, which is “perfect for keeping gay boys hard and receptive. Enough of that --especially if they combined it with Fire, or even alcohol --he’d be in no position to say no. To even want to.”
Um, Vaughan? You do realize you just basically said that Sarhaan and Kai Xuwicha raped Alex, right? It really doesn’t matter how much they cared about Alex because his ability to give consent was taken away. They raped him, but of course no one will call Sarhaan on this—Caleb goes so far as to say nothing is Sarhaan’s fault—and Sarhaan is still supposed to be “kind and loyal.” I know I’ve said it many times before but I still seriously hate this fucking fucking book.
After they left, they were sent a video of Alex being beaten and tortured and they knew that if they tried to contact him it would have made it worse, so our brave heroes just abandoned him to the torture and rape. But remember, everyone, Sarhaan is really loyal and kind and caring and generous, so it’s okay.
Vaughan seems to be implying that Sarhaan and Kai Xuwicha were set up, but to what purpose? To make them more pliable? To hold this over them? Hey, Jack, do you know? No? Well, let me drink you until you come up with an answer.
Caleb of course immediately thinks Sarhaan is in love with Alex and this is where he goes from being merely unlikeable to me trying to reach through the screen to choke the bitch out of him. Hey, Caleb, Alex was drugged and raped and tortured, which trumps your stupid, fucking selfish little love life, you awful, awful man. SHUT UP.
At least Sarhaan makes me hate him slightly less with this: “Kai’s letting me off the hook and he shouldn’t. He knows better. Neither should you, for that matter.” I don’t think I would ever say this, but word, Sarhaan, I agree with you. God, that feels weird.
We then switch to the next day when Caleb and Sarhaan meet with Alex. Unlike ODFH, Alex has actually managed to figure this conspiracy out. For a given value of “figured out” in that only Vaughan can feel smug for tying all her plot threads together while the rest of us are left confused and angry and drunk. This book is enabling my drinking.
After Kai Xuwicha and Sarhaan left, Alex got a new client, who he overheard talking on the sci-fi sounding comm. The guy talked to someone named Jim about the testing of a new product, but as phase two was being rolled out there were apparently problems with phase one. I’m assuming the problems are the dead prostitutes.
The product is a drug, which builds up over time and when it reaches a certain threshold, instead of being docile and eager, the effects flip and the test subjects “go into a rage.” They turn into reavers? Prostitute reavers? What?
It’s apparently easier to kill them then try to cure them and way easier than trying to explain why all these johns are going to the Hulk to satisfy their sexual needs. People started to notice all the dead prostitutes and even though most of the bodies were covered up the dead reaver/hulk prostitute disposal man in Havana got lazy. Apparently Jim and the client were looking for a way to make the problem go away but still keep the profit margin.
Um, Vaughan, can I talk to you for a moment? Okay, great, thanks. Just a couple of questions. Why was this being tested on prostitutes? Were the prostitutes being monitored in a lab or were they free range? If there’s a profit margin then I’m assuming they were going to sell their drugs, but who’s the target consumer here? Pimps who want to keep their prostitutes docile? More places like Earthly Delights? Does the Republic/an army want these drugs to keep their Inuit killing soldiers happy and docile so they’ll kill more ingenious populations? Are you going to pull another Joss Whedon and have the drug released on the entire population, and if so, do you realize that’s the entire plot of the Serenity movie you just stole? And if the Republic is so large and controlling and tyrannical they seriously couldn’t cover up some dead hookers? Also, why blame Sarhaan’s unit? While we’re on this topic, what the hell is the point of this entire book? Besides the porn, I mean.
Turns out Alex’s client was Lt. Colonel Stephen Thurmond, or as Sarhaan put it, “Our boss’s boss. Small world, huh?”
Yes, Sarhaan, it is a small, contrived world after all! So if Thurmond is your boss, were you set up because you defected? Also, why did you defect? Was it the great Inuit massacre of aught 6 that drove you to it? I wish I knew—that’s a lie; I don’t care. I have forty odd pages left and only one more handle of vodka to see me through and these questions are taking up valuable brain cells I could be killing with liquor.
Also, I would like to point out that Alex had to be brought in to explain everything because in 118 fucking pages all Caleb and Sarhaan were able to discover were that messy burn marks meant Sarhaan and his unit could not have shot the reaver prostitutes. And by “Caleb and Sarhaan” I mean "D’abu." Yeah, they are that goddamn stupid and useless.
Oh god, we’re not done yet. We have more exposition to get through. Back on the ship Caleb is finally useful in that he found where Thurmond is located on Earth. I’m guessing he used his super special sailor scout powers to google Thurmond. He also looped together poor dead forgotten Daphne’s notes with Thurmond’s past known whereabouts and blah blah blah ridiculous techno babble that is only included to showcase the sheer awesome brilliance that is Caleb, Our Dear Fucking Hero. I want to brick him in the face. Right in the face.
In short Jim is, drumroll, James Van Aucken! The James Van Aucken? The old school friend of Thurmond who has several close ties with governors and members of the High Council James Van Aucken? My god, I have no idea who that is! I’m also sure this would be more important/interesting/make sense if I had any idea what the fucking fuck the Republic actually is and what it actually does.
Sarhaan, as Vaughan’s puppet, has to kiss up to Caleb and ask how he figured it out so we can again see how fucking awesome and special Caleb is and how he is not, in fact, a selfish, whiny, awful human being. I hate everyone in this book.
Moving along with the exposition because Vaughan cannot take the time to construct a coherent narrative, the drugs were a byproduct of the Prometheus Project that created Sarhaan’s unit. Oh what could the project possibly be? The tension and anticipation are killing me! Or maybe that’s my liver shutting down.
Turns out Sarhaan and the others didn’t know they were created by eugenics. Unlike the blind and deaf man in Jersey, I did not see that coming at all. Also, I may have slept through this part because this non-reveal was obvious from the porn saturated beginning.
Sarhaan, I shit you not, accepts he was genetically engineered in the span of one paragraph. I hate this book.
There’s more information on the project that we never get to see, some talk about breeding people as animals and I think Vaughan disapproves of eugenics. She is such a brave writer to take a stand against that.
Sarhaan, understandably, is floored by this and is trying to come to terms with the fact he was bred like a horse (albeit a really, really stupid horse), but of course Caleb thinks Sarhaan’s just angry at him, and oh god what is he going to do because his entire misbegotten existence revolves around Sarhaan the most awesome man who ever awesomed in the entire history of awesome. Die in a fire. Caleb leaves and this exposition anvil finally stops beating me over the head and leaves me only mildly concussed and bleeding.
Text message of the chapter: -hopeless, inconsolable sobbing-
DUN DUN DUN ending: “Caleb was gone.” I wish I could escape this book that easily.
I still see that somehow you are sticking with me. I’m glad because I need someone to come to my Stephanie Vaughan And Off World Have Hurt Me support group. We meet bi-monthly at bars where the spite is bitter and the liquor never runs out.
Part 4 should be coming as soon as I regain consciousness. Oh sweet, kind alcohol induced blackout.
Saturday, June 27, 2009
It only gets worse from here on out, folks, so those of you with delicate sensibilities and standards may want to leave the room. Still here? You poor bastards. Remind me to buy you a drink later. Let's do this.
In which Vaughan is lazy and if I had this book in paper form I would have flung it against the wall.
Okay, this chapter. Jesus. I need to make another liquor store run. Hold on. All right, I’m back with a bottle of absinthe. Let’s do it.
This chapter opens with Sarhaan calling Caleb ODFH “baby,” and asking him to wake up, so I assume he was injured in the explosion. We then cut to an italicized section, which I guess is a dream, where Caleb is running from “them” and terrified “they” will find him.
Caleb then wakes up in bed with Sarhaan, who apologizes. Apparently Caleb ODFH was injured during the explosion which killed Andrei Who Is Not At All Chekov, although since Sarhaan doesn’t even mention the guy’s name I don’t see why I should be expected to care about his death. Oh, and if you think the loss of his friend would affect Jake Naslund, you are so wrong. God forbid we deviate from the porn to construct a well-rounded novel.
Anyway, Caleb was dropped off for some techno babble re-gen treatment, and Bartok kidnapped him and tortured him. Of course.
So apparently the soldiers had resistance training for interrogation. They got a manual on how to torture the hell out of someone, Bartok studied it so he could be a two-dimensional villain, and used “strategic drugs” on Caleb so Caleb will tell him everything he knows, which I’m guessing only took twelve seconds. These drugs are so strong that the person being tortured never remember it, but since Bartok isn’t an expert it probably hurt a lot, and by the time Sarhaan showed up Caleb was in pain or something, and the information Bartok got was useless. I'm not sure the information is useless because of the torture or if it's useless because Caleb is a useless person in general. I'm leaning towards the latter.
Yup, Caleb was tortured, but does he remember the torture? Of course he bloody well doesn’t. Oh, he freaks out a bit, like you damn well do, thinking Sarhaan was in on it, but as soon as Sarhaan said he beat Bartok and shoved him into re-gen, Caleb is peachy keen and they start making out.
And if this was an actual paper book this is when it would hit the wall. Goddamnit, Vaughan, you fucking lazy writer. Vaughan wanted Caleb to be tortured so that Sarhaan would rescue him and then comfort him with the sexy times, but doesn’t want to go through the bother of the torture actually affecting Caleb or dealing with the aftermath.
This is an author trying to have her cake and eat it by the fistful too: poor character being tortured, us feeling bad for him, and yet him being psychologically okay to immediately have sex. Here’s the thing though: YOU CAN’T HAVE IT BOTH WAYS. Torture, even the threat of it, is not something to be dismissed lightly or used as a convenient plot device as Vaughan does.
If you have a character be tortured you damn well have to deal with the consequences. That means having the character’s personality be affected, have the fall out with the relationship and, oh yeah, not have the character immediately have the magical healing sex. Christ.
But no, Vaughan just wants to get to the porn and takes these ridiculous shortcuts that hurt the entire book, everything from plot to characterization to pacing. Not to mention the torture is a missed opportunity. Vaughan could have used it to build trust and understanding between Sarhaan and Caleb that would be far more convincing than this instant connection sex thing. Also, it might actually show Sarhaan being caring and kind instead of Vaughan just repeatedly telling us he is (I have yet to see this information be supported by the text).
After rummaging through my ever expanding liquor cabinet for another bottle, we switch back to Sarhaan’s pov, who assures Caleb he’s safe, and continuing to fall prey to Caleb’s “big, luminous eyes.” Nothing much else happens except I gag a little and the chapter ends right before the sex.
DUN DUN DUN ending: “Fuck me?” [Caleb asked]…. “That’s the plan, pretty much. That okay with you?”
In which our heroes fuck
No, seriously, that’s all that happens. There’s a brief break for some unimportant dialogue with Jake Naslund and then it’s back to the sex. Again. Some more. Jesus.
After they finally stop this time, we’re treated to some pillow talk. It’s revealed some more that anyone gay is “eliminated” in the Republic. Brave stance against discrimination there, Vaughan. Also, apparently half the men in Sarhaan’s unit are gay, and since we’ve only met, like, three, that means Sarhaan and half of one other dude. Also, he calls Caleb “creampuff” and I chug down the absinthe, hoping it will strike me blind.
The chapter ends without anything happening except our heroes apparently had mind blowing orgasms and I disappointingly still have fuctioning vision.
Text message of the chapter: OMG BOTH OF YOU SHUT UP I HATE YOU
DUN DUN DUN ending: “Pin pricks of awareness tingled along his spine and, sure enough, when Cal glanced back he found Sarhaan’s gaze following him. Smiling to himself at the admiration he read there, Cal kept walking.” God, I hate them.
In which our heroes fight, Caleb is apparently awesome, and I start staring longingly at my window
You know, this chapter almost makes me miss the ridiculous amounts of porn. So Sarhaan is on the bridge with the other cardboard cutout soldiers, arguing about what to do. The engines are still broken and they need to go to some asteroid station to get parts. I think. This is all from Caleb’s pov, and my dislike for him is overwhelming my ability to read this.
Apparently the soldiers hijacked a Republic ship and they need a code to identify them. I think. Look, all that’s important is that Caleb has magical computer hacking powers and he can hack into the mainframe or whatever and give the ship the code it needs to get past the Republic (which, once more, has power off Earth?).
Instead of being all “ZOMG CALEB IS TEH R0XX0RZ” the soldiers take this as greater evidence he’s a Republic spy, even though I thought the torture cleared that up, but whatever. Continuity, shmontinuity.
Vaughan then does the annoying end with a DUN DUN DUN piece of dialogue in the middle of a chapter before switching to Sarhaan’s pov. I start in on another bottle of vodka.
Sarhaan is inexplicably angry that Caleb ODFH didn’t tell him about his rockin’ super hacking powers. I honestly have no idea why the hell he’s so angry that Caleb, who he has known for about a day, has not given him a typed list of his skills like this is a job interview.
Caleb retorts with this: “I’m sorry. I guess I should have mentioned it. I’m not quite sure when I would have, though. Maybe when I was jacking off in your shower….Or maybe some time when you weren’t fucking me. When would have been optimal, do you think? Before? After? Or maybe in between the first and second times?”
As much as it pains me to say this, because I hate Caleb, but I’m going to have to take his side on this one, Sarhaan. Ever since you dragged him aboard, he’s been beaten, suspected as a spy, and tortured. Why would he feel the need to volunteer information that would just make everybody suspect him even more as a spy?
Maybe Sarhaan is angry because this means Caleb isn’t entirely trustworthy and Sarhaan resents being taken in by his “big, luminous eyes.” Or he’s concerned about Caleb’s safety because this makes him target for more torture, but is only comfortable expressing his worry as anger. Of course, either option would require Sarhaan to have actual characterization and depth.
No, Sarhaan is angry because Vaughan has only 153 pages and she needs a reason to break up our heroes and have them reunited, thus fulfilling another check list item: “Lovers have misunderstanding and break up because of their stubbornness and hurt pride? Super check!”
They go eat, and everyone keeps arguing about whether Caleb should be allowed to do his vague hacking power stuff, because he can put in a code that calls the Republic to them, because “what happens off world, stays off world” just applies to sexuality and other Republic laws are enforceable or something. Christ, I need more booze.
Caleb tells them they’re being framed for the murders, mentions his dead friend so he can get sympathy votes and not because he actually cares she’s dead, and Sarhaan is actually doing his job and keeps questioning Caleb to make sure he’s trustworthy.
Caleb is all kicked puppy about this and this makes Sarhaan think of the Inuit he brutally murdered. He’s that tortured by it that their memory haunts him when he asks impolite questions of ODFH. I hate him.
Caleb says he can hack in a code that makes them invisible to all known air traffic control towers. That seems it would cause them a whole new slew of problems. But the chapter is over, and I can take a pause from staring longingly out the window, which is good because I live on the second floor and the fall would probably only break my leg and I do not have good enough health insurance to cover it.
Text message of the chapter: OH GOOD THE INUIT ARE BACK
DUN DUN DUN ending: Caleb speaking, “How about a transponder code that makes the ship invisible to all known air traffic control systems? Would that interest you and the crew?”
In which there’s pointless techno babble, more sex, and second floor or not defenestration would be preferable to this
The chapter opens with Caleb putting in the super special invisible code under Kai Xuwicha’s supervision. Caleb says that he picked up his hacking skills here and there, being deliberately vague for no reason because Vaughan won’t revisit that plot thread. She also won’t revisit the fact Kai Xuwicha is flirting with Caleb, so it makes including that equally pointless. This is why you need an editor.
Kai Xuwicha drops Caleb off with Sarhaan in his rooms. Kai Xuwicha admits he doesn’t know what Caleb did and they have to trust him. Sarhaan is pissy. I’m drinking until this gets interesting.
Caleb asks if he can use the shower and this exchange occurs:
“‘Matokeo ya Utafutaji kwa geto, chako ni chako geto.’
“‘I told you before, I don’t speak Kush. If that means, ‘Tu es ici comme chez toi,’ then ‘ak’chhata.’”
Oh for fuck’s sake, Vaughan. Don’t bother telling us what Sarhaan actually said or how Caleb responded. No, please just give us meaningless sounds that we have no way to understand because that’s how writing works. Where’s my absinthe?
Anyway, Caleb is in the shower and about to jerk off when Sarhaan tells him not to because if he does Sarhaan will be on him like Vaughan on gratuitous sex scenes.
There’s then a long passage of Sarhaan (creepily) sexily watching Caleb sexily (creepily) putting on a show, there’s some groping and stroking that goes on for far too long and then Caleb refuses to kiss Sarhaan because they’re not lovers or something and instead they’ll just have no strings attached sex.
The chapter ends and I curse the absinthe for not ruining my eyesight.
Text message of the chapter: “TIGHT ROSY HOLE” I WANT TO DIE. (Yes, that was an actual phrase that appears in the text. The writing is amazing).
DUN DUN DUN ending: “‘I can have your dick down my throat, or mine up your ass, but I can’t kiss you?’ [Sarhaan asked]…The most unbelievable thing of all was the stoically calm look on Caleb’s face when he finally opened his eyes. ‘Take it or leave it.’”
In which Caleb mopes and is whiny and nothing continues to happen like the last nine chapters
Caleb and the implausibly named Kai Xuwicha are back on the bridge looking at the transponder code or something. I don’t care. They’re getting close to the asteroid station and we’re treated to the unnamed, undifferentiated crew members “banter”:
“‘A little poker.’ Laughter.
“‘A little poke-her.’ More laughter.”
Ahahaha kill me please.
Bartok shows up again and is an asshole before wandering away and won’t be seen for another seventy pages. Kai Xuwicha drops Caleb off at Sarhaan’s room like an errant puppy. Caleb is all mopey because he wants Sarhaan as a lover because he is a thirteen year old girl, but Sarhaan just wants sex. I hate him so much.
He thinks about Daphne, but only in how she relates to him: “she’d be thrilled to hear that he’d finally connected, even minimally, with someone. Seeing him romantically involved had been a goal of hers for years. It still made him smile to think of the number of hours of her high-powered brain time that she’d wasted trying to get him paired off.”
Of course. The one woman has no personality or motivation outside of her gay best friend’s love life. She is a cardboard cutout fag hag, and this does nothing to make me care she’s dead. Also, Caleb is selfish and self-involved and does not think of Daphne as her own person, but only in conjunction to his own “oh poor me” thoughts. This is also about the five hundredth passage of him wallowing in self-pity and the urge to smack him is dangerously high. Needless to say, I hate ODFH.
Oh, there’s this: “The intriguing trail of evidence that had led him to the discovery of Dr. Elihu Rondi’s very secret --very illegal --experiments in eugenics and the manipulation of human genetic material that had brought him inescapably to this place at this time.”
Sarhaan and the others were genetically modified to be awesome soldiers. Got it. I’ll still pretend to be surprised when it’s revealed.
Anyway, Sarhaan returns, bringing with him his pov, angry that Bartok doesn’t follow the completely arbitrary informal command structure and I wonder if in all the genetically modifying they forgot to up Sarhaan’s IQ. He and Caleb look at the pictures of dead prostitutes, trying to find something in the wounds, which turns out to be a turn on because Caleb then blows him. Like you do.
Also, here’s a sample of the dialogue:
“‘Not wrong, just… ah, Jesus… put the whole thing in your mouth.’…
“‘I’m not sure I can. I don’t think it will fit.’
“‘Oh, fuck it. Try.’”
My local liquor store owner wants to know why I keep coming by every twenty minutes. I show him this and he throws in a free shooter out of pity.
Caleb then whines how he wants love, and blah blah blah he’s a teenage girl. Also, he thinks he’s a freak and wonders why his parents just didn’t turn him in, and I wonder why too because he’s whiny and selfish and unlikeable.
There’s more Kush, which Vaughan still doesn’t bother to translate because why would she when we have excellent dialogue like the above to see us through?
The chapter ends with Caleb being a giant girl and wondering what it would be like to be Sarhaan’s own man-wife, and I pull out my curly straw and stick it in the vodka bottle to add a bit of fun. The chapter is finally over with absolutely nothing important happening, although it did give me the name for my rocking new punk band: Besieged Nipples.
DUN DUN DUN ending: “Five hours out, everyone. We’re five hours out of Doradus. Begin initial preparations for approach and docking.”
If you’ve managed to stick with me this long then I applaud you, for you are obvious masochists. Look for the next part of this in the next couple of days after I clean out the liquor store. Until then, please read a good book in my honor.
Friday, June 26, 2009
"Sniper! Blast out in Lebanon" Adventure Game Book by Dana Kramer and Marc Acres
In the tradition of Jayne's AWESOME posts about books that are soooo terrible, but entertaining, Darci and I decided to co-write a post with our room-mate about a book I've had sitting about for quite some time. I believe I came across it during college in an ex boyfriend's bookshelf, and I have to thank him for providing us with the most hilarious three hours I've had in a long time.
Anyways... we all know how bad the Choose Your Own Adventure series were, but they were written for young adults so a lot could be excused in the way of cheesy dialogue and easy-to-figure-out decisions. Well, this book was written for ADULTS. Yeah, you read correctly...ADULTS. This is a book written for adults that comes across with the wit of a twelve year old, the racism of the middle ages, and it's a fucking choose your own adventure that you need DICE to play.
Okay, calm down, this book hadn't even been opened yet and we've already panned it as the crappiest crap we have ever seen in our entire lives as a gamers. Oh and by the way, this terrible book sells for 35 Euro on Amazon.com....if you want to take my copy off me for that much money I would be more than willing to part with it.
Our story goes like this...
Jason Malone is a merc with a mission. We are charged to find David Saxon, our kidnapped compatriot. Even his name sound beefy and macho. He says words like compatriot. Yeah. That's some serious badass right there.
The story is made urgent by expressing a pressing time limit, and the objective is to stop the "Middle Eastern Powder Keg" from going kablooey. Soooo this book was written in 1987 and contains a flimsy story, innocents killed left and right with no remorse, prevalent racism, and overall this is totally dated and full of not-at-all PC international relations, and views about the middle east. Wow. Moving on...
You can’t read this book if you are not a spy, like, a really good one. James Bond has pictures of you in his locker... you are that freaking good.
You need dice to read this book. You don’t have them yet? Oops! Too late, you’re already dead! You should have already known you would need to have two d6, a pencil, paper, imagination(s), and LUCK. You don't have LUCK? Well you are fucked, sir.
A quote in HUGE LETTERS introduces us to our story: "TRUST NO ONE. BELIEVE NOTHING. NEVER SIT WITH YOUR BACK TO A DOOR." Check your mail with rubber gloves, shoot all trespassers, and other paranoid nonsense...
This book has rules. It’s an experience. We're going to need a sharp pencil.
The dialogue goes something like this, “KILLING IS A FACT OF LIFE…THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ME AND MOST PEOPLE IS JUST THIS: I REALIZE THAT FACT, I DON’T LIKE IT, BUT I REALIZE IT.” mmmm....eloquent. Also, you are fictional sir, you can't spout out facts! He also wants all of us to know he is a B.A.M.F; it says so in his file.
So we get sent to Beruit, and we're in our hotel when our bellboy brings us "a large trunk" full of equipment. Here we would like to note that a military fanboy obviously wrote this, as no one could carry all this crap unless they had a magic, extra-huge bag of holding, or they were a scary militant version of Mary Poppins. Hmm...reminds me of something... "Hello. I am an Henry Killinger and this is my magic murder bag." Hee Hee.
Also, the bell boy brought that bag in! Is he named Lou Ferrigno?!?
Our gift from “the government” is a fountain pen, that fountains DEATH! Shiny.
We decide to go out at night for recon. We at least get to bring the Death Pen, a knife and a gun which fortunately, we “notice” in the mirror there is no “tell-tale bulge” in our pant leg when we walk. ROFL, sweet. No bulge so the ladies will stay away, We're too dangerous.
We booby trap the door in the most infantile way... WITH HAIR! We wet a piece of our hair and we put it against the door and if anyone comes in the hair will be gone when we get back. What if there's some seriously OCD maid who wipes down our door? What if it blows away in a sudden hallway tornado? The possibilities are endless!
We now get some seriously un-necessary knowledge from the author. “The stairs are disappointingly boring.” – Really? Damn those stairs for being so damn boring! Maybe if they weren’t so boring this book would be a little bit more fun by now. More useless information is then given about the lobby…bla bla bla…....stain in front of our door....bla bla bla...
Finally we are outside. Really? It’s been like seven pages and we just got outside. Wow. Where the fuck are we going with this?
The streets of Lebanon are described as racist-ly as possible. You know, there are no normal people out at night, just the military, and scary people with guns. Stain in the streets. Yeah…that’s realistic in a popular city like Beruit where the nightlife is actually quite active. Sure, whatever, this was written in 1987 by someone who had never left their couch, and the internet didn’t exist yet, so whatever. We're still stuck on those fucking mundane stairs because they are ruining this book for us, apparently.
So you start smoking a cigarette and exploring the city. You are trying to figure out if you are being tailed. There is some guy who looks, according to the author, “dark,” and then describes, in full racist detail, a Middle-Eastern man who could just be out for his nightly walk. But of course, this must be the tail. We can’t tell you how much racism in novels angers us…but we can tell you that it is un-measurably so to the point where we want to hurt these authors for their terrible writing, racism, AND un-natural, military fan-boy fetishes.
We are finally prompted to a stealth roll, and apparently we survive. We're not really sure how but it seems pretty difficult to die in this game/book/whatever the hell this thing is supposed to be. So now we have to choose whether we want to jump him, question him at gunpoint, or let him run away. Brian decides that we should jump him because it’s obviously the most dangerous and stupid thing to do, and we want the most hilarious dialogue possible, anyways. Besides, isn’t our character MADE OF DANGER? WE TRUST NO ONE! We NEVER sit with our backs to doors. We use words like “compatriot!” and our bellboy is fucking Lou Ferigno! We are BLAST MCHARDCHEESE!!! Wait…wrong post. Sorry, we got carried away there for a moment.
Hold on for this next one, because it’s going to hurt. “You pounce like a hunting panther, grab him from around the neck from behind, and drive a”…..let’s just say Judo Chop, into his head. Wait…Really? REALLY? This is just terrible. We need to put this down and we'll come back to it later because OH MAN it's hurting our brains.
Lady Jones, Darci, and Brian
As I was trying to decide which book I should start with, I found that I had a pdf file of something called Off World. I vaguely remembered reading this about a year ago, and it seemed to be a pretty mediocre piece of sci-fi. Since it wasn’t long, I figured this would be a good book to start with.
Oh god, I was so very, very wrong. The reason I couldn’t remember much of Off World is because I repressed how absolutely and utterly horrible it was. And I don’t mean just the writing, but absolutely every aspect of this “book”—plot, characterization, dialogue, pacing—is so incredibly, hilariously bad that by the end I was a drunken, sobbing ball of misery and pain.
I feel the need to add a warning at this point: this post is going to be long and it’s going to be vicious. Also, there is a very good chance that I may use profanity on a number of occasions and that I may resort to drunken blubbering as I beg the pain to stop. And since I’m going to be so mean, I just want to mention that I am a grad student in school studying writing, so I actually know what I’m talking about. Also, I’m a bitter, spiteful, awful person, so together expect some moments of lucid criticism before I devolve into random profanities.
Now that my credentials are established, I will completely undermine them by including texts and IMs I sent my hetero lifemate as I was reading this (example: “Fuck it. Where is that handle of vodka?”). I also sent my hetero lifemate the file so I will be including some of her observations.
The entire “book” is only 153 pages long, and it needed to be at least twice that length. I also have my doubts if the writer, Stephanie Vaughan, had an editor. If she did, she needs to find a new one because this one did an absolutely godawful job: the plot, and I use that word very loosely, is so muddled that it’s practically non-existent; the pacing is absolutely horrendous; the characters are actively unlikable; and the world building is lazy and poor. An editor would step in and make her straighten out the plot, make her work on the pacing, and damn well make her figure out what the hell this future looks like, because I, for one, have no clue.
But I am, of course, leaving out the most important part: all of that was tacked on later to legitimize the massive amounts of porn this woman wrote. There are entire chapters (out of nineteen, including the epilogue) devoted to nothing but explicit sex scenes.
There is room for both sex and plot in a book, but you can’t just throw in sex gratuitously. The sex should either add to the story or to characterization. The porn in Off World is completely gratuitous and is detrimental to both the plot and the pacing. If your book is only 153 pages long, 80 of those should not be devoted to sex, especially when your plot is not strong enough to fill up even those remaining 70 pages.
I do feel a little bad for how mean I’m going to get, because Vaughan sounds like a perfectly nice woman. Just look at her dedication:
“For the two Dans: Dan Wasson, who answered my questions about artificial gravity and everything else I threw at him; and for my son, Daniel Vaughan, whose boundless enthusiasm for all things s.f. was a constant source of inspiration. Thank you both from the bottom of my heart.”
How horrified do you think that both Wasson and her son were to find out that this book was just gay porn? Oh, did I not mention that? Yeah, it is. I think all genres of literature need to have a greater visibility of LGBT characters (a hell of a lot more visibility of diversity, in fact, because Jesus Christ Sci-Fi/Fantasy is white and heterosexual), but I like said above, this is just gratuitous sex that reads more like Vaughan writing out her own ID fantasies.
Normally, I would summarize the plot and discuss some of the specific problems in the book, but since I have no idea what the hell was going on, I’m going to take this thing chapter by chapter. Maybe working together we can all piece together the plot. That also means this entire review is going to be installments because it’s a) super long, and b) if I had to do it all at once I would die from alcohol poisoning, because sweet, sweet liquor is the only thing getting me through this.
I suggest you all have some liquor on hand for this. I know I have my shot glasses lined up. Okay, let’s get started.
In which we meet our heroes and I realize how awful this book is going to get
So we’re first introduced to Caleb (also known as Our Dear Fucking Hero--ODFH for short-- who I want to die in a fire), and he’s getting beat up by some faceless soldiers. It becomes clear-ish that these soldiers have boarded his shuttle. Why? We may never know. Caleb ODFH later says that the ship fired a warning shot over the bow of his shuttle, but I’m not sure why these soldiers bothered with him at all, especially since they suspect him of being a Republic spy.
Anyway, one of the soldiers is kicking and hitting him. It immediately becomes clear this guy will be the villain who hates Caleb ODFH for nebulous reasons (unlike the reasons I hate him, which are established in his whiny, bitchy, selfish characterization). The soldiers are speaking Kush, which is some kind of space dialect, I guess.
I have a lot of respect for authors who successfully create their own language, like Tolkien’s Elvish, which has its own grammatical rules and can actually be spoken. Vaughan, however, doesn’t appear to have put the same thought into Kush. For example: “T’laar ishna kunvahdi!”
Wow, that’s a bunch of meaningless sounds! Also, if you’re expecting Vaughan to provide a translation for any of this than you are soundly mistaken.
We still have 150 pages to go, so let’s speed this up. One of the soldiers is slightly nicer and doesn’t actually hit Caleb and gives him water, although he makes no move to stop the abuse. He’s obviously the love interest.
We find out that Caleb was apparently looking for these soldiers and that he read up on outlaw culture, like you do. The soldiers are most definitely ex-military and are wearing some kind of blast shield over their faces. They take their shields off and Caleb sees “sheer masculine perfection in shades of mahogany.”
That is the exact moment when I realize what I had gotten myself into. I bravely resist the tears and go on.
Caleb immediately falls into love/lust/whatever with the man, whose name is Sarhaan. By the end of the book I will want him to also die in a fire.
The scene then abruptly shifts point of view, centering on Sarhaan. This is, unfortunately, a pattern that’s going to continue throughout the rest of the book. Look, multiple povs is a valid technique and can add a lot of depth to your novel. I stopped reading Ted Williams' Otherland series to review Off World, and Williams makes wonderful use of multiple povs. But when you only have 153 pages and nineteen chapters, it’s not a good idea to constantly be switching pov every couple of pages. It’s confusing and adds nothing to the narrative.
We learn the bad soldier is named Dave Bartok, and I foresee him being an asshole for no reason other than Vaughan can’t be bothered to take time away from the porn to establish motivation for her villain.
After shoving Caleb into some kind of brig, Sarhaan then spends some time thinking about the week or so he spent at an elite spa, and we learn that the ozone layer on Earth is gone or something and direct exposure without protective domes means radiation or something. Also, he’s got a real shower with real water in his room. I mention this because it’s going to be important later. And by “important” I mean “porn.”
Also, ten pages in and we reach our first what the fucking fuck moment. Sarhaan and the other soldiers were an elite military unit which put down a rebellion, which wanted to secede from the Republic. Who wanted to secede? I’m glad you asked!
It was the Inuit. No, seriously, the Inuit.
Say it with me: what the fucking fuck?
Why did the Inuit try to secede and why did Sarhaan have to go in and brutally kill them? Well that’s simple: “Sarhaan didn’t need anyone to spell out for him what an Inuit secession would have meant to the government.”
Are you kidding me, Stephanie Vaughan? My god, this is lazy writing. Basically Vaughan couldn’t come up with a reason for this utterly inane decision and hoped if she glossed over it no one would notice. Lazy, lazy writing.
Also, why the hell is it the Inuit? Now at this point I’m getting the distinct impression that the Republic, although it’s never made clear if it’s just the United States or a planet wide government, is supposed to be some sort of ultra right wing government, and anyone not white or heterosexual are killed or treated as second class citizens.
But the Inuit? I will grant that like many aboriginal peoples throughout history the Inuit have been repressed and horribly mistreated to the point of having genocide campaigns taken out against them. At one point, the Inuit had their children taken away to be raised by white families and the Inuit women forcibly sterilized and there was a massive effort to obliterate their entire culture. So, yes, history of horrible oppression and justified anger. But of all the aboriginal tribes of North America, they are perhaps the most peaceful and have no history of violent uprisings
Of course, Vaughan may be implying the Inuit were scapegoats, but you need to make that clear, otherwise it makes no goddamn sense.
Oh, and Sarhaan is definitely a man tortured by his past: “He hadn’t lost track of the body count so much as he’d never tried to keep one in the first place. Sometimes they came to him in his dreams, though. The headless torsos and bits of individuals he’d helped leave this life. Without eyes or mouths, they still somehow managed to convey their sadness. Some had no heads left to shake at him, but he felt the weight of their disapproval just the same.”
That’s right, these poor people were brutally murdered and yet all they can do is muster up faint disapproval at Sarhaan like he’s a child who got a C on his report card. He is so tortured by what he’s done he will only mention it once more in passing and then never ever thinks about the murders again. Our hero, everybody
The chapter ends with Sarhaan jerking off and imagining it’s Caleb doing it. This will be a trend that will be repeated in later chapters until you want to hit your head against the wall until you fall unconscious.
Text Message of the chapter: Apparently there was a great big Inuit uprising of aught 6 they had to take care of.
In which our heroes eat dinner and want to bone one another
So nothing really happens in this chapter, which will be a trend that lasts for the entire book. When it opens, Caleb ODFH is chilling out in an impromptu brig, thinking that his plan to find the violent soldiers isn’t working out like he thought. I’m not sure what he thought was going to happen, but being suspected as a Republican Spy (oh, yeah, Vaughan uses Republic and Republican interchangeably, even though they’re not) did not figure into his scheming.
Sarhaan shows up and they go to eat. Wow, this is just riveting. In the mess hall, they meet other crew members/soldiers/bit players, including Sandy D’abu, Jake Naslund, and someone named Kai Xuwich for no reason. Don’t worry about trying to tell them apart—none of them are given personalities.
In a conversation with Sandy D’abu, we learn Caleb ODFH worked in the diplomatic crops at the main consulate in New Atlanta. You would think this would be important later, but no. Apparently in his job of reading reports and looking for patterns and that’s when he discovered the murders.
This chapter starts the unfortunate trend of Vaughan ending almost every chapter with a bit of dialogue that is supposed to be DUN DUN DUN but leaves me going, “And?”
DUN DUN DUN ending: “It was the murders, of course.”
In which there is some back story, our heroes still want to bone each other, and I need a drink
We’re back to Caleb ODFH’s pov. I was not kidding about it changing every couple of pages.
So apparently there was a bunch of murders in Cuba and Hispaniola. So, are they part of the Republic? It’s never clear what the political landscape is of the future, just that the Republic exists and everyone hates homosexuals. I think Vaughan may be taking the brave stance that homophobia and discrimination is wrong. Bravo, Vaughan.
Anyway, we learn that Sarhaan’s unit are the suspected murderers. I don’t care.
Bartok shows up to be an asshole and menace Caleb, who responds by being a fainting Southern Belle. I continue to not find him likeable. Sarhaan proves he’s the hero by making Bartok go away and saying that Bartok can’t torture Caleb for information.
Because of the constant threat of Bartok kidnapping Caleb and torturing him, despite the fact he’s on the same fucking ship as Sarhaan and the other interchangeable soldiers, Sarhaan cannot guarantee Caleb’s safety. I’m just going to go out on a limb and say these are the worse soldiers ever. I’m amazed the Inuits didn’t just wait until they had died from exposure.
Since Sarhaan has absolutely no control over anyone on the ship, Caleb has to sleep in Sarhaan’s room for protection. Of course he does.
We’re back to Sarhaan’s pov and we learn that Caleb ODFH was spurred to hunt down the suspected murderers because his best friend Daphne was murdered. That’s right, folks, the only woman in the entire book was killed before the events take place and is only mentioned when ODFH needs to be all angsty and emo.
Oh, don’t think we’ll get anything like touching flashbacks or Daphne being given a personality (she’s described as “Funny girl. Great sense of humor. We could talk about anything.” My god, it’s like I knew her personally!) to show how her death was tragic and cruel, because that would be interesting and good writing.
Also, Sarhaan thinks Caleb is shiny and sparkly. I briefly consider the possibility that this is a crossover with Twilight and Caleb is a Meyer vampire. I then wonder how long it would take to drink myself to death.
Moving on, Daphne was apparently a “forensics geek” and was looking into the murders of the prostitutes. Of course it would be prostitutes. Anyone else think Vaughan had a checklist next to her while she was writing this: “futuristic oppressive homosexual killing government? Check. Tragically haunted super soldier? Check. Murdered prostitutes no one cares about? Check. Tragically murdered fag hag? Check!”
So Daphne worked at the lab where the dead prostitutes ended up and Daphne looked into it. Apparently all the poor dead prostitutes (and the number of them keeps changing, anywhere from hundreds to dozens) had a similar kind of wound.
At this point I feel the need to include my dear Hetero lifemate’s comments here.
“Caleb shivered a little. “‘Daphne noticed that most of the people murdered had a similar kind of wound.’
“‘You cold? Want a blanket or something?’
Seriously, hetero lifemate.
Sarhaan, brilliant man that he is, observes that if the prostitute killing were the work of a serial killer all the wounds would be identical. Caleb answers that Daphne died before she could prove anything.
Oh, before I forget, there’s all these little hints about some secret pertaining to Sarhaan and other soldiers: Sarhaan was an army brat and never mentions his father, and Caleb says that Sarhaan is military and all that goes with it. Let me guess, they were genetically engineered. Remind me to be shocked when this is revealed later.
DUN DUN DUN ending: “She was mugged [Caleb said]. They said she must have fought back, because whoever did it beat her up pretty bad. Beat her to death.”
In which Caleb and Sarhaan still want to bone one another, Sarhaan takes a shower and jerks off, and I make a run to the liquor store
Sarhaan gives Caleb a beer, which he gets shitfaced on. Oh come on, ODFH is that much of a delicate flower that one beer gets him drunk? I hate him.
We’re back in Caleb’s pov and Caleb thinks about Daphne in the most generic way possible: “The past came filtering back to Cal, memories of Daphne and him at different ages. God, he missed her.”
Seriously, Vaughan, if you want me to care about these characters you have to take time to make them real people, and that includes giving Daphne a personality and showing how close she and Caleb were instead of just telling us.
Caleb completely forgets about poor dead Daphne as Sarhaan starts drinking and Caleb completely lusts after him. We learn Caleb comes from a family with money, Sarhaan was an army brat and was poor as a kid and that Vaughan needs to work on her descriptions.
As my hetero lifemate observed:
“‘Those lips. What must they taste like? Slick. Chilly and wet.’
“That is NOT a taste.”
Indeed, hetero lifemate, indeed.
Caleb is all ogling Sarhaan and we learn that his name is just shortened from an African one and that Caleb has been flying shuttles since he was a kid. This has no bearing on the plot at all, but I guess this is supposed to act as our heroes getting know one another. I continue to not care.
Since he’s so drunk, Caleb ends up falling asleep. When he wakes up Sarhaan is in the shower and Caleb can see him masturbating. Okay, this is something else that isn’t made clear, but is the shower just in the corner of the room? I’m assuming there’s not an attached bathroom, but there’s no curtain or stall? You just shower in an exposed corner like in a prison, I guess.
Vaughan then shows her skills as a writer and pulls out this little gem: “ebony cock.”
This marks the start of my descent into alcoholism. Between shots, I write a reminder to go to the liquor store later.
We then cut to Sarhaan’s pov for no other reason than to get a long drawn out fantasy of him fucking Caleb. I do five shots in a row.
Once done, he goes to wake up Caleb, who either fell back asleep during Sarhaan’s jerk off session or is pretending to be asleep or it’s the next morning, I don’t really know. Anyway, Sarhaan tells Caleb to shower, Caleb starts blushing because that would mean getting naked in front of Sarhaan, Sarhaan won’t leave the room because of the constant threat of torture, and as Caleb starts to freak out Sarhaan reveals that he knows Caleb is gay.
Text message of the chapter: Also, I’ve taken to cleaning my apartment to avoid reading this book.
DUN DUN DUN ending: “Don’t worry, kid --I can keep a secret. I won’t tell anyone that you’re gay.”
In which Caleb showers, he and Sarhaan kiss, there’s an explosion, and I cuddle my brand new delicious bottle of tequila.
We’re back to Caleb’s pov, and he’s freaking out. Apparently on Republic/an Earth you can be put to death for being gay. You’re subtly as a writer amazes me, Vaughan.
Sarhaan tells him that being gay is only illegal on Earth and I wonder what the hell the government structure is. So the Republic only rules on Earth, so it’s a planet wide government? In the text, there’s allusion to Cuba and Hispaniola, but are they part of the Republic? We know Alaska is because those pesky Inuits tried to secede, so is it only North America that’s the Republic?
And there’s no governing system off planet? Our dear heroes are out past Mars, so is space sort of like international waters? Is it the neutral zone from Star Trek? This is what I mean about poor world building. I can understand that this isn’t the focus of the novel, the romance and fucking between Caleb and Sarhaan is, but there you can find ways to work in this necessary information so that it enriches the plot. Or, in this case, use it actually come up with a plot.
The simple rule that governs the gay/straight situation in the Republic is simply summed up thusly: “What happened off-world, stays off-world.”
And we reach our second what the fucking fuck moment.
First of all, I am so goddamn sick of the whole Vegas slogan, but this book takes place supposedly in the future, so why the hell is that phrase still around? Now in 2009, it’s thankfully on its way out, so there’s no reason to have it still hanging around in, what I assume, is a couple hundred years.
Slang changes constantly, so there should be new phrases that Sarhaan and Caleb use. This brings me back to the poor world building. Language is just as important as political structures and technology. Take Tad Willams’ Otherland series (I am using this as an example because I’m reading it so it’s fresh in my mind). The series takes place in the near future, about 80 some years, and besides carefully laying out the virtual network and the laws that govern it, Williams has developed new slang and syntax that people use (example: “chance not,” “scans majorly” “that locks” etc.). Williams works in the new slang in a way that allows the reader to pick up the meaning immediately without him have to explicitly define it.
It’s little details like this that add depth to your world. Now let me do another shot and we’ll get back to the book.
Okay, so, Caleb gets undressed, soaps up with this blue stuff, gets an erection and jerks off in front of Sarhaan. God, this is like the eightieth masturbation scene in four pages. Afterwards, Sarhaan says Caleb’s name, causing him to slip in surprise and land on his ass while hitting his head on the shower wall. Of course. Jesus.
Sarhaan asks him if he’s okay and they end up kissing, like you do. During my seventh shot of liquor of the evening, Naslund, one of the interchangeable soldiers, says that Sarhaan is needed on the bridge because they’ve got company.
Just like that we switch to Sarhaan pov, and Sarhaan’s frustrated because he can’t fuck Caleb, and also, Caleb has “big, brown eyes watch[ing] him from behind a fringe of damp hair.” Caleb is a puppy. A puppy I want to die in a fire.
On the bridge, it’s revealed there’s no command structure but Sarhaan is the defacto leader and Kai Xuwicha is his XO.
More names of crew members are thrown out, but they have no speaking role so there’s no point in trying to remember who they are. Turns out there might be a Republican Gunship, and I wonder again what the fuck the Republic is and what power they have. I expect no answers from Vaughan so I ask my tequila. It doesn’t know either, but at least it will never hurt me.
My hetero lifemate contributed this: “Republican gun ship approaching! Watch it General Cheney is on board sir! He aims to kill. Is anyone wearing anything quail-like? Anyone? Oh for god’s sake Harry take off that fucking quail hat. It looks terrible and its going to get us killed.”
Only the tequila and my hetero lifemate love me.
Apparently the engines on the ship are broken and that they took over Caleb’s shuttle for replacement parts, I guess. Andrei Tischenkian is the engineer with a “Musckovian” accent. So he’s Chekov? He and Jake Naslund are best buddies, but don’t get too attached because he dies in two pages (SPOILER!).
Sarhaan and Caleb go down to help Andrei with…something. I wasn’t paying attention to the techno babble as I was mourning the last of my tequila. Sandy D’Abu says they think the gunship found them because Caleb’s a spy. Sarhaan is all pissy because he wants to do Caleb, and when they get down to the engine there’s an explosion and this chapter mercifully ends.
DUN DUN DUN ending: “Locating it, Andrei brought it slowly into proximity of whatever he was holding and the room exploded in a flash of light.” Actually, that’s a pretty good way to end a chapter. If I was sober I might appreciate it more.
Still with me so far? Good for you! I’m taking a break to go detox and actually read some good science-fiction before my brain dribbles out my ears. Part 2 should be posted in the next couple of days as soon as I can stop sobbing for the pain to stop. That and I need to replenish my alcohol cabinet. Delicious, delicious booze.
From Io9.comDiscuss! Keep it civil, keep it open minded. I'd like to know what our readers think!
Now that both Batman and Star Trek have enjoyed cinematic reinventions, it's only a matter of time before Hollywood reboots the franchise that rebooted entertainment itself. Here's how the inevitable Star Wars reinvention could be fantastic instead of embarrassing.
So wait, why reboot Star Wars? I'm sick of the reboots. Movies are getting as crash-happy as my Macbook.
Oh, whine whine whine. Too many remakes, sequels and reboots. "Poor me, the entertainment industry is trying to pander to me by recreating the entertainments of my childhood, or in some cases my grandparents' childhoods." I know, it sucks to be you. But look at it this way: a lot of these entertainment franchises need the occasional reboot, because they've been running for decades and are struggling to run the latest firmware. "Women's lib" made Wonder Woman go BSOD several times in the 1960s, and more recently she's been as crash-prone as a J.J. Abrams airplane.
Actually, Star Wars is the perfect example of what happens to a long-running franchise that doesn't get rebooted. You keep adding more and more trendy stuff to the mix, piling on extra chunks of mythos and bits of backstory, and inflating the importance of minor characters until they overwhelm the narrative. (Jango Fett?) It's not the creators' fault, necessarily. It's just what happens when you try to keep a complex universe running for decades without restarting.
Eventually, your once-shiny universe gets to the point where you have to shut it down forever, or do a hard restart. And there's too much money in these old juggernauts to shut them down.
But... But... George Lucas will never go for it!
He will, once he runs out of money. It's just a matter of time. Those life-size solid-gold Yoda bidets don't pay for themselves, you know. (With the proximity activation, and the voice that says, "Wash your bottom, you will." That's expensive stuff.) All it'll take is another few insane Star Wars projects, like another big-screen Clone Wars movie and another three Star Wars TV shows that he's financing out-of-pocket. Chances are, he's already completed a few thousand scripts for his live-action Star Wars show, which takes place between the prequel trilogy and the original trilogy and probably includes a whole set of episodes about Jar Jar Binks visiting the Ewoks.
Eventually, Lucas will need some walking-around money, and the studios will put pressure on him, and someone will come up with an offer he can't refuse. It'll probably allow him to keep his original version of the galaxy far, far away chugging along. It'll be like the Ultimate Marvel Universe, or Smallville: a new reimagined version of the franchise, even as the original version keeps trundling. Call it Star Wars: Extreme. Or Star Wars: Ultraspace. Or maybe Star Wars: Even Farther Away.
Okay, so the Star Wars reboot is inevitable, if not imminent. What makes you think it could possibly be a good thing?
It could be horrendous, sure. But it doesn't have to be, and that's what this primer is about. A few years from now, when Lucas and the suits are having meetings about creating Star Wars 2.0, there are a few simple rules for how to avoid a painful Stepford Wives or Planet Of The Apes boondoggle. (Probably not including Nicole Kidman is a good place to start.)
The good news is, Star Wars has a good solid structure underneath all the crud that's been layered on top of it in recent years. At heart, it's a strong adventure story with a very simple Joseph Campbell-inspired throughline. The original Star Wars is the movie that reinvented entertainment, and forced all of those other franchises to add new features, or reboot altogether. To this day, when people reboot other franchises, they're aiming to make them more like Star Wars — blatantly so, in the case of J.J. Abrams' Star Trek.
So if some Hollywood exec is reading this, and contemplating rebooting Star Wars, the best advice we can give you is: make it more like Star Wars. With a new lick of paint, and less baggage.
Here's the longer version of that advice, in the form of eight simple rules for reinventing our beloved saga:
1) Keep it simple. Just keep reminding yourself that the purpose of a reboot is to jettison dead weight, and don't feel obliged to bring in all the extra crud about Trade Federations and midichlorians. There's the Empire, and the Rebellion, and the Force has two sides: light and dark. Stay within the lines, and give us a cool story about good versus evil, and trusting your feelings, and relying on your friends. Batman Begins scored because it gave us the essence of Bruce Wayne: the tragedy, the grief and powerless rage, and then the quest to become something bad enough to counter the darkness.
2) Keep the sense of joy and dread. Okay, I've dissed both the "hero's journey" and science fiction's obsession with "sense of wonder" before, but there is something to be said for a story where a young person starts out in a small world, and then comes out into a gigantic universe, full of moon-sized battle stations, princesses, space fights and massive ice planets. Of all the stuff that goes into "coming of age" stories, it's perhaps the most universal, since it's about leaving home. And then you find out that you're actually way more connected to this deep history that went on before you were born, because your dad was a Jedi knight. There's plenty of great stuff there.
3) Get back to the characters we care about. It sounds basic, but that's how J.J. Abrams revitalized Star Trek. Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Darth Vader. The classic characters. And here's a suggestion: Anakin Skywalker's dismal progression, where he starts out as a promising young Jedi only to be seduced to the Dark Side? That is what flashbacks or prologues are made for. You could even intersperse Anakin's journey with Luke's, as Luke learns more about his father while he grows into his powers. And speaking of heroes...
4) Admit that Han Solo is the hero as much as Luke. That's the other thing J.J. Abrams' Star Trek did right: It treated Spock as the hero, just as much as Kirk. We all knew, all along, that Spock belonged in the top spot alongside Kirk, but the series had never quite admitted it before. (Probably due to Shatner's ego, among other things.) Han Solo deserves a similar elevation. Like Kirk and Spock, Han and Luke are the yin and yang, except that they go in opposite directions. Han Solo regains his altruism and optimism, just as Luke is shedding his innocence and becoming more of a hard-ass. Bring Han Solo's journey to the fore, and don't be afraid to make him more of a jerky antihero at the beginning, so it'll feel like a real arc. (And yes, that means Han shoots first.)
5) Don't be afraid to make some changes, to bring it up to date. So you're inevitably going to make some changes to the storyline, like maybe making Obi-Wan less of a lying prick. Or maybe you'll want to add more depth to the early scenes of Luke on Tattooine, to show what he's leaving behind, and flesh out his dreams of joining Biggs and Wedge in space. Other changes I might make to the first film might involve having Leia pilot an X-wing in the final Death Star attack, and elminating all the incest-vibes with Leia and Luke. (Not to mention the scene where Vader is menacing Leia, and there's some definite sexual tension. Eww.)
6) A truckload of fanservice makes the revisionism go down. But you're worried, inevitably, about getting bags of bantha poodoo on your doorstep if you make any alterations to the sacrosanct franchise. Fans can be unforgiving murglaks. But they're also very susceptible to bribery. If you throw in lots of references and nods to old stories, then you can do anything. You can blow up Vulcan. You can even make Spock's mom Winona Ryder. You can have an evil assassin cult train Batman. It's all good. You just have to throw in the Kobayashi Maru, Henri Ducard and all the stuff that fans salivate over, and they'll run with whatever changes you want to make. (Having a decent story doesn't hurt either.) Have Spock quote the best lines from Wrath Of Khan, and fans won't care that the Enterprise looks like the bar at the W Hotel.
7) Restrain your video-game impulses. Any new Star Wars will have to be Imax and 3-D and CG and huge, sure. That's just a given, unless those fads have been replaced by something even bigger and more eyeball-gouging by then. But it doesn't have to feel like a video game. The original Star Wars inspired a million video games — because it felt so real and got your adrenaline pumping. It wasn't just the special effects, it was the crazy you-are-there feeling of the Millenium Falcon's gun turrent swinging around, and the stars whizzing past as Luke shot at tie fighters. Try to keep that sense of realness, and actual peril, and genuine thrills. Not so much with the fakey rollercoaster shit.
8) Get a real writer. Please. In addition to feeling invested in the characters, we have to buy into their conflicts and quote their snappy dialog. Seek out one of the legion of Joss Whedon apprentices and press-gang him or her. I'm thinking Drew Goddard, who moved on from Buffy to write Cloverfield, and is now directing Whedon's Cabin In The Woods. Or Jane Espenson. Get someone who can do characters and banter and insane high-stakes drama, and turn him/her loose on the saga of Luke, Leia and their crazy aging biker dad. And may the Force be with all of us if you fail.
Top image from Carlos Number Two on Worth 1000.
Monday, June 15, 2009
One: Inspirational Posters (except geeky ones that aren't inspiring as much as they are hilarious):
I've been watching a lot of Next Generation lately and this one made me giggle quite a bit.
Yet another awesome poster about Ninjas.
Many of you have seen this Star Trek poster but I felt it appropriate to post for those who haven't. PS: Ensign Ricky is totally screwed!!!
Two: A guy who built a coffee table that is a gigantic NES controller that actually works and it just sweet to look at.
Three: If Dragon Ball Z was really like this, it would be far more entertaining. Hehe "I'm Krillin I suck really bad." *Filler Episode* *Filler Episode* *Filler Episode* lols. I am always impressed with Forever Zero's AMVs and this one is definitely another winner.
Four: Luke Skywalker, Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), R2D2 (Kenny Baker), and C3P0 (Anthony Daniels) on the Muppet Show. This is just made of win.
Five:This photo is property of Danny Choo, and it has been posted here only to promote his awesome-tastic site.
Danny Choo's always-amazing website has recently informed me that they built a 1x1 scale Gundam in Odaiba.....OOOO AWESOME! Check out his post here:
Six: And if that's not enough for you, then you should check out the most ridiculous, over-the-top, why did they do this? video out of Japan that I've recently discovered (and not via Danny Choo's awesome website!) Cat Weightlifting:
Ah: The internet is full of win.
Signing out and hopefully sleeping off this cold,
Lady Lara Jones
One: E3!!! Did you watch it? Well if not here's the most important stuff of note:
E3 actually didn’t disappoint me this year. Yeah, I’m just as surprised as you are. Usually I watch and only get excited about one or two games, but this year I am SOOO pumped for several titles. The biggest of the to-be-released titles is of course Star Wars “Old Republic.”
Are you ready to become one with the force? Would you like to slice open a bounty like a true Mandalorian? Then you are going to be SOOOO pumped about Old Republic. In my opinion this will be the next great MMO, and they’re not going to screw up like they did with Galaxies. Not only will you have the complexity you always desired with class building, but you will also be pulled into a fully interactive environment complete with a ton of awesome-but-not-too-long cinema and ALL the characters are voiced by voice actors. This innovation makes the game the largest voice acting project in gaming to date. I have to say that Darci and I watched the E3 exclusive preview for this game and we were seriously awe-struck.
See the Trailer here: http://www.swtor.com/media/trailers/deceived-cinematic-trailer
Assassin’s Creed 2: It isn’t broken, and they’re not trying to “fix: it. They’re going to be adding things and not taking away from the original, because let’s face it, it was pretty good.
Left 4 Dead2: more zombies, more blood, and you’re in the south. This time you make your way from Savannah, Georgia to New Orleans and along the way the mechanic, football coach, gambler, etc, are a mis-matched team that are going to bust through as many zombies as possible (hopefully without dying….a lot…if you’re lucky). Melee weapons will be widely available so that you don’t have to machine gun your friends. There’s even a frying pan for you to whack zombies in the old fashioned kitchen-utilitarian way.
Hideo Kojima is bringing the Metal Gear Franchise to X Box which either makes you happy or furious, and he also announced a new title surrounding Raiden that MAY be a 360 exclusive depending on the money (meaning PS3 has to sell more consoles or it might lose the dual-rights to this game).
Lastly, Final Fantasy XIII. I was lucky enough to get a demo of this for my birthday that came with the Japanese version of Advent Children Complete. Yes, commence with the jealousy...this game won't be available in the US until AT LEAST January of 2010. The demo was admittedly quite expensive to pick up but Advent Children complete came with an English dub (and it's blue ray) so it's really worth it. Also, if you're wondering about the merit of picking up Advent Children Complete, DO IT because it's totally worth it. You get another 30 minutes of store that makes the movie make SOOO much more sense. This is especially true for the stories of the orphans.
As for Final Fantasy XIII, I am betting this is going to be one of the best Final Fantasy titles to come out in A LONG TIME. The story looks fantastic and seems to have some serious depth (sorry no spoilers I don't want to ruin it for you!!!). The characters are well-designed and for once there is a strong, female heroine supported by some seriously cool characters. My personal favorite so far has a baby chocobo living in his hair and that is just nine levels of adorable. The battle system is a sweet, real-time challenge that allows you to program up to three commands at a time in succession utilizing a time-meter (in bar form above your character's command menu). You can line up a command that takes three blocks of your time-meter or your line up three commands that each take up one segment of your meter. Really the combinations are endless and full of promise as you can create special moves by putting together the right combinations of attacks, techniques, or magic. I was seriously impressed by the gameplay AND the graphics which are intense levels of blu-ray awesome. The game is so impressive looking that I played the demo TWO times in two days (btw, the demo is TWO HOURS LONG). Yeah, that's serious, because I usually HATE demos because that's all they are...DEMOS.
Seriously folks. I'll be picking up the omega-utlra-shiny collectors editions of both Old Republic and FFXIII. This is the first time I've been super excited about not one, but TWO games E3 had to offer.
Amazingly Youtube is down for maintenance right now (probably because google video is flubbing it all up) so I can't link you to gameplay footage for FFXIII, but I assure you it's there.
In other news, I'll probably end up picking up the new Rayman Raving Rabbids because my soul has been sucked into their addictive wii-mote, party-game ridiculousness. It's a sad, sad addiction.
Lady Lara Jones