Welcome to Part 2 of Jayne Did Not Think This Through Because She Has To Keep Reading This, also known as my review of Off World. When we last left our heroes they had done absolutely nothing because the pace of this book makes the movie Lord of the Rings: Return of the King look like it took place at the speed of light. Our heroes met, ate food, masturbated about sixty times and made out. Oh, and there were some dead Inuit and dead fag hags in there, too.
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.