Gillian Key: The Hateread – Key to Conspiracy, Chapter 3

I will bet you a million bajillion dollars that the brownies save the team from this situation and Gillian will do absolutely fuck all. A million bajillion.

The chapter itself has a better opening line than I could have hoped for:

Pavel snarled, “Kill themowwwooooo!”

Because why not open with some lolz?

I hate onomatopoeia in written speech. Hate it. Just say someone screamed, don’t say “AAHHHHHH!” Especially since the next sentence begins with “His voice changed to a howl.” But I have to give it to Gryphon, she displays a singular talent for placing stupid lines at the exact point that makes them most ridiculous.

So Pavel pounces at the redheaded stranger, somebody shoots a gun but apparently doesn’t hit anybody, and everyone on Gillian’s team runs for cover, “Except Luis, who stood trembling in the open.” We’ve gotten little hints that something is wrong with him, but apparently he’s become that child in the disaster scene who’s standing there crying but nobody is paying attention.

Speaking of children, given that the team is there to, you know, rescue them, one wonders why they’re just leaving the poor little bastards to fend for themselves while the team dives for cover.

lower your expectations

The others grab Luis and Gillian is like wtf dude. He has some kind of fit, so,

Frantic with worry, not knowing what else to do to stop his apparent torment, Gillian punched him in the jaw with the side of her gun

a hammer and a screw

That is the perfect Gillian response. Friend in agony? PUNCH HIM!

And here come the brownies. They have the sense to try to get the kids to safety, because Team Shit-for-Brains didn’t think that was terribly important with guns being fired everywhere.

PS, where’s Daedalus? Who knows.

We’re informed that there are several different shifter types: “Wereleopards and Werelynxes and Werewolves, oh my!” according to Jenna. Gillian is “compartmentalizing her thoughts:

Shit! Guns! Kids! Post-traumatic stress disorder! Sexual abuse! Lycanthrope trauma! Guns! Brownies! Bullets! Shit!

I think Gryphon accidentally included a page of her story notes and the editor forgot to take it out.

keystone kops

Gillian and the team gather for a formal portrait.

Now, I’m no expert at writing action scenes, god knows, but this is some Keystone Kops shit. There’s nothing more pitifully hilarious than an action hero type protagonist who acts like the scene is a game of Whack-a-Mole while everyone else either stands around off-camera or is killing someone, also off-camera. She decides to draw a gun, in a chaotic situation where it’s entirely possible she’ll hit a kid or one of her team members, and starts trying to shoot the bad guys, relying on dumb luck and the Plot Armor the good guys seem to be blessed with.

Trocar casts some spell to make the kids invisible, because apparently he has the fine control to cast a spell on 40 panicked kids while avoiding the bad guys but not enough smarts to know that making innocents invisible in a gun fight is not actually a good idea. A werebear attacks Gillian and there’s some awkward simultaneous actions that result in Jenna dragging Luis off and Gillian doing a get-away tango with the bear.

Then something roars and everybody freezes. Their enemies seem to be scared of whatever it is. The freezing only lasts for a second, and the bear, who is apparently Boris, keeps coming after Gillian. She thinks it’s a good idea to “fight him in the open with her silver blade, even though “her gun wasn’t having much effect against his sheer bulk.”

a poster of a man holding a hammer and saying, perhaps I'm the wrong tool for this job

I could break out some science, but I think it’s pretty clear why tiny woman with a gun is at least marginally better than tiny woman with a knife in the open. Oh, Gillian, you are so very special. She eventually decides to point both at Boris. At least she has her bases covered.

Then the roaring creature shows up. It’s apparently a minotaur, because why not cram some more pop culture mythological figures in there? This is starting to read like a Dresden Files style menagerie. Only less clever.

Dungeons and Dragons Monster Manual

Dead Beat, by Jim Butcher.

Oh. It’s Daedelus.

diagram of an ancient Greek deus ex machina machine

Apparently Daedalus has been sitting there with his thumb up his mythological Greek asshole, just chilling, while guns are fired and teammates and kids are in danger. So that’s were Gillian got it from.

Gillian finally decides to help with the kids and turns tail to run, but she spots Bullwinkle the moose and goes to help him. Aleksei calls her on the brain phone, because apparently he’s creeping on her all the time, and tells her, “Look directly at it, and let me try to help you.” HEAVEN FORBID Gillian can actually do something her own goddamn self.

Aleksei really doesn’t help at all, though, other than to tell her to be nice to it and lead it away from the fire. Don’t worry, though, because Pavel shows up next to help out. He snaps the chain and wanders off.

Team Shit-for-Brains has managed to bumble their way to success. Most of the bad guys are captured, and the kids are “Fine, I think.” Because the people they came to rescue are pretty much an afterthought.

Somebody asks about Luis, who says someone is controlling him and he wants them to kill him. He says, “I am a ‘plant.’

potted houseplant

DICTION IS IMPORTANT. I had to read the sentence twice to figure out that “plant” meant he’d been planted on the team by a bad guy. Why wouldn’t you say that instead?

Luis says, “Do not force me to kill my friends.” Wait, where did this revelation come from? Gillian is also completely panicked and saying she doesn’t know how to fight “this.” What is this, exactly, and why is she like this?

Beaker from the Muppets panicking

Trocar tries to knock him out or something, but he slashes his own throat with his nails. You know, having once had semi-long nails that would occasionally cut open my other fingers if I wasn’t careful, I can almost believe this, but that is a hilariously goth thing to do. Gillian is screaming, “No! No, he is not going to have you.”

WHO THE FUCK ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT??

I’m guessing at this point “he” is Dracula, but I’m not supposed to have to guess. The entire book thus far (16% now, btw) has been definitively not about Dracula, but now we’re supposed to make the mental connection straight back to the faceless villain we’ve never actually met?

So they’re all trying to save him, and Gillian says they should take him to Dionysus. I assume this is an excuse for her to run back to the vampires so they (and everyone else) can keep doing shit for her.

Gillian tells the brownies to take care of the kids and the prisoners, and the team gets ready to abandon the plot thread that seems like it was supposed to carry the book.

abandon thread

The narrative assures us that they’ve shut down the “ped ring,” however, so it’s fine that this particular plot is a limp dick.

The team wanders back to the village they were staying in, “exhausted but happy” despite their critically wounded teammate being carried like a sack of undead potatoes by Daedalus the minotaur. Bullwinkle is along for the ride, I guess.

End of chapter.

Now I’m wondering how the townspeople are going to react to seeing said giant Greek beast carrying said undead sack of potatoes when it’s shifters who were kidnapping their children. But I’m not going to hold my breath in hopes of any species tension or nuance.

We’re at 17% now, so I can assume this is a really short book. I’m pretty sure we ran out of plot after like Chapter 5 of the first book, anyway.

Personal story: when I was ten or so, I was trying to write a book that was basically a ripoff of the Redwall series. My 5th grade classroom had this set of postcards that had bits of information on all sorts of animal species. I used to go through them looking for cool animals to add to my story. When I got my hands on a friend’s D&D Monster Manual when I was about 13, I did the same thing for the melodramatic fantasy story I was writing then. I think every writer has the “sounds cool, I’ll do it!” impulse, and we all have piles of cool shit we want to include, especially those of us who write speculative fiction. That was just the early version of mine. But eventually, we have to mature and realize it’s not enough to cram more candy bar scenes or “witty” pop culture references or a menagerie of creatures into a story. There has to be some substance.

This shit is like the terrible kitchen sink brownie fudge caramel chocolate chip three kinds of ice cream whipped cream peanuts and sprinkles and a goddamn maraschino cherry sundae you’d get at a “family restaurant” in the Midwest. It sounds so amazingly terrible you have to order it, and then you can only swallow two bites, but then you have to slog your way through the other two pounds of pure refined sugar and preservative chemicals because your parents paid six bucks for it and goddamn it you will eat it without throwing up.

PS, I had organic honey lavender ice cream with a waffle cone this evening, and it was delicious. And reasonably sized, thank you.

PPS, you owe me a million dollars. Maybe not a million bajillion, because the brownies were only half the deus ex machina.

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