Gillian Key: The Hateread – Key to Conspiracy, Chapter 9

And we’re heading off into the wilds of Europe, and Gillian is on elven drugs because she didn’t want the morphine Jenna offered her. I can understand why she’d refuse if morphine makes her violently ill like it does me, but the book of course just says she refuses it. Apparently magic drugs are better. For whatever reason.

Claire gets a call from Scotland Yard, but she speaks French to them because apparently London’s police force is francophone. They want Claire, McNeill, and Team Shit-for-Brains to investigate some murders, since they just happen to be in town.



If you’ll recall, this gaggle of idiots left in an awful rush after going AMA from the hospital with Dr. Jack and Co. chasing after them. How does Scotland Yard know where they are, and maybe more importantly, why does Scotland Yard think, after being in the hospital, that this particular gaggle is in any shape to do investigating?

They’re injured and on the run, but work calls and they gotta get to it?

well why the fuck not

Trocar rightly points out that Gillian is fucked up. “The problem was, in his irritation, his voice came out silkier and sultrier than ever. Claire was suddenly staring into his eyes, completely mesmerized.” Apparently he’s “bespelled” her on accident with his elfly magnificence, which means she’s now in love with him.

i may vomit

Is it worth pointing out that a man “accidentally” causing a woman to fall in love with him by being irritated is kinda fucked up?

Yes. Yes it is.

Claire is, strange racial background aside, presumably supposed to be hip and interesting and competently badass. Of course, like every other female character who isn’t Gillian, she’s only allowed to be competent in short and occasional bursts, but that seems to be the intent, anyway. However, her competence is trumped by Trocar’s elfliness and sex appeal and she’s instantly in love? Why hasn’t this happened to Gillian or Jenna or Kimber? OR, YOU KNOW, THE GUYS? Does getting “Elfstruck” only apply when it’s heterosexual sexiness? Of course it does, because any non-hetero sex in PNR would be super icky.

I might find this less irritating if not for the generally fucked-up tone of these books regarding sex and gender, but let’s just say this is pretty par for the course.

PS, as soon as this happens, Claire is shoved to the background of the scene, and it becomes about McNeill’s discomfort with his elf heritage.

i just realized I don't care

I give zero fucks about this guy. In spite of being tossed into his head now and again, I really have no idea who he is, what motivates him, or why I should even want to get to know him better. I sure don’t know why the book is trying so hard to make a case for him.

McNeill gets them to shut up about his heritage after a couple of pages. As soon as everyone stops talking, Claire says, “I must have you, Trocar. I will die without your touch.”

a mustard container looks like it's vomiting

This shit is what passes for comedic relief in this book. The woman is “in love” against her will and nobody thinks this is the least bit creepy? I don’t know about you, but it reminds me uncomfortably of the rape scene in Mercy Thompson (big trigger warning; no actual quotes but some in-depth analysis of what happens) in which the rapist gives her a potion that makes her fall in love with him.

Maybe I need to stop here and hunt down a paper copy to throw against the wall so I don’t ruin my Kindle. I can smell a Claire-Trocar hookup coming a mile away.

Oh well, we know sex and sexual assault totally go hand-in-hand on this failboat world cruise anyway, don’t we?

Moving on.

We’re still in McNeill’s head for whatever reason. He’s driving and driving and driving.


He decides to pull over to use his “Global Positioning System” (who the fuck doesn’t know what GPS means these days?) and hears a “howl-bellow-roar” nearby. They have some inane conversation about what made the noise. It turns out to be a “Loup-Garou,” which is apparently not the same thing as a werewolf. It comes running after them, and Gillian is all excited because she figures out that the thing is actually a prehistoric relative of modern carnivores. Manbearpigasaur?



Claire is still out of her gourd, and she goes all squealing-scared about dying before she’s fucked Trocar. Fucking gross. The Manbearpigasaur is trying to attack the car (and failing, don’t ask me how), and Trocar puts Claire to sleep, because why not have something completely pointless going on to detract from the intended tension of the scene.

I just want to point out one thing here. It’s a small thing, but to me it’s pretty indicative of how utterly lame this book is. The narrative remarks about how fast the car is going (in kilometers specifically) and the Manbearpigasaur is keeping up. Gillian is looking at the speedometer, and she notes that it’s in kilometers, not miles (being a European car and all), but 60 kph is still pretty fast. Like, you JUST said how fast they were going in kilometers, and THEN had Gillian realize that the speedometer is in kilometers? This shows a complete inability to manage a fucking paragraph, which is really just a microcosm of the author’s complete inability to manage a book. It’s just one nonsensical, boring, ill-placed, ill-planned, unengaging piece of shit after another, like Hansel and Gretel, only instead of a house of candy, they come across a house made of half-rotted brussels sprouts, warm macaroni salad, tapioca pudding, and cold grits on a foundation of black licorice.

shit rainbow

PS, 60 kph is, according to Professor Google, just over 37 mph. Usain Bolt can run 27 mph. Greyhounds can run 43 and horses 55. 37 does not strike me as all that fast, for the Manbearpigasaur or the car.

The car, laden with all seven members of Team Shit-for-Brains, manages to outrun the moderately fast monster, and they run across “an old fortress of some kind” with 15-foot walls. And of course, they want to take shelter in it.

you are an unstoppable good idea machine

Yes, I’m sure this will turn out dandy, because an old, isolated fortress in BFE, France surely doesn’t reek of Stereotypical Vampire Dwelling.

Nobody answers when McNeill lays on the horn, so Trocar suggests they climb the 15-foot walls.

Now, I’ll let that sink in.

They intend to shelter in this fortress with high walls that are apparently not too high for humans and shifters to climb, but high enough that they expect them to deter the Manbearpigasaur.


don't make sense make dollars

Everyone gets over the wall, and Pavel shifts to his wolf form to confront the creature. I swear to Christ, if one of the only halfway decent characters in this series dies.

Okay, here’s another fun one. The creature rams Pavel’s chest at a dead run. The creature has been described as six feet at the shoulder and built like a brick shit house. Jenna noted earlier in the book that shifters aren’t much hardier than regular humans. I thought that was actually kind of a good idea. Except that Pavel should be incapacitated and very shortly dead from massive internal injuries of that were the case. Let me put this in perspective: I was at an aquarium the other day where they had a sea lion skeleton. Sea lions are big. This one had several broken ribs, and one of the volunteers explained to me that it had been rammed by an orca’s nose. (Yeah, there’s some badass critters in Puget Sound.) The term the necropsy used to describe the sea lion’s internal organs was “hamburgerized.”

But I’m sure Pavel’s fine.

Trocar jumps in to help Pavel Legolas-style, but they can’t subdue the Manbearpigasaur. McNeill thinks it’s a good idea to fire shots into the air to catch the attention of the inhabitants of the fortress, which has the unintended effect of drawing the Manbearpigasaur’s attention. It charges McNeill and seems about to flatten him when someone someone calls out “Charles!” It stops, of course, and Manbearpigasaur becomes Naked Man when some random woman comes running up to him. Apparently she’s Fey.

There’s a little discussion about how Manbearpigasaur is different from a shifter because his shifting ability is the result of a curse and not a virus. Meh, standard “different flavors of shifter” fare, though it reminds me of Jim Butcher an awful lot.

So Fey lady is Dahlia Chastel, and Charles is her husband. Dahlia brings Team Shit-for-brains inside. End chapter.

phoning it in

That’s how I feel about this book right now. Taken at face value, any one of this Heinz 57 series of plots could make an okay novella or something, if not a full-length novel. But Gryphon is now bouncing from one to the other with absolutely no connection between them other than the fact that they involve the same characters. When you were a kid, did you ever mix all the soda flavors in the fountain together? My older brother called it a Suicide, presumably because it tasted like death. That’s how this tastes. High fructose, heartburn-causing, tongue-coating death.


Gillian Key: The Hateread – Key to Conspiracy, Chapter 8

Well, here we go. Jenna and Gillian are escaping from Dr. Jack’s hospital. Jenna gets Gillian outside, and they meet with McNeill and Claire. And apparently Helmut and Pavel, who has…

blue, blue eyes.

ugh please

There’s a nice little imitation-is-the-sincerest-form-of-asslicking moment for you. For those not familiar, Laurell K. Hamilton simply loves to repeat adjectives for no good reason. The only way this could be better/worse is if it was “drowning blue, blue eyes.”

Jenna tells the group Jack the Ripper is in the hospital. I don’t recall Gillian ever being forthright enough with McNeill and Claire or…any of them except Pavel to tell them about Jack, but nobody has any “whut??” reaction. I choose to believe they’re all rolling their eyes at how stupid that sounds, just like I did.

Anyway, McNeill chooses to handle the situation sensibly and loads everyone into the car. PS, McNeill moves “liquidly,” which makes me think he’s wandering around peeing his pants constantly. He asks Gillian where she wants to go, and she says…


Okay. Whatever. Gillian’s reasoning is that “He’s got informants and spies everywhere, even in immigration.” And she knows this somehow despite only having met Jack twice for a total of probably half an hour in two completely different places. Thanks for swooping in to plant important information through your mouthpiece protagonist, Talia Gryphon, despite the fact that she has no reason to know it.

oh thanks it's very helpful

When McNeill expresses incredulity, Gillian lays out all the information she kept from him for no good reason earlier. Better late than ever, I guess?

Jack comes running out of the hospital, and Jenna wants to shoot him. There’s some ridiculous scuffle in the car, but nothing comes of it.

McNeill sensibly asks why Gillian wants to go to France. She says there aren’t many vampires. Claire–you know, the one who grew up in France?–say she thought there were a lot, but Helmut says that’s “Hollywood myth in action.” How many French Hollywood vampires do you know of besides Lestat? Is she making another stupid Anita reference?

Again rather sensibly, McNeill is trying to make plans for what they need to do next and when they get to France, especially because, “I have no clue as to where we are going to locate a doctor if your alleged Vampire Army has spies stationed in major medical facilities.

This makes complete sense to me, which of course means Gillian thinks he’s an idiot for worrying about it. She says, “You haven’t done this before, have you?” Well no, you smug fuck, he’s a detective, not a S00p3r L33t Sp3c1al F0rc3s Marine Captain Therapist of the Stars. Apparently McNeill is going to be the scapegoat to make fun of for the rest of the book because he’s slightly uptight but mostly completely fucking reasonable.

Dear Gillian:

i said you were an asshat, not an asset

Pavel says he can smell vampires “waiting in ambush to attack the car.” Jenna, because she’s also a smug fuck, informs him that the word is “hijack… If you are going to hang with us, you should know the right terms.” I mention this solely because of the tragically stupid shit that follows. Pavel, who I actually like a fair bit as a character, is made out to be stupid enough to think Jenna is saying “hi” to Jack. Gillian reminds Jenna of the “language barrier.” Now, I work with a lot of international students. I would venture to say over half of the students I’ve taught at my current school grew up somewhere other than the US. But not once has any of them made a completely illogical mistake like this. Why make my poor buddy Pavel look like a complete idiot?

Well, that probably won’t get resolved, because now we’re jumping into McNeill’s head. He’s upset because Gillian told him she knows he’s part Fey and he’s really ashamed of the fact. He wants to be normal. Why?

Male Fey had a problem with Humans assuming they were all gay due to their incredible, almost feminine beauty. Brant was straight and a bit of a homophobe. It pissed him off to no end to have someone question his orientation.

This is apparently what passes for nuanced character development: equating femininity with homosexuality and insisting that while McNeill is holyshit amazeballs beautiful (like every single male in this book–are there no average-looking dudes?), he’s totally straight you guyz. Don’t worry about those attractive but yucky gays. You won’t find any here.

no homo

Something lands on the car hood, and they all freak out. McNeill stops the car. Don’t worry, it’s just Trocar.

diagram of an ancient Greek deus ex machina machine

He’s just popping in to heal Gillian, so she’s not injured and inconvenienced for the second half of the book. Because the other characters exist solely to smooth the way for the protagonist.

Trocar comes along with a couple of pages’ worth of awkward exposition about how loyal he is to Team Shit-for-Brains and how he caught up with Gillian in London when, last we knew, he was going to Finland. La la la la words words. Time, you are killing it.

ticking clock

I almost wish I had a print copy of this book so I could tell you how many pages are being wasted here. Jack is still after them, and we’ve halted everything to tell the reader about Trocar and have Trocar explain his extradimensional travel ability. This is stupifyingly boring and you should thank me for reading it so you don’t have to.

They finally (finally) leave for France, traveling by Channel Tunnel because it’s “probably the least obvious way for them to get into France.”

what, what?

They left in a car. Jack knew enough to have vampires in place to ambush them. But going through the only land route between the UK and France doesn’t seem obvious?

Oh Gillian.


Ah, okay, they’re going to drive all the way to Romania. From France. From the standpoint of someone whose country is about as big as Europe, I guess that’s not such a long way–it’s about the same distance from Minneapolis to Seattle, which I drove a few years ago. But it was hell on earth. By the way, there are seven adults in this European car: Gillian, Jenna, Pavel, Trocar, Helmut, Claire, and McNeill. Well, Gillian is tiny-dainty-petite-diminutive-little-delicate, so maybe it’s more like six and a half people. Regardless, that sounds like the worst road trip ever.

And so it is; Gryphon ostensibly tries to inject some humor into the situation by telling us how annoying everyone is. Jenna mentions she needs a “bio break.” Normally I would just say this is a characterizing detail telling us she’s a gamer, but given my general lack of confidence in and annoyance at Gryphon’s style, I’m just going to say this is Gryphon thinking she’s clever at using gamer-speak.

Trocar calls Aleksei, who wants to bring “the petite blonde” (notice how she’s never objectified like that unless it’s around the vampires?) back to Romania immediately, since she’s still injured. Amazing–can it be that Trocar the miracle maker actually didn’t just fix everything? Trocar, for some reason, says Gillian is fine where she is. …Okay. She’s injured and you’ve told us how useless she is at the moment, but…okay.

Jenna wanders off by herself to buy a magazine because she’s a complete fool, and predictably, she gets ambushed when a vampire sneaks up behind her.

Well, apparently Gillian’s penchant for going off by herself and getting into trouble rubbed off on her.

special kind of idiot

My god, the level of stupidity just keeps rising. For all your talk about being ambushed, you just chill at the gas station and grab a magazine? Yeah, remember how she and Gillian made fun of McNeill for not knowing how Speshul Forcez does things?

The vampire drinks her blood and vanishes. She has absolutely no reaction. Like, none. She just sets the magazine down and goes back to the car.

And then we’re told the “tall, darkly cloaked figure” wander over and sit down at one of the tables of a nearby cafe. Apparently nobody thinks it’s weird to see some dude dressed in a cloak and leather gloves chilling at a street cafe. They must be in France’s version of Seattle. He says, “Soon, cherie…we will discover whether or not you can truly help a monster like me.”


The waiter calls him “Monsieur Garnier.” Since Garnier is not the French analog for any of the vampires we’ve met so far, I’m led to believe Helmut’s statement that French vampires are Hollywood hype is bullshit.


End chapter.

This book had promise for at least five pages. I was okay with it. Alas, it went off the rails so quickly. I’m convinced Gryphon does not give two shits anymore. Is it that she can’t figure out what to do without Aleksei there to put his massive Sex Behemoth wang in her? Presumably, this book is supposed to show us Gillian at her finest, when she can operate without the vampires, but she’s just surrounded again by asslickers and people who smooth the way for her.

Not to mention, the writing got even stupider. Everyone writes a lot of shit that doesn’t end up in books. It could be that your scene has stalled and you’re writing through it. It could be that you were trying to do something with the scene and it just didn’t happen. But that shit is not supposed to end up in the bookI do not need a glimpse into the cesspit of your first draft brain, just like nobody needs a glimpse into mine.

This is part of what’s wrong with traditional publishing. You sign an author for a series and you abandon them to the mercy of maybe one editor who clearly does not give a shit. They don’t try to push the author to do better, they just shit out books that are hard little painful turds that make you regret eating popcorn. And then because they have a vague, neutral blurb from LKH and a mildly attractive cover, people buy them.

Bitter? Yep. But not just because this shit gets bought by thousands of people and mine does not. But because this shit gets bought by thousands of people. It’s hard as fuck to compete with when this is the standard of urban fantasy, and it’s what people consume.


louis ck shakes his head

Gillian Key: The Hateread – Key to Conspiracy, Chapter 7

So apparently there’s a gate open. This might be the lamest chapter opening ever, too. Witness:

“A Gate? To what?” Brant [McNeill] wanted to know. He leaned in front of Claire trying to look into Gill’s eyes.

“Beats me,” she admitted, “but I bet it’s not anywhere you’d want to spend your vacation.”

“Gate? Did you say this house is over an open Gate?” A male Spiritualist was halfway onto the landing and tugging at Hemlut’s jacket.

“I believe so,” Gillian informed him.

“Oh shit, we’ve got to get out of here,” he squeaked.

how fascinating

You know how we started off in Key to Conflict with Gryphon being all like this:

dog running in its sleep then getting up to run into a wall

Not really conscious of what she was doing but excited enough to get up and run face-first into a wall sometimes? Well, now she’s like this:

sleepy dog

I think she’s bored by her own work at this point and when she hits the floor she wakes up and tries to pay attention, but she’s still really discombobulated. As shitty as the editing was in the previous book for not catching some really problematic shit (TRANNY HOOKERS ugh), maybe it was a vacation to read something slightly less problematic but boring as shit. Is it that there’s no sex in this book and both writer and editor have lost interest in it?

So Gillian gets the Spiritualists, Helmut, and Jenna to form a magical circle. Wait…where are Helmut’s grad students? Can’t they help? Of course, I know fuck all about what they’re doing there or what class they’re in or what they’re even studying, so I guess they don’t count anyway.

Gillian says, “Reach out with your feelings…

luke skywalker
I can’t be the only one who thinks these are cheesy as fuck intentional references, can I?

toward me. Let me bring us together.

quote from the Princess Bride: "Mawwage is what bwings us togevah today."

That one was probably not intentional, but I’m grasping at straws to keep me entertained.

I have no idea what her statement means, but Aleksei pops in on the brain phone and tells her he’ll help if he can. HELP DO WHAT??

Okay, so apparently she’s shielding their circle. More halfway decent magical description. The Cloud of Bad Shit, which I guess has been just chilling there patiently waiting for Gillian to get her shit together, is mad and like…I don’t know…tosses ick and fear at them. I guess it’s trying to feed on their emotions? I don’t know.

So the Cloud of Bad Shit is being a bully. The narrative tells us that “bullying was a huge trigger for Gillian.”

"O rly?" owl meme

From Chapter 17 of Key to Conflict:

If Tanis had forced her to confront [her commitment phobia], he would get Gill at her worst: a first class bully.

whoa stop right there

you're a fucking hypocrite

When someone is upsetting her, she can be the world’s biggest bitch and it’s all good, but when someone else is being a meanyhead, they’re BULLYING and that’s TRIGGERING.

you keep using that word

Remember what I said about my level of rage? Damn, I keep proving myself wrong. I could write you a treatise both about why her use of the words “bully” and “trigger” are not only inaccurate but fucked up, but I’ll spare you. Suffice to say that I don’t believe for a second that Gillian is actually being triggered.

Anyway, she’s super mad, but she notes that “giving in to unadulterated rage was not the hallmark of a good soldier or a good Human being.”

See, it’s these flashes of insight that make me wonder whether Gillian–or the author–is actually self-aware and doesn’t give a shit or if this is someone else trying to give advice via damage control margin notes. “Come on, don’t do this. It just makes her an asshole.”

But of course she does it anyway.

After noting that because she’s an empath, she tends to keep her emotions in check for the safety of herself and others, she lets loose her anger in a way melodramatic scene that would actually be really effective in the climax of a book. This is 36% of the way in and we’re already climaxing?

and then I jizzed in my pants

Maybe this is supposed to be the climax of the last book. Maybe the climax actually happened in the last book and we’re just seeing it now and that’s why it looks out of place, like how the light from ancient stars is just now reaching us billions of years after they actually went supernova.

So Gillian intends to magic-punch the Cloud of Bad Shit back through the interdimensional gate, but she miscalculated and forgot that she had, you know, created a shield first, which is blocking her from doing anything. So she just explodes the shield, “literally flattening every telekinetically gifted Human and non-Human in the house.” But hey, she got the Cloud of Bad Shit to go away, so what’s some collateral damage?

rocks fall, everyone dies, good

So the landing collapses and everyone falls “twenty feet,” but miraculously they’re not dead because they’re all unconscious when they hit and they just, I don’t know, fucking bounce or something. Can anyone tell me whether that would actually work?

Back in Romania, Aleksei is pissing his pants because Gillian broke their brain phone and he can’t tell what’s going on, so Tanis comforts him and they have some insipid brother talk without a single contraction word between them. Tanis apparently wants to get with Jenna, so they talk about how oddly capable and strong their women are but how they still want to protect them blah blah, so basically the asswipe vampire status quo is still in place.

And then we return to Gillian, who wakes up in a hospital.


Of course it’s not.

jack in the box "Autism Is Awesomism" Benefit Concert With Jack Black and Stepha jack card jack sparrow jack-nightmare-before-christmas-29453651-960-639

She apparently got impaled and had surgery. Dr. Jack says, “You are quite intact, with the exception of your virginity, of course.”

gross clint eastwood

That was actually even creepier than intended, especially when Dr. Jack adds that he’s a gynecologist.

Right, so I better be ready for some serious body horror, right?

I don’t intend to hold my breath.

They have the “Aren’t you going to scream?” “No, I know what kind of bad guy you are!!” scene that we’ve all read a hojillion times.

And then a nurse pokes his head in…

…wait, what? So they actually are in a hospital?

Well, there’s the end of that tension, because Jack scurries out when the nurse shows up.

sheep vs cow

She has a private freakout and wonders why “this one Vampire rattled her cage like no other being ever had.” Well, if he’s as much of a fucking creeper as you’re trying to make him out to be, you ought not to have to wonder, huh?

Here’s some familiar Gillian logic for you:

Thinking back on the romance novels her college roommate had mooned over, Gillian had a brief, disturbing thought that if she weren’t quite so much the badass, and a bit more of a femme fatale, she could run and tattletale to Aleksei and Tanis about Jack. Then it would be their problem and not hers.

Those two sentences encompass everything that is wrong with female characters in UF and PNR. Being a badass means you never ask for help, and being a femme fatale means you’re a tattletale and you make other people handle your problems. Because it’s one thing or the other, always.

So she’s not going to ask for help. Again. With no good reason other than “Jack is bad and they can’t handle him despite being like 330 years older than me and despite Aleksei’s newfound amazeballs powers.”

She manages to get out of bed and finds Helmut, Jenna, and Pavel, who are banged up in various ways but in one piece. Two of the Spiritualists are dead, and they have an “I feel guilty,” “Well, don’t feel guilty” party about whose fault it isn’t.

Jenna goes through some and stupid weird shit to get her out of the hospital without running into Dr. Jack in the hallways, and the chapter ends.

I just checked this book’s Goodreads rating. Y’all, it’s 3.7. THREE POINT SEVEN. For perspective, the first book had a 3.06. People thought this one was better? I mean, okay, I can admit that my rage level is generally lower for this book (um, generally speaking) and my eyeballs haven’t rolled out of my head quite as often (though fuck, Bullwinkle?!) but that is not grounds for such a drastically higher rating.

42%. What disjointed crap will we get to read next time? Guess we’ll have to find out.

Gillian Key: The Hateread – Key to Conspiracy, Chapter 6

After spending the day reading dense theoretical discussions of the subaltern and student assignments, I’m back to hang out with Gillian. Because apparently I hate myself.

Though actually, I read this chapter a while back and don’t remember hating it. I wasn’t sure what the fuck was going on, but you know, I’m almost used to that.

So Gillian and Team Shit-for-Brains, along with Helmut, the Wiccans Spiritualist and Helmut’s nameless, faceless grad students from Who Knows 101, go into this massively haunted house. The Spiritualists are extravagantly incompetent in order to make Gillian seem like she knows what she’s doing. One of them has the “coven name” Nutmeg, which Gillian thinks is pants-shittingly hysterical. Isn’t there a word for an idiot who’s planted to make someone look better? My post-surgery cognitive impairment continues and I can’t remember what it is.

i'm with stupid

Gillian senses something Big and Nasty, but she doesn’t tell them at first and is all like, “No big,” until the Spiritualists are dumb and then she says there’s something icky out there. Jenna and Helmut are like “wtf?” AND SO AM I. Why the fuck does this fool insist on hiding shit for no goddamn reason from the people who need to know?

Gillian chews on Helmut for bringing people into a dangerous situation–which, you will note, she told them wasn’t that bad–and he basically says, “Well, they signed waivers and shit, not our responsibility.” He’s kinda right, but so is she; she says he asked her to help out, so she actually is responsible for the gaggle of fools. I would give her kudos for taking responsibility for the situation, except that she’s doing it for reasons completely apart from the fact that she fucked up by giving them the impression everything wasn’t as bad as it was.

So a ghost of a crying little girl appears and everyone is fascinated. Gillian basically thinks it’s a decoy: “This was less like a Ghost and more like a shade–the impression or imprint of a spirit rather than the emotional energy a Ghost gave off.”

mildly interesting

There’s a paragraph or so of tension building that’s halfway decent. Gillian leads everyone up the stairs, and at some point they realize two Spiritualists are missing. Gillian suddenly realizes

admiral ackbar

Yep, you got it.

Gillian spends at least a full page shrieking at everyone to get out, and there’s some painfully slow-motion description of everyone taking up positions. I’m not sure where everyone is or where they’re going. Did I say I didn’t hate this chapter? I think I was lying.

Gillian does some ritually stuff with willow oil, kleenex, and tobacco smoke. I wish there was more of, you know, actively supernatural stuff in these books instead of people just sort of standing around being werewolves or vampires or what-the-fuck-evers. Oh, but here’s Aleksei on the brain phone again asking if Gillian is okay, but she hangs up on him. I think he just keeps popping in to remind us he still exists, or something?

So there’s more chaos as they try to find the two Spiritualists and I’m not sure where everyone is or what they’re doing. I THINK Gillian and Team Shit-for-Brains are still on the stairs, and the idiot posse are all downstairs at the front door.

They all felt it then. The very air became heavy, dark and putrid, almost like liquid that has filled a grave for too long…. A swelling, swirling morass combining with the very air around them. Ectoplasmic tendrils snaked out, ruffling hair, touching faces, while the main segment of it boiled darkness and nothingness together in an otherworldly broth. The pitch matte black of the Abyss warred with vacuous dead-fish-belly gray as it roiled and buckled.

That’s not an awful description? Maybe the best I’ve read so far. At least I get the sense of Lovecraftian horror that I assume she’s going for. I think this is what I was remembering when I said I didn’t hate this chapter.

Gillian is trying to deal with this thing in conflict with the emotions of all the people who are with her, but of course she can totally do it and doesn’t struggle very much at all, because we can’t have our protagonist actually work for something.

dog eating

And then there’s this.

It was as if thousands of souls were trapped in anguish rather than agony…

obi wan kenobi

Did anybody else go there? Just me?

Anyway, here’s the whole quote:

It was as if thousands of souls were trapped in anguish rather than agony, but it was disturbing and painful.

pete and repeat were sitting in a boat. Pete fell out. Who was left?

It was painful rather than painful, but it was disturbing and painful.

Got it?


It’s bad, y’all. Real bad bad. Awful rather than terrible, but horrifying and atrocious.

McNeill and Claire show up and Claire tells Gillian, “We thought you might need us.” For what, I’m still not sure. McNeill says “Jesus,” and Gillian says, “distractedly,”

“Jesus saves; the rest of the party takes half damage.”

jim carrey not really laughing

So McNeill figures out what they’re looking at, which is a Gate.

We’re not told what that is, because that’s the end of the chapter.

Apparently my memory was clouded by that one short stretch of decent description, because this chapter sucks balls. We have a bunch of running around without any actual blocking, plus, as usual, way too much talking and quipping to keep the tension high. Had this chapter been half the length it is right now, with Gillian actually attempting (and struggling) to do something, it would be one of the more successful chapters I’ve read from this author thus far, but it fails to meet even those low expectations.

Goddamn, I almost prefer the rage boners I got from the last book to this painful limping plot cock blocking.

Dear Talia Gryphon:

By Cowsrule via DeviantArt
By Cowsrule via DeviantArt

Family skeletons

My mom and I have been talking again after about two years of almost complete silence. We’ve been writing letters back and forth, which I think I’ve mentioned. I got a letter from her a few weeks ago saying things I really wanted and needed to hear from her, so our communication has been more open since then. I’m still a little wary, but it’s really good to be honest for the first time maybe ever.

Yesterday I got a letter from her that shocked me. Not the entire thing, but just one part of it. She told me that when he was twelve, my father had a severe stroke.

My father was an emotionally abusive, manipulative, pathological liar. I strongly suspect he had Borderline Personality Disorder (so does my mother) and I’m pretty sure he was also a (literal) psychopath. I say this mostly dispassionately. I suspected his mental illness was at least partly organic (he was a very premature baby in the 1950s; I’m surprised he even survived) and partly environmental. I knew he had a bad childhood, growing up in the middle of a household of eight siblings (out of 18 total) with a father who was also physically and emotionally abusive. I knew he was the black sheep, not that any of the siblings have ever really liked each other. I knew he got picked on by my grandfather.

Then my mother told me that after the stroke, he had to learn to walk and talk again, and all throughout his recovery, his siblings and his own parents tormented him, made fun of him, made life generally difficult for him. There was one story–I vaguely remember this being told, but it was told as a family joke–that the family was on a roadtrip and made a pit stop. He went to the bathroom, and they all decided it would be funny to leave him. When he came out, they were all gone. This was their son and brother who was terribly ill. This was their cruelty.

It is no goddamn wonder that he grew up with a borderline personality.

He abused us, my siblings and me. He was especially awful to my oldest brother. I’ll carry the emotional wounds from his neglect and his emotional barbs and his harshness until I die. But I am filled with sorrow when I think about a poor kid thinking he had been left by the family who hated him for no good reason. It explains so much about my life and the things I witnessed growing up. It explains why we moved halfway across the country away from the whole family. It explains the screaming matches that went on for hours after my grandfather’s funeral and around our visits before my grandmother’s death. It explains why my aunts and uncles on that side made occasional half-assed efforts to contact me and my brother but never talked much to my parents. Nobody ever talked about this, of course.


It also makes my father’s funeral into even more of a circus of absurdity than it already was. I need to write that story just so you can see the brand of crazy I came from. Because they are fucked up people.

I’m not sure how to process this. I still think forgiveness, at least of the type most people encourage, is bullshit that’s made as pre-packaged advice to get someone to shut the fuck up about their pain and get over it already. But since he died, I’ve sought to at least understand him better. I wanted to know what made him the way he was, and what he would have been like if he hadn’t been so patently fucked up. It adds another layer to think that organic brain injury may have had way more to do with his behavior than I had ever thought. It doesn’t excuse anything he did to us, his children, or my mother, his partner, or anybody else he manipulated or abused, but it explains a lot. And it is so, so sad.