Oh hey Camp NaNoWriMo is probably still kicking me in the butt while you’re reading this, even though it was last month. But at least I’m writing! And my friend running the sporking of Tiger’s Curse finished it. So go check it out here!

[Also I’m realizing that maybe I should have sporked the last chapter and this one together.]

So when we last saw Atticus and his vampire lawyer/friend Leif, they were being surrounded by cops after having killed the Fir Bolgs sent to attack him. Oberon is still invisible, in case you still care. The cops were pointing guns at them and had demanded that they freeze and put their hands in the air.

What does Atticus think of this tense situation?

How can one freeze and put their hands above their head at the same time? Do they teach cops to shout contradictory instructions at suspects at the academy for some sinister purpose? If I obeyed one cop, did the other cop get to shoot me for resisting arrest?

Ah yes, that’s how he deals with it—by not really caring that there are men pointing guns at him and snarking like a douchebag.

I get it, really—he’s fought monsters all his life, he’s an immortal Druid, so why should he care much about some cops? At the same time though, we can’t take this seriously if the main character does. So when a problem arises and Atticus doesn’t seem to care, we don’t either.

“Good evening, gentlemen,” Leif said smoothly. Neither of us raised our hands. “I am an attorney for Mr. O’Sullivan here.” All the cops looked at him standing there serenely in his suit and got real quiet.

See, this is played as “Ha! We got them there!” Like Leif being a lawyer is this trump card to stop the stupid cops from getting in Atticus’s way. And it sort of is, but it’s also really sketch? His neighbor calls the cops to report a disturbance, and when the police arrive there’s already a lawyer on site? You know what kind of guy stereotypically keeps his lawyer around all the time? Hint: it starts with ‘c’ and ends with ‘-rime lord.’ Atticus acknowledges that they probably think he’s guilty, but like with everything else, he doesn’t care.

I know that there’s a lot to talk about, especially these days in the US, when it comes to the police and how they act and how they use or abuse power. Let’s not delve into that here. But here’s the point: if the police tell you to do something, what you don’t do is act like a cocky twit and expect everything to be fine.

Leif says there’s no sword, and no disturbance, so they can all go home. One of the cops (who is named Benton) asks why Atticus has a lawyer there if nothing’s going on, and Leif insists that he’s Atticus friend as well as lawyer.

I am here because Mr. O’Sullivan is not only my client, he is my friend. We were simply standing here, enjoying the autumn evening and discussing baseball, when you drove up and pointed your weapons at us.

Yeah, ‘cause that doesn’t sound the least bit suspicious, does it?

At Benton’s request, they show their hands to display that they aren’t holding weapons or swords, so the cops put away their weapons. They obviously want to start poking around to get to the bottom of things, but Leif stops them, pointing out that they don’t have probable cause. Benton counters with the fact that they showed up because of a 911 call, which is probable cause.

“A crank call that clearly has no basis in fact.

Okay we all know Leif’s lying, duh. But really? The 911 call claiming that there was a sword fight going on outside in the neighbor’s yard was a crank call? That’s not really how crank calls tend to go, y’know. Especially not by an elderly man like Atticus’s neighbor, Mr. Semerdjian, who would know that it’s illegal and he could get in trouble for it? I know he’s got to cover his butt somehow, but Leif’s cover story is really, really bad.

We really shouldn’t care about this whole business. Hero doesn’t want to get tied down with the police and all, so he and his lawyer come up with some BS explanation to move attention away from the supernatural shenanigans. The Flash did something similar in its fourth season, and while I don’t think it was done well, it mostly worked and I sympathized with the characters.

[points to the book] Not so here. Because while we know that this was a case of people attacking and Atticus defending himself, the fact is that both Atticus and Leif are murderers. Leif kills people all the time, sometimes because they happen to have hammers and it reminds him of Thor. Atticus doesn’t blink when the supernatural beings around him straight-up say that they’re going to kill someone, and he’s killed people for funzies in the past (read: killing warriors on his own side when he got Fragarach, working for the Golden Horde).

So instead of us reading a scene in which our sympathetic morally-gray hero is covering up the truth because he has to, it reads as a scene in which two immortal murderers avoid justice yet again.

And also harass a senior citizen. See, Leif goes on to say that Mr. Semerdjian, the “elderly Lebanese gentleman across the street…has a long history of harassing my client over imagined trespasses.”

Benton doesn’t buy this, but he’s kind of stumped because there’s not really much he can do. It leads to this because good character writing isn’t something this book does well:

“Haven’t you got anything to say, mister?” he sneered at me. “Why did we get called out here?”

“Well,” I said, “I cannot say for certain, of course, but it might be because Mr. Semerdjian across the street there really doesn’t like me. You see, about three years ago my dog escaped and pooped on his lawn. I apologized and cleaned it up, but he’s never forgiven me.”

Yes, really. Atticus’s explanation for the reason Mr. Semerdjian supposedly called 911 to report that his neighbor was having a deadly sword fight in his yard was because he’s mad that Oberon pooped in his yard.

And! As Oberon points out in a telepathic conversation with Atticus right after this, Atticus actually ordered Oberon to do it! Meaning that if this really was the beginning of the feud with his neighbor, Atticus is the one who started it.

Hang on; if he’s lived here at least three years, then that means Atticus has been a man that has looked to be twenty-one years old for those three years. He’s claimed it too; when the old lady is told about his “feud” with Bres, she’s confused because she thinks he’s twenty-one. I know I’ve mentioned that we don’t know how long he’s been pretending to be twenty-one, but here we get confirmation. And obviously, that don’t add up.

The other option is that Atticus said he was he was eighteen when he moved in. Which is also really unlikely. How many eighteen-year-olds own nice houses in suburbs by themselves, while also owning a New Age shop?

Mr. Semerdjian has plenty of reasons to be suspicious of Atticus, but it’s all played as ‘Well he’s just a fuddie-duddie who hates everything fun.’

So Officer Benton grudgingly packs up and leaves, going across the street to Mr. Semerdjian to get a statement from him. Atticus asks Leif if there’s going to be a problem, but Leif assures the Druid that the neighbor’s still being mind-controlled, so it’s all good! The vampire asks how he’s planning on disposing of the bodies, and Atticus admits he doesn’t know yet. Leif offers to have it taken care of after they drag the bodies to Mitchell Park for another glass of blood.

“How would you take care of it?” I asked.

He shrugged. “I know some ghouls. I make a couple of calls, the guys come over for dinner, problem solved.

“They can put away nine whole giants? There’s that many ghouls in town?”

“Probably not,” Leif admitted. “But whatever they do no eat tonight, they’ll take the rest to go.”

I stared at him in disbelief. “You mean like a doggie bag?”

The vampire nodded with a thin trace of a smile. “They have a refrigerated truck, Atticus. These are practical guys. I employ them often, and so does Magnusson on occasion. It is a satisfactory arrangement for everyone.”

HO-LY POPE he’s got guys to dispose bodies on speed dial. We understand that, right? That Leif has killed a lot of people, and these ghouls just clean up the bodies after he drains them of blood? And that there have apparently been occasions where he’s killed enough people that the ghouls have had to take some to go? And we’ve been given no indication that he’s one of those friendly Dexter kinds of serial killers that targets vicious criminals, or one of those suave, cool assassins that populate thrillers. All we’ve been told is that Leif hates Thor so much he sometimes kills carpenters because they also use hammers and remind him of the Norse god of thunder. So Leif is a serial killer.

One of our main character’s best friends, and his lawyer, is a serial killer. And that’s just fine, apparently.

It is difficult to make a serial killer into a sympathetic character. Some writers have difficulty with that. One of the many issues I had with season one of American Gods was that we’re presented with Bilquis, a goddess of love who eats people while having sex with them. Well there’s more to it than that but we’re going to leave it there. In the book, she has a grand total of two scenes, and the man we see her do this to is a rich jerk who hired her as a prostitute. In the show, Bilquis has an entire subplot dedicated to her, and the first victim we see on screen is a lonely middle-aged man whose kids just convinced him to start dating again. And we see that she’s been using Tinder to get victims, and that she’s happy to seduce whoever happens to be sitting next to her on public transportation to get what she wants. Essentially, she’s a serial killer.

Except the show doesn’t play it like that. Despite having plenty of morally ambiguous or outright immoral characters, Bilquis is quite explicitly painted as being a victim herself. Not being as widely worshipped as she once was is because she’s a Strong Powerful Woman, and The Man can’t stand that! It has nothing to do with her eating people, no sir-ee! The Man was just JEALOUS!

Apparently no one in the development of this show stopped and thought that maybe a character who keeps eating innocent people might not be the best way to discuss institutional sexism?

Except Hounded doesn’t even make that much effort! Leif regularly kills people, and we’re not even given some stupid moral about why it’s okay! And now he’s got a bunch of corpse-eaters on speed dial.

There is a context in which you could make a sympathetic character who has the phone number of a body cleanup crew. John Wick comes to mind again. But this isn’t it. Because again, we haven’t been given sympathetic circumstances as to why Leif knows these guys. We’ve been given unsympathetic circumstances.

Oh and Mitchell Park, where they’re handing off the bodies?

It’s, uh, not exactly in the middle of nowhere. Sure, maybe the bodies are cloaked with magic, but they’re still loading heavy objects into a big truck. That’s going to raise some eyebrows. I know, this is fantasy and all, but when the earlier bits of the chapter are all about lecturing us about how “real” sword fights are done, then having this little inconsistency with the real world feels pretty blatant.

Leif says if he takes that deal he’ll take those three glasses of blood now because Atticus is marked for death. Which is fair, or at least as fair as a dishonorable, murderous, blood-sucking leach like Leif can be. Atticus doesn’t like the idea, and tries to wriggle out of it: one glass tonight, the other two tomorrow night? Leif points out that he has a healing factor so it shouldn’t be a problem, but Atticus says because he’s wounded right now he can’t quite do as much as he usually would. But if he’s so wounded, why isn’t he screaming in pain?

Because he’s blocked out his pain receptors, that’s why.

That’s… not a good thing, guys.

There’s this whole thing in Dresden Files (DANG IT I brought it up again) with the Winter Knight, the human warrior who serves the will of the queens of the Winter Court of Fae and there’s a lot going on with that in the books, but the main point I’m getting at is that they’re really strong and don’t really feel a lot of pain. And it’s hypothesized that they’re not actually supernaturally strong or resistant, they’ve just got their natural strength inhibitors and pain receptors turned off. Which sounds good for an expendable berserker warrior (which the Winter Knight is kind of meant to be), but in the long term it’s pretty terrible. Pain is good! Well, not good, but it’s an indicator that you’ve been hurt and that something’s going wrong with your body.

I get that Atticus did it as a temporary thing while he’s healing, but he’s two thousand years old, and he can’t deal with the pain while his arm is healing? Really? If I was on the hit list of a god, I’d want to keep all of my senses on as much as I could.

Leif is still skeptical about his chances, but Atticus reassures him, being all like, “Nah man, it’s good. I got warning about the Fir Bolgs and Bres, and I killed those guys, so I’m a BOSS at surviving.” And Leif’s all like, “Waitaminute whattaya mean Bres is dead? Bres, the former king of the Tuatha De Danann, Bres?”

Atticus feels stupid for having said that, but he admits that yes, he did it, and so now Leif insists on the three glasses of blood up front, because Brighid is going to smite him. And they act, for once, like this is a big deal! Unlike before, where the Morrigan and Atticus agree that if they just explain that Bres was stupid and terribly dressed, then Brighid won’t mind. No, Leif is sure that Atticus is dead meat, so he asks for the blood as soon as the cops clear out.

There’s a bit of a disconnect though? Like Leif acts like it’s a big deal, but no one else does? The guy who isn’t even Irish is the one who thinks this means bad things.

Here’s the last line of the chapter:

Whoa. He had ghouls on speed dial. My lawyer kicks so much ass.

No, he’s a serial killer. That’s not cool, man. Your lawyer is a serial killer with the means to cover up his murders; that’s disturbing! I get that in a story about a charming anti-hero this might be a fun addition, but Atticus isn’t a charming anti-hero. He’s a villain. No really, let’s systematically go through this:

-He stands by to let humans get killed by gods.
-He will happily kill people on his own side of a battle if it gets him what he wants (like a magic sword).
-Said magic sword that he knew was being used as an unstoppable weapon that caused chaos in Ireland, and he took it for himself.
-He associates with at least one serial killer.
-Are we counting the Morrigan? If not, it’s still incredibly sketch that he’s BFFs with the Irish god of violent death and warfare that goes and kills people for insulting her.
-His worries about killing are centered around being caught rather than actually doing something immoral or hurting people.
-He fought and killed with the Golden Horde for no discernible reason.
-He can kill faeries by touching them using a type of magic that distorts the very nature of magic itself.
-Frames his neighbor for harassing the police.
-Manipulates another neighbor into helping him cover up a death.

None of those are things a good guy does! And all together, they spell a pretty grim picture of Atticus. Which narratively wouldn’t be that bad—villain protagonists are a thing! And they’re certainly allowed! But this story isn’t being told as if Atticus is a villain protagonist—it’s acting as if he’s a pragmatic, charming and rough-around-the-edges anti-hero. Which he’s not. He’s just an evil bastard.

Join us next time, as Atticus and Oberon talk about Genghis Khan some more and lie to the police again.

[sigh]

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Comment

  1. The Smith of Lie on 6 May 2019, 12:27 said:

    I might do my usual quote mining coupled with attempts at witty quips later, but I just want to say this was painful. I can’t imagine how you manage to get through the whole chapters while I sit here and squirm at just a quick recount of the events.

    You know what I hate in stories? Well I hate protagonists who have no drive, goals or motivations. But I also hate it when the universe seems to bend over backwards just to accomodate the protagonist.

    It was already bad when the old Irish lady just made an about turn because “fuck the British” and switched from scared bystander into full-blown accompliece. But Police just showing up to get easily bamboozled and to buy every idiotic thing Leif and Atticus sell is seriously infuriating. Why even bother with having them if it ends up having no bearing on anything? Just the bits quoted show it’s not like there is even a risk of police doing anything to Atticus, the whole scene is just going through the motions while the reality bends to suit Atticus.

    If I ever picked up Iron Druid Chronicles, and I was close to doing so in the past, and managed to keep reading up till this chapter I am quite certain this is the part where I either give up or continue to “hate read” just to spite myself…

    I must also admit that for all we have learned about Atticus previously I am impressed by Hearne’s ability to make him more and more of a villain.

  2. Juracan on 7 May 2019, 19:55 said:

    I can’t imagine how you manage to get through the whole chapters while I sit here and squirm at just a quick recount of the events.

    It’s not too much fun, but it’s not that terrible. Like yeah, it’s a bad book, but while it’s cringe-worthy a lot of the time, it’s not anywhere near as bad as something like Angelopolis. This is more of the author writing a Mary Sue and not caring about consequences; at least it’s mostly consistent. The main character’s practically a supervillain, but at least he’s not a Nazi like the angelololologists are.

    I realize this falls under ‘Damning with Faint Praise’ but my point is this: I’ve seen worse. It’s not so bad.

    You know what I hate in stories? Well I hate protagonists who have no drive, goals or motivations.

    You would think it wouldn’t be that difficult to give Atticus an actual character arc! But that’s a bit much for this book apparently. With a few tweaks it could have been fixed, but for no reason that’s what we’re stuck with. And I think that’s one of the worst problems with this book. That being said…

    But I also hate it when the universe seems to bend over backwards just to accomodate the protagonist.

    This is what made the book really stick out to me as not good. Because Atticus is always in control. He’s never in any danger of harm or legal trouble—nothing ever goes wrong for him. And that makes a really boring story.

    I must also admit that for all we have learned about Atticus previously I am impressed by Hearne’s ability to make him more and more of a villain.

    I’m trying to think, but I think most of the villainy is done? At least for this book. We’ll get more as the series goes on, if I get to sporking those.

  3. Marvelous Essay on 15 May 2019, 07:20 said:

    Wow! This episode sounds very cool. I like the way you write and presenting your ideas and views. Every time after reading I have a good mood. Thanks! I will be waiting for the new episode with a passion.

  4. TMary on 20 September 2019, 01:10 said:

    So while I was reading this chapter, a question struck me, and even though I kinda know the answer now, I thought I might as well ask it because it’s good for discussion.

    What’s the plot of this book?

    No, really, what is it? We’ve got the set-up for the plot – Aengus Óg wants to kill Atticus for stealing Freagarthach and take the sword back – we keep being introduced to characters, we’ve got our MacGuffin, but for all that I don’t really feel like there’s a plot.

    And we’re in a third of the way through. We’re in Chapter 11. There really ought to be one by this point. Just out of curiosity, I found seven fantasy series I was familiar with, got the first book in each, and flipped to a third of the way through to see where the plot was at that point. And depending on the plot in question and how much world-building was required and so on, this varied a little from book to book. For example, The Hobbit is a straight quest story, pretty much, and so the plot is just “overcome a series of obstacles which become steadily more difficult on your way to your goal”, so it’s not really comparable to a book like Hounded.

    But still! A third of the way through, Bilbo has begun his adventure with the dwarves and Gandalf, they’ve gotten their magic map that will show them how to enter the Lonely Mountain, and Bilbo has the ring. This neatly proves that our homebody hobbit hero is braver and more resourceful than he gave himself credit for, and it sets up the focus of the main trilogy, in one fell swoop. No, its plot isn’t like Hounded. But there is a plot, and it is doing something.

    And that’s what, despite their differences, all these books have in common. No matter what else has happened by that first third, the world has been established, we know what the characters’ goals are, and most importantly, we have gone somewhere. We have clues to solve the mystery. We know who the villain is. We’ve found a means of escape. Something. The plot is moving forward, and it feels like it’s moving forward, and I’m fairly confident I know where it’s supposed to be going.

    Not here, though! Here, it’s like we’re stuck in some kind of time loop and we keep having the introductory chapter over and over and over again. Atticus is being attacked by bad guys! But he kills them all! Now we have to have a lot of exposition about why they were attacking him, plus lots of other random nonsense we don’t care about! Now Atticus is being attacked by bad guys again! But he kills them all, again! And now we need to have another long talk about why they did that…you all know, I don’t have to tell you.

    By now I know this book is supposed to have a plot, but does it ever get rolling? Or is it just the introductory chapters being repeated forever until whoever’s reading it gives up in despair?

    Anyhoo.

    So when a problem arises and Atticus doesn’t seem to care, we don’t either.

    Which would be fine, if there were other problems that he did care about for more than five minutes. But there aren’t.

    Neither of us raised our hands.

    Seems like a stupid thing to not do, really.

    His neighbor calls the cops to report a disturbance, and when the police arrive there’s already a lawyer on site?

    Maybe this is a stupid question, but is there any way to, like…prove that you actually are a lawyer and not just somebody’s buddy bluffing your way out of it? Or do the cops just have to take your word for it until they can look you up?

    I know that there’s a lot to talk about, especially these days in the US, when it comes to the police and how they act and how they use or abuse power. Let’s not delve into that here. But here’s the point: if the police tell you to do something, what you don’t do is act like a cocky twit and expect everything to be fine.

    This is particularly bad to me here because Atticus doesn’t sound like he cares about the issue of police violence. He just wants to snark, because he thinks it sounds clever and he enjoys sticking it to those stupid cops who can’t do anything to him. Which A: makes him look like a big stupid jerk, and B: is not the way you handle sensitive subjects like this.

    I am here because Mr. O’Sullivan is not only my client, he is my friend. We were simply standing here, enjoying the autumn evening and discussing baseball, when you drove up and pointed your weapons at us.

    OK, I’m not a law-expert, but isn’t this…a tad bit unethical? Having the guy who’s supposed to represent you in court as one of your bestest buddies? I guess it’s better than being friends with the judge, or a jury member or two, but still.

    I know he’s got to cover his butt somehow, but Leif’s cover story is really, really bad.

    So, the mind-controlling thing that Leif did to Mr. Semerdjian earlier to convince him that he didn’t see anything…why doesn’t he just do that to the cops? No, I wouldn’t like it and I would find it just as creepy as I always have, but wouldn’t it make more sense than trying to come up with a cover story?

    And also harass a senior citizen. See, Leif goes on to say that Mr. Semerdjian, the “elderly Lebanese gentleman across the street…

    Does it…matter that he’s Lebanese? Why are you bringing it up, Leif?

    You know, I feel really bad for Mr. Semerdjian. And I’ve had neighbors who freak out if your dog so much as sniffs their lawn, so I know they can be a pain. But even my offended twelve-year-old self never thought that those neighbors deserved to be mind-wiped into forgetting a crime and then have the police sicced on them over false claims of a crank call! That’s taking it a bit far! And – did Leif force Mr. Semerdjian to believe that he did make a crank call, or did he just erase his memory of the entire event? Because I’m not really sure which one’s worse, to be honest!

    How many eighteen-year-olds own nice houses in suburbs by themselves, while also owning a New Age shop?

    Where is this jerk getting all his money from? Because I refuse to believe it’s from the shop alone. That can’t be a huge money-making business; it can’t support itself and Atticus’s suburban home and Atticus and his giant dog, who both eat like elephants.

    Atticus asks Leif if there’s going to be a problem, but Leif assures the Druid that the neighbor’s still being mind-controlled, so it’s all good!

    Oh goody. We’ll just force the elderly man to confess to a crime he never committed because we don’t like him and he makes a convenient target. Look, I know Atticus has more beef with Mr. Semerdjian than just him freaking out over dog poop on his lawn, and in the right hands I might find his grievances sympathetic, but if you resort to framing someone in order to get revenge, you are no longer the good guy. Not unless they’re literally a serial killer, but you can’t prove it, so the only way to get them put away is to make something up, but even then, it shouldn’t be a casual thing. It should have a sense of desperate measures about it.

    That’s the problem with all of Atticus’s unheroic actions in this book. If I ever got a sense from him that he was doing immoral things because he had exhausted every other option, then I would be more lenient, but he hasn’t! He just immediately goes for immoral because it’s easiest! Heck, he likes it; in Chapter Eight he said he wanted to lie.

    And don’t think Leif gets off the hook either. Am I supposed to find it charming that our protagonist has a vampire he can sic on whoever displeases him today, a vampire who is only too willing to feed on and control whoever his employer tells him to? Because I don’t, I find it horrifying, and I think these two would not be out of place as the villains of a much better book.

    “They have a refrigerated truck, Atticus. These are practical guys. I employ them often, and so does Magnusson on occasion. It is a satisfactory arrangement for everyone.”

    Ho-kay, just decided that these two are absolutely the villains of this book. Ignoring the fact that every one of those lines could be spoken by a Bond villain without sounding at all incongruous…well, I can’t actually think of anything to say, you said it all for me and very well, so all I can say is AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH hides in the closet, gibbering

    One of our main character’s best friends, and his lawyer, is a serial killer. And that’s just fine, apparently.

    Yeah, wait, hold up, can we discuss that point? Because I think it needs discussing. Bad enough that Leif is a serial killer with a body disposal team on speed-dial. Bad enough that our protagonist hangs out with him despite this and we’re supposed to like it. This is the man/vampire/whatever who is supposed to defend Atticus in court, and with a track record like that, does anybody think he’s going to do that by any sort of honest means? Heck, what’s stopping him from just mind-controlling the judge and jury into letting Atticus walk?

    …I think I just scared myself again. Yeesh, this world-building has more Fridge Horror than Twilight did.

    (I do admit, however, that this:

    HO-LY POPE

    made me giggle a lot more than was probably necessary XD)

    In the show, Bilquis has an entire subplot dedicated to her, and the first victim we see on screen is a lonely middle-aged man whose kids just convinced him to start dating again.

    This…this really made me sad. Like, I just feel so bad for the dude. Excuse me, I – I need to go…watch My Neighbor Totoro, or some cute puppy videos, or something. That’s horrible. The poor man.

    AND THEN IT GOT WORSE.

    Bilquis is quite explicitly painted as being a victim herself. Not being as widely worshipped as she once was is because she’s a Strong Powerful Woman, and The Man can’t stand that!

    I can’t, I can’t any more, nothing makes sense, the whole world’s gone mad, my brain is melting, I’m off to watch Totoro, good-bye.

    WHY WOULD YOU HAVE A CHARACTER DO SOMETHING LIKE THAT AND THEN TRY TO MAKE THEM SYMPATHETIC?!

    I know, this is fantasy and all, but when the earlier bits of the chapter are all about lecturing us about how “real” sword fights are done, then having this little inconsistency with the real world feels pretty blatant.

    I hate the “It’s fantasy! It doesn’t have to make sense!” argument. I know you weren’t really making it, and even the book isn’t really making it, but I just hate it so much, because all it is is an excuse for authors to be lazy, and it even fails at that. It doesn’t work if you’re using it to defend inconsistencies in the magic system, because magic has to be consistent or the plot makes no sense, and it doesn’t work as a defense for why things aren’t working the way they do in the real world, because that’s not how suspension of disbelief works. In order to suspend my disbelief, I have to be explicitly told what it is I’m supposed to be believing for this story. An alien was sent to Earth from an exploding planet as a baby and when he passed by our sun, the effect of the light gave him superpowers? Fine, I’ll buy it. But if said alien then went flying around all over the city and everyone just went, “Huh, a flying man. Neat,” I wouldn’t believe the story any more! In order for me to believe that this is happening in our world, it has to behave like our world.

    So that’s why this doesn’t work. I’ll buy the immortal druid with magic powers. I’ll buy the ghoul body disposal team. I refuse to buy that a group of men could load large covered objects into a van in the middle of a populated area and not have anybody look out the window. Especially if they do it at night.

    Also, this:

    when the earlier bits of the chapter are all about lecturing us about how “real” sword fights are done, then having this little inconsistency with the real world feels pretty blatant.

    Yeah.

    But if he’s so wounded, why isn’t he screaming in pain?

    Because his injuries don’t really sound like screaming ones, to me. Groaning, yes, screaming, no.

    Because he’s blocked out his pain receptors, that’s why.

    I know I’ve asked this before, but how is this form of magic “binding”, again?

    There’s this whole thing in Dresden Files (DANG IT I brought it up again)

    If you like, I could bring up the way I used this kind of idea in one of my own stories. Just, y’know, for comparison.

    But yeah, I agree with all your points. And – has he got all his pain receptors turned off? Because what if he, I dunno, steps on a piece of glass while he’s walking around barefoot? He would never know!

    I get that Atticus did it as a temporary thing while he’s healing, but he’s two thousand years old, and he can’t deal with the pain while his arm is healing? Really? If I was on the hit list of a god, I’d want to keep all of my senses on as much as I could.

    Not only that – I’m supposed to buy Atticus as a tough guy who’s seen everything and is used to battles and injury if he can’t deal with a few hours of pain, max? I mean, I’m a gigantic wuss about pain myself, but I also never rode with Genghis bliddy Khan, who I doubt had much time or respect for anyone who couldn’t take a few – hang on – “torn abdominal muscles, deeply bruised left shoulders, and out-of-place vertebrae”. I know, pain is unpleasant, and nobody likes feeling it, but if not feeling it is a worse idea, then an ancient warrior should tough it out.

    Wait a minute. Mate, if your vertebrae are out of place, then LIE THE FRACK DOWN. What are you trying to do to yourself?

    Atticus reassures him, being all like, “Nah man, it’s good. I got warning about the Fir Bolgs and Bres, and I killed those guys, so I’m a BOSS at surviving.”

    Yeah, but that was before you got yourself badly injured and then blocked out your pain receptors, you utter numpty!

    The guy who isn’t even Irish is the one who thinks this means bad things.

    Well, knowing the portrayal of the gods in this book, this sadly makes sense. Leif being unfamiliar with them, he still thinks of them as threats. We, of course, know better.

    Whoa. He had ghouls on speed dial. My lawyer kicks so much ass.

    You really are mentally around thirteen years old, aren’t you, Atticus?

    Also, I would like to remind you all that in Chapter Seven, Atticus said this:

    But we don’t shoot balls of fire out of our hands, or fly upon brooms, or make people’s heads explode. That sort of magic is only possible through a radically different view of the world – and by binding one’s spirit to extremely unsavory beings.

    So, I ask you, if a vampire who kills carpenters for no reason and his ghoul body disposal team are not extremely unsavory beings, what are?! It’s really bad because…OK, my knowledge of monsters is kinda lacking, but aren’t ghouls just monsters? In other words, they’re not like vampires, which used to be humans, so you can have them angst about fighting against their blood-drinking nature. Ghouls just always were beings that feed on dead flesh. I mean, you can have sympathetic or at least harmless ghouls in fiction – I can think of two I’ve read off the top of my head – but the point is that they’re monsters. And they don’t seem ever so very harmless here.

    Also, applause for the ending rant!

  5. Juracan on 25 September 2019, 07:53 said:

    So while I was reading this chapter, a question struck me, and even though I kinda know the answer now, I thought I might as well ask it because it’s good for discussion.

    What’s the plot of this book?

    No, really, what is it? We’ve got the set-up for the plot – Aengus Óg wants to kill Atticus for stealing Freagarthach and take the sword back – we keep being introduced to characters, we’ve got our MacGuffin, but for all that I don’t really feel like there’s a plot.

    I was going to answer the question with “The Plot is Aenghus Og wants to steal back Fragarach and kill Atticus, but as you point out, that’s really more set-up for the Plot rather than actual Plot itself. I don’t know how else to answer this though? It’s just a series of incidents/fights/conflicts that are all tied back to that? If this was a television show, it’d be more excusable, as it would be a bunch of episodes connecting to an overall arc, but this isn’t a show so it’s just… Atticus farting around while he waits for Aenghus to come steal his sword. I guess.

    By now I know this book is supposed to have a plot, but does it ever get rolling? Or is it just the introductory chapters being repeated forever until whoever’s reading it gives up in despair?

    I mean, there’s an end, if that’s what you mean…?

    I think your points also tie into my earlier one on how this feels like the opposite of a Hero’s Journey. Atticus doesn’t go anywhere, he doesn’t try to become wiser or more powerful—he’s already got everything he needs, so the way that the story trudges along just feels… stale. It’s not even that he’s trying to solve a mystery. Atticus is just rolling with the punches as they come.

    Maybe this is a stupid question, but is there any way to, like…prove that you actually are a lawyer and not just somebody’s buddy bluffing your way out of it? Or do the cops just have to take your word for it until they can look you up?

    That’s a good question. I think that it’s probably very difficult to just claim you’re a lawyer, especially since these cops are going to continue to pursue a case against Atticus and so this guy will probably come up again in a legal capacity. They might go and check to make sure this guy’s legit once they head back to headquarters though.

    OK, I’m not a law-expert, but isn’t this…a tad bit unethical? Having the guy who’s supposed to represent you in court as one of your bestest buddies? I guess it’s better than being friends with the judge, or a jury member or two, but still.

    Be friends with your lawyer? Probably not too bad. Being BFFs? Eh… that’s probably not a good sign. It definitely sets off red flags to the cops, that you have your lawyer on hand all the time.

    So, the mind-controlling thing that Leif did to Mr. Semerdjian earlier to convince him that he didn’t see anything…why doesn’t he just do that to the cops? No, I wouldn’t like it and I would find it just as creepy as I always have, but wouldn’t it make more sense than trying to come up with a cover story?

    If I had to guess, it’s probably because it’s more difficult to whammy that many people at once, and going one at a time would take too much effort.

    Does it…matter that he’s Lebanese? Why are you bringing it up, Leif?

    [shrugs] I dunno.

    And – did Leif force Mr. Semerdjian to believe that he did make a crank call, or did he just erase his memory of the entire event? Because I’m not really sure which one’s worse, to be honest!

    Erased his memory. Still pretty dickish.

    Where is this jerk getting all his money from? Because I refuse to believe it’s from the shop alone. That can’t be a huge money-making business; it can’t support itself and Atticus’s suburban home and Atticus and his giant dog, who both eat like elephants.

    [shrugs] I dunno. But I imagine Hearne could handwave it with something like “Over the centuries he’s picked up a fortune.”

    That’s the problem with all of Atticus’s unheroic actions in this book. If I ever got a sense from him that he was doing immoral things because he had exhausted every other option, then I would be more lenient, but he hasn’t!

    Well yeah. We can’t have Atticus expend too much effort, can we? Then we’d have to actually care about what he’s doing in this book.

    And don’t think Leif gets off the hook either. Am I supposed to find it charming that our protagonist has a vampire he can sic on whoever displeases him today, a vampire who is only too willing to feed on and control whoever his employer tells him to? Because I don’t, I find it horrifying, and I think these two would not be out of place as the villains of a much better book.

    Leif’s presence in the book feels like Hearne just didn’t think about how villainous his relationship with Atticus comes across as. He’s a serial killing vampire who sucks his client’s blood and has a cleanup crew? And yet he’s one of the “good guys” because he helps our protagonist and also he hates Thor, I guess.

    This is the man/vampire/whatever who is supposed to defend Atticus in court, and with a track record like that, does anybody think he’s going to do that by any sort of honest means? Heck, what’s stopping him from just mind-controlling the judge and jury into letting Atticus walk?

    Absolutely nothing.

    WHY WOULD YOU HAVE A CHARACTER DO SOMETHING LIKE THAT AND THEN TRY TO MAKE THEM SYMPATHETIC?!

    Because she’s a woman being put down by the MAN, and that makes her the victim! Like, I tried pointing this out on Tumblr, and the fanbase’s reaction was “You just hate her because she’s a black woman! You don’t show this kind of criticism for the other characters!” Which, uh, A) the show already depicts the other characters in a morally ambiguous light, it’s just her that’s sainted, B) I never said the other characters weren’t guilt-free either, and C) SHE’S A SERIAL KILLER, that’s not a victim of the system, that’s a murderer!

    I know I’ve asked this before, but how is this form of magic “binding”, again?

    [shrugs] I dunno.

    If you like, I could bring up the way I used this kind of idea in one of my own stories. Just, y’know, for comparison.

    Go ahead.

    So, I ask you, if a vampire who kills carpenters for no reason and his ghoul body disposal team are not extremely unsavory beings, what are?! It’s really bad because…OK, my knowledge of monsters is kinda lacking, but aren’t ghouls just monsters? In other words, they’re not like vampires, which used to be humans, so you can have them angst about fighting against their blood-drinking nature. Ghouls just always were beings that feed on dead flesh. I mean, you can have sympathetic or at least harmless ghouls in fiction – I can think of two I’ve read off the top of my head – but the point is that they’re monsters. And they don’t seem ever so very harmless here.

    That’s a great point, and another thing pointing to Atticus’s hypocrisy! Hooray!

  6. TMary on 26 September 2019, 22:37 said:

    I was going to answer the question with “The Plot is Aenghus Og wants to steal back Fragarach and kill Atticus, but as you point out, that’s really more set-up for the Plot rather than actual Plot itself. I don’t know how else to answer this though? It’s just a series of incidents/fights/conflicts that are all tied back to that? If this was a television show, it’d be more excusable, as it would be a bunch of episodes connecting to an overall arc, but this isn’t a show so it’s just… Atticus farting around while he waits for Aenghus to come steal his sword. I guess.

    In fairness, having read Chapter Fourteen now, I did interpret “Brighid wants Atticus to join with her and stop Aengus from taking over the Tuatha Dé”, as The Plot, but A: It took till Chapter Fourteen for that to show up, and B: He’s still not doing anything! But I almost can’t blame him, because she didn’t really give him anything to do, so like you said, it’s just a series of incidents that are all tied back to “Aengus wants the sword”!

    The point about its possibly working better as a TV show is interesting, though, and I think it’s a good one. Sometimes you see this in bad works of fiction, where it seems like, instead of studying the craft of the art form they’re going for, they spent a little too much time learning the craft of some other art form, and thus we get books that feel like TV shows, or plays, or video games.

    I mean, there’s an end, if that’s what you mean…?

    Well, at least it ends. I was starting to suspect it of being cursed, or something.

    I think your points also tie into my earlier one on how this feels like the opposite of a Hero’s Journey. Atticus doesn’t go anywhere, he doesn’t try to become wiser or more powerful—he’s already got everything he needs, so the way that the story trudges along just feels… stale. It’s not even that he’s trying to solve a mystery. Atticus is just rolling with the punches as they come.

    Yes to all of this. This is why a hero needs to want something, and preferably also to need something; otherwise it’s not a story, it’s a day-in-the-life documentary.

    That’s a good question. I think that it’s probably very difficult to just claim you’re a lawyer, especially since these cops are going to continue to pursue a case against Atticus and so this guy will probably come up again in a legal capacity. They might go and check to make sure this guy’s legit once they head back to headquarters though.

    That would all make sense. And without a working knowledge of law, you’re not going to be able to fake being a lawyer for very long anyway.

    Be friends with your lawyer? Probably not too bad. Being BFFs? Eh… that’s probably not a good sign.

    That’s what I was thinking.

    If I had to guess, it’s probably because it’s more difficult to whammy that many people at once, and going one at a time would take too much effort.

    That’s fair, I just wish Hearne would explicitly lay down limitations for powers, instead of making the readers do all the work.

    Erased his memory. Still pretty dickish.

    Yeah, like I said, I was having a hard time figuring out which one was worse. I think they might both be equally terrible, but in different ways.

    [shrugs] I dunno. But I imagine Hearne could handwave it with something like “Over the centuries he’s picked up a fortune.”

    He could try, but honestly that just raises more questions than it answers. The main one being, “The story of how Atticus got here sounds way more interesting than the one we’ve got now, why couldn’t that have been the series?”

    Well yeah. We can’t have Atticus expend too much effort, can we? Then we’d have to actually care about what he’s doing in this book.

    Ah yes, of course, how could I have forgotten?

    Absolutely nothing.

    Because she’s a woman being put down by the MAN, and that makes her the victim!

    Ah, that. Look, I’m all in favor of women getting respect and equal treatment, but I gotta say, I draw the line at “Women are now permitted to kill and eat men they seduce, because they’re sticking it to The Man!”

    Go ahead.

    So my idea was to have psychic characters who are able to block your brain’s receiving pain signals – you’re still technically in agonizing pain, your brain just doesn’t know anything about it. But then I quickly realized that, for the reasons we’ve discussed, it would be a really terrible idea to let anybody move around while they were pain-blocked, so what I decided on was they use this only when you are actually able to lie down and not move at all. If everybody needs to be able to move, sorry, you’re going to have to deal with the pain, and if they’re trying to do something medically for an animal, they usually knock them out for a little while instead, because animals aren’t really capable of understanding, “You’re hurt but you’re not in pain, so hold real, real still or you’ll hurt yourself worse.”

    That was just my way of dealing with it; it might not be terribly interesting, but I at least think it’s sensible?

    That’s a great point, and another thing pointing to Atticus’s hypocrisy! Hooray!

    I do what I can.