Just as a reminder: I have a Tumblr friend doing a sporking of the Tiger’s Curse series that you can find here.

I had every intention of making this update sooner, but I had to take a break from Hearne, guys. After Hearne published an actual serious fantasy novel, I saw that he had teamed up with another author (Delilah S. Dawson) to make a parody fantasy series, and I thought to myself, “Hey, maybe Hearne’s actually gotten better! Maybe he’s become an okay author! I’ll check out this parody fantasy book he co-authored.” So I picked up Kill the Farm Boy!

It’s, uh… it’s not good.

To be fair, it reads a little better than Hounded by virtue of the protagonists not being Atticus, but overall it’s still the same crude stupid humor but dialed up to eleven, the authors keep vomitting jokes until they lose any semblance of being funny, and once again the characters wandered aimlessly without a real Plot to sustain them. What retroactively made it a bizarre novel was that in the Acknowledgements at the end of the book, the authors claimed that the point of the novel was to write a book that subverted the white male power fantasy that pervades genre fiction.

Yes, the man who wrote The Iron Druid Chronicles, a series about a white man who so much more handsome, powerful and clever than anyone else because the book tells us so, who gets everything he wants handed to him on a platter, who regularly makes out with goddesses, yeah, the author who wrote that… says he has a problem with white male power fantasy in the genre fiction.

[makes muffled angry noises into a pillow]

There’s a dissertation about the hypocrisy here floating around in my brain somewhere, but it probably can’t be written because I can’t seem to finish a serious project for the life of me.

What were we talking about here again?

“Bring it, muthafuckas. Bring it.”

Oh. Right.

The previous chapter has Atticus declare he’s going to take a more active role in the Plot, in order to avoid getting sucker punched by Aenghus Og’s plans when he’s not looking. Which sounds promising, as he should have been doing this since the first chapter. But what does he do after making this declaration that he’s finally going to care about the Plot?

If you guessed ‘Not care about the Plot,’ then congratulations, you go get yourself a cookie.

I awoke in the morning remarkably refreshed but with urgent pressure on my bladder. After relieving myself on the oak tree—out of sight of the few people strolling through the park—I took a deep breath, and it felt remarkably good.

Look at that Plot picking up pace, and that protagonist who decides to take things into his hands, stepping into the action and, uh… [checks card] peeing on a tree in a public park?

Yeah, no. That whole business at the end of the last chapter about actually giving a shirt about the Plot? That’s a lie. Atticus went to sleep in the park, and this chapter he goes home, visits his neighbor and sits and catches her up on everything that’s happened, and then goes to the Irish bar in town to talk to his lawyer. And then he gets a conversation with the bartender about what her deal is. The next two chapters after this one deal with that.

That hardly sounds like the Plot is picking up, does it?

The earth was so good to me, so giving and so kind.

Ah, no Atticus. That’s not the planet being so kind to you, that’s the author.

Shouldn’t that be a capital ‘E’ on Earth? Since he’s referring to it as an entity of a sort?

Right so he wakes up at 10 AM, and deciding that it’s time enough to meet his lawyer for lunch at the Irish bar. He checks his phone’s messages, and he’s got ones from just about every other male character:

-Hal to complain about how Oberon won’t stop eating, and also killed the air freshner in his car.

-Snorri to thank Atticus for giving him tons of money for being a corrupt douchebag.

-The cops for more questioning. Atticus ignores those messages.

-Perry to let Atticus know that the shop door had been replaced (in less than a day???) and that Malina had come by and told him the contract for that impotence potion with Emilya is considered fulfilled and he doesn’t have to make more.

Malina also asked Perry to find “a letter from Radomila” in the shop, which Atticus takes to mean the blood sample of Radomila’s that he has on a piece of paper. Perry doesn’t find it, because while Atticus is stupid, he’s not so stupid that he leaves that lying around his shop. He does begin to wonder if the cops picked it up when they rifled through his house, as it’s not like the lawyer present would have known what it was. Still, instead of checking on that ASAP, Atticus decides it’s “Better to save such questions for Hal at Rula Bula,” again proving that he’s a bloody moron.

Reminder, in case you forgot: Atticus and Radomila did favors for each other (Atticus got her an amulet from a shipwreck, and she did a cloaking spell on the magic sword), and in exchange they gave each other blood samples as insurance to make sure they never turned on each other. Blood samples can be used for some dangerous blood magic and do all kinds of nasty stuff to each other. And now he thinks that Radomila turned against him, and maybe, just maybe she got that sample back so that he couldn’t use the greatest weapon against her. And instead of going to his house, making sure that the blood sample is exactly where it’s supposed to be, he’s like, “Meh, I’ll just wait until lunch to ask my lawyer, who may or may not have noticed it being taken in the first place.”

Isn’t Atticus so paranoid, guys?

What makes this worse is that not only does he not go to his own house, he goes to the Leprechaun’s house. He says it’s because he assumes that his house and shop are being watched, but somehow Atticus doesn’t think that taking a taxi to, say, his next door neighbor’s house or his favorite bar that he regularly visits would raise any flags with the cops or the forces of evil.

“Ah, Atticus, me lad!” The widow smiled a cheery greeting and raised her morning glass of whiskey at me from the porch. “What happened to yer bicycle that yer drivin’ up to me door in a taxi?”

At this point I’m quoting her dialogue in these sporkings because this book makes me spiteful of the fact I’m still breathing and I take it out on all of you.

So Atticus, the “paranoid” individual he is, suspicious that his house might be watched by his enemies, sits on the front porch of his next door neighbor and tells her about his misadventures the previous day.

This conversation—

I’ll be gettin’ meself a refill if y’wouldn’t mind sittin’ fer a spell.”

[deep breath]

Okay, sorry, the Accent just makes me mad. So Atticus—

“Ye’ll be takin’ a glass with me, won’t ye? ‘Tisn’t Sunday anymore, and I can’t imagine ye objectin’ to a cold handful of Tullamore Dew.”

[another deep breath]

Yes, right, after all of this, the Irish Accent and Atticus talk about—

“Yer a fine lad, Atticus, drinkin’ whiskey with a widow on a Monday.”

STOP IT! STOP IT THIS INSTANT, HEARNE! STOP FEEDING ME DOG**** AND TELLING ME TO LIKE IT! THIS IS JUST A STUPID CARICATURE OF A CARICATURE AND I HATE IT! I HATE THE LEPRECHAUN AND I HATE HER ACCENT AND I HATE THIS STUPID BOOK!

[ahem]

But like… you guys see this, right? I’m not exaggerating when I tell you about this stupid accent! Nobody talks like this! The Lucky Charms mascot would be offended by this accent! It’s so bafflingly stupid, I can’t imagine how this got past the first draft of this book!

I really did enjoy her company. And I knew too well the loneliness that clamps around one’s heart when loved ones have passed on before. To have that companionship, the comfort of someone being at home for you for years, and then suddenly not to have it anymore—well, every day can seem darker after that, and the vise clutches tighter in your chest every night you spend in a lonely bed. Unless you find someone to spend some time with (and that time is sunlight, golden minutes when you forget you’re alone), that vise will eventually crush your heart. My deal with the Morrigan aside, it’s other people who have kept me alive so long—and I include Oberon in that. Other people in my life right now, who help me forget all the other people I have buried or lost: They are truly magic for me.

What is this?

No, seriously, Hearne, what is this? What is this nonsense? I know that stories about immortals often have this motif of the immortal in question lamenting the people they’ve outlived. But we are eighteen chapters into this book, and only now is this being brought up. It’s not quite as bad as that time when Atticus mentions that his father was abusive, because that was wrapped up in a joke about how he cries every time he watches Field of Dreams. But this isn’t great, because it’s a monologue right the fudge out of nowhere about how sad he is about loved ones who have died in the past.

Here’s the thing though: we don’t care.

Look, this very easily could have been a good character moment for Atticus, but it’s all too little, too late. We’re told he’s the last Druid on the planet, and yet at no point does this fact make him feel especially lonely or sad or any emotion at all. We’ve gotten no indication that he’s particularly lonesome. Look, I don’t know if Atticus really has any friends other than the Leprechaun and Oberon. Hal and Leif, and the wolf pack, I suppose, but they’re also his lawyers, and Leif is addicted to his blood, so I don’t know if that really counts. The witches are the closest thing he has to people who have any idea what it’s like to be him, being older-than-normal magic users, but he holds them in contempt because their magic is not as cool as his, and also without their glamours they’re old and ugly and Atticus has no interest in associating with a woman who isn’t hawt.

Furthermore, it’s not like Atticus is a great guy to begin with! I made a list at the end of Chapter 11 of all the dickish things he did, remember? No? Well here it is again!

-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.

And since then we can add ‘is stealing money from the city’ to that list if we want!

We’ve said time and again that Atticus is not, nor has he ever been a hero. But I want to hammer home this point: not only is he not a hero, he’s an absolute garbage human being. He’s done absolutely nothing to deserve sympathy. And yet here’s an entire word-vomit of Atticus telling the audience, with no prior buildup, foreshadowing or precedent, “Sometimes I get sad because I outlived loved ones hundreds of years ago.”

No, I don’t think you do, Atticus. In a competently-written novel, I’d say it might be the protagonist is trying to avoid talking about his or her pain, and it’s only surfaced at a vulnerable moment. But this isn’t a competently-written novel. This is a white male power fantasy dressed up like an urban fantasy novel, where the protagonist wanders through his daily routine while information gets handed to him, the villains don’t bother to inconvenience him by acting remotely intelligent, and he’s just so powerful and strong and sexy and well-connected that nothing ever gets him down.

So even if I believed this for an instant, that this was a legitimate character moment for Atticus, and that we’re meant to honestly believe that he feels bad about outliving loved ones, I cannot find it in myself to care. Atticus, you are filth. Go die in whatever way seems best to you.

Atticus spends the next hour or so talking to the Accent what happened yesterday. He says he’s telling her “enough of the truth to entertain her yet keep her safe” but I have no idea what that would look like. Because now I imagine she believes that the City of Tempe hires cops who might snap and go homicidal for no reason. I also have no idea how he explains healing from getting shot so fast, and it’s glossed over so we’ll never really know. This sequence is also entirely pointless because he just leaves and goes to that Irish bar shortly afterward.

Oh, and remember that the magic sword is now uncloaked? I’d forgotten, but Atticus reminds us that it’s just strapped to his back and people are giving him funny looks as he walks into the bar. Again, he didn’t go to his house or shop because he’s worried about being watched, but the attention he receives by walking around town with a sword is no big deal.

Look guys, my brother and his friends got the cops called on them for carrying paintball guns in our neighborhood. I think Atticus would get in trouble. But none of that’s important because the hawt barmaid was there. There’s a description of how hawt she is, of course, as if we need another set of sentences telling us how gorgeous this woman flirting with Atticus is.

Granuaile (hey come up with nickname for this character and I’ll use it) tells Atticus that she read in the papers that he got shot. Atticus, instead of downplaying this, or changing the topic, admits that he got shot but that he can “just heal fast.” Look, if you’re not going to tell your neighbor who witnessed you killing a god about the supernatural, why are you going to tell the bartender that you can heal like Wolverine? I know he’s probably trying to play it off as more like he just heals faster rather than something supernatural, but the man was shot through the chest and the very next day he’s walking around like nothing happened.

And then this happens:

Granuaile’s expression abruptly changed. Her eyes narrowed and she tilted her head to the side as she placed a bar napkin in front of me, and her voice became throatier as she spoke with a newfound accent: “Druids usually do.” With only three words to work with, all I could do was hazard a guess that the accent was from somewhere on the Indian subcontinent. Then, without much of a pause, the old Granuaile—the perky and beguiling barmaid—was back. “What’ll it be? A Smithwick’s?”

Yup, apparently Granuaile just gets possessed for a bit and says something in a voice that’s completely different from her own. Atticus is just like “Oh hey, that’s weird, how’d you do that?” And to be fair, he has been around the block a while, so it’s not out there that he’s not thrown by this, but still… it’s hard to take this seriously when Atticus isn’t that surprised by the bartender being possessed.

Granuaile has no memory of saying the thing, and so when Atticus asks her about it, she works out what happened and that a mysterious individual talked to him through her, and that she’s wanted to talk to him for weeks now. Atticus wants to know more, but Granuaile says it’s a long story, so Atticus agrees to wait until after he meets his lawyer.

Hal and Oberon enter the bar, and he goes to hang out with them, and especially to hang out with Oberon who missed him. If I cared about them I’d find that touching. But I don’t!

Hal advises Atticus to start wearing a bandage on his chest to at least be able to fake having been shot and with serious injury. Then it glosses over their discussion, but it’s about suing the police department and how they have “the most airtight case possible” (despite Atticus not appearing injured in the slightest) to rob the city out of millions of dollars.

Atticus instructs to Hal that after he’s paid and Snorri’s paid, the rest of the money should go to Fagles’s family in an anonymous donation. This surprises Hal, who calls it noble, but Atticus insists that it’s not nobility at all, he just doesn’t want to have any profit from Aenghus’s machinations. Which he, uh, could have done if he just didn’t try suing the police department. It feels like a tacked-on attempt to make it so that Atticus is a nice guy deep down, but again, this contradicts everything we’ve been told about him. It’s like the editors told Hearne how much of a dickbag Atticus was, so in response he hastily inserted all the moments that sounded remotely sympathetic into this chapter.

The conversation continues with Atticus saying he’s got some new information on the bartender, and Hal responds with “The redhead who smells like two people?” Atticus is surprised, because Hal never told him this before, but Hal’s reply is basically “You never asked.” Which… he did. Hal’s description of the conversation is “you asked me if she smelled like a goddess…a demon, a lycanthrope, or some other kind of therianthrope…You were too smitten at the time to ask me what she actually smelled like.” Which, okay, he didn’t specifically ask you what she smelled like, but that was clearly something he wanted to know, and an ongoing topic of discussion between you, and you’re supposedly friends, so you just didn’t tell him because… Plot, I guess.

So Atticus tells Hal to take Oberon to the Leprechaun’s house while he will go talk to the bartender. We get another reminder slew of how hawt she is before she tells him that she’s possessed by an Indian witch named Laksha Kulasekaran. And that’s where we end Chapter 18. I imagine this is meant to be a “GASP! PLOT TWIST!” moment, but considering that A) this has nothing to do with the Plot of this book, and B) witches aren’t really that big a deal other than that Atticus hates them for being women less kewl than he is.

But nope, the possessed bartender? She just inserts herself into the Plot despite not having anything to do with it. So the next two chapters are about her.

This book is so dumb.

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Comment

  1. Aikaterini on 10 October 2019, 09:36 said:

    he goes to the Leprechaun’s house.

    Heh, I like how you call the widow the Leprechaun because her dialogue makes her sound like Warwick Davis in “Leprechaun.”

    Atticus mentions that his father was abusive, because that was wrapped up in a joke about how he cries every time he watches Field of Dreams.

    This is just a guess of mine, but maybe that happened because of the narrative’s discomfort with too much emotion. An abusive father is wrapped up in a joke just so that Atticus doesn’t seem too sentimental or pitiable. Yeah, his father was abusive, but it’s okay, guys, Atticus can wrap it up with a joke so that we can see that he’s mostly over it and is still cool and isn’t one of those ‘emo wimps’ who cries a lot or is traumatized by anything. It also doesn’t help that an abusive father doesn’t fit with the flippant tone that this novel mostly has.

    Atticus has no interest in associating with a woman who isn’t hawt

    Which really lessens sympathy for his loneliness. Is he lonely because people won’t talk to him or is it because he’s really picky about the types of people he likes?

    And to be fair, he has been around the block a while, so it’s not out there that he’s not thrown by this but still… it’s hard to take this seriously when Atticus isn’t that surprised by the bartender being possessed.

    In terms of writing a story where the protagonist is familiar with the world and yet the audience can still be impressed by what’s happening, I think that “Pokémon Detective Pikachu” is a good example of doing it right, funnily enough. Because while the protagonist isn’t surprised by the existence of Pokemon since he lives in a world where they’re a part of everyday life, there are still a lot of things about his world that he doesn’t know and is allowed to be shocked by. Tim doesn’t know who Mewtwo is, so he’s allowed to be apprehensive and intimidated by him. Pokémon don’t normally attack people, so when they’re infected with the R gas, it’s genuinely frightening for him (and thus the audience). Even Ryan Reynolds as a snarky Pikachu is allowed to be scared by the attacking Pokémon.

    I think the problem with Atticus, Jace, and other characters like them is that the authors are trying to adopt this casual, wisecracking attitude towards everything to make the hero look cool and what it really does is make the world seem unimpressive. If the characters don’t care about this scary monster or weird event, then why should the reader? It’d be one thing if the whole thing was a parody and the character being unimpressed or casual with a horrifying monster was the joke, but it’s not.

  2. Juracan on 11 October 2019, 08:12 said:

    Heh, I like how you call the widow the Leprechaun because her dialogue makes her sound like Warwick Davis in “Leprechaun.”

    And weirdly enough, I don’t think there are any actual leprechauns in the series, so it’s not like she’s going to get mixed up with another character! It’s a great nickname!

    This is just a guess of mine, but maybe that happened because of the narrative’s discomfort with too much emotion. An abusive father is wrapped up in a joke just so that Atticus doesn’t seem too sentimental or pitiable. Yeah, his father was abusive, but it’s okay, guys, Atticus can wrap it up with a joke so that we can see that he’s mostly over it and is still cool and isn’t one of those ‘emo wimps’ who cries a lot or is traumatized by anything. It also doesn’t help that an abusive father doesn’t fit with the flippant tone that this novel mostly has.

    In and of itself, this wouldn’t be a bad character trait! Or rather, it would be, but it wouldn’t be bad for the protagonist to have this flaw. Plenty of works of fiction, specifically comedy types, have a protagonist that uses humor to cover up uncomfortable emotions (Shawn from Psych and Peralta from Brooklyn 99 come to mind here). But it’s not addressed, so instead it just feels as if the the author himself doesn’t want to deal with any serious or sympathetic emotions. And so the audience, the author and the main character can’t seem to care about the trauma that he supposedly has.

    And “flippant” is a great descriptor for the tone of the novel.

    In terms of writing a story where the protagonist is familiar with the world and yet the audience can still be impressed by what’s happening, I think that “Pokémon Detective Pikachu” is a good example of doing it right, funnily enough. Because while the protagonist isn’t surprised by the existence of Pokemon since he lives in a world where they’re a part of everyday life, there are still a lot of things about his world that he doesn’t know and is allowed to be shocked by. Tim doesn’t know who Mewtwo is, so he’s allowed to be apprehensive and intimidated by him. Pokémon don’t normally attack people, so when they’re infected with the R gas, it’s genuinely frightening for him (and thus the audience). Even Ryan Reynolds as a snarky Pikachu is allowed to be scared by the attacking Pokémon.

    That’s… a really good example and now I’m disappointed in myself that I didn’t think about it. That example does have the advantage though, that I think the film assumes you have a basic understanding about Pokemon. Still, any exposition you might not know for sure is laid out for you clearly enough in the movie. In this, if you’re given exposition it’s usually when Hearne stops the action entirely so Atticus can ramble about something.

    Still, Detective Pikachu works because it’s throwing the protagonists against something new. The only thing that Atticus hasn’t really encountered before in this novel is the Indian witch, and she’s on his side from the get-go, so it’s not exactly that much of a challenge. If something the likes of which Atticus had never faced before showed up and attacked him, that’d be a much better story than “Druid beats all this stuff he already knows about.”

    I think the problem with Atticus, Jace, and other characters like them is that the authors are trying to adopt this casual, wisecracking attitude towards everything to make the hero look cool and what it really does is make the world seem unimpressive. If the characters don’t care about this scary monster or weird event, then why should the reader? It’d be one thing if the whole thing was a parody and the character being unimpressed or casual with a horrifying monster was the joke, but it’s not.

    This book at times can’t seem to decide whether or not it’s parody. And it’s part of what makes this so frustrating. Atticus is constantly cracking jokes and making pop culture references as if that makes it all very funny, when in reality the actual events being shown… aren’t. He’s making light of things like his lawyer being a serial killer that hides bodies. And when something shows up to threaten Atticus he…doesn’t care. Seriously, when he’s told monsters are coming to his house, he tells us the thing he does is go to sleep. And then it tells us his breakfast routine.

    Atticus doesn’t care. And as a result, neither do any of us reading it. At best maybe we find it amusing, but that’s not the same thing at all.