Chapter 2:

To be honest, I’m now very tempted to give a cameo in MA to a minor hero named Batterwoad. He will try too hard to be evil and anti-heroish, utterly fail at it, as well as utterly fail at killing Victor, who has something of a brain.

Well, it’s the same night, and we find ourselves in the woods in the PoV of dragon slave by the name of Gadreel. Apparently, his master, Zanzeroth—who appears to be forester, hunter and tracker rolled into one, you know, the common “woodsman” template—and Evil King are scouring the forest for signs of Bitterwood. As I’m reading the prose of their search, I can’t help but get the feeling that it just doesn’t flow, that the prose itself, like the characters’ dialogue, is bloody stilted, but since this is admittedly rather subjective, I’m not going to be assigning any sort of fail to it. A small sample to prove my point:

Albekizan stood nearby, watching the aged hunter step gingerly over the muddy ground. Albekizan ignored Gadreel. Gadreel hoped the king’s snub was due to his fascination with Zanzeroth’s methods. (Pg. 42)

Well riddle-dee-dee. You expect me to believe Gadreel’s been a slave for the past three years when he’s not used to the high and mighty ignoring him, least of all the bloody Evil King who’s supposed to be horribly cruel to everyone? Again, it’s not showing thought or any research into the mindsets of most slaves which unfortunately, tend to go against uprisings and the like. Minor fail x1.

Anyways, we never see Zanzeroth’s mad tracking SKILLZ in action (besides him making proclaimations about how events turned out, with the occasional footprint), and this is supposedly because Gadreel knows jack shit about his master’s work, but I suppose that after three years in his master’s service, it would be impossible for even a slave to pick up on bits here and there, would it? But fine, I’m willing to give this a pass. We get a half-page dump of description about Zanzeroth (who, of course, is rugged. Because all woodsmen, with the exception of elf woodsmen, are rugged.) Zanzeroth asks about Shandrazel, and this is what Evil King has to say:

“Do not speak that shameful name,” Albekizan said, his eyes narrow. “I’ve placed that traitor underguard for now. His final fate will be left for the morning. We will not discuss this further. For now, Bitterwood is our only goal.” (Pg. 43)

Again, the eyes do NOT have it. I could excuse narrowed eyes, as they’re very common and a bit hard to find a substitute for, but it’s still an itch I can’t scratch. That’s not the main problem, though; the main problem is that Evil King’s concern for Bodiel is seeming more and more contrived by the moment. We’ve never been given any reason why someone known for killing off his own sons should favour the one most dangerous to his continued regime, and Shandrazel doesn’t seem to be any better off. Maybe Mr. Maxey is trying to “humanise” Evil King by making him love his son, but it doesn’t work because 1) even if it did, one white spot in a sea of black isn’t going to do jack shit, and 2) it crushes any consistency in the characterisation to hell, making it seem as if Evil King does what the plot needs him to. Fail x1.

And I’m just wondering, just under what reasons Shandrazel is being charged with treason for. But that’s just me, wondering too much about stuff again.

Another problem here is the CSI-style reporting of Zanzeroth. Supposedly, this scene is intended to be tense, with them pursuing Bitterwood as he flees the scene, trying to catch him before he makes it to safety. The fact that Zanzeroth happily pauses to give every single excrutiating detail about the supposed crime is reminiscent of the way CSI puts it: that they’re at the scene long after the criminal’s fled and have all the time in the world to piece things together and track him down—which they do NOT. The exposition of the crime reconstruction, interspersed by Gadreel’s grumbling about his lot and of course, the gratituous exposition on how he became a slave—there is simply no sense of tension or immediacy whatsoever. Fail x2.

And what’s up with the numerous titles Bitterwood’s been given? All sorts of crap from “The Ghost Who Kills” to “The Predator” to all sorts of other crap. Also, apparently Mr. Maxey needs to remind us about every 2/3rds of a page that “Bitterwood is no ordinary man”, or some variant thereof. You know, I’m starting to wonder if Bitterwood is an authorial self-insert, but since I haven’t got any evidence to back it up, I’ll give it a pass.

Anyways, Zanzeroth fills one and a half pages with his CSI-style reconstruction of Bodiel’s death, by the end of which my eyes have happily glazed over, thanks to me being utterly bored. La dee da dee da. Anyways, the reconstruction is over, and Zanzeroth happens to slip in the mud. Gadreel goes over to help him up, ad has his offer spurned; the automatic assumption is that the spurning is because he’s a slave. Of course, that ignores the fact that things do happen for multiple reasons; Zanzeroth might have been too proud to accept help from anyone at all, but it’s just a thought on the side. Still, it’s clear that Mr. Maxey can do things right, show events happening and leave it up to the reader to interpret things for themselves. Why he doesn’t do so more often, I have no idea.

In any case, the place retinue of earth-dragons steps out of the foilage (what a convenient place to hide them!) and Zanzeroth has them release the Evil Dogs, a.k.a ox-dogs. Because they’re dogs, and are as big as oxes. Wheeee. The Evil Dogs go sniff about:

“And Bitterwood?” Albekizan said, studing the trees surrounding them. “What became of him?”

“He fled, of course,” said Zanzeroth, placing his spear back in its quiver. “On horseback. He’s miles away but we’ll find him. Even after a hard rain the ox-dogs can follow a horse’s scent.” (Pg. 46)

First things first. Spears do NOT belong in quivers. EPIC FAIL x1. I mean, what the hell? Spear. Does. Not. Go. In. Quiver. Arrows. And. Bolts. Do. And don’t give me that shit. For a spear to be used properly, it has to be a certain proportion of the wielder’s height. Even if these other-people (I really hate calling them dragons. They don’t have the mental, the social, the spiritual, even the physical beyond their own bodies implications of being one) were bigger, the spears would need to be scaled up to their proportions, hence making it impossible for them to practically fit in a quiver. That’s just ignorant and dumb; even CHILDREN know a spear’s too big to fit in a quiver. If they were small enough to do that, you might as well call them “sharpened chopsticks”.

Pant pant

Another question. If the Evil Dogs can follow a scent infallibly, then why the fuck aren’t they tracking Bitterwood directly? Why are they tracking his fucking horse and happily being led on a merry chase? I mean, they have his arrows. Why—oh, I give up trying to get this to make sense. Fail x3. So the hunt is on…and we break the action for one and a half pages of description of earth-dragons, Gadreel angsting over how he became a slave, and yet more angsting on his part. Uh, fine. Whatever. Couldn’t it have been moved to a lull in the bloody action, where there might be a chance to, y’know, at least make getting the information across seem more natural? Besides, I don’t give two shits about Gadreel, and him angsting without me caring first has just tipped the scales against it. PROTIP: get readers to care for your characters before you spill their life story out to them. Fail x4. Anyways, for your convenience and the safety of your brains, I’ve condensed the infodump to the salient points for your benefit:

-Gadreel missed the last three clan gatherings.
-This, apparently, is a serious enough offence for him to be tied up and sold as a slave.
-Zanzeroth won him in a bet.
-Now that he’s in the presence of Evil King almost daily, Gadreel hopes to impress Evil King so much he’s rewarded with freedom.

Oh, look, it’s my old friend the sandvich again. Nom nom nom, om nom. Anyways, the dogs catch onto the horse’s scent, and ta-da! Surprise, surprise, they’ve been tricked! There’s Bitterwood’s horse, but the man himself is nowhere to be seen! DUH! Evil King isn’t too happy about that, and Zanzeroth hands the spears to Gadreel, claiming they’ll only slow him down. Here’s our dear friend’s reaction:

Gadreel struggled to hold the giant wooden shafts with the gleaming steel heads. Only sun-dragons could ever hope to wield such massive weapons effectively. (Pg. 50)

Yeah. Whatever. Right. Which only furthers my wondering at what a fucking quiver is doing holding those things. Anyways, the hunt continues, until they reach a series of cracks in the earth. Apparently these cracks are EVIL and stretch for miles beneath the kingdom, so people (and dragons) don’t usually dare cross them. Cue an infodump on Evil Cracks and speculation as to their purpose and construction, blah blah, four circles being the symbol of death. I really don’t see why. If you look at symbols of death in most cultures, at least most of them have some logic to them. Skulls and bones are very popular in many cultures, as are animals associated with decomposition. Black is popular in western culture. White is the colour of death in Chinese culture, since it represents the paleness of the skin after death. Whatever the case is, there’s usually some logic that ties into the greater part of the culture, with death rites, superstitions and all, but there’s none of that here; it’s just used to explain away why there’s conveniently no one else around and stops there. If you’re going to have symbolic interactionism, at least have a BASIS for it. Minor fail x2.

I’d just like to point out one thing: that on our timescale, man-made buildings do last quite a bit, but on the Earth’s own timescale, what’s probably going to be left of us to the sentient jellyfish or crabs or hippopotamuses is going to be a layer of broken plastic sandwiched between the topsoil and Burgess Shale. I’m already having enough trouble trying to reconcile the use of English, what apparently is magic enough and Evil Advanced Robots without Ruins Of Ancient Civilisation That Was Really Us coming into the picture, thank you very much. The more i read on, the more the setting of this book is starting to look like an issue of Dr. McNinja.

…At least Dr. McNinja has ninja zombie robot pirates ON PURPOSE. Fail x5.

Surprise, surprise. The trail ends at a tunnel, and one of the ox-dogs is dead, having being crushed by a big rock. Now if only more rocks would fall and everyone in this story would be so kind as to die, we could call it a day and go home. Unfortunately that’s not the case, so of course, Evil King just HAS to mention it AGAIN:

“He’s Bitterwood,” said Albekizan. “The predator. He’s no mere human.” (Pg. 52)

Oh god, shut up, shut up, SHUT UP. I don’t want to be told how awesome and fear-inspiring and dark and dangerous your fucking little shit is, really, because—le gasp!—I might actually not agree with the author on how I should feel about this little PoS. The broken record on this topic merely serves to INCREASE my antipathy, not decrease it. Anyways, the chase goes on, and eventually they end up at “an ancient, low building formed of vine-covered brick”. Of course, an arrow comes flying out through a window as they approach, landing right between the eyes of the ox-dog.

Again, I’d like to ask. If Bitterwood had a clear shot at Evil King, and as according to the book blurb, killing Evil King will solve everything, then WHY DIDN’T HE JUST FUCKING SHOOT EVIL KING WHEN HE COULD?

…Oh, wait. Because them we wouldn’t have an excuse to get a 600-odd page book. Silly me. Again, example of idiot plot, where everyone has to be an idiot in order for the plot to proceed. Nom nom nom, om nom. Fail x6. Of course, like the idiot he is, Evil King orders the royal guard into the structure to get Bitterwood out. So they all blindly rush in, and get blown up by a booby trap.

…Is it really too much to ask for some level of competency in mooks that aren’t supposed to be literally mindless? Is it too much to ask for them to form a perimeter around the structure to prevent Bitterwood from bolting, then send one sacrificial lamb in? It doesn’t have to work, but could they at least try? Pretty please with a cherry on top? Could SOMEONE at least not destroy all tension by having the hero take candy from a baby? Fail x7.

Alas, Bitterwood’s not in the trap, and so we don’t get to see this piece of shit excuse for a Stu get blown up in a ball of flame. Instead, he’s running for what’s recognisable to us as a manhole cover (thank god Mr. Maxey didn’t explicitly call that) and slips inside. Zanzeroth goes after him, just misses catching the bugger, sticks his spear in and a fraction of a second later an arrow comes out of the two-meter-wide hole and grazes his eye.



A very large problem with how bows are represented in today’s literature is how they’re used in the exact same manner as guns are. It’s crept in and embedded itself so deeply into our consciousness that most people don’t flinch when you say to “shoot an arrow”, even though the term is technically wrong. (FYI, it’s “loose an arrow”.) So I’m expected to believe that in that half-second, Bitterwood managed to unsling his longbow (since he was explicitly described as using one, a shortbow wouldn’t have the required kick anyways, and he was using both hands to lift the manhole cover), a weapon that is formally described as at least being as tall as the wielder (wikipedia puts most variants of English longbows at around 6’6”. That’s two meters.) draw an arrow from wherever he’s keeping them, notch the arrow, pull back an arrow about 75 centimeters (about 30 inches) at a power of anywhere from 220 (modern longbows) to 900 (African elephant bows) newtons, and aim it at Zanzeroth’s eye AND loose it.

Mr. Maxey, you’re really fucking stretching the old suspension of disbelief here. EPIC FAIL x2. Now not even the deliciousness of the sandvich can stop me from being a sad dragon now. Really. PROTIP: Even with an M-16 assault rifle fully loaded, you’re not going to go from unsling to fire in a fraction of a second. A pistol, maybe. A longbow? Well, fuck me upside down. Next thing we know, Bitterwood will have the amazing power of bullet time.

After a lot of cursing and swearing, both Evil King and Zanzeroth realise the manhole is too small for them to go into, so Gadreel steps up to the plate and offers to go instead. Hurrah hurrah, thanks for not noticing how those mooks died in a giant fireball. Still, I guess the bravery has to count for something, if stupid recklessness equals bravery.

So Gadreel goes into the manhole, and finds himself in a tunnel “barely eight feet in diameter” and “half-filled with rushing water”. Abandoned sewer, or storm drain? Your call. Most modern storm drains are much smaller than that, though, so it’s definitely an Absurdly Spacious Sewer . A little way into the drain, Gadreel starts having second thoughts, and something catches in his legs. Oh, look, it’s Bitterwood’s cloak. Hurrah hurrah. So our dear Gadreel decides he doesn’t have a spine after all, and goes out with his prize. Evil King isn’t too impressed, but gives Gadreel a figurative pat on the head for trying. We cue back to Zanzeroth, who happens to be toying with the universal panacea in the fantasy genre, also known as “herbs”:

“Zanzeroth was squatting on the ground, pressing a bloodied bundle of leaves to his injured eye. No one alive knew more about the medicinal properties of forest plants, the entire world was his pharmacy.” (Pg. 57)

I’ve ranted about about “herbs” that I shouldn’t have to explain why they are a bad thing. Fail x8.

So la dee da dee da, the search’s called off—for some reason, and we’ll see what Evil King has to say about this:

“No,” Albekizan said. “I admire your spirit, old friend, but we need not chase this demon into further traps. There’s a solution to this problem, an obvious one. We’ve paid a horrible price this night. I vow this—the debt of Bitterwood will be repaid in blood.” (Pg. 57)

Nom nom nom, om nom. This coming from the idiot who, two pages ago, “fell to his belly before the dark ring, thrusting his fore-claws into it, grasping blindly, his need to capture Bodiel’s killer blotting out all caution”. I really, REALLY get the impression the characters here are just puppets being jerked around on strings in accordance with the idiot plot and, well, not characters. Oh, for a shred of consistency. Fail x9.

I guess we know what happens to the poor ole humans next. The whole setup here reminds me of the recent arc of Order of the Stick involving Varsuuvius. Character A causes problem in the first place, character B retaliates in a (well, more or less) justified and understandable manner, and then character A uses said retaliation as an excuse to justify his initial actions in the first place. To use a rather rude analogy, it’s like Nazis herding Jews into ghettos, then using the filth and squalor in the ghettos to justify putting the Jews there in the first place—happily blind to the fact that they were the ones who put them there.

Oh, of course, we’ve heard about all the evil things Evil King has supposedly done, but we’ve never seen any of it. Even ERA-fucking-GON has the Ra’suck come and burn down Garrow’s farm, at least demonstrating their Evil. We haven’t seen Evil King do jack shit yet. Batterwood (I shall henceforth call him Batterwood) is now portrayed as the primary aggressor in this so-called conflict, which makes it rather hard for me to “want to join his fight for humanity’s sake”, as the book blurb suggests. Fail x10.

Fuck this. Total fail score: 2 x minor fail + 10 x fail + 2 x epic fail. Fail score: 44.

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  1. Snow White Queen on 14 April 2009, 00:52 said:

    Whew, we finally got epic fails! Wondered when those would come up.

  2. sansafro on 14 April 2009, 01:56 said:

    Is it really necessary for the “bad” guys to shill the hero constantly, author? They sound like fanboys, not enemies. If he’s really such a badass, show him doing things that are both badass AND don’t break suspension of disbelief(quickdrawing a longbow _). No, instead the author just has his opponents verbally fellate Morningwood. Great idea.

    Who would publish this shit?

  3. Golcondio on 14 April 2009, 06:38 said:

    Wonderfully delightful spork, I love the “fail score” idea!
    Please, explain your acronyms, please, I’m curious!!!

  4. OverlordDan on 14 April 2009, 07:57 said:

    Love these things, can’t wait for the next one.

  5. Zanzabarbarian on 14 April 2009, 13:48 said:

    I’m enjoying this a lot. Well, your commentary, not the godawful story.

  6. Fenix on 14 April 2009, 15:08 said:

    Your fail scores are inconsistent, last time a fail was worth 3 points and minor fail 1. Following the same pattern an epic fail is only worth 3 points according to this fail score, which is odd.

  7. The Drunk Fox on 14 April 2009, 15:46 said:

    Well, I’m not sure Golcondio, but I think MA might refer to a parody-writing kind of thing that lccorp2 does called Morally Ambiguous (sorry if I’m wrong, lccorp2!). Were there other acronyms that I didn’t notice?

    Loving the fail score over here too, by the way. It’s a shame Nate and I didn’t think of it.

  8. lccorp2 on 14 April 2009, 15:52 said:

    Hm? Minor fail is worth 1, fail is worth 3 and epic fail is worth 6. Did I make a calculation error somewhere? That’d be…ugh. You’re right. My bad. It should be 44. However, it doesn’t seem like I have the power to edit articles, once published, so I can’t fix things. If Slyshy or one of the other site staff would be so kind…?

  9. SlyShy on 14 April 2009, 16:05 said:

    You’ve been granted higher permission levels. Use it wisely.

  10. lccorp2 on 14 April 2009, 16:06 said:

    Thank you. Rest assured I won’t abuse them. =)

  11. LucyWannabe on 14 April 2009, 22:56 said:

    Haha, I’m loving your sporkings of this. Just when I think I’ve found all of the worst of lit there is, you guys manage to dig up some more.

    Loving the fail counts, hehe. Keep it up!

  12. lccorp2 on 15 April 2009, 03:59 said:

    Well, since people asked:

    There might be a bit of confusion, I suppose, since the thingies are primarily designed for my LJ and there’re a few references to other things. That said aside, though, most acronyms are pretty much common knowledge.

    MA—Morally Ambiguous. The current work I’m working on (yes, yes, rather ambiguous.) Intended to be a barrel of laughs, but even with the second draft it’s hard to write a whole book of humor while not getting stale.

    PoV—Standard terminology for “Point of view”.

    CSI—Crime Scene Investigation. An American cop drama rather famous for its lengthy exposition scenes and crime reconstructions.

  13. Golcondio on 15 April 2009, 07:53 said:

    I remember I only asked fot the most obscure acronyms :) I guess CSI is aired in my country too…

    What does “LJ” mean?

  14. SlyShy on 15 April 2009, 08:36 said:

    LJ stands for LiveJournal, a fairly popular social community site.

  15. Snow White Queen on 15 April 2009, 19:36 said:

    Teehee, me and my mom are such CSI junkies. :D

    Scares my brother though. He was unfortunate enough to catch an episode about a kid who kills their younger brother, and he got very scared. On the plus side, he was very, very nice to me and my sister for a few days after that.