The Leninist Lemon

A book review blog focusing on young adult fiction.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Cirque du Freak and The Vampire's Assistant by Darren Shan

So: a vampire book? a vampire book say what? Erm, yeah. Not my usual genre, but I picked up this series (there's 10 total, and I'm not done) for two reasons: first, I am a huge sucker, and there's a quote by J.K. Rowling on the front. Actually, the same generic quote on the front of every book in the series, but still. It just might be legitimate. The second reason, is that, to my great amusement, I've gotten one of my friends into young adult fiction (yay!) and she read like the first 4 in one sitting, and so recommended them to me. Sure, so I read considerably slower, but I'm getting through them.

So, the premise is that a boy decides to become a vampire in exchange for his friend's life. Nobel guy huh? Especially since the feeling wasn't exactly reciprocated. Pretty good premise I think; sometimes you can tell how good/readable a book will be by its premise. And it is, I mean, it certainly captivates you and makes you keep reading, although in the "wow, but I so have better things to do" way. Ah well. Interesting to see where this goes. Will we get character development? Meh, somehow I doubt it. I kind of see this as a very "series" type of book - leaving it open to as many as the author can write, rather than a set beginning and ending.

The vampire lore. Very intersting, twisted, and kind of wtf-y to tell you the truth. Maybe I'm too used to normal vampire lore, or Buffy-type vampire lore (pretty standard, but also makes sense.) Some of this vampire lore was really kind of contrived in some cases. There are some of the usuals: can't be out in the sunlight, can be killed by a stake (but also a gun, eh what?) and of course drinking blood. But then there's this weird stuff about half-vampires. Um, what? Well, a point for creativity I suppose. See, Darren (btw, why is the characters name the same as the authors? what? It isn't even done well, re: Lemony Snicket. It's just stupid.) is a half vampire, so he can go out in the light. Like, I swear the author put that in just so that Darren could go out in the light. And the whole thing where you need human blood - not just animal blood - or you'll die. Eh. I mean, in Buffy it's mearly that human blood tastes better, but you can survive on animal blood. It doesn't make sense to have human blood required - it's too specific you know? And you can't have the audience thinking too much about the anatomy and biology of vampires, which well, dude guys, these are fantastical creatures. And then the vampaneze: "evil" vampires, who like to call themselves something different. And the thing where drinking human blood till the human dies lets the vampire take the soul. Well, okay, I guess that was kind of cool actually. But I dunno. People have very specific ideas of what a vampire is, and this is weeeeird vampire lore. And for what it's worth I haven't exactly read too many vampire books. Maybe I should.

Oh and you know how vampires are supposed to crawl out of their graves? Darren gets dug out by Mr. Crepsley. Lame! Vampires in Buffy crawl out of their graves like good, normal vampires. Getting dug out by somebody else shows a lack of independence. And vampires are surely known for their independence.

Two things are potentially set up for future plots though: one, the completely mind-numbingly obvious, is that Steve confronts Darren, saying that he became a vampire to spite Steve (cause Steve was the one that wanted to be a vampire but couldn't - he had "bad blood" (uh, wtf?)) and Steve now hates him and wants to kill him, etc. So you know that'll come up. Also, though, I thought his family life, and especially his sister, Annie, is well fleshed out, so I really hope we see them again. Can't just introduce a loving family and leave it at that. I hope we at least see Annie again, in a later book. Very intesting situations with that, I think.

Ships: Hmm, Ezra/Darren is a sort of way. They're "best friends" but there is subtext there if you want to find it. (They sleep in the same tent, and then Ezra is the "snake boy." Let me say no more.) Nothing else in the first two I can think of. Darren's still young, after all.

Kids' Books are Dirtier Than You Think: Ezra the "snake boy" and his pet snake. Clearly this is a sign that I have read too much Slytherin Harry/Draco fanfic, but oh man, you can't escape the dirty here, if you are looking for it. So many bad phrases. I swear I'm not usually like this, but yeah, fanfic. It corrupts (but no one minds.)

This post on a full page. Spoilers if I mention it.

The Grim Grotto and The Penultimate Peril by Lemony Snicket

Let me say first off that my trip to LA to see Daniel Handler was amazing, just amazing. And I've finished the End at this point (but it gets its own separate post) and that was amazing. More later on the event though. (Or an ETA here.)

I actually read these a long time ago, and so will have to scour my memory (only doing this before returning to library, you see), but yes, these books are chock full of goodness. The Grim Grotto starts with the Baudelaires going on an adventure in a submarine - looking for that elusive sugar bowl, oh yes - and instead finding a little secret about one of Olaf's cohorts, which made for some very interesting twists and gave the olaf + gang more three-dimensionality, which was cool. Lemony Snicket does play nicely with characters that aren't quite good or evil, just a little or a lot screwed up. And maybe that's what makes them all so endearing.

Also, the introduction of the Medusoid Mycelium. Now, I question said fungus's properties - you sniff, you die - and I even more so question Klaus's unfamiliarity with that word (but you know of couse he trying to impress Fiona.)

Also, Fiona! In the amusing way everyone in these books has one Interest with a capital I, well finally we have a biologist. For a little bit of the book. I rather liked that.

Penultimate Peril: The Baudelaires are in a hotel throughout this book (some people didn't like the book for this reason - but then, people are always looking for reasons to hate the end of a series) that is arranged by the dewey decimal system and owned by a guy named dewey that everyone thought was dead. That pwnzored, yay for the extremely literal portrayals these books are known for.

Also in PP: political commentary via Sunnyisms! I squeed so hard, I can tell you. Sure, so I've taken awhile to catch onto the Sunnyism phenomenon, but there were two in PP I noticed. One in which she says "Dreyfuss" clearly referring to Richard Dreyfuss, but um I'm going to have to look that up later to see why it's funny (can't remember who the guy is exactly.) The other one, however, practically made me jump out of my chair because it was so plain. As in, whoa, and here are Daniel Handler's political beliefs!

'"The verdict of the High Court was to take the expression literally," said the manager, "so everyone except the judges must cover their eyes before the trial can begin."
"Scalia," Sunny said. She meant something like "It doesn't seem like the literal interpretation makes any sense," but her siblings did not think it wise to translate.' (PP, 268)

Now, I may not know a whole lot about history, but I do know that Scalia was a scary conservation supreme court justice and also famous for being a strict constructionist. (Oh AP US History, you are so useful sometimes!) And let's just say that clearly Daniel Handler is not. And I love how there's more of these subtle political undertones as the series goes on. It really bring a nice depth to them. And much squeeing on my part.

Ships: Klaus/Fiona. In a rather screwed up way, lemme tell you. The pairing was far too easy, they didn't have any particular chemistry other than that they were similar ages and read and stuff, and she kisses him once right after betraying him, then leaves. And now, according to lemony snicket she was the girl who "broke Klaus's heart." Er, what? They'd have to like, be together first I really think.

So let's go on to something more exciting. Namely Charles/Sir. Omg, if this is not canon I will eat a t-shirt or a hat or something similarly drastic. Oh man. This is another total squee moment. The only I can't understand is why no one online cares. This is like my pet ship, and I can't even find any fanfic on it! Gah! If no one else will write Charles/Sir fanfic, then goshdarnit, maybe I will. Anyway, I noticed this completely obvious ship as being totally canon in the fourth book when they are introduced (then don't appear again until PP) and after scouring the internets, found one review on Amazon (I read all hundred some, because I was that obsessed) actually agreed with me. Lame! Of course, now there are a few more speculation threads online, but still, not very many (and I have scoured the internets, I have.) Maybe later I'll post links. But anyway, it was simply so obvious in Miserable Mill that they were not just *hackcough* "business partners" and this was even more confirmed in PP. I mean, they're in the same hotel room, they go to the freaking sauna together (just when it's starting to get juicy the scene is interupted. damn), and Charles says "I care about you Sir." The thing is, the amusing thing, is that Sir and Charles are total opposites and Sir is borderline evil. They only stay together cause Charles is a total, well "pussy" I guess, for slang terms. He totally lets Sir walk all over him, and even though he cares for the Baudelaires, he is a total pushover and does what Sir says. It's such a screwed up relationship and they are screwed up characters, but then, so is everyone in the Snicketverse. And it's probably a slight allegory for real life screwed up relationships. Oh, and btw, how do know for positive it's canon? In the Beatrice Letters (which I've only ever skimmed, not read yet), in Lemony Snicket's incredibly long love letter to Beatrice, he writes "I will love you until C realizes that S is not worthy of his love" - among other things of course. See? Canon. Also, this brings me to another point, and that's the general lack of presence of teh gay in young adult fiction/fantasy - and I mean even as subtextually as Charles/Sir. Very, very little of it (and you know I'm always looking for it.) In fact, the only other young adult book I can think of with teh gay is Coraline, by Neil Gaiman. This definitely calls for a longer post sometime.

Kids' Books Are Dirtier Than You Think: The only I can think of here is Klaus eavesdropping on Charles and Sir while they're alone in the sauna together. But he was interupted very quickly, so you see.

Spoilers: Dewey Denouement is dead, oh woe. Only introduced in this book, but still, he was Kit Snicket's husband, and Kit Snicket is Lemony Snicket's sister (he's addressed her before.) And Kit doesn't know by the end of the book, and she'll have to find out.

Burning down the hotel at the end. Wow, just wow. Now, while I certainly would not have done this no matter how many Medusoid Myceliums there are out there, I can see why the Baudelaires did it. And it was a great ending for sure. The Baudelaires, whose lives were destroyed by fire, are now using it as a tool themselves. And the whole thing with the Baudelaires deciding they couldn't be all good if they were burning down hotels, even if it was to save people, that was cool too, in the sense that we're going deeper into their characters. Again with the spectrum of good and evil, and things not being black and white, even though they outwardly appear that way in this series. Also, it prefaced the very clever ending (well, minus Justice Strauss not coming with them, that didn't make any sense) where the Baudelaires end up by themselves with Count Olaf. Similar to hostile hospital here, where their only choice is to end up with their archenemy again. And once you read The End, you really understand why Olaf needed to be there.

This post on a full page. Spoilers if I mention it.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Will this work?

Yay, I have just figured out how to do the blogger equivalent of an lj-cut. Except, since Blogger is super lame, not only can I not specify what text the lj-cut should be called, I can't even put the cut only on the post I'm actually cutting, without dumping my head in a giant CSS book (or so I assume.) Click the link for more vitriol because I can. Blogger suuuuuucks. Yeah blogger sucks. The only thing good about blogger is the look and the layout, otherwise it is the most confusing, non-user-oriented site like ever. Did you know an lj-cut is an "expandable post summary"? What the hell, I never would have come up with that myself in a million years. Thanks, blogger, for being so cryptic. If I could come up with anything, I would insult blogger's mother right now. Unfortunately, I can't.

So, point is, expect spoiler cuts from now on. Amazing, I know! But I was feeling so bad for all the people that don't read my blog. So now we have spoiler cut tags. Because I don't want to be responsible for ruining A Series of Unfortunate Events for someone. That would just be a little unfortunate.

This post on a full page. Spoilers if I mention it.