Critique of Chapter XVI
By: Dhalgren99

Whoa, two commenting sessions in two days! Whoa, the stars are going to fall from the sky, the entire East coast is going to sink into the ocean (prompting no doubt ironic peals of laughter from those on the West Coast), it's doom I tell you...DOOM!

Or I'm just not as busy these last few nights and have some time. And actually this chapter should take no time at all, this is probably the shortest chapter we've run into so far...I actually thought at first you kids were trying to trick me into the reading the %$~@ bios by turning them into the chapters themselves...but that's not the case. All told, this is a creepy piece of work and containing more details about a human coupling than I'd ever want to know about.

First off, you will see the name "Vespoisona" typed only once in my comments and that's right several words back. I'll hurt myself if I try to type that over and over, Hensbane you must have had a macro set up for that or something, I'd pull something for sure. Oh yeah, this is a Hensbane chapter again, but you should have all realized that since like every other chapter is a Hensbane chapter. Everytime DanO says I'm prolific, I want to be like, "Have you seen your own writers there, buddy" but of course I'm too busy making fun of Odan to say stuff like that. More's the pity, I guess. And while it would have been nice to see what Hellbore has been up to, especially with that little hint a few chapters back (note to authors, feel free to develop more than one plotline per chapter...please?) this works just as well to fill the gaps and again, maybe mark time, maybe not. We get more information here at any rate, the Spider-woman indeed.

You certainly do a good job of giving us a creepy description of her...what might work even better would be to play her off somebody for this chapter, most of this chapter takes place within her thoughts...if she had someone strung up in her lair and the guy/gal wakes up, finds themselves on a giant web and this voice starts telling them her life story as the prey hears a rustling. And maybe wonders why he can't feel his legs anymore. This chapter would work great as a horror piece, the problem with the fantastic I've always seen is trying to make it real for the reader, sure I can write about dragons and floating castles and elves and people chucking fireballs but I think there has to be something for the reader to connect with...if you see these events through the eyes of someone more human and get the perceptions of Ms. V filtered through a human perspective, it hits home that much more. I think, but then I'm not saying rewrite the chapter by any may want to consider some of this stuff for future chapters, or you may not.

A lot of this chapter is exposition, which is good and bad. It's good because it's all necessary exposition, but it's bad because absolutely nothing really happens, this could easily be interwoven into a coda of some other chapter, or as a prologue to whatever quest will be involved here. But as a chapter it's very...static, sort of like ambient music. Or like that noise I hear when someone puts a tuning fork too close to my head. What, that doesn't happen to you guys? There must be something wrong with you.

But Ms. V is detailed quite nicely, you do your research well as I've noted in the past and she certainly FEELS's really funny how in real life spiders could never get that large...hey when you're wearing your skeleton on the outside there's only so much weight you can subject your nice squishy internal organs to. Which is a nice way to beat her, if Karl has to face her, he'd better hope he memorized the well known druid spell "Increase weight"...on normal people it probably hurts, on a spider, well, let's just say afterwards someone is going to need a very large mop. Magic can only help so much, eh?

The peek into her life was needed and very well done, I have no complaints about how it was handled, only the aforementioned comment that it might have been more effective if it had been delivered through dialogue...but then it's been well established that I talk to myself every bloody night. Like you guys are actually listening here. Heh. Don't make me laugh. Actually it's been well established that I prefer dialogue for stuff like this, there's nothing like a well told story expressed through conversation.

Also great peek into the life of a certain illustrious scribe. Odan fathering children? Oh, Odan! Why do I think this isn't the first time this has happened (geez, Karnak could have made a cottage industry out of this, Odan could have an army of ugly monsters trailing along after his wake, hating his very existence...but yet their mishapen bodies feel oddly aroused at the sight of him...remember that old adage about women there, eh, Odan?)...keep it in your pants there, buddy. Nice to see Odan's actions have consequences, nobody's perfect I've been saying all along and it's good to see Karnak doing something and trying to kill someone instead of puttering around like a mad scientist in his workshop, obliged merely to annoy the heroes on a weekly basis. Though I'm not sure what turning Ms. V into a spider was supposed to accomplish, Odan is very much alive and healthy (well, before Moultrance sliced off a head far more important to continued living, even if Odan may not agree with that ("Celibacy? What's that?" asks the fair scribe)) and Ms. V seems to have been sitting around in a cave this entire time. How could Karnak have slayed Odan more efficiently...quite simple, satisify yourself with the woman, because hey, even shrunken old he-wizards have to get their jollies somehow and, give her the drink but instead of having her turn into something horrible, which basically assures that Odan will never have sex with her again (but then, who really knows?), have the drink infuse her blood with a magical and highly combustible spell...triggered by when she gets that special feeling when seeing Odan...send her out to find Odan and when she finds him, I'm sure that some of her hormones are going to spike even as she thinks dark thoughts of hatred for our scribe, they reach out to touch and...BOOM! Good spell like that, you can level a good two square miles. No nagging woman to complain that you don't pleasure her anymore (nor any ugly spider that might try and kill you later, or at least distract you at a crucial moment) and Odan is dead, a smear of ash (try to come back from that, buddy boy) spread over a couple of miles. Two birds, one stone. Bingo, Karnak can sit back and go back to the important task of subjugating the world (and why not?) and killing that...dreaded...STRANGE! Ahh!

So now, Ms. V appears to be in the Phantom Realms...was she in the Shadowed Lands and transferred with Odan when those lands collapsed for reasons that haven't been written in story terms yet...or did Odan visit the Realms, go off to the Shadowed Lands and come back because the thought of life existing as a naked singularity just wasn't that appealing. Not that he seems to mind being naked but I'm sure he enjoys such dynamics as width and depth. Among other things.

Karnak makes a decent presence in this chapter even though he doesn't appear...Odan doesn't go over as easy since his entire story is told in like three sentences (gee you think if she loved him more than life itself, she'd be able to devote a LITTLE more time to him...please, Hensbane, I'm smiling like the grotesque Cheshire cat I am when I ask this)...even if Karnak's actions falls under "villains that do stuff that don't immediately make any sense"...I mean, okay, Karnak hates Karl and Odan and the whole sick crew but how the heck does changing Ms. V into a spider further that? Passing whim perhaps? That works for me, I'm sure his entire life isn't devoted to screwing the thralls of goodness...every once in a while you've got to kick back and sow a few wild oats, party on, change beautiful women into arachnids, you know the drill.

Lord God Almighty, the sex scene between Karnak and Ms. V was nearly sickening, it was written well but...oh boy is that going to give me nightmares. The sudden shift into nigh Harlequin territory...well as some members of our little clique now, it's not something I've overly fond of, I like writing romance and relationship but I prefer to let the reader picture certain acts in their own mind. I like how Karnak turns the typical "man lights the cigarette after consummeration" into "Please drink my evil potion"...that's style. Ms. V's change is well done, too, for once it seems that shapechanging really does hurt...still it's rather funny that less detail is given to her change than to the sexual act. Maybe I'm just prudish, which is probably an odd stance for a college student to take (apparently we're all supposed to be horny), but then the threesomes in Dhalgren didn't thrill me that much either.

And after all that the rest feels sort of rushed through, her powers and children are summarized in a swift fashion, just kinda of like, "Let's get this out of the way." Personally I think it would have been better to show the two children, perhaps walking in as mom finished toying with some dude and drinks him like a Slurpee (trademark and copyright its respective owners) it'd be good to show them interacting with their mom, you'd get more of a feel for their differences and such. Strange how they all hang around the pool, Ms. V really lacks ambition if all she ever wants to do is seduce men and suck them dry...come on, you're a giant spider, there has to be something else to do. Truly.

And what are her "duties" as the Spider-Queen (good as all hell Doctor Who episode by the way)...she mentions children but none ever appear. And if Odan is nowhere near the pool, how is she going to go after him if she never seems to leave the area? If I were Odan I'd just stop, and start backing away slowly, muttering, "I'll just go this way, please don't mind me."

And just for the record, spiders don't drink blood, they excrete a enzyme into the victim's body that liquifies their organs and insides and that's what they drink. I don't think blood has any nutrient value whatsoever, Dracula notwithstanding. Hey, I haven't nitpicked anything here, I have to keep my quota up. Let the debate begin!

Good chapter, finely detailed and nicely wrought...honestly it could probably be moved earlier (calm down, NovaReinna, I'm not suggesting it be moved like DanO's were...geez look at those hands shake, is that the effect I have on you people) since it seems to be keyed to Odan's arrival back (?) into the Realms...for future consideration it probably should have been stuck right after Odan reentered the Realms, either as a coda to his chapter or a prologue to another chapter...sort of like "The Spider-Queen Awakes" sort of thing. But hey, this was totally unexpected given its placement and it does introduce a major villain (I think with the dragon quest coming up I'm not sure where Ms. V fits in)...a little more forward drive would definitely help an already fine chapter.

But really that falls into "what I do" versus "what you do" I find nothing here to be ashamed of and still wonder how you cram all that surface detail into a chapter, does that come naturally or do you have to go over the sentences again and again. To even come close to that I have to lay out the skeleton of the chapter and go back and add stuff to layer on the detail. But then my detail is more metaphorical which translates into cute wordplay for me and absolute boredom for the reader. Like right now.

That's our show for tonight though...ha, I think the comments are longer than the chapter itself. Nice to see Hensbane still wears the crown of Queen of the Word Count, if you folks give her a two week break you're going to get a novel out of the deal. Mark my words.

And oh my, mark the time, for it's time for me to go!

Tally-ho, all and keep smilin'! Be good, now!

- Michael

"Now she speaks about diseases and which sex position pleases best her old man..."
- XTC, "Respectable Street"

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