Critique of Chapter VII(A)
By: Dhalgren99


Good morning!...to the people in Europe. Ha, bet you thought I was all messed up for a sec, didn't ya? Nosir, not me, people consider me a pillar of stability. Never a more consistent man than myself. Consistently boring, that is. But oh, that's not why you people let yourself be subjected to these exercises in egoism run wild...it's the witty critique and scathing indictment of injustice that fires my every sentence. THAT'S why you come back to me again and again! Right? Right? Who's with me! Stand up and be counted, my brothers and sisters...

Er, is anyone there? Anyone? Anyone at all?

Sigh, just when you think you've got them listening.

Since nobody is listening (which is the best time to say stuff, as it turns out), I'd like to take a second and officially give the Pouches (ask the rest of them how that started) Welcome (the shortened version, the real official version is fifty pages long) to Dru Driver who valiantly still decided to join even after DanO showed her my comments and was like, "You know he's going to do this to you as well...you might as well save yourself, it's too late for the rest of us"...howdy and hello and you've chosen a fine bunch of people who I've convinced myself are just figments of my weighty imagination that tell me nice things so I continue to talk to myself and not interact with the real world. Thanks, gang! You're tops! In any event, I'm making slow but steady progress, Dru, so it'll be a while before you get the Pouches treatment that everyone has suffered through so far. But welcome aboard.

Oh yeah and Dru you get the same deal as everyone else did, you seemed to be on the general PR mailing list so I added you to the PR Commenting List, which is a gift of dubious joy, if for any reason you do not wish to receive my inane rambling every other day or so, let me know and I shall promptly remove ya. Just another public service.

In any event, this chapter seems to be a bit of a twofer this time, getting split up into the next chapter as well (even though they're mysteriously numbered "seven" and "eight"...but I figure that's just code to the alien masters who will subjugate all but you since you betrayed the entire human race...hm, how can I get that kind of deal?)...courtesy o' Hensbane (I'm really sorry, you've got a character named Hellcore and I keep trying to write Hellsbane for your name...please call her the infinitely more frightening Henbore (or Hencore, which is like heavy metal for roosters..."Master of Cluck" anyone?)...but I'm only doing this first part this time, I'll save the rest for the second outing either tomorrow or the day after.

What we have here in the beginning seems to be a very well thought out mating dance between two creatures that at first remind me of horses but it very much turns out that they aren't. I'm not sure how it relates to Hensbane's story at large but you know what, there's another half of this chapter to do tomorrow, so I'll make that oh so witty observation then if the case still applies. In any event, my loathing of Harlequin romance is known far and wide (it's was on the news the other night, actually) and I very much thank you for making this chapter highly realistic and natural while retaining just a small hint of base sexuality that lurks behind all mating, especially with animals (there's even foreplay...sort of, if you can call attempting to run each other into the ground foreplay, that would be like my nonexistent girlfriend tying my wrist to the sideview mirror of her car and gunning it on the highway while shouting dirty bedroom talk as I bounce along side, the charm of course turned completely on...)...it was well done, but I did think they were horses in the beginning (and I caught the Karl Strange reference...where the heck IS he?), if that's not your intention then you may want to consider moving the description of the Trencherons, which seem more like dinosaurs actually, closer to the beginning so the reader has a better mental picture of this highly involved ritual going on...I had to completely revise it once I got the belated description and while I smile and take such things on the chin, lesser readers might just break down sobbing and I hate to see grown readers cry.

Some rough spots included the somewhat unnecessary repetition of the fact that Trencheron mating rituals tend to end in death except for all but the strongest:

So it is that their number is forever kept small and only those who are the strongest ever make it through a mating ritual unscathed...

Mating rituals among the Trencherons were dangerous to say the very least with few lasting out the long battle that was both physically and emotionally demanding of both the fillies and stallions...

Those two passages are fairly close together, with a lot of overlap between the two, you may want to take what isn't overlapped, rearrange the sentences, and then stick them closer together so the reader isn't being fed the same information twice (again, this from a man who took the dictionary definition of deja vu and repeated it five times in a row to make a post ironic point about something that I've forgotten now).

Other than that, there were still a few spots where present and past tense sort of went wonky (no, not Willy Wonka...wonkEE) but you can easily find those and do whichever you want with them as you so desire, as I said before, something like that very much falls under "do as I say and not as I do".

Then it's time to play "Let's turn the plot one hundred and eighty degrees without warning!" Since you did designate it as "Part Two" I can't even get you by saying you included two totally different events in the same chapter. Dang. I liked how subtle you made it that the entire chapter containing Hellbore was basically a dream, this was a much better way of introducing backstory, I liked your first chapter and the stuff it contained but I personally don't think it was the most efficient way ("Can YOU do better?" she asks, to which I can only look down at the ground in shame, shuffle my feet a bit and mutter a noncommital "No")...this got my attention, since it obviously took place a long time ago and begged the question, "Well how did she get there?"

The first question I wondered was how the Realms can sustain two shapeshifters (FragmentFour's Majica I believe being the other one), that's two, two! TWO! for the price of, well, two. It'll be interesting to see if there's any relation, how their abilities differ, if at all. Hellbore doesn't display any shapeshifting (nor do any of her family or friends) so I can't say whether that's an inborn ability or something she got later along the line (I know, the next section might explain, tomorrow, darnit!)...it was hard to tell if she was human or some other race, if she's human then the shapeshifting thing probably isn't innate then (believe me, if I could do it, I'd be taking advantage of it far more often...)...she seems a typical teenager, rebellious, liking the boys stuff...though her physical description toward the end gave me the impression, and please don't take offense, of a transvestite, you know, the ones who looks totally like girls but there's a certain "manliness" about them that you just can't place. Go figure. Either way, the glimpses we get of Hellbore's family and society are interesting, especially because we don't know how long ago in the past they are, is this a lost race that died out before humans and others gained the earth ("We do not own the earth, we inherited it" he intones, then giggles), or Hellbore is a coma after being the only survivor of something that destroyed her entire family. All I gotta say, if this involves Odan saving the day and then bagging her, I'm just going to start weeping.

We don't really see all that much of her life, or even much of Hellbore except that she likes outdoor, active stuff, nonwoman things (Good God it's an entire race of Donna Reed...ahhh!!) and that's a big thing, the basic argument is one we can all relate to on some level, having all been teenagers ourselves (maybe less for folks like me and DanO, who, at least in my case, have never been a teenage girl, and even then I'm not so sure some days)...on the one hand it may be a little too familar for some people (I think it was the subject of a Dawson's Creek episode one week) but I think the important part is how Hellbore got to the cave in a weird coma and what that did to her. Seeing where she came from and what she was like is important, but not so much that it should be the only concern. That said if you had devoted the entire book to this mother/daughter "I want to run and frolic in the woods while smearing the wild blood of deer on my body!" "No, you must cook and clean and wear high heels while vacuuming"...well, I wouldn't be using the same words. Still, not having won that Nobel prize yet, I don't think I have much room to criticize another person's work (hey...what am I doing here then, who ARE you people?).

But I do anyway and this was a fine chapter, it's not often we can get wild animal sex and a temper tantrum in the same piece and know deep down inside that the two are related somehow somewhere. I'm going to attempt to do the other section tomorrow night so that I don't forget anything.

Before I head out, note to DanO...for me it's weird seeing the characters literally being developed before my eyes as the authors are trying to get a feel for them since I've been working on Tristian for almost nine years now in various incarnations (there's been two delineations...and yes they've met) so for myself I'm used to knowing a character so well that I can capture him (or I tell myself I can do that) in a line of dialogue and know, "Oh that's what Tristian would say" and know why, nine times out of ten, or which way he's going to jump when I throw a steaming fireball at him (not up that's for sure)...so since I don't know how far everyone has gotten with these characters (and knowing that like thirteen more chapters are written) I'm going to approach it as evenhanded as I can and make such comments as I feel are noteworthy but take it all with the aforementioned sodium chloride crystals and feel free to reign me in when I'm getting too uppity, being as I put the "up" in that word. But I swear to God something large better fall on Odan soon (and not be a giant lump of fluffy goose down) or Michael will be staying up late nights writing his own personal ending that involves a bucket of water, itching powder and a particularly irritable goat named Orville.

So other than that, life is good, you'll get no complaints outta me.

Hensbane, you're mine tomorrow as well. Cue evil laughter.

And cue ending credits, 'cause that's all for tonight's Theatre of the Absurd people, go home! Nothin' more to see here!

Bye now!

- Michael

"I feel like a group of one..."
- David Bowie, "Teenage Wildlife"


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