I ordered a book, an omnibus edition of a trilogy, to review for Fantasy Literature. The omnibus title was The Clockwork Vampire Chronicles, written by Andy Remic. I ordered the book by mistake; thinking it was another book. When I started reading it I was terribly disappointed. It wasn’t what I had been expecting. I stayed with it for 150 pages, because I have reviewed other books for fanlit that weren’t to my usual taste, but with this one, I just couldn’t hang in. I sent the book to another reviewer. It didn’t seem fair to write a Did Not Finish review for Fantasy Literature –as if I’d ordered a lemon dessert and then complained because it wasn’t chocolate-ly enough.
Here in the privacy of my blog, though, I can write whatever I want. And I may have ordered a lemon dessert by mistake, but I can still say that the crust was stale and tough, and the lemon was rancid.
The Clockwork Vampire Chronicles features villains called “the Vachine;” half vampire and half machine creatures (vampire+machine =vachine ,get it?), with shock troops who are albino clockwork vampires, called the Iron Army, and two “heroes;” a handsome male thief and a geezer soldier with a magic battle-axe. The Iron Army pillages the city where the thief, the soldier and his daughter and grand-daughter live.
Peter’s Evil Overlord List gives excellent advice for potential evil overlords. Andy Remic might do well to review it. The villains do everything stereotypical villains do including talk too much. Remic’s villains engage in what the clever movie The Incredibles called “monologuing.” Here is Vashell, the “V Hunter,” an aristo who is part of the Vachine: “Machine Vampires. We feed on the human shell; revel in our total superiority.” If Vashell had worn a mustache, he would have twirled it and followed this with, “Bwahahahaha!” Revel in our superiority? Gag.
Here he is again, lecturing Anukis, his hostage/captive audience: “Your naivety both astounds and amuses me. Here, the rich noble daughter, blood-line of our vachine creator, and you do not even understand the basics?”
Vashell is just the one I remember. The General of the Iron Army, an albino vampire, gets plenty of scenery-chewing time as he lumbers about the stage, too. In a scene where the two girl are separated from thief and geezer, they are grabbed by bad guys, one of whom actually says, “Well, well, well… what have we here?”
Misogynists “R” Us:
In an opening sequence, eight hundred men are beheaded by the Iron Army and the nasty, scary creatures called Harvesters. Okay, that’s pretty terrible. It’s also one sentence. The first 150 pages of the book give us five women characters; Nienna, Katrina, Anukis, Shabis and the Queen. There’s a sixth woman but she gets disemboweled about three pages after we meet her.
Let’s review what happens to the five surviving-slightly-longer women: Anukis; beaten until bones break, raped, then masochistically surrenders to her rapist; disfigured, mutilated and enslaved; Shabis, lied to, betrayed and beheaded; the Queen, raped; Katrina; beaten, stripped, sexually humiliated and nearly raped (saved by the attack of a monster). Nienna has made it to page 150 without being raped, but she has been trussed up like a chicken and subjected to what can only be described as prose-rape (SEE evil Overlord, above) when a bad guy jabbers at her for about ten minutes describing how he is going to rape her.
Well, these are all the bad guys, and doesn’t this just really show that Remic is equal-opportunity? Men get beheaded, so women in tough times have to suffer too, right? It doesn’t wash. Remic spends too much time on the rape/humiliation scenes and they are too written in too juicy a manner. It’s like Remic can’t tell the difference between eroticism and violence.
It’s not only the villains who mistreat women, though. Saark, the swordsman-thief, bragging about his numerous sexual conquests, delivers this incoherent sentence, “It’s been commented in certain social circles how I can supply the most exquisite of pleasures to even the most buxom pigs with a face like a horse arse.” First of all, huh? When I laboriously parse that terrible sentence, I think Saark is bragging that he can have sex with fat, ugly women. Yes, even ugly women can have orgasms. Somebody alert the media.
(To be fair, that sentence is so badly constructed that it could mean that Saark’s face is like a horse arse. Or it could mean he enjoys sex with farm animals. Hard to tell. Many of the passages in this book read like that. Make of that what you will.)
But what about Kell, the geezer hero, the old soldier with his demonic (female) battle axe? He treats women all right, doesn’t he? Sure, his grand-daughter anyway. When the city is overrun with albino vampires, Kell runs immediately to the university. (Even though he’s never been there before, he finds Nienna instantly, with no trouble. I can’t even find a parking space on most campuses.) So see, he’s not a misogynist! Except that Nienna is the daughter of his daughter, a character who isn’t even given a name. Kell doesn’t waste a single thought on her when he goes haring off to save Nienna. On page 76, we find out that his daughter’s out of town, so it’s all all right, but Kell’s neglect is part and parcel of the treatment of women here. It’s like the GOP donned helmets and furs and picked up battle-axes.
And Really Bad Prose:
SEE Saark’s quote, above. The book is filled with bad writing and bad story choices. Kell forgetting he has a daughter until page 76 is a bad story choice. Kell, Saark, Katrina and Nienna are on the run from the Iron Army and they stop to spend the night in an abandoned farmhouse. Kell hears something in the woods, and tells Saark they have to leave, now. Saark goes to wake the girls and watches as they get dressed, so he can stare at their breasts. Okay, Saark’s a big old lecher, we get it. Here’s my question; who believes for a minute that the girls undressed? They’re on the run from a supernatural enemy; they’re in a strange place; it’s winter. There’s a fire in the room next door, but not their room. If you believe they took off their clothes, raise your hand. Really? Anyone? Andy Remic, you raise your hand, young man. What did you say? Oh, you don’t think they’d take their clothes off either. You just wrote that to give Saark some quality lecher time, I see. Sit down, Andy.
On the micro level, I couldn’t read a page without tripping over a bad sentence. Kell flashes back to his history in the army, and Remic describes it thus: “Visions echoed.” Um, I’m sorry, but visions can’t echo because they’re, you know, visions; not sounds. Later, Kell fights a Harvester. The Harvester gets wounded and utters a “low, high-pitched moan.” Low, high-pitched? What? Do you mean a soft, high-pitched moan? Do you mean it whined? What?
To be honest, if there had been a single engaging character, I would chuckle indulgently at things like “visions echoed” and read on, but there isn’t one. Not one.
Somebody has some. Actually, it’s the albino vampire and the vachine, and they aren’t completely brass. They are clockwork testicles. How do I know this? Because in 150 pages Remic describes them twice on two different men, in loving detail. Clockwork Testicles might have been a better title, in fact.
So what’s to like? Well, snarky sword and axe fighters even if they don’t like women. Scary monsters (the Harvesters are genuinely creepy); good action scenes and some interesting description. There’s an idea in here. It’s just a bit rancid, and the crust is stale.