Since I read most of my books electronically now I’ve developed a habit I’ve scientifically termed “highlight the fuck out of everything!” Normally these annotations amount to nothing: I only use a quote or two in the actual review. But by the time I was done with JM Frey’s Triptych I discovered I had made 179 annotations. In a book with 223 pages. That would mean only about 44 pages have no marks or notes that go along the line of “oh for fuck’s sake.”
Gentle readers, you will suffer as I have suffered.
Basil saw the words “backup” and “meatwagon” fall like cannonballs from her mouth.
This is such an unfortunate imagery.
A fleeting thought ran across his mind — a complaint about whiplash, pulled muscles, maybe something particularly snippy about manhandling — but Basil couldn’t spare the brainpower for his habitual bitchiness just now.
It’s like the author thinks this is a clever, witty narrative voice. It isn’t.
“No!” Basil screamed, and suddenly his knees went out from under him, like they couldn’t stand the thought of functioning anymore, not when Kalp was…
BIG NOOOOOOOOO. There are ways to portray grief in a real, moving way, and then there is… this.
Her mouth was painted in a flat line, her lips held so tightly together that they had taken on the same shade of pale as the rest of her vacant face.
But how do you paint a mouth into a flat line. Paint doesn’t have a flattening effect! Or lining effect! The description makes her sound like a zombie.
“There’s blood on your hands,” she said. “Come on, we’re going to the Institute.”
“No!” Basil said, jerking his hands back and folding them against his chest, tucking his knuckles under his armpits. This was it, this was all he was ever going to get of Kalp ever again. He couldn’t — he couldn’t just wash it off. Like it was dirt. Like it was filth.
Hurt/comfort slash fanfic.
She dropped her hands to her hips, forced the fingers into a fanned flex.
His throat was killing him. He wanted water, or something, he wasn’t sure. Maybe orange juice. That would make the pain worse, wouldn’t it? Fill the small cuts in the soft tissue of his throat with an acidic bite. Yeah, that could be good; make the pain on the outside match what was eating him to pieces on the inside.
Craaaaawling in my skiiiiin. There are ways to portray grief in a real, moving way, and then there is… this.
Some of his own blood was mingled with…with his. Basil had cut himself with his own fingernails while making a fist, impotent in the black void that was the back of the SUV. Yesterday he would have been worried about cross contamination, his blood mingling with another species’, but now all he could think was yes, inside me, he’s safe there, yes.
There are ways to portray grief in a real, moving way, and then there is–oh you know the drill. The last bit is lulzy innuendo because it’s already written like woobie slashfic anyway.
He bit his bottom lip until the sting on the cuts gave way to the warm tingle that meant the epidermis repair nodules had gone into effect. In a few hours, no one would even be able to tell that he had harmed himself at all. Make the cuts again, he thought rebelliously, make the pain on the outside match!
CRAWLING IN MY SKIN! BIG NO! There are ways to portray grief in a–oh fuck it, JM Frey can’t write.
“Why?” the man repeated, hands zooming around like scared birds
“Sort of,” Basil agreed around the screwdriver in his mouth. He kept tapping the screen of his hand-held television, pulling pieces out of the phone and comparing them to the images on the machine. “Blimey, my BlackBerry for a Flux Capacitor.”
And now we have our first pop-culture reference! Please keep in mind that Basil is from 2010 or 2012, can’t remember which. Now look up tech blogs and BlackBerry/RIM discussions. Geeks of today don’t, generally, carry BlackBerries. Not tech geeks, anyway. BlackBerries are seen as something of a dinosaur.
“Don’t touch her,” Basil said without looking up. “You’ll make space-time go kablooey.”
“Bullshit,” Gwen said. “What do you think this is, an episode of ‘Doctor Who’?”
Yes, the author is a Dr Who fan.
Evvie knew it was a horrible motherly cliché, but she wanted Gwennie to be a ballerina. A nurse. The prettiest girl in school, with all the boys after her but smart enough to know that a man wouldn’t marry used goods. Instead, Gwen was single, childless, her social life lost in the secret bunkers of a covert military operation. That was not the life Evvie had in mind for her daughter. She was supposed to be the Fall Fair Queen, not a…a killer.
Okay I want everyone to keep this part in mind because, within less than twenty-four hours later, Evvie will have reconciled with her daughter’s life choices. Think about it. In less than a day this woman turns around and becomes MODEL MOM.
“I am in the past, my past, where I caused the scar on my own forehead by blowing off the head of an assassin from another planet and my mother hates me, and this is just way too freaking science fiction for my comfort level!”
Do you see.
Evvie saw the half smile try to slide into the corner of Basil’s mouth. “Does that make me the acerbic genius? Or, no, I most definitely am the engineering geek. Ha! We are ‘Stargate.’ I am so Rodney McKay! And that makes you Samantha Carter. ‘Cause, Amanda Tapping? Hot.”
Evvie resisted grabbing the side of her head. What were they talking about now? Were these things she would read about in the news one day? A knot of panic pushed against her sternum and she took a deep breath. Their idioms and similes were making Evvie’s head hurt, making an already baffling situation so viscerally confusing as to be nearly physically painful
Do you seeeee. I will note here that for the time-travel section, everything is seen through Evvie’s point of view… which means that Gwen’s and Basil’s relationship drama are written and navigated entirely from the perspective of a third person, who keeps managing to eavesdrop on them despite times where it’d be physically impossible for her to hear what they are saying (because they’re whispering). JM Frey? Can’t fucking write. If the bolded bit isn’t already making that sufficiently evident.
Gwen pushed him away, enough to look up into his face, head craned like a furious, puce-faced Scarlet O’Hara. “Just rig up a damn Flasher. Get me the hell out of here.” She sniffled once, then hiccoughed. It would have been a laugh if it hadn’t been so wet-sounding. “Before we descend into more bad sci-fi clichés.”
DO. YOU. SEEEEEEEE.
“They just shot him,” Basil said against Gwen’s lips, shaking like an addict, pulling back just a fraction to give his mouth just enough mobility to form words. “There was nothing I could do. Aitken panicked and just…just shot him.”
Evvie, eavesdropping, manages to hear this despite Basil saying it against Gwen’s lips. As far as I recall, she’s not even on the same floor but looking down at them from a second-storey window. Is Evvie Superman?
“The Institute stood up on international fucking television and condemned the protesters for being such racists, such goddamned homophobes, for him
And now! Anti-racism, the fandom-approved version: a discourse on racism and homophobia through the device of a furry blue alien.
Did the musculature come from lifting books or bullets?
Evvie, people don’t get muscles from lifting bullets, okay? They aren’t cannon balls, okay?
A population of billions reduced to one thousand, three hundred and thirty-seven.
Oh my god it’s 1337. This is endearing exactly not at all.
How to form a cohesive family unit. How to get over our piddling gender issue bullshit; the countries that hadn’t legalized same-gender marriages wised up fast.”
I, uhm, really? All it takes to bring about gay marriage is some aliens showing up… and interacting with nobody but a bunch of first-world Anglo-Euro people? JOIN HANDS, BRETHEN, AND WE SHALL SING KUMBAYA. (And watch as the white first-worlders lead the way, and show us all how it’s done!)
What about VD? Evvie thought suddenly, absurdly. Have they cured them in two thousand twelve? What if the aliens brought something new with them? What about that gay disease? All these fags, allowed to marry, allowed to take more than one lover…is that where the world is going? “Wise up,” Gwen said. Like it’s the dark ages.
Again, keep in mind that within less than twenty-four hours after this, Evvie turns around, becomes MODEL MOM who embraces every single 21st-century liberal values.
She chewed her bottom lip for a second, tried to see it from Gwen’s perspective. She’d grown up in a world where men could marry men, where women could marry women, where AIDS and gays and those sorts of things sounded…common. Here Evvie was reacting like her own mother when Evvie had told her that pre-marital sex was okay, and she had —
It’s so believable! But wait a minute. If Evvie believes pre-marital sex is fine why does she talk about “men wouldn’t marry used goods”? Or maybe she believes pre-marital sex is fine but only with your single Special Chosen Man?
and Basil’s rough shout: “And you wonder why I don’t sodding come home!” Evvie took a step back, shoved her hands into her pockets, and gasped for the air that suddenly evacuated her lungs.
“We are seriously not having a domestic in my parents’ basement!”
Relationship drama: still conveyed through Evvie eavesdropping. This is such shit writing I don’t even.
“I don’t see how it’s my business, telling people where to fall in love,” Evvie said tightly, because she was wising up fast. If she wanted to be able to accept, to love her daughter, she would have to also accept that this was how she chose to live her life and there was, clearly, literally nothing Evvie could do about it.
Remember? That less than a few pages ago–less than twenty-four hours ago, in-narrative–this woman was still thinking about “fags” and “gay disease”? How a man wouldn’t marry “used goods”? YEAH. KUMBAYA. KUM-BA-YA.
Basil smiled wryly against his mug, lips still on the rim. “Innit?”
Oh lord almighty this is so so dreadful. Yes, Basil is British. Yes, he says “innit” all the fucking time. Yes, he consumes vast amounts of tea.
Evvie frowned, something tickling the back of her mind. “Wait,” she said. “All of them had Aglunates? Is it that…accepted, then?”
Basil frowned, shook his head. “Not really, no. Only the Specialists have formed proper Aglunates, because you know, we’ve known them longer, understand their culture. It’s more accepted at the Institute, but it’s gaining…well, people are getting used to the idea. You can’t just disallow an entire part of someone’s culture because it doesn’t fit into your tidy world view. The rest of the planet will get there slowly.”
See it’s that thing again with the fucking kumbaya. Evvie is, of course, able to come to grips with her daughter being in a 1girl2cocks threesome (one of them alien cock) with speed. Because she’s one of the good ones. The world, my friends, is divided into Inhuman Raging Bigots and Good People. Nothing in the between exists! It’s like the D&D alignment system except instead of nine there are only two: Chaotic Bigot and Lawful Sparkly.
Basil pulled her flush against his chest, buried his nose in the thready curls below her ear. Gwen wept, and all Evvie could think was finally, finally, finally.
Evvie ships her own daughter and a man she’s never met.
“Yeah, I know,” he said with the excited grin of a child with the best shiny new bike ever. He was practically vibrating with geeky (endearing) excitement. “Cool, innit?”
Evvie was a mother. She may have been the product of a time before aliens and openness and the perfect slapshot, but she was not (obliviousbigotedhardhearted) stupid. “I don’t want to have this fight
LAWFUL SPARKLY OR NOTHING, MADAM.