Bitten: Chaos (Chapter 11)

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? I’ve bought a new Kindle Paperwhite, which has absolutely nothing to do with the long haitus of Bitten but is an interesting factoid I feel like sharing instead of going into the reasons for the long haitus 🙂 Now that I’ve finished Dogs and Goddesses, I’m back on the terrible travesty that is Bitten. I’ll be linking to TvTropes fairly heavily this time around, so be sure to hover over links before clicking if you don’t want to be sucked in 🙂

If it’s been as long for you as it has for me, you can re-read Chapter 10 to refresh your memory. Basically, though, rape culture reigns among werewolves and this book is disgusting. Let’s begin!

I raced into the main room. There wasn’t any screaming.

I love when I enter a room and nobody is screaming 🙂 Best feeling. No, but seriously, a werewolf just ran through, there ought to be carnage.

A boy well under legal drinking age sat cross-legged on the floor, cradling a broken arm.

Jesus. Broken arms hurt. If I broke my arm I’d be screaming and crying, not sitting calmly on the floor cradling the damn thing. Is anyone calling an ambulance? No. They’re trying to get the half-changed werewolf to pay for spilling a drink. Because… that’s important. This might be super realistic, but I still don’t like anyone here, not even the “innocent” bystanders.

I was still making my way toward the dance floor when Brandon roared. Then came the first scream. Then the thunder of a hundred people stampeding for the exit.

But one weird noise and they panic? Huh. I guess wolves roar now? Pretty sure that verb is reserved for feline animals; wolves tend to howl or yip. Maybe bark; real wolves tend to not be as vocal as dogs but I could see a werewolf doing so.

At first, I was polite. Really. I said “excuse me”, tried to squeeze through gaps, even apologized for stepping on some toes.

So let’s talk about this passage a little. The goal here is for the protagonist to stop the bad guy, and the obstacle placed in the protagonist’s way is that of a panicked, stampeding crowd. This is a common enough setup, fairly genre-agnostic (maybe not so often in post-apocalyptic scenarios but pretty much anytime you have crowds, a clear protagonist, and someone they need to catch for whatever reason, you can use this setup).

At times, we see a protagonist trying to be polite: for example, Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride tries to politely push through the crowd until he has to ask his more uncouth friend Fezzik to shout, prompting the crowd to let them pass. In situations like this, it is used for comedic effect at the protagonist’s expense: being polite is shown to be less effective than being rude and pushy. Other examples include Gaston trying to reach Belle in Beauty and the Beast; in this example, he is merely ineffective.

However, usually the trope is for the protagonist, usually male, to shout something or otherwise make a show of aggression and let the crowd part to let him through. Elena here might be being softspoken for comedic effect — she does make a crack about being Canadian — but I doubt it. This is a tense moment, and the stakes are high. Why does she waste time being polite when the matter is urgent? Because that’s what “good girls” do. Women are taught to be polite and softspoken and gentle, even when the matter is urgent. Therefore, her first instinct is to be polite, and that is only abandoned after it’s proven to be ineffective.

Also, how many people are in this rave? It takes her ages to get through. There’s a dead body and nobody even notices as they trample it. Again, this could all be super realistic, given I’ve never really been in this situation, but I’m growing more and more dissatisfied with how unreal this scene feels. People are acting like faceless NPCs in a video game.

Meanwhile, this operation has gone all the way bad. Brandon is now darting about, murdering people and ripping up corpses and having a wonderful time.

Clay has a brief moment of being not the worst character in the book:

“He’s not even trying to kill him”, I said

“Why would he?” Clay said, curling back his lip. “He’s having fun.” Disgust dripped from every word. This wasn’t killing for food or killing for survival. That Clay could understand, This was, to him, a display of another incomprehensible human trait — killing for pleasure.

Which is, of course, the old idea that humans are the only species that kill for fun. Which is, of course, not strictly true. Elena meanwhile can hardly stand to watch and not rescue the guy, because she’s more moral than Clay and belongs to the more nuturing gender and therefore her being a woman overrides her being a werewolf and leaves her with some morality. (It’s a theory in progress, maybe I’m wrong, but I get the feeling her being the only one with morals is tied into her special snowflake female status).

Case in point:

I don’t ever want to be like that, that hard, that tough. Clay had an excuse. I didn’t.

Notice how his amorality and lack of empathy are portrayed here as positive traits: a strength of character to contrast to Elena’s weakness. She could have said “that callous, that cruel” and the sentence would have made just as much sense, being just as accurate. But that would be judging the male lead harshly, and we can’t have that. His actions must be held up as justifiable due to his tragic backstory, because I don’t know, if Hitler was an orphan it’d be wrong to hate him.

Oh hey, Elena finally recognizes the guy! He’s a serial killer from North Carolina, and must have been bitten after he got out of prison because he’d have been discovered while in captivity otherwise. He must have recovered from the shock of being turned rather rapidly, which Elena chalks up to his wanting to be a werewolf while she rejected it and thus took longer than average. Yet her mind stubbornly refuses to accept this theory as true, because it means some experienced werewolf is turning serial killers, informing them about the pack structure, and letting them loose in pack territory to  make a fuss. Mutts apparently don’t help people transition, because rejecting the social order means you’re now subhuman and incapable of assisting someone or spreading information or generally scheming to take down the social order you so clearly rejected.

Elena thinks about warning Clay, but

I realized it wouldn’t do any good. Brandon was a killer from the human world. I could tell Clay that Brandon was a chartered accountant and it would have the same impact. He wouldn’t understand.

Because werewolves secretly live on a different plane of existence, what we’ll call the “faerie world”, and therefore have absolutely no knowledge of the Prime Material Plane, or “human world”. Because it’s not like Clay’s ever ventured outside the werewolf compound to, say, do a doctoral dissertation and defend it. Because obviously human killing is different than wolf killing, because with human killing, you intentionally take the life of another living  being, but when wolves kill, they actually just generate rainbows and fluffy bunnies and unicorns, so it’s totally the opposite. Because it’s not like werewolves ever plan or coordinate attacks or use strategy of any kind, so all these words are totally foreign to Clay the anthropologist, as he knows nothing about humans or how or why they kill each other.

I’m sorry. What?!

I feel like I’ve fallen asleep and my dreams are merging into the text of this book, because clearly, we’ve lost all sense of continuity or logic here.

Elena, who only has one plan in her entire stock of plans (which is one more than any other werewolf, making her the best at planning) uses herself as bait again, intentionally making herself afraid so she’ll be a more tasty target to lure him away from the dying man and toward Clay.

His nose told him Clay was a werewolf and some dimly functioning part of his brain realized this was cause for concern.

See, it’s not just me. The book even calls werewolves stupid. It’s right there on the page.

Clay chases Brandon up to a balcony. Brandon jumps off, but then runs around in circles, ending up trapping himself in a corner. Elena stands by, unable to help in any way, watching tensely in case Brandon rips up  Clay, at which point she will…. I don’t even know. Again, why did Jeremy need Elena specifically to come handle this?

Clay slips on blood and loses hold of Brandon, who streaks toward Elena and the exit. She grabs his fur, but loses her grip when he bites into her arm. Elena says the most true sentence ever:

“We shouldn’t go out together”

Exactly. Do not date this man! No, but she means they shouldn’t both go out in front of the panicky crowd chasing the clearly dangerous wolf because…. I don’t know. So she goes after him and Clay climbs out a back window because sure why not. Brandon, having no smarts, has run down a blind alley and gotten himself trapped, right in front of cops. So this mission has already gone all the way south, exposing werewolves to hundreds of bystanders, cops, and state troopers.

The cops never bothered to look inside the building, having been standing around yelling ineffectually at the crowd standing outside the rave sheepishly. In fact, I can picture them as sheep: “Why did we run this way?” one asks, flicking his white ear. “I don’t know, Mary started yelling, and then Joe ran out, so I followed…” “That’s silly. Ooh, look, daisies!”

two officers yelled and gestured. Apparently, neither one knew who was in charge or whether ambulances had been summoned or whether anyone had gone inside yet.

See?

Brandon leaps an 8ft wall to escape the alley, running past Elena again. She.. leaps over him, rolls into a crouch, then chases him. Because the leaping was vital to this plan, as was the rolling. She chases him, on foot, through the city, until he goes out into wooded parkland, and then…

I kid you not. I cannot make this up. This happens:

Unfortunately, I forgot the most basic of kindergarten rules: I didn’t look both ways before crossing. I ran in front of a semi.

I just.

O.o

The mind. It boggles.

She’s okay though! She executes another roll and everyone knows rolls are magic and save you from semis. Someone shoots Brandon, exploding his head and knocking him into the path of a pickup. We’re treated to Werewolf Mythbusters: Silver is not required to kill a werewolf, bullets will do, and they do not change back to human when wounded or killed, but remain in whatever form they were in. Which means the body was now mangled enough to look like a dog, which means the werewolves are safe I guess?

Clay again tries to emulate this thing called ’empathy’:

“Damn, I do hope he gets a proper burial,” a voice drawled behind me. “Poor misguided bastard deserves one, don’t you think?”

Which is, of course, to highlight how Clay, the rapist sociopath, is normal and good, while Elena, the dumb but otherwise decent protagonist, is The Real Monster: a moment ago, she was wishing he was still alive to be tortured in an And I Must Scream scenario because he’s a terrible person, a sadistic serial killer. Clay, on the other hand, somehow has the high ground here. But I don’t think so. I think it’s perfectly human and normal to wish terrible things on bad people; it means you have a sense of justice, which you then of course ought to temper with mercy, but it’s not like imagining something makes it happen.

Clay tries to kiss Elena, insisting that she did “just fine”, but she squirms away. They head back to the car,  where they run into Logan, who Clay is jealous of because Elena actually likes him. Unfortunately, he’s dead. End of chapter!

Fun fact: It took me a minute to realize he was actually dead,  because the book describes his eyes as being “blank. Unseeing. Dead.” so I figured he was in some kind of trauma coma or something like that. Oops.

 

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5 Responses to Bitten: Chaos (Chapter 11)

  1. Firedrake says:

    I’m willing to bet that Kelly Armstrong has never been a tall person in a panicking crowd. I have. I’m a bit taller than the protagonist, and people don’t pile up on top of each other to block sightlines; it’s entirely possible to see much further than you can go.

    The bit with the dead woman rings false too: the panicky guy looks down, sees the body, swears, and kicks her aside. Nope; he wouldn’t look down, he’d just trip over the corpse, pick himself up, and keep shoving. He wouldn’t even notice that there was a corpse there.

    Also, later on, people crowding a hall to try to get out because they’re scared don’t suddenly do it better because they’re more scared.

    On the other hand they usually don’t stay scared if there isn’t an obvious thing to run away from (a collapsing building, a fire, whatever).

    So the local cops find… surely not a dog but a wolf, even if it has been mangled by the collision. That’s not a quick trip to the Humane Society, that’s “holy crap the wolves are coming out of the woods”, and everyone with a gun is going to go and try to hunt them. Not exactly resolving the problem here.

    OK, with Logan dead I now think Elena is inevitably going to end up sleeping with Clay, while hating herself for it (she hates herself for everything else she does after all). He is after all the biggest strongest man around; what more could any woman want?

  2. Omskivar says:

    I read Clay’s “he deserves a proper burial” comment as sarcastic the first time around, but it’s been a couple years since I read this book and I don’t remember if he’s characterized as even understanding sarcasm.

    • Firedrake says:

      Hard to say. (See Yami’s comments: he’s written as not really getting humans at all, but his background says he’s studied them in detail.) In context it seems to me more like a casually snarky comment than anything else, but I wouldn’t put money on it.

  3. Pingback: Deconstruction Roundup for April 18th, 2014 | The Slacktiverse

  4. Pingback: Bitten: Grief (Chapter 12) | Raven Wings

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