Remember how, with the last batch of chapter reviews, the blandness of Chapter 4 completely killed my enthusiasm for continuing with this project, yet I put my game face on and plowed ahead? Yeah, I got one chapter past 4, and now here we are, months later. I actually did read Chapter 6 right after doing my review of 5 and had every intention of doing a write up then. I just couldn’t. I can’t stand this fucking book. I would tear it down the spine, hurl it against a wall, then gradually use one page after another as toilet paper… except it’s on my Kindle, so I can’t.
Instead, the game face is being thrown back on as I finally sit down and show this chapter who its master is.
We open with Control Freak Grey and Anastasia Steele stepping out of the elevator, Ana instantly reminiscing over their passionate encounter. Because Grey is acting like nothing happened whereas she’s mentally professing herself a changed woman due to her aroused inhibitions and swollen lips (did he headbutt her in the mouth? Why are they swollen?), Ana starts comparing the incident to the myths of King Arthur and Atlantis.
Fuuuuuuuuck thiiiiiis boooooooo–
So the main thrust (no pun intended) of this chapter is that Ana’s on switch has been flipped. She’s had absolutely zero romantic interest in anybody before this point, and now all she wants is the opportunity to do the horizontal tango with Grey. It’s important that I get this out up front because I really REALLY don’t want this overview to intercut every single paragraph with “And Ana wants sex.” She’s locked onto that goal and doesn’t waver from it for the whole chapter. Which is fine. It’s actually a bit refreshing to read about a romantic heroine who, instead of being afraid of sex or playing out the “blooming of the virgin” scenario, clearly knows what she wants and who she wants, and sets about getting it. I expressed issues with her relationship history and her choice of Grey in the last chapter, so I won’t linger on them here and instead just end the point by saying it’s not all that poorly done… with the exception of bizarre moments like namedropping Atlantis and King Arthur. I’ll bring up a few other unfortunate bits, but otherwise just take it as a given that every paragraph ends with “And Ana wants sex.”
As Ana and Grey step into his car, things cease to be a novel and instead become one of those bizarre stretches of product placement advertising as every amazing feature of his Audi SUV is highlighted over the course of the ensuing conversation. “Do you like the music? Watch in wonder as I use a button on my steering wheel to play that track again!” “That ringing over the speakers means I have a call coming in. Hang on a second while I use a button on my steering wheel to answer it in a hands-free fashion!” Either “James” just bought an Audi and wanted to share her mad humping love for it with the readers, or she was hoping Audi would give her a car. Given the sales on the book, maybe they have. Who knows.
[Thought: Out of curiosity, does anyone know if the Audi bit was in the original fanfic draft, or was it added during prep for publication? It feels like something that would be oddly out of place in fanfic.]
During her advertisement for an Audi, “James” lists off a few more of her favorite things, namedropping “The Flower Duet” from Lakme and the works of Thomas Tallis, and then Grey and Ana gush about how awesome Kings of Leon is as Grey uses that handy steering wheel button to flip to a track by them. Remember how Stephenie Meyer kept namedropping Muse and then scored some songs from them on the Twilight film soundtracks? Methinks “James” is hoping for a similar result with Kings of Leon.
Then we move into the steering wheel button operator game segment as Grey gets not one, not two, but three calls in succession, all cutting in on their enjoyment of the tune “Sex On Fire”, which Ana likes because “And Ana wants sex.” First, the cryptic announcement that the information Grey requested has arrived. Then news that a Non-Disclosure Agreement has been e-mailed to him. Remember this! It plays a very important part later – ah, fuck it. There’s no reason for this at all. The problem with a throwaway line is you have to be careful not to make it so unnecessary that it can be thrown away without lessening the impact of the story in any way.
And then Elliott calls, asking if Grey got laid. And then Elliott and Ana tease one another about Kate. And then they actually get to Ana and Kate’s place, where Elliot still is and they were going to anyways, so the reason for him to call was what exactly? No, seriously, “James”, did you slip another call in there just to further show off the Audi’s features? Because nothing that’s said in that moment carries us to the next scene, nor could it have not been said once we got to that scene.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:
COULD! HAVE USED! AN EDITOR!
Just before we get to Ana and Kate’s apartment, there’s a bit where Ana asks why Grey keeps calling her Anastasia. He says it’s her name and continues doing it, despite her protests. This is the man who insists upon which people are allowed to refer to him by which specific variant of his name, but heaven forbid he show the same courtesy to anyone else. While fully reveling in it with a smirk, no less. There’s teasing, and then there’s being an asshole. And Ana loves it, of course. Because [chorus].
And then he apologizes for what happened in the elevator and says it won’t happen again unless it’s “pre-meditated”…… Pre-meditated? No, try consensual, you ass!
He pulls up outside my duplex. I belatedly realize he’s not asked me where I live – yet he knows. But then he sent the books, of course he knows where I live. What able, cell-phone-tracking, helicopter owning, stalker wouldn’t.
Remember that Awesome Ana inner voice that occasionally stepped in to champion the image of Grey as an arrogant stalker who should be avoided at all costs? Her presence has increasingly dwindled over the last few chapters, and I fear we may have lost her all together because that paragraph, the holy crap run away statement made above isn’t instantly followed by a gnawing feeling of “Yeah, this situation is a little uncomfortable, isn’t it?” and is instead punctuated with:
Why won’t he kiss me again? I pout at the thought.
FUUUUUUUUCK THIIIIIIIIIIIS BOOOOO–
Oh, and Ana says Grey’s surname should be Cryptic, which means I should start calling him Mr. Control Freak Cryptic by this point. But I won’t, because it’s been months since the last post and I don’t want people scratching their heads over how far this joke has progressed. So no more Cryptic, no more Control Freak (C.F. for short), from now on it’ll just be Grey. Not Christian, though, because he specifically said that’s just for friends and I still don’t want to be in this dude’s call-list, whether it’s housed in the steering wheel of his Audi or not.
So Kate is all giddy from sex and Elliot is all “dude-bro I just got laid!” from sex and they’re both deeply making out to the point of Elliot dipping Kate to the floor as the two people who haven’t yet had sex but want to watch on. And this is echoed by Elliot following his tonsil exam with a “Laters, baby,” then Grey longingly stroking Ana’s face before saying… fuck, I’m actually going to have to quote this aren’t I… he also says “Laters, baby,” and the two brothers drive off, leaving behind a pair of women with loins all aflutter.
And the chapter isn’t through! Woohoo! We’re not even… *looks* Oh goddammit, we aren’t even a third of the way through the chapter yet! *bites the head off of something* *then schedules appointment with dentist because biting the head off a plastic bottle is apparently not good on one’s teeth*
Kate and Ana gush about the boys, swap stories, then Kate promises to get Ana all nice and purdy in time for the date. BEGIN MONTAGE as–
Wait, what? There’s no sprucing up montage? I am disappoint.
So as soon as Ana gets all sprucified, she heads off to work… and then we flashback to the sprucing montage!
Oh fuck you! There’s absolutely no reason for that bait ‘n’ switch! If you’re going to do a plucked and polished montage, just do it! Don’t further demonstrate your continuing lack of anything resembling a narrative flow by cutting to another scene, then reminiscing about the montage that took place before it!
And why is Ana getting all spruced up before heading to work, with Grey set to pick her up for their big date as soon as she’s off shift? She works in a home improvement store and the book clearly states she’s working past closing time to restock the shelves. Maybe “James” never worked in a home improvement store and thus doesn’t know anything about something she’s never done any research on, but there’s a lot of very heavy stuff in a home improvement store, and even the smaller items will give you quite the workout after a while. Meaning Ana will will be a sweaty, slightly unkempt mess just as her date shows up to drive her off for a night of “And Ana wants sex.” The book clearly states that Kate does all her sprucing within a single hour, so why not, I don’t know, push the date back an hour so Ana has a little time to go home, tidy up, and get spruced then? “James” not only knows next to nothing about narrative flow, but wow, she doesn’t even plan an evening all that well.
Tonight’s the night! After all this time, am I ready for this? My inner goddess glares at me, tapping her small foot impatiently.
Ah, so that’s what happened to the inner Ana who was smart and sharp and tried like hell to guide her external self away from Grey and his shenanigans. She was struck down by a higher power, a Mary Sue that ascended to a level of narrative warping divinity. I hereby give this inner goddess the name of Elemental Lifebringer James, the convoluter of relationship realities in favor of nonsensical draws and expectations, and giver to fanmoms everywhere the gift of a version of Twilight they can more thoroughly fondle themselves to.
Elemental Lifebringer James! The one known as Grey hast arrived to sweep the thoroughly shaved maiden Anastasia away to their nightly courting, and lo, the woman is dried of perspiration with hair fully groomed and makeup unsmudged! May thy hollowed reasoning be praised as we await the next divine miracle of thy heavily-inspired-by-another-work creation!
So Grey and Ana have a short ride in the back of his limo, with hand holding that gives Ana her first few orgasms of the night, and lines from her like:
“Very long,” I reply, and my voice is husky, too low, and full of need.
And it turns out Grey and his brother like to go off on hiking trips. Yet another surviving element from Twilight. But since I doubt they feast on mountain lions in this version, the point of it has become a little lost.
And then they show up at a building and she gets horny at the idea of being in an elevator with Grey again, but it’s only three floors and they’re on the roof with the chopper and an old guy name Joe who Grey refers to by his first name, which puts Ana in shock and admiration that Grey is actually showing respect to someone, then she’s in the chopper and he kisses her and barks orders at her and tells her not to touch anything and straps up her harness and
“I like this harness,” he whispers.
For once, you and I agree, Anastasia Steele.
So they take off, and what follows is several pages of Grey making the lights outside go further away while we get detailed radio speak with the flight tower that shows us “James” may have actually been in a helicopter and taken notes at one point in her life, all while Ana stares at the ground, the controls, the Grey, all with the gape jawed awe of an 80s Amblin child star, and occasionally expressing herself through lines that roughly translate to “…ZOMG…”
As they approach Seattle, she compares the beauty of the sight to Bladerunner, because those cityscapes of pollution, decay, and corporate dystopianism truly were… okay, well, yeah, they were stunningly beautiful, but not in the ways Ana is trying to express, so shush. Anyways, Bladerunner is Jose’s favorite movie, which gets her thinking about Jose and feeling bad that she’s left him hanging after his “attempted kiss”. Sweetie, no. The dude got wasted and assaulted you. You absolutely should not be feeling bad about giving him the cold shoulder from now on. Earlier in the chapter, it’s mentioned he tried to call numerous times that day. If he starts showing up, buy a stun gun and taze that bro. Aim for the nuts. He’s got it coming.
It’s now been about two months since I wrote the last paragraph above. I keep opening this file, looking at where I left off, spending a few minutes thinking about where to go next… and then I close it and do some other stuff. And that last paragraph above was the last in a piece chipped together during another stretch of two months, where I became so exhausted and bent writing about this tripe that I’d add a paragraph, then do other stuff for a few days. Then add a paragraph, then do other stuff for a few days. Now I can’t even do that much. Now I just stare at the next blank line before giving up.
This book broke me.
I’ve read shit. I’ve enjoyed shit. I’ve gotten a kick out of going through shit just so I can discuss it with other people and share with them how shitty it is. But not here. With this book, this amateurish, unedited, lazy setup for a book that doesn’t hint at getting any better, all I am is exhausted. I haven’t even touched the thing in two months and the mere thought of doing so saps a bit of life from my soul.
And I haven’t even gotten to the kinky shit yet! This is all setup. This is all boring people having boring conversations and making boring introductions and getting the same boring backstory twice because someone couldn’t be bothered to tell the author that, no, her manuscript is not immune to a red pen. I haven’t even fulfilled the setup, but the setup for the setup is such a waste of words that I just don’t care. I got through the Twilight books just fine, even legitimately enjoyed stretches. This book just doesn’t have that same misguided spark to give it any life beyond the rote fanfic it is.
This is an awful book.
So far. Let me stress, so far. I refuse to fully condemn a book unless I read the whole things, but lord, something must be said for me not even being able to make it past Chapter 6. Hell, I had a final payoff for the game face joke I set out above, a perfect picture of Reb Brown mowing down opposition in front of an explosion… but I just don’t have the energy to finish the joke.
Hell, I don’t think I have the energy to finish the book.
……………………… However, I did make a commitment. I reached out to a pair of friends, both of whom made it to the end of this diaper padding, who agreed to discuss it with me in a podcast following my completion of the novel. I’ve already delayed things long enough that I’d hate to just scrub it altogether. So, yes, I will finish.
I don’t know how I’ll finish, or what format this will take following Chapter 6, but I’ll make myself get there somehow. I probably won’t keep the chapter-by-chapter format, and even if I do, I’m not going to dwell into as much detail as I have been. I might also do it in broader chunks, or just finish the damn thing whole and pen a single, all-encompassing review. I don’t know. I’ll figure it out soon.
As for the rest of this chapter, the two have dinner. Both clearly want to have sex, demonstrated by her biting her lip a lot and him saying how much he’d rather be the one biting her lip. He pulls out a reference to the classic novel whose name I don’t remember off the top of my head and don’t give enough of a shit to look up, asking if she wants him to be the lover who gently adores her or the one who ravishes and uses her. She says the latter, half jokingly, then he pulls out the non-disclosure form. She signs it. He says its time for her to see his playroom.
“You want to play on your Xbox?” I ask. He laughs, loudly.
Fucking give me strength, clapping pixies, because I’m about to run from this again.
He opens the door and stands back to let me in. I gaze at him once more. I so want to know what’s in there. Taking a deep breath, I walk in.
And it feels like I’ve time-traveled back to the sixteenth century and the Spanish Inquisition.
Points for not using a “crap” or “shit” there, “James”.
As I said, I don’t know when I’ll be back or what format this will be in when I do, but I’ve sat on this chapter long enough, and I hope to get through the rest of the book and take a stab at that podcast before the end of the year. Just give me a kick now and then if you don’t see me moving on it.
What the hell. Let’s share one last game face for the long, clumsy, unedited road ahead.