Thursday, September 9, 2010

So I'm reading Stan Nicholls's "Orcs"

Why am I reading this terrible fucking book? 

For those who aren't aware, let me set the prefix by explaining what this book is about. Orcs is a trilogy of books set from the perspective of orcs. Except that they're not orcs. They're just Native Americans in 'orcface.'

"Native Americans" you might say? What do you mean?

Well, the orcs and most of the other races are the native inhabitants of their world, and suddenly humans come in, seeking salvation from religious persecution. These new humans being persecuting everyone else for not enjoying their religion, and while doing so round up animals to cage them up for food and hides (one of the orcs says 'the beast's cage should be the entire land!' before another orc calls him a pussy and he shuts up), churning up the soil, bringing industry and ruining Manas Dantia, and - here's the real kicker - they are destroying the magic of the land. Literally. The magic of the land. There's no explanation that I've gotten to either. Is culture and civilization just inherently evil now?

Okay, so...this is Dances with Orcs. Kinda. Obviously there's no human that joins the Orcs because they are good and noble, but instead humans are jackasses from the outset while the orcs are the ones in defense of the purity of nature. Like I said - they're native americans in Orcface. As if Avatar's paper-thin racism wasn't bad enough.

Here's an excerpt from the back. 

There is fear and hatred in your eyes. To you I am a monster, a skulker in the shadows, a fiend to scare your children...... Feel the flow of blood and be thankful. Thankful it was me, not you that bore the sword. Thankful to the orcs; born to fight, destined to win peace for all.

Holy shit yes. The vicious badasses from Lord of the Rings as heroes in their own tale from their own perspective? Sign me the fuck up.

But instead, we get this. None of the characters are at all vicious or savage as you'd expect from Middle-Earth's biggest and baddest villains. I mean I'm barely ten chapters in, and the warband has done nothing to show that they're brutal or cunning. In fact, they're fairly alright; they're an efficient lot of warriors. They're just primary characters, and not even that interesting ones. They're not even that brutal.

In the very beginning they assault on a giant fortress that's a human barricade while they seek the object they desire. They kill the soldiers, run up into the upper room, and find a woman protecting her child. They consider sparing the woman and the child, but then some of the outside archers fire and wound her, and they realize she was an archer for the human side. So they kill her and her husband fighter, take the baby and carry it over to human lands.

Um. Wow. Some brutal antiheroes. They spare women and children. I don't even recall them being that bloodthirsty other than in the middle of a fight, other than the occasional mention. They're not war-hungry. None of them have real tempers that isn't quelled by their commander Stryke (haha I see what you did there Nicholls) telling them to shut the fuck up. They're not vicious. They're not even cannibals. 

Like, seriously, you could get away with just making them humans. Stryke is an otherwise normal orc warband leader, Jup is a trained scout, Cielle is a knife-fighter, Augray is a medic who's getting 'too old for this shit,' etc etc etc. I'm wondering where the mage is. They're just native-americans who are called orcs. The only thing you'd miss by changing it is the big, badass tagline. ORCS. GIANT LETTERS. BLOOD AND THUNDER. A BOOK ABOUT THE ANTIHEROES IN FANTASY. 

Except that's not what it is. It is a generic fantasy book with generic fantasy heroes leading a generic fantasy quest to recover five generic fantasy MacGuffins, called 'Instrumentalities' that aren't even spoken of what they do. I'm totally okay with all of those as individual cliches but good fucking god please stop with the bland fucking characters. Goodkind was able to put together a better, much darker universe in which generic fantasy took place, and I fucking hate Goodkind (primarily because he mashes the "rape" button whenever he needs a Horrible Tragedy to fill the time). Oh and speaking of which.

There's Jenesta, the queen bitch villainess. It's not uncommon whenever you have anti-heroes to have a villain that's even more unlikable than they are, but good lord Stan Nicholls seriously dialed it all the way up to eleven. I am not even close to joking when I say that she murderapes someone not even five chapters in. She feeds him aphrodisiac, rides him like a Singapore hooker, then when he orgasms she rams a knife into his stomach, cracks his chest open, then eats his heart while it's still beating. 

I wish I was kidding.


He half cried, half sobbed, "No!"

"But you want this," she soothed. "Why else make yourself ready for me?"

You know I probably can downplay this as "oh well she's just messing with him, obviously," but it reminds me too much of the 'Men don't mind getting raped because they get hard' excuse. Plus, would it have made it any less awful if a male sorcerer was raping women and men? I get the feeling ol' Stan says it would be.

Apparently it's a rite to restore her magic sorceress power. Well, okay, I suppose, maybe it'll just be an occasional thing. Nope - end of the next chapter, she bitches about being low on magic, and decides to go do the same thing on her new elf servant. Well, at least it cut away this time. Will this awful, stupid, offensive, ridiculous fucking idea go away now?

I get through another chapter of Stryke and his band of typical heroes arguing about stuff, then I cut back. Two paragraphs in, the following quote.

She climbed down from the altar and unstrapped the bloodied unicorn horn she used as a dildo.

Aaaaaaaand I'm done. That's about the worst fucking thing ever.

Bonus Stage: The religious humans are basically Puritanical Christians. Awesome!

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