A REMARKABLE THING HAPPENED

Something happened yesterday that never happened before. An angry exchange became friendly. Because I was able to step back, realize that my “opponent” was not my enemy. I pulled back and gave him a chance to back off too. We both benefited.

SwansWatercolor_05 - Marilyn Armstrong

It happens all the time on the Internet. We get into heated exchanges and forget we aren’t enemies. I have hot buttons. If someone pushes one of those buttons, I react. Without caution or intelligence. Ungraciously, I lash out because I was a battered child and sometimes, battered wife.

fobidden planet poster

The shadows of bad experiences don’t completely disappear, no matter how much therapy we get, how much we forgive. Fear and rage seem to come out of nowhere. Sometimes, I see someone else reacting like me. Which lets me do what I did yesterday — step back, take a breath and cool down.

It reminds me of one of my favorite creaky old science fiction movies, Forbidden Planet (1956). In the end, the civilization of the Krel was destroyed by monsters from the Id, by which they meant the unconscious. We are more sophisticated today and use different terminology, but the concept remains sound.

I am always in danger from my personal demons. The nasty ones I don’t even know are lurking. Everyone has demons — no one has lived a pain-free life.

A remarkable thing happened. Yesterday, a fight ended without bitterness before anyone said something unforgivable. How cool is that, eh?

STYXX by Sherrilyn Kenyon – Total Immersion Escapism

Styxx Amazon

Series: Dark-Hunter (Book 23)
Hardcover: 848 pages
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press; First Edition – September 3, 2013
Language: English

Epic in scope and length, Sherrilyn Kenyon’s latest offering has everything. I mean that in the most literal way. Absolutely everything. Eleven thousand years of … well … What would you like? If it’s fantasy, sexual, violent, weird … it’s here. My reality has been a real drag lately, so despite the fact that I had stopped reading Ms. Kenyon’s books a while back, I got this. Actually, to be fair, I forgot that I had pre-ordered it months ago, so when it showed up on my Kindle, I said “Oh, lookie here. Ooh, and it’s a long one. Yummy.”

Thing is, I’d stopped buying her books. They had become so much the same, I figured rather than spend money on a new one, I could reread an earlier one. Save a few dollars. Get the same kicks.

Styxx isn’t one of her cookie cutter, interchangeable books. Like Acheron, this is a big book in every way. I actually listened to it on Audible rather than reading it because my eyes don’t do well on very long books, and now that Audible.com is owned by Amazon, you get a big discount on many audiobooks you already own on Kindle. Then you can follow the bouncing ball in your Kindle while a narrator reads to you. As an audiobook, it’s 31 hours of listening. The narrator is overall good, but I am not sure why some Atlantean Goddesses and Greek gods and demigods have Cockney accents. Just wondering, is all.

Styxx audibleStyxx lets you spend  serious time in those golden olden days of yore. It’s enough to make you glad you don’t really live then and there.

So, what will you find in Styxx?

Sex, for one. A hefty dollop, though oddly, not quite as proportionately much as many of her lesser books. It’s there, but it’s not the most prominent feature of the book. Still, you won’t feel deprived. There’s plenty … but it’s not the only thing.

The most prominent feature of the book is torture and violent rape. Male-on-male rape. Agonizing torture, sex slavery, more torture, whippings, serious chains and bondage, straight up child abuse and cruelty, child rape (I sincerely hope that isn’t your thing). It’s all there, a cornucopia of perversion. Keeps you turning pages. In CinemaScope and surround sound. Name your hottest S & M fantasy. This book has got it. Lots of it, whatever it may be.

Oh, I almost forgot about the drugs. Them too.

Chains. Whips. Brands. Bondage. Rape. Torture. Regular sex too, just for contrast. And love. Karma in action. Reincarnation. Immortality. If you have read any other books in the series — Acheron in particular — you already know the plot. Horrible things happen to the hero. Cruelty, injustice, misery, torture. Not to worry. Love conquers all. Heals all. A fair amount of melodrama transpires along the way. Keep a hankie nearby to dry your tears.

This book also features the ever-popular war. There are some excellent, well-written battle scenes. Some of the best writing in the book is devoted to military maneuvers. She also provides (as usual) a substantial amount of pseudo-history, as well as Sherrilyn Kenyon’s special brand of “she made it up herself, really she did” mythology. She does it so well you think it must be based on something other than her imagination, but it has no basis in fact. Her ability to create things that feel very real is one of her strongest abilities as an author.

She give this book something she has never really given in any of the many books in the series I’ve read. True, there were hints, but this time, she lets it hang out.

Sherrilyn Kenyon is witty and clever. Her humor tends to the dark end of funny, but it’s there. Much of the wit falls into the category “Easter eggs,” hidden jokes for those in the know. She makes literary and movie references that, if you notice them, make you stop and say … “Hey, wait minute … that’s from …”

It was when Styxx, our hero, looks at the heavens and says “The old man was right” that I could no longer ignore it. This a very famous — and favorite — line from “The Magnificent Seven.” My husband uses it as his email signature.

I couldn’t let it pass, so I stopped reading and went to tell my husband, a man who can recite the entire script of “The Magnificent Seven” from memory. He and I discussed if it could be accidental and he said, “Not a chance” because that’s as famous a movie line as any, up there with “We don’t need no stupid bodges …” (NOT in the book). However, after that, I started consciously listening for hidden wit. I found plenty.

Underlying everything, Sherrilyn Kenyon has a wicked sense of humor. I love that in an author. I will forgive anything for cleverness, snappy dialogue and something to make me laugh. She made me laugh. More than once. It told me that she was not taking herself overly seriously, that she knew who her readers are. I was profoundly grateful.

You can miss the wit entirely if you aren’t acquainted with the source of her little surprises. If you don’t recognize where they come from, you won’t get them. The book goes on fine without them but they are a nice bonus for those of us who do catch them as the fly by.

Favorite original quote from Styxx: “A quiet man is a thinking man. A quiet woman is an angry one.”

I’m going to have to find somewhere to use that. Great line.

Plot? Oh,  yes, the plot. If you read Acheron, it’s the same plot, but from the other side of the mirror. This is, as Paul Harvey used to say, “The rest of the story.” Styxx is Acheron’s twin brother, the one who was supposed to have it easy, a spoiled princeling while Acheron struggled to survive. Not so, not so at all. Styxx’s tortures exceed even Acheron’s and last longer. Acheron is not the hero of the story. For followers of the Dark Hunter series, it may come as a painful shock to discover Acheron isn’t always a good guy. His nasty, mean-spirited, closed-minded side gets a good airing in Styxx.

I started by saying I was really ready to escape from my reality when this book showed up. I might not have bought it if I hadn’t pre-ordered it … but it was fortuitous that it did. I needed a dose of “out of this world.” You need to absolutely suspect your credulity to get into the book. Logic? Oh please. We don’t need no stupid logic. Just let the book sweep you away, accept it for what it is and enjoy it. If you don’t like explicit sex or violence, skip it. It’s not for everyone. If you are homophobic, skip it. If you are a Conservative Christian, skip it. I suspect the audience for this is mainly women, but I’m sure there are men who would like it too.

A lot of the story doesn’t really make much sense if you examine it closely. So my advice? Don’t examine it closely. Also, it is very clear where the story is going next and that should be most interesting. For the record, this is not the book where the danger of Acheron and his mom getting together to end the world as we know it is concluded. Not yet. More to come. Stay tuned!

The hottest, most powerful Dark Hunter — Acheron

Acheron by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Cover of "Acheron (Dark-Hunter, Book 12)&...

Sherrilyn Kenyon’s books are usually predictable, easy to read, and sexy. The plots are essentially identical from book to book, pure entertainment and as much (more?) soft porn as fantasy.

This is different. Longer and more complicated, it’s also more ambitious than any other book in the series … and there are a lot of books in the series.

Digression

Although Sherrilyn Kenyon uses various pantheons — Greek, Atlantean, Roman, and so on — as supposed sources for characters, really she just makes them up as she goes along. There was no god or demigod called Acheron. There was a Titan (maybe, in some versions), but mostly, Acheron was a river, one of several that ran together in the underworld.

Acheron as well as his mother Apollymi, father Archon and brother Styxx are supposedly part of the Atlantean pantheon. There is no Atlantean pantheon. If there ever was an Atlantis, it perished, disappeared with all of its knowledge and history. This leaves Ms. Kenyon a lot of room to improvise, mixing standard mythical characters with her own creations. There’s nothing wrong with this, especially since she never claims her characters are based on anything but her own imagination. Just don’t get bent out of shape if you look them up and can’t find them. They aren’t there. Google as much as you like: she made them up.

End digression. We now return you to this book review, already in progress …

Acheron has some depth to his character. He certainly carries a great deal of history and has more than his share of personal demons.

Our hero has been around about 11,000 years. So far. He is immortal, so he’s got some good years left to him. He had a horrendous childhood, including a level of abuse — physical, emotional and sexual — that is almost unimaginable. However, Ms. Kenyon rises to the occasion and chronicles every tormented moment with relish, missing not a single moment of cruelty, torture, kinkiness or pedophilia.

Acheron hasn’t gotten past the nightmare of his childhood. I sympathize. I really do. Nonetheless, Acheron is part of the modern world. He has been actively involved in the world pretty much since the beginning of time. These days he uses a computer. Watches television. Fights evil. Since he has had forever and will have forever, I believe it is more than time for him to work through his childhood issues and move on. Have a chat with Dr. Phil, accept he was a victim and not responsible for what was done to him. After 11,000 years … well … most of us work this out in a single human lifetime. With eternity to deal with it, I would think Acheron has had sufficient time and experience to get past it. Surely he has read a few books about child abuse? Watched Law & Order: SVU? Even allowing for residual feelings of worthlessness etc., that’s a lot of time to be stuck in childhood, no matter how horrific. Let it go, Ash.

If you can get past the illogic of a man who is highly intelligent and savvy, but can’t — in 11,000 years — find a path to resolving his terrible childhood, you’ll enjoy the rest of the read. Acheron may not be good at dealing with his own emotional demons, but he is very good at fighting real, in-the-flesh demons.

Acheron also has a mother problem. Here, I’m with Acheron. No amount of therapy is going to help him deal with this mother. He has the mother of mothers, the uber-mother. I probably ought to mention should Acheron get really upset, the world will probably end. I don’t mean Acheron’s world. I mean the world. Our world. All the worlds. Double that for mom. If Ash and Mom should get together, even for a little mother and son chat? Apocalypse now.

The book is good. It moves along at a nice, snappy pace. It’s never dull. Includes a lot of sex and if there’s one thing Sherrilyn Kenyon writes well … sex is it. So, assuming you like that sort of thing and can suspend your disbelief for a bit … and don’t over-think the story … you’re in for some excellent reading entertainment. If you’re into that sort of thing. Hot immortal guys wearing lots of leather. Who have super powers in bed as well as out. Graphically so.

Read this for fun and a ripping good tale with a great assortment of demons, demigods, gods, vampires … whatever you can think of, this book has got them.

Acheron is a very attractive character. He is all insanely heroic, a hero of heroes. All the heroes of all the fiction you’ve ever read in one incredibly handsome, ripped and leather-wrapped body.

This is the best book of the series to date, maybe the best of her books, though I’m reading Styxx now and it may be as good or better. Tune in. I’ll review Styxx when I finish it.

Acheron is long. Dive in and stay a while. He is the only character who appears in all of the Dark Hunter books, though he isn’t the main character in any of the others.  Unlike most of the other Dark Hunters, you will remember him.

Sandman Slim, Richard Kadrey (2009)

Sandman Slim is fantasy, horror, and mystery, gift-wrapped in a deliciously witty package. It’s got the cast of characters from Heaven, Hell and every place in between. Enough zombies, in various flavors, to satisfy anyone’s enthusiasm for gore. Enough violence to get your heart pumping.

Cover of "Sandman Slim: A Novel"

The writing is sufficiently sophisticated, literate and sharp-edged that you have no doubt you are reading a book for grown-ups. This is no excursion into adolescent sparkly vampires. The undead are as far from cuddly as a bunny is from a crocodile.

The good guys aren’t particularly warm and fuzzy either. It’s a new perspective on angels and demons, good versus evil. The distinction between the good and bad guys is a matter of degree and ultimate intent. Both commit atrocities. It’s a matter of whose side you are on and what your final goal happens to be … and whether that’s evil or holy is a matter of opinion.

In Kadrey’s world, angels are as lethal as any of the bestial dead. Flaming swords or not, there’s nothing human or huggable about these heavenly hosts.

Meet Lucifer, Uriel and a few other big shots of the hereafter. Spend some time in Hell. Take a quick peek at Heaven.

Kadrey’s biting wit makes this first book and subsequent books in the series addictive. I read the first one, then hustled over to Amazon and bought the next two installments (Kill The Dead and Aloha From Hell).

It’s set in Los Angeles, but this is not your grandfather’s L.A.

Richard Kadrey

Richard Kadrey

“L.A.” says our hero, if indeed Sandman Slim can be classified as a hero, though he is indeed heroic, “is what happens when a bunch of Lovecraftian elder gods and porn starlets spend a weekend locked up in the Chateau Marmont snorting lines of crank off Jim Morrison’s bones. If the Viagra and illegal Traci Lords videos don’t get you going, then the Japanese tentacle porn will.”

In terms of hyper-literacy, Kadrey rivals Mike Carey, although these books are darker — and the Mike Carey’s Felix Castor books are very dark — and noticeably more violent. And gory. Jim Butcher on steroids and meth.

If fantasy is your genre and you don’t mind violent and gory, check these out. They aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but they are extremely well-written and the perspective of God, Heaven, Hell and human life is sufficiently unique to hook me. I don’t usually like quite this much violence and am not especially into zombies … but these are good. Intense. Reeking of testosterone.