The Masquerade, Chapters 8-9

With this chapter, we are halfway through the book. The plot is just now starting to appear.

So, the chapter opens with Gangrel, Brujah and Nosferatu clan leaders sitting in a train going towards the base of wild vampires. They just now discuss what they think is behind the sudden mass appearance of said wild vampires. Brujah leader has two versions, the first being a powerful but dumb vampire doing a power play and planning a coup against Camarilla. Vinzarra quickly shots down that idea since it could never work. Brujah leader refuses to tell his second version, ominously proclaiming that he has to be sure before he would say it aloud. Instead, he asks Vinzarra to tell what she thinks.

She says that it could be a powerful vampire captured by the hunters and made to create a vampire army for them. That idea is shot down as even more dumb. Vinzarra pouts, demands to be told the second version, is refused again. Nosferatu leader telepathically talks with Brujah and asks if he guessed the second version correctly. Brujah confirms it, and the two take great joy in refusing to tell anything to Vinzarra.

She tries to wrestle it out of them with mental attacks, to no effect. There is some explicit sexism from the Nosferatu leader. It’s framed as a joke, but is very much not funny.

Next scene is more training. Young vampires learn to feel no pain, thus allowing them to perform self-destructive attacks for massive damage. They also learn more spells because Tremere are eager to share their knowledge in this AU, I guess.

The book mentions that the vampires are dead. Yeah, a bit too late for that, what with the cure eliminating any and all effects being dead may have on them.

We also learn that vampire books are written with vampire scribes’ own ash, which is a potentially cool and creepy idea, so naturally it’s told to us as an aside with little to no detail.

Vampires also learn how to drink blood without killing people. Yeah, now they do it. Shouldn’t it be a priority? I mean, even leaving morality aside, a corpse is troubles.

After the training, Pavel and Ira go to Ira’s place. On the way there they come across a wanted poster with Pavel’s face on it. Apparently his parents told the police he escaped home after severely wounding his sister, which is true. The poster was around for a week. So much for all-powerful all-seeing vampires. I can’t blame them. I mean, who could’ve thought that a person who wanted to kill Pavel would be a problem?

Anyway, Pavel and Ira arrive to Ira’s place and meet her neighbor, another old lady who doesn’t appreciate Ira inviting a guy into her apartment. At this point I am starting to suspect that this, too, is author’s revenge fantasy. Inside Ira’s apartment, Pavel’s spider senses start to tingle. The police has arrived, called there by the old lady. Pavel escapes through the window, Ira answers the door and plays innocent. She then smiles to the old lady, showing her fangs in the process and gleefully thinking that the old lady will become her or Pavel’s victim in a few days.

I am starting to suspect those vampires aren’t all that committed to the idea of the Masquerade.

Next scene is an attack on the base of wild vampires. Camarilla forces quickly and without many losses clear it out. There is a last stand by the Elders of the wild vampires. They attempt to negotiate with Camarilla, saying they just want to live and that the three vampires killed at the train station were supposed to just speak with Vinzarra (which could be true, it was mentioned that Brujah thugs attacked them first). The three clan leaders ignore the plea, saying that according to Camarilla laws, they have no right to live since the number of vampires is limited by the population (yeah, that’s why they have enough young vampires to maintain study groups).

All in all, it’s a rather bland, but otherwise OK scene. Camarilla is a cruel organization, and it’s nice to see them act in a way the author actually intended to be seen as cruel.

The next scene is just a denouncement to the cleansing operation. Camarilla failed to capture any wild Elders alive, young wild vampires are useless for them. So, while the operation was a success, the threat is far from over.

Next scene is a script-type dialogue in which hunters outline their plan to raid Moscow vampires: they are supposed to attack young vampires from Malkavian clan after they start heading home from training, then go to a blood bank belonging to vampires, then attack Tremere students, then retreat using a train if they make it in time. I highly suspect they are trying to bite more than they can chew, but I do support the general attitude.

With that the chapter ends.

The next chapter starts with more training, because damn it, we must bring Pavel up to snuff for the climatic fight, and if that means pages upon pages of grinding, so be it. Seriously, why isn’t Pavel already fully trained Camarilla goon by the start of the book? It’s not like he had any character development so far. No dark revelations of the vampire nature or Camarilla structure, either. Nothing is gained by making him inexperienced but wasted time. Even the exposition can’t serve as an excuse since the author doesn’t hesitate to write a paragraph or two of info-dump in the middle of a fight scene when he introduces some new concept.

Anyway, Maharnen tells Pavel that his problems with the police are resolved, quickly eliminating any potential conflict on that front. Why was it introduced, again?

We also learn that the author subscribes to the “human brain operates at 10% of its full potential” myth. Mental training for the vampires revolve around reaching the full potential and making the brain operate at 100% capacity by achieving a “mental burst,” which in real life would likely result in constant convulsions of all muscles along with other fun effects. If only.

After the training Pavel flashbacks to mentally controlling a prostitute to follow him into a dark alley, then drinking her blood. He says something about it to Ira, who is suddenly jealous and demands that he doesn’t hunt women using that method, declaring that she herself doesn’t hunt men so as not to offend his feelings. Pavel doesn’t understand what’s the big deal about it, and things go towards a big argument between the two. The whole scene has the “bitches be crazy” vibe, complete with Pavel wondering why “woman logic” is so twisted. At this point it’s surprising not at all.

Then the hunter attack. Yay!

Hunters unleash bullet heel on vampires. Bullets are shaped like crosses and hold “holy power.” Pretty sure it would result in shitty aerodynamic properties, but whatever, they are killing vampires!

Pavel survives, unfortunately, dodging the crosses. Ira is heavily wounded, and her wound catches fire. Pavel tries to hold the fire by feeding it his own ash, but Ira visibly dies. Her heartbeat stops. Yeah, because that’s a good indication that an undead is dead for good, sure.

Pavel, raging over his “dead” girlfriend, kills two vampires by mentally forcing a bystander to drive a car at them, creating an obstacle between the hunters and the remaining vampires in the process.

Hunters retreat. Ira is revealed to be alive and grateful to Pavel for saving her. Well, at least it’s not a fridging. Reading this book is all about silver linings.

The book is quick to inform us that vampire psyche is different from that of humans, so nobody feels jealousy or anger over Ira living while their own friends and loved ones are dead. So they congratulate Pavel with sincerity. Yes, Pavel, not Iria.

Maharnen also tells him he had his level up mental burst.

We jump to hunters, eight in total, retreating to a train station. We learn that they killed thirty vampires, then moved to the Tremere residence to repeat the attack, but were caught by vampires following them. Three hunters were wounded and decided to cover the retreat of the rest, likely dying in the process. Only three Tremere apprentices died. Still, not a bad trade-off.

We cut to the Bruja leader getting a call from the Ventrue leader telling him about the hunters. They briefly change the topic to wank over Pavel and his numerous achievements, because we must be clear about the purpose of the book.

Then the vampire returning from the raid on the wild vampires base kill all hunters in what is supposed to be an ironic scene, since earlier the hunters thought they are in the clear now and can mix with a crowd from the incoming train. But since the author is immune to irony, the scene is just obnoxious.

The next scene starts in a hospital wing of Malkavian headquarters, with Ira apologizing to Pavel for what she said before the hunters attacked. They are both stupid and despicable, so I don’t care.

Maharnen comes in and tells them about the death of hunters in detail, because I guess if a scene is good enough to write, it’s good enough to repeat. He then clears Ira for going home and sends them on their way.

On the way to Ira’s place, they notice that someone is following them. Pavel decides to take care of it and, after parting with Ira, leads his tail to some dark alley. He discovers that the man who followed him is a private eye hired by his parents. He scares the man away and goes see his father in his office. There he tells his father to stop trying to find him. He also plays “just because I’m different…” card. Dude, you aren’t gay or something, your deal is that you routinely kill people and take great joy in it. You are the one at fault here, and you fully deserve every major threat and little inconvenience coming your way.

Though, granted, his parents are also stupid. I mean, what did they try to accomplish with it? They know at least a part of the greater truth, they should realize that interfering in vampire stuff is bad for health and wouldn’t do much good either way. There is this weird dissonance when it comes to Pavel dealing with his parents. I’ve said before that I sense personal revenge fantasy on author’s part, and it’s times like this when it’s most clear. Nobody behaves like Pavel is a freaking monster out of folklore who feeds on people, leaving countless corpses behind. They treat it like he fell with a wrong crowd or something – questionable enough to warrant a condemnation, but not anything really dangerous. Even Elena seemingly didn’t expect him to lash out and seriously injure her.

It’s really jarring is what I’m saying.

The last scene of the chapter is another Council meeting. We are treated to a lovely scene whete the Brujah leader tells that his second theory about the origin of the wild vampires was just a joke to wind up Vinzarra. It’s a lie and he’s actually too afraid to tell it without a solid proof, but still, yet another nice move.

Thee meeting devolves into a huge aimless argument, with nobody saying anything productive. Then it’s interrupted by Sergei, who came to demand more rights to caitiffs, as he does from time to time. He is mocked and quickly ushered out, though he gives an ominous warning about how they may regret it. The Council starts to suspect him of being the one behind the wild vampires, but they don’t actually do anything about it. That would be a nice turn, forcing Pavel to choose between Camarilla and someone he knows and respects, so it’s probably not the case.

4 Comments

  1. Savanah says:
    ” Then it’s interrupted by Sergei, who came to demand more rights to caitiffs, as he does from time to time.”

    Anarchism don’t work like that!

    1. illhousen says:
      Caitiffs here are reduced to clan dropouts, so I don’t know, maybe they do gather in a bar to complain about the establishment and urge Sergei to go show them old fuckers.

      What bothers me more is that for all we are informed there is some kind of persecution against the caitiffs, we don’t really see it. They get the cure, they get to live. That’s more than a lot of VtM vampires can reasonably expect.

      Speaking of, no mention about the Anarchs. In VtM they were probably the most sympathetic faction, here they quietly disappeared. I wonder if it’s by intent, or if the author simply didn’t know about them.

  2. the_whittler says:
    “Brujah confirms it, and the two take great joy in refusing to tell anything to Vinzarra.”

    What did Vinzarra ever do to them? I mean, by the way they’re enjoying keeping secrets from her, you’d think she was Tremere.

    “We also learn that the author subscribes to the “human brain operates at 10% of its full potential” myth.”

    Well, that explains why the characters act like they only have tenth of a brain.

    “He says something about it to Ira, who is suddenly jealous and demands that he doesn’t hunt women using that method, declaring that she herself doesn’t hunt men so as not to offend his feelings.”

    You know, I do see the logic for this a teensy bit if we were going with the blood-drinking = sex angle. But we’re not, so…Ira you’re a completely useless character that only shows off the author’s misogyny and what he thinks of “true love”.

    1. illhousen says:
      “What did Vinzarra ever do to them?”

      She’s a tight up woman who doesn’t appreciate them dicking around instead of doing their jobs seriously. I honestly can’t find another way to read it.

      “You know, I do see the logic for this a teensy bit if we were going with the blood-drinking = sex angle.”

      Pavel did mention that midfuck hunt is more intimate that simply ripping victims’ throats out, but there is so little details in general, and the focus is so blurred, it doesn’t really come across. The scene where he was hunting a prostitute didn’t come across as a sexual encounter or, more appropriately, a sexual assault. It simply was.

      I don’t really convey it properly because I’m too lazy to translate large chunks of text, but the prose is so bland, it’s impossible to take anything in any other way than at face value. There is no deeper meaning, no word plays. The only thing that can pass for an author’s style is the abundance of pointless banter filled with pop-culture references.

      That makes the book a rather unique experience to read. Not good, but unique. There is nothing in-between the reader and the author, which is why I typically blame him for everything wrong, rather than screaming at the book. The book attempts to do nothing, it’s just author’s own issues bleeding on its pages.

      Anyway, where were we? Ah yes, vampires as metaphor for sexual aggression and taboos. For that to come across you need to portray vampires in certain way. May the scene where they bite people parallel the scenes of seduction or assault, depending on what you are going for. It’s not really present. Vampires here just drink people’s blood, it’s nearly impossible to read anything more into it aside from that exchange between Pavel and Ira.

      “Ira you’re a completely useless character that only shows off the author’s misogyny and what he thinks of “true love”.”

      That she is. So far she didn’t do anything that justifies her existence as a character. If not for blatant misogyny associated with her appearances, I would probably just skip her scenes and say from time to time she’s still around.

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