UnStrung, the 1.5 novella that I won’t call a cashgrab because it’s actually some pretty substantial racist garbage and not a couple pages like Seeds of Wither, says it’s cowriten with a Michelle Knowlden, who seems to mostly write detective stories. I don’t know if it’s her fault this is so terrible or if it’s just that he was testing the water with his Old Umber Talking black kid before he really went for it.
Let me tell you about the opening! Lev spends a little while hearing people talk around him, then finally wakes up.
When he does, he sees her pleasant face smiling at him. Square jaw, black hair tied back, and bronze skin, she’s a—“SlotMonger!” he blurts, and feels his skin flush red. “I’m sorry . . . I didn’t mean . . . It just came out . . .”
She chuckles. “Old words die hard,” she tells him, with infinite understanding. “We were called Indians long after it was obvious we weren’t from India. And ‘Native American’ was always a bit too condescending for my taste.”
“ChanceFolk,” Lev says, hoping his SlotMonger slur will quickly be forgotten.
“Yes,” the woman says. “People of Chance. Of course the casinos are long gone
That’s right. The first thing out of his mouth is a slur. It’s not even that she asked him where he thought he was and he used it in passing, he screams a slur upon opening his eyes and seeing one of those filthy mudraces is near him. At which point she explains that she would like to tell you what her preferred slur is! It’s “Chancefolk” because they’re magical leprechauns!
I am not sure which author had the idea and which just said that it sounded great, but either one is bad enough.
I will say this for it – if you read the opening, you know exactly what the book will be like. Lev is on a reservation of magical leprechaun people. One of them even has magical leprechaun powers that allow him to heal by playing guitar. His character arc is about the fact his music is beautiful and he wishes he could just play for crowds, but magical leprechaun culture says this is wrong so he can’t and is only allowed to play his magical leprechaun songs for important healing related stuff.
The magical leprechauns did not sign on with unwinding, so apparently this was a matter of individual choice. Instead, they’ve figured out how to use animal parts. You might be thinking to yourself, Wait, then why the fuck is anyone using kid parts? and the answer is the author didn’t think about the fact animal parts are objectively better. Because they are magical leprechauns, they decree that you can only get parts from your spirit animal, then bitch that all the kids’ parents these days push them to have a pig totem. You’re the idiots who decided to make picking anything else literally suicidal. All you had to do is not invent your crazy-ass bit about animal totem parts only and this wouldn’t be an issue. But no. That wouldn’t be magical leprechauny.
Just to be really clear here: if you pick hummingbird as your totem, THEY LET YOU DIE. You go to their hospital which only treats problems with parts and the doctors watch you die when they’re not slapping pig parts into the pig totem people. But don’t worry, the magical leprechaun people aren’t vindictive about your failure to support the swine industry. If you want to not die, the current guy in charge is willing to sign forms saying you’ve changed your totem. So you can live at the cost of betraying your spirit animal and never getting it back. And this is only an option at all so long as the current guy in charge feels like it.
But clearly it’s the parents telling their kids to pick pig that are invalidating their magical leprechaun culture and not the fact the people in charge deliberately created a situation where you had the choice of following their ancient beliefs or not dying. Have any groups ever done this to their own people? Because this seems like the sort of hateful bullshit normally done to marginalized groups to punish them for trying to keep their culture intact.
The magical leprechaun with healing music spends the story concerned about finding a cougar, because his grandpa is cougar totem and needs a new heart. The best part about this is not just that they’re hunting a struggling species. It’s that a cougar heart will fail in just a few years anyway despite the magic science to make it compatible with human bodies, so you have to keep killing them. And it’s not even like they’re using multiple parts of the cougar because there’s no mention of storing the other bits in case any other cougar totem needs one. It doesn’t even occur to them to try breeding cougars to ensure a steady supply. But it’s the pig-totems who are doing something wrong? Fuck you, magical leprechauns, your society is stupid and it deserves to crumble.
(Despite being told that the cougar heart doesn’t last, the resolution of this is the grandpa giving up his chance at the heart for a young woman who’s also cougar totem, even though it’s not actually like giving up a heart so the younger person can have a long and healthy life because she’ll just die again in a few years unless they can catch another cougar, which apparently is super hard because their magical leprechaun powers don’t make them good hunters and/or the environment’s collapsed and there are like five cougars left.)
At the end of the story child poachers sneak in to kidnap someone for parts, which seems absurd on first glance but when you remember they’re magical leprechauns it actually does make sense that some rich person would want their parts specifically. They end up taking the magical leprechaun with healing music powers for his hands, which in the Unwind universe actually does net you healing music powers. I bet his brain will be full of spirit totem magic too.
Anyway because of this the rest of the tribe remembers how healing music leprechaun cared deeply about Lev and wanted them to add him to the tribe (which would make him safe from unwinding which never came up as an option in the main book because the author only just made it up), plus this illustrates how the more warm bodies they have around the less likely one of their kids will be taken, therefore they kick his ass out because it was magical leprechaun opposite day. And that’s why Lev became a clapper apparently.
So I’ve done another chunk of Unwind, thus satisfying the poll for the moment. Next up will be the chapter-by-chapter thing we’ll be spending the month on…Divergent, because I just waded through this horrible novella and I can’t go straight on to whatever horrible stuff Sever contains without another breather. From the movie trailer and first chapter it looks like it won’t make my soul melt out my eyeballs, so let’s hope! If it does not contain precious rapist-chans or a conversation about how maybe someone should’ve been raped after all, it’ll be followed with Sever (which will presumably contain something even worse that’ll be my new benchmark). If it does contain precious rapist-chans, then DON’T TELL ME LET ME FEEL HOPE PLEASE and we’ll follow with a breather in Beloved of the Dead, the second badly written installment in the search for the +1 sword, and then whatever the poll picks for next.