UnStrung (Unwind novella)

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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.


  1. Ember says:
    Are Carapace Sundays going to be a thing again?
    1. Farla says:
      That’s my intention! I just needed to unbury myself from the PMs.
    1. Ember says:
      …yeah I just realized it’s so bad that my brain instantly blocked out everything but the last paragraph before I could even comment on it. Sorry Farla, I’ll try to be more appreciative of the sacrifices you make for us.
  2. Zolnier says:
    About using kid parts, wouldn’t they usually be too underdeveloped? I guess that wouldn’t hold so much for the older teens but the thirteen year olds?

    And looking forward to more YA dytsopia shit, and about Fever, I like to think Billy and Howard are Rhine’s great grandpa.

    1. illhousen says:
      Normally it could be an issue, but this is Unwind, so getting kid parts fills you with a youthful spirit.
      1. Zolnier says:
        And does Unwind address the fact that most people go their whole lives without needing new organs?
        1. Rufus says:
          No, unwind is convinced you need ALL THE NEW ORGANS with the amount of kids being unwound and there STILL is apparently a black market for kid-parts because…apparently the thousands of kids (I’m not exaggerating) aren’t enough to satisfy the demand? Or something? Just wait until Farla gets to the next actual novel. It gets worse.
          1. Zolnier says:
            The entire premise baffles me. So America has a second civil war over abortion, not terribly likely but not impossible. And both sides agree on a compromise where abortion is banned but once a child is thirteen they can be killed and harvested for organs at will. Aside from the fact that is clearly the most insane idea anyone has come up with, how in the fuck did this please the pro-choice side?

            One of the reasons pro-choice supporters (I count myself as one) believe abortion should be available is that many women find themselves pregnant but unable to provide for a child properly. In Unwind apparently pro-choice people are fine with parents having to raise children in crushing poverty as long as they get the sweet satisfaction of murdering them once they’ve become actual thinking and feeling human beings

            1. actonthat says:
              Everything about the premise is nonsense. I probably tilt a bit more pro-life, but the whole reason is because I think ending a life is terrible! Why would I feel awful about terminating a 4-month-along fetus but NOT a 13-year old kid?! How the fuck does that make any sense?

              Honestly, the publisher probably saw dollar signs at “book about abortion” and didn’t give a shit about whether it made sense or not.

              1. Zolnier says:
                Oh and I forgot to mention, what about abortions performed to save the mother’s life? How does the unwinding thing help them? “Well with your hypertension you and the fetus will be dead in a week, hey, at least you could have sold him for organs in thirteen years).
              2. Farla says:
                Don’t be silly, pregnancies that threaten the health of the mother are just a boogyman the liberals made up. They don’t exist any more than pollution or global warming.
              3. actonthat says:
                Right? “Well, your pregnancy is ectopic and the fetus isn’t viable, so now you die.”
            2. Farla says:
              Don’t worry, they fixed the poverty issue by letting people dump the kid on some other poor family’s doorstep and making it legally their responsibility instead. Problem solved!
              1. Zolnier says:
                Oh I heard about that thing. And how it most often resulted in people who got doorstoped dumping the kid on another doorstop and so forth until it dies of exposure.

                Speaking of life ends at conception right wing weirdness Billy and Howard is weirdly pro-life.

                Characters who gleefully murder frightened children get all uptight when women who recently were sex slaves want an abortion.

              2. Farla says:
                There’s a really sad amount of crossover between “pro-life” and “total control of everyone else’s life” so that actually doesn’t surprise me. The problem isn’t the abortion, it’s the women having choice in the matter. Only their male owners should decide what happens to their bodies.
              3. Zolnier says:
                Oh and Sarah is the one that gives said woman the spiel. Sarah, who until recently was an implanted servant who went through the exact same thing.

                Oh and because of genetic engineering the baby takes only three months to be born so that makes it easy somehow.

                Oh and the characters go on about how terrible normal parents are and all their kids are raised in some boarding school in Antartica that also serves as the Illuminati’s hospital. It goes into hilarious stupid detail about how these kids are raised without the awful life destroying ideas of sharing and being accommodating to others. Hell one kid turns out nice by good people standards and this panics her parents.

                I’m sorry I’m just glad to finally have someone share the stupid.

              4. Farla says:
                all their kids are raised in some boarding school in Antartica

                Who would want to be raised in Antarctica?! Why would this be anyone’s wish fulfillment?

                Hell one kid turns out nice by good people standards and this panics her parents.

                Well I’d panic too, the others will probably swarm her like army ants.

              5. Zolnier says:
                She had flamethrowers and electrical weapons growing out of her arms, she probably didn’t have to worry about bullies.

                The school is of course heated but yes they rarely go outside. Or even to warmer climates because they could get assassinated.

                The second novel has a whole sequence dedicated to the twins’ kids. Kill me.

                Oh the the little kids carry fucking guns everywhere they go, they have to be told not to sleep with them.

              6. Zolnier says:
                You know I would just like to see a conspiracy of awesome lunatics rather than evil ones, just once.
  3. 13thlemur says:
    Divergent really is mostly colossal worldbuilding fail with some anti-intellectualism on the side. It should be a bit more pleasant to read then Unwind or Wither sequels.
  4. Eilonwy_has_an_aardvark says:
    When the authors call the tribe Arapache, I assume that’s meant to be a (geographically improbable) merger of Arapaho and Apache. However, the names are Hopi and many of the major cultural beliefs are loosely Ute (which at least is the correct tribe for having owned a casino in Colorado–no other tribe does).

    Here in Arizona (where we have Hopi and Apache, among many others), tribal identity is a big deal. Tribes don’t share reservations even when it would be geographically sensible, and even tiny groups insist on their specific and unique identity. Erasing that requires more than a handwave of “well, stuff happened, and all Native Americans did X.” (They don’t even all agree on casino gambling: Hopi consistently vote not to do it, even though their reservations up by the Grand Canyon have horrific unemployment rates.)

    1. Farla says:
      Well, in that case it’s definitely not a Hopi reservation because they’re at pains to point out they’re a classy reservation with lots of money, not like one of those other reservations full of icky poor people.

      Money = goodness, now and forever.

  5. actonthat says:
    Ahhh I was just saying to Boyfriend how I hoped Divergent came up. It’s supposed to be terrible in a much more traditional “really bad writing” way.
  6. GeniusLemur says:
    “And ‘Native American’ was always a bit too condescending for my taste.”
    So please call us this outright slur that hinges on our stereotypical association with casinos, even though none of us have casinos anymore.
  7. Elisabeth says:
    Have any groups ever done this to their own people?”

    There are various evangelical groups that preach against using modern medicine. See here: http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-23729684.

  8. Hyatt says:
    A set of posts on the treatment of Natives in the books by people who look at Native depictions in literature and dissect what’s wrong with them. In case anyone wants to read more thoroughly about the fail. And the Unstrung review has bonus defensive comments from the author himself, complete with him saying that being politically correct is *just as bad* as writing stereotypes!

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