Dying Bites - D.D. Barant

~~Moved from GR~~

 

Dying Bites

by DD Barant

 

Recommended to Carly by: library availability. When will I learn?
Recommended for: UF lovers who really, really don't mind plotholes.


Gotta say, I'm impressed: this contains the shoddiest, most illogical worldbuilding I have so far encountered. Congrats on that!

I'm not currently planning on writing a careful or even remotely fair review for this one, because writing it would probably take more effort than the author put into the book. So sorry, it's gonna be a rant.

Basically, our protagonist is dragged into a parallel world in which guns were never invented (Barant incorrectly dates their creation to the 12th century and says that history "went differently"), vampires and werewolves fought and won a battle with humans, and despite this, literally almost every single aspect of society evolved in precisely the same way as our own. Every country, every city was colonised in an identical fashion. Despite the radical disruption in timelines, practically every invention, institution, and product of our world--Crown Vics, plastic, the internet, servers, the Seattle Needle, the FBI, Prohibition, 401K's, Harleys, even freaking napalm--evolved identically. (That's right--they have napalm and still are considered firearm-free.)

[And yes, I know there was an "explanation"--the spell. But if one could cast worldwide spells like that and have them hold for a thousand years, why not cast one that made humans equal--or heck, knowing humans, demigods? The power balance of the magic is as illogical as the rest.]

(show spoiler)

Barant assumes almost every aspect of pop culture and carelessly mentions historical figures and cultural icons of our world (e.g. Hitler, Mussolini, heck, Casablanca, etc), apparently forgetting that all the humans were exterminated and that this should have altered the world. He assumes (at least in the "humor") all of the racial tensions and stereotypes of our world. He loves making fun of political correctness (e.g. a golem who wants to be referred to as a "Mineral-American" or Jace, who claims that she prefers to be called "opinion recognition deficient" rather than stubborn.) This book should win points for its sheer insensitivity. Jace meets a black (the colour) golem who tells her that golems are colour-coded and blacks are enforcers. (How surprised would you be if I told you that light-coloured golems get higher-ranking jobs? And that it apparently never occurred to the author that this might be problematic?) There are two main types of magic; the sophisticated Asian-inspired version is used by vampires while the bestial weres prefer African magic. (Wince.) Barant attempts to throw in nonsensical differences whenever he remembers--their WWII was over something slightly different and ebay is a porn site--and these differences are just as illogical and lazy as the rest.

The sheer amount of infodumping that piles up is impressive in its own right. All of the characters are apparently knowledgeable enough about Jace's world to translate tiny details, except on the random occasions where Barant decides to have them paradoxically ignorant. They also always explain their world in terms of our world; for example, a native of the were world tells Jace, "A selkie is a mythological Celtic creature who can assume different forms." That's right--he refers to an actual creature of his own world as mythological. In another scene, one of the supernatural creatures refers to Jace's gun as "angry white girl voodoo" despite the apparent absence of voodoo from the world and, one would expect, the innate racism that this phrase references. In general, all the in-world characters repeatedly make comments like, "Oh, X is not the same as it is in your world. In our world, it's Y"--despite the fact that either they should be unaware of how it is as X, or there should be more bleed elements from the supernaturals stealing earth culture. Everything about the book is rough, lazy, and illogical, from the immature Jace who apparently passed an FBI psych exam to the treatment of humans in the other world to basically every ineptly drawn aspect of the culture. This may actually be the worst worldbuilding I have ever encountered, which is, in itself, a rather impressive achievement.

Redeeming features? Well, personally, I didn't really find any, but I get hung up on inaccuracies, plotholes, and lazy and inconsistent worldbuilding. This was a perfect example of using a parallel world to try to have your cake and eat it too: radically change certain aspects of the world, but use the "parallel" part to assume that all pop-culture and history evolved identically, all while ignoring the utter illogical absurdity of this. I'm racking my brains for redeeming characteristics, and I realise that I actually do like Charlie, Jace's sidekick, quite a bit. I also though her doctor friend was nice enough. I suppose in general most of the characters are inoffensive urban fantasy stock. If you can overlook all my complaints above (and it's gonna take effort), plus ignore the random offensive racial stereotypes, then it's probably an entertaining enough read.

I tend to choose books based on library availability. I'm beginning to wonder if I should ask myself, before reading, why a particular book is still on the shelf.