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For the 10th episode of our podcast, Susan and I decided we needed something special. We decided we would give each other the worst books we've been forced to read so far, turning the punishment back onto the one who dealt it out in the first place. It got real. We got to see how the other half lives and fumes at words on a page.
Choosers of the Slain, John Ringo
Choosers of the Slain is a book about dicks. The main characters are dicks, the villains, whoever they actually are, are dicks, the guns are dicks, and the dicks are dicks. Hoo boy are the dicks dicks.
Dicks dicks dicks dicks dicks.
No, you’re not crazy. If you’re a veteran of Bibliovile and its predecessor the Terrible Book Exchange, you’ve already heard of this book. This was the book that set it all off. I saw this book in the Cedar Falls library and KNEW I had to make Susan read it somehow. Thus, a middling hobby was born. You can read her original thoughts here. While she failed to make it even halfway in the book, I managed to reach the end.
|Nice mudflap decals, man|
Our main hero, Mike Somethingorother, is a retired Navy SEAL, and Veteran Book Protagonist. Choosers of the Slain is the third book in a series, and hoo boy has Mike been up to some old shenanigans. Ya know, defusing a nuke in Paris, killing Osama bin Laden, those sorts of things.
Throughout his travels, he’s bought a valley in Europe Georgia which is coincidentally the America Georgia of Europe. With this valley, naturally, come the inhabitants which are now his slaves, and wards, and private militia I guess. Turns out these guys, far from the normal Eurasian stock (which is always portrayed as shifty, evil, and cowardly in this book), are descended from Vikings because of made up history. So don’t worry, alt-right readers (the main audience for this book), you’re still rooting for white people.
This militia helps to prevent incursions into Russia, who our ultra-American protagonist is strangely buddy-buddy with, up until a senator from the US tasks him with finding a girl, supposedly a daughter of a wealthy donor, who has been kidnapped and sold into sex slavery. It’s not funny at all, just vastly traumatic on every subsequent page.
Except when they go to Vegas to sell some beer in between raids on brothels in Armenia, that spot is great. Mike is a terrible secret agent by the way, he straight up tells every prospective buyer THESE GUYS ARE MY PRIVATE MILITIA AND WE HAVE RPGS AND STUFF AT THE AIRPORT WE’RE DOING SECRET WORK FOR THE GOVERNMENT SHUSH. I can’t imagine his CIA handlers are too excited about him using his government black budget slush fund to dress up his indentured servant girls in beer advertisements.
This book, simply, IS toxic masculinity. Mike is portrayed as the ultimate Alpha, cucking all in his path. He has a harem (oh, don’t worry, he just inherited it!) of 12 to 17 year old girls. He doesn’t screw the 12 year old or the 13 year old, so it’s fine. The others, well, yeah, he’s into having vastly unrealistic sessions with them. The most detailed one we read lasts over 4 hours and she goes blind because of lack of bloodflow to the optic nerve because it’s… going to her vagina I guess?
When he receives the picture of the 14 year old kidnapping victim WHO WAS SOLD INTO SEX SLAVERY he comments on how she fills out a swimsuit. The men in his unit’s first response to her picture is a hearty “Nice tits!” to a high school freshman who is a kidnapping victim. He carries around a gun constantly, and it’s totally not a compensation. His main source of anger at the sex trade villains is that they can’t control their urges. Not that they HAVE the urge to beat up women and do things I won’t go into detail here, but that they indulge it. I mean, every guy wants that sort of thing, right?
No, you gross idiot.
All in all, this book made me throw it down in disgust a lot less often than other books have, which seems backward. This was probably one of the grossest books I’ve ever read in body, spirit, and mind, but the actual mechanics and craft were perfectly acceptable. Barring some frequent typos near the beginning, the novel as a piece of work is totally fine.
No, the plot and characters are the gross parts. The scene where Mike references that a newly freed sex slave is on “Step 12 of the Post-Rape Checklist” is gross enough, in the thought that there is some sort of universal stage of grief for abused and traumatized women. But, it turns out, that stage is nymphomania, and they bone. Here’s a hint; he treats her about the same as before, but he’s got Protagonist Weiner and she likes it instead. THAT was why this book was awful.
Susan, in her review, summed it up best by having a person sum it up best in a third review. That’s right, this is the grand-review of that original one. It says “I’m not sure I want to meet anyone that loves this book,” and I can agree fully.
Midnight Sins, by Lora Leigh
My original intention for reading this book was to keep track of the details and plot points and eventually keep a tally of all of the inconsistencies. But I gave up on that plan at the end of chapter two. Mick said it was The Impossible Book in his review, found here, and now I know why. There is so much backstory thrown into Midnight Sins that keeping it straight just isn’t possible. At first I thought I was struggling because I was drunk when I read chapter one, but it’s even harder to keep it all straight when you’re sober. Just to let you in on some of the insanity, here is a description of the plot.
- · A girl named Cami Flannigan has been in love with a guy named Rafer Callahan since she was thirteen years old and he was dating her older sister. Now she is in her mid-twenties, and she won’t let herself be anywhere near Rafer. They slept together once (?) when she was twenty-one, and she got pregnant but miscarried, and she has been emotionally damaged and afraid of loss ever since, so she ignores him and acts like she hates him to protect her feelings, despite the fact that he actively pursues her every chance he gets.
- · Rafer Callahan and his cousins Logan and Crowe are the three most hated citizens of Corbin County. They are the sons of three heiresses, the daughters of the three barons (super-wealthy landowners) who pissed off their families by marrying the three Callahan brothers, who their fathers hated.
- · When Rafer, Logan, and Crowe were babies, their parents all died in a mysterious car accident. They were taken in by their Uncle Clyde, who also died in a mysterious accident. Somehow no one thinks those things were connected. The cousins should have inherited all of their families’ property and money, but their mothers’ fathers have been tying things up in court because they hated their sons-in-law and now their grandsons.
- · Cami’s sister Jaymi was killed when Cami was thirteen in a string of rapes and murders throughout one summer. Rafer and his cousins found her body and found the man who killed her, but they were put in jail on suspicion of the crime anyway, pretty much because everyone in town hates them. Cami’s dad (who isn’t her real dad) has always hated Cami, and wishes that it had been her who died instead of Jaymi.
- · Before she died, Jaymi had been getting threatening phone calls telling her to stay away from Rafer (who she had been sleeping with ever since her husband died). Cami is now receiving similar threatening phone calls, and so are Jack and Jeanine, other friends of Rafer’s.
- · Super late in the game plotline that is introduced in chapter 21 out of 25: A girl named Amelia used to be Cami’s best friend and college roommate, until Amelia’s dad found Cami’s diary and learned that Cami had gotten pregnant by Rafer and lost the baby, and that Amelia had helped Rafer’s cousin Crowe sneak into the courthouse to tamper with files that would have influenced the litigation over the land. She did this because she was in love with him, so her dad made her leave college, marry someone else, and never talk to Cami or associate with the cousins ever again. It’s not clear why this is relevant.
You might be thinking to yourself, “But Susan, those plotlines are bonkers!” You are right, reader. They are indeed bonkers. And not only is the plot insane, but the writing is so bad that you can’t keep anything straight. In the first four chapters, the timeline jumps around for seemingly no reason at random intervals of time: twelve years later, four months later, eighteen months later, three months later... But the things that were mentioned in the exposition didn’t line up with the time jumps. For example, I thought that Cami got pregnant the first (and only) time that she had Rafer had sex, but throughout the rest of the book, we’re told that they had sex three times, or six times, or five times, or only once before. First it was three years since she lost the baby, then five, then two?
The author also can’t decide what she wants the names of her characters to be. Cami’s mother is alternately referred to as Mary Flannigan and Mary Flannery, and Rafer’s cousin Crowe is sometimes called Crowne. Amelia Callahan, who all of a sudden becomes a big deal in the eleventh hour, is also confused several times (by the author, not by me) for someone named Anna Corbin?
All of my notes end in question marks.
In the final chapters of the book, some of the plotlines start to resolve themselves, except they really don’t? We figure out that the man who has been making threatening phone calls is a guy named Lowry Berry who... we’ve never heard of before? We learn that he is the one who killed Jaymi, but we never learn who put him up to it. Nothing with the grandparents is ever resolved, and we never learn who killed the cousins’ parents.
Good thing this is the first book of a trilogy that no one should ever read.
At one point, our main character is having a conversation with a friend about the Callahan cousins’ history, and she very frustratedly sighs to her friend, “None of it ties together, no matter how I try to find a way to understand it.” And that, I think, is the perfect summary for this book.