July 10, 2008

Under a Velvet Cloak

Last year, encour­aged by a friend, I start­ed read­ing the Incar­na­tions of Immor­tal­i­ty books. The first dealt with the per­son­i­fi­ca­tion of Death and was suf­fi­cient­ly kooky enough to engage me in the series. I appre­ci­at­ed the char­ac­ter devel­op­ment, the pes­simistic humour and the bizarre sit­u­a­tions that changed Zane’s per­spec­tive on his role as care­tak­er of the dying.

The series’ qual­i­ty nose­dived dra­mat­i­cal­ly as it went on. Char­ac­ters became absurd­ly sin­gle-mind­ed and tire­some sex scenes became a focus. Impor­tant rela­tion­ships felt flat and the plot became con­vo­lut­ed. There was a point in the fifth book where the main char­ac­ter is tour­ing the world in a whale search­ing for a song to lit­er­al­ly move moun­tains that I actu­al­ly thought “What is this shit I’m reading?”.

The sixth book was prac­ti­cal­ly straight erot­i­ca man­gling a uni­verse I’d once enjoyed. Being near the end of the series and want­i­ng to know how loose ends tied up I strug­gled through it anyway.

The sev­enth book was mem­o­rable only because it offered a con­clu­sion. The ridicu­lous plot twists and banal char­ac­ter devel­op­ment includ­ed the mind-numb­ing sto­ry of a under­age pros­ti­tute sleep­ing with an old­er male judge of obvi­ous­ly ques­tion­able char­ac­ter who lat­er gets nom­i­nat­ed for posi­tion of God by the Incar­na­tion of Nature, who inci­den­tal­ly is Satan’s lover. Satan is actu­al­ly a good man but he’s ass-tap­ping any­thing that walks so he appears evil to every­one else. The demoness who tempt­ed him to become Satan has left to become a house­maid for a pop band liv­ing inside the afore­men­tioned whale. What? Then the ghost woman who tried to rape a main char­ac­ter while trans­formed into a man becomes God. Did I men­tion that every woman in this series is absolute­ly phe­nom­e­nal­ly gor­geous — “the most beau­ti­ful of her gen­er­a­tion” — and all men are con­cerned only with sex, rape and violence?

17+ years since the series should have died its long over­due death comes the real finale, Under a Vel­vet Cloak. I’ll cut to the chase. Under a Vel­vet Cloak is one of the worst books I have ever read. We’ve bare­ly start­ed, four per­cent in, when the thir­teen-year-old main char­ac­ter is giv­en a mag­ic amulet to put in her “love chan­nel” overnight so she can lat­er fit the man of “mid­dling ear­ly-adult­hood” who gave it to her. Hark ye care­ful phrasing.

A few pages lat­er she’s pork­ing him and from here on it’s all about her irre­sistible seduc­tive pow­er over old­er men. She moves on to work­ing at a broth­el. No one in this book acts like an adult or has any sense of respon­si­bil­i­ty; lat­er she hires a pae­dophile body­guard who informs her he likes boys “between six and eight”. After hand­ing him her baby she thinks to her­self, “he’s a good man”. Lady, you are fucked up. What incred­i­ble dis­tor­tions were going through Piers Antho­ny’s mind while writ­ing this?

Then our hero­ine Ker­e­na becomes a sex-addict­ed mag­ic vam­pire who trav­els in space and time to take a course in data­base man­age­ment. No, I’m serious.

Imag­ine you were hav­ing a con­ver­sa­tion with a neu­rot­ic sex-addict with Touret­te’s tics and three per­son­al­i­ties, only one of whom can fol­low a top­ic for more than ten sec­onds at a time and who only sur­faces at ran­dom. Imag­ine also that this per­son writes fan fic­tion for Buffy. That’s how this book reads. It’s not just an edi­tor that it’s in dire need of — it’s a com­plete fuck­ing rewrite. Ker­e­na is moved between sit­u­a­tions with no care for con­ti­nu­ity. She has no chance to endear her­self to the read­er and there’s no oth­er mem­o­rable char­ac­ters. Her entire cru­sade — to exact revenge on the oth­er Incar­na­tions for ignor­ing her — is an unten­able crock of shit. I can see why they did­n’t want to know her. Please also con­sid­er this mar­vel of deus ex machi­na just after Ker­e­na is balked by the real­i­sa­tion she’ll need the secrets of every­one on earth:

“There need to be many of you,” Van­ja said, smiling.

“Now that may be fea­si­ble,” More­ly said. “Do the pow­ers of Night include mul­ti­ply­ing yourself?”

Ker­e­na inves­ti­gat­ed. Then she split into three copies of her­self. “Yes,” the three said together.

Cri­sis avert­ed! Then she phas­es out to have sex with Gabriel, chief mes­sen­ger of God.

I just want­ed a con­clu­sion to the series, but even the book’s end­ing is pro­tract­ed. The end bat­tle… take a guess at what hap­pens. Sex bat­tle! And when Ker­e­na wins, she hosts a par­ty that turns into an orgy.

This entire nov­el is non­sen­si­cal garbage. It’s fic­tion a horny twelve-year-old would write with one hand then post on a mes­sage board, and at least he’d do it anony­mous­ly. There’s very few books that have got­ten me so angry, but wow Piers Antho­ny, this book sucks.

I fol­lowed Under a Vel­vet Cloak by start­ing The Pup­pet Mas­ters by Hein­lein almost imme­di­ate­ly after. Lis­ter­ine.

posted by Andrew

July 2, 2008

Café Nueve demo site and FF3.1

Café Nueve demoI designed and cod­ed a rough ver­sion of Café Nueve last year, and I’ve final­ly got­ten to rebuild­ing it. I kept the same gen­er­al lay­out, but moved to a semi-flex­i­ble width with a dark back­ground to empha­size the cup image. The orig­i­nal design was “open” — the hes­han back­ground repeat­ing to the edges of the screen — and it did­n’t work visu­al­ly except in small screen res­o­lu­tions. Maybe I’ll revis­it that when we’ve got indus­try sup­port for background-size with guar­an­teed bilin­ear filtering.

The demo is avail­able via the link above or through the work page.

As usu­al there’s extra styling for Webkit/Opera, and I’ve added -moz-text-shadow and -moz-box-shadow in antic­i­pa­tion of Fire­fox 3.1 builds. I’m real­ly look­ing for­ward to Fire­fox 3.1, with a com­plete (and dynam­ic!) CSS selec­tor set, box and text shad­ows, posi­tioned gen­er­at­ed con­tent, and (hope­ful­ly) audio/video sup­port, mul­ti­ple back­ground images and exper­i­men­tal CSS trans­forms & gra­di­ents. If you’re inter­est­ed in what’s com­ing, read the Post‑1.9 Plan­ning doc on Mozil­la’s wiki.

posted by Andrew