Sunday, February 19, 2017

Books 7 and 8: Twice the Prince Lestat

I'm starting to wonder if series of vampire books all turn insane by the end. I only have three series to judge on, but let's look at them:

The Anita Blake novels, by Laurel K. Hamilton

These started out sort of interesting. The main character was a reluctant necromancer, accidentally dating a vampire and a werewolf at the same time. For the first two or three books it was sort of interesting and sort of diverting, and then the sex kind of took over. A lot of sex. So much sex with werewolves, vampires, werepanthers, regular humans, and other supernatural creatures that finally, in one book, they never resolved the plot. There was an opening chapter, a dozen or so chapters of creature sex, and then the bad guys just left town with a note that they'd be back.

The Twilight novels, by Stephenie Meyer

I freely admit that I have read all six Twilight books. If you didn't know there are six, I understand. Most people think there are only four, based on the movies, but there really are six, and they're all terrible. A whole chapter where Bella fills out college applications! Buildups to big fights that happen off the page! Vampire baseball! And sparkles! SO MANY SPARKLES! When I was reading the first four I was also carpooling with my friend, Jeannie, and every day I would update her on the new insanity.

"They're immortal, so they keep going to high school, over and over!"

"There's something called imprinting, and it makes werewolves mate for life with toddlers!"

"Their wedding night is so hot that he tears up all the pillows so he doesn't hurt her, and she ends up all bruised and in pain but it's somehow romantic!"


Batshit crazy, those books.

Also, there are actually seven, but one was only partially published online because it leaked and then Meyer stopped writing it.

The Vampire Chronicles, by Anne Rice

Oh, Anne. I liked you for so long. I discovered you in college and read you voraciously. I even read The Sleeping Beauty Trilogy and Exit to Eden (which, oddly, became a sex comedy starring Rosie O'Donnel). The longer the Vampire Chronicles went on, though, the worse they got. Lestat, the protagonist, met Satan. Every supporting character got their own book, and only some of them were interesting. She tied the series into her Mayfair Witches series, which had also degenerated into nonsense by only the third book, and the result was almost unreadable.

I'm serious. Blackwood Farm and Blood Canticle were so awful that I can barely remember what they were about. All I remember is that they were so bad, and so poorly received, that Anne Rice stopped writing about vampires. That was fortunate because I was ready to stop reading about vampires for a while, and I say that as a person who wrote a senior thesis on vampirism in popular modern American fiction in undergrad. Anne Rice made me love and eventually hate vampire books, but this month I gave her another chance.

The results were mixed.

In Prince Lestat, Rice kind of catches us up on where almost everybody has been. I say "almost everybody" because there are two notable exceptions that I'm calling notable because they had their own books: Vittorio and Ursula aren't mentioned in this book or the next one, and neither are Merrick, Mona, Quinn, and the rest of the Mayfair Witches and Blackwood Farm vampires, although their absence is eventually explained in the second book. Aside from checking in on everybody, there's a mysterious Voice urging old vampires to burn up young ones, and all the vampires have to come together to discover the source of The Voice and confront the danger to them all.

"Prince Lestat" is Queen of the Damned all over again. Cast of thousands, powerful but previously unknown old vampires, everybody coming together to defeat an ancient threat, etc. If you liked that book, you'll like this one, too, and (spoiler) it ends with Lestat as official Prince of the Vampires, with Amel, the spirit that created and animates all vampires, housed inside him and communicating with him.

And then in Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis things go all the way insane, because it turns out that not only was Amel a ghost, not just a spirit, but he was the ghost of the ruler and creator of Atlantis.

And also he was sent to Earth by aliens.


Not only that, but the aliens, an avian reptilian race that feeds on suffering and watches Earth from afar, sent other immortals to Earth, too, to stop Amel and destroy Atlantis, and now those immortal humanoids have read the Vampire Chronicles and know Amel is still around and they're coming for him for unknown reasons that may destroy all of the vampires and also all of humanity. And there are lots of other ghosts, too, and some of them wear clothes and talk to vampires. And it's right in the middle of all of this that Anne Rice reveals that she hates "Blackwood Farm" and "Blood Canticle" as much as I do. How do I know?

She reveals that the entire cast died horrible off-panel deaths, in less than two pages of discussion.

Two vampires are discussing the humanoids, and both say, "I've never seen a creature that looks human but isn't human, not in thousands of years", and I'm thinking, "Wait, what about the Taltos monsters from the Witching Hour books?" but no one ever mentions them. They do mention Merrick, though, for a minute. "She burned herself up." Oh, no. Well, what about Quinn and Mona? "Oh, they burned up, too. It was really quick, but sounded horribly painful."

So all of the other characters from all of the other books survived, more or less, except for the casts of the two really awful books?

OK, then. Back to the aliens, ghosts, and vampires. And Atlantis.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Two Weeks of Jury Duty

It's been four years since the last (and first) time I had jury duty, but somehow I got called again, and spent the last two weeks in and out of Knoxville's criminal court doing my best not to end up on an actual jury. I was mostly successful, although I did end up on one for a short two day trial. It was a strange two weeks in the shining hall of justice known as the Knoxville City County Building:

Knoxville City County Building

which was especially shiny the other morning when I took that photo due to just the right amount of fog.

Here are the random things I've learned during my time performing my civic duty:

1) The City County Building has no lactation rooms. I know because one of my fellow jurors was a nursing mother, and one judge excused her from serving on his jury because she asked if there would be a place available to pump at lunchtime. The other judge told her she could use one of the restrooms, and did not excuse her.

2) If you get on a jury, there is free lunch, because they don't let you leave the building. One day we had Salsarita's, which was ok (I made two chicken soft tacos and had a cookie), and one day we had Naple's, which was fantastic. We didn't get to put in our own lunch order either day, which meant both days the vegetarian on our jury complained about a lack of options. No one asked if we had dietary restrictions, either, which surprised me in our time of peanut allergies and lawsuits (especially in a courthouse), and which also meant that the lady on our jury who was doing the Whole 30 Diet didn't really get to eat anything either day. We were allowed to bring our own food and snacks, so I'm not sure why she didn't, and didn't ask.

3) Jury duty works a little differently in every state my friends live in, based on Facebook posts. In Knoxville, if you get criminal court jury duty you have to call in before Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday each week to find out if you have to report. If you do have to report, and you get picked for a jury, that doesn't get you out of the rest of the two weeks. I was picked for a jury on Tuesday of the first week for a trial that ended the next day, but still had to report the next week on Monday and Tuesday. I didn't have to report the last Wednesday because there were three trials in progress at that point, and there were only nine jurors left in the pool. It was kind of humorous on Tuesday morning, though, when they asked who had served on a jury recently and almost everyone in the selection box at that time raised their hand.

4) It takes a long time for cases to come to trial. I went through voir dire (being questioned as a potential juror) multiple times throughout the two weeks, and I don't think any of the cases were more recent than 2012. In the two weeks time, I was a potential juror for an assault trial (I was challenged and dropped from the jury), a drug trial (I served on the jury), a murder trial (challenged and dropped), and a DWI (challenged and dropped). There was another trial, too, but it was seated while I was serving on my jury, so I don't know what it was because it went into the second week.

5) I take too many notes. They give each juror a notebook with our number on it to take notes during the trial. When we went into the jury room to deliberate I had ten pages of notes, and the juror seated next to me had a half page. When we had to turn in our notes at the end, I had the most out of everybody, but I wasn't sure what would be important later so I tried to write down everything. We did refer to my notes during deliberations, so I guess they were useful.

6) The notion of "a jury of your peers" intrigues me, because I'm wondering how, exactly, you define a peer. In the case where I actually was on the jury, the defendant self-identified as African American, but there was only one person of color on the jury. He did not finish high school, but four of us had advanced degrees. Eight of us appeared older, some significantly, than him. How did we, as a panel, seem to him as we sat in judgment? Did we look like his peers? It made me think a lot about who would be on my jury if I ever commit a crime. (I'm not planning to, but I've seen a number of Lifetime movies where someone gets framed.) Who would I want on my jury? What in our everyday lives prepares us to answer that question?

7) Neither attorney told us about how a girl in their sorority, Tracy Marcinko, she got a perm once.

It was like I watched all those movies about trials for nothing.