Maelstrom 5-8

Remember my review of Maelstrom 1-4? Well, I’m back in honor of Anime Expo this weekend (!) with the rest of the story from Yaoi Prose. As with the first four chapters, Maelstrom is by Yamila Abraham with illustrations by Himitsu Studio.

Please note: this story is explicit yaoi. If you don’t know what that means, find out before you continue. (After all, you might like it!) Generally speaking, yaoi is not-safe-for-work adult material, though that’s not always the case. Maelstrom, however, is most definitely NSFW. But… it’s not like there are many pictures that make the hot sexy times blatantly obvious, so maybe you could get away with it? Depends on your workplace, I guess. You be the judge.

Maelstrom 5-8 coversAnyway, here’s a quick rundown of the last four chapters: Malstrum and Demetri manage to escape from Flurry (the primary antagonist in the first four chapters), but the world is at stake because its leaders are cracking down on the working conditions and worker assemblies, and Malstrum is the only person who can rally the workers and lead a revolution! Things just went from local to global in an instant, and Demetri begins to realize that he’s going to have to support Malstrum more and more behind the scenes, especially now that he wears Malstrum’s brand! Unfortunately, Li Gang—the acting ruler of the world and the second half’s primary antagonist—has other plans for Demetri, and suddenly Demetri finds himself kidnapped and tortured at the worst of times. Even though Malstrum manages to rescue him (eventually, and not without hardship), the finale —a clash between the leaders and workers of the world with Malstrum and Demetri smack in the center of it—promises to blow everyone out of the (metaphorical) water.

So, did I like it? Well… yes, but… It’s always like that, isn’t it? “Yes, but…”? I had high hopes for the second half of Maelstrom, but I think it only partially delivered. It’s not like I found a giant flaw with the narrative, story, or depictions of sex, but it was a bunch of little things that—when they combine—prove to be the story’s downfall. A thousand tiny paper cuts, if you will.

I think (and I’ve thought with many Yaoi Press stories) that Maelstrom could do with a good editing. Spelling errors and misusing words (the repetitive misuse of the word “construe” when I think the author meant “contort”, for example) really drew me out of the story; that’s unfortunate because it’s something that so easy to fix, relatively speaking.

That being said, I think that it was really brave of Abraham to take on such potentially divisive material (corporations versus unions, a government versus its people) in something that’s basically intended (I think) to be fluff. I want the story and intermingled plot lines—muddying the water is absolutely fine by me, as long as the author knows where to take the readers at the end. That doesn’t mean tying up loose ends, either, necessarily; it just means I want substance with my sex. Speaking of which, there’s plenty of sex (ooooh la la!) and Abraham does a great job putting us, the readers, in the heads of the characters and making it sexy at the same time.

But—and here’s where I find the other paper cuts—I noticed two things that bothered me. First, almost all the characters from the first four chapters—excepting the main characters and possibly one minor character introduced near the end of the first half—are no where to be found in the second half of the story. There’s a brand new set of characters that go with a brand new set of circumstances. No longer are Malstrum and Demetri just trying to run a single mine and fend for themselves; now they’re trying to organize an entire world of workers to fight for workers’ rights. It’s almost like they’ve leveled up and they’re fighting the boss battle now, and if I look at it that way, it kind of makes sense, but I was expecting more of a continuity of characters from the first half of the novella to the second.

I tend to believe that when a story is weak, an author will either add a character and/or move the characters to a different location so that the plot can move forward (even though it doesn’t actually develop that way). I’ve done that kind of thing in my own writing, and it’s not good writing. And, regrettably, Abraham adds characters and changes locations multiple times in Maelstrom.

Second, the end is a classic deus ex machina, and I’ll be honest here—it was kind of a let-down. After all the work, after all that struggle, all Malstrum has to do is bow before the high queen (Li Gang’s mother, no less) and present his case politely and… wa la? Everything’s fine now? The queen admonishes her son and immediately puts new rules into place to help protect the world’s workers and… that’s it? I’m not saying the story shouldn’t end there, but why did it have to end with a deus ex machina? I mean, really.

Overall, I liked the second half of Maelstrom, but I didn’t like it nearly as much as the first half. I really connected with the first four chapters, but the last four didn’t hold up to the hype in my own mind. But I will say this: if you’re just in it for the sex, this story’s the genuine article all the way through. To each his (or her) own.

Maelstrom is available on Amazon Kindle; you can get a Kindle application/program free for your computer even if you don’t own any e-reader or iPad-type device. And! You can read free previews of chapters 5 and 7 before you buy. The last four chapters (5-8) are just $2.99 each. Chapter 5 is roughly 21 pages; chapter 6 is almost 20; chapter 7 is 22 pages long; and the final chapter is a double-header (no pun intended haha), clocking in at 39 pages! Note: I don’t own a Kindle, so I read Maelstrom on my computer; if you read it on your own e-reader, it may be formatted differently and actually end up being even more pages.

One Paragraph 8

The Avengers (viewed in theaters 20 June 2012)
About time! Watched this with my sister and her boyfriend down in Fullerton. I’m glad we watched the lead-in movies because without them, I’d’ve been seriously lost. (I mean—for example—Loki’s beef with Earth is never explained, and Thor randomly shows up with no explanation, either, so.) Captain America being “a man out of time” was really intriguing; I kept forgetting (and the other characters basically kept forgetting) that most of life is a bunch of cultural references—and that Steve Rogers (having slept for 70 years) doesn’t know any of them. (Thor didn’t know many/any of the cultural references, either.) I also thought it was interesting that the Avengers fought more amongst themselves than they did fighting Loki, at least until the very end when shit finally got real and they had to pull together or die. Favorite characters? Black Widow, easily, with Hawkeye in second place. But really my love goes to Black Widow; she’s a real character in this film, and she has a history and her own traumas, and you know what? She still gets her shit done because it’s her job and she’s got loyalties, too. Actually, here; read this. I’m not kidding; click on that link and read that article. Do it.

Thor (viewed at home 12 June 2012)
The fifth and final movie that my sister and I watched together in preparation for The Avengers. The character Loki is introduced and the backstory for why he wants to take over and/or destroy the Earth is put into motion. Unfortunately, I felt like Thor‘s characters didn’t have much character development at all—even the title character kind of acts the same way at the beginning as he does at the end, except that at the end, he’s not as willing to just jump into battle as he was to begin with. I liked that he (Thor) didn’t really know how to act in any given situation while on Earth, and I was kind of ticked that Hawkeye (featured more prominently in The Avengers) barely has even a single line—he doesn’t even get to loose a single arrow. What a let-down. I thought the fuss that all those neo-Nazis made about Heimdallr being black (back when the film first came out in theaters) was pretty ridiculous all around; Thor‘s Asgardian characters are based on Norse mythology, which is basically the whitest set of gods known to man. I’m just sayin’.

The Incredible Hulk (2008) (viewed at home 29 May 2012)
The fourth of five pre-Avengers movies. I didn’t know Edward Norton was in this movie! That guy’s such an under-rated actor that it’s incredible. (Hahaha; no pun intended there.) Anyway, it was okay. The Hulk isn’t my favorite character in any respect, but the movie was decent and it was interesting to watch the descent (and rise) of Bruce Banner from celebrated doctor to man on the run working in a soda bottling plant in South America to feared monster tearing up Harlem in New York City (with the help of The Abomination, of course). I read somewhere once that filmmakers from Los Angeles always have their disasters situated in New York City and visa versa; I wonder if that holds true for this film, too. I was sad to learn that Norton’s talks with the company broke down after this film and so his character had to be recast for The Avengers.

Iron Man 2 (viewed at home 23 May 2012)
I’m not going to lie; I liked the first Iron Man better, but this one has more Robert Downey, Jr., in it, so who’s really to complain? It’s got Whiplash, too, but haven’t ever read a single comic about Iron Man, or even any with Iron Man in them, so I probably missed a lot more references than I got. It’s okay, though; the scene where he buys strawberries for Pepper using his Rolex watch is by far my favorite. And that quirk he has where he doesn’t like being handed things. Reminds me of me.

Iron Man (viewed at home 22 May 2012)
Of the five Avengers lead-in movies, I’d already seen both of the Iron Mans, but in the spirit of completeness, my sister and I watched them both again. I liked it. I like Robert Downey, Jr., and his take on Tony Stark like he’s Bruce Wayne (the playboy, not the brooding Batman) is really interesting. Makes me wish I had enough money to just do whatever the hell I wanted with a personal assistant like Pepper Potts to just clean up all my messes for me.

Protect writing days

Be ruthless about protecting writing days, i.e., do not cave in to endless requests to have “essential” and “long overdue” meetings on those days. The funny thing is that, although writing has been my actual job for several years now, I still seem to have to fight for time in which to do it. Some people do not seem to grasp that I still have to sit down in peace and write the books, apparently believing that they pop up like mushrooms without my connivance. I must therefore guard the time allotted to writing as a Hungarian Horntail guards its firstborn egg. —J.K. ROWLING


The Past Week via Twitter: 2012-06-24

Has anyone out there heard of or participated in the website Fanstory? It looks interesting, but I think it could possibly be a scam… maybe? Since I’ve already dealt with enough scams to last a lifetime, I’m wary. I’d like to get some feedback from some writers who’ve actually used it before I take the plunge. Anyone care to help me out?

Novels Are Never About What They Are About

Novels are never about what they are about; that is, there is always deeper, or more general, significance. The author may not be aware of this till she is pretty far along with it. A novel’s whole pattern is rarely apparent at the outset of writing, or even at the end; that is when the writer finds out what a novel is about, and the job becomes one of understanding and deepening or sharpening what is already written. That is finding the theme. —DIANE JOHNSON