One of these days I'm going to get back to writing nice things so that you all don't stop following me Because Negative, but today is not that day. My only excuse is that annoyance, irritation, and blind searing hatred for random things is more motivating for me to write about than happiness and yummies. (This is probably why my forays into journaling never work.)
So today let's talk about Darren Shan of the popular Cirque Du Freak series. And here are your spoilers, courtesy of Wikipedia:
In the first trilogy, known as Vampire Blood or The Vampire's Assistant, Darren learns about and comes to accept his vampirism.
- In Book One, Cirque du Freak, Mr. Crepsley makes Darren a half-vampire in return for saving the life of one of Darren's best friends called Steve Leonard.
- In Book Two, The Vampire's Assistant, Crepsley notes that Darren is quite lonely and brings him back to the freak show, where he befriends a snake-boy, Evra Von, and a human, Sam Grest.
- In Book Three, Tunnels of Blood, Crepsley brings Darren Shan and Evra Von to his hometown, where one of the vampires' enemies, a Vampaneze named Murlough, is murdering innocent people.
So now let's get some Ana-specific stuff out of the way first. One, I came to this series because a Real Life Person recommended it and I enjoyed the movie well enough for a YA novel spin-off. Two, I procured the first three books from the library and told myself I'd read them all before deciding whether or not to continue reading the series. (Sort of a "give it a fair chance" thing.) Three, I wholeheartedly think that Darren Shan (the character, not the author, and all references to "Darren Shan" in this post will be at the character) is the Mary Sue-ist of Mary Sues, the angstiest of the angsty, and intensely irritating to a degree I did not think was possible for fictional characters to achieve with me anymore. To put it in perspective: Darren Shan is the teenager that makes me think that being infertile is maybe not such a bad thing.
I never thought I'd type that sentence.
I mention all the above as fair warning that if you love Darren Shan more than you love peanut butter or jelly or peanut butter and jelly, you very possibly may not enjoy this post. I want to be clear, though, that I totally don't judge you for your love of Darren Shan, it's just that I can't personally share it because of personal preference. And I value differences of opinion, and I think variety is the spice of life, and THIS POST IS NOT INTENDED TO JUDGE YOU. I swear. Really.
Now let's talk about how much I hate Darren Shan.
Actually, let's not, because that post would be about eighty internet pages long. I hate that Darren Shan considers himself a Great Big Victim because he chose to steal the most poisonous spider on earth from a vampire that he chose to threaten and blackmail into silence (and in the process implicated his friend Steve as a Person of Interest by leaving a note saying, essentially, "It totally wasn't Steve who stole your spider and is now blackmailing you. It's someone else, honest."); then let the most poisonous spider on earth live in his closet on the assumption that it wouldn't escape and kill his unwitting mother, father, and/or sister; then decided to let the spider crawl all over his friend Steve's face whilst controlling the spider via hypnotic trance telepathy; then refused to let anyone know about the spider when Steve was bitten and the doctors didn't know how to cure Steve because if Darren came forward with "yo, I found this spider and it bit Steve" then Darren might get in trouble; then Darren went to the vampire to ask the vampire to risk his life and use a rare antidote to save Steve, and the vampire demanded that the antidote be paid for with a life of half-vampire servitude from Darren.
YES, CLEARLY DARREN IS AN INNOCENT VICTIM HERE. Ugh. Not a good way for me to start a series, especially not when the series bangs on and on about what a terrible gorram tragedy Darren's life is and how evil and awful Mr. Crepsley (the vampire) is for having demonstrated that actions have serious life-altering consequences, and how much Darren hates-hates-hates the guy who has been nothing but kind and sympathetic and polite and gentle with him despite all the theft and blackmail and betrayal and I hate you you're not my real dad teenage rebellious angst, and also Darren totally hates the mean spider forevers because everything is all that horrible spider's fault. Seriously, this is -- by my estimation -- about 50% of the first three novels. IT GETS OLD VERY FAST.
All this can be chalked up to the stereotypical melodramatic teenage angst that so many adult writers feel compelled to distill into their YA novels, but things take a disturbing turn in the third book, "Tunnels of Blood". As noted above, Mr. Crepsley takes Darren and Evra to his hometown, where he (Mr. Crepsley) starts stalking the streets moodily at night and becoming withdrawn and uncommunicative. In Chapter 6, Darren notes that Mr. Crepsley "look[s] terrible" and clearly hasn't fed recently. (The vampires in this series feed in small doses from humans, taking a little from the wrists or legs and then healing the human so that they don't die from blood loss.) But then -- DUN DUN DUN!!! -- in Chapter 9, it is revealed on the local news channel that six murder victims have been found in town, all drained of blood.
Well! Of course Mr. Crepsley must be the killer. I mean, he and Darren have traveled together for a year and a half now, and Mr. Crespley has repeatedly explained how important it is to never kill a human, how to handle himself so that Darren never accidentally kills a human, and his religious beliefs about how paradise can only be achieved by never taking life unnecessarily. Also, they live in a world where vampires and other supernatural phenomena are common to the point of being mundane, with a supernatural being around every corner. So clearly, when presented with six murder victims drained of blood, the only possible suspect is Mr. Crepsley.
And you know what? Fine. Really. I've done the Ridiculously Predictable YA circuit before and I'll do it again. This is a road that I've traveled more times than I'd like to count, and it's a road that smells of cow turds and eggy farts, but it's not like jumping to ridiculous unsupported conclusions isn't a time-honored literary tradition. I'll play along...
...up until Darren Shan declares himself freaking Judge, Jury, and Executioner and literally jumps on Mr. Crepsley wielding a rusty knife and fully determined to murder him in cold blood because he totes must be the killer!
Oh. My. God.
Remember when the road to Unsupported Conclusions Land involved nonsensical arguments about, I dunno, flowers being in the trash? But not so for Darren Shan; he leaps straight to the stabbity. A very well-adjusted young man, I must say. Anyway, at the last moment, the Real Killer bounces out of the shadows -- we know he's Evil because he's fat and has a flushed face, so how could he not be, really? -- and stops Darren from killing Mr. Crepsley for reasons that make no sense whatsoever, and the truth comes out that Darren is a dangerous vigilante extremist asshole for making unsupported assumptions about a guy he's known for over a year now. And now we're going to have The Chewing Out moment where the older, wiser mentor points out Darren's horrible character flaw and Darren learns that he needs to not do this in the future, right?
No, we do not chastise the Mary Sue. That would be silly. You are silly to think that would happen.
“You thought I was a murderer?” Mr. Crepsley roared. I nodded glumly. “You are even dumber than I thought! Do you have so little faith in me that you —”
“What else was I supposed to think?” I cried. “You never tell me anything. You disappeared into the city every night, not saying a thing about where you were going or what you were doing. What was I supposed to think when I heard six people had been found drained of their blood?”
Mr. Crepsley looked startled, then thoughtful. Finally he nodded wearily. “You are right.” He sighed. “One must show trust in order to be trusted. I wished to spare you the gory details. I should not have. This is my fault.”
I. You. What. *headdesk*
THIS IS MR. CREPSELY'S FAULT. Like all the things, really. It's Mr. Crepsley's fault that Darren stole his spider, nearly got someone killed, and chose to turn into a half-vampire rather than give up the spider to the doctors in the first place and possibly Get In Trouble. And it's Mr. Crepsley's fault that because he didn't tell Darren every single thought that crosses his mind so that Darren decided murder was the best response to a vague unsupported suspicion that something funny might be going on. Darren is blameless for choosing murder over, say, confronting Mr. Crepsley or going back to the Cirque to get help from Mr. Tall or alerting the authorities or anything other than murder. No blame for Darren the would-be vigilante killer!
But, you know what, fine. Mr. Crepsley is a vampire, after all, and maybe Darren was right to be suspicious. He didn't have a lot of good options available to him, and he was trying to save people's lives, and he's just a kid, so despite the you are totally blameless fawning in text, maybe we can cut him some slack and assume that he's learned that he doesn't have the right to decide who lives and who dies. Right?
LOL, UR OPTIMISM.
The Bad Guy captures Darren's friend Evra and announces his intention to kill the boy. Darren needs to lead the Bad Guy into an ambush, so he manages to get captured by the Bad Guy and then offers a trade: the life of Evra for the life of Darren's local-unsuspecting-human girlfriend. Darren will lead the Bad Guy to Debbie's house and will let the Bad Guy feed on her, after which Evra will be set free. Classic hostage exchange, really.
But here's the thing: vampires have kick-ass senses. They can tell how many heartbeats are in the house, whether or not people are breathing, and every little scent and smell. (Spoiler: Actually, they totally can't, Because Plot Contrivance, but we're not supposed to notice.) So in order for all this to actually work, what do they do? Does the unexplainedly rich Mr. Crepsley rent out a house and hire some actors to 'sleep' there in order to make the trap realistic? Of course not!
No, what they do is this: Darren goes to Christmas dinner and brings a bottle of wine as a present. He then drugs every person in the house with the wine, arranges them unknowingly in their beds, and brings the Bad Guy back with him to their house. AND THEN HE BRAGS TO US ABOUT HOW THIS PLAN MAKES HIM A GOOD PERSON.
Murlough could have beaten Mr. Crepsley. If he had, all six of us would have died: Mr. Crepsley, me and Evra, Debbie, Donna, and Jesse.
It had been a dangerous gamble — and unfair to the Hemlocks, who knew nothing of their role in the deadly game — but sometimes you have to take chances. Was it wise to risk five lives for the sake of one? Probably not. But it was human. If I’d learned one thing from my encounter with the crazy vampaneze, it was that even the undead could be human. We had to be — without a touch of humanity, we’d be like Murlough, nothing more than bloodthirsty monsters of the night.
This isn't a "character flaw" included to round out a protagonist into something flawed and realistic. It literally can't be; the placement and verbiage makes that impossible. When something is celebrated as the climax of the book and the proof of your character's "humanity" and the thing that separates him from the horrible ravening murderous bad guys, then it is not a character flaw. It is a something the reader is supposed to agree with. And the idea that I'm supposed to think this is awesome and sweet and wonderful freaks me out.
Because oh-my-god, NO. I mean, there were people who thought Katniss drugging Peeta in The Hunger Games was problematic, and though I personally thought it was well-handled I do absolutely see their point. But this is worlds beyond that; this is a young man being so perfectly convinced of his own moral superiority and his perfect planning capabilities and the rightness of his cause that he thinks absolutely nothing of drugging innocent people who know nothing of the situation and using them as bait in order to further Darren's personal agendas.
Also: Remember how I said the whole thing was bullshit because of plot contrivance? They put a living, drugged goat from the zoo in Debbie's bed, smeared with Debbie's blood to "mislead Murlough's sense of smell". So now there are four heartbeats in the house, one of which is breathing entirely wrong to be a human, and also there is the all-pervading stench of goat in the bedroom which the vampire with heightened senses totally didn't detect. So it clearly wasn't necessary for Debbie and her parents to be in the house at all for this to work and they could have made a go with it just fine with a couple more pieces of livestock.
Endangering innocent humans was just a perk!
The entire night had been planned. The wine I brought for dinner? I drugged it when I was in the kitchen. I added one of Mr. Crepsley’s potions to the wine, a tasteless little concoction that knocked everybody out within ten minutes. They’d be asleep for several more hours yet, and wake with sore heads, but otherwise no ill effects.
I smiled as I wondered what they’d think when they woke in bed, fully dressed, with no memories of the previous night. It would be a mystery, one they’d never solve.
Hahahahaha, Darren Shan, folks! Dangerous extremist utterly convinced that everyone around him are just little puppets in his all-knowing and all-powerful hands. CHEER FOR THE PROTAGONIST.
This kid? He is freaking terrifying. The fact that apparently the author doesn't want us to seem him that way just squicks me out even worse.