Jealous Hater Book Club: Apolonia Chapter 15

Recently, a friend asked me if I had stopped doing these recaps. And I was like, yeah, I had to, because they were putting my dog to sleep. But I was just kidding. I’m hilarious like that.

Anyway, no I haven’t stopped, and I’m not going to stop, because I’m over halfway done with this, and there’s no sense in putting myself through the first 66% of the book and not finishing. It would be like letting a Civil War surgeon on a dirty battlefield half amputate my leg and then just leave the job unfinished.

A word of caution here: due to recent injury, I’m using dictation software to write this recap. So some stuff will probably look weird, and I will likely not catch it when I edit. It’s just my luck.

So, where we last left Rory, she had just found a dead body inside the crashed spaceship, and she’s afraid it’s Cy.

I felt over the rest of the body. The clothes were slick and tight fitting, not at all like Cy’s jeans and shirt. What was left of the hair was very short and spiky, different from Cy’s soft waves and curls. Exhausted in every way possible, my body collapsed against the wall, and I cried quietly, covering my face with my clean hand. It wasn’t him. Cy could still be alive.

Writing Tip: here’s a very common mistake. Word repetition. It happens to everyone, but sometimes it’s easily avoidable. You just have to be able to see it. Here, it’s pretty visible: “I felt over the rest of the body.” “[...] my body collapsed against the wall […]“. If you switch the second instance from “my body” to “I”, you solve the problem.

Cy was hurt somewhere in a strange ship, and Benji was outside, either captured or dead.

is the ship strange to Cy? It’s from his home planet, and it’s kind of like his girlfriend’s car, right? At the very least, Cy would have some kind of knowledge of what a spaceship is and how it might be laid out. He’s a space traveler himself, after all.

Rory thinks about how she ran away “like a coward.” If I recall correctly, she actually ran away like an idiot, straight into the spaceship that had just crashed. She thinks about how she isn’t brave and can’t save anybody, then she crawls over a bunch of bodies and into what she thinks is a control room.

“Cy?” I called out just loud enough for someone close to here, hoping I hadn’t missed his body in the black corridor. I stood up. My entire body complained.

Maguire should’ve complained about the shoddy job her proofer did. Two more “body”s on the same page, and a “bodies” I didn’t quote. She really deserves her money back on this.

My arm was covered in warm blood — my own. The rest of me was covered in the blood of others.

By some miracle, she doesn’t tack on something about her inconsistent near-or-possibly-full murder.

I leaned against a desk, beyond exhausted.

Thanks for reiterating that, because you haven’t been exhausted for like four entire chapters now and I was worried you were getting your second wind.

I had wandered too far away from the point of the explosion. It wasn’t likely that Cy had gotten this far inside the ship in that amount of time. Rendlesham and the soldiers might have already captured him.

This, like so many things in this book, makes absolutely no sense. Cy was on the ship before her. Why is it unlikely that he got on the ship before her, but hasn’t made it as far as she has? Why is it likely that Rendlesham, who was outside the ship when Rory got on it, somehow got ahead of her to find Cy? or maybe she means that between Cy getting on the ship and the explosion happening, he wouldn’t have been able to get as far away from the blast zone as she did? But that still doesn’t make sense, because Cy could’ve just gone a different direction.

I was alone in a dark busted ship, tripping over dead bodies.

But not corpses, victims, casualties, dead aliens, crew members… Look, I would understand if it was a word like “parasite” or “alien”, because there aren’t a lot of suitable substitutes, so the author has to repeat those words. There’s no way of avoiding the repetition. But here there is, so it really sticks out.

Rory hears somebody speaking in a different language, and then she hears Cy’s voice.

I turned, seeing Cy and his betrothed. Apolonia was holding a sword to my throat. She was breathtaking. Her skin was a bit lighter than Cy’s, and her long black hair fell in soft waves to her elbows. It was propped up somehow from the underside and then left to cascade over like a waterfall. She had two thick braids running across the top of her head and a heavy red stripe running across both of her eyes and nose, from temple to temple, making her pale blue eyes — that were just a few shades away from white — look even brighter. Her curve-hugging crimson uniform didn’t leave much to the imagination, showing her toned shoulders, arms, and add, and she was almost as tall as Cy. She looked both futuristic and savage.

Okay. The warrior from the culture that mimics a real-world culture of people of color is “savage”.

She could be in a workout commercial or a hair commercial or a lipstick commercial, I thought as I noticed her shimmering plump lips. My day just got much worse.

She could be in a workout commercial or a hair commercial or lipstick commercial or a commercial for my latent bisexuality. (Insert routine author note about underlines indicating italics).

So, remember how Rory’s human friends might be dead right now? And how she’s on a crashed spaceship, crawling over dead bodies? And how the fate of the entire world rests on her shoulders because some devastating alien parasite might consume the human race? But a girl being prettier than her, makes the day so much worse.

Cy warns Rory not to make any sudden movements, then he says something to Apolonia and she responds in their language. Cy tells her to speak English.

“English feels unpleasant in my mouth,” she replied. She spoke my language but awkwardly and with a severe accent. It made her seem less frightening even though she was looking at me like she wanted to take my life.

It’s important that we know that the scary savage’s accent is severe, because it helps keep her scary, but less so because she’s speaking English. Okay.

“Put down your weapon, Apolonia,” Cy commanded. He spoke much harsher than he had ever spoken to me.

Because he likes you more than he likes his fiancée. We get it.

Cy asks Rory what she saw on the way there, and you guessed it, she says she saw dead bodies. There’s also a line where she thinks about every muscle in her body relaxing, so now “body” is less of a word rep and more of a motif. Cy tells Rory to hide under a desk and not to come out until he tells her to. Then he and Apolonia make a run for it, but not real fast, because Cy is injured. Though I know it wasn’t the impression the author intended to give, it kind of seems like Cy just shoves Rory under a desk in a bid to save himself.

Before Cy and Apolonia can get away, Dr. Rendlesham arrives with some soldiers. Apolonia stares them down while Cy tries to warn them:

“Doctor, call off your men. She will kill them. And you.”

So…why not just let her. If Rendlesham is dead, he can’t do the thing with the parasite, right?

Because this book is this book, the tense stand-off goes on way too long. Rendlesham tells him they have five AK-47s aimed at her, and Cy is all, let your men go home to their families, and Rendlesham is like, I’m giving you one more chance, and Cy again tries with the think-of-your-kids-back-home thing, and Rendlesham tells a soldier to take the shot, but the soldier hesitates, blah blah blah. Writing Tip:  If you’re trying to write a tense gun-battle stand off scene, every dialogue exchange sucks some of the tension out. That’s what happens here. It goes from a stand-off to a conversation that’s happening while weapons politely try to not eavesdrop. After a few lines of back and forth, the reader begins to doubt that anyone is going to do anything at all.

As it happens, a soldier does end up firing his gun. He shoots Cy, which is the wrong thing to do, because Apolonia’s eyes go all black. She unsheathes her sword and deflects the bullets the soldiers fire at her with the blade. But she doesn’t kill Rendlesham. Then more soldiers run in.

Her eyes lacked compassion or fear. Her flawlessness revealed that she wasn’t human, but her eyes exposed her inhumanity. I didn’t imagine any of these men wanted to spar with her. That much beauty with that much malevolence was unsettling.

Raise your hand if the combination of “savage” and “non-english-speaking” and “inhuman” are hitting all kinds of buttons here.

I found that video when I was looking for a funny image to use here. If it’s stuck in my head, it has to be stuck in yours now, too. My curiosity is both of our downfalls.

So, Rory is still hiding under the desk while Apolonia kills like two-dozen soldiers:

Within minutes, she was the only one left standing among at least twenty-five bodies.

 

One of those counter things they click to count people.

You’ll need this. For the bodies. Not the bodies in the story, but the number of times the word “body” is used in both the singular and plural form in this chapter.

I was afraid of no man, but Apolonia wasn’t a man. She wasn’t even a woman.

So she’s not a woman, she’s not a man…

single cover for Prince's "I Would Die 4 U"

That leaves one option, and it’s in a Prince song about Jesus Christ.

She was death encapsulated in perfection–a frightening thing to behold.

She’s not a woman, she’s not a man, she is something that you’ll never understand. Her name is Apolonia, which is just one “l” off from making this the perfect Prince joke.

But let’s go back to the part where Rory says she’s “afraid of no man.”

An animated gif of Eowyn from Lord of The Rings taking off her helmet and saying, "I am no man."

Pump the brakes, Eowyn, because while you have, admittedly, shown some character growth in the past few chapters, you’re afraid of everything. At the beginning of this chapter you even doubt your own bravery. And I’m not even convinced that as a character you’ve become braver; all I’ve really seen evidence of is your willingness to charge into danger out of sheer spite.

Also, let’s talk about your supposed immortality that has apparently been dropped or maybe never picked up. I’m not sure if you were supposed to be actually immortal or not, but if you were, why would you be so afraid of Apolonia?

Wait, if Rory is immortal and Apolonia is death encapsulated in perfection, maybe the book ends with them becoming crime fighting buddies! Gosh, I hope not, because that would mean there would be more books with Rory in them.

Before we move on, let’s add the whole “she’s not a man or a woman” thing into the “entirely remove the humanity of a character whose race is informed by that of real world people of color” bucket, right along with “savage”, “non-English-speaking”, “inhuman”.

Benji suddenly came into view. I was so glad that he was okay, and I wanted to hold him so much that my entire body literally pulled an inch or two in his direction.

Emphasis mine.

Apolonia doesn’t see him, so, you know. Some highly lethal killing machine warrior non-woman she is. Benji crawls over to Rory, who warns that Apolonia is going to kill him.

Apolonia kneeled beside me, her face just inches from my cheek, but I didn’t dare look at her or her freaky-ass black eyes.

She spoke something beautiful but frightening.

“Just don’t hurt him,” I said. Accepting that she would use her sword to slice through me, I closed my eyes. Just because I would come back didn’t mean it wouldn’t hurt. I wasn’t exactly sure I could come back after being cut in half anyway.

Never, in the history of any paranormal or fantasy book I have ever read, have I been so confused about the possible immortality of a main character. Seriously, why are we supposed to be on the edge of our seats that Rory might die if she’s immortal? Is withholding confirmation or clarity on the issue an attempt to make the book more compelling? It’s not working.

Unfortunately, Apolonia doesn’t cut Rory in half. Instead, she tells Rory and Benji to stand up, and Benji tries to get between Rory and Apolonia.

“Stop moving!” I said, my voice breaking. I was sure at any moment she was going to decapitate him.

Apolonia’s eyes were blue again, and she rolled them at us.

Same.

Apolonia tells Rory that she’s not going to hurt them, and asks if Dr. Zoidberg, who’s lingering in the hall, is with them.

Apolonia left us, stepping over bodies to reach Cy.

Emphasis mine.

Rory rushes to Cy’s side, too, or tries to with her injured leg, which she has injured without noticing. Which, you know, can happen, but it better have happened for a reason that’s better than “look how vulnerable I am in comparison to this scary, savage, inhuman stand-in for a woman of color.”

Cy is okay, he’s just shot in the shoulder. Good thing that rarely kills people. He warns everyone that if Apolonia can’t get the specimen and make contact with her father soon, Earth’s time is up. Cy wants to know what Benji is doing there:

“He was looking for me. He saw the Nayara this morning while he was running. She’s sort of hard to miss.”

“He just happened to be running before dawn?” Cy said, snarling at Benji.

“He always runs in the mornings! Would you please trust me for once?”

Okay, but remember the part where he was wandering around, specifically shouting your name? And now he was just on a jog? Let’s decide which one it is.

Benji looked at me, confused and hesitant to respond. “I would never do anything to hurt Rory. She’s more important to me than she is to you.”

“Why is that?” Cy seethed.

“Because I…that’s none of your business.”

“Rory is my business,” Cy said.

“As flattering as this is,” I said, “we have shit to do. Let’s get Cy stitched up.”

Cy and Benji stared each other down until Apolonia tightened her grip on Cy.

All-powerful, preternaturally beautiful female side character intimidated by plain Jane main’s importance to her man? I would expect no less of this book.

Apolonia suggests they go out and look for survivors. They leave Dr. Z in charge of Cy.

Then Benji and I went with her to check the bodies in the hallway. Every time we couldn’t find signs of life, Apolonia became more and more angry. After the sixteenth body, I was beginning to feel afraid around her.

Emphasis mine. And you’ve been afraid of her this entire time. Hell, you’ve been threatened by her since you found out she existed.

Through the breach in the hull they see that Rendlesham and his guys are gone. They just left, I guess. That’s convenient to the plot. They find a woman who’s still alive, but impaled.

“I hope she makes it,” Benji said. “If not, Apolonia might stab one of us just to make herself feel better.”

Because she’s just that “savage”.

Apolonia lifts the woman off the thing impaling her–btw, not the way you handle an impalement injury, since whatever is currently jabbing through the person is holding a lot of important shit in place, like blood and possibly organs–and when the woman doesn’t scream, Rory thinks:

The young woman wasn’t many years away from being a girl, and she had already displayed an intense amount of bravery and self-control that I had only seen once before–in myself.

Jen from The IT Crowd laughing, then looking around, with the text, "Why is no one laughing?"

Are you serious? You just saw an alien warrior woman armed only with a sword plow through twenty-five soldiers armed with AK-47s without flinching or breaking a sweat, but it’s your courage and strength you’re reminded of? Sweet Hera, save us from this mortal’s hubris.

When they get back to the bridge, Cy and Dr. Z are gone, and Apolonia guesses that they went to the infirmary, so she takes everyone there.

We entered an all-white room, every surface made of the same strange cloth-like material.

Is it, uh, cloth?

Even the walls, floors, and small surgical tables and beds were composed of this gauze-cheesecloth combination.

So it’s not “cloth-like”. It’s just cloth.

The room also glows without any visible light fixtures, and Dr. Z is tending Cy’s wounds. Because remember, in this book, doctor means doctor of everything. Apolonia puts the impaled woman on a bed and bad news, everyone! The impaled lady is the ship’s doctor! And she’s got blood leaking out of her ears!

this is fine

Cy called out, prompting Apolonia to rush to his side. My stomach tensed, and my cheeks flushed, but it wasn’t jealousy.

Sure it wasn’t.

I was that I couldn’t bear losing someone else. IT was too much to stomach–that, and so much blood. I hadn’t seen that much blood since–

Since you were picking over casualties in the hallway? Since you saw a room full of soldiers get shredded with a sword? Nope! Since your mother and best friend died. Because they bled more blood than countless dead aliens and two-dozen soldiers.

As it turns out, Rory is also overwhelmed because she’s hurt. Benji puts her on the table with the bleeding doctor, Tsavi, and Cy is all, “Help her.”

I turned my head and stared into his beautiful golden eyes. He always had a calming effect on me, even when I hated him. He was dirty, covered in grease, soot, and blood, but he was still beautiful. Like my mother just before she died.

“I’ll be okay,” I said although it was too quiet for anyone but Cy to hear.

He reached out for me, and I mustered up the last of my strength to lift my hand to touch his fingertips.

GODDAMNIT ARE YOU IMMORTAL OR NOT?! You don’t get to have a death scene if you’re immortal! You just fucking said Apolonia could stab you with a sword and you would come back. Why should I believe there is any sense of danger in this scene?

But whatever. Benji tells Rory that he won’t let anything happen to her, and the chapter is over.

53 thoughts on “Jealous Hater Book Club: Apolonia Chapter 15

  1. Benji is being shady af, Rory is annoying af as usual and Apolonia is super underwhelming for the character THE FREAKING BOOK IS NAMED AFTER.

    No, seriously. For all “she’s death incarnated”, it seemed to me like she was just a bunch of overused, lazy and unintentionally racist (because I don’t believe McGuire is smart enough to be racist intentionally) tropes hastily put together. There’s nothing to her character, except that she’s pretty, has a sword and murders a bunch of people.

    But of course, even a murderous alien princess is going to seem underwhelming compared to the magnificent, brave, smart Rory. OF COURSE.

  2. Holy word rep, Batman! I almost want to pick up the book just to skim the chapter and count how many times the words “body” or “bodies” was used. I think she might have hit at least 50 in this chapter alone.

    Also, is this author ever going to explain ANYTHING?? I’m so confused right now. Is Rory immortal or not? Why is Cy blatantly being overprotective and possessive of Rory in front of his murderous fiancé? What the hell is up with Benji already? Why is any of this happening? This freaking book…

  3. Why the dialog standoff? To Appaloosa the humans attacked and invaded HER ship and caused massive casualties of HER crew and severely damaged HER ship. It’s like monologuing villains in Bond moves: STOP TALKING AND KILL THE GUYS ALREADY! Appy had every right to chop their heads off the moment they set foot in her ship. And with all her high tech she needed a SWORD?!?

    Gaah.

    1. I’m glad I’m not the only one who’s reminded of a horse every time somebody mentions the alien princess’ name. What a ridiculous choice to call a sci-fi romance.

      1. That is OUTSTANDING! I love it!

        I have another one:

        When engaged in a space dogfight I will NOT initiate toe-to-toe combat with the enemy when my exterior running lights are ON.

      2. I like this one best!

        “If an attractive young couple enters my realm, I will carefully monitor their activities. If I find they are happy and affectionate, I will ignore them. However if circumstance have forced them together against their will and they spend all their time bickering and criticizing each other except during the intermittent occasions when they are saving each others’ lives at which point there are hints of sexual tension, I will immediately order their execution.”

  4. This is a minor thing in the context of every other colossal error this book makes, but why are soldiers working for an American government conspiracy using AK-47s? That’s a weird choice. Why are so many of these terrible authors so bad at using google?

    1. Funding issues. Obviously this branch of the Gubamint can’t afford AR’s from the local gun shop so they have to buy AK’s and bring them in illegally. Makes sense. Well, as much as anything else in this book . . . .

      1. Majestic 12 Logistics Department:

        “Alright gentleman, we are meeting here today to discuss equipment for our super top secret government military conspiracy. What weapon should we issue to our ultra top secret ninja dudes?”

        “How about a foreign weapon that will make us look really out of place in the United States, where we will mostly be operating?”

        “By God, Simmons, you’re a genius!”

  5. NOW IF WE’RE TALKING BODY~~

    I love that the chapter literally begins with her being “covered in the blood of others,” and then later, she’s shocked by the sight of more blood.

  6. “My arm was covered in warm blood — my own. The rest of me was covered in the blood of others.”
    Oh really? You don’t say. Seriously, you could just say “I was covered in blood”.

    “Apolonia kneeled beside me, her face just inches from my cheek, but I didn’t dare look at her or her freaky-ass black eyes.
    She spoke something beautiful but frightening.”
    …Was this book professionally edited? This is TERRIBLE writing. And look, another evil woman.

    “I was afraid of no man, but Apolonia wasn’t a man. She wasn’t even a woman.”
    Rory has never thought of Cy as not a man, but she hates this woman so much she refuses to acknowledge her as another woman. If the author meant for us to sympathize with Rory, she failed.

  7. This book just gets worse all the time. I’m still confused by the last chapter. A spaceship sets down on a country road by a bridge? As Benji just happens to be jogging by? Then the military attacks the ship for no reason, it crashes, then they all leave? It makes no sense at all, AT ALL.

    Then there’s a “Brad! Janet! Dr. Frankenfurter! Rocky! Janet!” moment when everyone meets up inside the crashed, burning, starship where they natter around ignorant of the fact it’s crashed, burning, and the military is sure to rush in with reinforcements and body bags.

    I also had to laugh when Rory is groping around inside and clutches the edge of a DESK. I’m picturing office furniture with laminate, or government-issue metal, in an alien starship.

  8. *idly surfing interwebs*
    Ooh, let’s have a look at Trout Nation. Hey, maybe that Apolonia recap I’ve been eagerly awaiting might be… *clicks* Hooray!

    I hate this book, yet for some reason I can’t wait for the recaps.

    Is it weird that one of the things that annoyed me most was Apolonia rolling her eyes in annoyance? She’s supposed to be an alien, man. And not only does she look like a human playing an alien in a bad sci-fi, but she also employs very human (and indeed, very western) body language. Where the hell is the imagination?

    Oh, yeah…

    1. “And not only does she look like a human playing an alien in a bad sci-fi, but she also employs very human (and indeed, very western) body language.”

      This annoyed me too. Is that her true form? Does the author ever explain why her aliens look so human? Where did Apolonia pick up mannerisms like rolling her eyes? With a book, I expect something a little more imaginative than the original Star Trek, which was limited by a small budget and by the constraints of special effects at that time. This is the most original portrayal of aliens I’ve seen in a novel since the execrable I Am Number Four (which is still not as bad as Apolonia, because there’s no lines like “cum-burping gutter slut”).

  9. It’s remarkable to me that a story with ALIENS!!! EXPLOSIONS!!! GUNFIGHTS!!! CHASING!!! can manage to be this fucking boring.

    The incompetence of the evil government agency is also hilarious, although I think at this point it we would be a happy ending if Rendelsham & co managed to bump off all the protagonists. I can’t even say I have no emotional investment in Rory & friends – at this point I want them all to die.

    1. Mystery Science Theater 3000 is running their Kickstarter to get some new episodes funded, so on a lark I watched some episodes from season 2 and 5. I had to pick up my wife from the airport so I had to stop watching one show 2/3 of the way through “The Wild Wild World of Batwoman.” At first I thought, “Oh no, I won’t find out how it ends.” Then it dawned on me: THE MOVIE NEVER STARTED and I was already 2/3 through!!! Gads it was so BORING! Even Tom Servo, Crow, and Mike/Joel’s comments couldn’t save the experience. Gaagh.

      This book reminds me of that movie–definitely OK if the antagonists bump off the protagonists!

  10. Yeesh. The story I wrote when I was four was better than this crap…

    How are there people who enjoy this book? It’s barely even a book!

  11. ‘I was afraid of no man, but Apolonia wasn’t a man. She wasn’t even a woman.’

    Aw, man, I got excited for non-binary gendered aliens for a second there! (And then I remembered what book this was and promptly lowered my expectations through the floor.)

  12. And to think I imagined the book would get better once the science fiction plot was underway…

    Beyond all that, this author does not seem to understand how to do aliens. Even if Real World Racism isn’t a factor (and here it definitely is), we’ve all seen too many Space Racism allegories for a sympathetic character to get away with thinking about an entirely human-looking alien as a monster. If the alien looks, thinks, and acts like a human being, a sympathetic character should either view her as a person or at least come to see her as a person as the plot develops. If the alien is meant to be beyond human sympathy, then she shouldn’t be described as looking like a model.

    Also, if one character is holding a sword to another’s throat, that should probably get more description than the sword-holder’s hair and clothing.

    1. Totally. Personally I think this stuff is an insult to evolution. I mean, it took millions of totally random chances for human beings to look as we do, and apparently almost exactly the same set of random chances has been happening elsewhere… amazing.

      I know, I get hung up on weird things. But that’s because I’m a nerd. I’m not ashamed.

  13. Jesus, this is the fucking WORST. It’s infuriating that people who can actually write struggle to get published, yet this dreck is put out there. WHY?

  14. “Her flawlessness revealed that she wasn’t human, but her eyes exposed her inhumanity.”

    or in other words,

    “She wasn’t human, but she also wasn’t human.”

    ARGGGH.

  15. I just love how super-evil-and-not-a-woman Apolonia has a sword to Rory’s throat and Rory thinks this is the perfect opportunity to describe Apolonia’s totally-human-but-also-not-human appearance. Priorities, people.

    I don’t think I’ve ever disliked a character as much as I dislike Rory. ‘Oh, this woman is so incredibly brave and in control. She reminds me of myself!’ Go fuck yourself, Rory.

  16. Gaaah!! What?! So she is immortal? Whyyyy has this not been part of the plot all along. By now it’s an extraordinary feat to make a book this boring when you have an immortal ‘protagonist’. Why have we been following her around doing boring college stuff when we could’ve had some Claire Bennet action like Rory running into burning buildings to save total strangers just because she can? Ugh!
    And don’t get me started on the weird, confusing writing.
    Also, I really don’t like that an alien race looks exactly the same as humans. There is no imagination whatsoever thay went into this book. Why be a sci-fi writer if you won’t make up crazy stuff?

  17. Something that confuses me, and it seems like Rory is just 100% rationalizing to herself. She’s in love with Cy, but she’s dismissive of Apolonia because she’s “not a real woman.”

    What does that make Cy then? Not a real man? Rory is a true pansexual. Good for her.

    Also, apparently gender identity is reserved exclusively for humans.

  18. “My entire body complained” sounds like the infamous “My cock agrees”

    Like

    “When my brain chose to get up this morning, my cock agreed but the rest of my body complained.”

  19. Please continue with this book! I want to see how it ends so bad, and won’t be so much fun if I read the last chapter myself!

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