Monday, September 3, 2012

Catharsis by Aaron Black

Title: Catharsis
Author: Aaron Black
Length: 4456 Kindle units
Rating: 3.5 stars

The Plot

Bodhi has been training to be a Christine monk for as long as he can remember, but he runs into a problem on his current mission. He comes across a girl being held by slavers, and he knows that he has to save her. Since he lacks the kind of skills necessary to defeat a violent slaver, he quickly ends up captured alongside her.

But things are not entirely what they seem. He did not come across this girl by chance, and their fates have been intermingled since before his birth. Everything is related to the dreams he has every nights, and the mysterious creature to whom they are being sold. Because it seems that Bodhi has a far greater destiny than he ever imagined.

The Good

The overarching plot and set-up of Catharsis was pretty cool, and the best thing about this was  the way the dreams worked. And I confess that if you had told me at the beginning I would be saying this, I would have told you that you were crazy. At first they are kind of annoying, mostly because when Bodhi wakes up, he doesn’t remember them, so the reader has all this information that the narrator doesn’t have, which is a confusing set-up. Bodhi dreams of himself, a pixie, and a really tall warrior meeting and being attacked by a giant dragon, and you’re pretty sure the pixie is the woman the slavers captured. So you think, “Oh, these three people are going to come together and defeat the ebil dragon.” Turns out that’s not what it means at all. It is much tricksier, and consequently much more interesting, than that.

The Bad

Catharsis begins with a monk named Bodhi going through the town of Shivpuri with his monk partner Channa to attempt to convert people to the Christine faith (sort of like Christianity but with reincarnation). While he is there, Bodhi finds a young woman who has been kidnapped by slavers. In the monks’ attempt to rescue here, Channa is killed. So Bodhi runs away, sleeps with a prostitute, and decides he doesn’t want to be a monk anymore.

If you are saying, “Wait, what?” then you are in good company, because that is exactly what I was thinking at this point in the novel. When your character who has been a monk his entire life has one bad experience and then just decides he doesn’t want to do it anymore, that does not seem like a wise and reasoned choice. It makes your character seem kind of pathetic.

Actually, I found myself somewhat perplexed several times during the course of the novel. I’m still not clear on what kind of environment we were working with. It was clearly some version of earth, but with different races of men and dragons and space-faring people. It was a mix of all kinds of mythologies, kind of like someone slapping a bunch of different paint colors on a canvas with the outcome being more “incomprehensible finger painting” than “work of art.”

The Romance

Okay, so I do my very best not to complain too much about sexism in books, especially given the fact that much of my English degree was earned by learning from feminist professors. Nonetheless, sometimes I come across a situation that I cannot ignore, and Catharsis has one of these cases. The main love interest is a pixie named Kama, a beauty who appears to be about sixteen years old and frequently walks around with no clothes on. As the story goes on, we learn that all pixies appear as nubile young women and that, as a rule, they “don’t do clothes.” The only other woman in the book is Mara the dragon, who is pretty much the villain of the piece. Oh, and the prostitute.

So… yeah… This is an extreme example of the reasons that people complain that fantasy is sexist. It’s the only place people can even pretend to get away with having teen boy fantasies taking the place of actual characterization. Which I guess is fine if your only audience is men who secretly wish that Stepford was a real place. But if you’d like to bring your fantasy into the twenty-first century, put some clothes on your heroine.

Will I read more?

Some of the story was interesting enough, but for the most part I didn’t really want to read more as I was reading the first story, so I don’t see myself seeking out the second one.

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1 comment:

  1. I have a good Thai friend that was a monk his entire adult life...then decided one day to chuck it all and get a regular job. I still don't know why he did this.