Monday, December 27, 2010

Chapter 59: In Which There Was Never Such a Stupid; The Admiral Said So Himself

The previous chapter was awesome. The descriptions worked well to build suspense and emotion, and we finally got to explore another facet of the story's supernatural element. It made me feel that, however slowly it moves, the story has direction once again.

Chapter 59 (THE WARNING. -- THE NEW PLAN OF OPERATION. -- THE INSULTING MESSAGE FROM VARNEY.) does start off slowly. Jack vascillates between being legitimately funny and being written into that really annoying forced humor where you just want to laugh so the author will be satisfied and stop. He probably would have ruined Chapter 58 if it hadn't been so good to begin with, and I could really do without him here.

Chillingworth tells the Admiral that they've made a mistake: they should have let Varney enter the house, then tried to catch him on the way out. There have been so many instances of the characters behaving in really stupid ways around the vampire, so it's nice to see them learning from it.

But back to Jack. Someone commented a while back arguing an alternate interpretation of Varney the Vampire: Varney is not a real vampire, and all the supernatural elements are just smoke and mirrors. While that theory doesn't convince me based on the text itself, sometimes I find it plausible that it's what JMR was going for -- but if it was, I think he executed it ineptly.

Because that awesome suspenseful scene at the end of Chapter 58? Was just Jack being a complete idiot.

I mean, this could be an interesting plot device if JMR didn't just consistently have stuff happen and have characters immediately retcon it in the next chapter. I don't think "it's all smoke and mirrors" would make Varney a bad story. But there's got to be more suspense, more mystery, something more involved than this f***ery.

I must give JMR some credit for the end of the chapter, however, because he brings back that Varney I know and love. The smug, manipulative a**hole who breaks into someone's house at night and then invites them to breakfast the next morning.
"That's about the coolest piece of business," said Mr. Chillingworth, "that ever I heard of."
Indeed it is.


  1. I admit this is a bad chapter, but most of the evidence in favor of a "smoke and mirrors" explanation is handled better than that. Take, for example, Marchdale's role in the plot: even before Mr. Chillingworth's comment in the last chapter, his behavior really should have been setting off warning bells. He was the one pushing for the family to leave the house to Varney, it was his idea to go to the vault, he was the one who produced the torn cloth from the vampire's clothes, he's the only one claiming Varney has superhuman strength, and even Charles all but flat-out accused him of being a traitor. More importantly, it was his pistols that were being used when Varney appeared to be invulnerable to bullets. If you assume Marchdale's been loading his pistols with blanks, not only is Varney's supposed invincibility explained, then all the fuss over the matches during the trip to the vault also makes more sense: it happens right after Marchdale learns that Flora is at home with a set of pistols of her own. In this context, it's hard to see that scene as anything other than a transparent excuse to rush back and warn Varney. Marchdale's insistence on being Henry's second in the duel, giving him access to Henry's pistols, also makes more sense. All of this points to Varney being as vulnerable to bullets as any human. Most of the other supernatural evidence is even weaker than this, so what exactly in the story is making you say otherwise?

  2. Sorry for ignoring this comment for so long! I am working my thoughts out in a post for when I finish this first story arc & review things.