Thursday, January 8, 2015

50 Shad3s: Chapter One

Ana and Christian are on a beach honeymoon and maybe people see Ana's boobs.

Having a difficult time getting back into this, pretty much because it's so, so terrible. You get to the end of the chapter, and these people are just doing the same stuff that they always do. Having their little fights which hint that Ana is straight-up going to get murdered if she strays from Christian's rules. Doing rich-people stuff that somehow feels false, like it was thought up explicitly for the sake of sounding rich to readers who are not actually rich.

Oh and you know that thing on TV shows where they have somebody get married because I guess that's good for ratings or whatever and people like watching weddings? EL decided she was having none of that! The young couple's entire engagement and wedding is dispatched with boring efficiency. Great, I guess! Gets us through this first chapter, and onto the rest of the book! Whatever that's about. I have no idea, yet, what this book is about. Probably the same as the other books.

But holy shit this is a dumpster fire.

Ok. Am I prone to hyperbole? Sure. But omigod this is so brutally bad. Here's what Chapter 1 is like: Chapter 1 is like fanfic by a 50 Shades superfan. It's fanfic of fanfic and it's just bullshit. It's so bad that it's gone past good and back to bad again.

I feel bad for having potentially overused the phrase "dumpster fire" in my recent life so I might need to retract that. Instead I'm going to call this chapter a shitcano, which I definitely haven't overused because it's a dumb nonsense word that I just mashed up right now. (Editor's note: gets about 3.5k hits on google so you're not that original, Eagle.)

Here's the thing: there just isn't any book in this book. There's no story. There are none of the conventional things you need to like, make you read a book.

Since there's no story in this story, you don't really need to be offered a plot refresher but hey. I'll do it anyway because I'm a very generous person.

Ana Steele is engaged to billionaire / kink-enthusiast / child-abuse survivor Christian Grey. He is domineering and they are usually upset with each other except for when they're having sex. 

. . . only now we'll have to update this straight away because [gasp] they're already married! We learn it immediately so don't worry. No spoilies. After the jump!

Chapter 1 is broken up into a series of dumb scenes that go nowhere. Some are flashbacks. Some are, I guess, present? Hard to say after that prologue that took place at no particular time. We'll take these scene by scene.

1:1 Fancy beach in Monaco.

This is 3 stupid paragraphs that amount to the following: "Ana and CG got married and they're in Monaco." FTB. CG is reading a book on the beach which is normal and he's wearing cut-offs over his swimsuit which seems like a normal beach-thing to do since he's a contemporary high school girl. Wait, what? Oh he's a grown-ass man? Oh right. Then that cut-offs thing is super weird and I guess he's back to being a nevernude? Whatever. Ana: "He looks more like a student than the hotshot CEO of one the top privately owned companies in the United States." Sounds not at all like either, methinks! Oh well. 

Where are they staying, you didn't ask? Well I'll tell you! "We are staying, of course, on board a luxury motor yacht. Built in 1928, she floats majestically on the water, queen of the all the yachts in the harbor. She looks like a child’s wind-up toy."

So which is it? The boat is majestic? Or it's a toy? The more EL describes a thing to you, the less you understand what the hell she's talking about, is one problem. 

The scene ends with Ana taking a nap. #plot

1:2 The boathouse. Flashback

Ok so now we're at CG's parents' house and I forget. This might be right after the party that ends the previous book but let's be real: that book was dumb and I barely paid attention. They just did sex so I guess thank you for skipping over that part, EL. About a page. Mostly dialogue. They decide to get married at that same house in a month. Yawn. CG uses the phrase "wedding with all the trimmings" as though that were a thing a person would ever say ever.

1:3 Back to that dumb beach. Present, I guess?

Now, CG gives Ana one of his trademark lectures. This time it's about how she'll get a sunburn if she's in the sun for too long. This is why he's one of America's top super-geniuses! Please, join me in reading this baffling description of CG applying sunscreen to Ana:

“You really are very lovely. I’m a lucky man,” he murmurs as his fingers skim over my breasts, spreading the lotion. 
“Yes, you are, Mr. Grey.” I gaze coyly up at him through my lashes. 
“Modesty becomes you, Mrs. Grey. Turn over. I want to do your back.” 
Smiling, I roll over, and he undoes the back strap of my hideously expensive bikini.

 Ok sooooooo are we reading this the same way? Because it looks to me like CG is rubbing sunscreen into Ana's bikini, right? Is there any other way to interpret this? Whatever. What if that's his new weird fetish? Cool.

Ana teases CG by asking how he'd feel if she went topless, which, we are informed, is a thing that ladies are doing at this beach. And of course CG is all about making sure he's completely in charge of Ana's body, so no, of course that wouldn't be ok.

This is a moment that could actually have been fun if Ana weren't so opaque. Ana says things but we never know what she thinks. She just says stuff. What if she were an exhibitionist? What if all of her experiences with CG over the past two dum books got her all excited to indulge in a bunch of stuff and now CG is worried that she's taking it too far, or getting out from under his thumb? I think that tension could actually be entertaining, but we never really know what Ana wants or what she's thinking so instead of being something, this is just a little bit of foreshadowing about the fact that some European beach people are eventually going to see Ana's boobs and I'm so bored by this. Feel free to quit now. That's how the chapter is going to end: CG undoes Ana's top for, allegedly, sunscreen-related reasons. He does not do her the simple courtesy of restoring her top after removing it, and then she falls asleep, and rolls over in her sleep, and *maybe* somebody saw her topless maybe. W/E. FTB.

1:4 Same beach again, after Ana takes another nap. 

Remember: EL thinks that a "chapter" or "scene" is best framed by when somebody wakes up and when they fall asleep, so of course we get a break when Ana takes a nap but then CG wakes her up while buying a Coke  and a water from a beach waitress, which I guess is a thing at this beach. Nice. Ana is totes impressed but I don't speak any French and I'm confident I could get a Coke in Monaco without any trouble. Ana would have no hope tho because remember how she's so bad at literally everything? Of course you remember.

Good thing we still get to read about Ana being mad jealous about every lady ever ever!

My eyelashes flutter in the glare of the sun, and I find Christian watching me while a liveried young woman walks away, her tray held aloft, her high blond ponytail swinging provocatively. 

Hey you know what's a totally ordinary American word that I totally didn't have to ask the internet to define for me? "Liveried." Means the waitress also works at a stable. Good job at continuing to sound very American, EL James!

But take a closer look at that horse waitress, fellas. You see what I'm talking about? She's got that blond ponytail? And it's moving? Swinging? Maybe it's just me, bro, but when I see a girl, and like, her hair is responding to gravity and inertia and shit? I know she's just asking for it. Begging for it.

I'm reading this correctly, aren't I? Ana is calling this beach waitress a slut because her ponytail is moving too much? What the shit, Ana. A) you're terrible and B) what, you think she's got a prehensile ponytail? Do you know that a ponytail is not actually a tail?

OH SHIT. I just got it. Ugh. The young woman is "liveried" and that means she is actually part horse, and thus her provocative ponytail is actually a tail so now everything that Ana is saying kind of makes sense. Please accept my apology, EL. Your book totally makes sense now that I remember what the hell a livery is.

Let's read some more!

“I could watch you all day. Tired?” I flush. “I didn’t get much sleep last night.” “Me neither.” He grins, puts down his BlackBerry, and stands. His shorts fall
a little and hang . . . in that way so his swim trunks are visible beneath. Christian takes his shorts off, stepping out of his flip-flops. I lose my train of thought. 

Ok so. "I didn't get much sleep last night" means that they did a lot of sex. And Ana is thinking about having sex with Christian, and then she sees him looking all sexy and whatever, and his remarkable sexiness distracts Ana from thinking about having sex with him. It's like EL isn't even reading this thing as she's writing it. Her attention to detail is goldfish-like. I dunno--what's an animal with a really bad memory? What's the opposite of an owl? That's what I'm going for.

Anyway soon they're in the ocean and making out because that's all they ever do is that, or fight. And I dunno. I just hate it. I think the main thing is that we just have no access to Ana's thoughts at all so it just feels robotic. It's just a description of different body parts doing different things and you're like, yawn. They don't have sex in the ocean.

They don't end up doing it in the water. Ana goes back to the beach while CG keeps swimming and then she takes off her top and takes another nap. Why does she do this? Well. I guess it's because she felt disappointed that they didn't join the um. What's the ocean equivalent of mile-high club, which we will be talking about shortly? I'm going to say Davy Jones style. She's mad at Christian for not getting to do it Davy Jones style so she takes off her top as a provocation.

And here let me return to one of my pet themes: we just don't get what Ana's deal is. EL has tried to ease her from the bonkers level of innocence that she exhibited at the beginning of this saga, but now Ana is just kind of all over the place.

This is a real problem, since this story is neither plot-driven nor character-driven. You expect a protagonist to have some desire--some need that she needs to fulfill. The other characters then ought to help raise the stakes. In other words, do stuff that makes the protagonist even more committed to fulfilling her goal. But we're starting this book off with Ana already married. All her relationships in her entire life are great, even though she only has like, four people she knows. And yeah, her husband seems super shitty and I would hate to be around him even for a second. But Ana seems to like him so from my vantage point, Ana needs nothing and as such, there's no reason for this book to even be a thing. EL could've just told us all on her blog that PS Ana and CG got married! And we wouldn't have even had to read this pointless third book. Oh well!

Where were we? Oh.

I shut my eyes and let the sun warm my skin . . . warm my bones, and I drift away under its heat, my thoughts turning to my wedding day. 

That is our segue from 1:4 to 1:5

1:5 The Wedding Flashback 

Longest chunk of this chapter, and the least interesting. But before we get into the scene, let me point out that the way this chapter is organized suggests, once again, that EL thinks that dreams are like reruns for your brain. We're always seeing dreams that I *think* we're supposed to interpret as accurate representations of stuff that actually happened. I know I've complained about this before; quit reading if you want new complaints. Everything that's bad about this series you figure out by about Chapter 4, Book 1. The only way it gets worse from there is simply by repetition and volume, not via new tricks.

Whatever. If Ana were really dreaming, her wedding would be way cooler. She'd forget to wear pants and then learn that she had to retake second grade or something. And then all her teeth would fall out. You know, dream stuff.

Instead, she's just having a regular dumb wedding like a regular person. Yawn.

The dude performing their wedding is somebody called Reverend Walsh who gets a name only to help out 50 Shades fanfic weirdos who have doubtless written entire novels about his erotic adventures. Whatever.

Immediately after their vows are finalized, CG says, "Don't let anyone take that dress off but me, understand?"

And that's a pretty weird thing to say, right? Since um. Do I even need to explain, really? I kind of don't, right? I mean what's CG worried about? The king? Going to show up and be all, "Prima nocta, mutterblushers!" Is that what he's worried about? Because I really don't understand this instruction.

Then Ana watches her mom and her mom's ex, Ray, dance or whatever and she gets bummed out. Maybe she realizes that her whole relationship is kind of a farce and then remembers that CG might still probably actually be a serial killer probably. More likely, tho, she's just like, "Oh it's so sad that other people got divorced. Too bad they don't have a perf man like my terrifying, all-controlling, billionaire monster guy!"

Anyway. They're leaving immediately from the wedding on a surprise honeymoon. Because that's normal, right? For a lady to get married and be like, "Sure, wherever is great. Surprise me! I have no opinions!"

Here's a funny bit:

“Pack your going-away clothes,” he orders. “You’ll need them. Taylor has your main suitcase.” 
Right so first, what the hell are "going-away clothes"? Do you have any of those? Right? Clothes that are only for when you're going away? I don't. Also, "Taylor has your main suitcase" sounds a lot like, "Because I'm a controlling mico-manager, I have already seen to most of your packing." Right so she's got a suitcase, and that's ready. But she needs to pack her going-away clothes. Oh! I've got it. The going-away clothes are for the actual process of going-away. The main suitcase is for when she's already away. Tricky! But if I sit and look at one of EL's terrible sentences for long enough, eventually I can come to a conclusion that I pretend makes sense.

We see Ana greet a number of well-wishers. Pretty much every character in the book is at the wedding, except for the villains. (Editor's note: we're not counting CG as a villain at the moment. You get what we mean.) They all congratulate Ana in the most generic manner possible and then throw rice and then Ana and CG get into a car so Taylor can drive them to the airport.

At the airport they go into like, I dunno? Some kind of special area for richie-riches? Probably. They don't have to do regular stuff with all the regular airport juggalos. Instead they hop onto CG's private jet, since his helichopper is in the chopper-shop.

There is nothing that I hate more than EL constantly reminding us how dreamy CG is by having Ana notice that literally all women who encounter CG get super horny. It never, never works and it always feels so fake. Everybody in this book is a mutterblushing cartoon. This is like some serious Pepe Le Pew type of shit and it happens at least once per chapter. (Editor's note: there is nothing that Alden hates more than this. There are lots of things he hates as much as this, tho.)

“Welcome aboard, sir, Mrs. Grey.” He grins.
Christian puts me down and shakes Stephan’s hand. Beside Stephan stands a dark-haired woman in her what? Early thirties? She’s also in uniform.
“Congratulations to you both,” Stephan continues.
“Thank you, Stephan. Anastasia, you know Stephan. He’s our captain today, and this is First Officer Beighley.”
She blushes as Christian introduces her and blinks rapidly. I want to roll my eyes. Another female completely captivated by my too-handsome-for-his-own- good husband.
“Delighted to meet you,” gushes Beighley. I smile kindly at her. After all—he is mine. 
Hey so a couple things here, real fast: who the shit cares how old First Officer Beighley is? And what's the deal with the weird-ass spelling of her name? W/E. Oh, right--sorry. I just remembered the purpose for naming Beighley: for fanfickers who wanna write a whole book about Beighley and Stephan just DOING IT in the plane. Right? That's a thing that somebody has written about, I'm totally sure. Because someone has to. I mean, I simply would not be able to rest if I thought that some stones had been left unturned, that the internet hadn't managed to write fanfic about literally every possible sexual pairing. I'll limit it to pairs because let's be reasonable. The maths get rough if we get any more complicated.

But think about it: think about EL writing this scene. "Oh hey! I haven't had Ana jealously spy some lady making eyes at Christian in like, several pages? So I better do that because that's one of the things I do! It's like one of those traditions! Been doing it for so long that we might as well do it forever because! Because because!"

Again: apologies for when I repeat myself. But look at that phrase: "Another female." C'mon writers. Get your shit together. When you refer to human women as "females" you sound gross and I hate you. You sound like you're talking about livestock and it's gross.

Hey let me paste in some more of this garbagebook for you to look at!

“All preparations complete?” Christian asks them both as I glance around the cabin. The interior is all pale maple wood and pale cream leather. It’s lovely. Another young woman in uniform stands at the other end of the cabin—a very pretty brunette.
“We have the all clear. Weather is good from here to Boston.”
“Not before Boston. There’s a weather front over Shannon that might give us a rough ride.”
Shannon? Ireland?
“I see. Well, I hope to sleep through it all,” says Christian matter-of-factly.

Ugh. Ana sees another lady and is like, "Oh shit maybe I'll have to fight her!"

But what is the deal with Ana hearing things, and then repeating them in her brain? Boston! Shannon? Ireland? Sleep? It's this thing EL does where she just sticks in words and they're supposed to represent thoughts or whatever? But there's just no there there. The most obnoxious one is the last one: Sleep? Does she not know that people mostly sleep on planes because flying on planes is boring and often, people are sleepy? Ana just sounds like a curious child all the goddamn time. She's like that kid who responds to everything you say by asking "Why?" again until you're sick of it.

“We’ll get underway, sir,” Stephan says. “We’ll leave you in the capable care of Natalia, your flight attendant.” Christian glances in her direction and frowns, but turns to Stephan with a smile. 
What are we supposed to do with this? Is this a post-marriage thing? Is CG going to be rude to all women now? I mean, Ana already is. So maybe they can bond over how much they both hate women. OH ALTERNATE THEORY: Christian and Natalia totally used to do it in his sexroom and now it's awk.

“Excellent,” he says. Taking my hand, he leads me to one of the sumptuous leather seats. There must be about twelve of them in total. 
Question: why must there be twelve? Maybe because that's a pretty small number, and because they're likely arranged symmetrically? Meaning that Ana could have easily done that thing where you like, figure out the exact number of a thing? I forget what that's called. But I guess her approximation is fine.

They sit and drink champagne and anytime these dummies ever do anything that is similar to something else they've already done, they have to point it out. "Oh remember when we drank this champagne a different time? You do? Oh neat me too."

And CG shares their trip itinerary. They're landing in Ireland to get fuel to go to London. Make you nervous? Makes me nervous! Makes it seem like they're cutting it close! Whatever.

Ana is very excited to visit London: "My lifetime ambition has been to visit England." 

Um, Ana? Get some better dreams. I mean, England is legit great, right? But like, a university-educated American can basically go to England whenever she wants. It's expensive, sure, but I mean, save some money for a while. You got no expenses. And you already speak the language mostly! So go to England already if that's your lifetime ambition. 

Hey do you think Ana has a passport? She's never left the country before. Did Taylor fill out the forms for her? Is that a thing? Maybe rich people don't have to have them? Whatever. 

They eat a whole meal. Confused about the timeline? I am. Just realizing now that there are absolutely no time indicators in this chapter. We know that they cut the cake at the wedding like, an hour ago. And there was a buffet at the wedding. I assumed it was a night wedding because of all the descriptions of men's clothes--all tuxedoes. And sure, it's a wedding? So I guess sometimes people where evening dress to a daytime wedding, but I kind of don't think CG would since he's so very formal and everything. 

But whatever time it is: they leave their wedding, and then they get on a plane, and eat food on the plane? What the shit? 

After dinner they do one of their trademark annoying, predictable, double entendres that aren't really double and are barely even entendres. Dessert? No. "I'd rather planned on having you for dessert." OH I GET IT THIS IS ABOUT SEX NEATO. 

Their sex is boring like always.

OH here's a fun game. Let's ctrl-f to count the number of times the word "mine" is used in this chapter!

Go ahead and guess, ok? Made your guess?

Ok the correct answer is eighteen, I think. Mostly just CG saying "Mine" over and over again like an asshole. That's the main dialogue during their boring sex that's just like all the other sex they have. Just more use of the word "mine" and also calling each other Mr. and Mrs. Grey. 

Here's a fun part tho:

“So impatient, Mrs. Grey. We have until we touch down on the Emerald Isle.” Reverentially he kisses my breasts and tugs my left nipple between his lips. Gazing up at me, his eyes are dark like a tropical storm as he teases me.
Oh my . . . I’d forgotten. Europe.

Ok. First, I hate that CG says "Emerald Isle" like that's an ok thing to say non-ironically. Like when people say "Nawlins" about New Orleans and then somebody punches them? I think? And then other people say "NOLA" instead because they think that's the cool guy thing to say but it always just sounds like "Nawlins" to me. Don't use those "cute" names for places because you sound like a doofus.

But then? The last line! "I'd forgotten that we were in an airplane going to a place! But then I remember that we're going to Europe."

Hey so let's check out the end of this shitty chapter together, shall we? Great.

“Mrs. Grey . . . wife. We aim to please.” His lips brush. “I love you.” 
“I love you, too.” “Eyes open. I want to see you.” “Christian . . . ah . . . ,” I cry, as he slowly sinks into me.
“Ana, oh Ana,” he breathes and he starts to move.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” Christian shouts, waking me from my very pleasant dream. He’s standing all wet and beautiful at the end of my sun lounger and glaring down at me.
What have I done? Oh no... I’m lying on my back... Crap, crap, crap and he’s mad. Shit. He’s really mad. 
Ok. Everything is wrong with this short series of lines. First, I haven't done anything to adjust the spacing or anything. I mean it looks a little screwed up, sure. But what I want to make clear is that there is no space in between the airplane sex dream and Ana waking up topless. 

First, I hate these shitty repeated lines: "We aim to please." What the hell is that? It's like he's quoting an advertising jingle from the worst ad ever.

I hate EL's euphemism: "he starts to move" is EL James for "we're fucking."

And then I hate that I'm supposed to believe that this dream was basically like Tivo for real life. She just had this show saved so she was like, w/e, I'll just watch it again!

And then I hate that this chapter ends, like so many, with CG getting angry and seeming threatening and getting ready to lecture Ana about some type of stupid shit.

And then lastly, I hate how Ana backtracks. Earlier in the chapter, she took off her top to needle CG, to exert some independence. And then when he gets all angry at her for being independent, she says, "Oh noes! What have I done?" Can't even stick with her nonsense plan. Immediately bails.

So anyway, yeah. This is a total shitcano. But don't you were. This is just 28 pages of 551. Meaning we're about 1/20th of the way done, is all! Fun, right?

Very fun.

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