One of the many reasons I enjoy my new avatar photo is that Jareth looks both considering and on the verge of laughter. In other words, he has on his face the same expression that I had on mine when I was reading
Flush Blush Crush Rush by Maya Banks. Well, at least I exhibited aforesaid expression up till page 33, which I just lost it and cracked up.
Rush is not written as a comedy, however. It’s the first in a trilogy of novels about a young, inexperienced ingenue hired to work for an older, richer, wiser dude who overmasters her with his sexy sexiness and seduces her into the thrilling, glamorous world of BDSM, where he dominates and she submits and — hey wait — where have we heard this before? Oh right, in E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of
Tedium Grey, Sylvia Day’s Bared to Complementary Neuroses You and the herd of other BDSM lust novels that have sprouted like post-rain mushrooms since about 2011. For Pete’s sakes, people — find a new template!
Anyway, at first I thought that Flush might prove better than 50 Shades, as it’s written by an experienced, prolific author. Well, no dice. Bank writes in generic statements and superficial vagueness. A paragraph on page 29, wherein the ingenue eyeballs the rich dude’s office, epitomizes this flaccid style:
[The office] screamed classy and expensive. Rich mahogany wood, polished marble floor that was partly covered with an elegant oriental rug. The furniture was dark leather with an antique, old-world look. Paintings adorned three walls while the last wall was all built-in bookcases filled with an eclectic mixture of works.
As anyone with a modicum of real-life and/or reading experience knows, looking into someone’s personal space — bedroom, study, den, boudoir, office, etc. — provides a wealth of information about their activities, routines, interests, preoccupations and general character. The paragraph above, full of missed opportunities, demonstrates Banks’ generic, inexpensive style because it, technically speaking, contains detail, but doesn’t really communicate anything. The mahogany, marble, oriental [sic] rug, leather furniture, paintings and stocked bookshelves stereotypically signify wealth. Without any further modification to particularize them so that they reveal the character of the rich dude, the stereotypical signifiers just lie there limply like the authorial equivalent of spaghetti flung against the wall in a test to determine its adhesive properties.
As I intimated, Banks passes up a huge chance for the reader to get to know the dominant dude. If she would just give us more specifics, we might ground the story and the characters a little bit more. What’s the design on the rug? What figures, palettes and styles appear in the paintings? What subject matter fills the books? How is everything arranged within the room? Are there focal points or salient details and, if so, what? Music, traffic noise, computer keys clicking? Garish fluorescent lighting, natural light from huge windows, cave-like dimness? The smell of carpet shampoo, dried spooge, expensive cigars, floral perfume? We’ll never know. In paragraph after paragraph like this, Banks builds empty edifices of stereotypical tropes that may seem to evoke certain worlds, personalities and feelings, but which ultimately leave the subjects that they describe mysterious and cipher-like.
The gummy, rubbery prose, impervious to all attempts at the incision of fine detail, does this book in. I bravely put up with it until the ingenue’s discussion of her impending BDSM contract with the rich dude on pages 32 and 33:
"And this relationship you propose. What exactly do you mean by nontraditional?"
…"I’ll own you. Body, soul. You’ll belong to me."
Whoa. That sounded so…heavy.
Right there was where I bust out laughing. The 24-year-old ingenue has evinced no particular idiolect up until this point, except for a distressingly ableist propensity to describe stuff that she thinks is pathetic as "lame." Suddenly, for no reason that I can discern, she sounds like a mash-up of Neo from the Matrix and Marty from Back to the Future. The odd combination of two elements totally anachronistic for this character’s generation struck such resoundingly wrong notes that I just had to give up. When the supposedly steamy and erotic BDSM novel has me snorting and rolling my eyes at the glaring infelicities of style, it ain’t really having its desired effect.