Ok, guys, this is a very long review. It was 6 pages long on our shared google doc… so… read this when you’ve got like 10 minutes.
I’ll start this off by saying my husband was an EMT for several years when we first started dating, and that made me super excited to start this book. I typically love the “healer class” in video games and in fantasy books. In real life, I’m in the healthcare industry as a C.N.A for the elderly/hospice while working on becoming an RN. Within the first chapter I immediately thought the author himself was a paramedic based on the fluidity of the lingo. I did a quick search to see if I was right, and I was! That got me even more excited about it.
However, the more troubling aspects of the book became apparent when there was a bit too much of real life translation into the book. Part of the reason why my husband switched careers was not just because of the traumas he witnessed, but also because of the hyper-machismo environment. This book reflected my/my husband’s real-life experience in a lot of ways, including the “locker room banter”. Marc’s coworkers often asked if I was his “cover” because they suspected he was actually gay. Why? Because he has good hygiene, didn’t go out to clubs with them, and declined to participate in ‘locker room talk’. He caught so much shit for that and it grew really tiresome. I saw those situations reflected many times in this book with a lot of sexual talk about women, and many “no homo” moments.
I also work with several women who are paramedics at my current job and help us out with more difficult-to-care-for clients, and they have relayed stories back to me from their ambulance work that felt extremely similar to how some of the women paramedics were treated in this book. Lots of wildly inappropriate comments directed their way, lots of flirting, lots of “your not like the other girls” in their experiences and in this book. Telling your partner repeatedly how attractive you find her can make her feel uncomfortable even if she isn’t showing it. These women have to go to work every day with these guys, and sometimes spend up to 24 hours at a time with them. It makes things difficult because if they rock the boat and say something about how those comments make them feel, it has the potential for backlash which just makes things even more uncomfortable. Most of the time, my coworkers say they prefer to grin and bear it rather than being defensive.
I also have to point out some of the racist jokes and slurs used in this book. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen “gook” used, and it was one of the more jarring comments in the book. The main character himself didn’t say it, it was one of his coworkers, but he let it slide and that’s not something I like to see.
The world building was a touch light, I had some questions after finishing the book that may be addressed in the next book, but judging off one book for the contest I felt a bit uninformed about certain aspects of the world. I do tend to prefer older characters, the older and wiser they are the more I tend to like them. Characters that have been around for thousands of years typically interest me even more. So, I found that getting tidbits of history that Sean lived through to be pretty interesting. He also very much so felt the age he appeared to be to everyone else, (late 20’s or early 30’s I think), his persona didn’t strike me as one who’s been around for that long.
To the positives, and why my score is higher than the rest of my group – I gave good ratings for pacing, writing, and editing as well as decent marks for character development. Although I didn’t particularly like the main character, I did feel like he had a distinct voice, clear motivations, and had a bit of depth. This book flows very nicely and it makes for super quick reading, so my highest score was in the writing section. I also gave decent points in the originality section, as I’ve never read a fantasy book from the POV of a paramedic before. There were some positives to this book, but they were overwhelmed by my issues with the content.
DNF – 41%
Hooboy guys, this is going to be tough. I was having an okay time with Out of Nowhere right up until about 25% or so. It’s an easy read, and it was pretty fast-paced. All of my problems here were content related. Every one. We meet Sean and learn his circumstances, with being immortal and a healer and all that jazz. I had been warned that the gaze is pretty strong in this one (and it is. Nearly every woman in this thing is described as gorgeous – and for the record I cannot remember what Sean or any male character whatsoever looks like), but this went to levels I could not believe at around 25% or so. I was cruising right along, eye rolling here and there, when the whole book just sort of… soured. Caught on fire. A sour fire.
My first major eye roll came along when Sean and Sarah get together. She comes over to his apartment for a first date (which is already *cringe* eeehhhh) and during this visit she makes an offhand comment like ‘tee hee when you complimented my manicure, I worried you were gay.’ – My dude… no. Just… no.
This isn’t the only gay joke that goes around. There’s an ongoing thing with one of Sean’s coworkers where they joke about Sean being gay. It gets really, really cringey on a few occasions. When he tastes something Sean has cooked, he remarks: “He’s got you in the kitchen? Queer I was gettin’ used to, but I didn’t know you’d be the bitch.” MY. DUDE… NO.
Look, I understand that this is banter between these guys. ‘Locker room talk’ let us say, yes? But that doesn’t make it at all appropriate or necessary to the story. Sean and his other partner Nique banter very similar to this too, only they talk about how hot she is on the regular. I lost count of how many times Sean pointed out that he would totally, totally sleep with her, because she’s hot AF, but they’re just friends. But she’s hot. So hot. Body. Like. POOOOW.
Now, he’s trying to track down this guy he and Nique took to the hospital a few weeks previously. So, he decides that he’s going to see what he can find out from the medical records clerk. The hot medical records clerk, because of course she’s hot, come on. So, he buys her a latte, and flirts with her to convince her to print out a copy of the demographics for him so he can track the guy down. And she does, with extra bending over and showing her cleavage. Now! Fun fact, guys! I’m a medical records clerk! 😀 😀 😀 Let me tell you all the things that I would violate HIPAA for: NOT A FUCKING LATTE AND MILD FLIRTING FROM AN EMT IS THE ANSWER HERE. OMFG. NO.
This meeting is followed by 5 or so of… maybe the most offensive pages of text that I have ever read, which is Sean explaining to Nique that Tiffany (the medical records clerk) seems like the perfect woman, because, and I quote: “Real, meat-eating, sports watching heterosexual men like a girl with big boobs, a small waist, nice hips, and enough ass to get a good grip on.” Where Nique is hot AF and all, Tiffany seems low maintenance, because you could easily fuck her and then distract her with a fashion magazine so you can go to sleep instead of having to talk to her. It’s less investment. “Like buying a goldfish. Only a goldfish you can screw.” Not kidding guys. He compares a woman to a goldfish. Having Nique respond to this with ‘men are disgusting pigs’ and having Sean agree doesn’t make this any better either.
SO! At this point we have objectified almost every woman in this book, been *alarmingly* sexist, implied that gay men aren’t ‘real men,’ insinuated that straight men are the only people who can measure the sexual attractiveness of a woman – thus indicating that the itty bitty titty committee is not invited to this party. Which is fine, because as a bisexual woman who finds a great deal of women who are members of said committee quite attractive, that leaves more for me. On top of that, they’ve violated someone’s personal information (I don’t give a fuck that they’re the bad guy either – it’s implied that he could do this for anyone’s information), and then… OOOHHH did I mention the casual racism? Where the homophobic partner complains that half the employees of Dunkin Donuts don’t speak English, so Sean teaches him how to order coffee in Spanish, and tells him “If they still don’t get it, just talk really loud.” then says that he’s going to go to the Korean donut shop, to which Captain Racism wonders “What the hell do gooks know about doughnuts?” to which Sean shrugs. Guys. I. Can’t. Even.
Nevertheless, I persisted. And I got to the scene where Sean is invited to the bar by his bestie Captain Racism. Another coworker, a girl with a lot of piercings, will be there. He makes a comment about figuring out where all her piercings are, and Sean sarcastically remarks how much ‘respect for a colleague’ he has. To which he replies: “I respect her plenty. I just want to respectfully put my cock in her mouth.” to which Sean replies: “Fair enough.” Really, my dude? Still not calling out any of this guy’s shit? Okay. His buddy goes on to ask if he’s ever gotten a BJ from a girl with a tongue stud, to which Sean grins and mentions that one of his ex-gfs used to call him tongue stud. Not unsurprisingly, the dude is like ‘man… you do that?’ to which Sean proudly claims that eating pussy is the best thing ever and says ‘you don’t?’ – to which the guy makes an *astoundingly* tasteless joke about it perpetuating the myth of the female orgasm.
Readers, at this point I threw my kindle. Threw it. I have never *thrown it* before. I threw it.
EMTs have a hard AF job. One that I could never do. I can imagine that all kinds of banter, bad humor, and dirty talk are ways of coping with stuff that *sucks* to see day to day. But if you’re going to write about something like this, perhaps it would be best to… soften it… for an audience who isn’t in the know, so to speak.
I don’t necessarily think that being offensive was intentional on the author’s part, but good writing and good pacing are definitely not enough motivation for me to continue despite all this random and unnecessary garbage banter. They’re really not.
Team Weatherwax agreed that if we made it to 40%, we could DNF and still score the book. Well, I made it to 41%. 1. Star.
I also had to DNF this book at the 40% mark. I agree with pretty much everything the other Weatherwax reviewers have said so I’ll try to be relatively brief.
The plot was interesting and the book flowed quickly. From a technical viewpoint, I felt the writing was very solid. My issues were entirely content based.
I had no problem with the banter being sexual. If anything, I’d expect the banter to be more controversial and dark. Gallows humor seems like a normal coping mechanism for people in an emergency medical services line of work and I was surprised how little of it there was. My issue with the banter was the sexism, racism, and homophobia that was completely unaddressed by any of the characters.
The most overtly racist remarks come from a minority character. That doesn’t make it okay. The women seem to give as good as they get in the sexual banter, but that doesn’t mean they like it. And the constant gay jokes were just too much. I don’t care if all of this is “realistic” or not. There’s no need to alienate entire segments of potential readers to match the authenticity of an environment they will never experience firsthand, and maybe that real environment is toxic and could use to be less so.
Pretty much every female character in the book is described first in terms of how attractive she is and second in terms of how much the protagonist wants to sleep with them. That’s pretty the extent of their development, too.
Overall, this had the potential to be an incredibly fun book from a unique protagonist. I think with a few changes I would’ve scored it very highly.
As it is, I give it a 4/10.
I find myself in a difficult position. First, I’d like to point to a blog post that LeClerc wrote last week, which can be found here, specifically the following quote:
Prior to entering the contest, people who picked it up were those who had a connection to the rather unique take, and EMS people who liked fantasy loved it. Reviews were great. But that’s being a big fish in a very very small pond. I’m sure when he wrote Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bourdain expected it to do well with cooks. It was success outside of that circle that surprised him.
It appears that LeClerc is a fan of the late, great Anthony Bourdain, and his book Kitchen Confidential, which I read about a decade ago.
I’d now like to bring your attention to this quote from the mind of our main character:
I have definite views on garlic. The garlic press is a tool of the devil, garlic powder is for the lazy, and the jarred stuff is an abomination. If you can’t be bothered to chop it, you don’t deserve garlic.
And now I’d like to bring your attention to a quote from Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential (emphasis mine):
“Garlic is divine. Few food items can taste so many distinct ways, handled correctly. Misuse of garlic is a crime. Old garlic, burnt garlic, garlic cut too long ago and garlic that has been tragically smashed through one of those abominations, the garlic press, are all disgusting…” “…Avoid at all costs that vile spew you see rotting in oil in screw-top jars. Too lazy to peel fresh? You don’t deserve to eat garlic.”
I find it difficult to believe that this is either coincidence or an accident. This is the point where I DNFed and I’ll say judge for yourselves, but I felt it was pretty damning. I’ll decline to score it for the competition.
- Esme: 6/10
- Kristen: 2/10
- Coffee: 4/10
Averaged Final Score: 4/10