Monday, August 7, 2017

Lords of the Underworld: What They Read

Reading list is below.

Introduction: Several years ago, I read through nearly all of Gena Showalter's Lords of the Underworld series, which, at the time, took me up to The Darkest Surrender (Strider's book).

The series is based on the following premise: Greek immortal warriors are forced to carry the sins/demons unleashed when Pandora opened the Box. Each warrior has his own sin/demon and his own book (the latest book, The Darkest Promise, focuses on the only female warrior, Cameo).

The books are pure erotic escapism produced by a writer with decent style--the text is readable, not clunky. The books are usually well-plotted (some shaggy dog moments) with decent pay-offs: though rarely profound, the conclusions are often psychologically satisfying. I am particularly fond of the pay-off for Strider, who carries the demon of Defeat. He hates being challenged. How can a guy like this find a successful relationship (with someone other than a doormat)?

Are Showalter's readers truly so
reluctant to read about a Dr. Reid-
or is that the publisher's assumption?

He can! He does! The point of each book is that the hero gets paired with his special someone. The sex is raunchy and explicit but generally speaking, the books' resolutions are rather conservative (though the frat-boy household gets a tad unbelievable after awhile, even for a fantasy series).

I have read beyond The Darkest Surrender but I became progressively disgruntled even as early as Paris's book. The heroes are increasingly samey, performing the same testosterone-driven behavior: I must hit something! Some of the surprising and touching nuances of the earlier books are lost as every single male in the series became a mean, lean fighting machine. *Sigh.* When even computer-whiz Torin was stripped of his computer-whiz abilities and forced to conform to the same Herculean archetype, I gave up. (I may gave Cameo's book a try.)

And I pondered, What could help keep these characters distinct, so they don't all blend into big grunting guy who eats rocks and tosses his weight around?

My idea: Figuring out what they read!

Here is a partial list of what the Lords of the Underworld might read--in some cases, the reading choice satisfies/pacifies/manages the character's demon; in some cases, it reflects personality:

Maddox (Violence): Sports Illustrated; he reads Encyclopedia Brown to his kids. He's a down-to-earth guy.

Lucien (Death): Philosophy books, including works by Dante and Virgil and tomes by people like Seneca. For fun! He does this for fun! (His anarchist mate, Anya, reads Camille Paglia and Cosmopolitan.)

Amun (originally Wrath): He enjoys being read to by his mate, Sienna, who reads him classics like Treasure Island.

Sabin (Doubt): I hate to say it but . . . self-help books. Not only is his demon/sin Doubt, but he is something of a literal-minded-step-by-step thinker.

Kane (originally Disaster): Manga by people like Miyazaki; he also really loves Miyazaki's movies.

Amun (Secrets): People's diaries--not his friend's diaries! Diaries from history by people like Benjamin Franklin. This not only satisfies his demon/sin but gives him some objectivity about so-called secrets.

William (not a Lord of the Underworld but an important character): Edgar Allan Poe and, naturally, H.P. Lovecraft

Reyes (Pain): He deliberately reads non-stimulating, tedious stuff, such as all those assigned books from high school: not Shakespeare but The Pearl, everything by Thomas Hardy, The Separate Peace, Ethan Frome: oh, the Pain!

Gideon (Lies): Really out-there ironic stuff. My first thought was Monty-Python, so . . . the reading equivalent of Monty-Python.

Torin (Disease): Tech magazines, such as Wired--also cyberpunk, such as Blade Runner (and yes, he does have an opinion about the film's voice over).

Cameo (Misery): She tries to stop herself, but she always ends up reading stuff by Sylvia Plath.

Strider (Defeat): Calvin & Hobbes (in the yaoi version of Strider's life, he is introduced to Calvin & Hobbes by Paris who also gives him a related t-shirt which he wears constantly--because Strider IS Calvin)

Paris (Promiscuity): The most extensive reader of the group, Paris reads everything from romance novels to world histories. Paris is the most familiar with human customs/behavior and could fit the most easily into human life. I speculate that once he tired of the frat house and the war with the Hunters was resolved, he would become a professor of History, specialty Revolutionary War, at an upstate New York college. Or a Professor of Popular Culture at a NYC college.

It always vaguely surprises me how unwilling creators of romance can be about giving their male characters the same love of literature and/or history that they have--to Showalter's credit, Paris's enjoyment of romance novels, and his ability to discuss them, is in the original texts, which is what gave me this idea.