Sometimes sorry isn’t enough….As I was reading Fury, there were two things I thought I would have been better off knowing before I cracked it open. One) it is one of those rare books whose reading experience benefits from the knowledge you gain from the flap summary, and two) it’s basically a horror movie running around in a very pretty paranormal romance costume.
It’s winter break in Ascension, Maine. The snow is falling and everything looks pristine and peaceful. But not all is as it seems…
Between cozy traditions and parties with her friends, Emily loves the holidays. And this year’s even better – the guy she’s been into for months is finally noticing her. But Em knows if she starts things with him, there’s no turning back. Because his girlfriend is Em’s best friend.
On the other side of town, Chase is having problems of his own. The stress of his home life is starting to take its toll, and his social life is unraveling. But that’s nothing compared to what’s really haunting him. Chase has done something cruel…something the perfect guy he pretends to be would never do. And it’s only a matter of time before he’s exposed.
In Ascension, mistakes can be deadly. And three girls – three beautiful, mysterious girls – are here to choose who will pay.
Em and Chase have been chosen.
This isn’t about some half-fury girl saving the world with her handsome, mysterious boyfriend; this is a very long, drawn-out episode of Jigoku Shoujo.
Jigoku Shoujo, by the way, is the story of a young girl who exacts revenge on bad people at the request of their victims. She kills them and sends their souls to Hell, and in return, the victim’s soul is also condemned to Hell at the end of their natural life.
And I promise, my telling you this will become relevant.
Warning: many unmakred Fury spoilers ahead.
The premises of Fury and Jigoko Shoujo are similar, but I had no idea of that going into this, and the first forty pages or so suffered for it. There’s a lot of build-up before the concept becomes apparent, and it can be very, very tedious if you don’t at least have an idea of where it’s going. Hence the need for the flap summary; if I’d read that first, it wouldn’t have taken me so long to figure out that I wasn’t expected to condone or overlook what Emily and Chase were doing, and I wouldn’t have done so much mental bitching. Once I figured out that Miles was going all Hell Girl on their asses, the reading experience got a lot better.
Now, Fury and Shoujo are not exactly the same, but one reminded me of the other enough to influence my reading expectations, and the similarities allow me to better illustrate a big problem I had with Fury. Aside from the obvious setting and cultural details, the two major differences between Fury and Shoujo are these: 1) the “bad guys” aren’t sent to Hell (obviously) – they’re just humiliated and killed, and 2) the Furies don’t act at the behest of the victims – instead, they are the ones to decide which transgressions are worthy of punishment.
That second difference there is where we run into trouble. And by trouble, I mean plot holes. The biggest one being: why do the Furies choose the people they choose for punishment? Neither “protagonists'” (and I use that term loosely) crime was especially heinous – our female character, Emily, pursues her best friend’s boyfriend, and our male, Chase, publicly humiliated a fellow student, which may have been a factor in her suicide attempt.
Yeah, those are pretty fucking shitty things to do to people, but should they be death sentences? Uh, no. Not even close. And therein lies the problem – why the Hell did the Furies decide to pick on these two? What, were there so few rapists and murderers and women-beaters in Ascension that they had to start monitoring the local high school drama?
Which raises another question – why are there Furies in Ascension? We’re presumably talking about the Greek Furies, right, so why have they migrated and holed up in Tit-Cold, Maine to punish the local yokels? Why do they imply that it’s where they originally came from? Are there Furies for every city? State? Geographical region? Is Ascension just special? Who the Hell names a town Ascension, anyway? And if you think that last question is totally unrelated, just wait. I bet you ten bucks that by the end of the series it won’t be. You don’t give your town a name that pretentious unless you intend for it to be significant in the long run.
Anyway, the point is that you can get away with divine retribution for the petty – and serious – high school stuff when there’s a character invoking it. But when the divine just randomly decide to involve themselves in teenage drama? That’s when the suspension of disbelief gets stretched. Even the characters realize this, with our heroine Emily raising this very point, but the only response we get is “I dunno but it sucks, and that’s why we have to kill them.”
I dunno about you guys, but the lack of perspective shown here when it comes to the crimes the main characters are being punished for and the conflicts they face really bother me. The characters wallow in the significance of stupid high school drama without really learning to rise above it. It caters to the “high school drama is SRS BSNS” mentality that teenagers seem to have, and while they are the target audience, it bothers me that nobody ever realizes how irrelevant stupid high school popularity/reputation bullshit really is. By the time we get to the point in the plot where this lesson should be learned, the character’s attention is drawn away from this by the overarching plot and we never get back to it. In fact, our heroine pretty much comes out of her “fall from grace” with her popularity still intact. In that respect, I don’t think she’s learned a damn thing.
And what kind of message does this send to teenage girls about their sexuality and self-worth? I mean Christ, isn’t even suggesting that making out with your bff’s boyfriend deserves divine retribution just adding fuel to the fire? Not to mention other sexist implications, what with the girl being targeted before the guy for the exact same crime, despite the fact that he has a history of cheating and being a douche. Or is Emily just being punished for lusting after said boy, while he has to physically go through with it to trigger retribution? Or do the Furies just figure that Em has more culpability, because, you know, she’s the girl and the best friend and she’s supposed to be loyal?
Or, more likely, did the author just want a heroine who might by some stretch of the imagination “warrant punishing”, but also be painted in a sympathetic, victimized light? Either way, ugh.
So far this applies mostly to Emily’s transgressions, because admittedly, Chase’s had a far more serious impact. But even there I have issues. I’m not trying to undersell the impact of high school bullying, and I know that kids have actually killed themselves because of things that were going on in school, but once again Fury exploits the situation for drama while doing very little to put it into perspective. The girl’s suicide attempt is a plot device, and very little more.
I’m also definitely not one to say that people who participate in bullying shouldn’t be held accountable for the impact of their words on another human being, but jeeze, Fury, murdering the bully? That’s a bit much, especially in this specific case, where the guy was half in love with the girl he humiliated, and had been hurt by her before.
Emily’s punishment was just as serious, though, despite the difference in severity of crime; Chase lost his life, and the Furies intended for Emily to lose hers, as well, or that of the boy she loved (who, by the way, had absolutely nothing to do with her cheating). Yeah. Totally seems fair.
But then one could argue that the whole point is that the Furies aren’t being fair, which is why they’re the bad guys. Even so, I’m left wondering why they’re not busy tormenting local child molesters.
Plot holes aside, Fury also had some significant character issues that made it difficult to fully enjoy. Emily, for example, is irritating as Hell. I don’t think she deserves death for messing around with her best friend’s boyfriend, but it sure as Hell doesn’t endear her to me, either. We’re supposed to sympathize with her in this situation because she feels so bad about it, and she really thinks she loves the guy, but clearly she doesn’t feel bad enough to not do it until she finds out he’s a douche. Then there are like a thousand indicators that the the guy’s a douche to begin with – not the least of which is the fact that he’s cheating in the first place – and she doesn’t see them, making her frustratingly dense.
Once she gets out of that relationship, Emily becomes one of those girls, falling head-over-heels yet again when she conveniently realizes that she’s been in love with
Her reactions to the Furies and their pursuit of her is frustrating as well, and she’s frequently required to be pointlessly unforthcoming in order to postpone the climax and keep certain plot points intact. I only began feeling a little bit of respect for her in the climax, where she managed to do some pretty heavy lifting, but even then – she couldn’t have just driven the damn boy to the hospital? Ah well, I suppose if she’d done that we wouldn’t have a sequel.
On the other hand, I actually appreciated the second layer Miles tried to give our alternate protagonist, Chase. Yes, he’s a prowling, womanizing jock, and his obsession with the Fury temptress Ty, you feel he’s getting exactly what he deserves – well, until she kills him. Still, his desperation to escape his poverty at least gives the reader a reason to feel some sympathy for him, as does his strange relationship with the girl who attempted suicide, whom he loved, and humiliated out of rejection. Again, not that that’s okay, but it’s better than “because she was poor/ugly/generally unpopular”.
And remember when I said in the beginning that Fury was a horror movie masquerading as a pararoma? It’s true; it’s filled with horror movie cliches: faces pop up in windows and Emily hears eerie laughter off in the distance when she steps out of the house at night. It has horror movie-pacing, with some scenes that are just there so that something freaky – that doesn’t work that well because we can’t see it, and it can’t startle us, and Miles doesn’t build the tension enough to make it count in any other way – can happen. It just has that same weird ready-made screenplay vibe I felt in Wildefire, like the author is describing some film she saw instead of writing a novel. Does anybody else feel like this or am I just weird?
And yet here’s the thing – despite all the legitimately irritating stuff I bitched about, and all the valid complaints in some of the worse reviews Fury has gotten, I kind of enjoyed the experience. I think this is due in part to Jigoku Shoujo: the similarities made it familiar, and I was curious to see how it would stack up. But even without that, I loved this premise. It’s fresh and new and exciting and that alone is worth at least a star in such a stagnate genre. I was expecting another supernatural girl and her love interest to ~save the world~, and was pleasantly surprised by the different direction Miles ultimately chose to go in.
Fury had me thinking, guessing, wondering about what would happen next and why, and even if the solution wasn’t quite as good as I’d hoped, I enjoyed the break from the norm nonetheless.
Review copy provided by Simon and Schuster.