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Old 21st Jul 2005, 14:13   #1
John Self
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Default Sean Wright: Jesse Jameson and the Vampire Vault

Hard to believe that one of the, er, most remarkable books of the 21st century has gone so long without a thread of its own. So here are some of my thoughts on it from Another Place.

Finally today, swathed in forty square foot of bubble-wrap, came the delicate treasure of Jesse Jameson and the Vampire Vault and The Twisted Root of Jaarfindor. Wavid was right, of course, to say that VV tells us definitively that there will be but seven books in the series now. As is Wrighto's wont (in an "Out-tro" - ugh), it takes him two pages to offer this extraordinary admission of failure.

Quote:
By the time Book 4 was about to go to the printing press [sic] (September 2004), I was having doubts about a 26 book series. It wasn't because I didn't think I could write that many. I was confident I could. No, it was more about my sanity as a writer.
Of course his sanity as a writer has never been in doubt...

Quote:
I had to this date been putting out two JJ book [sic] per year. My departure away [sic] from JJ came in the form of The Twisted Root of Jaarfindor. It was a breath of fresh air writing Jaarfindor. The thought of writing two books a year for thirteen years to fulfil the quota of 26 was daunting. Creatively I was not looking forward to the prospect, even after my initial enthusiasm.

So, with regret and a bit of relief, I guess, if I'm honest, JJ has to leave me sooner than I'd originally considered.
Whatever J.K. Rowling's weaknesses as a writer, at least she planned her seven books from the beginning and always knew what would happen. That Sean Wright admits now that he was just going to wing it for an additional nineteen books - 3,000-odd pages - not having bothered to plan the thing at all, is just pathetic. What does it say about the contempt he feels for his readers? But then again - what readers?

Still, it's nice to know that Palimpsest has been instructive and helpful to him throughout the process. Pretty much everything we have castigated him for has been corrected - the spell-checker has been found, the cover illustrations have slipped quietly away, the ludicrous notion of foisting one series of books on the nation's uninterested children for thirteen consecutive years has been abandoned, the printing quality of the books has improved, and the habit of penning ridiculous reviews of his own books has - so far with the latest two volumes - not been taken up again. Sean - we are so glad to have been of service to you.

[Later]

Oh dear me. I really should get some work done but... this is just priceless. Normally I am a firm opponent of the "so bad it's good" school, but I have to admit there was some unforced pleasure in the smiles that the first page of Vampire Vault brought out for me. It's just so (unintentionally) funny. Apart from the usual Wrighto tropes of obsidian pyramids, red always being 'blood-red', unusual descriptions (a "stifling" cloud? Hm, perhaps) and wasteful words ("it lit up a luminous green" - as opposed to a non-luminous lighting-up I suppose?) - all in the first paragraph - there's this gem:

Jesse glanced over her spiny shoulder and looked at her companions. Trondian-Yor and Iggywigg were flying together beside a winged beast the wizard had fashioned from the ether of his magical mind. It was big and powerful, black and scaly, a cross between an eagle, a dragon, a horse and a tortoise.

Ah yes, I can picture it now. All this is on page one, guys. Could VV be as rich as CC?? I can't remember the last time I read a lazier or emptier phrase than "fashioned from the ether of his magical mind." Oh and the horse resemblance comes, we find in the next sentence, from the fact that the creature has "six horse's legs" which he "galloped for extra speed" ... er, even though they're flying.

I couldn't help noticing this on page three, though I haven't actually made it past (or, in tribute to Wrighto, passed) that hilarious amalgam creature yet:

Quote:
"But I be a-needing a call of naturings," he said. "Iggywigg be a-needing a pee-pee."

"Pee as you fly," Jesse said, hiding a tiny grin.
Now guys. Come on. Have I taken leave of my senses here. Or surely...?

J2V2 is as dreadful as we might expect. The first chapter is divided into two scenes. In the first, Jesse and her flying friends are chasing the Skaardrithadon. We know this from the very first sentence:

Quote:
The Skaardrithadon glided deeper and deeper into stifling cloud, and Jesse flew after him.
and

Quote:
"We should rest a while," Trondian-Yor said, breaking the silence.

"No," Jesse said, her gaze locked on the luminous wafer-thin trail. "We are getting closer."
Then, two pages later, we go to the second scene, which finds us in the company of yer man himself:

Quote:
From his lair, far from the trap he had set and the dark forces he'd commanded to follow Jesse Jameson, the Skaardrithadon was consumed with frantic impulses.
Hang on. In his lair? I thought he was being chased by Jesse and co., "within a few hundred yards of him" (page 1)? And what are these dark forces he has commanded to follow Jesse? Well, there follows a tortuously long and badly written description of the Skaardrithadon making a eight-foot tall creature out of "mist" - which he then commands:

Quote:
"Find and hunt down the fairy child Jesse Jameson and her companions."
Then he makes more of these creatures - hundreds in just a sentence or two, even though the first one took him so long - and sends them off to find Jesse too. Right. So these are the "dark forces" which were described earlier as being commanded to follow Jesse - except that they didn't exist at that time. And why is he sending these creatures to follow Jesse when Jesse is following him? (Just in case there's any doubt, two pages on, we're into chapter 2, where Jesse decides "she could not slow for fear of losing ground on the New Master of Darkness" (the Skaardrithadon, as any fule kno).

Yes, the old Wrighto magic is back. And how about this for writing with all the signs of serious medication abuse to it?

Quote:
Before the snakehead had time to react, Jesse emerged as a blast of wind. She wrapped herself around the snapping snakehead, chilled and air light. She entered its mind through its left nostril and sensed the world as the snakehead sensed it. Its world was a confusing place. [Yes - a Sean Wright novel - JS] It was injured, cursed, lost, lonely, and in terrible pain. It spat and struck out blindly at Jesse's companions. It was filled with terror, fearful for its life. Like liquid metal poured from a furnace, Jesse changed shape. Now she was a heat wave coursing through the creature's brain. She was more than Masdemdresa's wild wind gift she had inherited in the Skogsra forest. Red, orange, yellow flame - only the flame was no longer solid. Like an insubstantial spider, it created countless, impossible tiny suns and planets, with vast spaces in between. It did not burn; it mended and healed like a needle and thread. The snakehead creature was reconnected to a future time or maybe a long distant past. It didn't matter - all the mattered was the reunion of mind and understanding.
And I don't think a union of mind and understanding could be better expressed than with that paragraph. Wind that can wrap things? Solid flame? Insubstantial spiders? Sean mate - get off the fucking gear.

[Later still]

Ugh. My starry head droops in despair. I am not sure I can be bothered with Vampire Vault. I'm halfway through it and it's just the same old crap as the other three - the vaguely portentous quest with unspecified urgencies and unconvincing threats. Chapter 5 ended with someone facing a marauding horde of "Doers" ("half vampire residents of the Naargapire, who partly are controlled by the Vampire Lord," as the now traditional barmy glossary tells us - even though a character has already told us exactly the same thing). It looks as though all is lost as they clamour for him when suddenly:

Quote:
...[they] crowded outside the door, snarling, baying for his blood. For some reason, they did not enter.
Sigh. The next chapter starts with a classic bit of Wrighto wrongheadedness. How's this:

Quote:
One of the Doers, an elder judging from the tint of his grey hair, leaned forward, reached out. He grabbed hold of the handle. A demonic grin twisted his thin black lips.

The door slammed shut, reverberating around the high hollow temple. Something moved among the pews. Slithered, crawled with speed behind the altar. It was thin and long by the sound of its motion. It was also far enough away from him to be of no immediate danger. He put it to the back of his mind for a moment. He needed to get his bearings. He needed to catch his breath.

Breathing in huge gulps, he came to a standstill and surveyed the temple. It was more like a cathedral, he now noticed. ...
How interesting (ish), I thought, for him to take us into the mind of one of the baddies for once, one of these "Doers." For there is no other way to interpret the above, correct? So it goes on for three or four pages. Then the words "Dragon Hunter" start to appear. Hang on - this whole chapter has been from the POV of the Dragon Hunter, not one of the Doers...

What is wrong with Wrighto? It's particularly tragic that nobody around him either cares enough or knows enough to point out his mistakes - or maybe they do and he believes himself infallible anyway.

Another classic exchange from the fertile imagination of Wrighto:

Quote:
Jesse's mind was brimming with questions for the spirit-wizard. "So how is it possible for you to be with us and be in other places at the same time?" she asked.

"I have no idea," Zarlan-Jagr said.
Priceless.

40 pages from the end, the quality remains the same. How about this for utterly cackheaded production, so clearly not read by anyone else to check or even by Wrighto himself for revision:

Quote:
Grunts inside her mind had communicated a single sentence: if you struggle, you will suffocate and die. We do not want to harm you. But we do want the stone.

I have died before, she had said in her mind. But I don't want to again.

'Then give us the stone,' they had commanded.

I don't know how, she had thought.
For Christ's sake Sean, pick a format for these thought-conversations and stick to it. Is it to be italics? Or plain text? 'Or normal speech?' And isn't that single sentence actually three single sentences?

A couple of lines later he gives us another classic hang-on-I've-had-a-better-idea Wrighto moment:

Quote:
The magic she possessed was beyond her understanding. All of it. She didn't have a clue how it worked - except that wasn't completely true. ...
Dear oh dear oh dear. So far, incidentally (page 105) Jesse hasn't been in danger of death even once - something else Wrighto has learned to correct from Palimpsesters' comments? Instead, the technique here is what he would no doubt consider a slow ratcheting-up of the tension, with several baddies making for the heroes (even Gwendrith, Dendrith, Kildrith and Jagdrith are back - possibly together with a new Drith called Clawdrith, though it's hard to tell as the name is only used a couple of times and then disappears). Unfortunately to keep them from actually threatening to kill the heroes (which would just lead to one of his unsatisfactory half-page scrape-and-escapes), Wrighto has to keep making the baddies hold back - for no reason whatsoever. Remember the Doer mentioned earlier who "for some reason" didn't go after the Dragon Hunter? Well how about (p24):

Quote:
"How far away are they?" [asked Jesse].

The Dragon Hunter looked at them for a minute or so, calculating. "We have an hour at best, perhaps three-quarters of an hour at the worst."
Needless to say, hours and days pass and the hordes of baddies referred to are no closer. Or (p83):

Quote:
"Do you see Jameson?" Kildrith said.

"Yes. I see them all."

"Let's take them now," Gwendrith said. "Surprise them. Kill them. Take revenge!"

"No," Dendrith said. "Not yet. The New Master of Darkness will send a sign, a vision, something. This is his domain, the Naargapire. It is best to do things his way. We will continue to follow at a safe distance."
It's all just page-filling, water-treading. In fact it's pretty clear from VV that Wrighto has lost interest in the series - as he admits in the "Out-Tro." Even the map at the start just consists of a few randomly-placed areas from the book on a blank background, some drawn from above, some in projection. Kind of sad, really. But then if nobody else is interested in the Jesse Jameson books, why should he be?

Finished Vampire Vault. Yawn yawn yawn. A bit of a flurry of battle, some fatuous soul-searching: Wrighto seems to think that if he pastes a series of clichéd angsty phrases over Jesse's mouth, that constitutes characterisation. However Jesse still has no discernable character and rarely even understands the magic she uses, so there's no tension or interest in finding out what happens. Even as I write this, ten or fifteen minutes after finishing the book, I can't remember what happened to Gwendrith, Dendrith, Kildrith and Jagdrith. Ah yes: looking back, they disappeared on p115:

Quote:
She felt an awful sense of foreboding. Where were the Driths?
Not to be mentioned again in this book, my dear - indeed their half-dozen scenes in the book seem to be entirely superfluous - so don't feel too much foreboding. There is also what Wrighto no doubt considers a risky, daringly bleak ending, but it's not really an ending at all, as everything is left (a ho ho) up in the air. The factors which lead to this are never even properly explained, with Jesse again exhibiting some power she has no understanding of, and the reader has no explanation for.

And that, combined with the comments previously posted, is the only review of Vampire Vault you'll be getting. Until of course anyone else in the entire world reads it. Post 'em here.
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Old 21st Jul 2005, 15:38   #2
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That would be me then... again, from the archives of my memory:

I read J2V2, oh many moons ago now, and can endorse all of John's comments.

However, here's the thing - I read it and found that there were characters I wished he'd do 'something' with. The writing and the specifics of the plot are useless and as poorly done as ever, but you do get a sense of the doom-laden peripheral characters in Jesse's orbit and a sense of how they might be better written.

Now it might be the thought of a young noble warrior as Jesse's protector, but the Dragon Hunter, as I've mentioned before, gets more characterisation than most of the others (and a whole chapter devoted to his POV, as John mentions a couple of pages ago). Along with Trondian-Yor, he gets ratty with Jesse's bolshie attitude a few times, and pays attention to the fact that Jake is fairly traumatised by the events at Caldazar (a reasonable amount of violence and mind/soul/body possession by the Bogie Beast) whereas Jesse merely laughs. He succumbs to the Doers (rather pointlessly, I'll admit), leaving Jesse and crew to fly away to safety.

I care enough that the Dragon Hunter is reduced to being 'vampirised' and dribbling in a corner, his “golden binocular eyes” all dimmed with blood-lust. Now Oryx has reminded me of the term, isn't there some meta-fictional world for bastardised characters to which they can all escape (leaving the crass Jesse behind of course); where they can live out their lives in mature, non-cliched and character-developed ways? As usual the Driths are relegated to being the ultimate in token baddies, and it was a shame that the most characterful (drooling Kildrith in his homburg hat and ruined face) ended up dead. (Clawdrith, I believe, is not another drith but the crow that perches on Jagdrith’s shoulder, acting as her eyes.)

Honestly, I am coming to the conclusion that (other than the hopeless writing) Jesse is the worst thing about these books. The *idea* of the story, and the landscape have great potential: the ancients of Elriad, and the Union of Thirteen are no worse than some other derivative Tolkein-u-like novel. The execution is terrible, the characters wasted and flat and criminally under-used, all for the sake of this witless, colourless heroine. You’re left with just these flickerings of characterisation, struggling for life, being snuffed out again and again. It’s all too bad.

By the finale Jesse has done a Buffy-Season-Five dive into the void, with the Skaardrithadon glued to her fire-arm palm; she gets all shouty-teenager like OotP-Harry-Potter and hasn’t a clue what her powers are or what they can effect. Trying to heal Jake out of his unconsciousness, she zaps him with some kind of electric shock therapy from the crystal in her palm instead and then laughs as he wakes up. He stumbles about thereafter, at odds with what’s happening, and slightly deranged (either because of her zapping him, or from PTSD) but Jesse scorns him and cares little to help her best friend understand what is going on.
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Old 21st Jul 2005, 22:03   #3
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Default Re: Sean Wright: Jesse Jameson and the Vampire Vault

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sean Wright
Jesse's mind was brimming with questions for the spirit-wizard. "So how is it possible for you to be with us and be in other places at the same time?" she asked.

"I have no idea," Zarlan-Jagr said.
That is truly genius.

Maybe someone in the London area should go along and interview him. A thread, perhaps, of the burning questions to put to him.
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Old 22nd Jul 2005, 23:24   #4
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Default Re: Sean Wright: Jesse Jameson and the Vampire Vault

Is he for real?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sean Wright
Here's the exciting new cover art for Book 4 in the Jesse Jameson series - Vampire Vault. I hope you agree that those eyes are scary.


Exciting? :?
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Old 23rd Jul 2005, 8:57   #5
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Yes, this was a sudden change of cover for Vampire Vault after (we suspect) endless mockery by Palimpsesters persuaded him to stop using his own pisspoor cover drawings. If I can find the original Vampire Vault cover I'll post it up here, and you'll see that - believe it or not - the one above is a genuine improvement...
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Old 21st Jun 2006, 11:51   #6
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Default Re: Sean Wright: Jesse Jameson and the Vampire Vault

Any doubts that Sean Wright has lost interest in the Jesse Jameson books (as indicated in my posts above) can be dispelled with the knowledge that it's taken almost two years - from the publication of Vampire Vault in Oct 04 - for the fifth volume, Stonehenge of Spelfindial, to see light of day. And as with VV, he's releasing SS around the same time as a Jaarfindor book (Jaarfindor Remade comes out on 15 July), so it doesn't get any attention. He doesn't even talk about them much any more on his site, and there are no excerpts from SS. Could he be, finally, as ashamed of them as he ought to be?

So who has the Palimpcopy of Vampire Vault? It really is worth reading, if only to remind you that even Dan Brown looks down on someone.
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Old 21st Jun 2006, 11:53   #7
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Default Re: Sean Wright: Jesse Jameson and the Vampire Vault

I think I have it. I think.
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Old 21st Jun 2006, 12:11   #8
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Default Re: Sean Wright: Jesse Jameson and the Vampire Vault

So Wavid has the first three (hint hint, cough cough) and amner has the fourth.
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Old 22nd Jun 2006, 11:19   #9
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Default Re: Sean Wright: Jesse Jameson and the Vampire Vault

How - to coin a word - unprofuckingfessional is this?

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Jesse Jameson & the Stonehenge of Spelfindial Published



Jesse Jameson and the Stonehenge of Spelfindial has been published. Pre-orders have been strong for Book 5 in the young adult Jesse Jameson series. I'll be busy signing, numbering and personalising the books with illustrations and doodles over the next few days. Thanks to everyone who has bought the book. Much appreciated. Due to increased demand, shipping is now planned for the week beginning Monday 25th June.


posted by Sean Wright @ Wednesday, June 21, 2006 0 comments

Due to increased demand? What does that have to do with when he sends the books out? Of course, the notion of official 'publication dates' is a bit of a joke anyway, when it's Sean we're talking about. I actually get the impression that he probably hasn't even paid for a full print run of these ones (supposedly 500) and has just ordered the number that have been bought so far from print-on-demand suppliers. Print on demand books usually have a bar code on the last page for reordering purposes (as well as the ISBN barcode on the back cover) so I will let you know when mine arrives.

And Monday 25 June doesn't happen this year, so does that mean they've been delayed until 2007?
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Old 23rd Jun 2006, 14:01   #10
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Default Re: Sean Wright: Jesse Jameson and the Vampire Vault

Quote:
Originally Posted by John Self
And Monday 25 June doesn't happen this year, so does that mean they've been delayed until 2007?
He truly is a man ahead of his time (and no, Sean, you can't quote me on that). If you look at his long forgotten Splash! Frenzy! Who Cares? blog you can see that it was posted on the 1st January 2007.
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