Dear Author

REVIEW: Death by Ploot Ploot by Dara Joy

Here is our conversational review of Death by Ploot Ploot by Dara Joy. It’s not a book either Robin nor I would recommend you paying your hard earned money on.

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Jane: I admit to having very little familiarity with Dara Joy’s work having only read Ritual of Proof. Compounding this is the fact that I cannot recall anything of the book other than it featured a role reversal of sexual mores (the man playing the feminine role and the woman playing the masculine role) and that it was the book that started the lawsuit between Dorchester, HarperCollins and Dara Joy.

Upon reading Death by Ploot Ploot, it was obvious that it was a book featuring characters and a world that was beyond my knowledge so I can’t address whether it is a palatable appetizer/dessert for Dara Joy fans.

What I can say is that the best thing about this book was a) it was short and b) the unintentional sexual overtones of nearly every passage. It had me giggling nearly throughout the story. The story opens with Yaniff, an old wizard, despairing over the fact that his pupil Lorgin had the disposition for scholarship but lacked the power whereas Lorgin’s younger brother, Rejar, had the power but lacked the disposition for harnessing it.

The phrases used to reference Lorgin’s power had strong sexual overtones. I was reminded of that game we played at chinese restaurants where you added the phrase “in bed” after the reading of each fortune. For example, in contemplating how to motivate Rejar’s power:

No, Yaniff knew he needed to find something- something more to kindle him …

When Lorgin is discussing his own situation:

Lorgin’s brow furrowed as he thought of a way to put his current disquiet into words. “This is difficult to describe, but of late, Yaniff, I have found myself somewhat- ah, flammable.”

and

He sighed; then got to the matter at hand. “At odd times of the day, Yaniff, I find myself on the verge of expecting something- My power seems to surge in response, sometimes spiking before it calms back down.”

The power is described a “breaking apart and coming together at the same time.” I swear I’ve read those terms to describe someone’s orgasmic experience. “Lorgin was not convinced. “I have not experienced this in the past when my powers arose. Not even when I first sparked.”

Robin: I read and enjoyed Dara Joy’s Matrix of Destiny series. I couldn’t get through Ritual of Proof, in part because it reminded me a bit of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale meets Charlotte Perkins Gillman’s Herland, and didn’t fare well in the comparison. However, I do have a fondness for Joy’s campier books, and was glad that she could return to the series that in my opinion represents her strongest work.

That said, I don’t even know how to go about reviewing “Death by Ploot Ploot” (I even refuse to italicize the title because to me it was a short story, at best), because it felt overwhelmingly like an advertisement for Dariq and Traed’s books. Which implies that this story (and I use the term loosely, as there is not much of a plot) is intended for those who are familiar with the characters — an intentional implication.

Jane, I don’t know how you managed when you didn’t know the history between Lorgin and Adeann/Deanna, or about the significance of the forest and the tree house, or about Yaniff and the significance of Rejar’s powers as a familiar. Ah, I get it; you simply connected the sex dots. Yes, I see that is the main trail for those readers who have been plopped in the middle of this story like Lorgin was plopped in the middle of Deanna’s world in Knight of A Trillion Stars. After all, the whole ploot, I mean plot, seemed to consist of Deanna’s attempt to bring Valentine’s Day to Aviara (with the help of her mother in law, of course), and then there’s Lorgin’s, ah, surges.

Thinking about it now, I realize that the chronic sexualization is really part of Joy’s schtick in the MOD series, but for some reason it worked for me in those books and didn’t here. I don’t know if it’s because I so resented paying $4.50 for something that didn’t even cohere as a story (I mean, I paid less for Kathleen O’Reilly’s Shaken and Stirred ), or because it has been so long since I read a MOD story, or because “Death By Ploot Ploot” just didn’t have enough plot plot to make the excessive camp and awkward prose palatable.

Jane: Okay, so are you saying that all those magical references are intentionally sexually charged? I so missed that. I think that because the prose was so awkward, I blamed the excessive sexualized descriptions on unintended innuendo instead of camp. The writing lacks any subtlety that would bring the reader to understand that it was all a joke. For example, the following passage clobbers you over the head with the "emotions" of the characters by adding descripted phrases after the active sections. These hamfisted phrases signaled to me that Joy wasn’t really intentionally sexualizing the context.

Yaniff shook his head, exasperated. “The first lesson in this for you, Rejar, is that you forgot to shield that thought from me. Careless and impudent.”

Rejar lips parted slightly as he realized his mistake.

Yaniffs eyes, darker than the darkest night, twinkled with what could only be called “old wizard’s glee”

Of course, we’ve had this debate over the poetry in Susan Donovan’s book, Public Displays of Affection, where the poetry penned by the heroine was so god awful but recognized by every character as to be poetic gold that I was convinced the author herself believed that it was good whereas you thought the author was laughing along with us; thus, my ability to catch camp may be totally missing. On second thought, though, maybe she is only able to write with sexual intonation.

Robin: Yeah, I definitely thought Donovan expected us to see Charlotte’s poetry as, uhm, not particularly poetic. And seriously, it’s difficult for me to imagine that Joy wasn’t intentionally eroticizing her story because 1) it’s called “Death by Ploot Ploot” and 2) the double entendres are so obvious, in my opinion, that it’s difficult (I almost wrote hard, lol) for me to imagine that Joy didn’t, you know, intend them. Especially because the sexuality in her MOD series wasn’t exactly subtle, which was one of its odd pleasures. The books were written on this knife edge where I was always thisclose to laughing AT the book, but ended up being too entertained to.

With this piece, though, there was just no real story to engage me, no substantive chance to get reacquainted with the characters and the conflicts and the unresolved characters/issues, and the thinness of the whole thing pushed me over that edge from enjoyment to resentment. All I kept thinking was, if this piece is aimed at whetting fans’ appetites for the rest of the MOD series, then why isn’t it, you know, a real gift (as she said on her website), as in free. Because it clearly seems aimed at those who have read the other books in the series, and it doesn’t do anything, really, to advance the series, and it’s way short — both in length and plot, and there was all that mess with the earlier books . . . Anyway, the fact that I was having that sort of internal dialogue as I was reading the text characterizes my level of engagement.

For example, Rejar, who has been vastly entertaining, has been reduced to the stereotypical inept babyuncle who can’t attend to his niece properly:

“Are you deaf or simply selective in what you hear? If you wish her to stop, you fix her!” Rejar’s outburst was brought on by the unrelenting screeching that was above any decibel Familiar ears could tolerate. It was an unwise response.

Traed’s deadly look was enough to give anyone pause.

The Familiar narrowed his dual colored eyes, looking much like an irritated cat. “I know not of children! What makes you think I would know what to do?”

Traed strummed the fingers of his blade hand on the book he had been reading. “See- to- it, Rejar.” His voice was as cold as ice. “Now.

Rejar scooped Melody off the floor. He held the babe straight out, as far away from him as he possibly could. Familiar senses being what they are, his acute olfactory abilities were starting to beg for a quick, painless death to end the misery.

He quickly thrust the babe at his older brother-of-the-line.

Traed did not comply; he coolly arched one eyebrow. “Did you not offer to look after her for Lorgin?”

“Yes- but I thought she would just sit and smile at me like she always does when I visit.” Like most females, Melody was enamored of the male Familiar. The baby usually just stared at him with a dreamy-eyed look.

It’s not that the full-length novels aren’t cliched in their own way, but it rose above the mundane for me in the longer works. Here it becomes annoying. The sexual politics seem tired, as does the sex, now that I think about it. In fact, what did you think about the relationships, Jane, especially since you haven’t read the series?

Jane: What relationships? Because there was a myriad of people in the brief (18,000+) story and very little detail that came with it, I just kind of shrugged my shoulders and moved on. The main thrust of the short story was the relationship between Lorgan and Deanna so I tried to relinquish myself to their romance, such as it was. It was the writing itself and not the cast of thousands that affected my appreciation. One last little excerpt:

Taking her into his arms, he covered her mouth in a deep kiss, seizing her lips with loving command.

Deana’s hands automatically reached around his shoulders and tangled in his long hair as she sleepily returned his passionate embrace.