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[personal profile] paleo
This is a bad book review of Wild Animus by Rich Shapero. It is a bad review because this book doesn't deserve a good one. This is ranty, silly, and disorganized. But I think I do make a few good points.

Let me start of by saying that the only reason I'd recommend this book is that it could start some very good discussions on how *not* to handle a shamanic/spiritual/Otherkin/*any* sort of awakening. I picked this up because I'd heard some folks mention that it had therian themes to it, and to be fair, I can see a good case for that. I was also intrigued by the idea of someone having a spiritual connection to rams, an animal that isn't featured often in such stories. And okay, there's a wolf paw print on the cover which might have influenced me a teeny tiny bit.

Wild Animus is theoretically set on the U.S. West coast in the sixties. I say “theoretically” because other than an opening scene being set during the military campaign against Berkely's student protestors and one mention of bell bottoms, there is nothing in this book that evokes the sixties, making the point trivial.

We learn in the first few pages that the “protagonist”, Sam (later renamed Ransom) dies. At first I was dismayed to pretty much have the ending spoiled at the start, but later I was glad I knew he was going to die. At times the only thing keeping me slogging through this book was hoping to see Ransom finally die a hopefully brutal, painful death. Preferably after his hopes and dreams were crushed to fine powder like tortilla chips in the path of a steamroller.

Sam meets a girl, Lindy, in the most romantic way possible which is while blinded and gagging on mustard gas during a military-police strike. The two escape, wash up, and she jots her number down on the nearest piece of paper which happens to be an Alaskan hunting magazine with a picture of a Dall sheep ram on it.

Despite initially just wanting to bone her while the two of them are high on acid, a ten minute discussion on how fucked up their families are and how “life sucks, man” convinces them that “OMG! Soul mates!” Also, the world is made of lava. Or something.

The first third of the novel is pretty much them fucking and tripping and fucking while tripping. Sam has kept the picture of the ram and begins to relate to it, first symbolically, then internally/spiritually. He takes up rock climbing to better understand ram-ness, creates a mythos where Lindy (who is physically and psychologically scarred from abuse) is a fractured being whose parts work together to “open him up”, and they trip balls. A lot.

Lindy becomes possessive of Sam, encouraging more and more seclusion and separation from everyone else. Sam, in return, begins a brutally passive-aggressive campaign against her where he at times attacks her and questions her loyalty to him and his visions and other times becomes a sulking martyr prompting her to throw herself at him adoringly to boost his self esteem and “keep the dream” alive. And they trip balls. A lot.

By the end of the first third, Sam is convinced he's a shaman, starts creating chants (while, yep, tripping balls), and renames himself Ransom. Ransom because he's “love's ransom” or some such crap, but really it's so uber smarty-pants readers (like me) can unlock the clever hidden meaning by just switching the “n” and the “m” around.

They have to flee the po-po who are cracking down on drug dealers, move to Seatle, take a trip to Alaska where he has an encounter with a ram (while they're fucking rammy-style and tripping balls).
By this time I'm considering not finishing the book that seems to be just dragging on and on. Really, I'm actually somewhat sympathetic towards the idea of sanely using drugs for spiritual, and even recreational, reasons. So if *I'm* practically screaming at the characters “Get a fucking job you hippies!” it's a bad sign.

I'm almost done with the book but then Wolves! Yea for wolves! Okay, I'll finish reading.

So wolves...because seeing wolf paw prints on their trip clued Ransom into the shocking idea that rams are killed by wolves, Ransom now believes that Lindy (or rather the fractured parts of her) is a wolf pack. This idea hurts Lindy, but Ransom explains that just as wolves chase rams, she's chased him, opened him up, and made him release himself to the “magma heart that beats in all things”.

So it is decided that Lindy should stay in Seatle working two jobs while he goes to Alaska to study wolves and visit the mountains. Basically, for the rest of the book Lindy works to death to finance all the trips (in both senses of the word) that Ransom feels he needs to go on while he gets high and writes down his chants and a novel...called Wild Animus.

I'll skip ahead a bit to say that he pretty much dictates Lindy's life, making her work, moving at the drop of a hat, and towards the end deciding they need to move to the wilderness and calling her work place and quitting her job for her without asking permission. Gods, I fucking hate this character who is by far one of the most emotionally manipulative I've ever read in fiction...and this is passed as love and devotion.

So blah blah blah.

He creates a costume and headdress from a ram pelt and horns, complete with hoof-like shoes.

He drops acid and is chased by wolves while he may-or-may-not have literally transformed into a ram. The wolves tear a chunk out of his left pectoral....oh the symbolism!!!

He adds a new layer to his mythos involving a god called Animus that lives in the crater of Mount Wrangell, an active volcanic mountain. Animus is the life force that creates everything in a molten state, but the creations become hardened and forget the joy of flowing and being hot and floating. Ransom-as-ram is a chosen child who is called to return to him.

Ransom develops a small cult following of sort who, after seeing him convulse and chant in his ram costume, view him as a mystic who leads them to reawaken...causing romance to rekindle among a jaded couple, convincing a scientist who gave up sex and family life to feel passion again (of course she falls in love with him but that goes nowhere).

Meanwhile Ransom pretty much spells out to Lindy that his plan is to climb to the crater and kill himself and probably her. He adds self-mutilation to his acid trip, by cutting his wound open over and over (which he believes causes the quakes and eruptions that signal Animus' arrival) and spending days in his ram costume climbing Mount Wrangle and being chased by wolves.

And oh, some of the wolves die. And despite seeing Lindy/the wolves as vital to his journey, he views Animus as being callus to their death. “They did their job, they aren't needed any longer.” Does that mean Lindy is disposable? Pretty much, yeah.

He later drags Lindy on a trip up the a storm...with no safety gear. She nearly freezes to death and Ransom realizes that Animus want him to abandon her. Because there is a “greater love than human love”. He declines, takes her back down, but has her leave him. And she does pretty much beaten and losing all hope and faith in him and the dream.

And he takes acid yet again, cuts open his wound, and throws himself into the crater.

The thing that pisses me off is that it seems that the author felt this was a profoundly spiritual story. I think he intended us to like Ransom and view him as someone who found a Greater Truth.

Bull and shit!

Probably more than most of this books readers I actually understand a desire to dress as ram and mimic ram behaviors. I can understand devotion to and love for a volcano god. I can even tolerate a moderate amount of drug use to attain spiritual enlightenment.

But Ransom pretty much lived on acid and his whole spiritual experience happened while high (or fucking). Sorry, but sex and drugs are a bad things to build a complete spirituality from. It almost always leads the person to become self-serving, where chasing highs and orgasms is mistaken for enlightenment. It's one reason I tend not to trust people who are mainly psychonaughts or mainly sex magicians/gurus.

Ransom dragged another person into his mythos. Again, bad. His casting of Lindy as the wolf pack chasing the ram heavily reminded me of pagans and Otherkin who convince friends and lovers that they are somehow mystically connected and run with it. Such things can happen, but telling someone what their spiritual identity is (according to you) stunts their own searchings and can lead to viciously codependent situations where accepting and playing out the role is needed to validate the relationship.

Ransom was a manipulative, self-serving ***abusive*** douche nozzle who controlled Lindy's life and convinced her that being traumatized over and over equated to spiritual wisdom and romantic loyalty.

Ransom used Lindy to finance ***his*** spiritual quest. It is one thing to renounce work and money on your own but it is the height of asshattery to convince someone to double their work load so you can. If he was so godsdamned devoted to Animus he should have earned his pilgrimage on his own time and dime.

Ransom never once questions the suicidal nature of his visions and quests. When the wolves (who are Lindy) are killed off after they are no longer useful, he doesn't consider the implications. And he only just barely questions having Lindy kill herself with him, halting at the very end.

If this was a cautionary tale, I might have tolerated it better. But it wasn't. We are supposed to see Ransom as a tragic romantic hero who sacrificed himself for a higher truth.

No. No. And fuck No!

This book pissed me off in a way few other books have. Only read it if you are curious about the therian stuff or want to tell a new shamanist “don't do this shit”.

At least I learned that it's a bad idea to climb volcanic mountains while high on acid and bleeding from self inflicted wounds.

Fuck this book.
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