SBD: BOATK/Shelter comparison and Thurman’s Blackout

Today’s SBD:  my weekend reading and re-read.

First, please forgive any typos or incoherent sentences that you may encounter.  The Red Parrot had its grand opening this evening, and I had a gigantic My Thai Mai Tai with my Deadliest Catch sushi roll (very good), so my fingers are a little clumsy right now.  But I wanted to get this posted before time passes.

In the aftermath of the allegations of Bear, Otter and the Kid’s potential plagiarism of the movie Shelter, I decided to re-watch the film and re-read the e-book.  I’d earlier reviewed the book (here) and mentioned the plot similarity, but plagiarism had not occurred to me at the time.  Frankly, I found the book to be problematic in its writing and style without regard for the material’s source.

I enjoyed Shelter, but have reservations about its portrayal of women in general: they are either saints or whores.  Only in the very end, as she abandons her child, does Jeannie show any sort of humanity or kindness with respect to Zach’s situation; otherwise she’s been a smoking, drinking, possibly drug abusing, cheap woman who shows little interest in her child and takes advantage of her brother’s spinelessness.

This time around I managed only to finish about 35% of Bear, Otter, and the Kid.  To say that I found the writing to be painful would be putting it mildly[1].  Verb tense changes in passages that make no sense and the first person POV used to convey the POV of someone other than the narrator were just awkward.   As I read a second time, I wondered if BOATK began as Shelter fan fiction, since the verb tenses, POV, and use of italics to convey thoughts and  internal dialogue are consistent with ff tropes/styles.

Beyond that, I found BOATK’s treatment of women to be even more exaggerated than Shelter’s.  Both the film and movie reinforce double standards and gender role stereotypes in a way that I find disturbing.  The women are pilloried for abandoning their children, yet the fathers who have also abandoned their children merit little or no mention.  Meanwhile, the young men who take responsibility for their extended families are heroic for doing what a sister would be expected to do as a matter of course.

Do I think the author plagiarized Shelter?  I don’t know and am probably not the best judge – professionally, I am expected to borrow from the work of others in order to indicate that the relief I’m requesting has precedence (assuming that work is cited and credited properly, of course).  Certainly there are many common elements in the movie and the portion of the book I re-read, ranging from the larger theme to the jobs/talents and other details related to the main characters and their financial and social situations to the BFF and GF to the employment of the MCs.  Of course, there are differences too.  Since I didn’t re-read the whole book, I’m reluctant to join the accusations of plagiarism and also disinclined to defend the author.  But I am still suspicious.  If the book began as fan fiction or was inspired by Shelter, a note to that effect would go a long way toward making me more comfortable about the provenance of the work as a reader.  It seems unlikely at this point, given the responses from the author and the publisher.

Semi-related to that, I’m not boycotting the publisher, which is what some comments at the DA thread advocate.  I don’t buy DSP books any longer, but it has nothing to do with BOATK or DSP’s stance on filing off the distinguishing characteristics of fan fiction in order to publish for profit; no, I stopped buying DSP’s books because I’ve been consistently disappointed with the products they produce.

In addition to attempting to re-read BOATK, I read Rob Thurman’s Blackout over the weekend.  It’s the sixth book in her Cal Leandros series.  (Book five reviewed here and book four also reviewed.)  Although I bought the book when it came out last year, I didn’t read it, wasn’t sure I wanted to read it.  The book before, Roadkill, seemed like possibly a good stopping place and I wasn’t sure I wanted to read the further adventures of Cal and Niko, primarily because the series has gradually gotten darker and it doesn’t seem like it will end well for Cal.  But a new book is coming out tomorrow and I wanted to read it, so…

Blackout deals with a memory-less Cal.  He wakes up in South Carolina, not knowing who he is other than a killer.  Killer as distinct from murderer.  This memory-less Cal is a lighter character than regular Cal, less grim and unburdened by the knowledge of who/what he is.  Nature vs. nurture and free will are the core of this book, as Cal has an opportunity to be what he might have been without the Auphe.  Pretty good, although not my favorite book of the series (that is probably going to be Roadkill) in part because the author hammers at the nature theme constantly.

It was interesting to read a book in which the key relationship is fraternal, and to compare it to the fraternal relationship in BOATK.  Niko Leandros’ sacrifices for his brother, whom he has raised as much or more so than either Zach in Shelter or Bear in BOATK, are gigantic and are much less a topic of angst through the series, although they do play a central role in this particular book as the end approaches and return of Cal’s memory becomes imperative.


[1] I first read BOATK while on vacation. Perhaps the abundance of time to spare made me more patient and willing to wade through that hot mess?  Or maybe knowing the outcome of the plot made me less tolerant?  Or maybe knowing that Novik’s Crucible of Gold was waiting for me just resulted in a lack of patience.  Who knows?  All I can say is that I am disinclined to spend more time re-reading BOATK right now.

5 Comments

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5 responses to “SBD: BOATK/Shelter comparison and Thurman’s Blackout

  1. So I finally tracked down a copy of Shelter. I watched half of it. Talk about textbook indie, but some nice performances. I read the first 1/3 of BoaTK. I haven’t put them side by side to compare scenes explicitly, but the academic standard of plagiarism has probably been met. Of course, that’s a pretty stringent standard.

    I don’t know if the similarities would result in a copyright infringement verdict, because those requirements are so case-specific and then of course there are the idiosyncracies of the judge. But it’s hard to believe the movie didn’t influence the book, especially since Klune has said he has seen the movie. Your fan fiction guess seems the most apropos.

    Oh, I do agree quite a bit with your assessments of the female roles. I think they bothered me less in the movie because the actress playing Jeanne humanized the role really well.

    • Hi, Sunita. Sorry for the delayed response.

      As I was reading and looking for similarities between the two, I wondered about the academic standard for plagiarism, primarily because it seems easy to spot (to me) when the text/media are the same, but more difficult when the two forms are different, except to the extent that dialogue is identical or settings are perfectly matched.

      The movie was kinder to Jeanne than the book to Bear’s mother. For all that she makes dubious life choices, when confronted with Zach’s past sacrifice (he turned down an art school scholarship to stay at home and help), she agrees that he shouldn’t pass up a second chance. That sort of acknowledgement never came in BOATK, and the mother had absolutely no redeeming qualities.

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