Blue Pill in Fiction: The Republic of Thieves, Part 2

We continue the dissection of a blue-pilled writer’s portrayal of male-female relationships begun in Part 1.

gentlemanbastards
Light-fingered con artists barely keep themselves alive by their skill in juggling flaming chainsaws.

If you’re just joining us: Scott Lynch’s The Republic of Thieves is part of a fantasy series about a master con man. Overall, the series is better than average fantasy fiction, but lordy, the author’s blue-pill notions! Republic’s narrative alternates between two time periods: flashback chapters in which a gang of teen con-artist apprentices learn their trade, and “present day” chapters in which Our Hero has to rig an election. In Part 1, I only presented scenes from the flashback chapters. The first scene in this post is from the “present” action.

Spoiler warning, and I’m going to edit quoted passages for length. Any page numbers are from the hardcover edition.

Locke and his fellow con man Jean have been blackmailed into the following task: The city of Karthain is having an election. Locke and Jean are hired to rig this election. They’ve been engaged by a corrupt organization called the Democratic Par… uh, I mean, the kicker is that Sabetha, Locke’s old flame (and fellow gang member) from years before, has been engaged by the other side to rig the election too. Each side knows the other side has engaged a con artist to rig the election; they allow this for reasons that don’t matter here. Also, both sides know of the romantic history, and have warned Locke and Sabetha not to get into any hanky-panky with each other. They are not forbidden from communicating with each other, though.

Pages 314-27: In Karthain, after not seeing each other for years, Locke and Sabetha are Reunited, and it doesn’t feeeeeeel so gooooood!

“H-hello,” he said.
“Hello, Locke.”
“Yes. Sabetha. Hello. Uh.”
“Meant to say something grander and wittier, didn’t you?”

Aaaaaaaaaand we’re off. She basically says, “You wanted to impress me.” This is a “You’re hitting on me” shit test, like, “I have a boyfriend” or “Are you hitting on me?” or “I’m not going to have sex with you.” It’s part shit test to assess your poise, part attempt to find out by your reaction whether you actually are hitting on her, and part female status game, an attempt to define herself as the sought-after prize. All in one terse little verbal package. There are aspects of the mating game that women are impressively good at.

“Take my hands,” she said, and he does. Yawn, no. The proper response to that sort of thing was established by Roissy (Chateau v. 1.0) and others more than a decade ago: “No, you might try to take advantage of me,” you say playfully. Or just snort, ignore it, and say what you wanted to say. Women in this kind of situation always try to suck you into their frame. Don’t fall for it. An alpha male, which is what women are looking for, sucks people into his frame, or at least sticks with his own frame.

After more talk Sabetha embraces Locke:

She was so warm and strong, [“strong”? Which one of them is the chick here?] and her scent so instantly familiar… He sighed. “I’d work for free for any chance to be near you. They’re offering a fortune, and I’d throw it in the Amathel [River] for this.” No!
“Locke,” she whispered. “Indulge me. Kiss me. My preferred way. From back when we were—”
“Ahhh,” he said, laughing. “Your servant, madam.”
He gently placed his left hand beneath her chin and tilted her head back. Then planted his lips high up the side of her neck… when he felt he’d teased her enough, ran his tongue up and down those same few inches of warm skin.

It turns out that Sabetha has applied a poison to that area of her neck to knock Locke out. Locke notices a weird taste, but thinks it’s her perfume. Then he starts to lose consciousness. To add obnoxiousness to injury, Sabetha gives him a little lecture as he’s passing out:

“You’re not as good as I am, Locke, but you’re too damn good to let you run around fighting fairly. You’ll kill yourself trying to best me, and you can’t expect me to permit that.”

The lesson here should be obvious enough. Sex is the first thing a woman reaches for when she wants to manipulate a man. And a professional con woman, who’s an old flame, and with whom you’re in a competition… Come on, Locke!

He and Jean wake up on a ship far out at sea, LOL.

407-13, flashback scene. The con artist apprentices have been sent to a theater troupe to learn acting by performing in a play. Sabetha is on the roof going over her lines. Locke joins her, supplicatingly asking for the privilege of hanging out with her and paying for her attention with an offering of wine. Literally, he actually asks her, “Can I sit beside you?” The problem with this, of course, is that it should be, “May I sit beside you?” NO! That’s not the problem; the problem is that it’s wussily supplicating.

Also, she in her self-centeredness can’t resist accusing him of trying to get her drunk in order to fuck her. So annoying. He’s just offering you some wine, you silly bitch.

Whatever. She deigns to allow him to sit near her, and the “conversation,” such as it is, begins. Once again, as in the previous post, it’s all meta, conversation about their relationship. I’ll skip over that part. (Which goes on for freaking pages!) Eventually Locke makes a wince-inducing declaration. I don’t have the strength to quote the whole effin’ thing; here are the high, er low points:

“I, uh, I’m tired of talking behind my hands and dropping hints. These are my cards on the table. I think you’re beautiful.”

Sorry to interrupt just when you’re getting rolling, Locke, but: As a rule of thumb, you should not compliment a woman on her looks. The reason is this: In spite of all feminist agitprop to the contrary, females know at a gut level that their physical attractiveness is the most important part of their sexual market value. I’m not talking about a long-term relationship like marriage, where personality enters the picture in a big way. Rather, think of a young woman’s SMV. (Sabetha is 17 in this scene.) It’s more than 50% looks. Yeah, so? Won’t it make her feel good to compliment her looks, then? Yes, and that’s a mistake. You don’t want her to “feel good,” because that means she’ll think she’s too good for you. This is Female Hypergamy 101. Your job, if you want to do some co-ed spelunking, is not to make the girl feel good. It’s to make her feel that your overall SMV is about 2 points higher than hers. That’s enough to make her hypergamous cooch wet for you while you still seem within her reach.

My rule of thumb is this: A woman generally thinks she’s 1 or 2 points better-looking than she really is. And she wants to get a man who is 2 points higher than her if she can. This leads to weird things like a woman who’s objectively an overall 5 not wanting to “settle” for any man who’s less than an overall 9, which flaming lack of realism is one of the reasons the modern dating scene is so fucked up. In more realistic cases, a female 5 will seriously pursue a male 7, rejecting male 5’s and 6’s. Then she ends up as a cat lady. The point is this: As a man, your interest in a girl might spike if she squeezes your biceps and says, “Wow, you’re so muscular!” But a girl’s interest in you does NOT spike if you tell her, “Garsh, you’re so pretty!” She thinks, “Excellent, I’m attractive. And I’m obviously too good for this guy, since he’s impressed by me.”

Short version: If you’re going to compliment a girl, do it like French man: Make it so over-the-top that it seems sarcastic, like you don’t really mean it. (“You look radiant, mademoiselle; I grovel at your feet. And I’ll have an espresso and a latte, no sugar.”) The French are far ahead of us on this stuff, which is why their men are such a bunch of ravening assholes.

(When I wrote the latte thing I envisioned the dude saying it to a barista at a coffee bar. But it would be fuckin hilarious if you just said it to a random chick as if you mistook her for a waitress, LOL. That could be a good neg, though it’s kind of nuclear so you’d have to know what you’re doing to pull it off. She’s guaranteed to squawk like a wet hen. Also, you’d have to be able to say it with a straight face; I’m not sure I could.)

Locke continues: “I feel like I’m an idiot [agreed, you are] with dirt on his face sitting next to someone out of a painting. [gah!] …Frankly, I’d kiss your shadow. [GAH!] I’d kiss dirt that had your heel print in it. [GAAAAAAH!! Make it stop!] I admire everything about you [I admire her ability to not throw him off the rooftop for this ass-kissing announcement], even your temper [huh?] and your moods [what?] and the way you take gods-damned offense when I breathe wrong around you. [Oh HELL no!] I admire the way you’re good at everything you do, even when it makes me feel small enough to drown myself in this wine cup.” Well, do it then, you spineless fuckbag!

Aside from the wussiness, this is also bad seduction technique because (1) it puts way too much attention on the girl – any human being, male or female, would feel self-conscious having this blast of oral servicing directed at them – and (2) it doesn’t give her much by way of options. I mean, how is she supposed to respond to this? “Yes, Locke, you’re right, I am quite awesome in every way, and my beauty is matched only by my wonderful moods (LOL, WTF?) and the fact that I’m excellent at everything.”

Plainly that won’t work, which is why PUAs came up with verbal games like Marry-Fuck-Kill and other ways of getting the girl participating in the conversation.

Locke considers his past few statements and concludes that he wasn’t being wussy enough, so it gets worse. Recall from Part 1:

Sabetha to Locke: “Years ago, I was the oldest child in a small gang. I was sent away by my master to train in dancing and manners. When I returned, I found that a younger child had taken my place. Calo and Galdo, who once treated me as a goddess on earth, had transferred their allegiance to the newcomer.”
And now we see what has been bothering her. This entitlement-mentality little twat thinks she has some sort of right to have everyone else worship her.

So Locke now says to her, “I’m sorry. If I’ve pushed you aside… if I’ve screwed up anything that you felt was rightfully yours, I apologize.”

Watching this dumpster fire of masochistic groveling makes me feel like Beavis when wuss music comes on MTV: “Butthead, change it! Change it or kill me!”

beavisbutthead
“Aiieeee, this is Boy George! Change it! Change it!”

Locke actually affirms this chick’s right to be treated “as a goddess on earth.” What the fuck!? And he apologizes for – unintentionally – supplanting her. And it makes even less sense than that, because if Sabetha has some right to be treated like a god, then why doesn’t Locke also have a right to be treated like a god? But it gets even stupider, because these kids do not treat each other as gods. They are constantly saying things to each other like, “Suck vinegar out of my ass,” etc. (Actual quote. Scott Lynch is pretty good at thinking up memorable insults, one of the notable stylistic features of this series.)

Page 412-3, the drama rises. Locke recalls out loud the first time he saw her free her gawageous red hair in the sunlight and it glinted with heavenly glittering, or whatever. It makes you flash on those scenes they have in cheesy movies in which the babe whips off her hat and swings her hair around dramatically in slow-mo. Cue the “Ohhhhh, yeeeeeeaaaaah,” voiceover from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Inexplicably, drama queen asshole starts screaming about how Locke only likes her because she’s a redhead. Her freakout is completely disproportionate to what he said and we’re wondering why she’s suddenly gone even more psycho than usual. She tells him to get lost, so he does, briefly. When he and Sabetha are alone again, he actually grows a pair and says to her, “You owe me an explanation. I will not let you push me aside just because you’re pitching a fit!” My God, there actually are some nads in there somewhere!

“I am not pitching a fit!” she says, despite the obvious fact that she’s pitching a fit. By the way, women always know when they’re pitching a fit, and they don’t respect you if you put up with it.

Sabetha continues,
“You cannot be so wholly ignorant. Do you know what they pay for red-haired girls in Jerem? Do you know what they do to us if we’re pristine?”

She then describes a horrible practice that some sick fucks do to red-haired girls. I’ll spare you the nasty details, but it boils down to this: It’s thought that men can cure various diseases they might have by gang-raping a red-haired virgin to death.

That is terrible. But it never happened to Sabetha. The worst she can plead to is living in fear. And since it didn’t happen where they grew up (she’d have to be abducted and carried off) and since she dyed her hair brown and kept it tucked under her hat, the risk was very small. Furthermore, since this disgusting practice is only believed to work if the girl in question is a virgin, she could have just gone and fucked some dude as soon as she was old enough, thus eliminating the risk right there.

And Locke didn’t know about this horrific practice. And it’s not like he was planning on raping her to death!

What is actually going on here? In plot terms, the author needs drama here, so that’s the actual reason for this. Within the fictional universe, whether the author realizes this or not, Sabetha is freaking out in order to attention whore, play drama queen, and play damsel in distress. This. Is. A. Shit. Test. What she is testing you for specifically, with this kind of shit test, is whether she can jerk you around by your emotions.

Here’s a question for ya, poochy: Does a girl sleep with a guy she can jerk around? That would be No. I don’t know how I’d handle this, but it certainly wouldn’t be by apologizing. I think I’d offer her a bag of Skittles and tell her to calm the fuck down. Guaranteed to work better than letting her control you by tugging on your heart strings.

As a female psychologist once wrote, “Women only love men they can’t control.”

On pages 479-81, Locke’s friend Jean loses his virginity to an older woman. Afterwards, Jean:

“Hey, there’s a… sorry, beneath your legs did we…?”
“Ah. My apprentice, allow me to introduce you to the concept of the wet spot.”
“Is that uncomfortable?”
“Well, it’s not what I’d call ideal. Hey, what are you—”
With an enthusiastic excess of groping and giggling, he applied his strength to shifting their positions. In a few moments, he’d pushed her to the dry side of the bed and taken her former place.
“Mmmmm. Jean, you have a gallant streak.”

Psssht. A real man would get a log from the fire, clock her over the head with it, and make her change the sheets. But seriously, why switch places? Someone has to be on the wet spot, and the girl’s going to think you’re a wuss if you pull that move, comments about gallantry notwithstanding. That’s the reality of female psychology.

Well, this dissection of blue-pill butt-fuckery has spanned two posts now. I’d like to draw things to a close, so I’ll just mention, without quoting in detail, some other blue pill stuff in this novel:

505-6: Scott Lynch can’t seem to even imagine a man making a pass at a woman. We are never shown an example of this in the entire three-book series so far. When Locke and Sabetha lose their virginity to each other in a flashback scene, it’s because she enlists a friend to drag Locke to a secret room she found in the hotel where they’re staying, so they can fuck there. Locke is drinking in the hotel bar when his buddy comes and drags him upstairs to the secret compartment where Sabetha is waiting. Then she’s just basically like, “I had him bring you up here so you could do me.” Then she kisses him. This ain’t great. Obviously women often make the first move in the sense of the first expression of interest (college, whoo-hoo!). But it’s a little much if the man doesn’t make the first physical move. Yeah, that can get you accused of “sexual assault” on a college campus in an “affirmative consent” state these days. For fuck’s sake, don’t go to college in an “affirmative consent” state.

468-70: In the present day, Locke and Sabetha are talking about how many people they’ve each boinked in the five years since they’ve seen each other. Locke confesses that he hasn’t screwed one chick in that five years. GAAAH, NOOOOOOOOO!!! Even if that’s true, you can’t tell the girl that; she’ll tag you as a loser. Just lie or just refuse to talk about this subject. Even worse, Sabetha says she’s had sex with several men in that time. This puts their relative notch counts topsy-turvy to what they should be.

So in summary: An above-average fantasy series, if you can stomach the main character’s invertebrate notions about women. Good pacing in plots that revolve around heists/capers, world-building that’s thorough without falling into the trap of being distractingly over-detailed, and amusing dialogue (aside from the wussy stuff). But the author’s blue-pilled notions about women could be used as a freakin’ textbook in What Not To Do. If you like fantasy, try the first one, The Lies of Locke Lamora. The chick is absent from that one, which keeps the blue pill stuff out and allows the main character to act like he actually has a Y chromosome most of the time.


Index page for my Red Pill in Fiction posts:
https://neurotoxinweb.wordpress.com/red-pill-in-fiction/

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4 thoughts on “Blue Pill in Fiction: The Republic of Thieves, Part 2”

  1. Locke’s haplessness with women could have been an endearing character flaw, if the author didn’t seem to think it was praiseworthy.

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  2. “Locke’s haplessness with women could have been an endearing character flaw, if the author didn’t seem to think it was praiseworthy.”

    Yes, that could work, as part of a “learning” story arc in which Locke gets a clue eventually.

    (BTW, it doesn’t require a massive red pill to notice this problem with the novel. A reviewer at Amazon said, “she’s an emotionally unstable bitch and he’s forever a lovelorn puppy she’s kicking.”)

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  3. This is another complaint but what is with all these lame heroes who suck at fighting? Every character is either a grimdark psychopath or a clever coward who is so totally above all of this combat nonsense.

    Never thought I would miss RA Salvatore this much.

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  4. I think it’s the fact that reactions against cliches eventually become cliches themselves. A surplus of the black and white morality of the Tolkien-type stuff became a vogue for depicting everything as shades of gray, and “sand-blasted with grit,” as someone pricelessly put it. This is now itself an enormous cliche.
    For good writers none of this matters anyway, because they can easily draw out the interest in either kind of conflict, shades of gray or black and white. A good writer doesn’t have to bend with, or fight against, the currently hip stuff; they just ignore it.

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