Chapter Thirteen – Another Kind of Cowboy
Reb wakes up. Josh and Sarah are standing there watching. Of course, with time being of the essence, it wouldn’t make sense for Josh and Sarah to immediately go and try to rescue a few more Sociopaths. So they’re just standing around chilling. Or maybe they’ve been lying around chilling. Or lying around heating things up. Or – never mind.
Suddenly Oliver walks in holding an aerosol can. He gasses Josh, who collapses to the floor, gasping, and tells everyone else not to move.
Oliver, of course, is an incompetent villain. He promptly starts monologueing, revealing that yes, he works for the Dark Lord, his real name is Onan, and he’s under orders to keep them alive for the moment, if possible. So all of Nuworld has an execute-on-sight order for the Sociopaths, but Oliver is supposed to catch them alive. Yeah, that makes sense.
Onan-Oliver tells them that the real Oliver is trapped in the dream machine as well. He orders them all to lay down or they’ll get a double dose of aerosol can – which is lethal. They lay down. Onan starts to tie Josh up, and suddenly Josh rolls over and kicks Oliver in the forehead. The can goes flying. Oliver takes off. Josh and Token take off after him, telling Reb and Sarah to go fetch Dave and Jake.
We enter Dave’s dream. He’s the quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys. It’s the Super Bowl. They’re six points behind with only a few seconds left on the clock. They huddle and discuss their options. Dave thinks about it, and says the only thing the opposing team won’t be looking for is a quarterback sneak. So they get ready and Dave gets the ball and takes off, faking left, faking right, and suddenly there’s only one man standing between him and winning the Super Bowl. So he lowers his head and plows right into the guy and knocks him down and crosses the goal line. Everyone goes wild. They kick it for an extra point and his team picks him up and carries him off the field.
A long time later Dave heads out to his Ferrari. He opens both doors just to see them up, and climbs inside his baby. Suddenly a man appears and levels a gun at him.
…Dave went cold. He knew that there were people in this town who would kill you for a pair of tennis shoes, for a Ferrari, and for the cash he carried (page 137).
Yes. But since they’ll get a Ferrari and the cash, don’t you think they’ll leave the tennis shoes on your cold dead feet?
The man puts the gun calmly tells Dave, in a Southern accent, to drive out, and if he tries to tip off the garage attendant, he’ll shoot Dave’s ears off. So off they go. Dave is terrified. I’m finding this hilarious.
They head out of Dallas. The Super Bowl is played at a prearranged spot, not at the home stadium of one of the teams. Then again, this is just Dave’s fantasy. Although I’m not sure why he didn’t have a couple of slutty blondes waiting for him in his car, then. Anyway, the man directs him to a small house outside the city limits, and tells him to pull into the garage. They head inside and the man pulls off his hat. He asks Dave if he’s ever seen him before. Dave says he looks vaguely familiar, but that doesn’t matter, he can have his money, just please don’t hurt him. The man says all he wants to is have a nice little chat. Dave asks if he could please point the gun somewhere else. The man laughs, points it at his own head, and pulls the trigger. Then he tosses it to Dave. It’s a toy.
Dave is suddenly angry. He tells the man he’s leaving. The man introduces himself as Reb, and says he’s welcome to try. Reb moves over in front of the door. Dave charges him. Reb bodyslams him to the floor. Dave gets up and tries again. Reb proceeds to hand him his ass with all the trimmings. This goes on for awhile. It’s awesome. Finally Dave gives up and says okay, they can talk.
Reb explains it all. Dave can’t really believe it. Reb then starts talking about Abbey, and says she’s pretty much screwed if Dave doesn’t come and help her. An image of Abbey appears in Dave’s mind, and that pretty much settles it. Dave, it seems, does most of his thinking with his penis.
Some time passes. Reb says that he can’t force Dave to do anything, and if he really wants to he can stay here and drive a fancy Ferrari and live like a millionaire with hot women lining up to do things for him that would make a porn star blush. Or he can head back into the real world where he’s a moderately attractive teenager with a vapid and annoying girlfriend and fighting a war he’s almost certain to lose. Dave chooses the latter. Hooray!
Chapter Fourteen – Ensign Jake Garfield
Jake is aboard the spaceship Avenger. He thinks about how hot his commanding officer is. His commanding officer asks him to join her in the lounge after they’re off duty. At which point she’ll probably comment about how space is cold, and he’ll take off his jacket and give it to her…
The captain tells Jake to take the helm. He pilots the ship to the captain’s satisfaction. Afterwards, as he’s leaving, Lieutenant Zeno tells him to not get too friendly with Commander Tirion. Why Morris spends time on this little love triangle that will never go anywhere and is not even remotely relevant to the plot, I don’t know.
Suddenly the sensors report an alien is aboard the ship. They send Jake to find it. He walks around with a little beeping Star Trek device and finds a girl who introduces herself as Sarah. Jake asks her what she’s doing aboard their ship, and Sarah says she’s come to find him. And Morris seems intent on cramming questionable phrases into this book about every possible pairing:
“I’ve come such a long way, Jake,” Sarah said. She moved closer to him, put her hand on his chest (page 145).
Jake takes her down to a room where she’ll have to stay until the Captain speaks to her. They’re being awfully friendly towards an alien that suddenly beamed aboard their spaceship. Once they’re there, Sarah begins explaining about how he’s dreaming everything and this ship and these people aren’t actually real. Jake doesn’t buy it. Suddenly the door opens, and the Captain, the Hot Commander, and the angry Lieutenant walk in. They chat. The Hot Commander thinks Sarah’s telling the truth. The Captain leaves the decision-making up to her.
Sarah spends the next week trying to convince Jake, to no avail.
We then cut over to the Hot Commander and the Captain talking about Sarah. The Hot Commander says that Sarah is absolutely convinced that what she’s saying is true. The Captain says that that’s a sign that she’s insane. The Hot Commander says that wouldn’t it be intriguing if it was true, and this was all a dream? So let me get this straight – the characters in Jake’s dream are self-aware enough to wonder if they’re actually being dreamt, and have conversations about it? And what exactly is the point of this? Is it relevant to the plot? Will we ever see these characters again? Does it help us to gain a better understanding of any of the main characters? The answer, of course, is no.
Sarah is weirding Jake out. Plus, he’s starting to believe that what she says might be true, and have dreams about things. Then one day she invites him down to the Holodeck. It’s called the Viewing Room, but that’s the basic idea. Sarah wants to go back to the time they were riding eagles across the desert. And what do you know, Jake can call up that exact experience with just a few button presses. Sarah tells him to look down, and he sees all the other Sociopaths beneath him. Suddenly he realizes that it’s all real and Sarah’s telling him the truth. And back they go.
Chapter Fifteen – The Ball
Dave is dressed elegantly. He’s at some southern plantation, and he sees black servants scurrying around. He heads inside, and meets a chap who introduces himself as Captain Breck Stewart – the lead guy on Abbey’s favorite TV show. And for some reason, when I think of Abbey’s favorite show, I don’t picture a TV show set on a southern plantation during the Civil War. For that matter, I can’t even picture a TV show set on a southern plantation during the Civil War.
Dave tells Stewart he’ll stay away from Miss Brady, because he understands Stewart is courting her. Stewart laughs and says Dave can have Miss Brady, as he now has his eyes set on her cousin, Miss Abbey Roberts. Well of course. Abbey appears, and immediately latches on to Dave’s arm, which pisses Stewart off. They walk around for a bit while Abbey prattles on about her life. Dave can’t think of a way to talk to her about Nuworld.
He gets invited to stay on for a bit and spends time with Abbey, which continues to infuriate Breck Stewart. One day he comes up and challenges Dave to a duel. Dave agrees. After all, he can’t get hurt in a dream, right? So that night they head down and get out some pistols. They start counting off the paces, and suddenly Abbey screams for them to stop and runs between them. Stewart snorts and says if Abbey thinks so highly of Dave, she can have him. He takes off. Dave pulls Abbey aside and sits her down and tells her everything. He ends by telling her that he loves her and wants her to come back with him. It takes a day or so, but eventually she agrees.
And that’s it. Everything gets wrapped up quickly in the summary. We never learn how they got out of the prison they were in, whether Onan alerted the guards, or anything, really.
The false Oliver had, indeed, captured the true one. He’d confessed to intercepting Goel’s helper and taking his place after forcing him to reveal the password. Angry with the Dark Lord for failing him, Onan-Oliver smashed the Dream Maker, thus releasing all Goel’s missing servants. And now the inventor was held captive in the same prison where he had once held all the others (page 163).
Right. Here we go. Goel can see the future. Goel is basically God. Therefore, Goel knew that his helper would be intercepted and the Oliver they met would be an imposter, and yet he sent them anyway, effectively proving that the one thing they should be able to count on – what God told them – isn’t worth a thing. Or, perhaps, Goel knew that Oliver wasn’t real and sent them anyway to see how they’d do – which makes him even more of a manipulative bastard than he already is.
Next. How did the ‘Dark Lord’ fail him? Onan failed the Dark Lord, more like it. And why would that make him smash the Dream Maker? And why would that instantly release everyone who was in it? You mean that Token could have accomplished the exact same thing by putting an axe through the machine? Well, that’s convenient. And now, instead of putting him in prison where he belongs, you stick the inventor into a warm happy dream (in the machine that he just….um…smashed) to live happily ever after until someone lets him out and he can continue trapping people.
Goel tells them that they’ve done well and they were all faithful in the end. Not really. The main argument for leaving the Matrix was that it wasn’t actually real. For three of them, it was because they wanted to sex up people on the other side. Let’s not forget that six out of seven of them blew you off, Goel, and decided to abscond back to Oldworld.
Goel tells them that the last battle is coming soon. And then he takes off. The Sociopaths chat for a bit, and then Josh and Sarah, and then Dave and Abbey, both head off for a walk. And if you needed any more definitive prove, here it is:
There was amusement in Reb’s eyes. “Sure is funny how guys get all interested in girls. Mostly they get their feet tangled up. I’m glad I don’t have that to worry about” (page 165).
Yes. He’s gay. A gay cowboy in Christian literature. I never thought I’d see the day.
Josh and Sarah share a Moment, then Dave and Abbey share a Moment, and that’s it.
I think it’s saying something about a series when a book this pestilent and ridden with plot holes can be considered the best one. The sad thing is that it could have easily been so much better. A simple rewrite or two to straighten out the plot holes surrounding the Dream Machine, to make Goel less of a douchebag, and it would have been far better.
This also could have been an absolutely fascinating book where we learn, in turn, about each of the main character’s deepest desire and as we entered each dream we would have learned a great deal about them. Instead, the dream sequences are by far the most boring parts of the book.
The best parts of this series (again, speaking relatively) come when a single character is by themselves, forced to figure things out by their wits alone (and without Goel giving them detailed instructions). Sadly, this only happens twice: once in the first book, with Josh, and here, with Token. If you can ignore everything that doesn’t make sense, you can almost enjoy the character dynamics for a few pages.
I do think it’s very telling that out of the six of them, Josh is the only one who actually chose to go back and live with his family again. It doesn’t stop him from being a sociopath, but it’s a step in the right direction.
Oh well. We only have one book to go.