Chapter Four – A Fellow Needs a Lift!
The search for the missing people is going nowhere. Mostly because no one seems to be trying very hard.
The most profitable – or at least the most pleasant – times of Josh’s life came during those hours that he spent with Oliver. He had gotten very close to the older man (page 37).
Wink wink nudge nudge say no more say no more, eh squire?
Oliver has led an exciting life and tells Josh stories and then he cooks Josh dinner [!], and then, inevitably, they start taking their clothes off – I mean, Josh asks to use the Plot Device.
It turns out that more than a few things have survived the nuclear war that destroyed all traces of the modern world and set everyone back to a time of swords and shields. Oliver has copies of every book, movie, and historical event programmed into his Plot Device that he can call up with a couple flicks of a switch. Or, if you want something new, he can simply create it for you. Convenient, no?
This goes on for several weeks. One day Josh asks Oliver if he thinks the Plot Device is dangerous. Oliver says of course not, it’s just an entertainment device that helps you relax and he would never do anything to endanger them. Plus, Goel sent him, so you know he can be trusted. Oliver tells Josh that he was high-strung and walking a knife-edge with insanity on either side, and now he’s calm, relaxed, and at peace with himself. But what about the rest of the Sociopaths? They’re probably about to snap themselves. He should send them by one at a time to get a healthy dose of the Plot Device. Josh agrees.
Later, he talks with Sarah, after she’s experienced it twice. She says it’s weird but pretty awesome nevertheless. She mentions that everyone seems to like it except for Token. Curious, Josh heads off to Token’s pad and gives the secret knock on his door. Token invites him in and they sit down and eat cake. Josh asks Token why he doesn’t like the Plot Device. Token dithers for a bit and says it’s not really for him, and then says that when he was a kid he got a trumpet and became addicted to playing it and that was all he did for two years, flunking his classes, not making friends, and doubtlessly infuriating his family and neighbors. And then he did the same thing with baseball cards and comic books. Token has an addictive personality, and he’s afraid that like everything else, he’ll get hooked on the Plot Device and not want to do anything else.
All in all, it’s a surprisingly good, mature, and logical reason why someone would want to avoid the Plot Device. I can actually completely understand Token’s reasoning. I too have an addictive personality, and it’s the main reason why I refuse to play video games. If I did, I’d get addicted to them, and I don’t want to invest that time and money into something when I could better spend it elsewhere. That being said, I’d have a hard time resisting the Plot Device. Entering the world of Lord of the Rings – or getting a chance to enter Alagaesia and kick Eragon in the fork of the legs.
Josh, of course, can’t understand what Token’s talking about. He tells Token he needs some R & R, and then explains to the reader what that stands for. Token says he guesses Josh is right. Josh says that he’ll keep an eye on Token and Token can keep an eye on him and if they see the other person getting hooked, they can whack them with a stick.
The next day Token talks to Reb. Reb, of course, went and visited King Arthur’s court and has been having the time of his life and can’t understand why Token doesn’t enjoy it. Token explains all of his reasons and Reb says he understands, but moderation is the key. Making sure you can quit at any time.
Token goes to bed that night and decides that since he’s the only one who thinks differently, he must be wrong.
I guess you can’t just quit anytime.
Token and Reb walk along. Token thought he found a lead on one of the missing people but it came to nothing. We never learn anything more about this. In fact, the ‘missing people’ aren’t even particularly relevant to this book. You could omit them entirely and it wouldn’t make much of a difference.
Token notices that Reb seems distracted and isn’t thinking clearly [!]. Of course this doesn’t set off any red flags. Reb mentions that he’s going over to Oliver’s to participate in the gunfight at the OK Corral. Reb says that Token should come along – see, two people can enter the same dream, using twin headsets. (Plot Point!) Token says he doesn’t like gunfights. We learn that he actually hasn’t been in to use the Plot Device yet. But he’s thinking about going in to Huckleberry Finn.
We cut over to Reb at Oliver’s. He gets hooked up to the machine and thinks:
Secretly he wished he could stay in the Dream Maker chair all the time and dream, but he was afraid to say so (page 48).
Sounds like an addiction to me!
Reb lands in the OK Corral. Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp blow some smoke up his ass and then the gun battle starts. We cut forward to Reb waking up. He asks Oliver to go back right away. Oliver, of course, agrees.
We cut over to Dave, who’s driving in the Indy 500. Winning, of course. We cut forward to him waking up and Oliver asking him who won. Dave is disappointed because the race wasn’t over. He begs Oliver to send him back. Oliver, of course, agrees. You know, I’m beginning to wonder about that guy.
We cut forward to Abbey. Abbey, as you may recall, underwent a transformation a few books ago where she learned that looks don’t really matter and it’s what’s inside that counts. Since then, she’s been regressing, even opting to put on makeup while hiking through a jungle. So it’s no real surprise that she’s dreaming about being a runway model. After she wakes up, this time it’s Oliver who suggests she goes back. Hmmm. Could this guy possibly be a bit sketchy?
We cut forward to Jake, who’s making clever suggestions to Thomas Edison. After he wakes up he wants to go assist Alexander Graham Bell with inventing the telephone. Oliver says he deserves it, because he’s been working so hard. Yeah, maybe Oliver’s not the greatest of guys. Then again, Goel sent him, which must mean he’s on the side of good.
We cut forward to Sarah, who’s being a nurse for Florence Nightingale on a battlefield. Which is all fine and dandy, but if you’re entering this thing for relaxation, why would you choose to spend time on a battlefield where men are laying with their entrails hanging out, spurting gallons of blood and screaming for death?
Finally we cut to Token, who comes in. Oliver talks him into using the Plot Device and asks where he’d like to go. Token, of course, doesn’t really want to hang out with Huck Finn and Jim, so he goes to see Louis Armstrong. They play and then Louis Armstrong asks Token to join in. It’s magical. The music carries him away…
Chapter Six – The Real Thing
Josh is piloting a bomber in World War II. It, like nearly all of these “dreams”, are not particularly interesting, nor do they reveal anything new about the characters.
After he wakes up, he talks to Oliver, who’s ecstatic. The big thing that he was working – it seems that he’s finally found the answer. Oh yes – and it’s big.
“You remember I told you that I was working on something – something really big? […] Josh, this is so big – it’s bigger than I even dreamed it would be! […] It’s something really big, though, Josh! The biggest thing I ever dreamed of…[…] I’m going to try and tell you about it, but I warn you – you’ve got to think big.” (pages 11-12)
Got that? It’s big, folks.
Oliver begins explaining about parallel universes. He tells Josh that he can’t give any scientific explanations, because it would be too difficult to explain, not to mention for Morris to write. Come on, people. He writes about 15 books a year! That’s a novel every 3 ½ weeks!
Anyway. Oliver explains that he was using the Plot Device and stumbled into a universe where Bill Clinton had lost the election to George Bush – even though nearly everything else had remained the same. Oliver explains that if they wanted, they could go into this parallel universe and live there. Because there, there wasn’t a nuclear war. They can return to their homes and live with their parents and everything will be peachy. Which I doubt. After all, in this parallel universe, there’s another version of Josh, right? Two years younger, right? How are they going to get around that, bump him off?
Oliver explains that it’s nearly impossible to get back, though. You really have to make a choice to either stay in Nuworld or live in the parallel universe.
Josh is hesitant. What about the rest of the Sociopaths? Oliver explains that they can go back as well, and once they’re all in the parallel universe, he can just drive down to Arkansas and see Reb. Josh is still hesitant. What about Goel? Oliver says that if Goel wants to be there, he will be. Josh says he has to talk it over with the rest.
We cut to Josh and Sarah and Token talking. Token asks about the upcoming battle for humanity. Josh explains that once they’re in the parallel universe, that will be real, and Nuworld will be a dream. No, actually, Josh, they’ll both be real, and everyone in Nuworld will be screwed because you bailed on them. (This is operating under Morris’ assumption that Nuworld’s fate rests in their inexperienced hands. In real life, if the Sociopaths left it would probably improve everyone’s chances tenfold).
Josh says that the Dark Lord has around a hundred million troops [!] and they barely have fifty thousand. He says that Goel can find somebody else to do his dirty work, he wants to go home. He tells Sarah and Token to inform the others, and they’ll all meet up and decide together.
Sarah and Token talk. Token says that he doesn’t think Josh is himself and talks about drug users just kept getting doped up until finally it was easier to stay doped up than live in the real world. And it just occurred to me that Morris probably wrote this book as a warning for kids to stay off drugs.
Token then talks about his friend who got hooked on the internet. Back in 1997. So maybe Morris wrote this to rail against pretty much everything except the Bible and good clean Christian living. Regardless, Token has already decided that he’s staying in Nuworld. I’m not sure what his reasoning for this is. If you’re making the decision to do something for the rest of your life, there’s not really any chance of getting addicted. You could argue that you’re betraying Goel and leaving all this behind, but Token never makes this argument.
Sarah thinks about things. She realizes that Token has a point, but she also realizes that she has the hots for Josh, and if he goes back, then she has to go back as well.
We cut over to Josh. He talks to Oliver about the difficulty he’s having with the decision. Oliver doesn’t attempt to persuade him. He tells Josh it’s his decision to make, and then says that if he wants, Josh can go back to Oldworld for a visit in the Plot Device and maybe make his decision. Oh, you manipulative bastard. But Josh agrees. And wouldn’t you know it, Oliver just happens to have an exact recreation of Josh’s neighborhood, house, collie, and his parents. That’s not convenient at all.
Josh, of course, takes a quick look around and makes his decision.
I’m beginning to suspect that Oliver may not have their best interests at heart.