Chapter Fifteen – On the Wings of Eagles
This chapter opens in Sarah’s POV. She’s watching everyone else disgustedly. Abbey’s sitting on a rock, and Josh and Reb and Jake are gathered around staring at her with rapture in their eyes as they explain everything that has happened. And the Geminis and the Hunter are all watching her as well. And we get the first – but not the last – stupid quote of the chapter:
As Abbey smiled at them, there was an audible gasp from the audience (page 149).
I’ve discovered something very interesting. And that thing is that people don’t really gasp in real life. At all. And guys do not gasp when a girl smiles at them. They may feel something inside them, but they do not gasp. It doesn’t happen.
Sarah is angry about this. Crusoe asks her about it. Sarah points out that the Sanhedrin are rapidly approaching to arrest them and sentence them all to death, and everyone is just sitting around staring at Abbey’s pretty face and dark hair. The dark hair is particularly important, because it’s going to change to blonde later. But when faced with this rather good point about how they should leave, quickly, Crusoe just points out that it’s not Abbey’s fault she’s good-looking. And then Sarah starts bawling and throws herself into Crusoe’s arms. And Crusoe knows just the thing to encourage her:
“Don’t worry, Sarah. Abbey is a beautiful girl, but you have the ornament of a humble, yet proud spirit. That’s what Josh – and the others – see in you.” (page 149)
Right. She’s beautiful, but her spirit is, paradoxically, both humble and proud. I can’t think of a single girl who wouldn’t be encouraged by this.
Sarah asks Crusoe what they’re going to do, since they can’t get away. Crusoe randomly changes the subject to something he’s discovered about the world that nobody wants to hear. And we get a creepy quote:
“I do,” said Sarah, leaning against him (page 150).
There’s just something about thirteen-year-old girls leaning against old men that seems wrong. Maybe I’m alone in thinking this. Who knows? But Crusoe goes on and says that they don’t learn anything through good times, they learn through difficult times. And my mind has been officially blown. That kind of observation can completely change lives.
Finally everyone gathers around the campfire. Reb asks the really obvious question of isn’t a campfire dangerous, since people who want to kill them are following them? Why didn’t Reb bring this up several hours ago when people were building this campfire. But Crusoe says that it doesn’t matter, the Sanhedrin are going to find them anyway. Josh asks what they’ll do then, and Crusoe replies that he doesn’t know. I have a small suggestion: RUN. If you know that someone is following you that outnumbers you and wants to kill you, it might not be a good idea to just sit around and wait for them to arrive when you’re not even in a particularly defensible place.
Crusoe then gets up and gives a long speech to them. It’s full of random quotes that I think are supposed to sound like wisdom but just end up not making sense. But the basic gist of it is that they are the world’s hope and everything rests on them and now the House of Goel must be filled. Or, put simply, they’re Speshul.
Nobody sleeps that night, and about dawn Josh comes over and sits down next to Sarah where she’s waiting for the sunrise. Sarah asks her if he’s brought Her Majesty up to speed. Josh asks if she’s mad at him. Wow, what tipped you off? But Sarah says that she’s just silly, tired, selfish, and moody. I wonder if it’s that time of the month? But instead of talking about it, Josh randomly changes the subject and says that he’s scared to death. And then they have a moment:
“Josh, just in case something happens tomorrow – and I know everything will be fine – but anyway, I want to tell you something. I want you to know how much I like you. I have always liked you, Josh, even in the other world.” (page 152)
And then Josh looks deep into her eyes…and he leans over and kisses her for the first time.
No. Wait. This is a Christian novel. Actually, Josh just stares at her in shock. And then starts protesting about how much of a loser he is. Sarah cuts him off, and says she just wanted to tell him…in case. And then she hurries away.
We then cut to the next day. The Sanhedrin are rapidly approaching, and Josh starts organizing everyone. Grumpy points out that they’re not going to last five minutes. Josh says it’s going to be “their” five minutes, though.
Josh’s rebellious spirit began to infect them all, and soon the company had developed a defense strategy (page 152).
Because A) wanting to stay alive is rebellious, B) that statement was rebellious, and C) a rebellious spirit helps you develop defense strategies.
The Sanhedrin get up until they’re just out of bowshot. And then they surround the Sociopaths, and start firing arrows. They don’t hit anyone, though, so they must have failed Archery 101. Finally Grumpy wounds one of them, and they all pull back for some reason. Time passes, and then the Hunter sees something and talks to Crusoe. Apparently the Sanhedrin are bringing up the heavy equipment – shields, rolling turrets, stuff like that. Because the Sanhedrin bring heavy equipment with them when they’re pursuing people across the desert. My teleportation theory is looking good.
More time passes. A soldier tries to get them to surrender. Josh ignores him. And then suddenly eagles start appearing above them in the sky. With riders on them. And they start shooting arrows down at the Sanhedrin, who scurry off like rabbits. Some soldiers these are. An eagle lands, and Kybus jumps off, and he’s back to being called a gnome now. Kybus explains that his people are called the Birdpeople and they ride on eagles and when he heard what Josh read in his mother’s journal he went off to fetch some Deus ex Machina birds to save them. Nice of him to tell them before he left. And good thing he’d memorized the map and knew where they were going to be. Kybus says that the eagles – which Josh notes are actually more like giant condors, and the narration randomly switches back and forth between calling them eagles and condors – will take them across the desert hundreds of miles to the snowcapped mountains which they can see from where they currently are, where the last Sociopath is. Wow. That’s convenient.
Everyone mounts up, and Reb shouts that he’s been to three county fairs and four snake-stompings, and he’s never seen anything quite like this. Four eagles are carrying lines that run to a harness on Volka, which looks like a corset. I think that would be a bit uncomfortable. And all sorts of really obvious references to swallows carrying a coconut on a line between them come to mind, but I don’t think I should waste Monty Python references on a book like this.
They start flying. Josh looks over at Sarah, who must be at least thirty feet away from him, and with wind rushing in his eyes and the sun blinding him, still manages to see that she has wild joy in her eyes. And Josh feels happy. They’ve escaped. Yay!
I think it’s worth pointing out that we are now two chapters past the finding of the Sixth Sociopath and the only thing we know about her is that her name is Abbey and she’s pretty. Of course, as it turns out, she’s a spoiled, selfish, sociopathic whore, so we’re probably not missing anything.
Chapter Sixteen – The Seventh Sleeper
Thus far in this series, we’ve seen incredible amounts of clichés, bad ideas, poor writing, and zero character development, but we haven’t seen a great deal of plagiarism. Sure, there are the names lifted directly from Tolkien, and little concepts here and there which were almost certainly brought on or inspired from reading Lord of the Rings and the Chronicles of Narnia, but for the most part there hasn’t been any out-in-the-open, in-your-face plagiarism. But that’s about to change:
Here’s Morris’ description of the ride on the eagles:
What a trip that was! Imagine sitting astride a horse, but with no hard hoofs jolting you at each step. Instead, there is only the smooth beat of mighty wings that drive you through the thin air. The flight is so smooth that you hear only the wind blowing across your face! (page 157)
And here’s C.S. Lewis’ description of the ride on Aslan:
Have you ever had a gallop on a horse? Think of that; and then take away the heavy noise of the hoofs and the jingle of the bit and imagine instead of the almost noiseless padding of the great paws…and the mane flying back in the wind (page 186).
I suppose we ought to thank Morris, for if there were any residual doubt that he is a complete hack, it’s been eliminated. He goes on to describe (still addressing the reader directly with the word “you”, which is extremely jarring since it’s only been used…once, I think, in this book) the earth falling away into geometric patterns. As I recall, most geometric patterns that you see from the sky – as in out a plane window – are man-made, created by roads, fields of crops, and things like that. They’re flying over a desert, and nearly everything that used to exist has been wiped out in a nuclear holocaust, and the countryside seems reasonably empty, save the teleporting Sanhedrin. There’s been no mention of fields of crops, and roads are scarce.
It raises several questions. First, it seems obvious that the stone buildings must have been built there before the nuclear war – because any nuclear explosions big enough to cause the kind of upheaval and destruction to create a spire like this would also be large enough to completely destroy the coffin and the Sociopath inside. If that is the case, then why would the U.S. government put a capsule all the way out in the middle of the desert, much less on the top of a giant spire that would almost certainly be destroyed in the ensuing nuclear war? Furthermore, how did they get the Sociopath all the way out there in the very little time they had? And finally, why oh why did Morris not ask a single one of these questions to himself? I’ve pretty much given up hope that he had a fact checker, proof-reader, or editor go over this series.
But they land. And Kybus says that the birds are going back, and the birds all leave. What? Leaving them stranded, hundreds of miles from anywhere, with no food and water? Why not simply grab the last Sociopath, wake him up, hop back on the birds, and fly somewhere to regroup and plan out a strategy to rescue Dave and get on with filling Goel’s House? And since the birds are going back to Kybus’ land, why doesn’t Kybus leave with them?
Crusoe says that they’ll be safe for awhile, but Elmas will show up sooner or later. Sarah wonders how they’ll know where they are, and Crusoe says that Dave will tell them. Because Dave, like everyone else, carries a perfect replica of the map in his head and will be able to tell the Sanhedrin precisely where they are. Sarah angsts for a moment about how she can’t believe that Dave would allow himself to be tricked by a magician who’s controlling his mind. And Crusoe jumps in with another truly idiotic quote designed to look like wisdom.
“…there is only one defense against the sin of pride – the shield of humility” (page 158).
So basically – the only way to keep yourself from being prideful is by being humble? Morris is really stretching to fit in the Canned Morals now.
They all talk for a bit about how this last Sociopath is going to be the great leader who will pull them all together and unite them to fill Goel’s house and bring peace, justice, and happiness to the land. Which we already know isn’t going to happen, because Josh is our Reluctant Leader. And then everyone heads inside to find the last Sociopath. The building is cracked and ruined, but high up on one wall is a carved sentence: You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free (page 159). They find a door, read the song, head inside, and gather around the coffin. Josh hits the button, and everyone holds their breath.
The kid inside is only twelve, the youngest. He’s small. He’s skinny. He’s male. And – most importantly – he’s black. It’s painfully obvious that he was only included to ward off any possible accusations of racism on Morris’ part, so even though his name is Gregory Randolf Washington Jones, and even though people call him Wash, he shall be known henceforth as Token.
Josh immediately notes that Reb is glaring. See, he’s a racist. Because he’s from the South. Token immediately notes that Reb is glaring at him and mutters something about the new world being as racist as the old one. Sarah introduces everyone, and Crusoe gives an inspiring message about Goel’s House being for everyone. But everyone is immediately plunged into deep depression. They’ve finally found the last Sociopath and nothing is changed and they don’t know what to do and he wasn’t the great leader they were expecting or anything special at all. Which he isn’t – Token is just as boring and sociopathic and two-dimensional as everyone else – and, like everyone else, he doesn’t bat an eye at the deaths of his family and everyone he ever knew. He doesn’t even ask about them.
Everyone heads upstairs. And Josh begins to angst about how it was all pointless and everyone has lied to him – even his own father, who promised to be near him! And he starts to cry, and we get stupid quote goodness:
Josh knew that this had been in him for a long time – his bitterness at being forsaken in a strange world by his father (page 162).
That we have never had mention of this notwithstanding – his father put him in a safe capsule and went off to face the nuclear holocaust with everyone else, so the fact that Josh is mad about this is incredibly shallow of him. But Crusoe questions him, and Josh looks at him – and suddenly the voice and the eyes sound familiar. And then Josh suddenly realizes that Crusoe is his dad. There’s a tearful reunion and Josh asks why Crusoe didn’t tell him.
“I didn’t expect you to know me, Josh. The explosion changed me so much that not even your mother would have known me.” (page 163)
Oh, come on!
First: Nuclear explosions do not change people, they kill them. Either you’re exposed to lethal doses of radiation or you’re not. This is common knowledge, even in the 1990s when this was written. Second: This is Josh’s father we’re talking about here. Facial scarring and bodily injuries or not, if Josh can recognize his father’s voice and eyes now, he could have recognized them in the past few months they’ve been together virtually 24 hours a day. And finally, that has to be the most unconvincing rationale for withholding information that I’ve ever read. He was afraid that Josh wouldn’t be able to accept that he was old, crippled, and ugly? So he decided to tell his son that he was dead, because being alone in an entirely new world would be easier to deal with?
And then Crusoe flinches, in sudden pain. Because now that they’ve had a tearful reunion, it’s time for the tearful farewell. He tells Josh he’s proud of him and to follow Goel and things of that nature, and then he dies, and the chapter ends with yet another stupid quote:
The old man’s eyes closed, and Josh knew he was really alone on the earth (page 163).
…except for all your friends, like Sarah, and Reb, right Josh? Or do they not count?