Part Three

Chapter Three – The Squire

sevensleepersChapter three opens up opposite a black-and-white illustration. It shows a young boy (ostensibly Josh) shooting a bow and arrow, with a hideous man crouching behind him (ostensibly Crusoe). Unfortunately Crusoe is giving off intense Gollum vibes, and he looks remarkably similar to a drawing that was done by John Howe. It’s heartwarming to know that there are hints of plagiarism even in the stuff that wasn’t done by Morris.

At any rate, Josh basically sits around for the next few days, eating and sleeping, and while he’s awake, he listens to his father’s tapes. Sometimes his dad’s voice makes him feel sad, sometimes he feels comforted. He also reads his mother’s journal, which comforts him. Typically, Morris skips completely over an area that would allow character development, and show Josh slowly coming to terms with being alone. On the rare occasion, Morris mentions that Josh feels sad, but he never shows us. There isn’t the slightest bit of empathy.

There’s also a bit about how the journal is underlined on every page and has lots of notes written in it. Which, considering that a journal is usually handwritten anyway, is odd to point out. Why did his mother go back and underline portions of her own journal? Why would she add notes? And will this ever become relevant to the plot? I’m guessing not.

He also finds a map in the case with numbers running along the top and side, which is the map that’s at the beginning of the book. Grumpy tells him that the map is from Oldtime, which should mean that it’s from before the nuclear war – and a quick glance at the map shows that it’s obviously not from before the war, which means that either Grumpy is an idiot or the person who drew the map wasn’t thinking, which actually means it fits in rather nicely with the rest of the book. Grumpy’s explanation for the numbers are that they represent latitude and longitude, proving that he knows nothing about either of them. And since latitude and longitude are never mentioned again in the series, and there is a noticeable lack of technology, how does he even know about latitude and longitude?

Grumpy asks where he got the map, Josh says his father gave it to him. Interesting, because Josh’s father never mentioned the map when he put his son in the coffin. Grumpy wonders if it shows where the other sleepers are, and Josh thinks the same thing.

Later, Happy comes by while Josh is listening to the second song on the tape:

Far from the ocean tides – yet the sleeper lies
Where even sunlight seems to fail, in the belly of the whale (page 34)

Josh admits that he doesn’t know what it means. I think it means that Josh is unnaturally dense. His parents have admitted to working on a top-secret government program that would put kids to sleep in coffins deep beneath the surface of the ground. His dad recorded a bunch of songs which blatantly refer to “sleepers” and a lack of sunlight. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to realize that these things are probably related.

At any rate, Josh gives Happy a copy of the poems on a piece of paper, and continues trying to figure out how to find the other Sleepers. Finally he goes to find Crusoe, but can’t find anyone else in the silo. He notices that the door appears to be unused and heavily locked, but opts to go through it anyway.

Outside he finds nothing he recognizes – no highway, which apparently was located mere yards away from a top-secret government facility. You’d think that big secrets like this would be located away from the public eye, maybe inside a giant empty area with a big barbed-wire fence around it and posted signs keeping people out, especially if this used to be a missile silo. But no, a public highway apparently ran right past it.

He sees some ugly trees and rocks and nothing else. He doesn’t start shouting, happily, because he remembers that Grumpy told him there were dangerous people, and yet he still walks for three hundred feet before finally turning around. But then, out from behind a large rock, comes a giant. It’s ten feet tall, ugly, and evil-looking. Josh tries to run, but the giant grabs him and carries him off, covering his face with its hand.

After a bit they stop and Josh sees that they’re inside a cave. He freaks out a little, and recalls reading about cave trolls and other monsters, but knows that that knowledge isn’t going to do him any good. And then, just when it seemed that we would lose probably the sorriest hero to ever grace the written page, he hears Crusoe’s voice. The giant puts him down and he runs crying to Crusoe. Crusoe, naturally, laughs, and the giant joins in. Josh, typically, gets angry, and starts yelling at Crusoe and tells him that if it’s a joke, it’s not very funny. Crusoe asks him why he left the shelter, didn’t he know it was dangerous? I want to reach into this world and beat some sense into these people. If it’s dangerous then why the hell didn’t you tell him not to go outside over the past two days, you idiot?!

The giant introduces himself as Volka, and we get another bit of idiotic description:

“Though his body resembled a slab from the Grand Canyon, his face was more like that of a huge toy bear.” (page 37)

So his body looks like a chunk of rock, and his face looks like a teddy bear. You can’t make this stuff up.

Volka explains that a priest of the Sanhedrin was coming directly towards Josh. Josh doesn’t understand why that would be dangerous. It’s not actually explained until much later, but I’ll sum up the basic idea here. Basically, the Sanhedrin were the high council of the Jews way back when. More importantly, they were responsible for KILLING JESUS. And since this book is Christian literature, that means that they are bad. Never mind that there might be a perfectly good reason for the survivors in a post-apocalyptic world to name their government after an ancient Jewish council, the fact that they’re named after the people who killed Jesus means that they are Bad.

One might wonder what a priest is doing wandering around in what is obviously the middle of nowhere, and why they haven’t adequately investigated the silo. But then, one wonders at a lot of things.

Crusoe tells Josh that it’s time for his education to begin. And I can only say, thank God.

They go inside the silo through the hidden back entrance, with Volka, and into what appears to be an old classroom. Wow, this research lab/missile silo has everything. Crusoe says that there are decisions to make. Grumpy immediately says that he’s against whatever Josh wants. Happy says he’s for it. Har har har, aren’t they funny?

Crusoe explains that he’s heard about the Seven Sleepers for years, and now one of them has awakened. And Josh has heard something that means the others must be awakened. (?) And so, the Quest (yes, it’s capitalized and everything) rests on him. Who’d’ve thought?

Josh says that he didn’t even make the football team, so how can he do this? Because only football players can go on Quests. Crusoe responds that he thinks he’s been chosen…by Someone. And then he tells Josh that there is some good news – he’ll go with him. That’s great Crusoe, because you’re doing a bang-up job so far.

Happy immediately says he’ll go, as does Volka, and Grumpy says that he has to go, if Happy does. They all look at Josh, and it’s time for some side-by-side comparison:

“I’ll go – but how will we find the way?”
– Josh Adams, Flight of the Eagles, pg. 38

“I will take the Ring, though I do not know the way.”
– Frodo Baggins, The Fellowship of the Ring, pg. 264

Crusoe says that there’s no worries, because when the time is Right, they’ll be Directed. And in the meantime, he has plenty of things to teach Josh. Because Josh doesn’t even know the language. Josh is surprised everyone doesn’t speak English – since, after all, before the nuclear war, everyone knew English. Although, seeing as how everyone he’s met so far in Nuworld is fluent in English, this is perhaps forgivable. Crusoe explains that the common language is based on English, so it’ll be easy. And Volka mentions that he’s going to have to learn how to defend himself. Josh says that he knows how to shoot a rifle, and they all laugh at him. Happy reaches behind a counter and pulls out a bow and arrows – just what I always leave conveniently around in my classrooms. Josh asks why they can’t use a rifle.

“Because there are none,” Crusoe answered. “After the Terror, most modern weapons were destroyed. The new rulers made it illegal to have any modern weapons or to make any. I think they believe that rebellions are less likely if weapons are crude.” (page 39)

Two words: Bull. Shit.

If anything can be said about powerful and obviously Evil governments that are doing their best to impose their will on everyone else, it is that they would never, ever limit their own power. Banning anyone except for their own agents from owning guns – yes, absolutely. Preventing even their own priests from carrying guns, if guns were available? Not a chance.

It’s also worth noting that there doesn’t seem to be different governments in Nuworld. There’s the Sanhedrin, and they rule pretty much everywhere. And they’re all Evil.

Morris’ reasoning is pretty clear here: it’s a fantasy, he wants it to be bows and arrows and swords, because that’s what fantasies have. And this was the best reason he could come up with. Why he didn’t just say that they lost all of the technology during the war, I don’t know. Oh right – he’s an idiot.

Crusoe pulls out a sword and explains that Grumpy will teach Josh how to fight, and that Grumpy’s one of the best swordsmen in the world. Wow. That’s convenient. They all run through a list of everything else Josh needs to learn, like riding a horse, hunting, dressing game, reading a map, and how to act a part. Because the Sanhedrin can never find out who Josh is. The Sanhedrin are the courts, army, and the law, and everything else. And they know that soon there’ll be an Uprising (yes, it’s capitalized) and their evil ways will be brought to an end. And if the Sanhedrin figures out that Josh is a sleeper, they’ll all get hung. Or worse.

Josh asks when they’ll start, and Crusoe responds by saying “Right now”. We then segue into the literary equivalent of a training montage: lots of summary. Grumpy beats the crap out of Josh with the flat of his sword-blade, which appears to be a fantastic teaching method. And here we have our pointless quote of the day:

“During these sessions, Josh learned one lesson he would later treasure – to fight back with fiery determination, no matter how great the pain.” (page 41)

Will this “lesson” ever become important or affect Josh’s personality? Short answer? No. Long answer? Still ‘No’.

Happy teaches him to shoot, and Josh quickly starts hitting the center of the target every time. Stu much?

Volka also teaches him how to saddle up his horse, which Josh apparently now has, although I’m not sure where this horse lives. I wonder why they have a ten-foot tall giant teaching Josh how to manipulate small buckles and straps.

At night, Josh stays up and listens to Crusoe talk about the customs in Nuworld. And then suddenly he is a realization! He’s fencing, shooting, riding, and hunting! He’s a squire! He doesn’t have a knight, but what does that matter?

Crusoe says it’s good for Josh to see himself like that, and then we have yet another brilliantly stupid quote (this chapter is a veritable goldmine):

Josh smiled shyly, then shared his deepest secret with the old man. “I always loved stories about knights.”

I don’t remember what my deepest secret was when I was fourteen, but I can guarantee that it wasn’t that I liked stories about knights. Come to think of it, I have no idea why anyone would be ashamed of that fact.

Crusoe points out that he isn’t a knight yet, and besides, there’s more to being a knight than slaying dragons. Because, y’know, Josh killed a dragon. And here comes another stupid quote:

“Knights did a lot of things, but they really had only one purpose. That was to destroy evil and find good.” (page 42)

Yeah. There was also killing people for your lord, fighting wars for less than honorable reasons, and if you wanted to rape a peasant girl, go right ahead, no one is going to care.

Crusoe tells him he needs to think and act like a knight, and this inspires Josh so much that the next day Josh attacks Grumpy during their fencing session so hard that Grumpy loses his sword. Yeah. One of the best swordsmen in Nuworld loses a fencing match to a 14-year-old kid after teaching the kid for ONE MONTH.

Josh lowers his sword and says dramatically “It’s time to begin.” Grumpy points out that it was just luck – which Josh agrees to – but Josh goes on to say that they can’t wait forever. Because, y’know, it’s been an entire month. That’s a long time.

They meet that night in the council room – this missile silo is just full of rooms – and continue to have the same tired argument about how no one knows where the Sleepers are. Josh points out that they have the songs. Which he doesn’t understand. Fortunately, Happy has figured out that each song is split into two parts, and by counting the syllables in each part, he has a set of two numbers for each song, which he’s written down. But he has no idea what they mean. Could it have something to do with the map, the one with all the numbers along the top and side? Of course, none of them think of this. They sit around for three hours trying to figure out what the numbers mean, and finally give up and sit around angrily. And then….Grumpy figures it out. He takes the first song and the 8-14 coordinates, traces along from each line, where they intersect – bam, that’s where they are. See, the first song was referring to Josh, and the poem is cleverly referring to the fact that they’re inside an “empty sheath”, or an empty missile silo.

They then figure out where the “next” Sleeper is. Another bit of idiocy: they go around waking up each Sleeper in order – as in, the order that the songs are on the tape…instead of figuring out where ALL the Sleepers are and then figuring out the best path to take to wake all of them up while traveling the least distance. Instead (based on the helpful map at the beginning of the book) they travel right past Sleeper #6 on their way from #3 to #4, effectively adding hundreds of miles to their journey. Smart thinking, that.

But everyone except Josh freaks out when they realize that the Second Sleepers is located right in the middle of the Forbidden Land. GASP! And on that note, the chapter ends.


  4 Responses to “Part Three”

  1. Volka

    Is this name going to crop up often? I have the strangest craving for Vodka right now.

  2. This brings up another hole in the government’s sleeper plan: why weren’t the sleepers told where to find each other? If they were supposed to get together, rebuild human society, and reproduce, well, they can’t really do that if they don’t know where the other ones are.

  3. “Typically, Morris skips completely over an area that would allow character development, and show Josh slowly coming to terms with being alone.” That would have been interesting to read. Such waste…

    Goodness, all the inconsistencies are literally sickening.

    Josh: “I won’t shout in case there’s dangerous people around… but I’ll walk three hundred feet into a world I don’t know, where the dangerous people could be.” Goodness…

    When imagining Volka, I’m literally imagining a concrete block with a Teddy bear head on top of it. Also, strange how Volka was first evil-looking, and suddenly his head looks cute.

    Josh going to the outside world and meeting some dangers could have taken place right after he woke up, before he met anyone. In fact, their meeting could have consisted of Crusoe, Volka, Happy and Grumpy saving Josh from evil priests.

    Also, just being told that the Sanhedrin are evil doesn’t cut it. Josh witnessing some evil acts, such as priests selling people as slaves, burning a village, taking people’s homes away or something like that would have been far more interesting. Show, don’t tell.

    The explanation/excuse of why there aren’t any guns left is laughable at best. It’d be far more convincing to say that most were destroyed in the nuclear war, and that the few remaining ones, after ammunition became scarce over the following decades, were eventually replaced by weapons with ammunition easier to make, such as bows and arrows. Makes me wonder if Morris was pro-guns / anti-gun control, and tried to portray the Sanhedrin destroying all guns as an evil act…

    Wow. How convenient and fortunate that Grumpy is one of the best swordsmen in the entire world and he’s willing to teach Josh. Sigh. Crusoe just saying that Grumpy is experienced and can teach Josh would have been more believable. It’d also make his losing to Josh after one month of training less of a stretch.

    Morris trying to whitewash knights is both kind of cute and silly. It’s a story addressed to kids, I suppose he can’t go into detail about how nasty real knights could be.

    I suppose that Morris or whoever drew that map did it after the story was finished, that would explain why Josh and pals try to wake the other sleepers in order, instead of reaching them as they geographically approach them. It could have been solved simply by having each sleeper location contain a clue to the next sleeper, with Josh and pals eventually realizing that they had walked by a sleeper and didn’t know it.

    Thanks for these sporkings, they’re actually a good exercise in consistent writing.

  4. Instead of Josh receiving his training in a safe and comfortable environment, things could have been far more interesting if he and his mentors had to be constantly on the run from their enemies, Josh’s training taking place in the few moments they had to rest. Then, after he’s just learned the basics, events could separate Josh from his mentors, forcing him to learn things on his own, many times the hard way.

    Laughable that the notes and underlined sections in the journal never become relevant. Morris very likely planned very little of his story, or added plot points on a whim and then forgot all about them.

    Maybe Josh’s parents had a vision of how the world would look like when their son woke up, and drew the map in advance? …Meh, as if the author would bother justifying/explaining plot holes like that.

    “Grumpy wonders if it shows where the other sleepers are.” Grumpy already believes in the 7S? Wasn’t he a non-believer literally just a chapter ago? Skipping character development seems to be one of Morris’ specialties.

    Josh exploring the new world alone could have taken place before he met any of his mentors. Waking up alone, seeing the broken world and then being scooped up by Volka to be taken to meet Crusoe could have been a more memorable introduction to Nuworld than just receiving exposition in a safe bunker.

    Also, thanks to Morris’ description of Volka, I honestly picture him as a concrete block or as a square stone with a teddy bear head glued on top of it.

    Morris absolutely loves breaking the Show Don’t Tell rule, right? Instead of just telling us that the Sanhedrin are evil, while outside Josh could have witnessed some of them committing evil deeds, such as burning down a village or something. Or he could have had Josh be found and threatened by the priest that according to Volka was about to find him.

    Also, I can’t help but perceive some antisemitism in naming the bad guys after an ancient Hebrew tribunal… Even if it’s the one that according to tradition conspired against Jesus.

    Nice observation there, comparing Josh and Frodo’s lines.

    We later learn that the bad guys can use magic, which slightly justifies them destroying all firearms. As far as I know, one of the reasons guns became commonplace is that they’re easier to learn to use than swords and bows, allowing soldiers to be trained in a shorter timeframe. We can assume something similar with magic in this franchise, it must be harder to learn than learning to handle a firearm, so making sure there are no guns sounds a bit plausible for an evil government that can use magic.

    … But yes, keeping some guns for themselves would have made sense. An alternate explanation could have been Happy simply stating that most firearms were destroyed during and shortly after the nuclear war… and that any facilities, supplies, equipment and personnel that could produce them were claimed/hired by the bad guys, who enchant their own weapons so only they can use them, justifying why Josh and friends have to rely on medieval weaponry. It could be interesting to see them fighting and defeating people with more technologically advanced weapons… But that’d require skill to write and making it sound believable.

    Also, I wonder if Morris was Anti Gun Control, and saw the idea of taking away firearms as something only an evil government would do.

    Grumpy being a dwarf means he must have a fighting style designed to fight opponents larger than himself, since dwarves like him and Happy are uncommon, and most Sanhedrin mooks seem to be normal humans. Unless Josh is going to fight giants, physical fighting techniques that Grumpy teaches him may not be very useful to help him fight back other human opponents. And Josh having one of the best swordsmen in the world as a mentor already, shortly after waking up, isn’t just silly, it’s practically a Deus Ex Machina.

    What could be worse that getting hung, AKA killed? Brought back to life as a zombie slave? If Crusoe had said “they’ll all get locked up or worse”, it’d have sounded better.

    “Will this “lesson” ever become important or affect Josh’s personality? Short answer? No. Long answer? Still ‘No’.” Heh. Nice one.

    Maybe Volka rides giant horses?

    Well, it’s a tale aimed mainly at kids, we can excuse Morris romanticizing knights.

    Josh’s “It’s time to begin” seems to me like another example of Morris trying to use cool-sounding dialogue he’s read/heard somewhere… But he doesn’t know how to use it.

    Awakening each Sleeper in order, skipping some of them on the road, could have been justified by Josh and allies getting a single clue to the next one only whenever they found each Sleeper.

    Holy heck, just three chapters and so many flaws already. This book makes the worst fanfiction look like Shakespeare.