Chapter Ten – The Captive
Josh and Sarah walk along trading expository dialogue. I find this odious enough in movies and television shows, but even there, the writers generally make some attempt to conceal it. Here, Josh and Sarah say things that both of them are completely aware of and would never need to say. The only shred of new information that we do learn is that they’ve been trying to convince the chief that slaughtering their enemies is a bad idea, and failing.
We then cut over to Reb, who’s playing with a lasso. He then decides for some reason to lasso the witch doctor for a “hilarious” joke. The witch doctor is angry. He puts a curse on Reb. Reb laughs this off because he doesn’t believe in curses. Jake points out that the witch doctor might just not bother waiting for the curse to come into effect and simply stab Reb in his sleep. He actually has a good point, because I don’t think humiliating the witch doctor in front of the entire tribe is a particularly smart thing to do.
Reb wants to go hunting with Jake. The chief and Lom and a bunch of randoms come along. Jake gets tired, and starts talking about how it’s dangerous, and all it will take is one saber-toothed tiger to kill them all. And Reb gets a thoroughly nonsensical quote:
“You’re the most pessimistic human I ever saw, Jake. Let’s look at the good side of it. Maybe we won’t get et by a tiger. Think about that” (page 95).
I’m not sure which is more ludicrous: that Reb thinks that the possibility of not being violently killed counts as a “good side” — or that he feels the need to specify that Jake’s a human.
Reb has the men drive some wild oxen towards him. He lassoes one of the young adults by the front legs and catches it, then hobbles it, and takes it back to the caves with him. And within thirty minutes the ox is following as gently as a lamb. Not even joking. Everyone wants to eat it but Reb says no, he’s going to use it for something else. And within a week he’s trained it to plow. Everyone but Lom is quite impressed, but this is going to affect the plot not at all.
Later, the Sociopaths gather for one of their meetings. Although this is the first mention of any such meetings taking place. Josh congratulates Reb, and then Dave heads off by himself. Abbey follows him. And she manages to say this in complete seriousness:
“What’s the matter, Dave? Things are working out pretty well – except for the war that might come” (page 98).
I can just imagine what it would be like if Abbey had been the first Sociopath to awake, and what she would tell the others: Everything’s pretty good – except the entire world has been destroyed in a nuclear war, and everyone you knew is dead…oh yeah, and the entire world is ruled by minions of Satan.
Dave heads off to sulk. He comes back when he hears some noise – apparently they’ve captured a guy named Ral, from Mord’s tribe. He’s Mord’s son, as well.
Clag accuses Ral of coming to spy. These primitive cavemen are apparently quite big on spying. But Ral explains that he’s lost. Which I rather doubt – the one thing about people who spend their entire life living in the jungle is…they can find their way through the jungle.
Clag wants to kill him. The witch doctor wants to give him to Greska. Clag agrees. They drag Ral out to a large stone and the witch doctor whips out a sharp rock and prepares to cut Ral’s heart out. The Sociopaths are aghast. And suddenly Eena comes out of nowhere and demands that they stop and not kill Ral. And now we’ve gotten to the point where we’re ripping off Pocahontas.
Everyone starts arguing. For some reason, half the tribe wants to leave Ral alive, which doesn’t really make sense, since Mord’s tribe is more or less their mortal enemies. Finally Dave gets in and says that they should keep Ral as a prisoner, since it won’t do any good to kill him. This is obviously untrue, since the whole reason why they’re doing this is to appease their god. Of course, the witch doctor doesn’t point this out.
Finally Clag decides that they won’t kill Ral. Not yet, at least. He tells Ral that if he runs away, they’ll kill him. And to stay here.
…yeah, that’ll work.
We now switch over to Mord. Morris spends awhile telling us how awesome he is. He’s big. He’s strong. He’s smart. He rules his tribe with an iron fist. Even though these people have no idea what iron is.
A chap called Roni comes in, but let’s just call him Mac. Mac explains how they were chasing game and got too close to Clag’s country and that Ral was captured. Which is a bit different from what Ral said last chapter, but okay. Mord tells him to get the other warriors together, and they’re off to get Ral.
We cut back to Eena, who’s watching Ral, who’s been tied to a tree and is guarded by another warrior. She brings him a chunk of meat and they talk. Amazingly, these two totally separate tribes that hate each other speak the exact same language. Ral asks her why she rescued him. Eena thinks about this and doesn’t have an answer. So in other words, she did it because the plot dictated it. Ral eats the meat she brought him. Romance! Eena sits down and starts asking questions about Ral’s life and it’s all butterflies and unicorns until Mord’s men leap from the foliage and attack.
All of the Sociopaths are down at the river, to keep them from having to make a difficult moral choice about killing any of Mord’s men. They race back just in time to see Mord’s attack successfully beaten off – except Mord has managed to kidnap Eena. Yes. They came to rescue Ral. Eena was sitting right next to Ral. To rescue Ral, you would walk up, deal with the guard, chop the vine in half, and run off. But instead of doing this, Mord’s men chose to walk up, deal with the guard, pick up Eena, and carry her off. Why? Well, because the plot demands it.
Clag is angry. He wants to kill Ral. Dave stops him and says that instead of doing something useless like that, they should have an exchange of prisoners. Clag agrees, but Lom comes in and says that Dave should go and talk to Mord. Dave agrees. He makes Clag promise to let Ral go if he can convince Mord to give back Eena, and walks off into the forest in the direction that Mord’s men left. Which is actually a pretty brave thing to do. And actually would almost be commendable. Except that Dave has headed off without any water, or any food, no idea of where he’s going, and thus, if this book resembled anything close to reality, would either be eaten by a dinosaur, get lost, or die from dehydration long before he found Mord’s tribe.
Chapter Twelve – The Swap
Josh paces nervously. He’s becoming convinced that Dave has made a very big mistake. Well, it’s great that you think that now, unfortunately it’s a bit too late, so unless you intend to do something about it (he doesn’t), you might as well shut up.
Everyone talks about how the first person who sees Dave is liable to bash his brains out with a rock (or, perhaps, cut his heart out). They agree that it was probably quite stupid of them to let him go. And, since Morris is really trying to make us think that all of the Sociopaths are actually useful, he decides to give Abbey the ‘idea’ of sending Ral after Dave. Everyone thinks she’s nuts, because once Mord has Ral back, why would he return Eena? And so they argue and finally Sarah points out the obvious:
“In the first place, how’s Dave ever going to find the village or cave where they live? He’s probably lost right now.”
Josh blinked. “I never thought of that!” he admitted (page 110).
You know that slow, grudging respect that Josh was beginning to earn over the past few chapters? Yeah, it’s all gone.
Abbey goes to talk to Ral. Conveniently, the guard’s gone. This makes me wonder why Ral hasn’t simply untied the vine from his ankle and walked away, since it’s not like his hands are tied or anything. She asks him if he could go talk to his father, would Mord release Eena and let her and Dave come back? Ral shrugs and says he’ll try. Abbey whips out a knife she conveniently carries, cuts Ral free, and gives him the knife. Ral vanishes into the underbrush.
Josh says that they should probably start thinking of how to explain to Clag that Ral got loose. Perhaps the most obvious explanation: the dumbass guard left him alone and he got free. Typically, this doesn’t occur to Josh. He thinks that they should just leave and let Clag and his people worry about it. Reb thinks this is a fantastic idea. However, nothing will ever come of this and it will never be mentioned again.
We cut to Dave, blundering through the jungle, hopelessly lost. Ral appears. Apparently he’s been tracking Dave. He explains why he came.
Dave was stunned. I should have thought of that (page 113).
They next day they arrive at Ral’s home. Mord is pleased to have his son back. Ral explains that he wants them to return Eena. Mord says not likely. Ral argues. Mord does not agree. Ral tells Dave that he’ll keep trying, but he has to stay there.
Later, Dave sits down and tries to explain to Ral about why peace is better than war, why rainbows are better than death, and why unicorns and fluffy bunnies are better than cutting people’s hearts out while they’re still alive. Ral listens and seems to like the idea. Except he’s only the chief’s son. And unlike Eena and Clag, he can’t push his father around.
Chapter Thirteen – It’s Hard to Be Friends
…after you sleep with someone? Yes it is, but I’m guessing Dave doesn’t lose his virginity with Eena here. And we start right off with a stupid quote:
“Somehow Dave had thought he would be welcomed by Chief Mord. After all, he had brought Ral home. It was the way he would have expected civilized people to behave” (page 117).
All together now: Ah, Dave. Remember the whole bit about them being cavemen? And cutting people’s hearts out for their god? What makes you think they’ll be civilized? At all?
We’ve jumped forward in time. Ral has been trying to get Mord to free them. Mord has continually refused. That night Dave and Eena sit together. Dave tells her that he’s been watching the guard and every night about halfway through he goes to sleep. Maybe he’ll do it again. Dave pretends to be asleep but stays awake. The guard falls asleep. He and Eena sneak out of the cave and they book it for home. Yes, it really was that easy. Halfway there, they stop to let Dave rest and have a little exchange:
“They no bad people.”
Dave looked at her with surprise. “They’ll kill us if they catch us!”
“They afraid,” she said. “We afraid. But they no bad people.”
Dave thought about that little insight, but there was little time for thinking. After fifteen minutes he arose…(page 120).
I’m not sure what the greatest part of this quote is: that the leader of the group Goel sent to save all these people has to be convinced that they aren’t really bad people, or that fifteen minutes isn’t long enough to ponder over this really quite simple concept. Ah, Dave.
The next day they get home, safe and sound. Everyone is pleased, including Clag, who glares at the witch doctor for some random and unexplained reason. This is not even remotely important or connected to the plot in any way.
Later the Sociopaths talk. Sarah says they need to teach everyone to trust each other. She doesn’t offer any helpful ideas for how to accomplish this, but it does prompt Token to bring up racism and how black people and white people didn’t always get along in Oldworld.
“Now, me and Reb, we get along fine, but it was hard to learn, wasn’t it, Reb?” (page 122).
Not at all. All it took was a contrived plot angle where you saved his life and immediately you became best friends. Wasn’t even remotely hard.
For some reason, this discussion (which goes nowhere) prompts Dave to wake up the next day filled with determination to…help the people protect themselves from wild animals…by making bows and arrows. He tells Beno to start making arrowheads. Although Beno has been making arrowheads for some time now, to get Clag’s tribe ready to slaughter Mord’s tribe. Remember, Dave?
Everyone spends the next few weeks making bows and arrows and practicing with them. Eena goes to see Beno make arrowheads. She’s very impressed. Beno ogles her. We get the flimsy rationalization – Eena has “somehow gained a little wisdom in these past few weeks”. And yes, that is an exact quote. She tells Beno that he’s good and smart and the most important guy in the tribe, except for her father. Romance!
The Sociopaths talk. Everyone is getting discouraged and they can’t think of anything else to do, because, as they probably are slowly realizing, it’s very difficult to teach a culture how to basically change everything about them, including their way of thinking. This is generally a very slow and laborious process, as evidenced by missionaries going into jungles to convert tribes to Christianity. This tends to take years. At least. The Sociopaths have been here for about a month. And I’m quite certain this is all the time they were expecting to spend.
They sit around and talk about how there’s nothing else they can do. Finally Dave says they’ll stay another week, then head out. And suddenly…Ral leaps out of the forest. He explains that his tribe is under attack. From a pack of twenty velociraptors. Everyone in his tribe is hiding up in trees and in caves, but he decided to come along to his mortal enemies and see if they would help him out.
Clag laughs and says no. Eena says yes. Everyone argues. And…Clag says no.