Chapter Ten – Monsters of the Deep
Val explains that it will be too difficult to dodge all of the outposts and so they’ll have to detour around Hook Reef. If the map is correct, then Val is talking out of his ass.
Val explains that on the south side of Hook Reef is the Sea of Rays. Giant stingrays. Fifteen feet across from wing tip to wing tip. And the stingers will pretty much kill you. He asks if they’re sure they don’t want to go back. Josh says no, they have to go on. And so on they go. Reb and Token exchange some rather awkward dialogue that doesn’t sound like anything a real person would ever say.
After a bit they reach the Sea of Rays. And…
They gathered in a group to have more firepower.
“This is kinda like pulling the wagons around in circles, ain’t it?” Reb said. “That’s the way the did it out West.” (page 89)
No, Reb. It’s not like pulling the wagons around in circles. See, the wagons present some sort of barrier to keep you from getting shot by the Indians running around the outside, while everyone gathered together means that they’ll probably get in each others way while they’re trying to fight off an attack.
They go on. After a bit they see a bunch of rays. They hold still, hoping the rays will pass, but instead the rays decide to attack.
Wikipedia’s a great source. I discovered that the largest stingrays grow to be about six feet wide, so these stingrays are two and a half times as large. Obviously they’ve been mutated by the nuclear war, which would explain why they’re attacking a group of EIGHT PEOPLE on EIGHT SHARKS instead of fleeing in the opposite direction like any other stingray would upon encountering humans.
Valar tells them to fire in volleys and they do. They kill a few rays with their compressed-air-exploding-point spears, but there are too many of them, and one of them manages to stab Reb in the leg. Instantly Reb’s eyes roll up in his head and he falls off his sea beast. And for some reason, the rest of the stingrays are discouraged and decided to take off. Josh and Val tie Reb to his saddle and they head off to a cave on the side of the island that Valar knows about.
The cave is used as a resting spot for people who get lost. Although if you got lost I wonder how you’d find this cave, and if you found the cave, you wouldn’t be lost. It’s also used if there’s a tidal wave. I have no idea what this means. It’s also used if people get trapped in enemy territory. Which, since this entire area was ruled by Atlantis until the rebellion, means that there’s no real reason for this cave to exist except as a nice little Deus ex Machina.
But there’s food and fire materials there. They build a fire and wrap Reb in blankets. Valar says he’s probably going to die. Everyone angsts. Sarah cries for a bit, so Josh sits next to her and holds her for awhile. And then she looks up at him and says:
“You do have a time with me, don’t you, Josh Adams?” (page 93)
You have a time with me? I have no idea what the hell this means, unless it’s some weak reference to Josh having ‘quite a time’, i.e. Josh enjoying himself…and if Josh is enjoying holding a PMSing girl who is crying about the impending death of their good friend while they embark on a suicidal journey to an almost certain death at the hands of their enemy…then I have no idea what’s wrong with Josh. But Josh is embarrassed, so I’m guessing it’s something dirty.
Token angsts. As each second passes Reb looks more like death. And on that encouraging note, the chapter ends.
They sit around for hours, taking care of Reb. Then Valar mentions there’s only one thing that would help. There’s a medicine made from a kind of coral. Josh points out that they’re on a coral reef. Valar says it’s too dangerous to go outside and then walks off. I wonder why he brought this up at all. If he doesn’t want anyone to go out and risk getting caught by Aramis’ men or by the rays, he shouldn’t have said anything. And if he did want someone to do something, then why didn’t he bring it up hours ago, back when they first arrived, instead of waiting for Reb to get several hours closer to death?
Sarah goes to talk to him. Val says that it’s not that he’s afraid to go, it’s just that Reb might die anyway, even if he gets the medicine. Sarah pleads with him. And then Val randomly changes the subject and talks about having a dream awhile ago, while he was dozing. While Reb is dying. I’m getting the feeling that Valar is a cold-hearted bastard. But he says that during his dream he heard a voice telling him that he’s the closest heir to the throne and once Aramis is gone, he’ll be king.
Sarah asks him what he’d do if he was king. His response is hilarious:
“If I were king? First, I’d execute all the traitors and the rebels. Kill this rebellion dead in its tracks.” (page 97)
These scene reminds me of another hilarious scene from the movie Braveheart. King Edward, Longshanks, asks his son what he’d do about William Wallace. The prince replies that he’d have the local magistrate arrest him. After clearing the room, Longshanks bashes his son over the head and points out that Wallace has already killed the local magistrate and has an entire army. Here, Valar conveniently ignores the fact that he’s hopelessly outnumbered by Aramis and wouldn’t be able to stop the rebellion even if he was king…proving once and for all that he’s really just a foolish little boy.
Val asks Sarah if any of them can do magic. Sarah says they can’t. Val puts his hands on her shoulders and talks for a bit about the Sociopaths have to be important somehow. And then he says that they’ll help each other. He’ll go fetch the medicine for Reb, and when he ascends the throne, she’ll be his queen, and help him rule Atlantis.
Sarah protests that she’s too young. Au contraire. As I think has already been suitably demonstrated, she’s almost always on her period. Which, in many societies, marked the coming of a girl into womanhood and meant she was ready to be married off and start having children. Val obviously is aware of this. He pulls her close to him, wraps his arms around her, leans over, and kisses her deeply and warmly, with lots of tongue.
No. Wait. In what is becoming a painfully obvious ploy to keep Sarah from losing her lip-kiss-virginity to some random shmuck who’ll never be mentioned again after this book, Morris has Val just kiss her on the cheek. Even though, y’know, he just proposed marriage to her. And then he says:
“…we will learn to love each other – not as children, but as man and woman” (page 99).
You know. In that special way that a man loves a woman? Wink wink, nudge nudge? There’s nothing better than finding unintentional sexual references in a book that goes out of its way to try and be chaste, pure, and Christian.
Val tells everyone else that he’s off to fetch the medicine. He puts his suit on and takes off. Josh asks what Sarah did to get him to go. Sarah says nothing and walks off sobbing. Josh watches her go and thinks that he’s never going to understand her. For once, Josh, you’re right. You never will.
Chapter Twelve – Wash’s High Hour
The rest of the Sociopaths try to get some rest but Token sits next to Reb. This is our first foray into Token’s POV and it’s not interesting at all.
Token says a prayer to Goel. And…that raises a lot of questions.
First, why does Token even believe in Goel? He only woke up at the very end of book 1, and thus has seen almost no evidence that Goel is anyone. Second, when did Goel suddenly become God? There is a very big difference between obeying Goel, doing what he tells you to do, and hoping he’ll bail you out of your mess, and suddenly praying to him. We, the reader, know he’s basically Jesus, but we haven’t seen this shift in thinking in any of the Sociopaths. And finally, what about Token’s previous beliefs? If he was an atheist, why the sudden shift to belief in a supernatural being, and if he was a Christian, why doesn’t he consider the possibility that Goel’s some sort of false prophet, the AntiChrist, or something like that? And if he was part of some other religion…well, strike that, there are no other religions here.
But anyway. Reb wakes up and starts talking to him. He says that he’s never felt so terrible, not even when he had malaria. Because malaria is a pretty common disease in the 1990s Arkansas. Token reassures him and they sit for a bit. Reb mentions it’s strange that they’re friends. Token knows what he means, because they’re different colors. And he’s right. That is strange. A white guy, friends with a black guy? Weirdest thing I’ve ever heard of.
We then pop over to Sarah’s POV. She wakes up and starts talking to Josh. They chat about how it’s hard to believe in Goel when they’re in lousy situations like this one. And then comes what has to be one of the stupidest sections in this entire book. It starts with Josh asking a relatively innocent question:
“You remember the stories my mother used to read to us after you came to live with us?” (page 102).
This was when they were both thirteen. Personally, my parents didn’t read to me when I was thirteen, I read to myself. Having stories read to me was a long-distant memory at that age. But okay. Not too big of a deal. Unfortunately Josh goes on to give a couple of examples: Jonah, in the belly of the whale, and Daniel in the lion’s den.
Josh deliberately omits the bit about them being Bible stories, because remember, Christianity and the Bible don’t exist any more. Not really. And the stories that Josh’s mother would read to her 13-year-old son and their 13-year-old houseguest were not only Bible stories, but they’re the Bible stories that are usually reserved to being read to preschoolers.
But it’s not over yet. Any Christian kid raised by Christian parents knows these stories like the back of their hand, and they know them by a very young age. It’s the Christian equivalent of the Three Little Pigs or Little Red Riding Hood. And yet Josh feels compelled to repeatedly ask Sarah if she remembers Mrs. Adams reading those stories, as if that were the first time Sarah had ever heard of them. And Sarah giggles and smiles and remembers and they talk for a long time about all those old stories and they both feel happy inside.
After a bit Val shows up. He found the right kind of coral. That was a surprise. He even has a lovely quote for the occasion:
“Well, all we have to do is get some water boiling and dissolve this stuff in it. Come on, you girls, let’s see some action!” (page 103)
Even ignoring the probably unintended yet still hilarious reference to seeing some ‘action’ between Sarah and Abbey, it’s still an extremely sexist quote, expecting the girls to be the ones to get water boiling.
They cook the coral down and put it on the wound. Josh says they’ll have to take it in turns to keep the wound covered with the medicine. And then we flash forward twenty-four hours and Val is talking about how it worked. Reb is up, eating and laughing. Sarah asks Val to keep their quasi-engagement a secret and he agrees. We then flash forward another twenty-four hours and Reb is ready to go.
Val goes to take a look around. He comes back suddenly, with a rip on his arm, and explains that there’s a giant squid waiting right outside the cave and it almost got him. Val says that giant squid will sit around waiting for prey for days and isn’t going to leave. So they’re screwed. And everyone sits around hopelessly. No one mentions that maybe they should swim over there with one of their exploding-compressed-air-spear guns and spear the sucker. Instead, they just go to bed.
Token sits down next to Reb and angsts for a bit. He says that everyone has done something for the group except for him – even Abbey. And suddenly the reason why she had an idea that actually worked a few chapters ago is clear. Even so, Token’s logic is faulty. Dave has done nothing but cause them problems. Jake has done nothing whatsoever. You could make an argument, I suppose, that Josh and Sarah and Reb have all done things, but everything they did was all before Token was even awake to experience it, so I don’t think it counts.
Reb tells him not to worry about it. And then he falls asleep. He wakes up a few minutes later and notices that Token is gone. He yells and everyone wakes up and Val confirms that Token’s spear gun is gone. Token has gone out to fight the giant squid by his lonesome. Val says that Token is screwed. I’d be inclined to agree, except that I know that this series is called the Seven Sociopaths series and it’s only book two.
We hop over to Token’s POV. He’s creeping through the underwater canal. His spear gun has been set to automatic, so when he pulls the trigger all six explosive compressed-air spears will fire right after the other. Lovely what technology can do these days, isn’t it?
Token thinks about movies he’s seen where giant squids kill people. He expects this is going to happen to him, but keeps on going, armed with his faith in Goel, remembering all the wonderful things Goel has done. No wait. Remembering the stories that other people have told him about Goel doing wonderful things, because so far, Goel hasn’t really done anything that Token himself has seen.
He goes on and sees the tentacles sliding into the cave. Then one of them grabs him and drags him out. The squid looks at him and decides that he would make a tasty morsel and drags him around to the mouth, and we get stupid quote goodness:
It opened wide to receive him, and [Token] now knew what death was (page 109).
Speaking as someone who has had several near-death experiences, I can safely say that I still do not know what death is, and I doubt looking into the mouth of a monster that wanted to eat me would change this.
Token pulls the trigger and all six darts hit the squid. The squid blows up. He swims back inside and announces this fact. Everyone is delighted. Valar is impressed, because no one has ever killed a giant squid before. Token is just that special. Dave and Josh put Wash on their shoulders and carry him around while everybody cheers, and Token wishes his mother could see him.
I hate to say this, but even though this entire sequence is very cheesy and very poorly written and completely unbelievable, Token does now deserve a grudging amount of respect. He did actually do something that took a fair amount of courage, even though it didn’t end up being particularly hard. He does not, however, get his name back. Token he is, and Token he shall remain. His molecule of respect is his to lose, and lose it he shall.