So, now we enter the second phase of this series for books 2-10, which all follow the same basic formula:
- Goel (Aslan/Jesus) appears, sends them to [location].
- At [location], there is a problem.
- The heroes (called the Sleepers) make the problem worse
- Through Deus ex Machina, Goel saving the day, or other characters accomplishing things, the problem is fixed.
- Goel appears, tells them that they’ve done well, and sends them somewhere else.
There’s several problems with this.
The first, and foremost, is that none of these places bear any resemblance to each other. Practically the only constant is the presence of the Bad Guys and the Sleepers, and that’s not nearly enough. In the first book, they’re in a desert. In the second, they’re in Atlantis. In the third, they’re in a replica of medieval England. In the ninth, they have virtual reality computer programs. The technology systems are completely incompatible. In the first book we’re told that all the technology is gone and it’s basically a medieval setting, with swords and bows and all that, and then this rule is thrown down and danced upon throughout the series. Morris doesn’t even try to keep things consistent.
Also, each of these middle books contains what I think Star Trek: Voyager conceived of as the “reset” button. At the end of the episode, the button is pressed, the status quo returns, and nothing has changed. You could skip the entire book and you wouldn’t miss anything.
And finally, they contain a concept that would really work well if it were in the hands of a capable author. Each of these little mini-episodes has it’s own ‘leader’. Sometimes, when Goel appears he points at a random person and says ‘I have chosen you to lead your next adventure’ and they actually lead (frequently butting heads with Josh), other times, the story is just told from their POV and they do pretty much everything. If Morris was talented, this would be done in such a way that each person’s book would be a real journey into the POV character’s mind: we would learn a great deal about them and learn more about the rest of the Sleepers because we’d see them through someone else’s eyes. But Morris is not a talented author. And we don’t.
Chapter One – Out of the Frying Pan
There’s nothing like Hobbit-vibes in the chapter titles. But alright. Chapter one begins with the moment the door closes and they enter the tunnel. And right away, in the opening sentence, we get the first inconsistency:
The great stone door swung slowly to and fell into place with a click (page 7).
Which is great, except that in the last book, the door slammed shut, almost squishing Josh as it did so.
Basically, all this is used for Morris (through Sarah’s eyes, as we’re in her POV), to introduce us to everyone and summarize what happened in the last book. And give the weak explanations, like this one:
She was on a planet completely changed by nuclear war. The changes had brought genetic transformation, so that Oldworld was gone and now new sub-species were to be seen (page 7).
I feel like I’m beating a dead horse with this but…NUCLEAR BOMBS KILL PEOPLE, THEY DO NOT GENETICALLY TRANSFORM THEM!!!
Okay. I’m alright.
They go down and find the boats and this entire scene has been completely rewritten. I’m not talking about small, subtle changes in the dialogue, which would actually be rather clever, showing how different narrators hear things differently, I’m talking about completely rewritten. Incidentally, the line at the end of the last book – about finding Goel – is no longer included. Which fits in well with my theory that Morris does not plan out what’s going to happen in later books. At all.
There’s a hilarious line about Josh being the only person there who can swim well, which I’m not buying at all. This is the 1990’s we’re talking about. People can swim. You’re telling me that 6 out of 7 Sociopaths are afraid of water? Give me a break.
They row along the river and suddenly notice that the ceiling is getting lower and lower. And everyone gets scared. The river gets faster and everyone has to duck down to keep from losing their heads (literally) while they do lose their heads (figuratively). Abbey screams like a little girl – which she is, come to think of it – and then suddenly they shoot out into a giant cavern. The ceiling’s so high they can’t even see it. Interesting. So this river, which apparently is flowing beneath a desert, is also equipped with giant sparkly caverns. No doubt created by the nuclear war.
They pull over at a little beach, and suddenly realize that everyone else is gone. Dave explains that there was a divide in the river a ways back, and the three boats that had the Nuworlders were sucked in one direction, and the two boats with our Sociopaths went in the other. That’s convenient. Everyone’s hungry, and there just happens to be food and firewood in the boats. So they light a fire, and start cooking the meat. Yes. Meat. Lest we forget, there is no refrigeration here. No way of keeping it. And yet, it’s delicious and filling.
They start arguing about what to do next. Dave immediately points out the obvious: the river is too swift to go upstream, and there’s no way out of the cavern, so they have to keep going downstream. And, yet for some reason, everyone argues about it. Probably just to give Morris more time to describe what people look like, and we get another inconsistency:
Abigail Roberts, who at thirteen was the most attractive of the Sleepers, beautiful, blue-eyed, blonde-haired…(page 12).
Maybe Morris is trying to tell us that her hair randomly changes color. This one, however, can’t be chalked down to different people seeing her different ways, because Sarah was the person in the last book who noted that she had dark hair.
Finally everyone decides that they have to go downstream. Because they had so many other options they needed to discuss. And it wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t get another completely pointless and flat-out wrong Civil War reference from Reb:
“Well, I’ll tell you, back in the war, Stonewall Jackson, when he seen a bunch of Yankees, he always done one thing.”
“What was that, Reb?”
“Why, he charged ’em!” Reb exclaimed. He waved his hand to the stream. “And we’re going to do exactly the same thing.” (page 13).
The subtle difference between fighting a war and rowing downstream notwithstanding, I’m reasonably certain – even though I admittedly am not even close to a Civil War expert – that Stonewall Jackson did not always charge whenever he saw some Yankees. It sounds a bit reckless, and extremely stupid, especially for a tactician as brilliant as Jackson. Proving, once more, that Morris has no idea what he’s talking about.
They get out some blankets from the bottom of the boats and lay down to sleep. Except Sarah stays awake thinking, for some more extremely bad exposition:
…now she began to think of the strange person called Goel, who appeared from time to time to give them counsel.
“Who is he?” she whispered. “What is he, and why do I believe in him so much?” But she knew that Goel, whoever or whatever he was, had proven himself to be their friend. “So,” she said, as she began to drop off to sleep, “I’ll trust him. You have to trust somebody, so I’ll trust him.” (page 13)
Why do you believe in him so much? Other than the fact that he’s bailed you out of every single bad situation you’ve been in so far and raised one of your party from the dead, perhaps? And he does a hell of a lot more than give you counsel. And finally – you donot have to trust somebody. You do not have to trust anybody. That is extremely idiotic thinking.
So suddenly Sarah hears a splash and footsteps. She tells Josh, who wakes up everyone else. They see a dark figure. So Josh lights up a torch and draws his sword and challenges the person to reveal who they are and state their business.
No. Wait. That would be the sensible thing to do. Instead, Josh and Reb and Dave and Jake and Token go hurtling down the beach and tackle the person to the ground and start wrestling around and fighting. And wouldn’t it be hilarious if this was Goel? But Sarah runs up holding a torch, and they see…that it’s a girl. A hottie, too. She’s wearing a transparent costume and beneath that a green swimming suit that looks like scales. And some tubes.
She introduces herself as Jere, and says that Goel has sent her to be their guide.
And we get the final stupid quote of the chapter:
“Well,” Sarah said tartly, “if there’s a pretty girl in a hundred miles, you’ll find her, won’t you, Josh?” (page 14).
To which I say “What?” Up until this point Josh has encountered two girls, and apparently Sarah’s not much to look at, and Sarah herself was the one who ‘found’ Abbey. So not only is it not grounded in any kind of fact, it was really only said because Sarah’s acting like a bitch.
I wonder if it’s that time of the month again?
Chapter Two – Friend – or Foe?
Josh looks at Sarah with disgust, and I can totally sympathize. But he looks at Jere and says that they’ll need to know more about her. Jere looks at Josh and decides that he’s the leader – why, I don’t know – and then says she thinks they are smart to question her. Because nowadays you never know who’s a friend and who’s a foe. So Dave tells her to prove it – which is she, friend or foe? And not only is this incredible overkill of the chapter title, but it also makes me wonder how many typical modern teenagers use the word ‘foe’. But Jere says she can’t prove anything. And we get a stupid quote:
Sarah knew she was not satisfied with this reply (page 15).
Um…duh? You don’t need to beat us over the head with this, Morris. It’s not rocket science.
Josh asks if she knows who they are. Jere says she has no idea, and Morris comments again on how pretty she looks. I’m starting to think he has a thing for young women in bathing suits. Jere asks who they are and why Goel wants them to come to her home. She points out that they’re obviously from Oldtime, which raises several questions:
First, why are they still ‘obviously’ from Oldworld? Wouldn’t it be a far more effective disguise if the Seven Sociopaths, the ones that the entire, all-powerful government desperately wants to kill, were, perhaps, not dressed like foreigners? Second – why are so many people still capable of speaking English? We’re going to continually run into this throughout this series…virtually everyone our Sociopaths encounter can speak English perfectly.
But anyway. Sarah jumps in and explains who they are. I can’t help but think that revealing who they are to everyone they randomly meet is going to be extremely bad for their health. But Jere listens and says that they must decide whether to go with her. And walks away.
They begin to argue. And we get another quote:
Abigail said, “But she doesn’t look like a spy. She’s too pretty for that.” (page 17)
Right. I don’t have anything to say about that.
The narration tells us that Reb has a problem with following a women – aww, look, he’s a sexist as well as a (reformed) racist! And everyone argues for a while and finally Josh puts it to a vote. I really wish Morris would settle on what kind of leader Josh is. Sometime’s he’s a ‘majority rules’ guy and sometimes he’s a ‘do it my way or I’ll fight you’ guy. But everyone except for Dave and Reb votes to go and so Josh calls Jere back and tells her they decided to go with her. And he makes one of the most hilarious threats I’ve ever heard:
“But I warn you,” he said suddenly, “if anything goes wrong, I’ll be very close to you.” He pulled a knife out of his belt. “I don’t want to sound unkind – but something may happen to you” (page 17).
I don’t want to sound unkind, but…if you screw us over, I’m going to stab you with my knife. Friendly warning. I desperately wish Jere would laugh in his face and tell him to put it away before he hurts himself, but Josh is a Hero, and so she tells him that he’s very wise.
They go down to the water and Jere tells them to get into the boats, and she will lead them. And we get another… quote.
Then she looked at Josh and said “Do not fear. I really am sent by Goel.”
Something about her words and her manner must have satisfied Josh. He shoved the knife back in its sheath. “I guess we’ll trust you.” (page 18)
If only Hamar had said “I really am your friend”, everyone would have trusted him as well! If only Elmas knew this trick, all his numerous problems would be solved. Plus…didn’t they already decide to trust her?
Jere pulls out a horn and blows it. She touches her belt and her transparent suit inflates. And then there’s a splash and an animal surfaces. Sarah gets the job of identifying it in what has to be the stupidest quote of the chapter:
“A porpoise,” she cried out. “It’s like Flipper.” (page 18).
First of all – Flipper is a dolphin, not a porpoise. Second, a reasonably stupid kid like Sarah would not be able to tell the difference between a dolphin and a porpoise, and even if this creature was a porpoise, it would make much more sense for her to refer to it as a dolphin. And finally, this book was published in 1994, two years before the 1996 remake of Flipper, which means that Morris is making a reference to a movie that was made in 1963, subtly reminding us that Morris has no clue what teens are like.
Jere says that the porpoise’s name is Captain. Captain is wearing a saddle and a bride. Jere climbs onto this saddle and Captain starts carrying her downriver. And the Sociopaths follow. And Reb reminds us all that he’s from Arkansas:
“I’ve been to two county fairs and three snake stompin’s – but I ain’t never seen nothing like that!” (page 19).
…except that last book it was three county fairs and four snake stompin’s, so either Reb has no idea what comes out of his mouth or Morris can’t keep his facts straight. My money’s on the latter.
Sarah and Josh then exchange a bit of expository dialogue about how Elmas is never going to stop looking for them and if this beautiful young woman (Morris says it, not me) works for the Sanhedrin, they’re all screwed.
We then leap over to Elmas’s POV. Sort of. Morris first spends a paragraph talking about how awesome his reputation is. How people will start trembling at the mention of his name, and some people will even faint. And this would actually mean something if Elmas hadn’t spent the entire first book being laughably incompetent.
Elmas is being summoned to the throne room of the Tower. Where Lord Necros sits. And he’s terrified. Apparently Lord Necros is a step up on the food chain. Lord Necros’ guards let Elmas in, and Elmas looks at the guy. Necros has clawed hands and his eyes glow red. Subtle, Morris.
Here was something terrifying and evil, even to Elmas, who knew something about evil (page 20).
I just love villains who are aware that they’re evil. Don’t you?
Necros tells him to report. Elmas dances around the issue for a bit but finally he explains that the Sociopaths have escaped. Instantly a horrible pain starts in his head. Elmas collapses and writhes around like a little girl for awhile, and finally babbles out that he has a plan.
“Well, what is this plan of yours? As I explained to you, we control most of the land now, so the Dark Lord commands that we control the sea” (page 21).
If he just explained it…why is he saying it again? Oh right…exposition. But Elmas says that his plan will give them control of Atlantis and kill all the Sociopaths. Atlantis is too strong to take by force, so they’ll have to take it down from within. One of the Atlantians – Duke Lenomar – has come over to their side, and he controls the mind of Lord Aramis. Ah, a Three Musketeers vibe. And if all this sounds vaguely like Grima Wormtongue clouding the mind of King Theoden…that’s because it is, as will become more and more apparent later on.
Lord Necros tells Elmas that if the plan doesn’t succeed completely – i.e. Atlantis falls, the Seven Sociopaths die – Elmas is going to pay a visit to Lord Necros’ torturers, who are way, way better than Elmas’. And the chapter ends on a pleasing note for once, since we know that Elmas can’t succeed… because there’s eight more books to go.