Chapter One – A Long Journey to Make
The book opens promisingly. By this I mean that all of the Sociopaths are trudging along in the dark, it’s raining, and they’re all soaked and miserable. What can I say, I like watching them suffer?
Lightning flashes. Josh twitches and jerks away, steps in a hole, and falls on his face. That’s what I usually do when there’s lightning. Sarah, of course, is quite concerned, and rushes to help him up. Josh is embarrassed so he angrily pushes her away and begins internally angsting about how he’s not qualified to be the leader. Three books in, and no end in sight.
Naturally, because it’s the beginning of the book, we have to get a bunch of mini-introductions for each character. Reb’s comes first, and it’s also the first idiotic quote of the book:
Jackson was never known as anything but “Reb,” for he came from the South (page 7).
No, Morris. He’s called Reb because you have a Civil War fetish, and therefore, Reb has a Civil War fetish.
Reb asks where they are, and Josh angrily says that he has no idea, and it’s not his fault, because it wasn’t his idea to travel in a storm. Then…whose idea was it? You are the leader, after all. Josh continues to internally angst, and thinks about how other people in the group, such as Dave, would be better leaders. Sorry, buddy. I think Dave has quite capably proved just what a rotten leader he would make.
Everyone argues for a bit and finally they keep walking. Lightning flashes again and they see a house off in the distance. It might be the place Goel sent them to. So they walk up to it and Josh knocks on the door. A man pokes his head out. Now, in situations like these, if someone like Goel had sent me, the first thing out of my mouth would be “Goel sent me.” However, Morris wants to demonstrate how suspicious this guy is, so Josh starts off stupidly and the man almost slams the door in their faces before Sarah mentions that Goel sent them.
At this, he lets them in and introduces himself as Crinen. And his wife’s name is Matilda. I like the way that the naming conventions in Nuworld make sense. Matilda takes Sarah and Abbey into a small room at the back of the house to change, while Crinen takes the boys upstairs to the loft. Sarah and Abbey change, and they’re suddenly wearing dresses. Even though there has been no reference to dresses beforehand. They’re wearing them now, because it fits the culture they’re going to. Even though they don’t know the culture.
Meanwhile the boys upstairs all start changing out of their wet clothes. Token moves quickly and changes first, and stands there watching the others. Change their clothes. I wonder if Token is gay? At any rate, he gets an idiotic quote:
“I hope they’ve got something to eat. My stomach feels like my throat’s been cut!” (page 11)
Yeah. Personally, I just say I’m starving.
Everyone heads downstairs and sits down at the table. Conveniently, Crinen and Matilda – peasants, for all intents and purposes – have seven extra chairs at their table. They eat deer stew, and afterwards they sit around the fire to talk. Sarah explains that they just came from Atlantis. Crinen is amazed. She further exposits about the nuclear war, sleeping capsules, Goel, fighting against the Sanhedrin and the Dark Lord.
And finally, after explaining it all:
Sarah realized that was too much to explain to Crinen, and she ended by saying simply “We are the servants of Goel, and we go where he sends us” (page 12).
Because Crinen is a peasant. And too stupid to figure out some pretty obvious stuff. And you just explained everything to him anyway. But everyone talks for a bit about how evil the Dark Lord is, and finally they go to bed, because Goel might come early tomorrow.
Goel, however, doesn’t come for over a week. While the Sociopaths stay at Crinen’s and eat his food. I’m sure, however, that a peasant will have no problems feeding seven extra mouths. Right?
One night they meet in the attic. Reb is complaining, because he hates not doing something. Dave tells him that he’s sick of Reb whining and to shut up. Reb tells him to make him. So Dave tackles him and they start fighting. Josh and Jake try to break it up, but Josh gets hit in the chest, and Sarah and Abbey are crying for everyone to stop, and suddenly Goel appears. Dave and Reb are suitably ashamed, but Goel forgives them, and everyone’s happy.
Goel begins explaining what their next job is going to be. Oddly, I remember Goel appearing at the end of the last book and telling them he had a job for them. So I guess Goel just told them to go to spot X without actually explaining what they were going to have to do, because he does that now.
Apparently back before the nuclear war, there was a chap named Dion. Because that was such a popular name in Oldworld. But Dion was studying medieval days at the time of the nuclear war, and afterwards, he was slightly crazy, so he built his kingdom based on King Arthur. And he named it Camelot. Right. So he was a scholar studying medieval England – not medieval legends, crucially – and he decided to build his kingdom based on the modern romantic Arthurian ideals and a legendary figure who may or may not have actually existed. Admittedly, he was crazy. And then everyone who was with him – your average, pre-war, comfortably-middle-class Americans – decided to make a clearly unstable man their king and live like knights in a castle. And no one had a problem with that or thought this was weird. It’s even less convincing then Morris’ flimsy rational for Atlantis, which, I admit, isn’t saying much.
Goel concludes by saying that unless someone goes to help Dion, Camelot will fall to the Dark Lord! It’s very dramatic. Reb immediately says they’ll do it, because this is Reb’s Adventure. And so Goel begins to tell them about Camelot, and the chapter fades out.
The Seven Sociopaths are riding to Camelot. On seven horses. There’s no explanation where they’ve gotten these horses from. I’m assuming that they couldn’t have come from Crinen because no peasant has seven horses, let alone seven horses he could just give away, so I guess Goel conjured them up. Even though Goel doesn’t do magic. Although he does teleport. Kind’ve like the Sanhedrin.
Abbey is complaining. Reb comes up with a pointless anecdote about rounding up wild pigs in Arkansas, and thinks about how pretty she is. This is basically all anyone ever thinks of Abbey. She’s not a person, she’s just pretty. She’s been objectified into a piece of meat. Now, we all know that Abbey is a shameless whore, but even so, you wouldn’t think this is the kind of stuff Morris wants in his book. Then again, you’d never think so many homoerotic scenes would have slipped past his editors.
Reb and Abbey exchange some dialogue. Abbey tells him how good he is on a horse and how amazing he’s been for the past two weeks, teaching everyone to ride. There’s a moment of pseudo-character development where they talk about wishing they were back at the old lives. Reb mentions how he used to be in rodeos all the time, and Abbey mentions that she was a cheerleader – never saw that coming – and class president and tried out for a part in a play. It’s actually rather sad, because it makes me think of how interesting this concept could be if it was in the hands of a competent author.
We then switch over to Josh’s POV. He exposits to Sarah that they’re almost out of food, and she exposits back that they should be at Camelot tomorrow, according to the map. Cue hilarious and idiotic quote:
“You know how maps are in Nuworld. Sometimes they work, and sometimes they don’t” (page 20).
All through Book 1, their map worked like a charm. Never led them wrong. In fact, thus far in this series, a map has never failed to work perfectly.
They reach the top of a mountain and look down into a valley. Far away in the distance, they see a castle. Everyone is cheered by this, and they head down an extremely steep path. Jake talks about how it reminds him of a trip to the Grand Canyon, except this is a lot steeper. Ominous. There’s a reason why donkeys or mules are generally used for those sort of things, and that’s because they’re a lot surer of foot than horses are.
They reach the bottom safely and are traipsing along looking for a camping spot when suddenly a group of knights appear. Everyone is worried because Goel told them that not all of the knights were to be trusted. The knights surround them and challenge them. Josh says that Goel as sent them. The knight asks him to prove it. Josh says that when they talk to the king, they’ll give the evidence.
Another knight recommends they hang them all from the nearest tree. Sounds like a plan to me! But their leader, a chap named Sir Gwin, which is an awfully feminine-sounding name to me, says that he’ll take them to Dion.
The knights take away their weapons and they set off. Josh talks to Sir Gwin a bit and Gwin makes a reference to King Dion being the Sword of Camelot. This little phrase is obviously inserted to explain the rather pointless title, since the title is in no way important and will never be referenced again, and King Dion himself is only a very minor player in the book. Gwin says that if they’re from Goel, everything will be peachy. If they’re not…a short drop and a sudden stop.