Chapter One – A Plea for Help
Take back what I said about the back cover being the greatest thing about this book. The actual greatest thing is the dedication. Morris dedicates it to a couple of his cats. No joke. I guess when you publish twelve to fifteen books a year, eventually you run out of friends and grandchildren.
Sarah and Josh are fishing. Josh has set his pole down for some reason, I’m guessing to put his clothes back on. But he catches a fish and it starts dragging his pole away. He leaps into the stream, grabs the pole, and starts wrestling with the fish. And three paragraphs in we get our first stupid quote:
Sarah danced around crying advice as Josh held onto the pole (page 7).
I’m visualizing Sarah leaping around shouting things like “pull”, since that’s all you really need to do. Admittedly, it’s harder to visualize because my mind keeps on making all sorts of dirty references with the word ‘pole’. Still, this is ridiculous. Any idiot can fish. Sarah doesn’t need to be doing this.
Finally Josh jerks the fish from the water. It hits Sarah in the face and starts flopping around, almost getting inside her clothing [?] and getting her hair slimy, and generally doing things that no fish I have ever caught has ever done. Then again, these are radiated fish.
Josh reminds Sarah that because of their bet – he caught more fish than her – she has to clean all the fish. Sarah is not happy about this.
Suddenly a light came into her eyes, and she smiled slightly. Stepping a little closer to him she put her hand on his arm and said softly, “Joshua, I just thought of something” (page 8).
It sounds like an indecent proposal if I’ve ever heard one (and I have). But as it turns out she just offers to make Josh an apple pie. A whole one. For himself. Apparently they have an oven. And pie crust. And a house. And apples. And sugar. And cinnamon. All things ready available in a post-apocalyptic future. Josh agrees.
They head back and exchange expository dialogue about previous books. Apparently after they got back from Mordor, Goel gave them a nice house and told them to kick back until he called for them.
Suddenly a warrior on a horse leaps from the foliage with a drawn sword. Josh freaks out, wishing he was armed. Yes, Josh, it’s not like you live in a place filled with danger where the all-powerful, pervasive government has bounties on all your lives. There’s no reason to carry a sword with you wherever you go.
Josh asks if the man is a bandit. Which would make sense of Nuworld had a bandit problem, or they had met bandits before, or something like that. This is the first time even the word ‘bandit’ has been used, and we’re in the fifth book.
The man looks like he’s an Arab. He introduces himself as Abdul, who serves Chief Ali Shareef. And considering that thus far, virtually none of the names in Nuworld have born any resemblance to names in Oldworld, this does seem a little bit strange. It’s easily explained, however, by simply realizing that Morris is lazy and always takes the easiest path. Abdul says that he’s looking for Goel, and then suddenly passes out, even though he’s seemed fine until this point. Sarah and Josh lift him up onto the back of his horse. I find it a little difficult to believe that a skinny fifteen-year-old boy and a skinny fourteen-year-old girl could lift a grown man high enough to get him onto a horse, but okay.
They get back to the house and the rest of the Sociopaths appear. Jake is immediately suspicious and thinks that Abdul may be a spy. I’m really not altogether sure what Morris’ obsession with spying is. Their enemy is the Dark Lord. The Dark Lord is powerful. If he really wanted to, he could kill them. He doesn’t need spies to do this. If Abdul was sent by the Dark Lord, wouldn’t it make a lot more sense to just breeze in, kill everyone, and head off to collect his paycheck?
Abbey has Abdul sit down in an easy chair. Her name has gone back to being actually spelled Abbey instead of Abbie, which is nice. She thinks he’s hot, and tells Sarah that he looks like a ‘desert sheikh’. Which is not a phrase any teenage girl would use. Maybe ‘He looks like he’s an Arab’ or ‘He looks like Sayid from Lost’ or something along those lines.
They sit down and eat dinner and Sarah brings out a couple of pies and tells Josh that he’ll have to share his pie with everyone else. Just because. Not because there isn’t enough pie to go around, or because they have a guest, or any actual reason, she just says this. Which is pretty shallow and obnoxious. You make a deal with someone to make them a pie, and you don’t just decide to not honor that unless you’re a total bitch. Then again, this is Sarah we’re talking about.
Abdul explains that his people are being enslaved and killed by the Winged Raiders. Who have wings and can fly. He says that there’s this song that says one day the Seven Sociopaths will break their power. It makes me wonder why he didn’t say he came searching for the Seven Sociopaths, instead of for Goel. Abdul asks them to come help him.
“We can’t go unless Goel commands us,” Dave said at once. He shook his head, adding “We’re under his command” (page 15).
I don’t recall Goel ever mentioning that they couldn’t go anywhere with his direct commands. And isn’t helping people out what they’re supposed to be doing, anyway?
Abdul is sad. He says that he’ll have to go back and die with his people, then. Josh tells him to wait for a couple days. If Goel shows up and tells them to go, they’ll go.
Awesome. Extrapolating this out, I’m guessing that if they were walking along a road and saw a guy lying at the bottom of a pit, begging someone to lift him out, the Sociopaths would simply kick back and wait for a couple days, to see if Goel came moseying along to give them the thumbs up. We’re off to a promising start.
Chapter Two – Without Authority
Reb tells Jake he’s stubborn. He’s playing with his lariat and lassos Abbey, who doesn’t think much of this. Reb’s been doing this for a couple books now and no one thinks it’s funny but him, so it’s starting to get a little obnoxious.
Jake is creating a fish trap. Apparently he loves to invent things. We’re five books into a ten-book series and we’re just now learning this. Jake’s having problems, and I wonder what’s wrong with the fish trap that Token made in the last book by weaving vines together. It seemed to work. Jake’s trap, however, manages to snap onto his finger. After Reb extricates him, Jake picks it up and throws the trap as far as he can. Jake, as we all know, has a temper. And apparently he’s very distrusting of strangers, as well.
Reb asks why they shouldn’t trust Abdul. And the quote is…hilarious.
“He might be a spy of the Sanhedrin,” Jake grumbled. “You know how terrible that Elmas is. He’d do anything to lead us into a trap. He’s almost done it two or three times” (page 18).
True…although someone who almost manages to lead you into a trap doesn’t really qualify as ‘terrible’.
“…we can’t go running off every time somebody walks in and asks us to come and save them” (page 18).
This has never happened before, with the possible exception of Book 2, except in that case the wench told them that Goel had sent them to be their guide. So there’s no reason for Jake to even say this.
Reb and Jake exchange some more expository dialogue that reveals to the reader that Josh has been unable to decide whether they’re going to go with Abdul when he leaves the next day, and is therefore putting it to a vote. Later that day, they gather for the vote.
Immediately Jake said “Wait! We can’t go without the command of Goel. We all know that” (page 19).
Says…who? Because Goel certainly hasn’t.
They vote. Everyone except Jake votes to go. Jake bitches about this for a bit. And Reb shows his innate talent for completely underestimating everything he comes across:
“I think we can handle these Winged Raiders.” He nodded confidently. “I mean, after all, back in Oldworld I used to go out hunting quail. I didn’t have any trouble with them” (page 20).
Words fail me.
Josh tells Jake that he doesn’t have to come if he doesn’t want to. Jake says that of course he’ll come if everyone else is going. And then…after voting, Josh says he’s not going to decide whether they’ll actually go until the morning. The next morning, Josh says they’ve decided to go. Well. That was completely pointless. Although it did fill up a few pages with pseudo-excitement.
The next day they head off on a quickly summarized five-day journey until they hit the desert, and Morris continues to spit in the face of consistency through his favorite target, Reb:
“Jehoshaphat! I never saw so much country in all my life” (page 23).
…except for the multiple deserts and giant barren landscapes you’ve been crossing since the start of the series, you country boy, you?
Mere sentences later, they arrive at Abdul’s home, under the protection of Chief Ali Shareef. Which, considering that these people seem helpless against the attacks of the Winged Raiders, isn’t saying much.
Chapter Three – The Enemy Strikes
The Sociopaths meet the chief and the elders. The elders aren’t impressed, and ask what good a group of children are going to be. Another elder points out that they need an entire host of armed men. Which is a reasonable point, but then again, if you believed that, why did you send someone out for Goel, a single man of dubious power?
Oh right – to inspire Josh to get up and make a speech about how Goel uses weak people to overcome strong people. And if he hadn’t, we wouldn’t have a story. The chief mentions that they hoped Goel would come himself. And keeping with making me want to squeeze his throat until his eyes pop out, Jake comes up with this doozy:
“That’s what I say! And until he comes, I don’t believe we can do business” (page 26).
Reb, at least, tells him to keep his mouth shut, but I don’t think anything besides a beating with a 2 by 4 will straighten him out.
For the next few days the Sociopaths sit around and do nothing, except for Reb, who plays with his lasso and impresses everyone. All the men in the tribe lust after Abbey, because she’s blond-haired and blue eyed. Abbey sits around and primps, which infuriates Sarah. Josh doesn’t help the situation by saying that all girls behave like Abbey, which further infuriates Sarah. And Morris misspells Abdul’s name as Adbul, which further infuriates me. If it’s not fanfiction, I shouldn’t have to point out proofreading errors.
Nothing interesting happens, and finally, for no real reason, Josh asks Abdul to take them out on a short journey into the desert. That night, Abdul tells them stories about his tribe:
They had a long and honorable history (page 29).
Fifty years does not a long history make.
Next day they see a neighboring tribe, and start to go towards it. The reason for the excursion is revealed when suddenly the Winged Raiders attack and slaughter the tribe. Reb wants to go help them, but Abdul stops him and says he doesn’t stand a chance. Now, this is probably true, but many times in the past they’ve gone off and fought when they didn’t stand a chance, because it was the right thing to do. Isn’t that why they’re here, after all? But it’s only midway through the story, so everyone stands around picking their noses and watching while all the men are slaughtered and the women and children are picked up and carted off to be raped, tortured, and enslaved for the rest of their reasonably short lives. Morris tosses in the word ‘helplessly’ to make it go down a bit easier, but I’m not buying it.
Jake points out that this is why they should have waited for Goel. Although it wouldn’t have really changed anything; if they’d waited, these people would still end up dead. And the chapter ends on a completely random and pointless thought from Josh:
Maybe Jake’s right! Maybe we have jumped out of the frying pan into the fire (page 32).
As I recall, this saying is generally used for when someone has escaped a bad situation only to find themselves in one that’s even worse. Which doesn’t make sense at all, because the Sociopaths were leading lives of rainbows and unicorns until they went gallivanting off on this quest. Not to mention that nothing particularly bad has happened to them yet.
Hopefully it’ll happen soon.