Once again, Alesand joins me, this time to go through chapters 29 and 30.
“This is just like Moby Dick!” Nudge exclaimed happily, bouncing on her tiny bunk. “They were on a fishing boat, and we’re on a fishing boat too! Only this one doesn’t have sails. And isn’t made of wood. And we have radar and computers and stuff. Still. We have little bunks, like old-fashioned sailors, and we eat in the mess, and the bathroom is called the head, and it’s all boat stuff, everywhere!”
EmotedLlama: Nudge, when did you become an idiot?
Alesand: Why all of this information? It is very pointless.
EmotedLlama: Filler. These books are full of it.
“Dr. Dwyer and Dr. Papa seem nice,” said Angel. She peered through the small porthole above her bed. If we punched out the glass, we could probably escape through it. Just a thought. “They’re really sincere and mean everything they say.”
Alesand: Just a thought? Why would you punch out glass when that would allow in the freezing Antarctic air?
The rumbling of the ship’s engines made the floor vibrate beneath our feet.
“We’re headed for the South Pole!” Gazzy jumped over the low threshold into our room from the boys’ room next door. “And it’s, like, so far south that it’s the bottom of the whole world.”
EmotedLlama: Seriously, when did these kids get so vapid?
Alesand: I don’t remember them being this hyper. And what would be exciting about visiting what would be a smaller version of Hoth? It is a mostly snowy desert.
I tried to keep from groaning out loud. I really, really hate cold weather. I hate bundling up. I’m more of a beach-and-sun kind of girl.
EmotedLlama: When have you dealt with cold weather?
Alesand: Or bundle in warm clothes. I don’t recall winter being mentioned in the previous books either.
EmotedLlama: I don’t think it ever was. Sloppy writing, JPatterson.
“But you know, if the world is round,” said Nudge, “then there’s no real top or bottom to it. The South Pole could just as easily be at the top of the world. We could be thinking of everything completely upside down.”
“You’re making my head hurt,” Total complained.
EmotedLlama: Total, you have no reason to even have ever learned that the world is round. Just shut up.
Alesand: How could his head be hurting? This is not difficult science as opposed to creating a talking dog.
Fang and Iggy came in. Iggy was running his fingers gently along every surface, memorizing his surroundings, how many steps to here and there, where furniture was.
EmotedLlama: The omniscient narrator strikes again!
Alesand: Why should Iggy bother? He already uses impossible echolocation!
EmotedLlama: That’s another point. Reminds me of the first book, where apparently he’d get messed up by moved furniture.
Alesand: Yet he’s able to move swiftly through a forest with no mishap.
Alesand: Or relocate the flock by blindly finding them after leaving his parents’ house.
EmotedLlama: Yeah, how did he do that?
Alesand: A Ph.D from JPMSA.
EmotedLlama: Lucky him.
“It’s small in here,” he complained. “I feel like we’re inside a submarine. Can’t we sleep in hammocks on the deck?”
“It’s really cold out there,” I reminded him, trying not to sound too bitter.
Alesand: What did they expect, a luxury liner?
EmotedLlama: Yeah, I mean, they go off on a journey they know literally nothing about and then complain when it’s not big and spacious and warm?
Alesand: If they want to be on a luxury liner, then they could use a time machine and teleport themselves to the bottom part of the Titanic as it was sinking.
EmotedLlama: Heck, they don’t even need to bother with a time machine. Just go down there and be trapped, and then the series would finally be over.
Alesand: Don’t forget though, Angel can breathe underwater.
EmotedLlama: Hrmph. And she’s the worst of them. Maybe the pressure combined with the cold would get her.
Alesand: Or transport them to a tight spot aboard the Orca when Jaws started tearing it apart. [Warning: blood.]
EmotedLlama: Hee hee.
Alesand: I doubt Angel can reason with that shark.
EmotedLlama: Though, given JPatterson’s ability for the nonsensical…
Alesand: Patterson himself can be on the boat in this position. [Warning: blood.] No more Patterson=no more crappy books!
EmotedLlama: …Okay, wishes of violence against real people is a bit more than fictional characters.
Alesand: This is Patterson we are talking about. Then again, the shark would probably spit him out anyway due to poor taste.
“Frankly, I’d rather be in Hawaii,” Total griped, and I silently agreed with him. “Can your Voice send us there? We could be lying on a beach on Kauai, with drinks with little umbrellas in them. Instead we’re literally at the end of the world, doing God knows what. And what’s the food gonna be like on this boat?” He shook his head. “I am not into this plan, I can tell you—”
EmotedLlama: Why does Total even know what Hawaii is?
Alesand: I wish he would be there during a volcano eruption.
EmotedLlama: Now that’s a wish of violence I can get behind.
Dr. Papa—that name still cracked me up—was standing in our doorway. At his side, a snow-white Malamute was sizing us up with the practiced eye of a guard dog. Total stared at it, speechless.
EmotedLlama: No. No no no no no no no. NO.
Alesand: I don’t like where this is going…
EmotedLlama: I HATE where this is going.
“I know it’s not the Hilton, but it’s not too bad,” Dr. Papa said with a smile. “We’ll try to make you as comfortable as possible. Now, if you’ve settled in, we can gather in the conference room. You can meet everyone, and we can try to answer your questions.” Dr. Papa scratched the Malamute behind its small triangular ears. “This is Akila, our mascot and official rescue dog.”
Alesand: Why indeed.
“Does she talk?” Angel asked. A perfectly reasonable question.
EmotedLlama: Er, no it isn’t.
Alesand: Only reasonable if it is shouting death threats at the flock.
Dr. Papa looked startled. “Uh, no.” He gave Angel an uncertain glance. Total was still dumbstruck, his mouth hanging open. “Come join us, okay? Go up to the deck, and the conference room is in the forward cabin hatch.” He left, and Akila trotted after him.
Alesand: …This is going to suck.
EmotedLlama: It definitely is.
“Akila’s pretty,” Angel said. “Like a white teddy bear.”
“Pretty? She’s a goddess!” Total said hoarsely.
“You’re drooling on Angel’s bed,” said the Gasman.
EmotedLlama: Why why why why why
Alesand: If “doggy style” is mentioned even once, I shall pray to Bast to bring vengeance upon all who find favor with this book.
Total swallowed. “Oh, my God, she’s magnificent. Did you see her cheekbones? That fur, brighter than sunlight . . .”
EmotedLlama: Since when do dogs care about cheekbones?
Alesand: They don’t have much in terms of cheeks.
EmotedLlama: No. I wouldn’t even know how to distinguish a difference in cheekbones.
Alesand: Just when I thought the “romance” between Max and Fang was bad…
Iggy rolled his eyes.
“Um, total?” I tried. “Akila’s really pretty and all, but you know, she’s just a regular dog, and . . .”
Total jerked upright, his eyes blazing. “Regular dog! She’s perfection! Don’t you ever call her ‘regular’ again! Is the Venus de Milo just a statue? Is the Mona Lisa just a painting? Is the Louvre just a museum?”
EmotedLlama: Uggghhh shut up, Total!
Alesand: Put a muzzel on that mutt! Also neuter him. Or replace him with Cujo.
“No, it was neat,” Nudge agreed.
I sighed, deciding to drop this hot potato for the time being.
EmotedLlama: What a… weird metaphor.
Alesand: A stupid one.
“Okay, everyone, let’s go find out what they want us to do. With any luck, we can quickly save the world and still have time to make the hot-air balloon festival in New Mexico. I’ve always wanted to see that.” Plus, it was warm there.
“Cool,” Fang agreed, and we headed off to discover our mission.
EmotedLlama: I never knew there was a hot-air balloon festival in New Mexico. When did Max learn this?
Alesand: That’s a good question. She said she was a beach person yet she wants to go to a state that is primarily desert.
EmotedLlama: If she’s going to complain about the cold, she’d probably also complain about the sand and dirt and general dustiness.
The Wendy K. was not the Love Boat.
EmotedLlama: YOU DON’T SAY?
It had no casino, no swimming pool, no shopping atrium. It had a small gray-painted conference room with some chipped Formica tables, a whiteboard, and some bookcases with bars across the front so the books wouldn’t fly off the shelves in rough seas.
EmotedLlama: Oh, and useless details. Sigh.
Alesand: It is a research vessel Max. What did you expect?
EmotedLlama: She’s Max. Of course she wanted the Love Boat.
Alesand: Unfortunately it might become that due to the un-neutered Total and the other dog.
EmotedLlama: I don’t even want to think about that.
Alesand: Nor do I.
“Welcome,” Dr. Dwyer said, indicating some seats. There were seven adults in the room. Akila was lying on the floor beneath Dr. Papa’s chair. Total had paused before we entered, puffed out his chest, then sauntered in as if he were a Russian wolfhound. Since he’s a small black Scottie, it was an odd effect.
EmotedLlama: Again with the repetitive sentence structure. It’s so boring.
Alesand: More useless padding.
EmotedLlama: That too.
All the grown-ups were staring at us, which we were used to.
“Please, sit down,” said Michael. “As you know, I’m Dr. Michael Papa, but you can call me Michael. You know Dr. Brigid Dwyer—”
“Can we call you Brigid?” Nudge interrupted. “Brigid’s a neat name.”
“Yes, of course,” said Dr. Dwyer. “We’re pretty informal around here.”
Alesand: Yet more padding.
“I’m Melanie Bone,” said another woman. “The communications specialist.” She had the sun-streaked, tan look of someone who spent a lot of time outdoors.
The others were introduced as Bryan Carey, drive specialist; Emily Robertson, eco-paleontologist; Sue-Ann Wong, ice specialist, whatever that was; and Paul Carey, Ship’s captain (and brother of Bryan), navigator, and expert in South Polar widllife. They all seemed nice, but they all had a scientist’s rabid curiosity, and I felt their eyes boring into us as if making us into Swiss cheese.
EmotedLlama: Swiss cheese: made with laser eyes.
Alesand: And more characters whom we will probably never see again in later books.
EmotedLlama: JPatterson really likes doing that.
Alesand: We’ll probably hear little of most of them in this book for that matter.
EmotedLlama: Given how bland they are, let’s hope so.
“Okay,” I said, standing up. I gauged the width of the room—about fifteen feet, just barely enough. “Let’s get this out of the way.”
I looked behind me to make sure there was space, then rolled my shoulders and unfolded my wings slowly, trying not to whap anyone on the head. The scientists stared at me, transfixed, as my wings stretched out farther and farther. Nudge ducked as one passed over her head, and then they were mostly extended, almost fourteen feet across.
EmotedLlama: Oh, so NOW JPatterson cares about having room for the flocks’ wings?
Alesand: Did her wings grow by a foot? I thought they were 13 ft.?
EmotedLlama: I honestly can’t remember. JPatterson probably couldn’t either.
I must say, I do have pretty wings. They’re a lighter brown than my hair, but not as tawny as Nudge’s. My primary feathers, the big ones along the bottom outside edges, are streaked with black and white. The secondaries are streaked white and brown. On the undersides of my wings, the covert feathers are a soft ivory color. And over the tops and down the backs of my wings, I have shiny, strong brown feathers fading perfectly into the primaries.
My wings kick butt.
EmotedLlama: Blah blah blah do we care? No.
Alesand: Max, please shut the f*** up.
“So they’re not connected to your arms,” Melanie Bone said unnecessarily.
I shook my head. “Nope. We have six limbs.”
“Like dragons,” Nudge said helpfully. I grinned at her.
EmotedLlama: You know, comparing the flock to the physically impossible dragons the first time you really explain their mechanics is NOT a good idea.
Alesand: Not to mention that dragons very greatly from lizard-like (East Asia) to winged (Europe) to snake (Central America) to chimera design (Mesopotamia).
EmotedLlama: And given their impeccable educations, surely Nudge knew that.
“Like insects,” said the Gasman.
“They’re so big,” said Emily Robertson. “They’re beautiful.”
“Thanks,” I said, feeling self-conscious. “They have to be big because we’re bigger and heavier, proportionally than birds.”
EmotedLlam: I actually decided to do some research upon transcribing this, because I went “surely fourteen foot wingspans aren’t big enough.” Upon doing a simple search of “what size wings would humans need to fly?” I found that the lowest estimate was about 20 feet. So, uh, fail.
Alesand: Don’t forget their impossibly strong hollow bones.
EmotedLlama: Or their extra organs combined with back indents.
Alesand: Or that their wings act as accordions.
EmotedLlama: Nothing makes sense.
Alesand: Speaking of impossible anatomy, I hope that while they are exploring Antarctica they come upon the caverns of the Mountains of Madness. They could then be driven to insanity by what they find within. The species that lived there had accordion wings, but at least they were non-aviary and made sense. You can read about it here. Unlike Patterson, H.P. Lovecraft knows how to write a story.
“How much do you weigh?” Paul Carey looked as though he wanted to take notes. Then he winced. “Sorry, I mean—”
“A bit less than a hundred pounds,” I answered. “The reason I don’t look like a skeleton is that our bones and muscles are made differently, lighter. So even though I’m five-eight, I look slender at ninety-seven pounds but not grotesquely skinny.”
Alesand: Buuull craaaaap. Her bones should be showing like an anorexic model’s. I’m around the same height. If I weighed as much as her my own bones would definitely show.
EmotedLlama: I think the point is that as the bones and muscles weigh less, she weighs less total without being smaller. I’m not sure how avian DNA did that, of course.
Alesand: Thing is though, she is primarily human. Humans are different in both shape and structure from birds.
“Do you identify as a human or as a bird?” Brigid asked.
No one had ever asked me that before. “I don’t know,” I said slowly. “I look in the mirror and see a girl. I have hands and feet. But when I’m up in the sky, and the ground is far below . . . I feel my wings working, and I know I can get oxygen out of thin, high air . . . it doesn’t feel very . . . human.”
Which is pretty much the most unguarded, touchy-feely, heart-on-my-sleeve thing I’d ever said. I folded my wings in as my face flushed. I felt naked and stupid, and wished I’d kept my big mouth shut. Cheeks burning, I slumped down in my chair, not looking at anyone.
EmotedLlama: This might actually feel emotional if Max were an interesting or likeable character.
Alesand: Since she is 98% human, this question should not bother her.
Alesand: She is a human with wings. And a big mouth with an attitude problem.
“I feel more human, I think,” Nudge said cheerfully. “I like clothes and fashion and doing my hair. The stuff I like is what kids like, what people like. Music and movies and reading. I mean, I never want to make a nest for myself or anything.”
We all laughed, and for once I was relieved at Nudge’s chattiness.
EmotedLlama: Shallow Nudge is my least favorite Nudge.
“I don’t feel all that human,” said Angel, looking thoughtful.
Fang tapped my leg with his foot under the table, as if to say, There’s a surprise.
EmotedLlama: What an expressive foot he has.
Alesand: Let us hope that foot doesn’t start talking. We don’t need anymore crappy powers or lousy characters.
EmotedLlama: Knowing JPatterson, that might actually happen.
Alesand: Worse yet, a love triangle between Total, the other mutt, and Fang’s talking foot.
EmotedLlama: That’s actually pretty hilarious.
Alesand: It’d be better than the rest of this book.
“I’m not sure what I see when I look in the mirror,” Angel went on. You have to remember that she was only six. “When I think of me, I picture someone with wings. I know I’m not normal. There aren’t any kids to hang out with who are like me. Besides the flock. I know I don’t fit in anywhere.” She turned big blue eyes on Michael, who was gazing at her intently. “This world isn’t set up for people like me, like us.” She gestured to include the rest of the flock. “Nothing in this world is designed for us, designed to make us comfortable. We always stick out, we always make do. People want us, or want us dead, because of what we are, not who we are. It’s hard.” “
EmotedLlama: Yes, that definitely sounds like an emotionally stunted six-year-old.
Alesand: Esp. one with mind controling powers.
The room was silent. The grown-ups had stricken looks on their faces, like they actually cared. It was pretty heart-breaking, to think of a little kid like Angel having those kinds of feelings. No one knew what to say.
“Not to be pushy,” he said, “but is there any way to get some chow in this place? I’m starving.”
EmotedLlama: I can’t tell what’s worse: the informed emotion, or Total.
Alesand: If they run out of food, they can eat Total.
EmotedLlama: YUM. Anyway, that’s where the chapter ends, as well as this spork. Next week Alesand and I will take on chapters 31 and 32.