“All right, any second now…” The words were clipped, his accent thick. Mr. Chu leaned over his assistant’s shoulder, impatiently looking at a blank computer screen. (pg 20)
Well… I guess this spork will write itself now. Mr. Chu is such a terrible idea in every sense of the words.
Mr. Chu is looking at a computer screen, which flickers to life with biological information (heart rate, temperature, etc.) on Angel and Max. The healing-saliva girl, Jeanne walks in, and Mr. Chu says that she was successful in her mission. Her reward?
Okay, so it’s not super ridiculous, because as it’s revealed she’s a proper test subject or something who’s getting regular injections to offset the side effects of her powers. But still. A lollipop.
You know, I think that was one place where the villain perspective worked somewhat well. Going into the book, there was no indication that Mr. Chu would be back, and likewise I didn’t expect Jeanne’s encounter with the flock to be so directly tied to the villain. In theory, that chapter would have effectively increased the tension–the new experiments, the somehow-gained information on Max and Angel, are new details that raise a number of questions. Unfortunately for JPatterson, his writing is lifeless and Mr. Chu is even dumber than his previous villains, so the chapter failed to do anything.
We’re back with the flock in this chapter. They’ve finished “working” for the day, and it’s almost time for dinner, but Max and Fang head off to be alone. JPatterson takes this chance to write one of the more emotionless scenes in the series, as Max and Fang kiss and whatnot. I can’t exactly put into words what I don’t like about the scene (okay, page), though, so I won’t bother transcribing it here. Just imagine something boring that really doesn’t convey the connection between the two.
Max and co. are eating dinner.
The fire leaped in front of us, looking pretty and feeling cozy and warm but smelling to high heaven, since its fuel was camel poop. Yes. I mean, a regular camel is no bed of roses, but its poop? On fire? The only one not wrinkling his nose was Gazzy. But as soon as the blazing sun had set, the desert temperature had dropped about thirty degrees, and the fire was welcome. (pg 26)
I think this quote is a really good example of how poor JPatterson’s writing is. He tells us a list of the qualities the fire has, with absolutely zero attempt to make the reader feel it. He doesn’t just let the reader imagine the details–he leaves it up to us to imagine the atmosphere, too. The reader isn’t the one who should be doing the work to make a piece of writing evocative of its setting, and yet this paragraph would imply that JPatterson thinks otherwise.
Patrick (I have zero recollection of who Patrick is, sorry) asks the flock if they met Jeanne, and spouts off how her family is dead. The dialogue itself, however, is written with no emotion and the most we get prose-wise is “Patrick shook his head” and “Patrick nodded sadly.”
…You know, I’m noticing that JPatterson’s bad writing is extra pronounced in this book. There’s not even a point in pointing it out anymore. So I won’t. Just imagine everything being really, really boring as I describe it with more life than JPatterson.
I choked down another millet ball … and looked around at my beloved flock, safe in a circle around the fire. Iggy was staring straight into the flames, able to because he was blind. Gazzy was examining each and every bowl for any morsel that might have been missed. Nudge had her chin in her hands, looking at the ground, and I knew she was bumming about all the misery here. My life would have been incomplete without each and every one of them. (pg 27)
This is another bad thing! JPatterson just took a basic writing exercise (“what are your characters doing in X situation?”) and put it in his book. The intent is to put Max into the “thinking about how much I like the flock” mood as fast as humanly possible so that his cliffhanger will be slightly more dramatic, but it’s too rushed to really manage that. It would have been more dramatic if he had actually taken time to let Max ponder, maybe reflect on all that they’ve been through, but he can’t really do that because with zero character development there’s nothing to ponder and reflect about. Anyway, the cliffhanger:
“Nothing can last forever, Max.” It was Angel, eerily interrupting my thoughts. She was scratching at the dirt with a small animal bone. “And actually–I hate to tell you this, but Fang will be the first to die. And it will be soon.” (pg 28)
…Well, I’m glad I know that’s supposed to be eery.
The flock are shocked, etc. etc.
“I’m just saying, Max,” said Angel, still playing with her bone. “You always want everything to stay the same. But it can’t. We’re all getting older. You have a mom. You and Fang are all googly eyed at each other. Nothing stays the same. (pg 29)
That’s actually pretty hilarious, because Angel just summed up all the real change in the flock with three, simple items. Well, two: the flock have maybe aged, technically, but only slightly and it’s had no effect on anything. So, uh, Max has a mom and she and Fang are an item? And that’s all that’s happened in the last five books that’s had any lasting effect. Wonderful.
Max asks Angel how she knows Fang is going to die. Angel doesn’t say, and Max grabs Angel and says she’ll cut off her hair if she doesn’t answer the question. The rest of the flock try to get Max to stop.
“Is everything okay?” Patrick’s concerned voice started to filter into my brain as I realized what I was doing. (pg 30)
Patrick. Patrick, that response is significantly less than is warranted.
Max lets go of Angel, then remarks that “this would have to wait” because two “people” are approaching the fire. Which is, uh… well, pretty ridiculous writing. Max should be given the time to really absorb this statement, but I guess JPatterson didn’t want to bother with that yet.
The two people are a man, “Dr. Hans Gunther-Hagen,” and a “tall kid.” Hans is funding the CSM’s vaccines (presumably for this excursion specifically) and wants to meet with the leader of the flock for breakfast. Both Angel and Max answers, and Hans says they can both come. Then he introduces the kid as Dylan, who steps into the light.
I blinked, wondering what teen hearthrob magazine Dr. Haagen-Daz had swiped Dylan from. … Expressive turquoise eyes looked at us with guarded curiosity. … He was ready for a photo shoot–like, for the top twenty-five hottest guys under the age of twenty.
Of course, Fang would also qualify. (pg 34)
Seriously, though, this kid gets more description than any members of the flock have ever had. (Note that the ellipses mark areas I cut out.) And throughout this whole chapter (three pages or so), the previous chapter’s events have zero effect. There’s no tension from how Max assaulted Angel, no absent-mindedness from Max about how she’s worried about how Angel just said Fang was going to die. There’s literally no indication that JPatterson didn’t write this scene to be placed somewhere else in the story and then copy and pasted it in here.
Oh, and there’s more!
Dylan sort of shrugged his shoulders and extended his wings. All fifteen feet of them. (pg 35)