Category Archives: Maximum Ride: MAX Spork

Thoughts on Maximum Ride: MAX

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I want to start by talking about the rule of cool and how it relates to Maximum Ride.

As is probably evident by the name, the rule of cool is a writing “concept,” so to speak (I don’t think that’s the right term for it, but whatever the right term might be I don’t know), where elements of a story from setting to plot to characters are created from a perspective of “this would be cool.” This often creates a somewhat illogical writing, where something happens just because it’s cool, even though it doesn’t make a lot of sense.

The very first instance of the rule of cool in Maximum Ride is the bird kids themselves. They have wings–cool! I can’t say for certain what JPatterson’s intent was with the wings, but the way he treats the bird kids in the narrative–by focusing on how great it is to have wings, by not exploring the realistic ramifications of it, by barely trying to explain how it works–makes it clear that it’s more rule of cool than not.

Now, the rule of cool isn’t inherently a bad thing. It often creates a weaker story by invading an otherwise sound story element, but cool things aren’t bad, or they wouldn’t be cool. However, the rule of cool can, like I said, weaken a story when used wrong. I would use a simple system for judging if it works or not, by asking three questions: 1) how cool is it? 2) how much sense does it make within the narrative? 3) how seriously does the story take itself? If a story is created to have interesting spectacle, it’s easier to not care about the rule of cool’s usage. If the thing in question is really cool, it might not need to make as much sense within the narrative.

Previously, I didn’t particularly apply these questions to the books and chose to ruthlessly critique them from the standpoint of logic and sense. I don’t think JPatterson was really trying to write a logical, sense-making series, though, so while I disagree with that approach it’s not as useful to critique his work on those grounds. (Though I’ll probably continue critiquing such things in the sporks for entertainment value. In-depth criticisms of plot points are harder to do when relevant chapters are spread across spork parts.)

Now, how does the rule of cool relate to MAX? Well, MAX is by most means much more written by the rule of cool than previous books–The Final Warning was dominated with environmental themes that prevented much room for rule of cool or non-rule of cool writing, and the first three books, I think, were written as a lighthearted adventure with an emotional core. (Not that there wasn’t any rule of cool stuff, but it was a lot more “traipsing around Europe” in terms of ridiculous plot elements than “wow that made no sense but it was meant to be cool!”)

MAX eases off on the environmental stuff, but also shifts away from the emotional core. It’s actually rather difficult to figure out where JPatterson was going with the book: the kidnapping of Max’s mom should have set it up as a book that would have lots of pensive moments, reflecting on Max’s journey and exploring how Max relates to humanity and a “normal life.” The underwater theme would help with that, as the flock–well, fly, and so that aspect is downplayed by the setting.

Instead, like I said, JPatterson drops a lot of the emotional stuff. There’s still introspection and such, but it’s generally less important and shorter than in the first three books. So already you have a problem: JPatterson created a premise that was suited to one thing, then did another thing. I think this is due to poor planning and a lack of editing myself, and it creates a rather disconnected end product.

But since JPatterson decided to go in the rule of cool direction, I will critique the book as such. So we come back to those three questions. JPatterson clearly isn’t trying to write a very serious book, so I think that automatically makes the rule of cool more predisposed to be okay. This means the question of “how cool is this?” is more relevant, as well as “how well is it written?”–something cool is less cool if it’s written about boringly. Similarly, if you’re going to create a cool action scene, it had better be written with tension and drama.

So with all that setup… it’s time to talk about just how dumb MAX is. Let’s start with “how cool is this?” And let me tell you, it’s not very cool.

JPatterson has made sure that there have always been disposable hordes of enemies for his protagonists to fight, and I think MAX’s ones are the worst. Whereas the erasers and flyboys of the first three books were dumb, and the robots of The Final Warning were boring, JPatterson somehow created a less interesting mook: the M-Geeks. (Or “thingies”, as I called them during the spork, as M-Geek is a ridiculous name.) They’re exceedingly simple: robots that look like humans. The way in which they’re bad is only slightly more complicated. I don’t doubt that JPatterson’s thought process behind creating them was to create human-like enemies that wouldn’t be gory to destroy. In doing this, however, he ended up with the worst of both worlds: the boring visual element of humans, but without the interest of human minds–instead, they’re mindless drones, there to be torn apart and nothing else.

This would work well if there was spectacle involved in their destruction, but that’s where “how well is this written?” comes into play. And, well, JPatterson still can’t write an action scene. Not only is his prose too boring and plain to convey any tension or excitement, but he barely even tries: I think the longest action scene was maybe two pages. And how he writes them is usually more or less just “I did this, they did this, that happened, more fighting, then I won.” Booooring.

Next, there are the powers that the flock obtain. These are the most obvious example of rule of cool in the series, and also the worst: they blatantly defy the series’ internal logic, but are only mildly interesting and are barely even utilized. Remember how Nudge could touch objects and learn their history? Never mentioned in MAX. Or her magnetism. Slightly more important are Angel’s underwater breathing and communication with aquatic animals, which is made use of many times in the book. They’re actually a sort of okay usage of rule of cool: they’re used to open up important plot avenues that would otherwise be closed, and while they aren’t utilized to be particularly interesting, the first point is more important here.

Unfortunately, while Angel’s powers aren’t a terrible example of rule of cool, the plot they enable is. The krelp (krelp, kelp, ha ha), as they’re called, are giant mutated fish who are strangely ineffectual at ramming and killing things, and have intelligence. They are largely unimportant until the climax, where they use oxygen-filled ooze to carry Max to safety. That’s pretty much the only use for Angel’s underwater breathing and telepathy.

So, you know. Less cool and more ridiculous. And more plot devices than anything, too–all they do that couldn’t be done by other, more logical (as in, even with them in the book there would be better means of performing whatever task is in question) means is inform Max where her mom is.

Shifting away from the rule of cool, since I’ve said most all of what there is to be said about it, let’s talk about the characters and what JPatterson does with them. Or doesn’t do with them, as is more accurate. Remember back in book two, when Iggy got a viewpoint scene and had a few other scenes that gave him a bit more depth? All of that got abandoned by book three, so I don’t hold it against you if you don’t remember. JPatterson seems to have forgotten himself, as Iggy is mostly just there in MAX, and he’s still the sarcastic, slightly more mature version of Gazzy. At least his blindness isn’t brought up every time he’s mentioned as it was in some of the previous books. Gazzy gets similar treatment: he’s really just there as a plot device, who magically stops the bad guys at the right time using his bizarre knowledge of explosives.

The other four members of the flock (excluding Total) get more to work with. First is Nudge, who defies Max’s wishes and decides to go to school. This was compelling drama: Max is deadset on living her life one way, and wants the flock to follow with her, but Nudge wants a normal life and wants to be done with being on the run. While JPatterson doesn’t put enough effort into his writing for this to be handled greatly, it’s easily the most interesting and well-done part of the book.

And then Nudge decides to follow after the flock and the plotline is forgotten. Yay.

Angel is… really weird in this book. JPatterson departs from both the cutesy six-year-old stuff and the morally messed-up kid stuff, instead making Angel into an authority-defying, aloof character who spends most of the book cryptically foreshadowing the fact that Max ends up with gills. For all the screentime she gets, she’s not developed and her actions never really make sense.

The relationship between Max and Fang is in the forefront of the character stuff in this book, though. I mostly didn’t bother covering it in the spork because gag, so here’s a recap: Max likes Fang. Fang’s actions implies that he likes Brigid. Max really doesn’t like this. In the end, Fang evidently was never involved with Brigid because he kisses Max and that’s basically the end of it. It’s a boring, unnecessary plotline, that could have been handled much better. For instance: Fang’s character involves him being somewhat uncommunicative and distant. Max’s character involves a certain amount of emotional attachment, wanting to hide from feelings she doesn’t understand.

So, this could have been an interesting plotline: Max likes Fang, but isn’t sure how to feel about this. She’s also afraid that Fang doesn’t feel the same way, so she starts sort of hinting things to Fang. Fang doesn’t respond to this because that’s not what he does, so this frustrates Max and leaves her uncertain of their standing. In the end, Max overcomes her issues and is frank with Fang.

That’s not particularly original, but it has compelling internal conflict and character interaction. And JPatterson almost did it, but ultimately, Max’s jealousy of Brigid dominated the plotline and made it into a “waaah jealousy” story instead of anything else.

And then there’s Total, but you already know my thoughts on him. He’s just a device JPatterson created to spout dumb jokes and pop culture references. I guess he thought a talking dog was a better spout for those than the flock.

So I think I’ve pretty much covered everything but the general inanity of the plot–but that’s covered pretty thoroughly in the spork. So I’m done here! MAX was easily the worst book in the series, and it led to some serious burnout on my part, but I think taking a step back and thinking about the books in a more deconstructive way did me some good. There are good ideas and elements at play in these books, but JPatterson squanders them at every turn–and I think that’s where he truly fails. The bizarre, logic-defying plot developments are easy to latch onto as the reason for why the books are bad, but a strong core could make those issues largely irrelevant. JPatterson doesn’t do that, however, resulting in books that are lazy in every way.

Expect the first spork part of FANG up Wednesday.

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Maximum Ride: MAX Spork Part 8

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This was not a very long spork.

Chapter 69

Everyone panics because thingies! And then just as the  captain is going away, Gazzy says he has an idea, and Iggy’s determinedness makes the captain listen to Gazzy’s plan. Which the captain proceeds to not understand because Gazzy lays it out poorly, and yet for some reason the captain doesn’t leave. ????

Also:

eight-year-old Gazzy and fourteen-year-old Iggy probably knew more about demolitions, detonators, and explosive devices than almost anyone else on earth. (pg 277)

Just… let that sink in for a bit.

So,  Gazzy’s plan is to electrocute the outside of the sub, thereby frying the thingies. He heads out of the room with the demolitions expert, and rather than actually show us what Gazzy does, we stay with Max as the water apparently electrifies and the thingies seem to die. It’s all very boring and easy and pointless.

Then Gazzy makes a terrible joke and everyone laughs because this is the end of a kids’ show.

Chapter 70

The captain wants to leave and report the radiation, but Max wants to continue searching for her mom. Before the captain can use his authority to make the decision, it’s noticed that Angel is missing. It turns out she’s out in the water.

“That’s… impossible,” Captain Perry said, sounding stunned.

“Totally and completely impossible,” John agreed, staring out the window in awe. “There’s no way anyone could be out at this depth without a pressure suit and survive. It–it just can’t be done.”

“Hello?” I said. “We’re children with wings. And now gills. We fly. Angel can read minds and communicate with fish, Iggy can feel colors, Nudge can draw metal to her, and now you’re saying that there’s simply no way Angel could be out there? Have I mentioned the wings part?”

The captain mentions that Angel surviving the pressure is more unbelievable than wings, but… Max makes a good point. JPatterson clearly doesn’t care about logic, even internal,* so this really isn’t much more ridiculous than anything he’s done before.

It’s still awful, of course.

*In this context, internal logic is the logic of a particular work of fiction’s world–for instance, I might write a story where people can pass through walls. Now, this is obviously not possible in the real world, but within the internal logic of this story it is possible. So the internal logic of these books is that scientists gave the flock certain bird-like aspects, which is not possible in real life. What defies this internal logic, however, is that the flock get arbitrary powers that have nothing to do with birds.

Oh, and then there are some of the sea creatures!

Chapter 71

Say, where did that torpedo that took out the sea creatures last time come from, anyway? Was there a sub just patrolling the waters around the flock to keep them safe?

Max heads for the airlock to follow Angel, and before she leaves Fang comes near her and she suddenly spends a couple paragraphs talking about how she loves him a lot. So she kisses him and then goes out into the water. Though given that she developed gills some time after Angel did, I would doubt that she’d get immunity to pressure at the same time. Right?

Chapter 72

Wrooong. Max feels pressure, and swimming is slow, but that’s it.

Max goes up to Angel and the sea creatures. Angel says that the sea creatures are intelligent and that they’ve been attacking fishing boats because the nets were hurting their eggs. Don’t ask me why Angel is now able to communicate with them. Also, they know where Max’s mom is, because of course they do.

Chapter 73

Though the captain was going to head back to report the radiation, the sub is now going towards where Max’s mom is based on directions from a mutated fish.

:/

They find an underwater dome, which is designed to blend into its surroundings but also has a lot of glass. Then Angel, for some reason, has to go out of the sub in order to talk to the mutated fish. Max goes with her.

Chapter 74

Remember how Angel said that she needed to talk to the mutated fish? Apparently that was a lie, since she doesn’t do that and instead she and Max swim around the dome in search of Max’s mom. I’m betting that JPatterson changed his mind about what they were doing and didn’t bother to, or forgot to (either way it’s just as bad), change the preceding stuff.

Somehow, nobody seems to see Angel and Max, and they find Max’s mom easily. Because for some reason Max’s mom is in a cell that can see the ocean. Luxury hostage holding!

Just as Max notices that there aren’t many fish around, an eel gets zapped by something surrounding the dome. How convenient!

One of the mutated fish swims up to the dome and shorts out the electric field by absorbing it or something, then secretes a liquid that dissolves the outside of the dome. I assume JPatterson made this happen just to make sure people understand how ridiculous this is.

Chapter 75

The glass in Max’s mom’s cell cracks, and water rushes in. She doesn’t die. Then the mutated fish create a bubble of the liquid, and there’s air inside, and it keeps Max’s mom safe from the water pressure. I assume, since it’s not mentioned. JPatterson probably forgot.

The bubble itself isn’t really explained, either–we know there’s air inside, but in order for them not to fall out of it there has to be something keeping them in it, such as the liquid stuff, but the liquid stuff doesn’t get all over them, and given that Max describes it as snot I’d imagine that she would note being covered in mutant snot. But she doesn’t, so really the bubble is just magic.

So, yeah. Max’s mom was saved, we get a tiny bit of Max saying “yay I saved you” and then the chapter ends and it’s all rather anticlimactic. I mean, there wasn’t even an attempt at an action scene, it was just “magic bubble from magic mutated fish saves the day the end.”

Also: not only does Mr. Chu dump radioactive chemicals marked with his name, he also builds his base right next to those chemicals. GENIUS.

Chapter 76

The flock are hanging out at some unspecified place. And Total is there!

We got him his own Fanta and stuck a straw in it. (pg 302)

Oh, god. JPatterson not thinking about how straws work has left me with the horrifying mental image of Total having a human mouth. Thanks a ton, Patterson.

After Ella shows up and Max reunites her with her mom, Max notices Brigid looking serious, so she follows her because she’s snoopy and rude. Brigid talks to a few people in suits, and then Mr. Chu is there and Brigid shakes his hand.

Okay, so let’s look at this for a moment. Mr. Chu is someone who, when mentioned to Jeb, makes his face go white and poorly lie about not knowing who Mr. Chu is. Mr. Chu is also someone who will capture someone, have them refuse to work with him, and then release them, then try to kill them later. He’s also someone who dumps chemicals with his name on them, then builds his base next to those chemicals. And now he’s someone who, upon having his illegal chemical-dumping found-out by the government, goes to the infirmary where a person he kidnapped is being taken care of in order to shake hands with someone.

Jeb is not a very good judge of danger.

Epilogue: Just Like Heaven

There aren’t chapters in the epilogue! YESSSS!

We’re an unspecified amount of time later, and Max and Fang are talking in the air about things they would have known since moments after the previous scene. Basically, JPatterson is not very good at exposition.

Anyway, Max says that she confronted Brigid and that Brigid said she’s going to expose Mr. Chu. Though she obviously isn’t since he was in the middle of an infirmary and didn’t get arrested.

Then Max and Fang kiss and awww and then the book ends.

Remember when “the birds are working” was brought up? Yeah, it was never explained.

Maximum Ride: MAX Spork Part 7

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Chapter 61

The flock head underwater in scuba gear, apparently to check out some volcanic caves. Don’t ask me why. But Angel isn’t there, and that makes Max angry!

That mouthy six-, I mean seven-year-old–with a will of iron and all the calm reasoning power of your average rabid squirrel. Between that and her occasional bids to become the flock leader, she–was cruisin’ for a bruisin’. (pg 251)

That is possibly the weirdest grammar I’ve ever seen.

And then Max gets lost! Somehow. Like, completely lost, entirely separated from everyone else because nobody noticed her not coming along with them. Suuuure.

Oh, and then Max drops her flashlight and it breaks, which I guess might be possible if it’s a heavy flashlight? But she never says so I don’t know. And then she says she gets attacked by a giant octopus.

Chapter 62

JPatterson’s idea of compelling drama is randomly sending the flock into underwater caves, making Max get lost, and having her be attacked by an octopus.

:/

This chapter is from the perspective of Max’s mom. She’s being tortured with shocks, and her captors want her to sign something and denounce the CSM on video. How anyone would take her seriously when she’s been missing, I don’t know.

And then everything clicks into place and she understands the whole plot that’s going on oh wow!!!!

Chapter 63

Max is being squeezed at by either an octopus or a squid, she doesn’t know, and it pulls off her mask and regulator (for breathing) and oh nooo!!!!

Chapter 64

Suddenly, the octopus or squid is pulled off of Max, and everyone is there and Fang punches it, and Max now has gills.

BECAUSE OF COURSE SHE DOES.

Chapter 65

Gills yay! And then the flock head out of their plot-induced cave journey AND THEN SOMETHING ATTACKS MAX OH NOOOOOO

Honestly, JPatterson, you need to stop with this.

Chapter 66

Max was attacked by a “creature”.

The creatures were bizarrely agile and fast, whipping through the water like snakes or eels. (pg 265)

You know, actually establishing what these things look like might be helpful.

Also, they apparently range in size from cars to airplanes. Which is ridiculous. I mean, these things are attacking by ramming the flock (and John and Dr. Akana, but whatever), so if one of them is the size of a 747 as Max says, a single attack from it should be able to kill them.

Max and Fang attack the creatures underwater with regular moves (last I checked, punching something underwater is incredibly ineffective), freeing everyone else to get up to the surface.

I heard a thin, sharp whistling sound and looked around to see a slim, dark, long thing coming right at us. Not an animal but even more deadly: a torpedo. The navy had arrived. (pg 266)

I CAN’T

I JUST

CAN’T

JPatterson, you are not writing a ridiculous comic book! This is a novel that is at least trying to be taken seriously, but your writing is bat[censored] insane!

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The flock swim up 30 feet as fast as they can, so I assume they’re gonna have the bends when this is over. Then the torpedo hits the creatures, exploding and sending the flock into the air. I can’t find any information on how dangerous torpedoes could be from that range, but I guess a small one might not kill the flock outright? I mean the flock certainly do get damaged from the blast in the book, especially Dr. Akana, but… come on.

Chapter 67

The flock are on a submarine again! And bends-free.

I swear, this book is paced like something crazy.

Max’s only damage is a busted eardrum, while everyone else (aside from Dr. Akana, who was taken away due to her injuries) is fine. Well, I assume so, since Max doesn’t mention them being injured.

Also, Total is not on the sub! YESSSSS

The sub picks up “off-the-scale radiation”, so they turn on the lights.

Chapter 68

There are containers on the ocean floor outside the sub, marked with radioactive symbols and said to be the property of the Chu Corporation.

So, let me get this straight. Mr. Chu dumped radioactive materials underwater and marked them with his name?

Some of the containers are rusted open, and Nudge theorizes that that must be what caused the “creatures” that the flock fought underwater (the radiation, that is). John puts the pieces together:

“The Chu Corporation is dumping illegal radioactive material into the ocean. He created his army of robots to keep it hidden and protected. The CSM was doing a lot of work to bring ocean pollution to everyone’s notice, so we became a threat.” (pg 273)

That sounds extremely silly. It’s probably right.

And then hundreds of the “thingies” are coming towards the sub! OH NO!

I’m gonna cut this spork short on that ridiculous cliffhanger so that next time can be full-length. Come back Wednesday (ish) for the boring conclusion to MAX!

Maximum Ride: MAX Spork Part 6

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Being busy combined with forgetfulness = no spork last week. Sorry.

Chapter 55

Quick recap: claustrophobic, paranoid bird kid, trapped on a jam-packed navy tin can of death, submerged under hundreds of feet of water, and now, huge crashing sound and no lights. (pg 225)

Huh. For once Max’s pointless recaps actually helped.

Okay, have you got that picture? Now ramp up the adrenaline about 400 percent. Mix in a little terror. Stir. (pg 225)

And then it’s ruined. If JPatterson’s idea of good writing is to tell the readers what they should be feeling, well, he’s a terrible writer. But you already knew that.

The flock get out into the corridor, where the sailors are rushing about, apparently ignoring the flock, who start going along with the flow of sailors for no reason. Then Angel stops them and says that the “thingies” are trying to get into the sub. I’m not sure how she knows, since the “thingies” are robots.

Max decides to go for the minisub, and Gazzy hands her what is assumed an explosive and tells her to throw it at the “thingies” using the minisub’s claw.

Let me guess, this is going to work.

Chapter 56

I’ve hot-wired quite a few cars and driven all kinds of weird vehicles, like a school bus and a tank. (pg 229)

Eh? Since when have you driven school buses and tanks?

So Max and Gazzy, who is going along with her, continue through the submarine to the minisub. Max even remarks that nobody tried to stop them, which, sure.

Max, having forgot about her claustrophobia, now worries that she’s in a tiny minisub with Gazzy because of his gas problem. It’s as dumb in the book as it sounds.

Max manages to drive the minisub as they head around the submarine. Then Angel is there again, and she directs Max to the back of the submarine, where there are eight “thingies”, trying to cut into the submarine with a welding torch. Angel goes up to them before Max can use the explosive, oh no!

Chapter 57

Angel talks to the “thingies” and they swim off.

GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR

As the minisub heads back to the submarine, a swell of water knocks them away, and Max sees what’s described only as a “mountainous thing” causing the disturbance. The current miraculously doesn’t crush Angel, who’s on the top of the minisub, and even carries the minisub back into the submarine.

HOW CONVENIENT.

Angel says that the mountain thing was thinking, was intelligent, and wants to kill everything. Then the submarine gets knocked over on its side.

We were dead in the water. (pg 236)

Stop being so melodramatic, Max.

Chapter 58

Okay, so apparently the power in the submarine is gone, and Max doesn’t “know if we were sinking slowly into the darker, colder depths of the ocean”. ALSO:

And at this depth, the water pressure was so great that the hatches couldn’t be opened. (pg 237)

????? If Max doesn’t know if the submarine is sinking, then she has to assume that it’s at the same depth as it was before, which means that this is the same exact depth at which the minisub and freaking ANGEL GOT OUT OF THE SUBMARINE!

JPatterson WHYYYY

Then the rest of the flock come in, never mind that the submarine is on its side, and say that the submarine is relatively fine and is surfacing.

How very easy.

The flock decide to fly back to where a helicopter would otherwise be flying them to.

It was hard to jump into the air from an inflatable raft, but we managed, though we sank about a foot into the water before we were aloft. (pg 239)

How does one get lift when one’s thirteen-foot wings are only feet above water? Hmmm?

John and Brigid waved, and maybe I’m imagining things, but I thought Brigid looked envious. Maybe she wanted wings too. (pg 239)

No, she’s definitely envious about your failsnark. C’mon, Max, why would she look envious while looking at you flying and not be envious of your wings? That second sentence there is just pointless.

Max notes that Angel shouldn’t have been able to influence the “thingies” since they’re robots. I guess we’ll be getting an explanation about this, then, though I suspect it’ll be terrible.

And here’s a thought: the mountain thing could think and had a consciousness, but Angel didn’t notice it until it was causing currents. Why? (Hint: it definitely has something to do with JPatterson’s warped logic.)

Chapter 59

Now at a marine research station, Brigid Dwyer posits that the mountain thing used to be a normal living creature that was mutated by radiation. This means that they should look for the source of radiation, despite the fact that this is purely a theory and there’s no reason to assume it as truth.

*Sigh*

Chapter 60

The flock are now on a boat to look for the radiation. JPATTERSON LOGIC.

Max goes flying, and is joined by the rest of the flock. And Gazzy has water balloons, somehow.

Nudge squealed as he smacked her right in the head despite her evasive moves.

“My hair!” she shrieked, water dripping into her eyes. “You know what humidity does to it!” (pg 348)

Does he? I mean, I certainly don’t. Is this another one of JPatterson’s new developments that he tries to pretend always existed?

I had no idea how they’d [Gazzy and Iggy] even reached that elevation carrying so much weight in water balloons. And where had they gotten the stupid balloons anyway? It wasn’t like we’d popped into a party store lately! (pg 248)

Anymore I get the impression that JPatterson knows that nothing he writes makes sense, and he just doesn’t care.

Maximum Ride: MAX Spork Part 5

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I can barely muster any emotion towards this book anymore, so apologies for the rather monotone spork today.

Chapter 49

Mr. Chu is in a submarine. He kills one of his underlings because Max and Fang escaped. Never mind that he let Max go.

Chapter 50

As Brigid explains how islands work, Max lightly thinks about her claustrophobia. Read: she feels dizzy. The Voice tells her that she’s having a panic attack, and she mumbles that she’s tired and leaves. Everything I know about panic attacks says that Max is not having one, but hey, JPatterson logic.

I stumbled out of the situation room and staggered down the narrow corridor, squeezing past sailors. I felt like I might pass out any second. Every cell in my body wanted to get off this sub. Even knowing that it was the only way to rescue my mom didn’t make it any better. I’ve been locked in cells and dungeons and dog crates and never panicked like this. (pg 204)

There is no tension. No emotion. No showing, only telling. This writing is utterly boring and completely fails to convey any sense of panic. This is bad, bad, BAD writing.

Max makes it to her bunk, and Total comes in with a wet rag that he puts on her face. Remember that Total is a small dog. *Sigh*

Total is sad about Akila, and Max sympathizes with him.

That’s right: JPatterson is drawing parallels between a human girl and a sentient dog with inexplicable pop culture knowledge. I’d be rolling on the floor with laughter if this book weren’t so goddamn boring.

Chapter 51

It took twelve hours to go a distance that we could have flown in about six minutes. (pg 207)

Ooh! Research and math! This is fun!

Okay, so I Googled how fast submarines can go underwater, and got this. On it it says that submarines can go 29 miles per hour. So they traveled 348 miles, right? Only they probably weren’t going full speed, so let’s round that down to 200 miles, or 16 miles per hour. The flock’s fastest horizontal flight speed, according to this book, is about 250 miles per hour. Since 6 is a tenth of 60, that means that the flock can travel 25 miles in 6 minutes.

So either Max is seriously exaggerating, the submarine was going super slow, the path the submarine took was incredibly winding, or JPatterson doesn’t put more than two seconds of thought into anything he spews out onto paper.

I’m putting my money on the last one.

The submarine surfaces to get a marine biologist, Dr. Akana. Then they go back down into the submarine, and I realize that only Max is having panic attacks over her claustrophobia. Apparently Fang and Iggy, despite being the same age as Max, and described as having claustrophobia along with the rest of the flock, are suddenly just dandy.

There are not enough sighs in the world for this book.

Chapter 52

Max goes on a mini-sub. I’m not sure why. She marvels at the underwater life for a bit before there’s a cliffhanger because something mysterious is in the water that makes Dr. Akana gasp! Oh no!

Chapter 53

The mysterious thing is Angel. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any concrete references on whether or not water pressure at 180 feet underwater (which is where they are) is particularly dangerous, but I’m leaning on the side of dangerous, especially since Angel came from inside a submarine rather than slowly descending. Oh, but then the book addresses it:

“Is she not affected by water pressure?” Dr. Akana asked. “We’re sixty meters deep! A scuba diver would have to be very cautious about getting the bends.”

“She’ll get the bends all right,” I muttered. “I’m going to bend her over my knee!” (pg 217)

So. :/

Dr. Akana reveals that this excursion is just to check on things, since they’re approaching the area where all the fish died.

You know, come to think of it, I’m really not sure why a nuclear-capable submarine is being sent to check out some video of dead fish. Even with the mysterious thing coming out of the water, you’d think they’d send a boat first. You know, make sure the video is legitimate before sending your big guns.

But that’s just logic.

A shark sees Angel, and apparently decides to attack her. Never mind that a shark has very little reason to attack a tiny little human swimming around with a bunch of other, more nutritious targets. Angel stops the shark with her mind control.

Chapter 54

Back on the sub, Max is angry at Angel. Angel doesn’t care. Angel is still a horrible human being.

Max decides to have a meeting with the flock in their room.

Nudge had deconstructed her small khaki uniform and was holding a needled and thread as she turned it into something that didn’t offend her fashion sensibilities. (pg 222)

Um. What? Since when does Nudge know the first thing about sewing? And how is she going to somehow change a navy uniform with just a thread and needle?

“Max!” said Nudge happily. “Look! I took off the collar and changed the neckline. Once I move the buttons, it’ll be so much cuter. (pg 222)

What? I know that JPatterson isn’t fond of consistent characters or character development or any of that, but seriously, two thirds of the way through the fifth book in a series is not the time to suddenly add a character skill.

Ugh, that reminds me that we’re two thirds through this book. And nothing has happened.

Max says that she doesn’t think the navy is going to get them anywhere (but doesn’t say why), and suggests that if they haven’t made “real progress” in twelve hours they should ditch the navy. She doesn’t offer up any plan, though.

The flock agree to this without a word by doing the “hands on each other’s hands” thing that used to be a thing and then disappeared.

The flock have never been so willing to go along with Max’s plans. Why are they suddenly so willing? Oh, right, JPatterson wrote this.

Maximum Ride: MAX Spork Part 4

Standard

Chapter 36

The flock complete a stealth test with ease. Just as they do everything: with ease. Everything is a snap. They rarely have to deal with anything difficult, and the moment something difficult comes up it’s diffused with a magic bank account or some other deus ex machina.

Chapter 37

Next is weapons training, where Gazzy displays a great knowledge of guns. Don’t ask me where he learned this, because I don’t know.

Chapter 38

This whole sequence is really infuriating. I’ve managed to get through the books without too much difficulty before, but this just drags on and on with the most idiotic, ridiculous, contrived writing I’ve ever read. I want to just rip out these pages and skip forward. But noooo, I must suffer on because I chose to do this.

Why did I choose to do this???

Anyway, the flock are now in the office of someone I never bothered to mention because she’s irrelevant to the plot, but in any case they’ve passed the test and now are being put on a nuclear submarine.

So. The flock irritate the navy by being terrible people, then get rewarded by being put on a submarine for no. Freaking. Reason.

Chapter 39

The flock go to the beach. Angel wants them to try breathing underwater for some reason, and they seem to be all alone until a woman screams about a kid getting pulled out by a riptide. I guess nobody was watching the flock, since Max never mentioned it, but I think you can see why people would have been watching the flock.

Anyway. Riptide. Max and Fang fly out over the water, grab the boy, and take him back to land. He is fine. This two-page diversion was pointless. This whole book is pointless.

Chapter 40

Okay, so apparently the riptide stuff was so that Brigid would gush over Fang for a moment and make Max jealous. But then Fang asks Max to have dinner with him alone so apparently it was still pointless. Also, they rationalize that leaving the flock alone is okay since the navy is protecting them, never mind that they seem to think very little of the navy. LOGIC.

Chapter 41

Was this a date? Those four words kept swirling through my mind, over and over (pg 164)

Um, Max, why are you thinking in past tense? That’s pretty weird.

Max is ridiculously happy to be with Fang, then they kiss, and then ALL HECK BREAKS LOOSE OH NOOOOO

Chapter 42

Let me guess. More “thingies”?

Oh. No. This chapter is now from the rest of the flock’s perspective.

Guh.

They’re heading to the beach because reasons, with improvised scuba gear because a couple of kids definitely know how to cobble something like that together.

They go in the water and then OH NO SHARKS!!!!

Chapter 43

This is probably worse, writing-wise, than the test stuff, but at least it’s also really hilarious.

Max hears rumbling and sees bright flashes, and then Fang says to duck because they’re bullets being shot by “thingies”.

CALLED IT.

Also, the “thingies” apparently are horrible aims, given that they couldn’t hit Max and Fang in the time it took them to realize bullets were being shot, then duck.

*Sigh*

The “thingies” close in on their targets slowly, in a semi-circle, because that’s definitely the best way to go about things. Then Max and Fang shoot over a cliff and the “thingies” don’t realize that they escaped.

Worst. Assassins. Ever.

Fang and Max take out the “thingies”, you guessed it, with ease, and then fly away. And then there’s something dark speeding towards them, ooh mysterious!

Chapter 44

Back underwater, Angel puts her hand on her hip and says “oh no you don’t” to the sharks. This stops the sharks, which head back, “looking sheepish”.

Meanwhile, Gazzy has been stung by a jellyfish or something, and rockets out of the water only to collide with something.

Chapter 45

The dark streak is Nudge. The thing that Gazzy collided with is Nudge. The flock fly Gazzy back to the naval base. I am immensely bored, and also slightly amused by how ridiculous this all is.

Chapter 46

Gazzy is hurt very bad from a Portuguese man-of-war, and the doctor estimates that he will need to sleep for another day. This is problematic, since the flock have to go on the sub very soon.

Then Max talks to Nudge. According to Nudge, she learned more in a few days than she ever had in weeks of watching TV. I guess that if that’s referring math or something it makes sense, but the flock seem to be perfectly fine in most subjects so I’m generally kind of dubious about that claim.

Then Max estimates that because of the flocks’ supernatural healing, Gazzy will be awake in about four hours. This proves to be true, and he wakes up in time to go on the sub! Yay!

So to recap: Max and Fang get attacked, but get out perfectly fine. Gazzy, Iggy, and Angel go on an underwater excursion, and Gazzy gets injured, but then he’s fine! Nudge leaves the flock, then comes back right away! Easy and BOOORING.

Chapter 47

Sheesh. At this rate, this will definitely be the shortest spork so far. I wish JPatterson would do something interesting.

Max spends this two-page chapter being unhappy to be going down into the sub, because claustrophobia. Who wants to bet that she’s going to be perfectly fine after this?

Chapter 48

Max’s claustrophobia is mentioned in the first couple of paragraphs in this chapter, but it’s a continuation of the same scene so I’m not counting it. In any case, there’s a guy there and he says this:

“We haven’t had any direct word about your mother. However, late last night, the following surveillance film was taken in the same general area as the first one that you saw. It looks strange because it was taken with a night-vision camera.” (pg 194)

That last sentence is weird.

As seen in the video, a bunch of fish are dead!

“Mass suicide?” Total muttered, clearly wishing he was back at the base with Akila. (pg 195)

Oh, yes, clearly. (For the record, that’s sarcasm. Total is using the same snark as he always does, so JPatterson is just telling us things instead of showing. Wonderful writing!)

The image pulled back; the camera was clearly attached to a rising helicopter. (pg 195)

This is just too easy. There’s only a single sentence between this quote and the last one!

Max gets nervous about being in the sub again since the video shows a dark mass emerging from the ocean (and nobody can figure out what it is, apparently), so there’s that. Also, Angel continues to think that the flock have gills.

Anyway, that’s 12 chapters, so I’m ending this spork here.