Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Part 5, Chapter 7 - You Probably Should Have Test-Fired the Thing at Some Point

The stamping horse turns out to be none other than Windsplitter, who is being ridden by someone, and three other horses. They have Terl's full attention, so Jonnie decides it's now or never, uses the magical slicer/welder to sever his leash (yeah, he's been on one for the entire trip, but it wasn't really worth mentioning), and makes a break for the treeline, pistol ready.

Then he notices who is riding his horse.

It was Chrissie!

And not only Chrissie, there was Pattie.

A sob surged up through Jonnie.

Chrissie's glad cry rang out. "Jonnie!"

Pattie yelled with delight. "Jonnie! Jonnie!"

And Windsplitter started to trot toward him.

"Go back!" screamed Jonnie. "Run! Oh my God, run!"

A few things here. First, yes, the entire chapter is pretty much one- or two-sentence paragraphs. Now, the technique can be used to recreate the fast, frantic feel of sudden violence or a traumatic event, but if done badly it makes the narrative feel like a kid's story. My opinion on its use in this case can probably be predicted.

Second, you'd think Jonnie would recognize his love interest, the person who's prompting this whole escape attempt, at first glance. The only conclusion I can reach is that his attention was on his horse, which given our hero's previous behavior is certainly believable.

Third, I thought horses had a good sense of smell. Not enough to track, of course, but you'd think something like a big musky Psychlo (there's been no mention of Terl bathing, to my recollection) might make the animal a bit skittish. And what about the hovertruck? They didn't hear it coming, or see it parked outside?

And finally, I love Pattie's introduction.

The worse-than-useless females finally notice the hulking monster, but stop short of doing something smart and fleeing, so Jonnie jumps between them and Terl, brandishing his pistol, threatening to fire on him if he attacks the girls. The Psychlo doesn't even draw his gun and lumbers towards them, explaining that he's been tracking them by a recon drone and knew they would be here.

A frantic Jonnie (again) threatens to shoot, which is something by all rights he should have done the second he decided to escape. Heck, why'd he cut himself free first, run second, and only then consider blasting his captor? Wouldn't it be far safer and smarter to shoot Terl in the back of the head while his attention was occupied?

Whatever. Terl smugly informs him that the gun won't work. Jonnie tries to fire anyway, but the gun won't work. Terl fishes out a familiar gold coin from a pocket and reveals that it was he who sold Jonnie a gun.

Well, that explains why Jonnie had no reaction to Ker the unusually cooperative Psychlo - L. Ron knew it was just a trick, so he decided not to have his character waste time contemplating it, or risk Jonnie being wrong about something now that he's all educated and empowered or whatever. Not that this invalidates anything I said about it back in chapter 3. There's more to the Psychlos than meets the eye, though it'll take a few hundred pages for any real development of their background and society. Not that it matters much.

Back to the hostage situation. Jonnie prepares for a suicidal charge, Terl finally pulls his gun and shoots a horse, and then reminds Jonnie who is in control here. "Now help me round these creatures up so we can get them in the truck."

And so Jonnie's escape attempt, which had little chance of succeeding due to the number of pages remaining, demands of the narrative, and just who was masterminding it, has failed. Next chapter, a cargo of freight and despair.

Back to Chapter Six

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