Saturday, February 28, 2015

I Have No Choice But to Play Continuity Cop

Hello and welcome to the last day of February! Thank goodness this horrible month is coming to an end. Got to agree with Ed Weathers's opinion of February myself, but as always, YMMV.

We've all seen many times that when given the choice between Show and Tell, Ellanjay choose Tell every time, only occasionally attempting to Show. This is in defiance of one of the great writing commandments "Show, don't tell." Granted one of the things you learn about writing is that there are exceptions to every rule and you should use what works for you or the story, not follow a rule unto death. But when you're talking about action-packed exciting stuff that would actually be a helluva a lot more interesting to read about rather than yet another round of Exciting!TV Watching!Action...yeah, kind of think it would be nice to, y'know, actually see the stuff mentioned in the opening paragraph instead of Ellanjay fast-forwarding through it so Judd can whine about how it's so hard to survive during the Apocalypse.

Okay, I thought I'd warn you a little bit about this week's selection. Since, I don't know, Consistency ran over their dog when they were kids, Ellanjay really hate it and the time scale gets really screwed up in this chapter, screwed up enough that my brain just crashes several times trying to make sense of it all. Like I said to aunursa in a previous comment, if Ellanjay had put forth any effort on plotting or characterization, I'd be willing to forgive screw-ups involving time because speaking as a writer, it's hard to keep track of time in a novel and most writers have made one or two screw-ups regarding it. But Ellanjay haven't given me anything to latch onto, anything to love or care about, so there's nothing to distract from such a glaring screw-up.

As you guessed, the first viewpoint character for this chapter is Judd aka mini-Rayford. The first paragraph mentions that it's been months since he and Lionel arrived at the Ohio safe house and things have changed dramatically. The GC are redoubling their efforts to ferret out RTCs. As a result, it's becoming more difficult for food to get in and with an influx of refugees at the hideout, everyone's cramped and hungry.

Now if this was a truly well-written young adult series like Susan Beth Pfeffer's Last Survivors series all this discomfort would be delved into. Like I mentioned earlier when talking about screw-ups, if the writer puts forth the effort to craft a compelling story with characters I can care about, I'm willing to overlook screw-ups and just go with the story. Susan Beth Pfeffer's Last Survivors series is a good example of that. I have only a elementary level knowledge of physics, but I know the event that sets off everything in that series (an asteroid smashes into the moon, pushing it closer to Earth, screwing everything up) is unlikely to happen; if an asteroid did strike the moon, it'd probably just knock off a chunk and send it crashing to Earth and unlike what certain movies will tell you an piece of space debris need not be humungous in order to render life on this planet, moot.

But anyway, in spite of the scientific flaws of Pfeffer's story, I was still able to get into and feel for the characters simply because she immerses herself in their heads and does a good job of making their reactions to said events feel believable and human. She makes you feel what it's like to be cold, hungry, and scared all the time.

Ellanjay, as you probably guessed, don't put forth one-eighth the effort Pfeffer does. Rather than delve into the hunger issue, how people don't focus and behave at their best when they're hungry and scared, which is a shame. A shrinking food supply lends itself to great dramatic potential with people having to endure rationing and wondering if they should take in every RTC refugee because the more people they shelter, the more people they have to feed, and whatnot.

But as you probably guessed, the food issue is barely touched on as Judd is far more concerned about the fact that with all these people here, he :gasps: no longer has full control over the computer, making it harder for him to talk with Vicki. Who would imagine that something as piddling and insignificant as the Apocalypse would interfere with Judd's efforts to get laid?

There's a brief mention about Lionel being depressed over the fact that since he only has one arm, he can't help out with the work that is needed to keep the hideout going. As you guessed, this is told from Judd's perspective rather than from the perspective of the person actually dealing with this shit (Lionel). Never say that Ellanjay don't know how to pick the most compelling POV from which to tell a story.

But Judd remains optimistic.

Despite the negatives, Judd knew God was still working. Another plague had hit the earth, turning rivers into rushing floods of blood. Judd had traveled past a nearby river every night on his way to the construction area, and the gurgling blood and horrible smell was sickening.

If by working, you mean ensuring that no life of any kind (plant or animal) survives, then I'd agree with you, Judd, that God is indeed working.

And in this little paragraph, we get one of many continuity screw-ups, because seriously, I distinctly remember from previous books that the waters had all turned to blood. In fact, I think this is the third time that plague has happened. First there was Wormwood, then apparently Ellanjay forgot about Wormwood because they turn the waters to blood again in another book, and now there's this little mention. And if you guessed they don't talk about all the mass starvation/dehydration coming about as a result of all water on the planet being undrinkable, congratulations, you know your Ellanjay-related tropes. :sigh: We could be reading Shakespeare right now.

Seriously, aunursa, you wanna help me out with your encyclopedic knowledge? Just how many times does God make water undrinkable or turn it into blood in this series?

As a result of the bloody water, the GC citizens are more concerned with such piddling concerns as staying alive rather than hunting down the unmarked. No word on how many of said citizens are currently languishing in tent hospitals and the like with many dropping dead every minute, but hey, I suppose I can't expect that level of detail from Ellanjay.

But Judd is soon busy, reading an email from Chang. Chang (and yes, I do wish it was about this Chang)talks about something that happened to the guy whom everyone in the series, good or evil, acknowledges his greatness and circles around him (for he is the sun of their world, while they can only be mere satellites), by which I mean St. Rayford.

I've mentioned earlier, but as bad as this series is, I am genuinely surprised that the series isn't just the Kids constantly witnessing what Our Buck and St. Rayford are up to and lavishly praising them. Granted there's a little of that, but still, there have been whole books in which Our Buck and St. Rayford are barely mentioned. I also wonder if maybe Tim LaHaye wasn't breathing down Jerry Jenkins's neck as much, seeing as his Mary Sue surrogate (Buck) gets more screen-time than LaHaye's (Rayford).

But anyway, Rayford was in Argentina, the GC, showed up, and if you guessed once again, Angels (in this case, Christopher, Nahum, and Caleb) show up and save their asses, again congratulations on being familiar with Ellanjay tropes. If you also guessed that the angelic visitors accomplished Jack when you think about it, congrats again. Basically all the angels do is show up and tell the GC to leave. After the GC leaves, so do the angels. Never say Ellanjay don't have the finger on the pulse of today's youth. Today's youth hate excitement of all kinds.

After reading Chang's email, Judd is all mopey, thinking about how he wants to get back to Vicki. He reads a verse from Romans 5 , specifically verses 3-5, but in a rare realistic reaction, after reading it, Judd's like, "I don't want to build more character. I want to be with Vicki."

Then we cut to Vicki's section. Thought I'd warn you ahead of times: this is where the time scale gets seriously screwed up, so brace yourselves.

Vicki has been kept busy updating the website, but she is not left unmarked by suffering. She too, has been forced to cut back on her computer/phone time, which means she can't have dirty cybersex/phonesex with Judd.

Vicki takes comfort from the first few verses of the Book of James. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that it's probably a good thing she didn't read the rest of the Book of James, more specifically Chapter Two. Because James was all about the Social Gospel and is the source of the infamous verse that goes "Faith without works is dead." So yeah, if Vicki had read any further, some heretical ideas might have taken root.

But shortly after this, we come to the one line which makes my brain crash gears.

A few days before Ryan’s eight-month birthday, which Vicki and the others celebrated with gusto, a vehicle pulled into camp.

If you're wondering, it's those first few words that make my brain crash. Eight months have passed in this verse?! Seriously, eight months?! Because I distinctly remember reading about Ryan Victor's birth in this book. At the time, my brain crashed trying to figure out how long Cheryl had been pregnant, because given how little care Ellanjay pay to such details as pregnancy, I found myself wondering if Ryan was a Micro-Preemie because I couldn't make heads of tails over how much time had passed because Cheryl seemed to jump from "six months away from giving birth" to "currently in labor."

In addition to the "Eight Months?!" issue, earlier in Vicki's section, there were other details brought up that made me go "Huh?" If you're wondering, Cheryl has been sharing her baby with Tom and Josey, but lately, Cheryl has become more distant, staying away from Bible studies and staying away from the Fogartys whenever they have her baby. But that leads into this puzzling paragraph:

By the time Ryan started to crawl, Cheryl had moved into a run-down shack by herself farthest away from the others. At each milestone in the baby’s life—his first tooth, his first haircut, his first word, which was dada—Cheryl withdrew more and more.

This threw me, making me wonder if Ryan Victor was some sort of freakish prodigy baby, but I took the liberty of doing a Google Search to be sure, and apparently it's not within the realm of impossibility for a baby to be crawling and talking a eight months. The talking one threw me more than the other ones in that paragraph. As said before, I haven't actually had a kid, but I know enough about infant development to know that there's usually a window in which these developments usually happen. Like the average age in which they start to cut teeth is around six months (though some start earlier or later) and I could accept a baby crawling a eight months, I thought talking was something that came later. Oh well...

Like I said before, I'd be more willing to let continuity issues slid if they put forth any effort into their work, especially when it comes to issues of infant development, because, speaking from personal experience, babies are hard characters to write. Most character development comes about as a result of characters interacting with other characters, but babies can't really interact with other characters in an appreciable way. For much of their life, all they can do is cry, lie around, and wait for someone to take care of them, so it can be tempting to forget about them for pages at a time. That's one of the criticisms I've heard of Jean Auel's latest book. In the previous book, her protagonist, Ayla, had a baby and many wondered how this would effect her life, but it turns out it doesn't. Ayla's baby could be easily played by a couch cushion because her presence doesn't affect anything that happens in the book. Tip for aspiring writers: if you're going to have a baby as a character, remember that they do exist and even though they can't go off on adventures of their own, their existence should have an affect on the plot or the parent of said character.

But anyway, for those of you craving to experience a popular Ellanjay trope (bringing back a character who has been gone long enough you could be forgiven for having forgotten existed in the first place), Chad shows up again and much of the rest of the chapter is taken up with his conversation with Vicki. I know Chad is supposed to come across as romantic and such, but he still comes across as kind of pervy, given that we don't know how big the age gap is between him and Vicki. Granted by now Vicki is around the age of 20, so I can't scream, "Statutory!" and it's not unusual for couples to have age gaps between them (my mom is seven years older than my dad, but they met and married as adults), but still something in Chad's manner and bearing squicks me.

Anyway the end of the chapter can be summed up as this: Chad hits on Vicki, Vicki politely refuses, and Chad having realized he is, at best, a minor character in this series backs off, realizing she and Judd are meant to be together. The chapter ends with Vicki finding out that Chad died after a high-speed chase with the GC. Chad was apparently trying to get to Judd so he could bring Vicki and him together, but since Ellanjay still need to pad out the book even more, despite being richer than most African nations, all Vicki can do is sigh and decide that she and Judd will be together when they are sure that the writers God wants them to be. I could point out that in a year, when TurboJesus returns, this time packing heat, Vicki can be with Judd all she likes, but my guess is she wants to be with him before the Glorious Appearing because she knows after that, there's no sex for anyone, married or single, gay or straight. Can't say I blame her for wanting to get laid before God takes it away for everyone. I suppose using that logic, Vicki should have jumped Chad's bones the instant he walked in, but as if, Ellanjay would let a main character commit so egregious a sin as :gasp: :choke: :pearlclutch: premarital sex. Again, more and more I'm starting to think there's a reason Beverly LaHaye spends all her time in Washington D.C., making a career out of telling women that they shouldn't have careers. I suppose I should call her on her hypocrisy, but frankly if I was married to Tim LaHaye, I'd look for any excuse to get away from him too.

Well, I read through this and it looks like it'll be another one chapter snark this week. Wonder if that's going to be a thing from here on out, me just doing one chapter snarks. It'll probably depend on whether stuff happens or not. But I have been doing this crummy little blog for nearly five years and I know the nature of my posts have changed in that period. I'm often embarrassed by my earlier ones, by all the spelling errors and all the overlooked snark material, but hey, we all have to start somewhere and I'd like to think that while I'm not as proficient as Fred, that my snarks are still worth reading.


Firedrake said...

Anybody would think that the guy who came up with the Revelation lived in a hot climate and therefore cared especially about access to water.

Eight-month birthday? They're having birthdays faster than usual because there aren't all that many years left?

I'm still enjoying the snarks. Can't always come up with much to say, but the books are pushing bad writing in exciting new directions.

Dana Hunter said...

I have at last caught up on all previous posts. I love them all - yes, even the early ones. Thank you for suffering through these wretched books so we don’t have to!

aunursa said...

Sorry, Mouse. I couldn't keep track of the various plagues, or even the timing of the plagues.

spiritplumber said...

Hmm. Given that the "water turning to blood" thing is recurring, my guess is that only water currently in rivers turns to blood, and groundwater is unaffected, so that after some days/weeks things are back to normal except in stagnant ponds... until the next time Zod hits the "disaster" button.

Eight-month birthdays for babies and toddlers because there aren't many years left makes sense, it's one of the many things that they could've made something of.

Anonymous said...

Seed of Bismuth Said...
your early stuff is what got me hers so don't be to hard on yourself.
Also here is the timetable
wormwood falls deadly poison's the water for [blank] amount of time and then disappears.
then the oceans turn to blood for [blank] amount of time then revert to sea water.
then the springs & rivers turn to blood for [blank] amount of time the revert to fresh water.
so why poison the water 3 times?{shrugs} o no wait SYMBOLISM!!! and yes how munch if anything could survive is a question