Maximum Ride Chapters 69 & 70

While Jimmy like to pretend he’s a member of the Real Authors club because he writes a lot of books and gets paid for it, I’m not falling for it simply because he can claim to be a bestseller. Part of the reason, for my reasoning is nuanced unlike Jimmy’s books, is that he fails at the most basic elements of storytelling.

For example, it might behoove you to show the audience the driving force behind the story sometime before the middle of the book. The closest thing Jimmy has done in offering an antagonist is Ari and the crew of werewolves. The problem with that is clear from the moment we meet him. For one thing he’s twelve and outside a few exceptions like a Twilight Zone episode, twelve year olds aren’t menacing and they certainly aren’t the brain trust that make villains.

Which brings me nicely to my next point, Ari is too stupid to be in charge. He’s clearly the head of the “erasers” as he’s the only one allowed to speak and so he comes across as the henchmen commander. Which might make him qualify as a second in command but he’s not calling the shots and so we don’t know who’s really in charge.

The problem is, this is an antagonist driven story. The whole impetus for everything that’s happened has come from other human(-ish) beings. It’s not an act of nature or an abstract cultural concept or even a demonic presence from another dimension. There are clear lines between bad guys and good guys. And when you write it like that you need to properly frame the bad guys.

Even if Jimmy wanted to borrow a cartoonishly lame cast of idiots from Captain Planet and throw them in there as a counterpoint to Max and the gang, at least then their motivation is clear. As it stands we don’t know who wants the kids captured and alive, which is the only thing clear about the villain’s motivation, for what reason they were made, why there are only two animals successfully merged with human beings, whether or not these guys are a corporation or an evil government program and, most importantly, why we care.

At this stage in the game, there’s absolutely no reason to care. There’s been no credible threat to any, that includes Angel, of the kids nor motivation. We haven’t even seen the face of a bad guy popping up somewhere to say something sinister. For all we know Max could be running around because a dog told her to and it would not change the story one iota. And while I’m harping on Jimmy for this, it applies to a lot of authors.

Both Chris and Otis offer two other examples of work where the villain isn’t clear. Chris’s Galbatorix and Otis’s Victoria are just like Jimmy’s…what ever the hell they are. On that subject, I’d be willing to bet it’s going to be an evil corporation. Being as that’s the go to villain staple of hacks, right behind Nazis and zombies, I’m pretty safe making that wager. Evil government conspiracies started falling out when children of hippies started making popular movies, TV shows and books.

We’re now an hour into the future from last time and Max has recovered. She wonders what from. Gee, I don’t know Max. Migraines can be brought on by a lot of things depending on who you are and there aren’t any reliably predictive patterns that go from person to person. But as you’re special and different from those of us among the unclean I’d say it was an attack of transformation.

All the kids are now sitting on the ground around a fire. Yes, they’re doing the camping bit. Because why would anyone ever stop to rest and not make a camp? Why can’t people just stop, find a place to sleep and/or rest and then move on the next day? I guess that would involve being inconspicuous which is something protagonist can’t manage.

Anyway, they’re sitting around a fire which Iggy started.

I shot him a look, then helped Nudge and Angel surround the pile of kindling with big stones. Why was the blind guy playing with matches, you ask? Because he’s good at it. Anything to do with fire, igniting things, exploding things, things with fuses, wicks, accelerants . .. Iggy’s your man. It’s one of those good/bad things.

Really? Because I hadn’t quite gotten that from when he made a bomb. Of course he had to consult the interwebs for instructions but it was basically all Iggy and totally not Gasman. They sit around the campfire, cooking things and making s’mores. Whoa there Jimmy boy. I’m willing to believe they went and bought supplies when I wasn’t looking but that doesn’t explain this next part.

“This is nice,” the Gasman said happily. “It’s like summer camp.”

How do you know what summer camp is?! Did they let you watch a lot of TV specials while you were caged? Did they make you watch Spacecamp ever day for a year?

Max then tells us she didn’t know what the pain was but she’s not going to worry about it now. Then she gets down to the business of demonstrating how colossally retarded her author is.

What a lie. My knees were practically knocking together. The thing is, the “scientists” back at the School had been playing with risky stuff, combining human and nonhuman DNA. Basically, the spliced genes started to unravel after a while, and the organisms tended to, well, self-destruct. The flock and I had seen it happen a million times: The rabbit-dog combo had been such bad news. Same with the sheepmacaque monkey splice. The mouse-cat experiment had produced a huge, hostile mouse with great balance and an inability to digest either grain or meat. So it starved to death.

Huh, were you really sure you wanted to go that route, Jimmy? I mean, I see it in print so you and everyone on your team had to look at that paragraph and think, ‘yup, that’s perfectly fine with me’, before it was published. I guess Jimmy and Otis must have gone to the same biology course to learn about genetics.

Number one, why are these “scientists” only mashing the DNA of two creatures together? Even when this book came out, splicing was more precise that simply taking a bunch of DNA strands, putting them in a blender and hitting the ‘crushed ice’ button. You’d think people in the “near future” would have access to better technology and a deeper understanding of genetic code, not worse.

Secondly, if you’re going to be stupid about it, why not just use all sorts of DNA at the same time. Why not cross an octopus, a chicken, a flying squirrel, a wolverine and a hawk all together? The pairing of animals comes across like a six year old was sitting around thinking about what would be really cool if they where combined.

Thirdly, how in the hell did they make a “giant” mouse cat that can’t eat anything? How did it get giant if it couldn’t take in food? See, Jimmy, living creatures can only grow if they have the base materials to do so which they normally get from food. If they made something that couldn’t eat, it would probably died when it was really small.

Fourthly, yes there is a fourthly, how do the spliced genes just unravel? Did they use some cheap agent to anneal the strands together? Maybe they got a DNA repair kit at Walmart for three bucks and it’s defective. They probably bought it at the same time they purchased the dog kennels along with a fishing license and a case of beer.

Oh and apparently the “erasers” only live about four years. This is all supposed to make us sad because Max too might have a finite lifespan. Oh, and Jimmy? Would you mind not stealing from Bladerunner, or ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’ if you’re picky, ever again? I know Phillip K Dick was a better author and imitation is the sincerest form of flattery but plagiarism is the sincerest form of hackery.

Suddenly Angel is telling Max to wake up. She says she has a secret to tell her about where they came from and then the chapter ends. Yes Jimmy, we already know they have parents. They know that too and was revealed when Nudge said she wanted to go visit hers. Or is it going to be the twist that Angel is related to Max? Either way I’m sure it will provide plenty of stupidity for the next post.

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