Critique of Chapter VI(A)
By: Dhalgren99

The lights go down. It's supposed to be atmosphere and dramatic and romantic, but well we've lost power and now the place is flooding with a swarm of mad hornets and everyone is running out and screaming. Except for you stalwart people, you sit tight because I know you're all interested in what I have to say about this chapter.

Actually I've secretly glued everyone to their seats. But it's the same results.

So reach down and grab that handy can of Raid (ooh, better put some ice on that) and, those of you allergic to stings do your best not to think about it (fortunately in the fictional world, epinephrine is cheap and plentiful). Because I'm far more interesting. ME! Listen to ME!

Aha, now that everyone is riveted, we've already up to chapter six, you folks better start plotting quick and bringing those chapters in or I'm going to catch up and start continuing the story the way I think it should go (and in my version, stuff explodes, a lot...and everyone finds my brand of humor funny, not just my mom)...but right now I'm here and here we've got...DanO. Step right up...oh wait you can't.

Now those who have been following along know that two out of two times I've mocked DanO's signature character, Odan...I've said many a thing about our favorite Scribe, some of them pleasant, some of them biting, many of them nonsensical...all the better for me. And so, you're wondering, what does he think of Odan now? Does he find him peachy, has he been won over by the rascally scribe the same way we have? Can it be? Maybe he caved like the wet tissue paper that he is and read the thrice darned bios.

Or maybe not. For Odan, my answer is yes...and no. I really liked this chapter, DanO showed that his prologue was no fluke and that he can play with the big boys and girls who are ruling the roost here in the Realms. After a run of successful chapters, he steps in and shows us that his bizarre, warped worldview has a place within the more mundane chapters. Oh yes it does.

And on, the plus side, Odan is barely in it...which is good and bad, actually, I wanted to see the character developed more (especially since this chapter isn't being concluded for a while, but I'm not skipping ahead, I'll read them in the order they're posted and play catchup when I get, ketchup) but there's so much else going on here that I really didn't notice Odan's absence for most of it.

DanO whips out (wha-pish!...that's the sound of a whip cracking...oh I'm so very clever, aren't I guys?, guys? guys?) an interesting style here that still identifies it as strictly "him" but at the same time is sparser and maybe a little more restrained. It appears to revolve more around separate sentences structured in their own paragraphs, I'm very much a fan of minimalism (says the man with a 600K word "short story") and to see a piece like this very much impresses. The trademark eye for detail is still here, which seems to be a hallmark of everyone here but the structure serves to give it more of a rhythm, and an eerie one at that, which is good given the subject matter.

Some of the stuff is awkward, the sections jump back and forth without giving the reader any sort of clue as to what's going on and what order they even go in, just when you think the story is proceeding along one way, a sentence pops up and you're wondering if you're still in the Dream or not. It's a tad jarring but a step above the somewhat ramshackle structure of the prologue, the method to the madness is a little clearer here. On another technical note, when people are speaking and you're breaking their speech into paragraphs, the tendancy is, if they're running one into the other, to drop the ending quotation mark from the previous one, like so: "And so you know I was just standing there and the biggest...I swear to God it was cabbage, the world's largest head of cabbage came rushing right at me, right at ME, man and all I could do was think of what kind of salad that would make. That's right, it was hideously easy to get away from and all I could do was stand there, like an idiot. I deserved to get squashed by cabbage, frankly. Ha, ha, little joke there. 'But the thing is, the thing was, you see, out of nowhere, this enormous fork came and just started stabbing it, I mean really going at it and there was giant cabbage juice all over kept screaming, I mean the wildest scream I've ever heard, and there was this disgusting crunching noise and...I'll never forget it, man. Never. "But you know, it's a good thing because if the cabbage had gotten loose it probably would have used its leafy powers to enslave the world and we'd have to work in the vegetable mines for the rest of our lives. So it was horrible to watch, but a good thing. You know?" "Who the hell are you and why are you talking to me?"

See, when you leave out that quotation mark, then the reader assumes the same person is speaking, especially if you don't indicate otherwise. If you don't chuck it, then the reader assumes someone different is talking, especially if you don't indicate otherwise. Now you could go hog wild and just play opposite day and stick all the narration is quotations and the dialogue outside but that's too nutty even for nutty me. So that's the way I see that.

Other than that, I was really liking this. I was surprised to see Craven Justice make an appearance, since mostly everyone has stuck to his or her own characters so far but it's a good reminder that they all live in the same world and it does further what nebulous overarcing plot is still lurking around somewhere. Craven is written well, I wasn't sure how one handles a character doesn't belong to one, but DanO pulled it off convincely...KENICY left him in good hands, though if I were you I'd pay close attention to what this author is doing, this man is nuts, guys and gals. The dream sequence is typically bizarre, but more in a hazy fashion, I'm still not sure where the dream ends and the story takes over again or even when this chapter takes place. I guessed it took place sometime when Craven fell into the pool but I can't be sure. Synchronize the continuity there folks, us anal people demand it. Uhn! Aw yeah.

The "old woman with the cards at the side of the road" is about the only lip service this chapter pays to typical fantasy...Ultima was big on using this trick over and over and over again, it's sort of expected when you write this stuff. The way the woman is talking, this chapter might take place during his running from his brother, though it's hard to tell, if so is there a way to integrate these two chapters without messing both up? In any event, DanO lays the weirdness on thick here but personally I thought the conversation between Craven and the old woman was top notch, you revealed a lot of stuff that was utterly fascinating without comprosing the story itself and leaving us wanting more. And you wonder, how much of that stuff is true, we take it for granted that quasi-mysterious old woman by the side of the road can only tell the truth, but who says? How much of all that is just a dream induced put on? Only time will tell.

There's a repetition of "With a start Craven dream ended and he awoke" or something along those lines, it might be necessary since the lines aren't that different from each other to merit (I think) repeating them. But you might have a plan, if so, then carry on. Hell, if not, carry on anyway.

The chapter gets way confusing after this, in the last chapter Craven had already met the Scribe, who kicked his brother's ass (but we won't go there) and fallen into the pool and lost part of his memory that the scribe was the legendary (yawn) he's meeting Odan again for the first time at a different pool. Huh? What gives? Is this a dream still or...or what? Inquiring minds want to know.

We'll table that little debate for now though...the Benevolent Being gets a lot of ink here, without even explaining who he is (though the rather self referential name is a clue, come on now, I don't go around calling myself "Goofy Human" no matter how true it might be). The poem is a nice (and concise) summary of the prologue for those lazy people who skipped it thinking, "This is so weird it can't have anything to do with the story" oh ho, how wrong you are, little man! Craven again shows his penchant for rhyming couplets, but it's catchy and it works (did KENICY write the poem, I think she's the resident poet right?) even though a man like me thumbs his nose at any poetry that isn't the Divine Comedy ('cause it's long and that makes it good...tee hee, I'm so shallow).

The conversation between the Scribe and the Skull (Odan's skull, it appears, even the man's BONES are arrogant!) is wickedly weird...even though Odan warns Craven to not speak to the skull and then proceeds to do so anyway even though he starts mentally talking...did the italics function break at that point, DanO? Just kidding, he switches back shortly after, which must be weird for Craven (sort of like listening to a phone conversation from only one end and trying to figure out what thy're discussing, or if it's you teenage sister, just pick the phone up and start bellowing the words to "D'you Think I'm Sexy?" set to a thudding reggae beat) and even weirder for the reader who gets the front row seat for it all. Okay, so the skull is Odan, that piece of crystal that fell out when Moultrance laid the smackdown on him, while the Scribe is only Odan but only like a template ("A copy is not the original") or something, basically an escape pod of sorts, something to walk around and keep him alive until the skull could rejoin its infinitely irritating consciousness.

So BeNob ("Beatrice Noblich" my neighbor is a near awesome force for good...rock on Ms. Noblich, now I almost feel bad about what I did to your dog...) sent seven warriors to stop Moultrance...but eight corpses appear. Eh? Is the eighth one Odan? See, BeNob made the mistake of not sending the right people, you pick the right pair and you only have to send do this once. But no, it's never that easy is it? Tristian might have to show up just to sort out the mess Moultrance is causing. And now there's a flaming dragon god loose...wonderful. If I were Odan I'd probably just find an iceberg and ram the dragon with it...come on, we've seen this movie already, and maybe DiCaprio will stay dead this time. Instead of becoming a mansicle.

A living, flame breathing dragon god? As opposed to a dead, smoke wafting one?

Just as a note, I found it somewhat amusing that Craven named his lute. Sigh. Men. We'd name everything, we'd name our underwear if that wouldn't be creepy ("Hm, am I wearing Tim today, or...Rhonda...oh ho ho!"). Hm, the skull talked to Craven but his mind seemed just fine, no poison entering there...the scribe doesn't seem to know what he's talking about. The skull isn't playing with a full deck either though, frankly...perhaps existing only as something you'd purchase at the Franklin Mint (patent pending) would make you a bit bonkers for a while. I suppose we all go a little crazy now and then. Me, I'm living in one big moment. Whee-oh!

The skull's statement that the scribe has no name because he essentially has no identity reminded me of something I did once along the same lines, where in "Ghosts of the Past" Belmodeus was confronted with all the people he had killed but none of them had names or faces...because I hadn't created any of the characters, they only existed for that second when I wrote "And Belmodeus killed the entire planet"...thus, they were only placeholders, having mostly symbolic value up to that point, little fictional metaphysics for you there (same thing happened with Tristian's parents, ironically enough).

It's a pity that this chapter won't be completed for a while...but this was head and shoulders a quantum leap over the prologue and I did like that as well. But that at times seemed like an overabundance of mad ideas without any synthesis or there's a reason behind all the weirdness which I can only admire. You've done well, DanO, you did justice to Craven (oh har de har), took a tiny baby step toward making me like Odan and made a talking skull without silly or mentioning Hamlet. My hat is off.

Good job, I think that's all I have for are the glue solvents and away you all go...bye now! Come back soon!

Hm...look at them go. It's so cute to watch people fleeing in abject terror. I get that warm cuddly feeling. Who needs a pet when you have wayward deviance? Who, I ask you?

On that note, take care all.

- Michael

"Mild mannered supermen are held in kryptonite and the wise and foolish virgins giggle with their bodies glowing bright, through the door a harvest feast is lit by candlelight, it's the bottom of a staircase that spirals out of sight..."
- Genesis, "Carpet Crawlers"

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