Monday, October 5, 2015

Agenda 21: Wordplay

Agenda 21, pp. 159-163

You know what's sad? When you unveil something new and then realize after the fact that you jumped the gun.

Chapter 24 is just four pages long - only around a thousand words - and yet it feels so much longer because the entire chapter is the protagonist thinking about things. She thinks about Else. Then she thinks about her mom. Then she thinks about David. Then she thinks about David some more. Then she goes to sleep.

The only important thing that happens is this:

The new Gatekeeper stopped outside my door...He stood outside my door for a long minute, then said, "I wonder where David is. Yes, indeed, I wonder where David is."

Now, what just happened - having a nameless, unestablished ancilliary character talk loudly to himself - is easily one of the worst means of introducing a plot point I've ever seen. Nevertheless, I'm tempted to give the novel a pass on this one. You see, this isn't going to be resolved at the end of the chapter, or even in the next one. Halfway into the book and Harriet Parke has finally learned the rudiments of dramatic tension.

This "learn as you go" thing is another bit that makes this novel feel like a serial, specifically one done by a first-time author. A serial is essentially a first draft being published in real-time, and irregularities are bound to crop up due to the quick pace. Of course, by the time those serial chapters are edited together into a novel and published professionally, it should no longer have that feel.

That was short and stupid, so how about a bonus? We open Chapter 25 with another trip into the sleeping mat o' wonders:

[I] felt something else. Something small, smooth, cold, round. I pulled it out slowly. A golden color. An image of an Indian on one side.

The first time I read Agenda 21, I got to this passage and wondered, "Why did she have an egg with an Indian face in her secret stash?"

That sounds like a joke but it's really about half-serious. Harriet Parke is not exactly a wordsmith; "smooth" and "cold" are the same words she used to describe the eggs in everyone of those bizarrely long egg-eating sequences, with "golden" describing the yolk. Every time. On seeing those words pop up, my brain immediately went to "egg." That's how bad this novel is - it actually screwed with my cognition a little.

Oh, and the elephant in the room - How does someone who didn't know what a state was until a few days ago know what an Indian is? And would a person born that late even be familiar with that nomenclature?

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