Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Dark Tide Chapter 2 Part 2

"When Gyphon challenged Adon for control of the Spheres,"

"... Adon responded by conquering the Cubes, and buying time-share in the Pyramids."

"War broke out in the three Planes: Upper, Middle, and Lower."

But fortunately not in the basement or attic.

"Here in Mithgar the struggle was mighty, for Modru, Gyphon's servant, was supreme and his Horde was nearly without number."

  1. Uh, "supreme" means that somebody is basically the topmost, the head honcho, the big banana, the leader of the pack...
  3. Is that Horde led by Genghis Khan?

And who is Gyphon, you may ask? He's the bargain-basement version of Morgoth.

And for people who never read Tolkien's books, or never read the ones that weren't turned into movies, Morgoth is basically Satan. He's an evil Valar who fucked up the world and fucked up human beings, and destroyed the two Lamps of Valinor. So everybody banded together to kick his ass and thrown into the Timeless Void.

For an idea of how scary he is... the ultimate evil boss of LOTR... was his MINION. Yes, Sauron was this guy's servant.

"Yet the Grand Alliance opposed them, not realizing that the outcome here in the midworld would tip the balance of power in the Upper and Lower Planes, too.

Midworld? So, this fantasy land is called Midworld? Wow, I wonder if that's similar in name to... oh... well... MIDDLE EARTH.

"And so it was that the Grand Alliance of Men, Elves, Dwarves, Utruni, Wizards, and Warrows fought on the side of Adon in the Great War against Gyphon, Modru, Vulks, Ghuls, Hloks, Ogrus, Rucks, Vulgs - and some Dragons.

Wow! How awesome, epic and inspiring! It would be slightly more inspiring if we knew what half those things are, especially the ones who are not easily identified, like "Vulks" or "Utruni" or "Ghuls."

"Here, in the Middle Plane, by an unexpected stroke the Alliance won; Modru lost."

Uh, that's usually how it works in wars. If you win, the other guy loses. He doesn't get a ribbon for participating.

"And so it was that Adon won and Gyphon lost on all three Planes."

He lost two out of three throws, and Adon refused Gyphon's demand for a do-over.

Also, this comment is kinda sketchy because we later find out that the "lower plane" is a pretty horrible place in service to (shock) the evil Gyphon. He's the Dark Lord who oversees another Dark Lord who hangs around on the middle world causing wars and misery and all that crap because... he's evil and stuff. Wow, I wonder where McKiernan got the idea for THAT.

So apparently Adon - no, I don't know who Adon is, but I assume he's a god of some kind - decided to mess up entire species as punishment, because we all know that when a fantasy species goes to war, ALL of them have the exact same beliefs, thoughts and motivations. So now daylight kills all those various undefined fantasy races, and the evil dragons have lost their fire. It's actually kind of a cool idea, except that Adon is an asshole.

"And it is said that Adon's Ban shall rule for as long as night follows day, and day follows night."

... and just like that, the cool is ruined. Well, I'm sure the Forces Of Evil will never find a loophole in THAT.

"He banished Gyphon, too, 'beyond the Spheres,' though no one I've asked knows where that is."

No shame. None.

As I mentioned before... when Morgoth got his ass handed to him, he was kicked out into the TIMELESS VOID. Which, I'm sure, is nothing like the void that Gyphon just got booted into.

This... is one of the big problems with the Mithgar series. See, a lot of fantasy authors like Terry Brooks, Christopher Paolini, Robert Jordan et al are very obviously (sometimes painfully) influenced by our dear Professor Tolkien. They mostly rip of basic overarching concepts like "long-lost king of a civilization" or "idyllic little town threatened by dark forces" or "superior pretty elf species who loves green things," or maybe "giant spider-thing menaces everybody." As unoriginal as the world of Eragon is, you can't say the PLOT is derived from Tolkien. It's more like Star Wars.... which was also influenced by Tolkien. You notice how everything keeps going back to Tolkien?

But McKiernan doesn't really do that. Oh, there are big chunks of this plot that are technically not ripoffs (like the whole Myrkenstone thing, or the annoying Sue princess, and so on). But he takes giant chunks of Tolkien's plot and mythology and world-building, changes a few names and details, and treats it like he totally came up with this. Atala, the Wobbits, Gron, Gildor, Rael, the Eld Trees, the Baeron, etc.

Now take Gyphon. A few more details dispensed with, and the Exiled Dark Lord thing wouldn't have been so bad. Say instead of throwing him into a void, they bound him with a giant magic chain made out of... something, and bound him UNDER THE EARTH. Or they created an interdimensional prison that was just big enough to hold him, and sealed it up forever with the power of many gods. The idea of a superior Dark Lord is not automatically a Tolkien clone.

What makes this a ripoff is that he didn't really even try to change the details. No, he used a label-maker to just change the names of Gyphon, the Timeless Void, Adon and the other things. And this is not just in the backstory. As you'll see in this trilogy, he does this multiple times with the PLOT. Places, things, people and so on are basically given a quick makeover and a name change, and inserted into the plot.

Anyway, Sauron... um, I mean Modru had to go to Mordor... I mean, the Wastes of Gron. Apparently the logic behind this is that in the winter "the Sun, his bane, is feeble for six months each year." Uh, are we talking POLAR NIGHT here? Because the sun is generally less impressive in the winter... well... everywhere! That's part of what DEFINES winter. And apparently in the summertime, Modru has to cover himself in sunscreen and sit under an umbrella so the sun won't vaporize him. He might want to consider a vacation in southern Chile.

Danner points out that because of this, they don't have to worry about the Forces of Evil. That stupid I'm not gonna comment on it. And nobody replies. No particular reason, actually.

Then eventually Patrel thinks up a reply: "Yet remember this: Adon's Covenant kills only if they get caught in the Sun, but not at night." IN CASE I HAVENT HAMMERED THIS FORESHADOWING IN HARD ENOUGH!

"And other Thornwalkers have reported fleeting glimpses from afar of great black beasts, like Wolves, but dire, running through the dark."

  1. So.... wolves can't run in the dark?
  2. And what does "dire" even mean? Do they mean direwolves?
  3. Also, if they are seeing it from "afar" in the DARK, then how the hell do they know these AREN'T wolves?
  4. I mean, do they have signs on their sides that say, "DIRE BEAST THAT IS NOT A WOLF"?

Anyway, it turns out that the Forces of Evil CAN invade if they basically hide indoors during the daytime. So... basically all they need to do is bring coffins along like a vampire. Wow, Adon's little plan really sucks. Tuck and Tarpy continue being annoying little twits, coming up wit ridiculous ideas like, "Maybe the warg-ripoffs ran ALL THE WAY from extremely distant mountain ranges to THIS AREA." Or... maybe you guys are stirring up hysteria.

Danner demonstrates again that he's the smartest person there by pointing out that there are a lot of "ifs" in these theories, and there's no reason to think that it wasn't some ordinary dogs or wolves.

"Look, the Ban has held good for two whole Eras. Why should Vulgs show up now?"
"Ah! There's the rub," responded Tuck. "Why, indeed, now?"

Shut up, Tuck. Answering a question with a question is not making you look any smarter. And it DEFINITELY doesn't support your argument.

"The only thing that comes to mind," continued Tuck, "is that it is said Gyphon, just as He was vanishing, swore a bitter vow to Adon, claiming that He would be back."

"But he probably won't succeed until the very end of the series, and he'll be defeated in a really anticlimactic way."

"'Even now,' "Danner quoted, his voice sepulchral, "'Even now I have set into motion events you cannot stop. I shall return! I shall conquer! I shall rule!'"

"I shall ham it up! I shall lack subtlety! I shall say goofy things on my way out!"

"That's what the old tales say Gyphon last spat at Adon, then He was gone, beyond the Spheres, banished. But He was wrong, for He hasn't returned."

So.... he was wrong because he didn't come back right away? Exactly how quickly were people expecting divine banishment to be over?

And oh wow. Sort of like how Morgoth was destined to break back into the world proper in earlier drafts of the Silmarillion, so he could be involved in the final battle against the forces of good and right and puppies and rainbows.

"In four thousand years He hasn't returned. That's how long they say it has been. And for those same four thousand years, no Ruck, no Vulk, ah, fie! Nothing! Nothing suffering the Ban has threatened the Bosky! Ever!"

... and I'm sure they won't show up or bother the Bosky in THESE books. Nope, no chance of THAT happening!

"Maybe so, Danner. Maybe you are right. But they say Vulgs now push through the Spindlethorns. And no one says why."

The Warrows really put a LOT of faith in unsubstantiated "they say" rumors, don't they?

"I just found out Vulgs are invading the Bosky!"
"My gosh! We must immediately beef up the military! How did you find out?"
"My uncle's cousin's hairdresser's brother's wife said she saw it."

So the Warrows keep wandering north, and we get details about how they stop to eat, drink, feed the ponies, pee (by implication), and generally do boring travelly things. And after jabbering for so long, they FINALLY stop talking, presumably because McKiernan has run out of backstory to bludgeon us with.

Anyway, sometime during the night Danner wakes up Tuck to do his turn at the watch. Danner apparently still has mumps, and he gets a bit pissed when Tuck says: "You've got to admit, you were somewhat of a grouch today," answered Tuck, distressed, wondering how this conversation had gotten off on the wrong foot.

Yes, Tuck, obviously calling someone "grumpy" from out of the blue should make them go, "Say, you're right! I am so very repentant over being such a grouch! You made me see the error of my ways!"

And then Danner says one of the most random comments you can imagine: "Look, Tuck," shot back Danner, "my philosophy is this: I'm like a mirror - I only give back what I get." Which doesn't make any fucking sense. That comment would only make sense if the others were being crabby. And they weren't. So why is he claiming that he's being crabby because they are?!

... and in the very next paragraph we realize why he said that totally random remark - it's so Tuck can respond to it with an annoyingly chirpy nugget of fortune-cookie "wisdom": "Well, Danner, I think you ought to consider this: you either can be like a mirror or like a window; but remember, only the window lets light in." Yeah, and only the window can shine light directly on your eyes when you're trying to sleep, which is very irritating. Kind of like you.

So while Danner goes to bed, Tuck writes about the very boring day in his diary, including Patrel's horrible song.

The next day there's more traveling in the snow, and blah blah blah it's cold and snowy and CRAP this is boring. The Warrows are heading for some farm that is going to let them eat and sleep for awhile before they go on to Spindle Ford. But when they get there... something is WRONG.

"Hold!" said Patrel above the wind moan, his voice tight with apprehension. "Something is wrong."

See? See?

Anyway, he knows that something is horribly wrong with the farm family because.... the lights aren't on. Yeah. I mean, there's no chance that since the sun set THREE HOURS AGO, some members of said family might have gone to bed. That would be silly. Obviously something sinister is afoot!

In fact, Tarpy even suggests that the people might have gone to bed, and Patrel insists that no, it can't possibly be. Yeah, I don't know why. Maybe he read ahead.

Patrel reached for his bow. "Ready your weapons."
"What?" asked Danner, unbelieving. "Bows?"

No, he means your ninja stars and your jump rope. YES, YOUR FUCKING BOWS.

So they creep toward the house with their arrows nocked (presumably with one hand), and we get lots of descriptions of how creepy it is. Shutters are banging! The barn is big and dark! The windows are open! Somebody wrote "abandon hope all ye who enter here" in blood on the door! A sinister spaceship is hovering over the house with green abduction beams going down the chimney! Dancing imps on the rooftop!

But no, it's all very creaky and sinister... which is somewhat undermined by all the Batman sound effects.

As he put his foot on the top step the door burst open with a Blam!
Just as abruptly, Wham! the door slammed to. Whack! It whipped open again and Blam! shut once more as the wind swirled again.

And then it fell out of the frame with a THUNK! It landed on Tarpy's head with a CRACK! And the bad guys leaps out BOOGA-BOOGA!

To the assorted noises continue as they go inside, and Patrel somehow manages to find and light a lamp in complete darkness RIGHT AWAY. The room has been trashed, since Minions of Evil never do anything tidily,

"We took a quick check of the barn," said Hob. "Empty. No livestock. It's gone." Thwack! Whack!

... as Danner whacked him in the face for using super-short sentences.

Even Patrel gets sick of the sound effects and makes them close the shutters and doors, and he and Tuck go investigating about what is going on. And they find... BLOOOOD. With a paw print in the middle. Except... you can't really leave a print in the middle of a liquid, because it oozes in and covers up the print.

"Wolves," hissed Tarpy.
"No," said Danner, grimly. "Vulgs!" And off in the distance, mingled with the moan of the wind, came a single, horrid, prolonged, savage wail.

  1. Uh, how can you tell the difference?
  2. It's a paw print in the middle of a BLOOD PUDDLE, and these guys don't strike me as brilliant trackers. A giant wolflike animal versus a giant wolf - how can you tell?
  3. Uh, seriously? For real? A howl JUST when he says their species name?
  4. Do horses also whinny when you mention Frau Blucher?

"The Vulgs smashed through the windows and doors... See, the broken glass flew inward, as if the evil creatures hurtled through."

... as if? Is he suggesting that the Vulgs smashed the windows, then filed into the house in an orderly fashion through the doors?

"What about Farmer Arlo and his wife? Where are they?" asked Tarpy, his eyes wide and glittering in the lamplight. "We've looked everywhere."

I'm sure the gigantic carnivorous monster-canines took them to another location, safe and sound. Isn't that just what you'd expect, you dumbass?

So the Warrows wet themselves on the spot and start asking really dumb questions like "where are the bodies?" Uh, I'm pretty sure they were probably dragged off and eaten, people. I don't know why this takes you so long to figure out. Oh, and Tarpy is now blubbering uselessly, a duty that Tuck will shortly take over.

"Arlo and Willa are probably out there somewhere," gritted Danner, "covered by the snow."

... and half-eaten. I'm pretty sure giant Carnivorous Canines of Generic Evil aren't going to kill a bunch of people, drag them away, and just LEAVE.

Danner wants to go hunt the Vulgs, and Patrel vetoes that.

"Oh no," said Tarpy, peering around desperately. "Not here. I can't stay here. Not in this wrack. Not when there's blood on the floor in there. Not in this house."

Yeah, if I were a Warrow I would feel REALLY safe with this guy protecting me. Especially since he can't stay in a house with BLOOD on the floor.

So they all crash in the hayloft, which is obviously a MUCH better place to stay during a blizzard. Tuck gets up to do his turn at guard duty, and so Danner promptly whines (for like the 2,013th time) that he wants to be out there hunting wargs... I mean Vulgs. Yeah, okay, we get it. Danner is stupid and has no self-preservation instincts. If he were whiny, passive and craved abusive relationships, he would be a hobbit version of Bella Swan.

Then McKiernan takes the chance to hammer the whole Ban thing between our eyes, in case we haven't been paying attention for the entire chapter thus far. Okay, we get it, the Sun kills the bad guys. It's a simple concept, and we GOT IT NOW.

"Come now, Danner," replied Tuck, lighting the new lamp and extinguishing the old, "you heard Patrel. We can't go blundering around at night in the dark looking for Vulgs."
"Well let me leave you with this thought, Tuck," shot back Danner. "Night is the only time you can hunt those slavering brutes." And Danner disappeared up the ladder into the hayloft.
Why, thought Tuck, he's right! The Ban! They won't be about in the daytime.

... it's official. Tuck is a blithering idiot. So he FORGOT about this MASSIVELY IMPORTANT plot point that they were talking about just a few hours ago! A plot point that turns out to be central to this fricking book! OUR HERO FORGOT IT!

Later, during his watch, Tuck scribbled in his diary as the last entry for the day: How true will be our aim in the dark?

And then he erased it because it's not really a diary entry.

So the next morning they just... leave. In case you're wondering, the dead farmer and his wife are never found and their deaths don't really add anything. So...

Patrel had then tacked a note to the front door warning any who came to the stone field house about the Vulgs.

Warning: giant carnivorous beasts came in and ate the inhabitants, but probably won't come back because there's nobody left to eat here.
Do not deliver mail, newspapers or milk.
Please call the police, if they're not busy gossiping with Mrs. Buckykins.

Sincerely, the Military

So they find another farm, two miles to the north... and the family who lives there are absolutely fine. No, I don't get it. So, the evil Vulgs came down from the north and just BYPASSED a farm, so they could go slightly further and kill the residents of ANOTHER farm.



... WHY?!

I mean, do they have some kind of rule where they aren't allowed to kill more than three people per household? Do they have a list of specific Warrow households to obliterate? Why would they go an extra two miles to kill the Huggs? They actually ran RIGHT BY a larger farm with more people so they could kill the people at the farm the heroes would be staying at? HOW DOES THAT WORK?

Mr. Broxeley said, "Don't you fret none. Now that we are warned, me and my buccoes can hold 'em off till dayrise."

I'm going to assume that "dayrise" is the same thing as "sunrise," even though days don't rise. And don't even look like it.

Also... wait, they left in the morning, but apparently by the time they arrive at the Broxeley farm, it's night again?! This leaves three possibilities:

  1. The Thornwalkers are really fucking slow.
  2. The Thornwalkers have no sense of direction, and they spent all day wandering off in the wrong direction.
  3. Mr. Broxeley is the dumbest and most inept farmer in the world and has no idea what time it is.

Another point: what in the world makes these people think they can hold off the Vulgs, especially since we don't even know how many of them there are? For all we (and they!) know, there are DOZENS of them. And since this is a Generic Fantasy series, they don't have guns. Is this farmer seriously suggesting that he and his kids can fend off GIANT WARROW-EATING PSEUDO-WARGS with farm implements?!

Also, we're told that this guy immediately sends off his sons on ponies to warn... somebody. So, how can they help defend the homestead if he just sent them off? And given how remote this place is, wouldn't the trip take a few DAYS? With BLIZZARDS? And giant evil canines? Does this guy hate his kids, or is he too stupid to keep them safe?!

"Then the Sun'll stop 'em."

Yes, after they horribly slaughter you, they can hide in your basement.

"Besides, we ain't the only family near about, and you five can't protect us all. You've got to get this word to the Thornwalkers so as they can do something about it."

So.... he's sending his kids off to warn the Thornwalkers.... even though these guys are new Thornwalkers, and are heading (supposedly as fast as possible) for the nearest Thornwalker outpost? Does this make sense to anyone else?

"Hey, Thornwalkers! Vulgs just killed our neighbors!"
"Yeah, we know. Those guys who arrived five minutes ago told us already."

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