Friday, November 7, 2014

Twistaplot #16 Secrets of the Lost Island

Last time I encountered nearly every possible broadly drawn Egyptian stereotype, learned one weird trick for upper body strength (acrobat training) and defeated Belly Dancer Slavery cartels. Obviously, almost anything is going to represent a significant retreat from such concentrated excellence, so it's time to go back to a series that never seems to properly deliver the "turn to this page" goods. This time out we're looking at some sort of Island of Dr. Moreau trick bag, so let's cut the preliminaries and enter the house of pain.

Intense bald dude seems trustworthy.

By Twist-a-Plot standards the opening paragraphs are unbelievably brilliant. We jump right into the action, with myself and "Uncle Dave" caught in a storm that may or may not be perfect and forced to try to steer the boat toward an island, quite possibly one that holds secrets. Then, with my attention captured by the crazy nautical action, we get back-story. The author obviously worked hard in that "Basics of Constructing a Narrative" correspondence course. "First get the reader interested, then they will have more tolerance for your lame exposition." It's crazy enough to work.

And make no mistake, the exposition is not great. It turns out Uncle Dave is trying to find his missing wife who decided it was a good idea to swim in open waters and promptly vanished. Even the Coast Guard has given up on this as a lost cause and we all know how grimly determined they generally are. The upshot is that I've agreed to help him on this White Whale quest, citing basic human empathy as a motivating factor. Yup, that will screw you every time. Now the boat is headed toward rocks.

 Ninety minutes of "Something's on my leg!"

Dave and I ditch the boat and try to swim for the island, but the current is too strong. When things look the worst I feel "cold hard metal" on my foot and moments later am standing with Dave on a submarine. It's been that kind of day. With no better option we enter an open hatch, already anticipating the "I live under the sea, away from the prejudices of small minds!" madness that surely lurks within. 

Inside there's creaking and clanging, along with a round and rectangular door. The hatch has closed, so I have to choose one. I pick round, which is the much more sensible design. Rectangular doors in a submarine? That's just silly. 

We make our way through bunks and a galley, but there is no crew or even the obligatory lone crank. Instead we reach the control room and face a choice between "manual" and "automatic" because a dive boot can probably be controlled with two large buttons and maybe a healthy dose of ESP. 

  Seems pretty straight forward.

With the pilots that already made the sacrifice presumably disposed of, I assume the controls and hit "manual." A little messing around provides the basics for everything except surfacing, which we probably won't need for awhile anyway. Unfortunately, warning lights are going off in regards to an obstruction ahead. Without any additional information, I decide to steer "left or right" which seems vague enough. Three dimensional maneuvering is not really well-suited to this format.

I avoid the danger (it was a rock) and soon become accustomed to a new life living on this metal tube, but just when I'm nearing the "acceptance" phase of the process I find a lever that can be pulled to surface. Might as well try it out. It works!

From the topside we can see the island far in the distance, but worry about steering while surfaced for some reason. Wouldn't it be the same, just much easier? Yeah, no problem. We reach the island and, as you might expect, Dave's missing wife is right there waiting. She's even got a highly plausible tale of being kidnapped by sailors and held in a...well, a hold. We're almost done, so she somehow was able to escape, easily swim over open water in hurricane season, etc.

The story ends with Dave happy to wait for "years" on this island, while I'm perhaps somewhat less enthusiastic about picking fruit all day and trying to ignore them getting busy all night. Still, I'm a glass half-full type of person, noting there will be no school and I'll get a truly righteous tan. Ignorant and burned to a crisp is no way to go through life, son.

Tanning. It's a LIFESTYLE, man!

I guess this one managed to reach the lofty heights of "below average." The lengthy submarine simulator wasn't exactly compelling, but the writing was decent enough. Again, it's amazing how much a decent opening lets you get away with. "Man, this Ishmael guy is pretty righteous. I guess I'll just plow through the next hundred pages of irrelevant digressions and tattoo descriptions." 

 Where would you even wear it?

Check Out My Books!

Aaron Zehner is the author of "Posts from the Underground," now available in paperback and e-book. Read free excerpts here and here.

His first novel "The Foolchild Invention" is also available in paperback and e-book format. Read free excerpts here and here.

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