Escape from the Island of Aquarius, pp. 128-139
So. Dr. Cooper has decided, suddenly, not to kill Kelno after all. Instead, he says, he’s going to try to save him.
“Vengeance belongs to God, not to me. You can answer to Him for what you’ve done. In the meantime, I’m going to pass God’s grace along. Jesus saved me; I’m going to try to save you.“
Because the island is sinking, of course.
Dr. Cooper, Jay, and the Real Adam MacKenzie step into the square and begin to speak to the people.
The whole crowd gasped, looking at Adam and Jay, and then at Dr. Cooper, and then at Adam again. The same thing could be clearly read on all their faces: What is happening here? These men are back from the dead!
The writing here is just so odd.
Anyway, the Real Adam MacKenzie speaks out to those he knows, and he tells everyone that the island is sinking, drawing their attention to the quakes, etc. Kelno stands by and yells at the people not to believe MacKenzie.
“He’s lying!” shouted Kelno. “I have the truth. This island will never sink. I will not allow it.”
Really though, what is his game plan? Does Kelno know the island is sinking?
Adam responded, “The foundations fo the island are being eroded away by the sea right now, as we speak. The core of the island is breaking up.”
Yeah, uh, okay.
Blah blah, argue argue. We must leave! No, stay! This goes on for some time. I don’t want to die! No, these men are liars! But then, just as Kelno says the earthquakes are an illusion (what?), the ground heaves, and a jagged crack tore through the village. Wait, didn’t this already happen once though, or else why did MacKenzie and the Coopers see a house with glass windows fall into the crack that opened why they were underground? Regardless, with that, the people turned against Kelno, and the conversation ended.
Families ran after him, some college professors ran after him, some laborers leaped over the deep, still-widening crack to follow. All the screaming and yelling and threatening that Stuart Kelno could muster would not bring them back.
Somehow this just feels really boring. So let me take you to something more … interesting. Lila and the Dude are loading Lila’s canoe with supplies from the huts.
“Go!” yelled Candle, urging both of them to hurry. “We go plenty!”
They ran into the supply hut. Lila grabbed two cans of gasoline. Candle picked up what looked to him like a box of muffins, popping one into his mouth.
Lila saw it just in time. “No, Candle, no!”
He made a horrible face and spit it out. She caught it before it hit the ground.
“No,” she said. “This isn’t food. This is plastic explosive. Bad stuff! Plenty bad stuff!”
“Bad stuff,” Candle agreed, putting the box back.
“So this is why the boat didn’t explode when they burned it. Candle, you’re a real blessing,” she laughed.
“Go! We go plenty!” was his only response, grabbing a box of real food.
Wait … why is Lila grabbing cans of gasoline?!
But also—how in the heck would the Dude know what “a box of muffins” looked like to begin with?? This village doesn’t have a supply chain! It’s on a secret, mysterious island! Did Kelno bring a huge stash of packaged muffins??
Interestingly enough, this is one of the things I remembered specifically, from reading this book as a teen—that the Polynesian character ate plastic explosives, thinking they were muffins. Clearly, this stuck out to me. Maybe it stuck out because it’s utterly bizarre.
I just had a look around google and I can’t find a single picture of plastic explosives that look anything like “a box of muffins.” Clearly, plastic explosives could be shaped to look like muffins. But are they ever packaged that way?
The closest I could find was this:
I suppose you could think that looked like a muffin. But it’s also wrapped individually, and the text doesn’t reference the Dude unwrapping anything. The text only says he “picked up what looked to him like a box of muffins, popping one into his mouth.” Sorry I’m so hung up on this, it’s just … so so weird.
And not for no reason. There’s a trope going on here. A ridiculous native trope. Or an ignorant native trope. Whatever exactly it is, it’s not great. Peretti makes the Dude out to be ridiculous, wearing a torch on the top of his head, talking in pigeon English when the Polynesians in Kelno’s village speak perfect English, trying to eat plastic explosives because he thinks they’re muffins. He’s a character that everyone laughs at.
Gozan was the cowering, fearful, greedy Arab; the Dude is the kindly, ignorant Polynesian that white people find ridiculous and amusing. I’m halfway surprised the Dude hasn’t done some sort of silly native dance.
To be clear, I don’t think native dances are silly. It’s just that I’m pretty sure the white people who find the Dude so very amusing—from Lila to Peretti—are the exact same sort of white people who see native dances as silly.
I find the Dude’s portrayal as maddening as Gozan’s was, though in a very, very different way. We’re not meant to sneer at him; but we are meant to laugh at him.
Wait what. Wait I turned the page, and what. MacKenzie is taking all the people who decided to follow him into the sacrificial pit. Into the tunnels. Where that giant snake is. Why in the blazes didn’t they just go to Kelno’s boat?
Oh by the way, speaking of Kelno, back during the earlier argument Kelno said things like “This gospel, this talk about Jesus, is only a deception, something to destroy your faith in your own power” and “There is no savior except yourself.” But then, what was with the talk of a god force living in the island? It’s like Peretti just mashed all sorts of New Age, cult, and pagan beliefs together without any thought to whether they were consistent.
My god, we’re doing that thing where we flip really quickly between the two storylines, and it’s getting to me. Switching three times on one page is a bit much. Well I’m not doing it. Especially when these sections are so small that nothing actually happens in them.
So, Kelno does still have some followers. He takes those followers to the pit and tells them to go down and get the others. They’re not impressed by this command, but Kelno doesn’t give a shit.
It was either go into the Pit or face Stuart Kelno’s earth. In single file the men grabbed the rope and started down.
This book is getting weirder.
Wait. What the hell is happening.
Adam, the Coppers, and their precious twenty-seven had reached that horrible rift that had cut the tunnel in half. The two walls were still moving, shuddering, shifting in and out like two chewing jaws. Adam’s adrenalin was really pumping; with a running leap he bounded across the chasm, landing and tumbling on the other side. He caught the rope tossed to him by Dr. Cooper and secured it around a rock formation. Dr. Cooper secured his end the same way, and now they had a safety rope.
“C’mon, Joe, you can do it!” Dr. Cooper shouted, and the others rooted for the former business executive as he took a running jump and learned the chasm.
Now he turned and encouraged his wife and son, and they ent for it. The walls closed just enough. They both made it across.
“Go, Randy!” they all yelled, and the young carpenter made it.
“Steady, Chuck!” they shouted, and Chuck crawled hadn’t over hand along the rope to where many hands could finally grab him.
He was followed by some families and some single folks. One little girl was too small and too terrified to jump, so her father inched his way along the rope with her clinging to his chest. They made it.
What is happening.
If they’re running and jumping, how does a rope strung across the chasm serve as a “safety” rope? And did this last guy really cross the chasm by letting himself down into it, and then going hand over hand across the rope, with a child clinging to him? Does Peretti know how hard that is?
It’s Dr. Cooper’s turn last, so he unties his end off the rope and ties it around himself. It’s a good thing, too, because the chasm widens just as he prepares to jump, and he hits the wall of the cavern below the tunnel, and falls.
Oh right—remember, these people are all jumping from one tunnel opening to another, across a chasm. I don’t see any reason to even assume that the two tunnel openings are lined up, at this point.
Somehow, when the rope snapped taught when Dr. Cooper missed the opening, MacKenzie got hacked off the edge of the cliff, only saving himself by grabbing the rope. So both of them are hanging over the edge, from the rope.
Jay and the faithful twenty-seven began to shout frantically and pull on the rope.
Anyway they do ultimately get safely up, because of course they do. That wasn’t really ever in question. Only bad guys like the president of Nepur in the last book die sudden tragic deaths.
I’ll tell you two last things. First, when Lila and the Dude arrive at the cavern entrance in their canoe, they find it is under water. It shouldn’t be, but it is. The island has has sunk too far. Candle is frantic. Meanwhile, MacKenzie and the Coopers and their “faithful twenty-seven” make it to the cavern in the center of the island, and find that the water is higher—but the boat is still safe, floating on the water, off of its blocks. They all get onto the boat, and steady it, but they have a problem—two problems, actually.
First, Kelno’s men arrive in the tunnel and begin shooting at them. But second, as they sail the boat toward the tunnel to get away from Kelno’s men, as I said, they find that the tunnel is under water.
The end. Just kidding. It’s not the end. Lila has the plastic explosives.
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