Friday, July 19, 2013

The Quest For Skye: Chapter 2

Recap: A group of scientists and researchers, under the direction of Dr. Layland Leontiou, were doing some vague nuclear medical science, but everything went wrong when Malinda Leontiou's computer froze, causing everything to explode. Everyone is dead but Dr. L. L., and maybe Malinda, but it wasn't really clear.

This chapter suddenly flashes back to two months earlier. We start off on a plane going to Disney World, filled with the most obnoxious children in the world:
Their eagerness was obvious to all around, as the children had spent the early portion of the flight running up and down the aisle of the plane shouting, “We’re going to Disney World.”
I really feel like the flight attendants would have put a stop to that. If not, they really should have. But the only response this really gets is an old guy muttering something about how his kids would never have behaved like that, then smiling - indicating, what? It's actually super cute that kids are running around on a plane yelling? Because, um, it's not.

We're then introduced to who I assume are more main characters, Doctor Morgan Hamilton and his wife Tammy. They are both pediatricians at the same Minnesota clinic (does every married couple in this book work together?). They are noteworthy because they are apparently lost in their own world, aside from sometimes smiling at the antics of those oh-so-adorable awful kids. They specialize in curing rare children's diseases.
Their demeanor was subdued for a couple in their thirties who were getting ready to embark on a fourteen-day cruise through the Panama Canal.

Seriously, I just laughed out loud at that sentence. He chose the most awkward way to cram exposition into that sentence. I feel like I should do this all the time.

"Wow, you look subdued for a 24-year-old blonde girl who is about to eat the #6 combo meal from Wendy's in the corner booth on a Thursday hanging out with a girl she used to know in college."

However, they do have a reason for being subdued-30-year-olds-about-to-go-on-a-14-day-Panama-Canal-cruise. They have just found out they can never have children. They're going on a cruise to take some time away from their busy jobs and heal from this news.
Maybe when they boarded the new ship, the laughter and the forgetting could finally begin.
Um. Or, well, not heal so much as apparently just forget this news they have just heard that is going to change the course of their entire lives. There's something very wrong about the phrasing of this sentence.

The Hamiltons meet some of their cruise companions: Billie and Billy Hill, who are newlyweds with truly unfortunate names (maybe they think it's cute, although I am a newlywed and I wouldn't think that was cute if it was me), and Doctor Walter and Helen Leary, who we know very little about. I can only assume Helen is a doctor as well, since every male doctor appears to be married to a female one in this book, but we don't know for sure yet.

The Learys try to make conversation with the Hamiltons. The Learys are here for a cruise convention of some sort, and when they find out that the Hamiltons are doctors specializing in childhood diseases, this exchange happens:
“Then you should come to this convention. It’s all about childhood diseases. Sounds like it’s right up your alley. We had a special invitation.” Walter crossed his arms, waiting for the couple’s response.
They... had a special invitation? To come to the childhood disease convention on a boat? This is raising some questions.

1) Does Doctor Walter Leary's doctorness have anything to do with childhood diseases? When Tammy revealed that was their field, he didn't say, "Oh, me too!" Instead, he said, "Oh, hey, convention!" If not, why is he going to this convention?

2) How did he get this special invitation? Did he need one because he's not a childhood disease doctor?

3) Does this special invitation mean he can just invite random people along to the convention?

Helen elaborates just a tiny bit more:
“It’s been his lifelong dream to be invited to this convention. I think it makes him feel important.”
Um. So apparently this convention is a big enough deal that even if he's not a childhood disease doctor, he wants to be a part of it? If that's the case, how the heck do Morgan and Tammy not know about it? If they wanted to get away from work, you'd think they'd have known if the cruise they were taking was hosting a Super Special Childhood Disease Convention onboard, and they'd have avoided that one.

What the heck is this convention and why is Walter Leary going to it??

I am so, so confused.
Tammy nodded, agreeing with the talkative woman.
Uh, that comes directly after the last bit I quoted. She's not just nodding vaguely, it's stated that she's agreeing. With what? She's agreeing that it's been Walter's lifelong dream? She's agreeing that it makes him feel important? Does J.L. Rothdiener know how conversations work? Does he know what the word "agreeing" means? WHY IS THIS WRITING SO TERRIBLE?

The Hamiltons are shown to their room.
“It’s beautiful,” Morgan said, trying to get his wife to smile.
Not saying a word, she began to unpack.
He wondered if he did the right thing bringing her on the cruise, her sadness penetrated every part of her being. He hoped she could unwind, come to terms with the devastating news.
I'm really bothered by how little this seems to be impacting Morgan. Earlier, the text made it a big deal that they both wanted kids. He should at least be a little bit upset about it himself, not just upset about it for her sake, and definitely not thinking things like, "I hope my wife can come to terms with this." He apparently just wants her to laugh and forget, and it all seems very cold and distant and clinical. I don't like him.
Morgan watched his wife stroll to the refrigerator to get a bottle of water. She grabbed the latest novel by her favorite author,
...from the fridge?

And with that, Morgan leaves Tammy to go exploring the ship.

We return to Morgan and Tammy in the next chapter, so at least we're not jumping forward or even further back in time with this next chapter. I don't want to follow Morgan anymore, as I'm pretty sure he has no actual human emotions, but looks like the next chapter is about his ship exploration, so, um, that'll be super fun.

(Chapter 3.)


  1. Apparently, J.L. Rothdiener knows as much about FAA regulations as he does about science. Or cruise itineraries, for that matter. I've been on both a plane and a cruise. It's possible to book a cruise and be unaware of any special event if it's not really emphasized in the travel plans, but certainly anyone who cared enough to be excited about attending a specific convention would stay on top of things enough to know where it was being held in any given year.

    For that matter, if it was so easy to just go where the convention is, what took Doctor Morgan Hamilton so long to put himself in the right place at the right time?

    And, as one of your friends pointed out on Facebook, why does it take this cruise fourteen days to cross the Panama Canal? From Wikipedia:

    "Canal Waters Time (CWT), the average time it takes a vessel to navigate the canal, including waiting time, is a key measure of efficiency; according to the ACP, since 2000, it has oscillated between 20 and 30 hours."

    There are going to be a whole lot of really irate ships held up if this cruise ship takes two weeks to make a 20-30 hour trip. I anticipate an attack from pirates who literally walk onto the cruise ship.

    Once again, I see that not only are all the characters doctors married to other doctors, but that only the men get to use the title. Poor Tammy Hamilton. Maybe in her next life she can be Doctor Tammy Hamilton. Oh, well.

    Does Rothdiener actually specify that Doctor Morgan and Tammy Hamilton are childhood disease specialists or does he just call them pediatricians? Because those are two totally separate career paths. My pediatrician wasn't a childhood disease specialist. He was just a pediatrician. Or maybe he just wasn't competent? It might explain why I have Crohn's disease now. A shame he wasn't a childhood disease specialist like Doctor Morgan and Tammy Hamilton.

    Lastly, Doctor Morgan Hamilton's behavior tells me that J.L. Rothdiener did extra special research into the emotional state of a husband facing childlessness. "Geez, lighten up. Your lady parts make you a total drag" is not a likely reaction - particularly from someone whose career path has him around children daily.

  2. Doctors Hamilton at first are introduced at pediatricians, though they're also hospital administrators now, and it says that they spend most of their time and effort on special needs children with rare diseases. Later, when asked about their field, Tammy says pediatrics, specializing in childhood disease.

    There's a sentence in the book that is especially funny now that I've been reminded how small the Panama Canal is. Something to the effect of "They always wanted to do a Panama Canal cruise but could never fit it into their busy schedule." Maybe if the cruise took the correct amount of time they could have done this years ago.

    After noting Doctor Morgan's incredible coldness toward his wife, I went back and reread the passage where they learn they can't have kids. It is ENTIRELY framed in terms of him being sad because she is sad, as if this news couldn't possibly affect him personally. He works with kids, he clearly likes them, the text indicates he wants some of his own... But not enough to be sad when that opportunity is lost. I have known couples who couldn't conceive. The man has nearly always been equally devastated. It's not just a lady thing to want kids. Rothdiener does this, where he tells us facts about people, like, "He wants kids" or "She is completely non religious" and then fails to let his characters act like what he says they are. It's such terrible writing, and it often makes his characters so unlikable.

  3. After noting Doctor Morgan's incredible coldness toward his wife, I went back and reread the passage where they learn they can't have kids. It is ENTIRELY framed in terms of him being sad because she is sad, as if this news couldn't possibly affect him personally. He works with kids, he clearly likes them, the text indicates he wants some of his own... But not enough to be sad when that opportunity is lost. I have known couples who couldn't conceive. The man has nearly always been equally devastated.


    I didn't even realize myself until a couple years ago just how poorly I had handled, and how deeply affected I had been, by a miscarriage. Even now, nearly eight full years later, it's something I scarcely talk about and even then it's almost only in a superficial level acknowledging that it happened, and never anything further. Maybe other guys would relate to this character, but I personally would throw the book across the room and take it to Half Price Books at my earliest convenience.