Khanh the Killjoy


Undercurrent - Paul Blackwell I suddenly feel something press down over my face. And just then I remember how all that water felt, pouring over the falls onto me. It was like a mountain, pounding down, driving me under.The pillow is nowhere near as heavy. But it doesn't matter. I’m no more able to breathe than when I was at the bottom of the river, slammed against the rocks.And I'm no more able to stop my best friend, Bryce, who is now grunting with the effort of smothering me.Undercurrent sucked me in (no pun intended, I swear on my grandmother's grave), but ultimately fell flat. This book started so brilliantly, but after that, the plot sunk with no explanation nor further investigation of the plot, and the ending is completely unsatisfactory. To call it an ending would be to give this book more credit than it deserves. It is not an ending. So many plotlines are left unresolved that despite my reluctance to read any more of this book, I'm actually hoping for a sequel so we get some kind of an explanation, because there is none. There's not even a cliffhanger. It's like someone ripped this book in half for all the sense and lack of resolution the ending made.Facetiousness aside, this book was extremely disappointing to me. I was not kidding about the beginning; it was one of the best and most magnetic introductions I had read in awhile. I could easily believe I was in for a wild, surreal thriller of a ride as we are immediately inside Callum (Cal)'s head as he wakes up, thinking he was paralyzed, and apparently comatose to the people around him. His parents are upset and crying. His world is filled with pain, he has no memory of what happened. He senses things that are happening, but he's unable to move. His experience is one I'm sure all of us fear; that of being stuck, conscious, but fully immobile and paralyzed. A vegetative state in which your mind is working perfectly.There's definitely something wrong. His mother calls him by a dimunitive of his name she never uses. He hears things, he smells things, but all of it is out of his range of senses. He hears a voice whispers "I hope you never wake up." He sees a young man in a Crocodiles T-shirt, who appears to be his brother Cole, only he never comes in to visit. His best friend Bryce tries to kill him.When he wakes up, it is obvious things are not right. People are suspicious of him, whispering about him behind his back. He hears mention of a name he's never heard before, in association with him. "Neil Parsons." He finds out that he jumped over Crystal Falls, and amazingly, ended up alive. People have done it before. None have survived. He is an anomaly. It is a miracle he is even alive, let alone awake. He's interviewed by the sheriff, they're suspicious of his role in Neil Parsons' involvement. People are treating him the way they've never treated him before, with outright hostility. The football coach comes to see him, his parents bring him an issue of Sports Illustrated. They're treating him like they would his older brother, Cole.Speaking of which, where the hell is Cole?!HOLY CRAP!!!!!!! By the end of all these things in the introductory chapters, you can bet your ass I was intrigued! Unfortunately, it all went downhill from here.You know, sometimes in life you end up in situations you never expect to be in. A reasonable person adapts to the situation. I'm not saying that in life one would generally find oneself in a situation where your life is not your life anymore, but the idea still holds. Learn, adapt. This is where Cal fails as a character for me, and this is one of the downfalls of the book.Instead of adapting to the situation, instead of manning up (and, to be frank, Cal is a huge fucking pussy). You think I'm being harsh on him by calling him one? Trust me, I'm not the only one calling him that in the book. Don't get me wrong. I hate assholes, I hate douchebags, I love beta males. Cal is not a beta male. To call him a beta male is to insult awesome beta males everywhere. To be frank, Cal is a wimp. He cries, he sobs, he retches at the slightest provocation that something's wrooooooooong, man! He is a wimp, he is spineless. He chooses not to face the situation until the situation comes to him, he always takes the easy way out.Because I’m a coward. That’s what that choice meant.Callum Harris is a coward.Instead of manning up, doing what has to be done to uncover what the living hell is going on and adapting to the situation in a reasonable way, Cal instead chooses to be an ostrich. He buries his head in the sand. He pretends it's not happening. He goes around pretending that he's the same person he is before, he tries to talk to the people who were previously his friends but are so obvious not anymore. He moons like a girl over the Zoe-Deschanel-like Willow, and he is alternately turned on and repulsed by the stereptypical rich-girl-queen-bee-slut Ivy. And he luuuuuuuuuurves Willow, despite his lack of interactions with her before. He just does!Because I’m in love with Willow, I realize.I’m uncomfortable even thinking it. After all, we’ve only just become friends this last year. I haven’t even kissed her yet. But I’m in love with her, I know. Why else would I have a collection of her lost bobby pins in my desk drawer—the ones she uses to keep her bangs out of her eyes and that I always find on my bed and on the sofa?Now, onto my criticism of the plot? Wait, what plot? You know, the one where Cal figures out why he's living his brother's life? Oh, forgot about that. Apparently, so did the author. The majority of the book doesn't involve Cal investigating why things are the way they are, remember? He's a coward and an ostrich. For the majority of the book, Cal is going around trying to convince himself, trying to convince people that he's not really the Cal they think he is. It felt like he's not even interested in the whys of it, he's just trying to ignore the fact that all this is happening. He just wants things to be normal and go back to the way they were without doing anything about it.And the ending, the supposed Big Reveal. There's a vague reference to quantum physics, and an insinuation of alternate universes, but NOTHING GETS EXPLAINED. People just pop up out of nowhere, things happen, Callum goes along without demanding an explanation because he just wants to save his own ass, being the selfish lily-livered zeta-male that he is. There is no ending. If you read this book wanting a clean tie-up, not even a happy ending, but at least a fairly conclusive one where improbably events, situations, people are explained, look elsewhere. This book's ending is a multi-colored scarf in progress with all the different colored strings hanging off it, waiting to be tied off.Schroeder? Schrodinger? Not even subtle."There was a lot about some cat in a box that gets poisoned by gas when an atom does something, and how it can be both dead and alive at the same time, creating two branches of reality."Ok, that's cute, trying to insert quantum physics into this book. The problem is that IT DOESN'T WORK IN EXPLAINING ANYTHING. Very little of the book is actually devoted to explaining or investigation what happened in Cal's life to make it that way. Unsatisfactory. No.