Mar 24, 2008

Blue Pencil #6: Into the Dragon's Maw

Sorry if I've left you jonesing for the comedy fix that only vanity publishing can provide.

By way of apology, I offer you Into the Dragon's Maw, by Timothy S. Robinson.

The saga begins ...
A warrior-monk is chosen for a final test, one that will propel him into a series of life-threatening situations time and time again.
While there may not be anything technically wrong with this sentence, I have to wonder why one would need to be propelled multiple times into multiple series of situations. Aren't you just propelled once, into a series of situations?
Along the way, the pacific martial artist develops some curious friendships with a little gnome thief you love to hate, and a stubborn old dwarf that has a way with words.

At the same time, a Herculean elf is searching for his roots and for the creature that slaughtered his friends and family. His perilous quest will unknowingly unite him with a beautiful half-elven druid and a host of magical creatures that help guide him along his dangerous journey.
Gnome thief ... check. Dwarf ... check. Elf ... check. Half-elf druid ... check. Hmm, no Half-Orcs or Halflings? What kind of D&D campaign is this?
Inevitably, these two parties unite and join forces to face a common threat -- one that will unlock the past for the monk, and unlock the secrets of the giant elf’s origins.
I'd be interested to learn about the origins of a giant elf. It's only a hair less oxymoronic than a giant dwarf or jumbo shimp.

By the way, if I gave these books ratings, I would give this one high marks for one thing: the excerpt is cut-and-pasteable. You wouldn't believe how much retyping I've had to do in these posts, and how traumatic it is for me to replicate the unique grammar, punctuation, and spelling they are so very fond of.
The ancient monastery sat atop the highest precipice of a cloud-cutting mountain in the remote northern region of Di Jow, an Asiatic peninsula acquired long ago in the Old War.
Acquired by who? And I think we can safely assume that the Old War didn't happen last week.
It took a minimum of ten days on horseback to reach the derelict mountain from the nearest village -- assuming the horse maintained its footing throughout the journey, and avoided any predators along the way.
Yes, assuming the horse didn't fall down and break a leg or get eaten by hyenas. That might cause delays. Your mileage may vary.
A cursory view of this foreboding place imparted the name of Dansu to the fleeing adventurer, or "death" in the Asian dialect.
Ah, to hear again the dulcet tones of the Asian dialect. Those Asians have a beautiful language. How I wish I'd learned to speak Asian! I am a bit confused as to how a cursory view of a place can impart a name, though, unless the name is on a big sign.
Throughout the ages, the mountain lived up to its name. Drawn by the prospect of untold riches and magic, many assailed it and disappeared without a trace.
How can you be drawn by the prospect of something untold? And if people are disappearing without a trace, who's telling the untold stories?
The ethereal monastery, even more mysterious than the mountain, was rumored at one time to house a handful of monks who possessed extraordinary powers. Legends were passed down from generation to generation on the abilities of these monks -- abilities that hinged on the supernatural. These legends had died off though, mainly due to the missing element of actually bearing witness to one of these monks. No one had actually seen such a monk . . . ever. The latest rumor was that the monastery never existed to begin with.
So ... at one time the legendary monastery that no one ever saw was rumored to house monks that no one ever saw, and those legends have since died off, but the non-existence of the monastery is now the most popular rumor? That is mysterious!

Isn't a rumor that a legend isn't true more of a lack of a rumor?

"You know what I hear? That Loch Ness Monster that nobody can prove exists? I hear that it doesn't exist!"
Xin was just a young boy when he had first heard the rumors about Dansu.
Wait, which rumors? That it doesn't exist, or that it does exist but no one's ever seen it?
Seeking to put an end to them, he had set out haphazardly to climb the mountain and discover the truth. The mountain had never faced an adversary quite like Xin before. The Asian youth hadn't come for magic or riches.
Oh, those plucky Asians!
He was there to conquer its heights and dispel the growing myths it hid.
If it actually hides something, isn't that something the thing that you're trying to dispel myths about? This is getting pretty goddamn convoluted.

Surprisingly, Xin finds out that the rumors are true! (Not the ones about there not being a legendary monastery, though -- those turn out to be false.)

We rejoin him twenty years later, as he is being sent away from the Monastery that May or May Not Exist for his "Final Test." This test mainly seems to involve finding a way out of the monastery that he took so much trouble to find.
The long corridor was like any other in the monastery: rough-hewn walls chiseled out of stone encompassing a smooth, gray marble floor. There was nothing in particular about the corridor, but Xin knew better.
How can there be "nothing in particular" about the corridor, when we've just been given the particulars of its construction, finish, and length?
He took an inexhaustible amount of time examining the floor, walls and ceiling, moving perhaps a foot every ten minutes.
If it was an inexhaustible amount of time, wouldn't that indicate that he was still looking today? Wait, how can you "exhaust" an amount of time?

In any case, he soon finds a magical door with a rather complex description:
The bolts were equidistant and equilateral to each other. The Master had said that when faced with a system in which forward and reverse reactions occur at equal rates, so that the concentration of the reactants do not change with time, whatever action that was chosen would change the balanced system and cause failure.
Wait a moment! The sum of the square roots of any two sides of an isosceles triangle is equal to the square root of the remaining side! Wait, no, that only applies in Ozian geometry, and doesn't take into account things like formulas and ... and compositions ... and ... uh ... things your primitive mind wouldn't understand!

Eventually, Xin comes to a strange room ...
The walls were not of ordinary stone - but of precious stone. Two walls came together and were made of obsidian, and in stark contrast, the opposite walls were made of pearl.
I don't know much about mineralogy, but I'm pretty sure that obsidian isn't precious and pearl isn't a stone.
Upon them were millions of sigils, glyphs, writings and drawings carved into each wall with infinite precision.
Millions? They must be pretty damn small. Hence the infinite precision, I guess.

I'm skipping a lot here, and becoming progressively more convinced that this is not so much an "excerpt" as a "free book."

Eventually, Xin comes upon a dragon who is black on the left side and white on the right side (Which, as all Star Trek fans will be happy to explain to you, is inferior to one which is white on the left side and black on the right side.)

Man, I can actually feel myself getting geekier for having made that joke.

This dragon tests Xin, tells him about his destiny, fetches him drinks, et cetera, while Xin spends his ample free time trying to read the indecipherable runes on the chamber walls.

I'm pretty sure other things happened here, but my eyes are starting to cross.

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