Chapter by Chapter features me reading one chapter of the selected book at the time and reviewing it as if I were reviewing an episode of a TV show or an issue of a comic. There will be spoilers if you haven’t read to the point I have, and if you’ve read further I ask that you don’t spoil anything further into the book. Think of it as read-along book club.
Usually I don’t read the chapter until after the intro. It makes my acting like I haven’t read it yet seem more real because I actually haven’t. “Is John going to be eaten by the dinosaur? Let’s find out.” isn’t as big a tease if I don’t know myself. Sadly I don’t see dinosaurs in our future.
I read ahead because the chapters are so short. Granted my schedule is tight the next few weeks as events happen in my life, so a short chapter may be a good thing right about now, but it does mean taking time to get through things. Thus far we’ve seen two shapeshifting aliens, Crede (now a human) and Hal (taking the form of a dog), come to Earth and find a place to stay. This chapter has Crede taking his first day as a working stiff, for a nearby restaurant. Hopefully we’re seeing the supporting cast of friends this chapter. Maybe at some point they’ll be used to explain a few of my questions?
Chapter 3: The Great Barley Soup
The story starts with Crede being introduced to the bane of every morning worker…the alarm clock. Apparently he’s not getting the radio alarm clock so enjoy the annoying buzzer instead of Capital Cities’ “Safe And Sound”. I know what I prefer. Of course, this was 2001 so he couldn’t do that anyway. He stops by the bakery where he thinks he’s going to have to pull the mind trick one last time but is thankful not to thanks to our first potential friend, Paul Williams, another newcomer to Branston–we have a town name. He gives Crede some pastry on him, and Crede has learned how to shake hands. It’s the little things in life, isn’t it? I know it sounds like I’m picking on Crede but it does bring up the question of how much Crede and Hal really know about Earth. They know English, or at least Crede does, they know what humans and dogs are, but handshakes and alarm clocks are new to them.
At the restaurant where Crede does random jobs he meets Susan, our other potential human friend. She’s a college student who lied about being able to cook because it was the only job around that would help pay her college expenses. So now I’m curious about the town of Branson. For some really I thought this was going to be a really small town, some backwater place. But at the very least there’s a college nearby if not in town, so maybe it’s a college town or the next town/city over isn’t too far to travel, since if the only job she could find for the college she’s currently attending is some small restaurant. That’s actually something I’m realizing is missing. Backstory. How old is Susan? What does she look like? Where is the college? We learn a bit about Paul, but only because he and Crede actually have a conversation along those lines. I don’t expect Crede (and thus us, since we’re following from Crede’s perspective via the omniscient narrator) to know everything but at least have him overhear something.
We do learn that Crede finds himself looking at her a lot so maybe she’s attractive? We also learn that Crede has never heard of crying (you really didn’t do any research on us, did you Crede?) and that she reaaaaaallly can’t cook. Apparently the barley soup is too spicy (she asks if there’s too much pepper) but using his mind powers the Great Barley Soup of the title is apparently this and somehow sells. Crede, I’ve seen Jedi use the mind trick less than you. I’m happy you want to help, but this isn’t helping. You want to help? Find Susan a cookbook or maybe your landlady will take pity on her. Something besides mind controlling everyone. You do want her to get better, right?
Thus far it’s premise that keeps me interested, with the hopes that character development and explaining will happen soon. That’s the problem with reviewing a young reader book one chapter at a time. It’s taking a while to get to stuff this way but reading it you’d go through faster and already know where this is going. I’m doing it to myself, so maybe combining chapters isn’t such a bad idea? We’ll see what happens next week. I think we’re getting more cast members.
Next time: Morris Green