Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Eternal Enemy

Someone had come for her....


A VCR that could tape tomorrow's news.


The Eternal Enemy - Christopher Pike
1993, 180 pages

For only being 180 pages, this book is full of complicated stuff. I was sure that you punks were gonna pick The Eternal Enemy in the poll. Then you all went and foiled me by picking Die Softly. Niiiiiice, guys. Way to mess with the bloggist. Well, here it is: your second place book choice, and the new first place most effed up Christopher Pike book (in my opinion, anyway: it narrowly beats previous craziness champion Scavenger Hunt).

There are some really beautiful/meaningful/nice/I like them quotes at the beginning of The Eternal Enemy. Mind if I share?

"How fragile we all are. Time has a permanent hold on us the moment we're born. It allows us to grow, to get big. We go to school, we find jobs, we fall in love, get married, and have children. Time lets us do all these things. But then, in the end, it kills us."

"Someone I knew well once said if there was no sorrow in the world there would be no compassion. That's how I feel as I begin this tale - filled with love for all the people of the world."


And I, filled with love for all the readers of this blog. Thanks, everyone, for showing up to hang out every week.

Now - to the story-mobile!!! Our teenage heroine Rela wants a VCR, so she saves up $200 from her part time job at the library and hauls ass to Circuit City. All the good VCRs are $300 and up, and the young, sexy salesman won't let her buy one that doesn't do slow-motion. Mel Gibson's booty in Lethal Weapon viewed in slow-mo is apparently worth the extra $100. Rela buys the machine, takes it home, and sets it to record It! The Terror from Beyond Space (ha, holy crap, Reverend Alden is in that!).

The next day in class, Rela writes a love letter to her crush, Christopher. It includes such romance gems as "... my body is your most wonderful dream. My nose is a button, my smile is a bar of white chocolate" and "You're brilliant - I want to eat your brains! No, yuck, that's gross. I didn't mean that."

After class, Christopher stops to talk to her about the calculus test they'd had that period. Fortunately, they skip the Q: "How'd you find the test?" / A: "It was on the desk!" lameass routine that I used to pull in high school, and Rela goes straight for the dummy-girl-must-make-man-feel-smart-and-superior drill. Chris thought the test was easy. So did Rela, but she says: "For you, maybe. I have to study hard." Which, like, isn't even true. Kill me now.

Chris had heard that Rela was throwing a party. He asks if he can come and bring a friend. Bring a friend? Has he been totally missing every pheromone Rela's been putting out there?

Anyways, this being Pike, there's a shizload of dream sequences. Rela dreams about a cult carrying a corpse to a dentist's chair.

The next night, Rela prepares for her party. I dunno what kind of pushover adoptive father Rela's got, but this adoptive reverend father guy is kindly sleeping elsewhere for the night in case Rela's friends want to stay over. And girl's making sandwiches outta cold cuts and cucumbers. Doesn't that equal, like, garden party, not high school teenagers partying unsupervised?

About four dozen guests show up, and start to eat, drink (even beer!), and mingle to music. God, probably Nelson. Once the party is underway and everyone is having a good time, Rela has to fucking ruin it by - I kid you not - introducing a game of charades. She redeems herself later with some Trivial Pursuit and a guessing game based on a tape of TV theme songs.

Rela's fun night is destroyed when Christopher finally shows up with the school fox, Debbie. "Debbie was staying near him but was not kissing him or anything that would make me want to vomit in her face." God, Rela, you don't even know that they're cousins yet.

Rela mopes in the kitchen, cutting up veggies, until Chris comes to find her. She says, "You don't like charades?" like it's an unfathomable impossibility. Somehow they get onto the subject that Chris has a biofeedback machine in his bedroom. Well, hey, that's cool. Except not. Obviously. One mention of Chris's bedroom and Rela nearly chops her hand off.

In the living room, she suggests that the remaining partiers watch It! The Terror from Beyond Space, but - ohh noo - it's not on the tape. Only boring news. Chris drives Rela to Blockbuster to pick up some videos. On the way, he asks her out!!! Eeeeee!!

That night, Rela dreams a little dream about the secrets of the universe, syringes, and Christopher. She wakes up naked about to drown in a tub of cold water. Too much booze or what?

In her room, the eerie VHS tape winks at her from the top of the VCR. Rela is sure that as a first time VCR user, there's no way in hell she could have misprogrammed it. She puts in the tape and watches the news program. It's giving football scores. Say whattt? Football is a Sunday thang! Wuzz it doing on this Friday broadcast? Rela realizes that she had taped Monday's news - the future!

The next day, Sunday, she makes a wager with her dad. Raiders will plunder the Steelers, 21 to 17. He gives her 5 to 1 odds for the score, so she will win $500 if correct. If Rela's such a movie buff, I'm surprised she didn't remember about the sports almanac in Back To The Future II. This gambling with the future is bad news, sister.

That night, Rela nightmares a little nightmare that she is bound in a dentist's chair. The cult rips her spine out and cuts her brain open. Then she wakes up and watches her new future-news recording. Woo hoo - baseball playoff scores!!!

Monday morning, Rela skips school and drives to Vegas. That is extreme school-skipping. She bets the $500 she won from her father, and wins $21,600.

When she returns to Los Angeles, she stops at Christopher's with the plan to show him the money. She knocks on his bedroom window. Wearing electrodes on his head and grinning a creepy grin, he lets Rela in. He wants to hook up Rela. Hook up with Rela would have been a lot more interesting... cuz I'm sleazy like that. Rela freaks out when he comes near her with the electrodes. And a very telling moment: "[I] had seen Christopher before in his bedroom - a long time ago. Yet not in this room."

On a later future-news, Rela sees that four window washers will fall to their deaths from a hotel in San Francisco. OMG - Rela's rich now! She can't drive there in time, but she can FLY to San Francisco and be a hero! Hurrah! Fuck the time space continuum!

She makes it to San Francisco with little time to spare. She pays her cabbie $100 for each red light he runs. She bursts in the the hotel and tells the fronk desk lady that the scaffolding is about to collapse. Rela takes the elevator and finds a ladder to the roof. She yells to the window washers that there's an emergency phone call for one of them, but they all have to come up. They're not buying it, so she lies about a sniper in another building.

One of the washers comes up to the roof, but when it seems like she thinks Rela is fucking nuts, Rela cold-cocks her with a flashlight and knocks her out. Seconds later, the scaffolding collapses and Rela sees the other three workers fall to their deaths.

Rela hightails it the hell out of there. On her flight home, she stops to consider that maybe the washers were meant to die. What if she messed up the world as a result of having changed the future? Well, it's kinda late to worry about it now, so... meh.

In Rela's newest dream, she's in the hospital recovering from her previous procedures. She rehabs until she can go to the can on her own and eat solid foods. She stares at the wall until she MERGES with the wall. She becomes one with the wall. That is some hardcore staring. She sees molecules/carbon atoms of the plaster. God, what is this? Polymer science or something? This is supposed to thrill teens? Rela is immortal, standing "at the center of the wheel of creation". Ok, whatev. Hope this doesn't all come up later cuz I'm kinda bored.

"I cannot keep having these dreams," I whispered to myself. "I will go insane if I do." Awesome. Change the pronoun and I totally agree.

On the next future-news, Rela sees that her own self is gonna be mutilated to death. She plans to escape before she's supposed to get killed tomorrow night. And then I guess she's asleep again? It's called narcolepsy, and I'm pretty sure there are pills for it. She dreams that she's wandering the streets of Pasadena alone until a guy takes her to the shelter that the reverend runs.

Upon waking, Rela shops for a Rambo knife at the mall. Then, even though she's a thousandaire, with only hours left to live, she goes to her job at the library. It is admirable to take one's responsibilities so seriously. A creepy man follows her around the stacks. She knows the guy is dangerous because his jogging suit doesn't have any seams!!! OMG - KILLER ALERT! She calls Chris to meet her at home so she can show him the tape of her death on the news.

Later, at home with Chris, Rela watches the news tape again alone in her room before showing Chris. But now Chris is the one who dies! The continuum was altered by Rela learning of her death. She tells Chris they have to leave the house. She grabs the VCR, Chris suddenly collapses, the lights go out, and the door knocks.

Creepy dude comes in and takes the bandage off Rela's hand from where she cut it at the party. He then PEELS THE SKIN right off with it. All the skin from her hand. Yet, she feels no pain. RELA is Robotic Experimentation Logistical Algorhythm. The guy is Grandfather. He's gonna destroy Rela with a ray gun, but first...

Remember Sara? Born in 2036 in LA, in the aftermath of a world war and during an American depression. Sara's grandfather disappeared when she was 10, and reappeared when she was eighteen. He told her about some stuff he'd been working on in the meantime... i.e. making human cyborgs that can travel to the past. You know, everyday stuff.

A mysterious organization called New Life has been rebuilding the world after the war. It was kind of like the UN, except really successful. Grandfather tells Sara that, in fact, New Life is run by cyborgs that he created using human central nervous systems and computer parts. The group is so successful because the cyborgs are programmed to relieve the suffering of humans.

Grandfather can look into the future, because he injected computer chips into his brain once. Eventually, he realizes that, to the cyborgs, relieving human suffering means ending the human race (!). There are no possible futures in which humans still exist.

Grandfather had named Sara when she was a baby. She was named after a girl Grandfather knew in his youth, who was murdered shortly after Grandfather met her. The original Sara had believed in the sanctity of life, and that is what inspired G-Father to start making cyborgs in the first place.

Granddaughter Sara is angry that Grandfather has doomed the human race, and decides to send a cyborg back in time to kill him before he can cause all this damage. And SHE is gonna be that cyborg!!!

Back in Rela's living room, the creepy guy, Grandfather, says he's from the year 3116. He is momentarily distracted by some friends of Rela's at the door, giving Rela a chance to plug her computer finger into the VCR to download her entire story on tape.

The friends leave, the door slams, and Christopher - Young Grandfather - finally regains consciousness. Rela knows she has to kill him in order to make the old guy disappear, and also herself, because without Grandfather, she would never have been born.

Christopher rises to leave, and Rela plans to judo chop his neck, but can't do it. The entire human race will die because of her love. She unplugs herself from the VCR, and prepares for Grandfather to ray-gun her to death.

In the epilogue, Rela's adoptive reverend father brings her VCR over to Christopher's for him to have. He watches the tape it contains, the story of Rela and Sara, and vows to never become that Grandfather thing.


Next week's recap will be The Visitor. Ancient Egyptian alien zombies, you guys. For real.

12 comments:

zanne said...

This book is pretty messed up. I actually still have my copy at my parents' house. I should reread it. I really liked the idea of a VCR that can tape the future and thought it would be a really cool story. Until the robot stuff. I remember I was so disappointed when I read this book back then.

I never realized how many Pike books have dreams in them. I bet that is why I was always so fascinated by dreams.

Never even heard of The Visitor. But ancient Egyptian alien zombies sound interesting! Last year at this time, I was in Egypt!

Taren said...

Hey, I just found your blog and I'm so glad because hopefully you can help me. I've been looking for a book and I think it might be by Christopher Pike, but I'm not sure. There's a girl in high school who used to do a lot of modeling, but lately she's gotten into acting. She landed a huge starring role in a horror movie starring the biggest star at the time. He was a jerk, so when she had to kiss him she pictured some random guy from her high school that also happened to have a crush on her. A lot of accidents kept happening on set and her crush was suspected I think, but it turned out to be the girl/her brother that the main character kept beating for modeling gigs. Does that sound famililar to you? Or maybe I'm just crazy!

Fear Street said...

"She knows the guy is dangerous because his jogging suit doesn't have any seams!!!"

Oh man, I can't stop laughing at that for some reason...this entry was hilarious.

Ancient Egyptian alien zombies?! I can't wait!

Zanne, that's awesome that you've been to Egypt.

Anonymous said...

Am I the only person creeped out by the fact that Rela/Sara and Christopher were in love with each other, when he was her grandfather? Even when I read it when I was 12 I thought that was pretty damn gross lol.

LOVE the recaps, though!

What's the other time traveling book where the only way to win is to press 0 in the game? I think hte main characters are Mark, Becky, Becky's boyfriend and their future selves?

LongWinter said...

Zanne - I am so jealous about the Egypt thing. And I used to be fascinated by dreams when I was young, too, but I think I've read too many Pikes in a row. I can't tolerate the dreams in these novels. I'm gonna have to do a post about which characters spend the most time sleeping. Because for some of them, it's almost the entire book!!

Taren - I don't know that one. On Jezebel Fine Lines (their Friday YA book segment), they do a bookfinder thingy that I guess is pretty successful. Lots of people read it, anyway, so you may want to email/post on there, and I bet you'd get an answer. (http://jezebel.com/tag/fine-lines/)

Fear Street - I'm happy you liked it! That part of the book was friggin' absurd anyway. Like, Rela running away from the guy in the library and fixating on the construction of his sweatsuit.

Anonymous - Yeah, there are a few incestuous type scenarios in these books that seem kind of weird looking back. I don't think I even noticed when I was younger. Thanks for reading/commenting! And the book you mentioned is See You Later.

Kate said...

This book and the one with the girl who goes to Greece are the only two Pike books that I vividly remember.

This was probably when the books were getting too weird for me.

Oh that comment about the jogging suit was hilarious.

Kate

Amiee said...

That sounds completely random! I never read any of the books when I was younger but have been enjoying the recaps and that 1 confused the hell outta me!

Sandy said...

Anonymous, I think I remember that book, I think the line in the book goes, "The only way to win the game, was to not play at all".

Anonymous said...

I love these recaps, I wish I could find my old books. I totally forgot about this one until I read the recap, and now the one detail I remember is that the Grandfather, when asked, said his gray sweatsuit was from "Nordstrom, on sale". Am I right?

Andi said...

OMG!!! I found your blog weeks ago and LOVE it. I was a HUGE Pike fan read all his stuff (at least what was out at that time) You crack me up with your takes on all the books, I have literally laughed The way you have pointed out "charades" in all of the books is friggin hilarious. Also, not joking, you referenced my uncle’s band, Scandal, in you post on "Weekend". You had his band on the mix tape you made them. AWESOME. Smart and funny, you writing is great and I have enjoyed re-capping something I haven’t thought about in maybe 16 years.

Anonymous said...

"What's the other time traveling book where the only way to win is to press 0 in the game? I think hte main characters are Mark, Becky, Becky's boyfriend and their future selves"



The book you are talking about is called "See You Later" and other than the Last Vampire, it is my favorite! Btw, I just LOVE these recaps. Have you heard anything about the last vampire movie yet?

Anonymous said...

Pike really is a master storyteller in a league all his own. I discovered his books in the mid 1990's when I was getting into my teenage years. Now, over 15 years (and many other authors) later, I still love his stuff.

The Eternal Enemy is one of my all time favorite stories-- right up there with other mind-blowing Pike plots such as The Starlight Crystal.

I demand Pike author more adult novels! (please?)