Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Cataluna Chronicles: The Deadly Fire, or “Back to the Past”

There have been some posts that the Cataluna series is so weird, it’s wonderful. I’m really trying to look at the final book from that perspective. But then R. L. did something awful. He made it about CAR RACING. I am not a fan of car racing, or cars really. But … since it is a book about a possessed time traveling car, it was only a matter of time before car speak got involved.

We begin the final book in the series knowing that the spirit of Catherine possesses the beautiful Cataluna car, and the spirit of William possesses … something else, we don’t know yet. And each of their’s favourite desire is to destroy one another. One great thing about this book (from the blogger’s perspective, anyways) is it does not swing back and forth between the past and the present. Way less confusing. It’s all present, baby! But does it contain a prologue where the car kills/maims some naughty teens? Yes it does – in this case, some joyriders are forced to listen to loud until their eardrums shatter and their heads spurt blood. Now, I’m no doctor, and I don’t think that’s what happens … you know what? I like the graphic, so never mind.

Buddy is our hero of the piece. He is a McCloy – a family of race car drivers. They are all men, and they are all tough. The big news of the day is that Buddy’s older brother Stan was going to race the Doom Car – a beautiful car with a bad reputation. You guessed it, the Cataluna. They talk about cars way too long, stuff like ‘dog-blunting’ the engine (although even the book admits this is a made up word). Kinda boring, so I’ll talk about Buddy’s girlfriend Sara. Buddy lo-o-ves Sara, and Sara lo-o-ves cars, a passion you might notice I don’t share with her. They really turn her on. While she gets wet over the Cataluna, Buddy is worried about his brother racing it – it gives him the heebie-jeebies. As it should. Stan’s racing fine until the steering wheel locks up and, to the sound of a woman’s laughter, he crashes through the barriers, the bleachers filled with people, and into a power station. Stan doesn’t make it.

Buddy gets all depressed by his brother dying, like, less than a week ago, and Sara gets bored of him and starts to move on. Aww, teen love is so sweet. Buddy starts to get obsessed with the evil car, and his new beautiful neighbour, Marisol. Marisol also really likes the car and wants to go for a spin, and even though the car killed his brother A WEEK AGO, Buddy’s into it. Then his friend show up and shove him into their car, so his date plans are out.

They go to a party at Gary’s house. It’s ‘supercool’ because Gary had put TVs all over his basement, each of them playing a different movie on mute. I guess that would be avant garde if I was a teen 15 years ago … oh wait.

So Sara is there, all over a pale guy with a ponytail and a long black jacket. Even though he is supposedly blond, I just picture him as Christian Slater from the nineties. I’m in a nostalgic sort of mood, I guess. The new guy’s name is “Will”. As in William Parker? Tricky, R. L., but I think I’ve broken your clever code. This book flashes to what the Cataluna is thinking, and she is thinking the same thing. “Will, hey? Bet that’s short for William. We’ll see how this race goes.” If she had a mustache, she’d twirl it. But she doesn’t – she’s a car.

Upon meeting each other, Will and Buddy immediately whip out their dicks and decide to race cars. Sara is SO into this – whoever wins the race wins HER! Thanks for setting feminism back 40 years, Sara, you big whore. The next night is the night of the big race, and Buddy sneaks out of the house, stealing the Cataluna. They’re going to race “Racer’s Lane”, where all the “jammers” test on another. I don’t even know what that means. It’s by the old mill, where police never patrol, because there’s only an old mill around. As an aside, don’t an AWFUL lot of murders happen at the old mill in Shadyside? Just saying, police …

They start racing and Buddy is almost goaded into killing Will by the talking car. But then the police show up. Oh noes! Maybe they heard my comment about patrolling areas with high murder rates. Buddy gets caught, but the police are cool with the McCloys and let him go with a warning because his brother died a week ago. The race is postponed, and Buddy starts dating Marisol. They go on a donut date (yummm … the things we could do when we were 16), when Buddy catches Sara eating pizza with Will, popping pepperoni into his mouth. The harlot. Buddy loses it and puts his hand through the window. You can never go wrong with a girl when you do this, by the way. Marisol takes off, and Sara is mad he was with another girl. You know, I’m always going on about the crappy boyfriends in Shadyside, but the girls are just as bad.

Buddy tries to leave the next night, but his other brother Sean tries to stop him. Until Buddy beats him to a bloody pulp, that is. Then the Cataluna is all his. The car makes him even more crazy, and he heads to the big race. First person he runs into is, unexpectedly, Marisol. She is REALLY worried about Buddy and doesn’t want him in the car. He blows her off. Will then gets this awesome idea that they should flip a coin to see who gets to drive who’s car. Is this normal in car racing? Anyways, surprise surprise, “Will” gets to drive the Cataluna. The car is super pumped she has the chance to kill Will.

Now for the totally unexpected twist – “Will” is not a clever alias for William Parker, but rather just another asshole boy wanting to go real fast. Too bad for him, the car doesn’t know this. Or believe his protests of innocence. The Cataluna crashes on purpose, and the car Buddy is driving flips and explodes. Buddy is thrown before the explosion so he gets away. The unfortunately named Will does not make it. Buddy’s all “I won cause you’re dead!” Sick. Sara starts making out with him because she’s a PERVERT, and they make up over Will’s dead body. Young love.

Marisol comes running at them, and Buddy’s all ‘sorry honey’ but she never wanted him to begin with. She wanted the Cataluna all along because MARISOL IS WILLIAM. No jokes. Going to the future and dying in a car crash turned William into a girl. Even for Fear Street, that’s implausible. I mean, there’s some kind of sense in possessing the car in which you died, am I right? But just … transforming into a girl, I don’t buy it. Anyways, William and Catherine go for the final showdown. She speeds up to crash him, which works just fine for him/her. William knows the secrets of the Cataluna that Catherine doesn’t. The night he skinned her mother, he took the note left to her that explained it all.

They speed up to 100 mph, then William throws it into reverse. They disappear. And I just had a flashback to Back to the Future! No, this book is nothing like it, but with the car, and the time travel, it must be my nostalgia talking. I really want to watch Michael J. Fox right now. Anyways, they go BACK to the PAST, where William is William again, and Catherine is a girl.

They once again battle. Catherine turns herself into a fierce rat, and is immediately caught by William and put in a cage. William takes an axe to the Cataluna and destroys it. K, here comes the trippy part. By destroying the car from the future in the past, Catherine’s mother from the future was never able to use the time traveling to come to the past, and therefore neither Catherine nor her mother existed in 1698. Make sense yet? Sigh. Christopher Pike does trippy existentialism so much better.

Catherine disagrees with William’s philosophy, so she escapes from her cage and turns into a fearsome … bat and bites William’s neck. Very vampiric Catherine, but you know what else would work? A bear. Be a bear and hit him really hard, okay? William tried to ignore the horrific pain from his little bite and slices the axles of the car into two. Then he dramatically dies from a bat bite, the big baby.

Apparently, the axle of the car is like it’s ‘heart’ or something, because stuff starts pouring out of the car like it’s dying. It’s the ghosts of all the people Catherine killed. They tear her apart.

AND … William wakes up to find his brother and father looking for him. Mother just had her baby. It was all a dream. Or was it? Will’s new baby sister has a mark on her forehead – a crescent moon!

Okay, I’ll admit that some of the weirdness in this book did make it wonderful. And points for reminding me of Back to the Future. But points OFF for shameless Sara’s trampy behaviour, and for the use of unexplained time traveling existentialism when we all know Fear Street isn’t up to the challenge. I give it 9 axle hearts out of 15. What do you think – so bad it’s good? Or just plain bad?


Fear Street said...

Man, these books sound horrible...

I think Stine read "Christine" one too many times and just couldn't resist putting his convoluted spin on it.

Anonymous said...

But there's no way that destroying the future version of the car in the past will destroy the original version. Stine fails at time travel.

L. K. Stine said...

I know, hey? No sense was made by this book.

Anonymous said...

Well, the car racing was terrible, but it was infused with classic Fear Street anti-romance and it had an utterly nonsensical ending (axle heart?), so I'll let it pass because I think more nutcase books should exist. I guess the series just went on so long that they had to do crazy stuff like this to prevent it from being just the same old.

LAK said...

I have to say that although the ending was trippy, this was a bit of a disappointment to me. I expected more. At least I know better for next time.
Sure, RL had the horrible, stupid and whorish woman character, and I love that, but it just didn't do it for me.

Anonymous said...

Wait, hold on. The Deadly Fire? When was that in this book?

Broken1again said...

ok idk you guys may have not liked this book, but for me, due to the fact that im a girl who loves cars, loves street racing, and the smell of race gas and oil, this book was pretty awesome, although I wasnt a fan of the ending..i feel like catherine was innocent and just pushed to evil since she was trying to get away from william and in the end he wins by killing the car/her. Over all i really liked this series, I liked it when I was little and I still like it now. P.S. racing def does not work with people changing cars, unless maybe they were friends and betting on if the diver has more skill..I'd never let anyone drive my car..

Toby'c said...

The first of many time travel stories to which my reaction was along the lines of "TIME TRAVEL DOES NOT WORK THAT WAY!"