This is the end of the journey my friends, and not a minute too soon. You all might have had a week to recuperate from… that, but I live in this. I make sacrifices for this blog about books nobody has read.
Without further ado, take us home, Bill.
Daniel woke with the first light….
HE SAID THE THING
A good way to start our celebration.
But don’t ask me what any of this has to do with a rose in ice. Is the rose Kerry? Is it Jackson’s fetus? Is it Dan’s fingers? Who knows.
He sat up. It was dawn, the light growing blue around the edges of the world, but the snow had stopped.
Didn’t we have this happen last time? Second time’s the charm…? It’s a bad sign when I’m hesitant to believe that we’d actually move forward with the story. It’s like Chinese water torture, I’m waiting for Bill’s disappointing writing to drip on me again.
But no, it’s for realsies this time, the storm has stopped. Hooray!
He rolled over to tell Bob the good news and only then realized why he’d thought he was alone: the old man wasn’t in the shelter. … His footsteps–the big fish-shaped print of the snowshoes Daniel had helped him make with duct tape–led down toward the frozen creek, then went downstream, farther away from the wreck.
Holy crap! Double good news!
He’d left because he’d been sure, he’d known, that Daniel would come after him.
Not this time, Daniel thought.
If anyone has the misfortune of reading this book, I encourage you to take a shot every time Daniel says any iteration of “not this time” and an extra one for when he does it anyway. Hopefully you’ll pass out before getting much further and spare yourself.
Well, it wouldn’t be Daniel without him saying he’s disgusted with Bob’s actions and then going along with them anyway. He must be a Republican.
So right now Daniel is exhausted, running low on energy, and suffering from a mixture of frostbite and exposure. What’s he going to address first?
He could no longer feel his fingers well enough to tie on his snowshoes or unzip his pants without Bob’s help. And he needed to piss, badly.
Using the edges of his gloves, he rolled the pants down over his hips, gasping from the feel of the cold on his genitals. Oh God, hurry up.
He looked down and saw a dark-brown stream staining the snow. That was a bad sign.
Hey! That’s Phil’s thing, don’t take Phil’s thing! Bad form!
So of course Dan sets off to look for Bob which I guess is fair enough because he’s not gonna make it much farther on his own anyway. After a couple hours he finds Bob sitting against a tree trunk stubbornly not dying.
[Daniel] “What’s worng?”
“My chest. Like a locomotive is sitting on me.”
Daniel opened his mouth to say something, then changed his mind. What he wanted to say was, I can’t say I’m surprised, the way you smoke. It’s a wonder it didn’t happen years ago.
It’s the Yukon, Dan, he won’t even be able to feel how cold that is.
[Bob] “Sorry. About this. I’m sorry. You wanted to run around and go back this morning. To wait with the others. Right?”
“I’m sorry,” Bob said. “You should have. Turned back this morning. Left me out here. Would have served me right.”
Ha, even Bob is telling Dan to leave him to die. Well, I guess this is what true love looks like guys, because Dan clearly cared more about Bob than Kerry’s well-being this entire time. And thus, let us say goodbye to these two lovebirds.
“You still have a lighter?” Daniel asked. … Daniel took it out, then set about clearing a spot of its snow, scraping and scraping until he got to the bare dirt beneath. … The little orange glow was like the first ray of hope in that white place. He added a larger branch to the fire, and when it was going enough, he set the green branches on top, watching the smoke rise and rise into the clear blue sky.
When he’d built up a good column of smoke, he sat next to Bob in the snow, feeling exhaustion overtake him, and closed his eyes.
Not even kidding. Daniel’s dead.
Okay technically he survives a little longer but this is the last time we see him so it counts. At least he died as he lived, doing whatever Bob wanted.
We got no time to waste on lame dead people, though.
They heard the first plane around noon. … The adults waited, and in a minute they, too, saw the white shape of the plane moving between the hills….
I know I’ve been saying this book drags and nothing happens, but does anyone feel like this is super sudden? Feels a little too easy. But hey, I’m not gonna complain that the book is rushing to end.
In the far distance, she spotted a small white turboprop making its way slowly across the blue sky a few miles to the north. But something was wrong–it wasn’t moving like a rescue plane.
Oh god it’s A SECOND PLANE CRASH! It’s what we least suspected!
Nah just kidding, the plane just doesn’t see them so they go to make the fire bigger. Kerry rushes to tell Phil the good news.
Beverly was hovering over him, touching his belly, feeling the hard spot there, the place where she said the blood was pooling into his abdominal cavity. He was ghastly pale now, a green tinge around his mouth and eyes. Bleeding to death, Beverly had said. The former nurse gave Kerry a grim look. He’ll die today, her look said.
Beverly I think you’re overestimating Bill’s ability to do something surprising. Besides, dying is Dan’s thing. Be the bigger man, Phil, don’t take Dan’s thing.
Kerry promises Phil that everything’s going to be alright, that they’ll get him help and the planes are on the way.
Phil smiled weakly. “Sounds good,” he said. “You won’t leave without me?”
“No way,” she said, and took his hand. “You didn’t leave me. I won’t leave without you.”
The sound of the airplane’s rotors were growing louder, and outside the survivors were all cheering. Daniel, she thought. Daniel, they’ve found us at last.
And thus, we come to the final chapter, reuniting with our favorite non-functioning family.
It’s at this point I should point out I made a small error while reviewing the first chapter of this book. I told you that the protagonist in it was named Daniel. Upon re-reading it, however, the man raking leaves and ditching his son’s soccer game is never named. I must have looked at the second chapter and taken the name from there. So, my bad. And that should tell you exactly how this is going to go.
Kerry and Phil are finishing up telling Jackson about this whole shindig, hopefully without skimping on the blood peeing shenanigans.
“So they saw the smoke?”
Kerry goes silent while I turn around in my seat to get a better look at my son, to see his face.
“Well, what do you think?” I ask him.
He scrunches up one side of his face and says, “They must have seen it. You wouldn’t be sitting here talking to me otherwise, right?”
“You’ve always been a smart kid,” I say.
This isn’t a pop quiz PhiImean totally Daniel. It’s called basic logic.
So yeah, the plane saw the smoke signal and made a landing to come rescue the victims.
“What about you, Dad? Where were you?”
I look over at my wife, remembering the day we were rescued. … The inside of the plane was dim; my thoughts were fuzzy, but I remember feeling, for a moment, that I might be able to fly myself, sitting so close to her, feeling her concern for me. I knew I wasn’t imagining it. I’d waited so long for her feelings for me to change, and they had. It was only friendship then, but it was enough.
I’d said, “If I die, I want you to know something.”
“You’re not going to die now, so don’t talk like that,” Kerry said.
“It’s still a long way back,” I said. “I need to tell you…”
“Shh.” She pulled the blanket up to keep me warm. “You don’t need to say it. I know.”
“You know that I was about to ask you to feed my turtles when I’m gone?”
But that’s right ladies and gents, the man in the car is Phil. Which means, I friggin’ called it and that’s all that matters. I win.
Party at Daniel’s corpse!
God bless stupid hackneyed plot twists.
So helicopters start to land at the wreckage and Kerry and Phil are the first ones on.
There are several things I would like to forget from those days in the Yukon… but foremost is that look, the expression on Kerry’s face when she first heard that Daniel was dead.
Color me shocked.
The rotors were so loud we couldn’t speak until one of the men gave us each a headset. He introduced himself as Bill Abernathy, the director of crisis operations for Denali Airlines.
That’s not confusing at all to have the author name a character after him… Wait a minute, if this is a self-insert you guys are gonna crash again.
The next moment Kerry was asking for news of the two men who’d gone out into the wilderness to look for help. … Had they found Daniel? Was he the one who’d led the rescue planes to us?
“In a way,” Bill said, then he told us how twenty kilometers west of the crash site they’d found two men in the snow, an older man who was already dead of a heart attack, and a younger man, wrapped in blankets, suffering from severe exposure, his hands and feet and face covered with frostbite. … It was Daniel’s signal fire that had drawn the rescue teams back in this direction, Bill said. After searching above the storm for four days with no sign of our ELT signal, the airline had started widening the search grid…. They’d dispatched the rescue plane right away, which found the crash site three hundred kilometers southeast of the city of Whitehorse….
Daniel saved us, Bill said, but he had not been able to save himself. He’d died on the flight back to Whitehorse, his body half-frozen, his organs shutting down one by one. They’d found him a few hours too late.
Just in case you still actually cared about any of the characters, here’s a big middle finger to those of you hoping to see any of Daniel’s last moments, courtesy of both Bills.
I suppose it’s a good thing that Daniel’s stupid road trip with Bob wasn’t a complete waste but it seems a little weird that their tiny fire did more than Phil’s big one, but whatever. Bill hands Kerry Daniel’s black journal of plot importance. Kerry sobs like a big baby all the way to the airport.
When the emergency crews were helping me into a waiting ambulance at the airport, Kerry stood above me pale and damp, her face washed with something that seemed like desperation. Probably she’d had too much death, too much loss–Daniel, and Judy, and Bob….
You don’t have to include Bob’s name in there, we’d understand.
She grabbed my hand and said, “Don’t you die on me, too.”
I gave her a weak smile and said, “I may not have much say in the matter.”
“I mean it, Phil. Don’t you dare. If you die, I will kill you.”
So yeah, Phil survives and gets treatment. Kerry leans on him in her time of grief.
I held her when she cried then, the same way that I held her up later at Daniel’s funeral, then at Judy’s.
I’m just imagining them having the caskets on a conveyor belt like at those Sushi restaurants. I mean there’s a looot of funerals to get through, gotta keep it moving.
Kerry quits Petrol, Phil stands by her as she goes through her pregnancy, she… helps him buy a condo…? Neat. She falls in love with him because why the hell not.
“So that means Dad is not my real father? Right? If Daniel was the one Mom was dating before the crash, then he’s my father.”
Oh yeah, Jackson’s here.
Maaaaybe we should have started this car ride off by telling him about his parentage. Instead of, y’know, waiting until you’re almost to Whitehorse in the middle of nowhere so he doesn’t have the time to process these feelings.
“Your dad is your real father,” Kerry says. “He’s been there for every important moment in your life. But he’s not your biological father.”
“So what you’re telling me is that Daniel Albrecht was my biological father.”
“The kid was always too smart for his own good.”
We’re quiet again. The only sound is the buzz of the road under the tires.
Then Jackson says, “But it all could have ended differently, couldn’t it? If the plane hadn’t gone down, you would have married Daniel instead, right?”
Kerry glances at me, then says, “That’s true. I would have married Daniel and not your dad. But it did happen. Everything changed.”
“So it was all an accident,” Jackson says. “Everything.”
Including you m’boy.
I love them both, would do anything for them both. And yet there is always the ghost of Daniel in the lines of Jackson’s face, in his laugh, in the sound of his voice. In Kerry’s memory, her sorrow. She says we are, both of us, carrying our ghosts around all the time….
Some of us a little more literally than others, isn’t that right, Phil? I like to imagine that Kerry has her own little Daniel ghost that
bothers encourages her at random moments. Because that’s how healthy people grieve: ceaseless hallucinations.
Jackson has been quiet a long while. Then he says, “I’ve heard you two talking about Daniel before.”
I feel my breath catch again. “You did?”
“Yeah. I mean, it’s not like you never talk about him.”
“I hear mommy saying his name sometimes when you guys are bed wrestling at night.”
Somehow, it does not surprise me that Kerry and Phil were not exactly airtight on this whole secret dad thing.
“I didn’t realize he was my father. My biological father, that is. But I’m glad.”
“You are?” Kerry asks.
Jackson is thoughtful for a moment. “Well, he sounds like a good person. Someone who would help other people like that. I’m glad I know more about him now. But Dad is my dad. It’s weird to think he might not have been, if things were different. But I’m not sorry.”
Yeah that’s how kids who just found out their whole life is a lie talk. Is he thinking if he acts reasonably they’ll still end up taking him to Disney? Because otherwise I’m not sure how he matured five years in the span of like two days.
From the back Jackson says, “Will you tell me more about him? What he was like?”
“Of course honey. We’ll tell you everything we know.” Kerry takes the journal in both hands, turns in her seat and offers it to him. “Here,” she says. “Start with this.”
Jackson opens the book and says, “Was this Daniel’s?”
“It was. Now it’s yours,” Kerry says.
For all you know, Kerry, that journal could just be a bunch of naughty drawings of Bob. And for the record, we never see what’s in that journal. We’re told it’s suuuuper important, important enough to break the flow of the book, but nope. Could be anything. Let your imagination run wild, folks.
And that’s it. They arrive at Whitehorse. The end.
We’re free ladies and gents, FREE.
If you feel a big emptiness inside you that’s a completely normal symptom of Bill Rancic wasting your time.
I guess I should sum up this whole thing, but I feel like I burned myself out last post. At best, First Light feels like a first draft. The entire book is predicated on the idea that you didn’t figure out the twist in the first twenty pages (whoops), and seems to think that’s enough tension to sustain an entire book. Granted, it’s a pretty short one, clocking in at a little over 300 pages double-spaced. But even if somebody somehow ended up caring about this book, it screws them all over by not giving any payoff for… anything. The house is littered with Chekhov’s guns that turn out to have no bullets.
In any case, I hope you got some entertainment out of my pain. Thank you all for sticking with me to the end. And if you didn’t, send any complaints to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Next week we’re taking a break, but rest assured that I have not perished yet. We’ll return in August with a writer that’s just a little more high profile than good ol’ Bill here. Anyone ever heard of a guy named James Patterson?