Thursday, August 18, 2011

Oh, Ayla

Everyone knows Clan of the Cave Bear, right? The book series, not that crappy movie with Darryl Hannah. I can summarize six epic novels in a couple of short sentences, I'm pretty sure: Beautiful and brilliant cro-magnon Ayla is raised by neanderthals and then cast out, whereupon she ventures out into the great wild world on her own and invents a lot of fantastic crap and has sex all the time. Wow, that was only one sentence! I'm better than I thought, and that is something I almost NEVER get to say.

The first three books (Clan of the Cave Bear, Valley of Horses and Mammoth Hunters) are actually pretty good, and also easy to summarize: Ayla grows up with the neanderthals (the 'clan' of the title) but is different so doesn't really fit in. She is cast out for thinking differently and sets off on her own. In short order, she meets the man of her dreams, domesticates the first animals, discovers how to control fire and invents needles, a proto-bow, and multiple other items with her fabulous genius that surpasses that of any human ever to have walked the earth. Also, she is stunningly gorgeous. Get the picture? SHE IS THE BEST EVER, in every possible way. These facts are repeated ad nauseum, and then tossed in a few million extra times for good measure. Just in case you're pretty thick and didn't get it right off. Oh, and also, without fail, any band of people that Ayla comes across ask, nay, BEG, her to stay with them forever because she is so undeniably wonderful in every way. There are always anguished tears when she leaves. And leave she must, for Jondalar is far from home when he meets her and longs to return. Jondalar, also, is amazing beyond words, and must take his place among the leadership of his own wealthy tribe.

Books four and five (Plains of Passage and Shelters of Stone) are okayish, and not surprisingly, easy to summarize: Ayla and her dreamy hunk, Jondalar, leave her new adopted family, the 'mammoth hunters' of the title, and make the long arduous journey back to Jondalar's family. Then they settle in there and have their daughter, Jonayla (no lie; that's her name).

Book six is called 'The Land of the Painted Caves', and it is even easier to summarize: it sucks worse than any book I have ever read. Ever. In my life. If I paid money for this book, I would be angry. I'm only about a quarter of the way through it and Ayla has already encountered a second set of conjoined twins. They don't live, which is too bad because siamese twin cave people would be AWESOME. Anyway, that's pretty unlikely, I'm guessing, because she only knows a thousand people or so. I think the author was counting on us forgetting about the first set, because they were in the first book, which was published in 1980. I don't know about you guys, but I can't remember JACK from 1980. That's just a tiny little complaint, too, and also not the only repeat situation. Any subtlety that once existed is completely gone, particularly regarding Ayla and Jondalar's pure marvelousness. Seriously, I am going to have to go get a thesaurus because I am running out of synonyms to describe them. The prose has degenerated into Danielle Steele territory, and it's getting drearily preachy about various social issues. These are always resolved brilliantly by Ayla and Jondalar, naturally. I was still reading it last night, mostly because I was out of books, but I went to the library at lunch and picked up The Encyclopedia of Dead Rock Stars: Heroin, Handguns and Ham Sandwiches. After I finish that I might pick up Land of Painted Caves again, just to see how awful a book can truly get. Perhaps I'll have an update, but I simply cannot recommend this one.

1 comment:

Lauren said...

I don't knowhow you did it, but now I'm wanting to read them....