It’s Sam’s turn in the Great Switcheroo to share the 1991 Christopher Pike book Bury Me Deep. Jean is your average horned-up teenage girl who was written by an author who’s definitely human and totally understands how human girls work. Jean is excited for a trip to Hawaii with her friends, but finds herself delayed a few days for reasons too stupid to be real. Finally on the plane to Hawaii, the boy, Mike, in the seat next to Jean dies violently, leaving Jean shaken. But there’s no time for trauma when there are cute boys giving scuba diving lessons at the hotel, so Jean puts aside her experience and tires to enjoy the time with her friend Mandy and also Michelle, the random girl who just invited herself along on the vacation and now spends all her time locked in their shared hotel suite bedroom having sex with Dave, the older of the two diving instructors. Jean starts having spooky dreams about Mike, and is drawn to a particular underwater cave off the Island of Lanai. When Jean recklessly dives to the cave alone she finds a human skull and promptly freaks out. Neither of the cute instructors, Dave or Johnny, believe she saw the skull, and upon investigation Dave can’t find it in the cave. Is jean falling apart from her traumatic experience? Are Dave and Johnny more than simply cute dive instructors, and what happened to their missing partner Ringo (yes, Ringo)? What does any of this have to do with Mike? Will Mandy ever be treated with respect in this book? Help Sam solve this mystery (spoiler, it’s not that mysterious) in the conclusion of our first Great Switcheroo!
In this special bonus episode Danielle and Sam pick out weird media which the other person will have to explain, while still not having seen or read the media they’re suggesting. Given the choice would Danielle rather watch the animated film The Elm-Chanted Forest or the sci-fi comedy The Ice Pirates? And which Christopher Pike book will Sam pick to read: See You Later or Bury Me Deep? Listen to find out, and be sure to stay tuned as Danielle and Sam cover their choices in a future episode.
This week Danielle takes Sam through the truly bizarre finale of the 2020 Ernest Cline novel Ready Player Two. Wade Watts is trapped in the OASIS in his ONI VR headset by Anorak and his “infirmware” and is being forced by Anorak to find the seven shards hidden by Halliday on various media worlds Kira—the late wife of Ogden and romantic obsession of Halliday—had a hand in creating. And if that sentence doesn’t sum up Ready Player Two, nothing does. The purpose of this latest scavenger hunt is still unclear, but Wade now has 12 hours to complete it before he dies, so naturally he completely ignores the help offered by his biggest fan L0hengrin. Wade and his friends set off to various media worlds, including the not-much-of-a-challenge school world, and the fever dream of the Prince world. Eventually, Wade figures out that Anorak wants the shards because he—the A.I. consciousness of Halliday—wants to use the shards to resurrect an A.I. consciousness of Kira which Halliday created without her consent. Anorak wants to live in eternal bliss with this A.I. Kira even though she never loved Halliday, even when reconstituted virtually. We won’t spoil how the space ship full of frozen embryos figures into all this, but it’s wild. Anyway, Wade and his friends find a convenient magic sword that Ogden, and only Ogden for some reason, can use to defeat Anorak, and embark on a pretty simple heist to free Ogden and bring him to the Oasis to fight Anorak. All of this is pretty standard, but then Wade discovers there are A.I. scans of every person who has used an ONI device, and his solution to this is probably the most ridiculous, and most irresponsible, part of the whole book, which is really saying something.
This week Danielle starts Sam on a VR adventure with the 2020 Ernest Cline novel Ready Player Two. In this sequel to Ready Player One, Wade Watts is the freshly minted owner of the OASIS, a massive virtual realty universe that dominates the cultural and commercial landscape of a dystopian Earth. That’s when Wade’s late predecessor, Halliday, sends him a hitherto unknown technology: The ONI, a neural interface VR system for the OASIS that kills you if you use it too long. This all sounds great to Wade who immediately launches it as a commercial product, and this is why Danielle and Sam feel that you probably shouldn’t pick the successor to your multi-billion dollar essential planetary infrastructure via pop culture scavenger hunt. At this point, a new scavenger hunt appears in the OASIS, seemingly just for Wade and created by Halliday (seriously, does he have any other ideas?). Wade is tasked with finding seven shards but is stumped by the clue and so kinda just ignores if for a few years, like a true hero. During that time, Wade finds his friends divided over the ethics of the ONI devices, and Wade drifts away from Samantha, his girlfriend for all of a week, due to her reservations. Finally, a fan of Wade’s, L0hengrin, clues him into where the first shard is, and helps him recover this first quest item. Things only get weirder from here, and that’s without mentioning the Olympic swimming pool’s worth of 80’s and 90’s pop culture references to slog through, or the spaceship full of frozen embryos. Sam has many questions, and while there are few answers in part one, we can only hope part two will shed some light on his most burning question: How big a jerk was Halliday? (Spoiler: absolutely massive).
This week Sam shares the conclusion of the supremely weird 1967 Dodie Smith book The Starlight Barking. Pongo and his brood are still wrestling with what’s going on while the rest of the world, aside from dogs, sleeps. Finally deciding Cruella de Vil might be involved, the dogs, a cat, and Tommy sneak into her house, some with the intent of just straight-up murdering her. Although the air is filled with pepper, Cruella is asleep and the dogs are relieved that’s she not involved, and, much to Sam’s consternation, that’s the last we’ll hear of her during the story. Back at Downing Street, a mysterious light appears on the TV and commands all the dogs in England to appear in Trafalgar Square at midnight to receive an explanation for all the strange goings on. When asked questions, the voice provides answers that are less than useless before rushing off. At midnight, the dogs gathered in the Square experience euphoria and then utter terror as a bright light descends into the square. It’s the Lord of Sirius the dog star come to offer all the dogs a permanent home on Sirius to live forever in total bliss. The star lord’s reasons for making this offer are crazy, as is the stipulation that it will be an all-or-nothing deal so all dogs are to go or none at all. For some reason, the dogs elect Pongo to make the decision on their behalf. Despite all the supposedly high stakes, Danielle and Sam are really much more interested in the pressing question: What the heck happened to the missing Roly Poly?
This week Sam brings the little-known sequel to The Hundred and One Dalmatians, the 1967 Dodie Smith novel The Starlight Barking. Dalmatian heroes Pongo and Missis have retired to the countryside at Hell Hall with their massive brood, but Pongo is feeling restless for his previous life of adventure. That’s when he wakes one morning to find the entire world asleep except for dogs, and no amount of barking will wake any other creature. He and Missis venture forth to investigate, and find that doors and gates obligingly open for them as they approach. Soon they learn they can communicate telepathically with other dogs and float, a.k.a “swoosh”. At this point, Danielle is just about done with this nonsense. Still, Sam presses on and explains how all the dalmatians have been called to London to form a dalmatian army by their daughter Cadpig who, as the prime minister’s pet, is acting as the prime minister for dogs. There are still no clues as to why any of this has happened, but as the dogs enter London Pongo and Missis notice a sign for Cruella de Vil’s new business, leading Danielle and Sam to believe she’s somehow behind this. The dogs ignore this obvious threat and proceed to 10 Downing Street to partake in a cabinet meeting. Seriously, this is the most boring dog reaction to an apocalypse that has ever been. Danielle continues to spin her own theories as to what is happening since the dogs seem utterly uninterested in investigating on their own. Still, there’s a floating tractor and a young boy who speaks a kind of pidgin dog, so the book has that going for it.
This week Danielle is dredging up the 1976 pulp horror novel Night of the Crabs by Guy N. Smith. When a pair of swimmers disappear off the coast of Wales it’s up to well-known botanist, and uncle to one of the missing swimmers, Cliff Davenport to uncover what happened. Why, exactly, it’s up to him is anyone’s guess, but Cliff quickly proves himself by uncovering crab tracks on the beach (is that a thing?) and concluding his nephew was murdered by sheep-sized crabs. Spoiler: Cliff is wrong, they are, in fact, cow-sized crabs; c’mon, Cliff, do better. Cliff is made to quickly forget the grief of his lost nephew in the arms of the nubile and newly divorced Pat, who is one-hundred percent on board with giant killer crabs, having seen crab tracks herself (no seriously, are crab tracks a thing?!). The two investigate and have sex in about equal measure, but it’s not until the nearby secret, but not too secret, military base is attacked by an army of giant, invincible crabs lead by, as dubbed by Cliff, the cunning King Crab, that anyone else takes notice. Cliff, now somehow a marine biologist, works with the department of defense to devise a plan to entomb the crabs in their underwater cave. This plan, predictably, fails spectacularly, and so many are killed by the enraged crab army Danielle had to give up keeping count. All Sam knows is that he has a new hero: All hail King Crab!
Danielle digs deep into the 90s’ well with the Christopher Pike novel The Eternal Enemy. Rela is just a normal girl who loves boys, cookies, and VCRs. Her life goes off the rails when the VCR she just bought turns out to be recording TV shows from the future! This doesn’t really matter as Rela is more interested in the cute boy, Chris, at her school. However, Rela does record a future news broadcast where she’s murdered by a weird stalker, but she decides her best course of action is to go about her daily life, as one would. Sam is already confused about what’s going on, and that’s before the stalker turns about to be Rela’s grandfather from the future trying to preserve the robot takeover of Earth. There’s a lot moral waffling about what has a soul and if humans should be replaced by cyborg hybrids, but Sam is firmly on the robots’ side in all this despite the best arguments to the contrary. If you think the philosophizing is confusing, wait until all the weird time travel paradoxes rear their ugly heads. So enjoy Blockbuster, VCRs, and startlingly fast adoptions in this 90s fueled sci-fi drama!
This week Sam shares the conclusion of the the Michael Ende novel The Night of Wishes. We rejoin our story as our two bumbling animal heroes wander out into the snowy night with no plan to stop the evil sorcerer Preposteror and his aunt Tyrannia Vampirella from completing their evil deed quota via magic wishing potion. Fortunately, Preposteror and Vampirella have to spend an inordinate amount of time doing ridiculously complicated magics to brew the potion, when they’re not wasting time they don’t have trying to back-stab each other, that is. Through some pure, blind luck Mauricio (née Morris) and Jacob manage to obtain a time traveling bell ring from the upcoming the New Year’s Eve bell tolling, which, if we’re understanding this correctly, would undo the reverse wishing effect of the potion and foil the evil plans. At this point, both Danielle and Sam have a little breakdown because they’re so confused by the time traveling sounds and complicated wishing/reverse wishing/undo reverse wishing magic rules. It doesn’t help that Preposteror and Vampirella continue to do ridiculous things like race while riding a giant scorpion and bedbug respectively. However, it’s when the wishes start that things really go off-the-wall, so enjoy as Sam tries desperately to make Danielle understand just any amount of what he’s saying.
Sam shares a lesser known work of the author of The Neverending Story, Michael Ende, with the book The Night of Wishes. When the nefarious sorcerer Beelzebub Preposteror (whose name Danielle is incapable of saying correctly) falls behind on his quota of evil deeds for the year, he has until midnight to fulfill his contract or face foreclosure by the devil himself. Fortunately, his witch aunt Tyrannia Vampirella, who’s in the same boat, shows up with a plan: To brew the legendary Satanarchaeolidealcohellish Notion Potion that will let them literally wish all their problems away. Unfortunately, each of them is living with a spy from the High Council of Animals, a cat named Maurico di Mauro and a raven named Jacob Scribble, who are determined to stop them. These spies, however, are incompetent to a degree that is only surpassed by the sorcerer and his aunt’s inability to cooperate, and none of them seem capable of forming a coherent plan. So listen to Sam struggle with German wordplay and pronunciations and Danielle struggle with character names and pretty much everything else, especially the overly complicated rules of the magic potion in a book that’s both incredibly goofy and unexpectedly dark.