First off: They’re still good. Seriously good.
I did a bit of background research on Christopher Pike and discovered very little. The name is not the author’s real name, he chose it in honour of the first Captain of the Enterprise. The man’s a geek, I’ll say that for him. Beyond that, there’s not much, except a quote from one of his few interviews. ‘I don’t write books for teenagers, I write books that have teenagers in them.’
I think that’s the secret to the longevity of his work. Although he doesn’t fully explore his concepts, they’re very adult concepts. To be honest, this superficial treatment of the subject matter is the only difference between this and an ‘adult’ orientated novel.
Okay. See you later. The book, I mean. I’m not signing off just yet.
Mark is a computer programmer who has just graduated high school. He has a heart condition and a crush on Becky, who works at the local record store. Becky likes him a lot, but she’s dating Ray. One day, Mark meets Vincent and his girlfriend Kara. Vincent is also a computer programmer, and Kara, well, Kara’s obsessed with getting Becky away from Ray and into Mark’s arms.
There are very few truly innocent people in this book. Actually, there are very few truly innocent people in any of the three books I’ve consumed over the past couple of days. Kara sets up Ray to cheat on Becky, then tells her about it. Mark lets her do it, because he wants Becky. Ray cheats on Becky with Kara. Even Vincent, who’s the higher evolved and spiritual one, is flawed – he’s so 'spiritual', he’s basically numb and ineffective. I think this is deliberate, as though Pike is telling us that if there is such a thing as guardian angels, they don’t have to carry a blazing sword, but they do need passion.
The most spiritual moment in the entire book doesn’t involve balls of light. It’s when two characters simply remembered when they loved each other. Kara travelled back in time to direct Becky towards what she thought would be love. Instead, she relearned the love she’d burned long ago.
As an entirely non-spiritual regression, I have to say some parts of this book have not aged well. I admit, I very rudely snorted when Mark told Vincent that he should change his program because most computer gamers wouldn’t have 1MB of RAM.
Monster. (No, I’m not insulting you. That’s the second book.)
This one is Vampires: For Real. In Pike’s world, they come from outer space and they don’t use their hypnotic powers to get out of class or get laid, they use them to turn their victims into heartless monsters. Then they turn them into the blood-eating variety.
The book starts when Mary, Angela’s best friend, bursts into a high school party and shot-guns two of her classmates. Angela manages to stop Mary from killing a third, Mary’s boyfriend Jim.
Later, Mary tells Angela that she did it because they’d been turned into monsters. Meanwhile, Jim is putting the moves on Angela, who forgets everything even vaguely related to her sense of decency, and does the nasty with him. All the while, she’s slowly realising that maybe Mary was actually telling the truth.
I remember this book shocking the hell out of me the first time I read it. At the risk of spoiling it for everybody, it was the first time I’d read a book where the good guys don’t really win. I’ve also never been able to look at pictures of our solar system in quite the same way. That fucking asteroid belt looks a bit worrying now.
Finally, Master of Murder.
This is the story of Marvin, a high-school senior who also happens to be Mark Slate, a world-famous author of terrifying novels for teenagers. Marvin’s in a bit of trouble, because the last book in his series about the death of Ann Summers is way past due, and even he doesn’t know who killed her. He also wants to ask out Shelly, whom he dated five times last summer, before the apparent suicide of the other man she was dating, Harry, ended all chances of them being together.
Confused yet? This is really two stories in one. Mark Slate’s tale of how Ann Summers died is a mirror of Harry’s death. Master of Meta, I mean, Murder, is the tale of how Marvin figures that out. With lots of fun asides about life as a world-famous author who writes under a pseudonym, and often gives his female characters the middle name ‘Ann’.
With the exception of Marvin’s eleven year old sister, Ann, NONE of these characters are innocent. They’re barely likeable, although Marvin’s snarky pragmatism is certainly entertaining. There’s also a hilariously ridiculous amount of sex and double-, triple- and quadruple- crossing.
Overall, I still enjoy Pike’s work, which is not something you can usually say about the things you loved when you were overridden with hormones.