Mark Reads ‘Deadline’: Chapter 21

In the twenty-first chapter of Deadline, Mahir, Becks, and Shaun make their escape, and then OH FUCK YOU, WHY WOULD YOU PUT THAT THERE. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Deadline.

Chapter Twenty-One

It’s always a little difficult to focus on writing a review about a chapter when one thing at the end upstages the rest of it because all I want to do is spend time shouting into the void that is the Internet. I’m sure y’all understand this! But there is a lot that Grant gives us in chapter 21 that’s important for the future of these characters that we should talk about before we freak out together.

The pacing of Deadline is completely fascinating to me because I feel like we are essentially on this perpetual rollercoaster. There’s a hellish incline, followed by a sheer drop into terror, and then the next incline is somehow worse and more stressful than the last one. In that sense, I suppose Deadline does have a gradual, suspenseful structure, but it’s one that is largely chaotic, too. I’m doing my best to look at this book as a whole (or at least what I’ve read of it so far), and it’s really unlike anything else I’ve ever read. There’s definitely not a single zombie story like it either, so there’s that, too.

It just leaves me wondering: What the fuck is going to happen next? I would have expected that the confrontation at Memphis was going to be saved for the end of the book, but now we’ve got at least a hundred and fifty pages left in the book. I don’t like this.

Grant has made it clear that what the team has just done will have instantaneous repercussions for them. They have to create a new route home. They can’t just call their friends anymore. They have to assume that the CDC (or whomever is a part of this cabal) is behind them at all times. Oh shit, or ahead of them. I HADN’T THOUGHT OF THAT. Damn it. As I said last week, the immersive experience of this fictional world lends itself to suspense extremely well. We know exactly what sort of risks the team faces as they try to drive home to Weed, and it gives us the basis we need to be… well, pretty goddamn anxious about the future.

It’s interesting that characters themselves seem less nervous than me. I suppose that is in part because they’re still in shock from what happened in Memphis. Dr. Kelly is dead, Dr. Wynne sold them out, and they just found out that there’s no real chance they’ll come out of this unscathed. They all slip into their roles rather quickly: Shaun drives, Becks keeps watch out of the back window, and Mahir navigates. There is some joking between them, but, as Shaun describes:

I knew that edge of hysteria better than I wanted to, although I hadn’t heard it that clearly in a long time. It went away after you’d spent enough time in the field. Hysteria takes too much energy to be maintained forever.

With this, Grant lets us know just how serious this is. Well, it’s not like we didn’t know that already, but this is one way she uses the emotional characterization of Shaun and Mahir to give us a gauge on their current state. They’ve all been through some terrible shit, and this is finally the point where hysteria starts to set in. That frightens me.

Shaun’s call to Maggie and Alaric is just as awful. There’s a terrible finality to the way Shaun talks to his friends and colleagues, and that is of course made worse by that unpublished blog entry at the end of this chapter. Shaun spells out what happened in the quickest way possible, so that first moment of silence sent chills down my spine. This really happened. Oh god, and Dr. Kelly can’t even be put on the Wall. Awful. It’s so unfair!

I was equally unsettled by Shaun ordering Alaric to send encrypted copies of the database to everyone. Everyone. That’s what they’re facing, y’all. That’s how big this is. How are they going to fight back against this? How are they going to escape the oncoming storm? (SORRY, I HAD TO USE THAT PUN, IT WAS TOO GOOD.)

“If you’re not here in a week, don’t bother coming,” [Maggie] said. “We won’t be here when you arrive.”

Oh god, CAN THEY NOT GET SEPARATED? Please? I shouldn’t ask that. I know I really shouldn’t. But that’s all I’m left with: the sensation that something is going to happen. I thought it would happen at the first gas station they stopped at. Would it be Becks? Mahir? SOMETHING WAS GOING TO HAPPEN. Shaun just complimented Becks, that means something will happen. But it was a false alarm. Either the CDC hasn’t put the team’s faces onto the news, or the clerk there just doesn’t care. It got me wondering what the CDC was doing about the attack at their Memphis facility. What was their game plan? Had the team gotten in too far?

When the group stopped at a dilapidated rest stop in Kansas, my fear was renewed once more. Oh god, WHAT WAS HIDING THERE? Something was going to eat them. So I was surprised by the subdued rumination on America’s past. When I was reading American Gods, I spoke about my love of road tripping across this country, and this scene reminded me of that. There are so many strange and lovely places in the United States that are all in the middle of nowhere, and I have always loved stopping at them. I can’t imagine a world where these sort of rest stops or roadside attractions are rendered obsolete. It’s such a strange thought to me.

This chapter ends on two ominous notes. First, it’s fitting to me that a literal storm is on the horizon. It’s not lost on me that this could very well be a metaphor for the shit that’s going to come their way. In that sense, I was nervous about the very real possibility that there could be a tornado. In Kansas. Oh god, it’s so cheesy that I love it.

And then:

There was no fucking way for us to know. Nothing like that had ever happened before, and we didn’t know.

It wasn’t our fault. And if I say it enough times, maybe I’ll start believing it. Oh, fuck.

It wasn’t our fault. We didn’t know.

Oh, God, we didn’t know.

GAAAAAH NO. NO!!! NO, WHY DID YOU END IT THIS WAY? THIS ISN’T FAIR. STOP IT. I’m going to pass out, aren’t I? I just looked, and someone requested it (and chapter 23) for a video. great. GREAT. I AM TERRIFIED.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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