The Land of Painted Caves (Earth's Children, #6) - Jean M. Auel Excuse me, I have some paint I need to watch dry

Ayla trains to be a Zelandani. Ayla goes to many caves. Ayla unveils the Big Secret (that readers have known about since Book 1). The End.

*****Spoilers Abound Like Mad. Ye Have Been Warned.*****

My God. If I thought the last book was fan fiction, I have no idea what to call this piece of sh!t. “Boring”, “disappointing”, “stupid”, “mindless waste of time and paper”, and “underwhelming” all come to mind. But no words can describe how absolutely horrible this book is.

I don’t like to think I am a person who gives into hyperbole, but this book is probably THE worst book I have EVER read, not to mention THE worst conclusion to a beloved series. It doesn’t wrap up the billion plot threads that have arisen in the previous five books. Characters act largely out of character or like idiots. Two-thirds of the book has no plot, and the last third has a plot that was regurgitated from an earlier book. The writing is horrible. The dialogue is terrible. Whole conversations are dedicated to one character telling another about events the other character should already be aware of. The pacing is all over the place. More time is spent on detailing every cave Ayla visits, but important events are sloppily skimmed over. Several “exciting” events pause to detail Zelandani social norms, the usages of cattail, or recap earlier books/scenes, thus breaking any sense of tension. Large chunks of the book are stories from the previous five books or reiterations of events that occurred earlier in the story. There is no cohesion in the book; it is separated into three parts that have very little to bind them into one work. The sex, though greatly reduced (only two explicit sex scenes and two instances of being interrupted while having sex), are still hilariously over the top and monotonous. The conclusion is mournful and an insult to fans.

About the only laudable quality is the research. It is obvious that Auel has put a lot of effort into the research, which is commendable. But regurgitating research pell-mell into a novel without good characters, a plot, and decent writing does NOT make a story. (And it doesn’t help to have anachronistic info dumps written as if from a technical manual either.)

It is inexcusable how horrible this book is. Auel has had many years to plan her ending to this once great series. In the five previous books, she introduced many interesting plotlines, which she could have explored. The relationship between Zelandani and the Clan. What happened to Durc. Jonayla’s growth and how it was different than Ayla’s. A legitimate struggle between Ayla’s duties as a Zelandania and a wife and mother. Real marital strife—maybe Ayla wanting to be with Brukeval or Ranec or one of the many men who drools over her, or Jondalar struggling with wanting to perform First Rites and maybe wanting to be with Joplaya. Instead, we are given this mammoth piece of Mammoth dung.

Ayla is basically unrecognizable. From Page One, Auel suddenly retcons Ayla’s capabilities:

Ayla, too, had extraordinarily sharp vision. She could also pick up sounds above the range of normal hearing and feel the deep tones of those that were below. Her sense of smell and taste were also keen, but she had never compared herself with anyone, and didn’t realise how extraordinary her perceptions were. She was born with heightened acuity in all her senses.


In every other book, Ayla had plausible reasons for her abilities. She was good at memorizing to compensate for the memories she didn’t have. She had greater strength to be able to keep up with the Clan. As for her vision and smell, never before has it been mentioned that Ayla’s were above-average (and given all the other Mary Sue qualities Ayla has, you can be assured this would have appeared at one point).

Ayla remains the Mary Sue she has been since the beginning. The woman can do pretty much anything and everyone will applaud her. Nearly every man wants to share Pleasures with her; the First Among Those Who Serve the Mother along with all of the Zelandania thinks she is the cat’s meow; even the women want her:

"Ayla just looked at [the Watcher] and smiled, but it was the loveliest smile [the Watcher] had ever seen. 'She really is a beautiful woman. I can understand Jondalar's attraction to her. If I were a man, I would be too.'"


The entirety of her role in this book is to gape at caves, blather about the last five books, which we’ve heard nearly 80 thousand times by now, or listen to people yammer on about counting, sacred colors, or some other such “religious” aspects (and, just to clarify, it’s not the fact it is religious that I don’t like it; it’s the fact that it is BORING). Oh, and she also is “blessed” to find the final verse in that terrible Mother’s Song, a verse that corroborates a view she has held since Book 1 and one that will send the reader’s eyes a’rollin’.

Morpheus

Probably the most amusing part is when Ayla suddenly becomes a vengeful person. When she discovers Jondalar has been pumping Marona with his “essence” because Ayla has been busy training to be a Zelandani, she decides to “share Pleasures” with Laramar of all people. While I appreciate having Ayla actually behave like a normal human being for once, where the hell did this come from? Why the frak did she choose Laramar of all people? Why not Brukaval or Danug or Echozar? You know, the men she thought were super attractive because of the way she was raised but hasn’t done ANYTHING to get them to show her the signal because of her TWOO LURVE for Jondalar? It’s already been established that Jondalar is a jealous pr!ck who doesn’t mind having sex with another woman but who can’t stand it when Ayla chooses another.

Jondalar, besides being said jealous pr!ck, is basically an accessory for the first two parts, and then turns into full-fledged @-hole in the last part. Other than describing his physical attributes (he is a “6'6" tall, well-formed, incredibly handsome man, with an unconscious charisma enhanced by a vividly intense shade of blue eyes”, in case you can't remember from the other 3 billion times it is mentioned), Auel keeps describing him as “charismatic”, but I honestly think that Auel doesn’t know what that word means. It certainly doesn’t describe the man I’ve been reading for five books.



He has his own out-of-character moments. He shows little signs of being upset with the decreasing amount of time that Ayla is spending with him, but suddenly, Marona is sucking on his massive dong. Where did this come from? Why Marona? Sure, she “seduced” him (because, remember, she is EVUL and cannot be shown to have a smidgeon of good), but why would Jondalar bother with her? If it’s because she’s a “petal” to be picked, why not pick the dozens of other women, who weren’t discouraged by his previous monogamy and would GLADLY drop their cave panties for him? What about Joplaya or Zolena/Zelandani/First? Oh, right, that would actually make sense, and we can’t have logic in these books!

What really irritates me is that when he is caught, he whines, “Why did Ayla have to find out?” Uh, don’t you mean, WHY THE FRAK DID I SEX UP MARONA, THE WOMAN I RAN OUT ON BECAUSE I DIDN’T WANT TO MARRY HER, AND CHEAT ON THE WOMAN I SUPPOSEDLY LURVE SO MUCH?!!?? You dirty, filthy, scumbag, you are just guilty because Ayla found out, not because you did something wrong, betrayed her trust, and acted like a two-faced d-bag, just like how you behaved 6 years ago in The Mammoth Hunters. You truly haven't grown up, have you, Jondalar?

And why is it that AYLA should be shamed for Jondalar sleeping around with another woman? It’s a WOMAN’S fault if a man sleeps with another woman, because she didn’t Pleasure her mate enough? Has no one heard of control? What about self-Pleasure? How about good old fashioned “talking”? Wasn’t that what they promised to do after the LAST Big Misunderstanding in Hunters? Why the frak are they even so exclusive to begin with? This is supposedly a polyamorous society! There is no reason that either of them should have their cave panties in such a knot.



But what about Jonayla, the child that Ayla wanted so past the last five books? I would hardly have noticed she was even here; every time she could, Ayla dumped Jonayla on someone else so Ayla could do something more interesting. I can’t tell you one remarkable thing about the child…no, wait, I take that back. Jonayla is probably the only baby (only a few months old) that can wait to urinate until her mother removes her from her carrying basket.



I hate to keep saying it, because I sound like a broken record, but every other character is a cardboard cutout. No one has any personality, no identifying attribute to make them stand out of the rest of this crowd. All the good guys love Ayla and Jondalar. All the “bad guys” are so lame and impotent, they might as well have been written for 5 year olds. No, that’s insulting to 5 year olds.

There really is no plot to this book. The first two parts are so boring, I thought I would poke my eye out with a blunt instrument, just to have something exciting to do. Watching paint dry is more exciting than listening/reading to this book. And it's not like the first two parts have any real importance to the last part. In fact, the first two parts are so insignificant to the last part, you could just skip them and move directly to part three. I'll do you a favor: here's the summary:

Part One: Ayla begins to train as Zelandani. EARTHQUAKE!

Part Two: OOOOOOOO LOOKIE CAVES!

In the first part, we ALMOST get a plot. Zelandani is frustrated that Ayla doesn’t spend more time training; everyone is p!ssed that Ayla dumps Jonayla on them (some mother that Ayla has become!) and Jondalar is somewhat pouty that Ayla isn’t always available to suck on him. Welcome to marriage, Jondalar. After an earthquake that goes NOWHERE, this part abruptly stops and lurches into part two.

Part Two is suddenly set four years later for no good reason. Ayla heads off to look at the caves, dragging along Jondalar and Ayla, again for no good reason. Ayla and gang go to the caves for no good reason (in case you can't tell, a lot happens in this book for no good reason). Auel does absolutely NOTHING to make the caves integral to the story. I thought she might make Ayla draw one of the cave paintings (yeah, Mary Sue-ish and probably not accurate to the time period, but I’m so over that by now), but no, that would be too interesting. Instead, Ayla just gawks at these scratches on the wall, as if she was on a modern day tour (imagine reading a book about a guy playing Tetris), and chat it up with fellow Zelandania about why the “ancients” drew on the walls as if they are art history students (but exceptionally BORING art history students—my sister has taken art history courses and talked about some art, and it was NOWHERE NEAR as BORING as these discussions, and I don't really get art!!). But wait, do they have interesting conclusions to why the artists drew on the walls? *laughs* It pretty much amounts to: don’t have a clue, but they had a reason! This entire section is POINTLESS and, more importantly, BORING.



Just when things might get interesting, Auel hastily wraps up the journey in two paragraphs and stumbles into Part Three. Part Three is where Ayla trips upon Marona giving Jondalar “a good time” (apparently Ayla did NOT invent oral pleasures!!), and the two decide that not talking worked SO WELL back in Hunters, they ought to do it again. Which they do until Ayla nearly dies from that root drug from Cave Bear, blah, blah, blah...

Oh, yeah, before that happens, Ayla takes that damn drug (yes, she takes the drug TWICE in this book), wanders into a cave, and starts hallucinating. As she does, she is “gifted” with the Big Reveal, hears the complete version of that horrible Mother’s Song, miscarries a child in a senseless, tacky act of “drama”, and then tells everyone about her BIG NEWS. What is that Big Reveal, you ask?

The Mother’s Song finishes and the big reveal is…

Man + Woman + Sex = Babies!



Are these people really THAT stupid that they can’t figure out sex = babies until Ayla reveals it to them as a dream from the Mother? Do they NOT watch other animals? Ayla put two and two together back in Cave Bear; why can't they? And why the frak did it take Ayla SIX BOOKS to get confirmation of this when she pretty much figured it out back in Cave Bear?

Why was THIS the Big Reveal of the book? Of all the things that Auel could have chosen, the fact that sex makes babies is what she picked? THAT is what she wants to end her series on???


With the way the Three Parts are written, it’s as if Auel wrote two separate stories, couldn’t decide which one to use, and decided she didn’t want to bother writing anymore, so she tossed them together with a travelogue she had of the prehistoric cave paintings. What happens in Parts 1 and 2 aren’t referenced in Part 3; in fact Parts 1 and 2 seem to be an excuse to research the caves and nothing more.

The repetition in this book! All of the books are bad, but this one is painfully repetitious! Don’t bother reading any of the previous books; you won’t need to. In fact, even without reading the previous books, you’ll probably want to shoot yourself in the head by the end with the amount of times you hear people gape at Ayla’s Super Speshul Accent (over 30 separate incidents!), someone introduce themselves with either full or partial introductions, a retelling of an event in previous books, or astonishment over the domesticated animals. And in case you wondered how cavepeople took care of body functions, Auel makes sure her characters let you know as her characters take a whopping 23 times to either “pass water” or talk about bodily functions.

The writing! It’s almost as if Auel is getting worse. There were many instances, but here is one sentence that stood out to me as particularly horrible:

“It’s uncanny, but mysterious.”

Uncanny: a: seeming to have a supernatural character or origin: eerie, mysterious; b: being beyond what is normal or expected: suggesting superhuman or supernatural powers

Mysterious: a: of, relating to, or constituting mystery; b: exciting wonder, curiosity, or surprise while baffling efforts to comprehend or identify: mystifying

“It’s mysterious, but mysterious?” Huh? What is this supposed to MEAN?

The research! It is so awkward and analytical; you’d probably get more enjoyment out of reading a non-fiction book than this. Actually, the entire Part Two feels like a non-fiction wrok. There is no sense of awe or excitement to see these cave drawings; in fact, I’ve never before been so bored and uninspired to see them.

Earlier this year, I got the chance to read an extraordinary novel. The setting was rich and detailed. The characters were warm and inviting. The story was gripping and made me want to read more. I tore through it quickly, and when I got to the end, I immediately felt bereft.

What amazing, unputdownable book am I talking about? That was none other than Clan of the Cave Bear. I truly fell in love with that book, with Creb, Iza, and Ayla, with a wide, wonderful new world set in the prehistoric age. I had heard so many things about the books (particularly the latter ones), but I had such hope for the series. I was really eager to learn about what happened to Ayla. Would she ever see her son again? Would she ever find her family? How could she survive by herself? Would Ayla ever find love, family, belonging or would she constantly wander alone?

Well, this book answered absolutely NONE of my questions. It took the characters I loved and twisted them beyond recognition. It is an execrable excuse for a novel. But what’s worse is that this is the final book of the series (unless Auel changes her mind and decides to milk the cash cow a bit more). And that means there are no more books. There is no hope of learning what happens to Durc, to Uba, to the Clan. I won’t see Ranec, and Nezzie, and Deejee again. My last memory of these people is destined to be Jondalar screaming (Reb Brown-style) “He’s making my baby!”

And that is what makes me honestly sad.

NOT recommended.