Friday, July 29, 2011

Part Two, Chapter Eight - Real Horrorshow, Hubbard

Gris returns to Spiteos with the stuff Heller wanted, to find... oh, this part.

He's at Hisst's office, watching the "freak parade" with his boss. See, there was this talented "cellologist" (I can find no definition of this term, so either Hubbard invented an alien medical discipline or didn't bother to check a dictionary) named Dr. Crobe, who worked for the Section for Special Adaptations modifying workers to better survive on high-gravity worlds or breathe underwater. But in his spare time Crobe put his talent for "cellular modification" to more twisted purposes, which earned him a death sentence before the Apparatus spirited him away.

Now he works for them, turning prisoners into circus freaks for sale on the black market. I guess on a world without recreational pharmaceuticals people need all the entertainment they can get, eh? So Gris gets to queasily watch Crobe's handiwork while Hisst barely pays attention. A man who goes about on all fours with feet where his hands should be is just the start:

Here was a woman with her breasts where her buttocks should have been; there was a being whose legs had been interchanged with his arms; then came a female with two heads; following was a thing covered wholly with hair but in half a dozen colors; and then came a monster with eyes in the place of his privates.

And this is all followed up with six children on a cart, "cellularly joined together so they made a ring, twisted up into pornographic positions." The rich imagination of L. Ron Hubbard, ladies and gentlemen.

Aside from the fact that it's vaguely horrifying that the person who thought up this stuff is considered a messianic figure by a surprising number of people, this brings up something troubling about fiction in general. These twisted involuntary alterations are being used to make the point that the Apparatus is Evil, yes? The problem is, though the audience is intended to revile these imaginary characters for their sick imaginations, said characters' actions were decided by an author sitting at a typewriter. A person sat down and carefully thought about the most horrifying and offensive things he could do to the human form. It's just that instead of grabbing a knife afterward he picked up a pen.

It's one of those uncomfortable "meta" moments where you have to come to terms with the fact that our favorite authors share imaginations with monsters like the Baron Harkonnen or AM or any number of demons and Lovecraftian horrors. There's no atrocity we can attribute to our fictional creations that we can't conceive of ourselves (which is a bit of a tautology, isn't it?).

Anyway, aside from the freakshow there's some exposition going on, as well as the introduction of a new character. Lombar Hisst listens to Gris' report and hands over an insignia bumping him up three pay grades. Gris goes on to mention that Heller's spent the past hours answering mail from his fans, family and friends, which meant Apparatus forgers were up all night properly censoring the correspondence. He complains once again that Heller has no grasp of espionage.

This is interrupted by jugglers and acrobats. Aside from the vulture-like Dr. Crobe, the Apparatus also employs the Countess Krak, a former teacher convicted of programming a bunch of children to be perfect thieves - when the scheme was uncovered the kiddies were executed (ah, Voltarian justice) while the Countess was quietly handed over to the Apparatus. She's known for being able to train anything, beast or person, into doing her bidding. The Countess just so happens to be a beautiful, stone-cold, dominatrix type ("she was standing there in thigh-high black boots, a shabby coat and little else, twitching a long electric whip"), but be warned that she has a decidedly violent reaction to sexual harassment.

The Countess will spend one or two chapters being interesting before she's ruined.

After the fire-spitters and back-flippers and jugglers trained by the Countess are done, Hisst reiterates the importance of Mission Earth. He shows images of the worlds of the Confederacy, ranting about how power and authority are nearly within the Apparatus' grasp.

Soltan, you weren't raised in the slums. You don't know what a dream of power can be. You don't understand the true necessity of wiping out the riffraff from the ghettos, purifying the blood of planets, sweeping away the weak.

So our Lombar Hisst is a success story, huh? Someone who clawed his way up from the gutter with a dream of... gaining absolute power over his fellow man and cleansing the undesirable elements from society. Huh. Nothing about making sure nobody else has to live in such squalor, not even a vow to turn the tables on the oppressed and send them to the ghettos. Just from poverty to ethnic cleansing.

These Emperors do not know what to do with their power. It takes ambition! Yes! And merciless execution of plans. They diddle with their wars,

Was that on purpose, L. Ron, or did you just use a word without checking what its various definitions were?

they do nothing about their own homes! Even when they conquer a planet they do not know what to do with the riffraff in the population!

But it's not like this "riffraff" is holding Voltar back from conquering planets aplenty, is it? For that matter, why isn't the Apparatus doing some "cleanup" of its own? It's not like they lack for murderers or funding, and they could probably blackmail the government into ignoring some quiet ethnic cleansing. They've got whole army divisions and a good place for a death camp.

Just sayin'.

Hisst finishes with a rousing "We use evil to fight and sweep away evil! And we can and will prevail!" Prevail over what, exactly? And won't using evil to sweep away another group of evil still leave you with the evil that did the sweeping? And is this still a satire of the CIA? 'cause I don't think our own spooks were that keen on ethnic cleansing, at least not stateside. Maybe I'm just misinformed. Maybe J. Edgar Hoover wanted to burn down slums and fight miscegenation violently. Wikipedia says he was mostly about hunting Commies and other political dissidents, but what do they know?

Anyway, we shouldn't examine Hisst's motives too closely since the book admits he's insane. After his rant he gives orders - Gris must ensure there is no Imperial (isn't Voltar a Confederacy?) interference on Earth, since all the Apparatus' plans hinge on it. The Countess Krak needs to teach Heller some Earth languages, but not a lick of espionage. And Dr. Crobe needs to get Heller "fixed up," but with "no tricks! No fancy eyes that see through walls! No fingers that become pistols! No telepathic brain receivers! Just an average job!"

The chapter and Part ends with Hisst dismissing his underlings, and turning towards the chest where he keeps his contraband Royal robes. Perhaps this is a subtle reference to J. Edgar Hoover's alleged crossdressing? Though that may be too clever for this type of book.


Back to Chapter Seven

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