Friday, February 17, 2012

Part Eighteen, Chapter Five - The Apparatus Computer Has New Competition

"That evening, in the Gracious Palms lobby..."  So it was what, early afternoon when Heller did his diving rescue?  And Gris has just sat there, watching him shower off the sludge and change clothes and have lunch and fritter away his evening?  He couldn't think of anything else to do?  No plans to make, reports to scan?  Follow up on his attempts to get in touch with Raht and Terb?

The whole "Gris as voyeuristic narrator" angle is just a mess.  What little that is gained from his commentary - when Hubbard remembers that Gris is watching - doesn't make up for all the narrative problems it causes.  Gris is presumably a villain and an obstacle to Heller's success, but he's spent most of this book on the couch watching TV as a near-helpless bystander.

Anyway, Heller is reading the Evening Libel, har har, in which Mayor Don Hernandez O'Toole is complaining about the IRS' habit of blowing up buildings.  See, they know the revenooers were behind the day's building explosion based on the dynamite found on the government cars out front, "clear proof of intent to dynamite, according to New York Fire Commissioner Flame Jackson."  The official federal government line is that "IRS has a perfect right to do what it pleases."  Not the IRS, just IRS.  "There were no lives of any importance lost in the blast."

Well, color me confused.  When Gris sends an unpiloted flying car on a random course to crash into a hospital, and the Voltarian newspaper reports that some worthless child patients got killed, we're supposed to be appalled and outraged, right?  So are we supposed to react differently when Heller demolishes an apartment building in one of the most heavily-populated cities on the planet, all over a panicked misunderstanding?

Vantagio checks in and asks if Heller got registered, and our building-exploding hero explains that he may have some difficulty getting in, which prompts a disgruntled Vantagio hurry off to make some phone calls.  The evening ends with Heller going to his room where a number of giggling, eager girls are waiting.  The mysterious censoring interference immediately kicks in, leaving us with little choice but to assume that it's emanating from Heller's nethers.

Gris notes that Heller leaves his door wide open and concludes that he's pretty lax about security.  He's not just sitting on his ass and spying on his enemy, no, he's doing valuable research!

Because the chapter would only be two pages long otherwise, the narrative continues as Gris wakes up the next morning after oversleeping, just in time to watch Heller board the subway to his registration hearing.  He gets to the campus and marches to Miss Simmons' office, and Gris exults that there's no way she'll let him in with the grades on his transcript.  And because the universe exists to spite Gris, now you can be certain that Heller is going to college.

Sure enough, a brittly-smiling Miss Simmons tells "young Einstein" that despite all of her reservations and numerous rules and regulations, Heller has not only been accepted into the university's School of Engineering and Applied Science, but accepted as a senior, in orders signed by the university president himself.  No SAT required, the D average is fine, sure you can transfer from a military high school into a university's senior class.

"Really, I'm overwhel---"

"You'll be overwhelmed shortly," said Miss Simmons and her smile vanished.  "Either somebody has gone stark raving loony or the reduction of government subsidies and the lack of a post-war boom makes them slaver for your twenty-five hundred dollars and they have gone stark raving loony!  You and they are NOT going to get away with it.  I will not have my name on the form registering you and turning upon the world a nuclear scientist who is a complete imbecile.  Do I make myself clear, young Einstein?"

So... Miss Simmons is supposed to be a bad guy, right?  I mean, she hates Heller and is an obstacle to his wishes.  Yet so far I think she's the first person who's actually, you know, principled, perceptive, and not a complete dumbass.

Well, even though Heller's mob ties are getting him admitted, Miss Simmons isn't going down without a fight.  She puts him down for four subjects required for the "heavy engineering" courses he'll also be taking, is requiring him to get tutoring to make up for his D average, and since he supposedly comes from a military school, "God Junior" will be taking ROTC courses, too.  Best of all, it is completely impossible for these extra classes to fit in with a normal course load for nuclear physics, so in some situations Heller will be expected to attend three classes at the same time.  It's only a matter of time before a bunch of deans and professors flunk him out.

I nominate Miss Simmons for the book's hero.  She's stuck in a corrupt system, but she's fighting back as best she can, putting her career - and possibly even her life, since the mob is involved - on the line to oppose Heller's illegitimate influence, all completely by the book.

Miss Simmons explains that she does not like "INFLUENCE," and she's also a member of the Anti-Nuclear Protest Marchers, an old and battered movement regularly brutalized by the police.  So "the thought of letting a nuclear scientist as unqualified as you loose upon the world turns my blood to leukemia."

In Miss Simmons' defense, I think this is a case of the author not knowing what the hell he's talking about rather than a character not knowing what she's talking about.

Just as one final "screw you," Miss Simmons is putting Heller down for Nature Appreciation 101 and 104, a class she teaches in which students learn to admire all the things that nuclear weapons could blow up.  Oh, and she ups his tuition by fifteen hundred bucks to cover all his new classes.  And with that, she sends "Master of All He Surveys and Creator Himself" out of her office and on his way.

Gris considers sending Miss Simmons some anonymous gift, such as candy or a brass knuckle.  I'm similarly smitten, but also savvy enough to realize that because Miss Simmons is opposing Heller, she's pretty much doomed herself to humiliation and defeat. The next book or so is going to be Heller succeeding despite all the odds against him while Miss Simmons watches helplessly as her world crumbles around her.  I'll be impressed if she lives to the end of the series, honestly.

Back to Chapter Four

1 comment:

  1. Two comments. Federal agencies often leave off "the" when referring to themselves and other agencies. "FBI believes", "CIA denies", etc.. So that's correct bureaucratic lingo.

    As for the leukemia reference, Hubbard wrote once that it was caused by an "engram", or unconscious thought. Specifically, the engram "it turns my blood to water." Hubbard wrote that leukemia and all other diseases were psychosomatic in nature.