Saturday, March 31, 2012

Part Twenty-One, Chapter Two - Marketing and Modern Art

Jettero Heller has just survived a face-to-face encounter with a psychologist.  He was warned by the dearly-departed... uh, whatshername, that these deluded but dangerous quacks secretly run the country, institutionalizing and lobotomizing any who would dare oppose them.  Just days ago he was forced to fight against a mob of depraved men who had been brainwashed by psychology into behaving as savage animals.  And now he's seen the source of all this evil firsthand, only narrowly avoiding a dire fate thanks to the false doctor's own stupidity.

So of course he instantly forgets about it and goes back to his schoolwork.  As Bang-Bang veers through the streets of New York, Heller reaches the end of a textbook on Marketing, where a paragraph suggests that the student do a project to prove his mastery of the subject.  He asks the nearest consumer, Bang-Bang, what he would want to consume the most of, and gets "girls" as an answer.  You'd think a name like Bang-Bang might refer to a lunatic's love of explosives, but no, he actually earned it in his early teens thanks to his libido.

A fifth into book three and we finally learned why Bang-Bang is Bang-Bang.

Bang-Bang and Heller arrive at their offices at the Empire State Building to meet Izzy, who is upset that they just can't seem to break half a million on the ruble exchange in Italy.

"Well, we're paying the rent," said Heller.

"Oh, we're not just here to pay rent," said Izzy.  "If corporations are to take over governments, we ought to be thinking in acceptable sums like trillions."

Um, maybe I missed something?  Somewhere along the line we went from "protecting Heller's funds from the Big Bad But Ineffectual Villains" to "accumulate more money than God" to "take over the planet."  This is book three, though, and I don't think I've skipped a chapter by accident.

The real reason for their visit is art.  The offices, bustling with harried-looking student workers, are nearly finished, but Izzy wants their opinion on some more decorating.  He's setting up a company called Wonderful Oil in the African country of Maysabongo, which is both fictional and vaguely insulting.  "Long live Dictator Ahmed Allah!"  Yeah, I'm pretty sure incorporating the name of God into your surname is a bit heretical.

Anyway, the problem is that company's deputy delegate insists on a portrait of Harlotta - who'd have guessed she'd reappear in the story? - in the office, which is fine, except that the painters Izzy found are a bunch of anti-establishment nonconformists who refuse to do things like ride a tricycle over a line of paint tubes and call the results art.

"They won't prostitute their art by working for advertising companies, so they are starving and have no place to go."

"Prostitute their art," said Heller.  "Hmm.  Well, what's this art style that's so bad?'

"It's called 'neorealism.'  When they paint a sailboat, it looks like a sailboat.  It's pretty revolutionary!  And very daring, very much into the teeth of all modern trends.  Their people look like people!"

Most people, when faced with a global conspiracy headed by a cabal of deluded physicians, might concentrate all their energy on combating it instead of getting distracted by, say, art criticism.  Most people aren't L. Ron Hubbard.

Incidentally, all Wikipedia has to say about "neorealism" is that it was founded as far back as World War One by some painters, but nowadays it seems to be a cinematic style.  And also a model of international relations.  And a school of philosophy.  Not to insinuate that Hubbard doesn't know what he's ranting about, of course...

Heller decides that the paintings are quite good, thinks for a while, and then reaches his decision.  He's going to jam eight passengers and their associated equipment into Bang-Bang's cab so he can take these renegade artists a-marketing.

"Oh, the book I got you," said Izzy.  "What are we going to market?"

"The survey said 'girls.'"

"But that's illegal!" said Izzy.

"You have to do the assignment honestly," said Heller.  "And that's what the survey said.  So, wouldn't it be illegal to try to get an illegal pass on a subject?"

"That's very true," said Izzy.  "You have no choice!  If the survey said girls, it will have to be girls."

And with that anti-logic agreed upon, they load up in the clown car and careen through the city while Looney Tunes music blares.  All we need is for the screen to Iris Out on the car as it drives away to the accompaniment of xylophones. 

Back to Chapter One

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Part Twenty-One, Chapter One - A Refreshing Return to Anti-Psychologist Tracts

Gris plops down in front of the HellerVision for want of anything better to do, but his interest is soon piqued by what his hated foe is getting up to.  Heller (still wearing his baseball cap) and Bang-Bang (in gangster clothes, of course) are headed out for a surprise, school-mandated psychiatric consultation.  Bang-Bang is freaking out.

"They're mind benders!" said Bang-Bang. "Shrinks! They can put you in the slammer the rest of your life with no charges. You can't even turn state's evidence or plead the Fifth! They've got no sense of legality but the law and fuzz is all behind them."

There's something just... reassuring about all this.  We're past the child abuse and torturous Gris "love" scenes, back in familiar territory.  Listening to Hubbard give another frothing rant through his sock puppets is almost soothing.

"You don't get it," said Bang-Bang.  "They just sign an order and put you away with the loonies.  They jam you full of drugs and fry your brains!  They even take your skull apart with an ice pick!  They ain't happy unless you're a complete vegetable!  And you don't have to have done nothing!  The government depends on them completely to do away with birds they don't want around!"

Man, how did governments function before psychology?

His objections vociferously voiced, Bang-Bang drops Heller off for his appointment with Dr. Kutzbrain - yes, really - promising to keep the engine going in case Heller has to run for it.  Bang-Bang would prefer to just blow up the place, because as always, any amount of collateral damage is acceptable if it ends in the demise of a psychologist.

Dr. Kutzbrain is scatterbrained and obsessed with Lizzie Borden, who he wishes he was working with rather than his patient ("I could have done a lot with that case.  Could of gotten rid of thousands of parents.")  He's got Mad Scientist hair sticking out horizontally from his head, keeps nicking himself peeling an apple before throwing away the fruit to chew on the knife, and thinks Heller has multiple personality disorder because he has a middle name.  These are the evil geniuses who run the planet, folks.  These are the sinister figures who have insinuated themselves into the halls of power.

The good doctor talks about Miss Simmons, who is still ranting from the Calming Ward about how she's going to fail Heller.  Kutzbrain explains that this is perfectly normal.

"[S]uch a reaction is, of course, the normal female reaction to a male.  It is technically called the 'black widow spider gene syndrome.'  You see, Borden, it is all a matter of evolution.  Men evolved from reptiles.  This is a scientific, indisputable fact.  But women, Borden, evolved from black widow spiders and that too is scientific, indisputable fact.  It is proven by my own paper on it.  But I see that I am talking over your head.  However, those spiders you see up on the ceiling aren't mine.  They were left by the last patient.  Do you follow me," he consulted the card, "Jerome?"

Yes, here stands one of the foul overlords who hold the fate of nations in their hands, with whole populations held captive to their mad whims. 

There's some logic though - Miss Simmons rants about how awful Heller is.  But, Miss Simmons is currently a mental patient.  Therefore everything she says is a delusion, and so Heller is a fine human being.  Though she is accusing him of murdering eight men with his bare feet, the psychologists have investigated matters and determined that Miss Simmons in fact lured those men to the park so she could enjoy watching them fight over her before raping her, as per the black widow gene.  On the other hand, they won't keep her locked up because "it is totally against professional ethics not to let the criminally insane loose on the public."  She'll be back in the classroom soon enough.

"If she's insane, how can she teach?"

"Oh, nonsense," said the doctor.  "If she's insane, it wouldn't make any difference.  All bright people have to be at least neurotic.  So if she's insane, that makes her a genius, so of course she can teach!"  He looked at the folder.  "It says here she must be released in time to take her class in the next semester.  What gave you the insane idea that insane people couldn't teach school?  You'd have to be insane even to try it!"

So why will Miss Simmons be returning next semester as opposed to, say, in two weeks, or when her doctors think she's ready?  'cause the plot - I mean, the folder says so.  Also, I've gone cross-eyed.

Dr. Kutzbrain wraps up his consultation by providing the university-mandated advice ("when you find any stray women lying about with broken legs, leave them alone"), and passes on a message from the hospital staff.  They want Heller to stop sending flowers since Miss Simmons just shreds and flushes them, clogging her room's plumbing.  Interview over.  Heller goes to the car and drives off with Bang-Bang, remarking that "those people are crazy!"

Well, wasn't that nice?  Good ol' nonsensical psychologists.  They lock people away forever, except when they turn them loose because it's unethical to keep lunatics away from normos.  Their twisted science is secretly a scam, except pretty much everybody knows it's bupkis.  They're terrible at their jobs but nonetheless somehow pose a threat to the whole world, much like the Apparatus.

At least until a charismatic visionary arrives to show the people the true path, in a manner that ends with him being worshiped and extremely rich.

Back to Part Twenty, Chapter Nine

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Part Twenty, Chapter Nine - Broken Hearts and Shattered Faces

Gris opens the chapter with the somber observation that "Now and then in a lifetime, somebody catches a glimpse of Heavens and then promptly plunges into Hells."  Man, you know you've screwed up when you wind up in multiple hells at once.

After going another night without word from Utanc, Gris decides he should talk to her and find out how he's wronged her.  He does this not by slipping her a note, but by slipping into her room, and even he notes in retrospect how dumb a move it was.

He camps outside her apartment, listening to the sound of someone splashing in a bathtub, and when one of her little servants emerges to fetch towels... why is he naked?  Why is Utanc bathing with prepubescent boys?

Let's assume it's a cultural difference. (editor's note from the future: I (bleep)ing WISH)  Anyway, the Littlest Streaker leaves the door to Utanc's room wide open, so in goes Gris.  He finds Utanc reclining in the tub under a layer of bubbles, just like she would've enjoyed in the Kara Kum desert.  But when she sees Gris she freaks out and screams "Don't kill me!"  And then the little boy, his nakedness reaffirmed, returns and shouts "Don't you dare kill Utanc!"  He throws a bunch of powder puffs at Gris.

And hilariously enough, this ridiculous little scene is narrated like a Hubbard Action Sequence.

He found another powder puff on the dresser.  He pitched it as hard as he could throw!

The powder trailed through the air!

The puff hit my pants in a white explosion!

"Don't kill Utanc!" he screamed at the top of his lungs!

A bemused Gris walks out, but is followed by the protective little nudist, who has upgraded his arsenal to a bath brush.  He hits Gris with it with all of his might, causing Gris to lose his temper, decide it's all the kid's fault, and retaliate.

I cocked my right fist.

With everything behind it, I hit him in the face!

He flew backwards about fifteen feet!

He landed with a crumpled thud!

Is it even worth voicing my disgust anymore?  Mostly I'm impressed at the yardage he got out of the poor dope.  Fifteen feet?  Most folks feel manly if they can knock their opponent to the ground in one swing, much less across the room.

Well, this extreme! bit of child abuse gets the whole household to turn out, though they of course know better than to go try and help the kid (save for his frantic mother, who has to be physically restrained).  Helpless, the staff drop to their hands and knees, moaning and pounding on the ground.  Gris glares at them.

Hubbard, just to let you know, I already hated Gris before reading this chapter.  I hated him within the first fifty pages of book one.  This isn't necessary.

Utanc emerges, veiled and robed and still slightly wet.  She goes to the stricken boy, murmurs that he was only trying to protect her, and takes him to her room.  Gris is in a "spinning confusion.  I could not add it all up."

Eventually a doctor arrives and goes to see the patient.  When he finally emerges, Gris eagerly asks for a status update.

I was instantly in front of him.  I said, "How is Utanc?"

He looked at me.  "Is that the boy's name?  Odd name for a boy."

"No, no," I said.  "Not the boy.  The woman!  How is she?"

Seriously, I've been at peak hatred for Gris for a good while now, Hubbard.  There's nothing you could make him do to make me hate him mo... you're going to prove me wrong, aren't you?

The doctor explains that Utanc is upset about the fact that her little friend's nose is broken and his cheekbone "pushed in," leaving his once-pretty face damaged beyond repair.  Gris is utterly crushed, certain that Utanc will never like him again.  "I couldn't live with that."  So he goes to his room, picks up his gun, and shoots himself.  The end.

It's nice to dream.

Instead he continues to mope until the next day, when Faht Bey comes up from the Apparatus base urging him not to kill that new girl of his, since they have enough trouble "without more corpses to explain away..." seriously?  These guys are in with the mob and the Turkish government and they're worried about explaining a corpse?  These alien intelligence masterminds can't make it look like an "accident" has befallen Utanc?  They can't figure out how to make her disappear?  They can't dig around in their couch for a bribe to make some questions go away?  And what trouble?  As far as we've seen the Apparatus owns the place. 

Faht Bey goes on to say how according to the other servants, Utanc is terrified for her life now, which at least indicates that she's smarter than 60% of the cast.  He also conversationally mentions how undefended and exposed they are here, since they lack decent alarm systems... exposed to who?  Why doesn't your super-secret headquarters have a good security system?

The end result is that Gris decides that Utanc needs to feel safe, and so he designs an improved security system and plans for his staff to drill on defensive maneuvers.  Having done all he can think to do, he goes back to his miserable funk... and decides that since he's got nothing better to do with his time, he might as well watch HellerVision.

I am ecstatic that we are going back to watching Gris watch Heller.  A full Part of Heller wandering around New York, effortlessly solving problems and just impressing us with how inhumanly awesome he is.  A full Part of Gris sitting on a sofa, not brutalizing little boys or having dubiously-consensual sexual relations with a woman he purchased.

Back to Part Twenty, Chapter Eight

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Part Twenty, Chapter Eight - Desert Nomads Know a Thing or Two About Sound Quality

I'm not sure what situation would annoy me more - that Utanc scamming Gris is just a way for Hubbard to humiliate the character representing a lot of his enemies, or that it's actually "plot-relevant."

Well, Gris wakes up the next afternoon in a good mood undiminished by Utanc's absence.

I showered, something new for me.  I put on clean clothes.  Something new for me.

Utanc better have earned hazard pay for her sacrifices last night.

I smiled at Melahat Hanim.  Something new for me.  

We know Gris is a tremendous asshole, Hubbard.  We were there for his homecoming.  We've seen how he treats other people.  Our brains do indeed function, thank you very much... this is where you could make a snide remark about Hubbard not being used to readers who can form coherent thoughts on their own.

Gris learns that Utanc has left for the afternoon - once the car he ordered the other day was delivered, she went off with Karagoz to get her license.  He's not concerned, and contentedly wiles the daylight away by giving the household boys some shiny coins and letting them eat all the grapes they want.  In due time a shiny new BMW drives up and Utanc and Karagoz disembark, but the dancing girl slinks to her room without engaging Gris.

Karagoz explains that Utanc got her license without too many problems, and was a remarkably quick student.

"I only had to show her a few things the salesman showed me.  Then I showed her how to steer and so on.  In about ten minutes she had it.  The test man said she was the best driver he'd seen for some time.  Mysterious."

"Well, of course anyone expert at driving camels would have no trouble learning to drive a road-rally, stick-shift car," I said.

"That's true," said Karagoz.

I'm finding it hard to care if the Earth gets destroyed or not. 

Karagaoz explains Utanc's bad mood as a result of her attempt to shop for music - she wanted a cassette of the "1812 Overture" with real cannons, but the store didn't have it.  Also, she complained that the high-frequency band for the player was broken and demanded that they get some decent hi-def equipment to sell her.  Gris not only misses the obvious clues that Utanc isn't a simple peasant girl, but completely ignores what he's been told and concludes that Utanc is upset with him.  He's devastated.

Remember when Heller was killing people with thrown baseballs?  Or how 'bout the time he got lessons from that crazy taxi driver?  Man, those were the days.

Back to Chapter Seven

Monday, March 26, 2012

Part Twenty, Chapter Seven - A High-Upkeep Slave

Unabridged version here.

Let's not waste any time and get right to the stupid.

Utanc silently takes a seat on her pillows in the center of the room before Gris' dais, looking depressed.  He asks her what's wrong, and Utanc admits that she's having trouble adjusting to her new home, and misses some essential commodities - namely "silk handkerchiefs, French bubble bath, antiperspirant and Chennel Number 5.  I require only minor cash to buy them--a few hundred thousand lira."

Gris is sympathetic.

She looked so sad, slumped there.  She was a wild, primitive nomad of the Kara Kum desert.

Did you actually listen to what she was asking for?

It would not do to remind her that she was now a slave.

Then why did you purchase her in the first pl... so what's the workaround for this problem?  Don't treat her like a slave, but stop short of actually freeing her?  Make up a story about her being held in protective custody rather than bondage?  Obviously it doesn't involve dropping the "Sultan Bey" crap. 

Naturally she needed money to buy necessities.  How she must have missed them, tending camels in that sandy waste.

Well, in his defense Gris is an alien.  Maybe he thinks French is a type of cactus and antiperspirant a desert beverage. 

If nothing else, it looks like the "Utanc is a spy" theory is gaining credence.  Now we just have to ask why the "Utanc is a spy" subplot is necessary, and why the author wants to devote time to Gris fumbling with a slave-girl rather than the actual plot, such as it is, of Mission Earth.

Well, Gris assures Utanc (in a "lordly manner") than her requests shall be met, and the promise of bubble baths invigorates the normally shy dancer.  So she dances.

There, two pages summarized.

Utanc starts with that Russian dance where they do a standing crouch and kick and shout "hey!" or in this case "heigh!", which Gris finds "Barbaric!" but fascinating, and then she gets closer, grinds her hips, tears off her veil, and sings about "unspent love."  Gris is overcome with emotion, shouts "Oh, my darling!" and tries to grab her, spooking her.  She flees to her room and locks herself inside, while Gris slips five thousand lira under her door in an attempt to coax her out, to no avail.

Maybe "slave" just means something different on Voltar.  Maybe you're expected to pay them there.

Gris spends the next day moping, especially after discovering his spyhole into Utanc's garden has been plugged up.  But one of her boy-servants tells him to wash up and await her that evening, Once again she comes inside, this time carrying a sword(!), but she still looks sad when she takes her seat on her cushions.

"O Master," she said with downcast eyes.  "I cannot tolerate the thought of not being able to call Istanbul, Paris and New York to order, C.O.D., the small and vital things that a woman has to have to preserve her beauty in her master's eyes.  I need a telephone in my room with a WATS line and an unlisted number."

Well, naturally a wild and shy desert girl from the primitive and uncultured wastes of the Kara Kum desert wouldn't want her phone number listed.

Hubbard?  We already know Gris is an idiot.  We've spent the last book screaming at him for sitting and watching his enemy thwart his plan.  We've seen him repeatedly make decisions so moronic that it shatters the suspension of disbelief necessary to think of him as a trained intelligence operative that could possibly pose a threat to the hero.  Stupidity is intrinsic to Gris' character.  You do not need to spend a subplot expanding on this.  We get it.  Now can you get on with the story already?

Gris promises more money, Utanc wiggles around and waggles her sword, Gris gets caught up in the frenzy of the dance and makes a sudden move, and Utanc flees to her room.  Gris spends the next day in a miserable funk, unable to even get angry at a staffer for stealing from his scotch reserve.  But Utanc sends a message for him to get cleaned up and await another performance.

This time she asks for a "BMW 320, fuel-injected engine, five-speed stick shift, rally-model sedan."  Gris actually hesitates for once since this would cost one and a half million lira, but reasons that a "wild, primitive desert girl" like her would be used to the "limitless vistas, rolling dunes and the vast sky of Russian Turkmen," and relents.  Utanc dances with torches.  But this time she doesn't flee.

Long story short, she really gets into her dancing, Gris really enjoys her company, and the night ends with her assuring him "the mouth is everything."  The only oddity Gris notices is that Utanc is shy enough to refuse to undress, even in the dark.

Only two more chapters until we get back to what Heller's up to.  And after this chapter, I am actually looking forward to watching Gris watch Heller go to college.  I long for the days of Gris describing what outfit Heller put on that morning.  I desperately want to see Heller foil an assassin attempt with careless ease and add another ten thousand dollars to his bank account.  Anything's better than Gris' sex life.


Back to Chapter Six

Friday, March 23, 2012

Part Twenty, Chapter Six - Goldilocks and the Three Commissars

Gris spends the next day in a despondent funk, thinking only of the woman he purchased as his personal property.  He hangs around her section of the villa, spying on her through a hole in the fence around her private gardens, catching a brief glimpse of her popping outside for some fresh air.  He sits in the salon all night hoping she'll return to him, to no avail.  He has fitful nightmares that leave him wondering if Utanc was just a dream.

Just a reminder, this is not a crappy romance novel, and Gris is an extraterrestrial agent supervising (and attempting to sabotage) a mission to prepare planet Earth for an alien invasion.

The day after that, Gris sleeps until noon and returns to his stalking.  He spies Utanc in the garden with those two little boys she took as servants, having tea and telling stories.  She relates the tale of Goldilocks, an unscrupulous pig-woman whose capitalist tendencies led her to break into a house and eat all of the porridge, only to learn that the homeowners were a trio of hardened commissars.  They tracked her, and, well...

 The two small boys strained forward.  "Yes?"  "Yes?"

Utanc smiled dreamily.  Then she said, "So they caught her and (bleeped) her and everybody had a lot of fun."

The two small boys began to laugh.  They laughed and laughed and so did Utanc.  The little boys got to laughing so hard they were rolling around on the grass, holding their stomachs.

D'aww, stories involving rape are always such hits with the kiddies.  Especially when told by a simple, shy peasant girl who barely escaped rape at the hands of a mob of soldiers and now has a pathological fear of menfolk.

Honestly?  I can't say with any confidence whether this is more of Hubbard's lousy writing or him foreshadowing a big reveal that Utanc is some sort of spy.  As for why Utanc would need to be a spy, or why she even exists in this narrative in the first place, see "lousy writing" above.

Gris gets a glimpse of Utanc's naked armpit and nearly has a seizure, so let's hope he never gets into the Touhou fandom.  But that night, one of the little boys delivers a message from Utanc, requesting that Gris bathe, put on his turban, and wait in the salon.

Only my stubborn sense of duty compels me to cover the next chapter.  That and pettiness - I had to read it, so you get to hurt too.

Back to Chapter Five

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Part Twenty, Chapter Five - Congestion

"Sultan" Gris sits and waits on his dais for twenty minutes before the door cracks open and Utanc peeks in.  She eventually slips through, veiled, vested, and wearing billowing pantaloons, her eyes wide with fear.  When Gris motions for her to take a seat she freezes up and nearly flees, and has to spend a minute to muster her courage to move closer.

So there's our riddle for this chapter, how someone with all the courage of a neurotic squirrel managed to complete her Authentic Turkish Belly-Dancer training.

Utanc eventually makes it to her seat and readies her cura irizva - and as far as I can tell, no such instrument exists.  Some of the regional names for the bağlama include the cura and the kopuz irizva, though, so maybe Hubbard made a mistake.  I know, I know, try to rein in your disbelief. 

"O Master," she whispered, and I could barely hear her, "with your permission and at your command, I will sing."

I waved my hand in a lofty fashion.  "Sing!" I commanded.

She flinched and I realized I had spoken too loudly.

And she proceeds to disobey his order, playing her instrument without vocal accompaniment. The limitations of the medium prevent us from properly enjoying Utanc's music, but Gris assures us that it's "BEAUTIFUL!" and he doesn't even like Turkish music.  Once she's finished, the dancing girl shyly asks if there's any recording equipment in the room, and I become suspicious.  What's this about?  Is she secretly a spy?  Why would she ask us that?  But Gris explains that these superstitious Turks believe that a tape recorder can steal a singer's voice - "It proved beyond doubt she was just a Kara Kum desert wanderer, a wild thing."

Really suspicious now.

Well, with Gris' suggestion, Utanc bursts into song and dance.  The short version is: she wiggles her belly, and Gris finds it very attractive.  Now, I wouldn't call myself a belly man, but to each his own.  Apparently this sort of dancing was very popular at certain times in certain places, so obviously some folks are into it.  But having Gris describe it didn't do much to convert me.

At one point Utanc tugs off her veil and starts leaping into the air and yelling.  Gris gushes that he'd "never seen such a face before!" despite sleeping with a photograph of Utanc under his pillow for days now.  And, he tells us in no uncertain terms that "I had never before in my life been so aroused."  Good to know, Gris.  Good to know.

The dance progresses to Utanc jumping around, shrieking like Mario's spastic sister.  Then she lands on her cushion, grabs her instrument, and begins to sing in a "throbbing, passion-congested voice..."  that's too good.  Honey, I am positively congested with passion for you.  Better give me an antihistamine, if you know what I mean.

The nightingale lay trembling
In his brutal hand,
Its throat that pulsed

Why is Utanc speaking English again?

Its that throat that pulsed
With fear,
Was strangled in a moment of coarse passion,
Remember me when I am gone,
If you would kill for love!

It was too much!  I screamed at her, "No!  No!  Oh Gods, I would never kill you!"

That did it.

Too loud!

She cowered back.  She raced to the door, crying out in fear, opened it and was gone!

So the chapter ends with Utanc locked in her reinforced room and Gris staying up all night staring at her door, "aching with passion unfulfilled."

Remember when I complained how Gris was just sitting on his ass watching Heller all day long instead of doing things on his own?  I take it back.  I take all of it back.  Please, please get back on the couch, Gris.  Please tell us all about what Heller wore to class that day.  Please go back to complaining about Heller's baffling behavior.  Please talk about gangsters some more.  Anything but this.

Back to Chapter Four

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Part Twenty, Chapter Four - Utanc Arrives, Not Appears

The next morning, Gris is awoken by Taxi Driver Who If He Has A Name I've Forgotten It, who gushes that Utanc will be here in two hours and he also needs another five grand to cover shipping fees.  Taxi Driver also demands to inspect her assigned room, and gets Gris to shell out ten thousand lira to outfit the dancer's chambers with the latest locks and iron bars to reinforce the doors.  Utanc is shy, you see.

Gris whips (possibly literally) his staff into action to get the dancer's room decorated, and then waits impatiently for four hours.  Finally a huge truck arrives laden with big metal trunks, which the drivers unload in Utanc's room (for an additional fifteen thousand lira).  Taxi Driver takes the keys to all those locks and tosses them in, and locks himself out.  Utanc, you see, is a "shy, simple, tribal girl" unfamiliar with civilization and still traumatized by her near-rape experience with the Soviet army.  So she was in one of those trunks they unloaded into the room.  Or more specifically, she's "Probably in one of those trunks."

Hot Turkish sun, scorching temperatures, hours on the road, metal shipping container... well, if this story took place in a sane, realistic setting, let's just say that Gris might be asking for a refund soon.

Gris is still eagerly inquiring about Utanc, what she looks like, that sort of thing, like he's worried she might have gotten hideous between being photographed and reaching his house.

"You've seen her then!  What does she look like?"

"You really can't tell through her veil but I'd say she looked just like the photograph I showed you when you bought her.


She is very shy. She not only had a veil on but she was also just peeking out of a truck tarp. Oh yes, here's her bill of sale."


It was all in Turkish and it had a lot of seals and a notary stamp.  

What?  The Turkish government notarizes contracts for human slavery?  During the mid-to-late twentieth century?  After struggling to stamp out slavery and signing all those treaties and modernizing and everything?  Seriously?

It said that one Utanc was the property of one Sultan Bey.  My hands trembled as I took it.  I owned a real, live, Turkish dancing girl!  Body and soul!

As vomit-inducing as this paragraph is, it's made better by what Gris wonders immediately after taking said document.

"Maybe she'll suffocate in one of those trunks," I said.

Not "She might have suffocated in one of those trunks!  We have to save her!"  Or "I'm not paying you until I see her, make sure she didn't suffocate in the trunk on the way over."  No, he sounds almost curious

Taxi Driver suggests that everyone just relax and let Utanc rest so he can leave with the money, and does so.  Eventually Gris hears movement from the room and assures that his purchase survived transit after all.  The rest of the afternoon is him wandering around the villa while the slave girl remains in seclusion.  She does let a housekeeper in with a meal, and later admits two young boys to be her servants.

Yes, the "simple, tribal girl" is expecting manservants.  She insists that they use her shower to be more presentable, and also suggests that Gris do the same, as well as don a turban.  He's much too "scruffy-looking" for her to dance for as is.

And yes, this girl seems perfectly fine with being someone's property, and despite her near-rape by marauding soldiers is willing to give her "owner" an intimate belly dance.

The staff gets some oil lamps going for mood lighting before scurrying out, a freshly-scrubbed Gris gets into position on his dais, and the chapter ends with him waiting for Utanc.

Now, my numerous objections to this chapter's content aside, I think it's worth pointing out that the author has completely abandoned the story's plot, which is ostensibly Heller's efforts to revolutionize Earth's energy and environmental policies in preparation for its annexation by an alien empire.  Since said efforts currently involve some oh-so-exciting schoolwork, the author is attempting to entertain us with a loathsome murderer's attempts to score with a sex slave.

Why would you do this?  What does this add to the story (besides an ipecac), and how does this advance the plot?  If your narrative is dragging on, why do you write about something completely unrelated instead of fixing the problems with what you've already written?   Why would someone who picked up a story billed as a satirical sci-fi epic want to read about the tragedy of human sex trafficking?  Was this story planned?  Did Hubbard actually think about what was going to happen next before he was churning it out on his typewriter?  Did he ever bother to go back and look over what he'd written and revise it?

I know he bombed out of college, now I'm wondering what Hubbard's elementary school English grades were.  He wrote dozens of books and stories and yet seems to know very little about being an author.

...Unless, of course, the fact that Gris has purchased a genuine imported Turkish belly dancer is going to be important to Mission Earth's resolution. (note from the future: yes, but in about the most asinine and roundabout way imaginable)

I'm not sure if that would be an improvement or not. (note from the future: it's not)

Back to Chapter Three

Monday, March 19, 2012

Part Twenty, Chapter Three - Dressing Down While Undressed

Gris, who has adopted Heller's sleeping patterns by this point, is rudely awaken at only eleven in the morning by Karagoz the Turkish manservant, who informs "Sultan Bey" that there are two men to see him.  He also informs Gris that he isn't wearing any clothes, but the Apparatus agent pays no heed as he rushes out, shotgun in hand, to yell at his unwanted visitors, who turn out to be Raht and Terb.

After Gris demands to know "What in the name of the seventeen brindle Devils" they are doing here - no, the term "brindle Devils" is never elaborated on - the duo nervously explain that they're just following Gris' orders to report in, and since they had already been making periodic radio updates, they assumed he meant to report in person.  This at least gives Gris an opportunity to yell at them in person, and he lambastes them for following the bugs in Heller's clothes instead of Heller himself - though this does tip off the pair that Gris has some other way to keep tabs on his nemesis, which the agent hastily puts down to other operatives.

After calming down a bit, pulling on a robe, and getting something to eat and drink, thereby giving Hubbard an opportunity to show off his Turkish vocabulary, Gris goes back out to clue in his clueless lackeys.  He gives them their new mission - disguise themselves as diplomats looking for some companionship at the Gracious Palms, break into Heller's room, and steal that all-important platen.  Their secondary mission is to find and remove the source of the "carbon disturbance" in Heller's room, thereby allowing Gris to watch him have sex, though he doesn't put it as such.  He also tries to have Raht shave his mustache, but relents and tones it down to a trim.  I have the sinking feeling that a Hitler 'stache is going to appear in this book too. 

Though the whole briefing Gris shows off his Apparatus training by having three cool glasses of water set out in front of the thirsty, sun-baked agents, but never sharing any.  Truly, he is a master of mind games and subtle tortures.

Although he briefly considers having his agents take along a transmitter-receiver even though such devices are forbidden, he decides to let them go without it.  I mean, these guys have only consistently failed him ever since arriving on the planet, and Gris just spent days in helpless frustration because he had no way of getting in touch with them, but now that Gris has given them new orders, everything should go smoothly, right?

So the two incompetent spies slouch away from their incompetent boss, who has now exerted the minimum of effort required for him to feel like he's taking an active role in this story.  Now he can get back to sitting on his ass and watching the HellerVision in a more relaxed fashion.

But he won't, at least not for a while.  No, Heller won't make an appearance, even remotely, for the rest of the Part.  Instead the next six chapters are devoted to the budding romance between Soltan Gris and his slave-girl Utanc, and by extension, Gris' sex life.

God help us all.

Back to Chapter Two

Friday, March 16, 2012

Part Twenty, Chapter Two - An Alien Touring Offices Counts as Sci-Fi, Right?

Last chapter ended with Gris being reminded (again) that there is an unseen assassin lurking nearby, waiting to strike at the first sign of failure.  So of course this chapter opens with "It was Tuesday at 4:00 P.M. Eastern Standard Time.  Heller had had his usual day..."  After losing some sleep to the death threat, Gris is back on the couch watching TV, with no further indication that he's concerned about the threat of an "auto accident."

Come to think of it, didn't last book end with Heller despairing at the wicked creatures he was trying to save, men convinced they were soulless monsters?  And one chapter later he's chilling with his buddy Bang-Bang, and hey, gold mines!  Let's do that!  And send flowers to the lady nearly raped by said soulless monsters.

It's enough to make me double-check that I got the right book, but yeah, this is volume three.  It's weird - even though this was all written as one dreary narrative, and the interruptions between books were only put in by the editors, it still feels like I've missed something.

Heller's on the steps of the High Library (of campus) when Izzy Epstein the neurotic sorta-anarchist economist arrives.  Heller bids him sit down, but Izzy refuses, arguing it's only appropriate that he stand in the presence of his "superior."

Didn't even finish the chapter's first page before I wanted to put the book down.

Would you believe that most of this chapter is a tour of an office complex?  Izzy explains that he's gotten some things done, and after signing Bang-Bang up as an employee of the New York Amazing Investment Company... wait, wasn't he supposed to be a cabbie?  Whatever, they all get on the subway and go to Times Square, because Izzy's set up offices for Heller's matrix of corporations on half a floor of the Empire State Building.

The interior is all tasteful marble, with the word "palatial" being thrown around about once a page and black onyx making a triumphant return.  Architecture all circa 1930, of course, because that's the decade Hubbard's mind retreated to before departing the material plane.  Workers are setting up bronze signs for Incredible Opportunities Inc, Fantastic Mergers Inc, The Beautiful Tahiti Gilt-Edged Beaches Wonder Corporation, and all the other mask companies protecting Heller from enemies who have consistently failed to pose any sort of threat to him.  Izzy explains that everything's legal, he has the signatures of the company presidents, there's no interlocking between the dummy businesses, etc.

The mighty office of Multinational, the heart of this bit of economic sorcery, is decorated in stark steel, with a map of the world made from all its countries' currencies.  Heller, of course, gets his own office complete with a private restroom and secretary's "boudoir" and a panoramic view of Manhattan and a picture of a Boeing on the door because his nickname's Jet geddit.  And it's really hard to be interested in any of this, because Hubbard went on and on about how wonderful Tug One's accommodations were, but the damned spaceship has been sitting in Turkey unused for hundreds and hundreds of pages now.

The tour wraps up with a walkthrough of the communications center full of modern (as of thirty years ago) equipment allowing people with money to take advantage of exchange rates to make more money by moving numbers around in a system in which participants agree that said digits are worth millions of dollars.  It's all good to go, it just needs an initial investment from Heller.

So they go back to the Gracious Palms and Heller robs his own safe, and a Brinks armored truck takes it away with nary a receipt to be seen.  Gris hopes that Izzy is conning Heller, but starts to worry when he hears how confident the Fleet agent is about the situation.  Vantagio lets drop that this is a Saturday, so the Civic Betterment League is having its weekly meeting where that Narcotici fink will divvy up the bribes between the mayor and police chiefs and everything.  Heller's interested in going, but is reminded that anyone under eighteen can't drive the streets of New York City.

In conclusion... there are tastefully-decorated offices in a building somewhere, and the already-wealthy main character is set to become even more so. 

I'll admit, I panicked a bit and read ahead.  And the good news is that Raht and Terb will turn up the next chapter.  The bad news is that Utanc will arrive the chapter after that.

This is going to hurt.

Back to Chapter One

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Part Twenty, Chapter One - Déjà Vu

Excuse me, Bang-Bang's the one reading comic books.

Heller and his academic stunt double are lounging at their "command post" in the school library.  Bang-Bang is, as I said, reading a comic book, and getting so worked over it that he's miming firing a handgun with his fingers, whispering "bang-bang!"

Half a book since we met him and we just now got a hint as to where his name came from. (edit from the future: and a misleading hint at that)

Heller meanwhile is reading old-timey accounts from the Age of Exploration, concluding that "anybody who tries to land around here gets the Hells attacked out of him by the natives."  Might be enough to give any would-be alien invaders second thoughts, if it weren't for, you know, the hugely disparate technology levels and the super-advanced planet-krumping guns and super-stealth coatings and all that.  Though Heller seems more interested in accounts of yellow minerals.

His reading done, Heller announces that he's undertaking some "reconnaissance" and wanders around campus until he finds a student hanging up a poster for a "UFO PROTEST MEETING."  The student explains what UFOs are and how his group isn't protesting the aliens, but how the government keeps the sightings of those aliens secret.  And with that I lean back and scratch my head.  That was almost... well, satirical.  Or certainly more satirical than what we've seen so far.  Could The Enemy Within be where Mission Earth really starts to take off?  One of the blurbs inside the cover claimed that the third volume outdoes the first two.  Maybe things are looking up?

After assuring his fellow student that he plans to attend the UFO protest march in a few weeks' time, and confirming that his Nature Appreciation course is getting a new professor, Heller takes a train ride downtown to the Geological Survey office to ask about gold mines.

Twenty pages into The Enemy Within and I already want to stop reading.  If a gas drone or teleporter platform shows up I may need some antidepressants.

Heller ends up spending three sodding hours with "Cap" Duggan, an old surveyor who spins tales of the Seven Cities of Cibola and various gold rushes.  Gris complains that they talked about "absolutely nothing" yet fails to get off his ass and find something better to do with his time than watch an enemy waste his.  At the end of it Heller has gotten excited about a Goldmine Creek on the coast of Connecticut and bought twenty autographed copies of Duggan's guide on colonial-era mines and mineralogy.

Oh, and on his way back to campus he stops by a flower shop to arrange for dear Miss Simmons to get a daily bouquet as she recovers in the hospital.  This humanizing gesture mainly serves to make me wonder when the hell this is taking place and how much time has passed since she was attacked at the end of the last book.  The transition between The Invaders Plan and Black Genesis was instantaneous, but here we've abruptly gone from Heller having a minor breakdown over the wicked atheists of Earth to him loafing with his buddy Bang-Bang.

One more thing happens this chapter - Gris returns to his room to find a note on his pillow.


Aliens use the phrase "auto accident?"  When Heller had to have a car explained to him?  What?


The note is "signed" with a drawing of a dagger, which would have made an effective statement on its own without the preceding nonsense.  Am I already hallucinating, or did this happen last book?  Didn't Gris find that envelop in his pocket at the start of Black Genesis?  Didn't he freak out about the assassin out to get him, and then meet the two Apparatus "assassins?"

And since he did absolutely nothing those times, why should we expect him to do something now?

Back to Part Nineteen, Chapter Six

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Wheel of Madness Turns Once More

Nope, not feeling reflective enough to do some sort of essay, so I'll just react to the words in front of me rather than sit back and think.  Let's crack open volume three.

There's our cover, consisting of our leather-bound Aryan hero, an obnoxious pink Cadillac, an older car flying through the air, a tank utterly failing to hit a stationary target, and an explosion.  There's little indication that it's a science-fiction story, what with the complete lack of spaceships or obvious aliens or anything.  Looks more like a novelization of The Fast and the Furious' forgotten 80's precursor.

There's gonna be racecar driving, isn't there?

The blurbs on the back assure us that the book is " paced ... espionage and intrigue prevail," according to the Atlanta Journal and Constitution.  Orson Scott Card's comment about losing sleep makes a reappearance, and as always the word "dekalogy" appears with a footnote to explain that this made-up word refers to a ten volume series, because you, the reader, are an idiot unable to look at the words "trilogy" and "decade" and draw a conclusion.

This book's map is centered on Long Island and southern Connecticut, or as it's rendered due to the book's stiff spine, "Conncut."  And sure enough, on the western portion of Long Island is "Spreeport Speedway."  Somehow Hubbard knew that fans looking for some sci-fi were secretly yearning for a novelization of a NASCAR event.

There's the usual Voltarian Censor's Disclaimer denying the existence of Earth and warning that this narrative was written by a confessed liar and murderer.  It also warns that "anyone undertaking even a cursory reading of this collusory yarn does so at his own risk," which is... well, pretty damn appropriate.  I think more of Hubbard's books should warn readers not to read them.

54 Charlee Nine is back to give the Voltarian Translator's Preface, in which he modestly mentions that translating "a nonexistent world speaking nonexistent languages" is no trouble for someone used to interpreting political speeches or judicial opinions," har har hate the government.  He also lets us in on a little secret: Earth scientists "think electrons are little 'things' that whirl around other 'things' called atoms," but they're wrong - "electrons aren't anything but motion," and if humans (who don't exist) would ever figure that out, and what motion really means, "they'd crack the 'Einstein Barrier' and come up with some solutions for a change."

Other authors base their speculative fiction on what could happen after the next scientific breakthrough.  Hubbard laughs at how stupid everyone else is and how everything we know is wrong. 

We get an eight-page Key to Enemy Within, which spoils characters yet to appear and, like the Key in the last book, lists characters from an earlier volume that have no relevance to the current plot.  Looks like Prahb Bittlestiffender is due to show up, and he'll get a Turkish teenage girl for his nurse.  Babe Corleone's defining characteristic is that she's six-foot-six.  Hot Jolt is described as a popular Voltarian drink without any description of what the hell is in it.  Spurk is listed even though he's been dead for five hundred pages and isn't likely to recover in time for a later appearance.

And then Part Twenty begins with more of Soltan Gris' "confession," as he attempts to summarize the events of the last book.  He explains the premise - how Mission Earth was supposed to fail but Jettero Heller is too damn awesome to do so - and again Babe Corleone's height is brought up.  Yes, six-and-a-half-foot women aren't ordinary, but if that woman is also a mob boss, is her height really the most important thing about her?

Oh, and Gris also mentions that platen.  Y'know, the sheet of paper with holes in it that decodes the secret messages in Heller's mail to his bosses.  The doodad the Gris desperately needs to get his hands on, the thing he's known he needed to get for half a book, and the thing that he has made absolutely no progress towards getting, instead preferring to sit on his ass and watch Heller ride the subway.

Gris' letter winds down with "As Raht and Terb were about to arrive and Heller's days were numbered, I decided to check in on him.  I pulled up the viewscreen and turned it on."  He's giving his report to the "Justiciary" and ended it like he's cuing a flashback.  Oy.

Well, let's get this party started.  Judging from the first page of the first chapter, it looks like... Heller and Bang-Bang are loafing around reading comics.

Buckle up and prepare for blastoff.

Back to Part Nineteen, Chapter Six

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Intermission - The Waiting Game

So that's it for Black Genesis - though what was black about it, I cannot say.  You'd think with a title like that we'd see the birth of something dark or sinister, but no, the book concerned our hero being dropped into a dangerous situation and proceeding to enjoy a string of victories.  His lowest point was probably back in Turkey when he wasn't getting along with the locals, but since then everything's been turning up Heller.  It's like we've skipped to Act Three, when the heroes start to turn things around for the happy ending, except it's only Book Two.  So Hubbard's gonna have to find a way to string this out for another eight books and pretend like his hero's victory isn't inevitable.

Anyway.  The Enemy Within is next, and my copy hasn't arrived yet.  More to the point, I'll have to see what the coming weeks do to my ability to blog about crappy Hubbard novels.  There's a chance that I'll be spending some time in a jury box (and on the interstate to get to that jury box, because it's a federal case, which means folks from neighboring counties get to hoof it over to take part).  Given how I feel after reading some of these chapters, the continuing adventures of Jettero Heller just may be too much after a day spent listening to lawyers do a better job of storytelling than L. Ron Hubbard ever did.

But these are just possibilities.  Best-case scenario is that this whole jury duty thing has been a complete waste of time, giving me free rein to waste my time on this dekalogy instead.  I mean, the next book has race cars on the cover, so it's gotta be gold.  In the meanwhile, I should probably update the character list and do other maintenance, and maybe take a look at this whole "satire" angle.  We'll see what happens.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Part Nineteen, Chapter Six - Ending the Book with a Bang

Unabridged version here.

Shields up, whiskey bottles ready.

Heller starts to jog home, but stops when he notices Miss Simmons entering a subway station.  Almost immediately he hears her yelling at someone to get away - a drunk demanding a dollar.  The wino runs off at the sight of Heller, who gallantly offers to escort Miss Simmons home.  It's 3 pm on a Sunday afternoon, after all, so New York City is pretty much deserted, and it's not safe for a lone female to be out and about.  Simmons, of course, refuses, insisting that she spends too much time cooped up on campus.  She gets on the train, and Heller discretely hops aboard a different car.

It goes without saying that Gris is wondering how Heller plans to murder her.

Train ride, station, transfer to another line.  Heller scares off a drunken troublemaker by putting on his engineer gloves in what Gris describes as an "effective gesture," leaving it up to us to imagine how donning a glove can be so scary (aside from latex gloves in a doctor's exam room, of course).  A volunteer guard warns Miss Simmons to ride on the subway's middle cars where there are more people, due to increased muggings and gang activity.  She, again, scoffs at this, leading the guard to bitterly comment to a passing Heller that there's "Rapes by the trainful and they never learn."

Eventually the ride comes to an end and Simmons and her shadow emerge aboveground, where the weather is taking a turn for the worse.  But despite the fleeing picnickers, Miss Simmon marches boldly into Van Cortlandt Park, determined to get her hike in.  She makes it into a dip in the trail before being jumped by six men.

Ambush rapists, patiently waiting in a park for hours in the chance a lone victim wanders into reach.  As an afternoon thunderstorm threatens.  Because the plot requires it.

Heller rushes to assist, but is stopped short by a pair of men toting a shotgun and revolver, while the rest of the mob grabs Miss Simmons.  They ask if he has any drug money, Heller accuses them of being "the raving insane," but they counter that of course they're not insane, all of them got A's in Psychology, which is why they're rapists in the first case.

Our hero is all torn up about this, but hasn't acted just yet.

"Killing a bunch of hoodlums isn't part of my job!" Heller said.  Then he shouted, "Please quit this and get away while you still can!"

Just off the top of my head, Heller's killed ten IRS agents by blowing up a damn apartment building, smashed the head of an enemy driver during vehicular combat, killed three rival mobsters with a bloody baseball, killed three other rival mobsters with a handgun, and blown up three cars' worth of men with that bomb he rigged in the garage.  This is in addition to any kills made over the course of his military career, and with the exception of the IRS guys, who he spent maybe a sentence tut-tutting over, Heller has shown no remorse or regrets about his kill-count.  But here he is, reluctant to fight off these drug-addled gang-rapists.

Well, the gang continues to whoop and snatch articles of clothing from poor Miss Simmons, who has yet to actually call for help or anything.  Well, she finally cries "My ankle!" when someone tears her shoe off, breaking her foot, and then demands that her attackers get off of her, but for some reason they don't stop.  The guy with the shotgun shouts orders over how to position her and who gets first dibs, but then it's time for a good two pages of a Hubbard Action Sequence.

Heller launches himself forward in a roll, dodging hasty shotgun and pistol fire as he gets behind a tree for cover.  Like an idiot, Shotgun Dude decides to rush him and negate all the advantages of having a ranged weapon, allowing Heller to snatch the gun from his grasp, breaking his hand in the process.  Heller quickly turns the gun around to bring down Revolver Guy with a blast to the torso, then smashes The Person Formally Known As Shotgun Dude with the butt of his own weapon hard enough to shatter the gun's stock and reduce his face to shredded meat and bone shards.

Or, as Hubbard puts it,

Bark leaped from the tree!  The racket of a revolver shot!

The buck of the shotgun!

The revolver man's chest spurted red and he flew backwards.

The shotgun man was trying to get up!

The swinging blur of the stock.  The crack as the stock shattered.  The shotgun man didn't have a face!  Just red flesh and bone splinters!

Doesn't one of the Mass Effect alien races talk like that?  The habit of short sentences.  The beginning with a definite article.

So that's two guys down, leaving the six would-be rapists.  They size up Heller for a moment before deciding that he's just one man, a man who nevertheless happened to wipe out a quarter of their number in a few violent heartbeats.  Well, they are on drugs.

What follows is a gory variant of Capoeira as Heller, his shotgun now spent, is forced to use his only weapon left - his cleats.

A man seen between two others.  He had a gun.

Heller's foot extended like a battering ram!  The man's gun arm crumpled!

A whirl.  Another knife!  A foot up against the hand.  The knife flew into the air!

Heller spun on one foot, the other extended like a scythe.  The flat of the foot tore the man's whole face off!

Gods!  Spikes!  This was why Heller was wearing spikes!

Yes, the humble baseball shoe, a more deadly weapon than any switchblade.  Heller tears a guy's chest open with a downward kick, leaves another man's leg to a bloody ruin with a raking slash, tears a third man's throat out, and rips the side from a Hispanic man's head.  At this point there's just one man left standing, who quite reasonably decides to run like hell.

A man's heels.  He was running, trying to get away.

A rush.  A horizontal thrust of two spiked feet.  They hit the man in the back.  He went down in a skid of leaves.  Heller landed upright.  Man's head two feet below the spikes.  Down came Heller.  The soles were held in a V.  They stripped the skin, ears, and two huge slabs of skull off the head.


That was an awful paragraph, and I'm not talking about the graphic violence.  Also, Heller just brutally killed a fleeing opponent, yet is supposed to be upset about having to fight these guys.

There's one temporary survivor, his chest torn open to expose his pulsing arteries and veins, but he comes to just in time to scream and die.  So yeah, eight for eight, good show Heller.  You savagely tore apart your enemies with your impossibly powerful footwork and razor-sharp booties.

Miss Simmons is staring wide-eyed with shock at the carnage and mutilated bodies and blood-soaked ground, and when Heller checks on her he jostles her broken ankle, making her scream and pass out.  It's a bad fracture too, bone protruding through the skin and everything, but Heller makes a splint, gets the woman into her coat, and finds her purse.  He notices a lot of spiky tracks in the gory dirt, and that his cleats have incriminating scraps of flesh and bone stuck to them, so he trades shoes with one of the dead guys.  And then he begins to carry Miss Simmons away from the mess, but not before waxing philosophical (but not psychological):

"I wish you'd listened," he said.  "I'm not here to punish anybody."  He looked down at Miss Simmons' face.  She was out cold.  Then he looked up at the scudding sky and in Voltarian said, "Is this planet inhabited by a Godsless people?  Has some strange idea poisoned them to make them think that they have no souls?  That there is no hereafter?"

How the hell did he go from "these people are insane" to "these people think they have no souls and don't believe in an afterlife?"  Nobody mentioned an afterlife.  None of the gangbangers said "this is okay because I don't have a soul."

Also, add atheism to the list of causes of rape. 

Heller staggers to a subway and takes a ride to the nearest hospital, with the security guard not sparing a second glance at the bloody, unconscious, barely-dressed woman in the seat beside him. Heller stays with Miss Simmons as she's looked over, and makes sure that the nurse isn't going to shoot her up with heroin.  But before she can get her morphine the professor comes to and starts thrashing about and screaming, raving that Heller's a sadist who she saw "murder eight men in cold blood!"

As a doctor sends Miss Simmons away to a psychiatric ward, the professor vows that "I knew it!  I knew it all the time!  You're a savage killer!  When I get well and out of here, I'm going to devote my life to making certain that you FAIL!"

So there you have it, a once-sympathetic character reduced to someone who accuses her rescuer of murder because she's apparently forgotten that she was about to be raped.  Such are the lengths the author will go to in order to keep us from siding with her.

Gris is relieved that his ally is alive and well, and calculates that even though Miss Simmons will miss the fall semester due to her injury, she'll be back next year to flunk Heller good.

Bless her crazy, crooked and ungrateful heart!

How wonderful it was to feel I had a real friend!

And even if they put her under psychiatric care, that would change nothing.  It never does.

And that's how suddenly and unceremoniously the book ends.

Does Simmons succeed in
ending Heller's mission?

Volume 3

I think I might have burst out laughing the first time I read that.  Seriously, "does the mean teacher succeed in flunking our hero?"  That's the sequel hook that's supposed to send us running to the bookstores for the next entry in this exciting series? 

In this book, Heller has become quite wealthy, with the promise of more wealth to come in a way that his enemies can't defend against.  He's gotten in good with the mob, whose boss seems committed to making sure his life goes smoothly.  He's been trained by the FBI and is set to be trained by the Army Intelligence.  Every attempt to kill him has been defeated with ease, he overcomes obstacles almost as fast as they're put in front of him.  The most his supposed nemesis, Soltan Gris, has done to thwart him was send a strongly-worded memo.  

And we're supposed to worry that a college professor is going to stop him?  A professor whose previous efforts to hinder him have already been defeated?

This book is dumb, and what's more, it thinks we're as dumb as it is.

Back to Part Nineteen, Chapter Five

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Part Nineteen, Chapter Five - A Group of Class Gathering in a Park

Good news is this is the second-to-last chapter of the book.  Bad news is I read ahead a bit, and the next chapter is gonna hurt.

Miss Simmons' nature class is meeting in front of the United Nations building, and there's already a crowd of students waiting - "mostly in jeans and rough clothing; some wore glasses, some did not; some were fat and some were thin."  But none are of healthy weight or wearing monocles.  I'm going to pointedly ignore Hubbard's description of Heller's clothes, but the important thing is that he's better-dressed than his fellow students, even though he's still wearing his baseball cap and cleats.  The girls, of course, take notice.

More class drifted up and now there were about thirty.

What can you say to a sentence like that?

Miss Simmons marches up, dressed for a hike... sort of.  She's got the boots and a "man's shooting hat" and a walking stick, but she's wearing a shirt and jacket of heavy tweed.  Upon spotting "Wister," she complains that she's heard how he used his "INFLUENCE" to get out of his tutoring requirements, but vows that "The war you so ferociously favor has just begun!"  Apparently you can't work in nuclear engineering without being pro-war.

You know how I used to like Miss Simmons?  Well, unfortunately that's going to end this chapter.  Earlier she was the only sane person on the planet, someone complaining how the Marty Stu was being handed everything on a silver platter.  But now her pettiness is going to overshadow that rare and precious common sense - no one can oppose Jettero Heller and remain a good person, after all.

Miss Simmons takes her class, "tomorrow's hope," on a tour of the United Nations, describing it as an institution founded to prevent war, but now a "dark grave of all man's greatest hopes" whose members plot to amass more wealth and power, and most importantly how to destroy the world through nuclear war.  I think the latter would seem to defeat the purpose of the former, but whatever.

While the professor explains how everything she's going to show the class that day is doomed to soon be destroyed by nuclear fire, Heller keeps getting distracted by the local flora and fauna in the park.  He notes that the grass would do better without chlorinated water, and that the trees are holding up pretty well despite the air pollution.  Then he spots a trio of seagulls stuck in a blob of oil and, retrieving a pair of gloves from his backpack, uses some Voltarian military solvent to clean the feathers of the survivor (why yes, he brought along cleaning gear for his nature appreciation class).  And then he gives the bird some water, and part of his sandwich.  He talks to the bird in Voltarian (even though it's from Earth, Gris mocks) to explain that it was dehydrated and needs to gather its strength before trying to fly.

So that's about two pages of the chapter right there: Jettero Heller, Friend to All Living Things.  Try not to remember the time he heaved a dog into a tree by its neck. Or those guys he killed with a baseball.  Or the building he blew up.  Or that he's living with and aiding a criminal syndicate.

Heller eventually catches up with his class, now inside the building and touring the empty chambers of the General Assembly.  Miss Simmons is still ranting about the UN's failings, or more specifically how the Security Council's five permanent members have veto power, letting them override the rest of the planet if they disagree about, say, nuclear disarmament.  Which is actually a major flaw in the United Nations' design (just ask a Syrian), and a pretty valid complaint.

This makes Miss Simmons a complicated, or maybe schizophrenic, character - on the one hand she's quite justifiably outraged that Heller is using his mob ties to get ahead in life, and that the UN is hardly democratic or benevolent.  On the other hand, she's been bullying one of her students in front of the rest of her class, and wants the UN to "rise up with clarion voices and cry 'DEATH TO THE CAPITALISTIC WARMONGERS!'"  There's a rational, sane character in there, buried by all the extras Hubbard added to make her more hateable, just in case we didn't properly despise her for being an obstacle to the book's hero.

So there's hypocrisy - when Heller asks what's preventing the UN from solving problems, Miss Simmons explains that it's the "Russian traitors who have sold out the revolution and asserted themselves the tyrants of the proletariat!" and praises him for the good question, before remembering that she hates "Wister" and chewing him out for disturbing the class.  When Heller asks another good question, she gives the credit to a nonexistent George.  You know, stuff that could get her fired in a sane world.

She wraps up the day's lesson with the warning that "All that you will see in our future Sundays of Nature Appreciation is doomed by nuclear war.  It will make it far more poignant for you, as you admire the beauties of nature, to realize, as you look at every blossom, every leaf, every delicate paw and every bit of soft, defenseless fur, to realize that it is about to be destroyed forever in the horror and holocaust of thermonuclear war!"

So does New York City have enough parks to stretch this class out for a full semester?  I was just wondering, there seems to be limited opportunities to experience nature in one of the world's largest cities.  Also, maybe appealing to the students' survival instinct - that they are doomed to die in a nuclear firestorm - might be more effective than marching around and looking at chipmunks.  But then again, I'm a sane person... who spends a lot of his free time reading and writing about L. Ron Hubbard novels...  Okay, saner person. 

Miss Simmons adds that if students want to do something about the sorry state of the world, she leads the Anti-Nuclear Protest Marchers despite the best efforts of the New York Tactical Police Force.  Then she dismisses her class, but steps aside to have a personal chat with Heller.  She assures the little nuclear terror that he'll be receiving an F for today's participation, and that she's confident that he'll continue to receive failing grades, which will make him flunk the course regardless of whatever "INFLUENCE" he can muster when it comes time for exams.  And, since somehow this one adviser-mandated course is required for him to graduate, there is no way for Heller to earn his diploma.  She walks off, satisfied, while Heller sits down on the lawn in front of the UN, looking at the ground, presumably deep in thought.

Maybe he's wondering how a degree in nuclear engineering hinges on some BS "nature appreciation" course.  Or maybe he's wondering why Miss Simmons thinks the "INFLUENCE" that got him this far will give up when faced with some bizarre apocalyptic communist.  Regardless of what's going on in Heller's head, Gris ends the chapter on a poetic note.

The fate of empires lay in the delicate and beautiful hands of a woman.  But this was not the first time in the age-long histories of planets.  I prayed to the Gods that her grip on fate would remain tenacious and strong.

I think my "Hubbard was dying while he wrote this" theory is gaining ground.  Seriously, that second sentence hurts my brain.  Yes, it's in English, and technically parses and is grammatically-correct and all that, but it's just so blargh.

Back to Chapter Four