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

1 comment:

  1. Even back in my addled adolescence when I thought this series was good, the Utanc sections made me cringe. Now I kind of just want to die.