Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Part Twenty-One, Chapter Five - The Mystery of Goldmine Creek

Heller continues to drive through the hills of Connecticut, which Gris describes as "picturesque like you see in paintings."  He carefully obeys the traffic laws while passing a sheriff's speed trap, then abruptly pulls off the road as he follows his compass to his destination.

And this is weird - Heller's following an old road, but he has to go carefully, navigating around 75-year-old trees and pushing through dense underbrush.  Yet in that other Hubbard novel that I read, the book's hero was able to zip along thousand-year-old highways in his space car without any difficulty.  So did Hubbard actually learn from his mistakes?  Did someone complain about the unrealistic lack of road decay in the earlier novel, causing him to take pains to correct it for this one?  And of all the things wrong with Battlefield Earth, why'd he only pick up on the roads?

Anyway, there's a dense cluster of trees sheltering a long-abandoned stone roadhouse, with reinforced doors and bullet-proof glass.  Gris calls it a "FORT!" but if so it's a classy fortress, with verandas and dance floors and bars.  There's even a signed photograph of Jimmy Walker, as well as a picture of "Holy Joe" Corleone during his youthful Prohibition days.  Heller takes pictures of the pictures rather than taking the pictures themselves.  Presumably he's going to earn Mafia rep by bringing Babe an image of her dearly departed husband, and knowing this book she probably won't ask why the hell Heller didn't cut out the middleman.

What else is there to say about this chapter?  Heller finds a staircase behind the bar leading into a cave with the rotted remains of stairs and supports.  There's a chiseled claim from Issiah Slocum dating back to 1689.  Gris tries to take an interest in all of it: "The bootleggers had been using the mine to hide their hooch!  And that's what had happened to the 'lost mine' of Goldmine Creek!"  So I guess we were supposed to be wrapped up in the mystery?  A mystery that popped up last chapter and is now suddenly and anticlimactically resolved.

It's really hard to feel like anything that happens in this book matters.  Since we have no idea what the hero's plan is, there's no weight to his decisions.  And since the villains are just so damned incompetent, there's no reason to think that what they do can stop him.  So we get action without meaning or consequence.  Heller does this and this and oh wow he's wealthy and popular and isn't he wonderful.  Gris does this and sits on his butt for a whole book and wouldn't you know it but Heller's still going strong.

And there's seven more books to this series.

Back to Chapter Four

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