Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Part Twenty-Five, Chapter Three - Heller Explains It All, Gris Finally Gets a Clue

Hoo boy, what a chapter.

Gris is disappointed to finish his walk, go to bed, and wake up the next morning without anybody killing him. Instead the mysterious assassin, who is displaying competence that begs the question of why Lombar didn't choose them to do Gris' job, leaves a note explaining that he or she will kill Utanc first unless Heller is stopped.

The Apparatus goon immediately freaks out and rushes to check on his mail-order bride, but nothing bad has happened to her yet.  Though relieved, he tries to puzzle out why his shadowy overseer is suddenly prodding him into action.  Gris concludes that they must know something about Heller that he doesn't, plops down on his Couch of Narration, and flips on the HellerVision.

Heller's in his Empire State Building offices, working with some machine parts at a worktable.  Gris immediately focuses on the new murals adorning the walls, a sequence of art pieces depicting oil refineries choking the sky with smog, wildlife drowning in oil slicks, hydrogen bomb mushroom clouds sprouting all across the planet, and finally what looks like spaceships bombarding Earth from orbit.

Yes, pollution apparently leads to nuclear war, which provokes an alien invasion.  And the saddest thing is that even though this is clearly the worst-case scenario the Voltarians discussed back at the beginning of Book 1 when they came up with Mission Earth, Gris can't make heads or tails of it.  He thinks the last mural is "a sort of fantasy drawing," possibly "the original of some magazine cover?"  He literally cannot recognize the mission he's been assigned to.

Rather than trying to puzzle this out, Gris studies the other people in the room - a bartender, because every good office/workshop needs drinks on tap, five beautiful young women in short skirts or skimpy dresses, and Izzy the accountant, who is telling Heller how bad a headache he got from whatever they were discussing last night.  With but a gesture Heller gets his friendly bartender to whip up a Bromo Seltzer (if you hadn't caught on yet, Hubbard was old).  And it's at this point that Gris starts to relax, because obviously Heller couldn't be accomplishing much in this atmosphere of nerdy Jews with upset tummies and beautiful women eating ice cream while hanging on to Heller's every word.

But with Izzy's delicate physical condition temporarily remedied, Heller is free to continue the lecture that gave Izzy a headache in the first place.  And now the chapter gets fun!

"It all boils down to whether or not a society can handle force.  This one doesn't seem able to.

"Now, pay attention.  You must be able to convert matter to energy.  Then you can use energy to move matter.

Yeah, Heller's got a good half-page of a speech for us, broken up into two- to three-sentence paragraphs I guess for the sake of clarity.  Presumably the author wanted to make sure we understood this.  So far it seems simple enough: matter to energy to manipulate matter, like burning coal to power a drill to get more coal.  But then things get kooky. 

"Politically, financially and every other way, you have to know how to handle force.  If you don't, you can blow up the whole society.

Heller doesn't actually define "force" at any point, by the way.  By default he would be discussing an influence that changes an object.  So be damn careful when you pick up that rock or reheat some strips of bacon, that awesome power you're toying with can destroy civilization!

"Now for some screwball reason, this society considers life junior to force. This is a nutty philosophy called materialism or mechanism. It is false.

"Unless this society snaps out of it and gets rid of that philosophy, which is just primitive nonsense, this society will never be able to survive.

Materialism is the school of thought concerned more with a world of matter and energy than the competing Idealist focus on spirit or mind, and its early philosophers paved the way for atomic theory.  Mechanism is interested in a universe of objects behaving as parts in a complex mechanical system governed by identifiable laws of nature, though it has trouble applying this model to the mysteries of the human mind.  Hubbard, the man who gave us Thetans, would naturally despise both ideas.  The human mind can't be influenced by anything as rude as matter, it's all about alien souls getting lodged in your body until you pay for some auditing services to get the buggers removed.

I also like Heller's reasoning for why his competing philosophy is superior: because.  He doesn't really explain his alternative or try to justify it, he just calls the competing views "false" and "primitive nonsense."  A does not follow B, B follows A.  Why?  Because he said so, dumbass.  Aren't you listening?

"The fact is, it is life that handles force!  Only life can gives things direction.  Matter cannot control matter--it has no intentions.  Life is NOT a product of matter.  It is its boss!

Hubbard refuses to accept any talk of life spontaneously forming from some primordial ooze.  Much more believable is the theory of nigh-omnipotent thought-beings spontaneously forming all of existence for giggles.

Huh, religious folk and atheists might have more in common than they think. 

"You want this society to get into space?  Start


considering that life can handle force.  You want this culture to survive, realize that it is life than handles force.

Another problem with Heller's rant here is that Materialism and Mechanism are not unopposed in the philosophical world, but are constantly debating with rival Idealist and Vitalist schools of thought.  Also, there's been no indication the world is in the grips of some sort of Materialist malaise.

Well, besides those poor lost souls who encountered philosophy and decided "I'm an animal, so that makes gang rape okay."

"Anybody telling you otherwise is not only trapping you on this planet, he is also trying to destroy it."

How?  How does focusing on the mechanics of the universe hold back the space program and destroy the world?  How does emphasizing the quantifiable and physical threaten the species?

"Oh dear," said Izzy.  "Does that mean we'd better shoot all the psychologists and other materialists?"


"I'm not talking about shooting anybody, but it might be a good idea.  They've got you trapped on this planet!"

And there's the money quote for this chapter.  Go kill a psychologist, folks.  For the sake of the space program.  Seriously, hunt down and murder any practicing therapist you can get your hands on.  It's them or you.  Your alien savior commands it.

"I abhor violence," said Izzy.

This was your idea!  You're the one who suddenly started talking about killing people!

Cripes, this chapter isn't even halfway over.

Izzy changes the subject to the matter converter Heller wanted to show off, and Heller gets out one of the educational models he packed for his mission two books ago, taking it apart in front of Izzy and three screwdriver-twirling girls.  He explains the "simple chemistry" behind it: a carbon rod has atoms with six electrons, while oxygen has eight and hydrogen only one.  "The machine simply shifts electrons in the atoms.  Carbon loses its identity as carbon.  Its electrons shift up and down on the periodic chart and you get oxygen and hydrogen."  Simple nuclear transmutation, except Heller's version evidently doesn't require a particle accelerator. 

Now the electric potential in this process would be ideal for electric motors, but Heller's modifying the ubiquitous internal combustion engine since "people seem addicted to it."  You can stick any old carbon - plant matter, asphalt, textiles - into his magical device, and the engine will burn the resulting oxygen and hydrogen.  A hand signal gets the three onlooking girls to flamboyantly pass and twirl him the materials needed to speed-draw a series of engineering diagrams detailing how his magic box works and how to reproduce it.

The plan is to attribute the design to an anonymous engineering team employed by Multinational before releasing it on the market.  Izzy is deeply concerned: this sort of clean, super-efficient energy would threaten the dastardly Delbert John Rockecenter's energy monopoly, and could lead to the end of the oil industry as we know it.  And it is only after Izzy says this, at the very end of the chapter, that Gris finally grasps the implications of what he's watched Heller do over the past few weeks.

I went cold.  Suddenly I understood what Heller was about to do!

Told ya.

Those (bleeped) children's demonstration kits.  He was using it [sic] for a carburetor!  For any car or engine!

You watched him install the prototype.

My Gods!

And who are they, exactly?

The very worst was happening!  If Delbert John Rockecenter lost a fortune, he could also lose his control of I. G. Barben Pharmaceutical!  Lombar was right!  Our arrangements with I. G. Barben would vanish!  And that would be the end of Lombar's fondest dreams on Voltar!

Well, not really.  I mean, Lombar's already got some of the goods on Voltar, and you can either grow more poppy or synthesize your own materials with your magical space technology.  It might delay his plans a bit, which he'd probably kill you for, but it isn't a complete disaster.

It WAS an emergency!

And I had not caught it!

Gris is the kind of guy who'd sell you charcoal, sulfur and saltpeter, then realize he'd helped you build a bomb just before you blew up his car.  Clearly the best choice for sabotaging Mission Earth, Lombar, nice going.

This would not wait for Krak!  I had only a few weeks!

I must ACT!

Oh boy, I bet he's gonna write another stern memo!  

Aside the first: just before the end Heller is interrupted by some tailors asking him about the color of his racing uniform.  They suggest red to hide any blood that might result from his hobby, which Heller snorts at and suggests that they add more padding to the front of his blue racing suit, "to absorb the blood."  It's at this mention of blood that Izzy suggests hiring a 24-7 security team to guard Heller, which our hero also pooh-poohs.  Presumably this is more relevant than the color of his racing suit.

Aside the second: Heller's speech patterns are just a little suspicious in this chapter.  "Um, yeah, Mr. Jet?  Why do you keep using 'you' instead of 'us,' and talk about 'your planet' instead of 'our planet?'  I mean, you're a human like the rest of us, right?  Not some sort of alien introducing wondrous new technology the likes of which we've never seen before?" 

Really, it's chapters like this that make reading through the rest of Mission Earth worth it. 

Back to Chapter Two

No comments:

Post a Comment