Monday, May 7, 2012

Part Twenty-Four, Chapter One - Gris' Brain Goes Topsy-Turvy

The next Part kicks off with the line "For some reason, possibly understandable, I wanted to see the Blixo unquestionably gone," and it sets a good standard for how scatter-brained this chapter is.

Gris spends the next day wearing his arm out stamping the pile of paperwork that came with the Freighter of Bad News, and that night the ship in question does depart with a freshly-blackmailed Too-Too aboard.  And believe it or not, there's a flicker of not-suck when Gris' mind wanders to the fate of the soon-to-be-poisoned Bawtch. "In another few weeks they would give him a nonmilitary funeral--probably the coffin would be carried between two lines of clerks making an arch with pens, and his tombstone would read STAMP HERE."  It's a bit of silliness, some genuine humor instead of deranged, rancorous "satire."

But the next morning Gris has a surprise waiting for him when he glances out at his front lawn.

I froze!

Sitting on the grass!  Sitting on the grass, tossing an object into the air and catching it!  Sitting on the grass was GUNSALMO SILVA!

I flinched back!

My whole world went topsy-turvy!

What was HE doing here?  HE was supposed to be DEAD!

Holy crap, guys!  That character who made a cameo two books ago and then returned for a chapter or two in this book isn't DEAD!  HE is still alive!  We were completely fooled by the vague and inconclusive circumstances of his supposed "death!"

Gris immediately concludes that Silva knows about getting set up and has come to kill him, flees to his room, then runs down the secret passage to Faht Bey's office.  The other Apparatus agent explains that it was indeed Jimmy "The Gutter" Tavilnasty who was slain the other night, and after some wrangling between the Apparatus, the American consul, and the Turkish police, Silva was released since it was determined he'd acted in self-defense.  And now he is apparently picnicking on Gris' yard, but that isn't Faht Bey's problem.

So Gris flees back to his room, again, to come up with a plan.  "Splattering" Silva with a shotgun of Gris' own isn't an option, as it'd leave too much evidence - yes, the Apparatus that controls Turkey can't get away with a "hunting accident," just roll with it.  But then Gris remembers that Silva has been hypnotrained in the deadly arts of the Apparatus - yes, the same Apparatus that has been so achingly incompetent for the last two books, just roll with it.  And it's good that Gris remembered that little detail, because I sure as hell didn't.

And then Gris remembers that he happens to have over a dozen hypno-helmets of his own.  If he had some guards hit Silva with a paralysis dart, Gris could use a helmet to undo the Apparatus training!  The training that Gris' bosses probably did for a reason.  To save Gris from a threat that might be entirely imagined.  And of course, if you could dart Silva, you wouldn't need to hypnotize him, you could just drag him somewhere and "disappear" the goon.

With this new plan of action, Gris decides to reflect on what he knows about hypnotism, a chapter after gushing about the psychological art of mind-bending.  Turns out he doesn't know all that much about the subject, other than that psychologists are the masters of it and use it to pick up chicks.  Gris is disappointed to drag out a textbook and learn that hypnotism has in fact fallen out of favor because only about a fifth of the population is actually susceptible to it, and those damn psychologists are gunning for 100% domination.

It was a sad blow.  Even if I mastered spinning spirals in front of Utanc's face or got her to look at a swinging bright object, she might be one of the 78 percent.  And I doubted I could make her stand still that long.

So that stuff from the last chapter?  Whoops, Gris didn't know what he was talking about.  The book's viewpoint character, a pivotal vehicle for the author's "satire" of psychology, is stupid and misinformed.  Well, we all knew that, but now the book is admitting it.  And yet he's still right, because everything and everyone else in the book is reinforcing the notion of psychologists as godless, mind-raping quacks who nevertheless control the world.  

Gris suddenly remembers - again - that he has the much more reliable hypno-helmet to work with.  He opens a user's manual (after successfully using the device on Too-Too the other night) and learns how one can be used to enhance training, modify memories, or mess with emotions, all exposition three books after the object in question has been introduced.  By simulating a "sleep wave" the helmet puts the subject into a trance state, then a "thought wave" is used to introduce ideas that the victim's brain thinks originated from itself.  Nothing as crude as mere electrical pulses, no, this is pure thought energy!

And then Gris "suddenly, with a wave of horror" remembers oh yeah, he got put under one of those helmets two books ago and threw up whenever he thought of Heller in physical danger.  I remember that at least, it was a subplot that went on and on.

And then Gris proceeds to run around like a headless chicken.

I dropped the manual as though it were spouting fire!

Those helmets were DANGEROUS!

I had ordered Krak to arrive.

Supposing she put another helmet on me!

The thought was so awful that I almost ran out of the room to get away from the helmets.

I checked myself in time. I must not go onto the front lawn!

Because Silva's still waiting there playing catch with his sawed-off shotgun.  If he isn't stalking Gris for a hit, just what is he still doing there?

So Gris decides that those helmets need to be destroyed, but then he remembers that he could use them to his own advantage: he could turn the working staff into willing slaves, even make Utanc love him again!  Oh, and deprogram Silva the kill-machine.  He works up the courage to inspect one of the devices again and sees that the "on" light is glowing.

Wait!  That light was not part of the mind-wave circuit.


I would be able to get out of this room through the yard, seduce all the girls I wanted, make people bow to me and make Utanc love me with devotion!

With no risk to myself!

From imagined death threats to winning back his girlfriend (whom he purchased).

Here's a random little tidbit - when Gris describes Silva's sawn-off shotgun he notes that he thinks they're called "leopards" by US gangsters.  I checked Wikipedia to verify this and learned that "lupara" is an Italian term for a short-barreled boomstick.  It means "for the wolf," but it'd be easy for some American thug to mangle the term into "leopard," so this seems plausible.  And now you know.

Back to Part Twenty-Three, Chapter Nine

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