Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Part Twenty-Eight, Chapter Nine - Countdown to Race Day

It starts to snow on Wednesday, and again, it would help the reader to care about this if we knew when the race was starting.  Turns out it's on Saturday, but if this fact is related to us prior to this chapter I can't find it.

Gris prepares by renting a van with a bunk and space heater so he can camp the raceway.  Meanwhile more details come out about the race - since it's both an endurance trial and a demolition derby, not only are there going to be standard stock cars competing with Heller, there will be "bomber" cars (Wikipedia doesn't recognize the term), vehicles with their glass removed and roll bars added for safety, so their drivers can focus on smashing into other machines.

The Apparatus agent looks this information up by consulting a Teletext system in the hotel lobby.  From the sounds of it this service never caught on in the USA even when Hubbard was alive, and is mainly active in the UK.  This combined with Gris 'use of "lorry" makes me wonder where he, and by extension Hubbard, picked up these British-isms. 

Madison's media blitzkrieg continues, with the Not At All a Body Double of Heller making appearances on talk shows and interviews, striking up fierce rivalries with the "bomber" drivers and making statements that he'll lick the oil companies despite the odds against him.  Meanwhile the real Heller is working hard in his room, and of course Gris frequently misses out on what he's doing thanks to that miraculous interference in the Gracious Palms.

On Friday the snow keeps coming and the race's victory conditions are set: whichever car does a thousand laps under its own power wins, and in Heller's case he'd have to do it without refueling.  The president of the United States makes a statement reaffirming his faith in the Whiz Kid and by extension the youth of America.  Gris' snipers get into position with their white cloaks and silenced rifles, while Gris himself beats the Saturday crowds by parking his van on a front yard with a commanding view of the racetrack.

In complete comfort, smug and confident, I lay down on the van's bunk, the viewer buzzer set to alert me if Heller stirred.

What a beautiful victory this would be--for me.

And typically, no mention of what Utanc is up to, even after all the chapters of the book wasted introducing her.  Still, at least the plot is finally moving and things are happening that are more significant than, oh, anything involving Utanc, or Gris having a nervous breakdown over a hitman that he thinks is out to get him, or that nonsense with the hypno-helmets.  It took The Enemy Within over 420 pages, but we've finally gotten to something that wouldn't be cut in a film adaptation.  So let's see

Can Heller escape 17 bomber drivers and two hidden snipers?
Does he die?  Lose?  Win?

Volume 4

Yep.  Here's one of those "cliffhangers" Hubbard advised his poor editors to use as stopping points when they chopped Mission Earth into a "dekalogy."  Just when things start happening, the book stops.

So, can Heller escape 17 bomber drivers and two hidden snipers?  And thwart whatever half-baked plan Madison already has in place?  Can he do all that while dealing with the snow and ice from the winter weather?  And to raise the odds, will he survive if we have him juggling chainsaws while driving with his knees?  Let's light his car on fire too, just to make this more of a circus act.

"Does he die?"  Of course he doesn't!  At the start of the book the stupid framing device assures us that Heller's still alive and at large while Gris is in jail composing his "confession."  A reader who'd actually worry about if Heller was going to make it or not would have to be unable to read the book in the first place!

Does he lose or win?  I'm going to go out on a limb and say "win," or at worst "lose in a way that allows him to overcome the odds and have a more dramatic victory later."  Because there's still six books left in this series.  This is obviously not the end of the story, and it's insulting to the reader to suggest otherwise.

Crap, there's still six books left in this series.

Crap, there's seven books left in this series.  It's the end of Book 3 and I'm already losing my ability to count.

Back to Part Twenty-Eight, Chapter Eight


  1. I thought Raht and Terb fixed the "interference" problem. Why is it coming back? Without even an offhand comment from gris like "those idiots! The interference is coming back!"?

  2. Go Speed Racer! Go Speed Racer! Go Speed Racer, go!

  3. There was some interest in Teletext in the US when Hubbard was writing this, but it never went anywhere. Ceefax in the UK was active from 1974 to 2012.