Monday, August 27, 2012

Part Thirty-Four, Chapters Four and Five - Gris Spends a Week in the Tub

Gris wakes up to darkness and a sensation of numb weightlessness, and immediately starts panicking.  Given the things he's seen Dr. Crobe come up with - you remember, the surgical freakshow from waaay back in Book One? - for all Gris knows he's been turned into a severed head or a cat or something.  But even more terrifying is the prospect that reconstructive surgery has managed to completely transform Gris' mind and personality.

Earth psychologists and psychiatrists teach that all everyone is, is a bunch of cells evolved up the evolutionary track, that the person himself is just what his cells and body make him.  There could be no doubt of the validity of their teachings, for one could be shot for not believing them.  If Prahd had changed my cells, it followed by Earth psychology that my personality would suffer a total shift!  So what new personality would I have?  Something sweet and kind--Gods forbid!  Or something whining and propitiative, like Izzy--which of course would be even less acceptable. 

Obviously he can't tell that he's just as intelligent and reasonable as he's always been.

Gris takes a brief break from his worry to note that he's in some sort of tub, floating so he doesn't touch the sides or bottom, a fact he puts down to antigravity coils rather than his own buoyancy.  He spots the moon through a window, calculates that it's been eight to ten hours since the doctors started to work on him, and resumes his freakout.  "WHAT HAD THEY DONE TO ME?"  He even wonders if he's become Dracula and tries to move his mouth to feel for fangs, but finds that his face is bandaged below his eyes.  "WHAT HAD THEY DONE???????????"

That's eleven question marks, people.  This is Hubbard's magnum opus, the culmination of a lifetime of writing, and he's conveying a character's emotional state by spamming punctuation like a middle school fanfic writer.

Prahd eventually comes in to check on him around sunrise, after Gris has spent the entire evening wondering what new physical or mental deformities he'll leave the hospital with.  Prahd dismisses these accusations and explains that they had to put Gris under anesthesia because he kept screaming even after fainting, and that he really was in terrible condition - not just from Miss Pinch, but from a lifetime of old injuries and untreated wounds, including a twopence coin from the planet Modon that somehow wound up in Gris' kidney. 

Gris presses the doctor about any alterations, and it's then that Prahd admits that "I had to work on your genitals a bit."  But just to "normalize" things, he claims.  And suddenly Gris' fears seem more justified, what with this doctor's idea of improving the Widow Tayl.  This is a man with an unhealthy interest in his patients' genitalia.

The next chapter doesn't add much.  Daylight allows Gris to read the label on his tub, "Zanco Cell Catalyst Growth Machine, Model 16 Magnaspeed."  Nurse Bildirjin - who is still 16 years old, keep this in mind for later - comes in with a suspiciously sly look on her face and explains that Gris is being fed by the tubes in the tub.  And I guess nobody's worried about one of those Code Breaks because an Earthling girl is not only allowed to see advanced alien medical technology, but also knows how they work and what they're capable of.

The nurse is nice enough to put her headphones on Gris' ears, so he gets to spend eight days listening to "hot pop" from Radio Istanbul, a lot of the same song by the Goat Guys, commercials for camel feed (even though the dromedary camel has little to no presence in Turkey), and news reports about the usual Middle Eastern conflicts (which are not elaborated upon, to save the author from having to display knowledge of foreign affairs or extrapolate how today's crises would play out in the grim future he is describing).  Gris keeps focusing on these elements to see if his reactions to them change, thus heralding a change in his personality.  And that's about it.  Gris is in a bathtub, freaking out while his body undergoes changes.

But next time... well, Prahd will debunk some of Gris' interpretations of Earth psychology.  I'm going to focus on that.

Back to Chapter Three

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