Friday, September 28, 2012

Part Thirty-Six, Chapter Six - The New CCCSBTRCCPSRLWITBGRCAS Card

While I was in the shower I realized how Gris could have ended Mission Earth last book.

  1. When the Countess Krak shows up, point a gun at her and stick her in a jail cell.
  2. Fetch Heller, show him his girlfriend, and threaten to kill her if he doesn't give Gris the platen used to encode Heller's official reports.
  3. Shallow grave for Heller and Krak, start forging Heller's reports, and for an encore stick a gun in Utanc's face until she hands over all the crap she bought on credit.  
  4. Money problem solved, Mission Earth is successfully under control, start living it up in Turkey until Lombar has you executed for knowing too much about his plans.

In other words, I think I'd make a more effective bad guy than Soltan Gris.  And since he's somehow risen through the ranks of an outfit that's trying to take over an empire, I should probably have a go at taking over the world.  My odds ought to be pretty good, right?

But I'll finish this thing first so I don't have any distractions while I'm trying to subjugate Canada.  Last chapter Gris realized that the Countess Krak had stolen his wallet, but decided to put a positive spin on the situation by imagining how she'd drive herself and Heller into bankruptcy at an overpriced clothing store.  "But wait," you might be asking yourself, "how if she going to buy more than what she can afford without a credit card?"  If so, congratulations, you're smarter than Soltan Gris too!  But I called dibs on taking over the world, so you'll have to do something else with your new-found mental powers.

The plane lands at JFK and Gris entertains short-lived hopes that the US customs agents will confiscate Krak's undeclared stolen locket, but she's listed as an "I. G. Barben drug runner" on her passport so she gets through without any trouble.  She parts ways with Mamie Boomp after the latter hands over her business card, and then Krak is free to take her list of fashionable purchases into the airport's Bonbucks Teller store.  And this is good, because I can basically skip three pages of meaningless details about Krak's shopping experience.  If you really want a detailed account of which shoes Krak went with, I guess you'll have to find a copy of Fortune of Fear at your local library.

The important thing is that the bill comes to $178,985.65, or to put it in terms of today's economy, 994 years of World of Warcraft (discounting purchase of the game itself).  The manager walks Krak through the sales process, and she hands over the address Gris gave her for Heller's office.  Gris cackles about how much debt Heller will be until he takes a closer look at what Krak is now signing for - the very thing Heller's address was written on.

The Countess's eyes focused on Sultan Bey and/or Concubine.  Roman Villa.  Afyon, Turkey.


I reeled!  There must be some awful error!  I yanked the pack out of my pocket and shuffled rapidly through them.  The Squeeza card was GONE! 

Yeah.  See, when Gris was all flustered at the airport and looking for something to write Heller's address on, turns out he'd "lucklessly chosen the only credit card in the deck that had a totally blank back and was not in laminated plastic!"  He managed to mistake the credit card with 100% monthly interest as a disposable bit of paper in his pocket and handed it over to Krak.  A credit card that evidently feels and looks like useless paper, but can still be swiped through card readers. 

I'm feeling less confident in my ability to take over the world.  I mean, sure I'm smarter than Gris, but so is everyone who never confused their credit card for trash and gave it away.

The manager is very polite and nice and asks for an address so he can send Krak flowers every week, a service they give for their best customers.  She agrees so long as they put up a sign making it clear who the flowers are come, so that "my man won't think they're from some stupid Apparatus executive and kill him."  Krak is also eligible for a limo service and a special golden card denoting her membership in the new Central Credit Card Spree Buying Titillating Rare and Common Commodity Procurement Service for the Rich Lady Who Is Too Busy to Go Rooting Crassly About in Stores.  Or to put it more simply, she can now order imported furs by telephone (but not the internet!).

With the words "credit that is absolutely UNLIMITED" Gris actually faints... and continues narrating about how much money he owes and how he has no source of income.  Huh.  Gotta admire his commitment to being the narrator, he's able to keep it up after losing consciousness - oh, silly me!  Gris is "writing" his "confession" "after" all this has happened, of course!  How could I forget?

Back to Chapter Five

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Part Thirty-Six, Chapter Five - Fashion Cubed and Clothes to the Third Power

So Gris is convinced that the Countess Krak stole Utanc's locket to pawn it for fifty thousand dollars so she can buy a bunch of clothes.  His response to this plot twist is to sit "torn between rage and despair" and continue to watch, an "unwilling participant," while the Countess and her new friend talk about

Fashions, fashions, fashions.  Clothes, clothes, clothes.  Up the snow-banked Danube far below, fashions, fashions, fashions and clothes, clothes, clothes.  Across the Alps and Germany and through the Brussels change, fashions, fashions, fashions and clothes, clothes, clothes.  Across the tip of England and above Atlantic storms, fashions, fashions, fashions and clothes, clothes, clothes.  They even neglected their lunch--the Countess Krak because she couldn't figure out how to eat it and Mamie Boomp because she was getting too fat and could no longer get into some of her fashions, fashions, fashions and clothes, clothes, clothes.

If only there was some way for him to not be watching the viewscreen, or some method of disabling it.  Some button or switch that could turn the device off and free him from that misery.  Then he could engage in some method of locomotion to change his position and do something else.  But alas, Gris is a helpless victim of boring television.

The tired old Code Break "threat" pops up a few times, but luckily Miss Boomp got "the idea that Atalanta was Atlantic City and Voltar was a place just outside of Peoria, Illinois," and doesn't seem to notice the times Krak mentions that her boyfriend hasn't been on "this planet" very long.  The Countess confesses her worries: Heller has "undoubtedly been waist deep in the most beautiful and most gorgeously dressed women on the planet," so obviously he won't love her if she shows up wearing dirty rags.

I guess this is supposed to be endearing, or a reflection of Krak's insecurities, but really it feels out of place.  Heller and Krak's "romance" thus far has been pretty fairy tale stuff, with love at first sight, declarations of eternal devotion, romantic nights on the town that spark deadly riots, and so on.  Krak assuming her Prince Charming has been chasing skirts while on official business doesn't fit with the bland perfection of the rest of their relationship.

But it does give us a lame excuse to prod the plot, such as it is, forward.  Mamie Boomp remembers that JFK Airport has a Bonbucks Teller store that will sell Krak everything she needs - lingerie, dresses for mornings, evenings and cocktail parties, shoes, fur coats, the works.  But "they cost the do-re-mi--an arm, a leg and your head!"  Nice of her to fixate on the most expensive of places right off the bat.  Luckily, Krak declares that money isn't a problem and that she has it "all figured out."

This makes Gris uneasy, so he checks his pockets.  His credit card sheaf is still there (I didn't know they made those separate from wallets), but Gris' actual wallet isn't.  "IT WAS GONE!"  Obviously Krak pickpocketed it - I mean what's the alternative, that he just misplaced it?  Put it in the wrong pocket?  Dropped it somewhere?

So Gris despairs that he's super-ultra-double-broke now... and then, oddly enough, switches to "a sort of bitter hope."  He reasons that Bonbucks Teller is such an expensive store that even with the money from his wallet, and whatever she can pawn Utanc's jewel for, Krak won't be able to pay for everything.  Yes, he decides that the Countess will continue buying and buying and rack up a huge debt that will drive Heller further into poverty so that he's "sleeping in the park and eating the leavings in garbage cans."

Gods bless such stores as Bonbucks Teller!  Gods bless clothes-designing fairies and magazine-advertising liars who lure unwary and helpless males into shuddering bankruptcy.  They were not just getting rid of competition: they were getting rid of men entirely!  Via the bankruptcy court.  And there was where Heller was being headed.

"I'm broke!" to "those clothes will be expensive" to "my nemesis will eat out of dumpsters" to "god bless the fashion industry."  What a random-ass way to end the chapter.

Back to Chapter Four

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Part Thirty-Six, Chapter Four - Le Look Garbâge

Gris flees the airport to lock himself in the hospital and watch Krak TV, finding his foe seated on the airplane in flight.  She doesn't know what to do with coffee the stewardess gives her; Krak has to be told to put sugar in it, stirs it with the butter knife, and then uses her spoon to taste the butter that came with her complimentary roll!  Aliens trying to figure out human cuisine, comedy gold.

Did Heller get a scene like this?  Mostly I remember him eating a ton of cheeseburgers and ice cream.  I don't recall him boggling at why you'd slice a loaf of bread in half and stick some meat between it, but that was three books ago.

Krak asks the stewardess for some hot jolt.  The stewardess explains that they don't serve hard liquor on the early morning flight.  Gris is shocked at the potential Code Break.

Now, we've been on Earth for four books by this point, and nobody has caught on to the fact that the guy with the revolutionary technology and who says things like "this planet" all the time might be an alien.  I think it's safe to say that asking for a strange beverage isn't going to make people suspect that Krak is an extraterrestrial.  More importantly, who's going to enforce a Code Break?  Gris is the only one watching.  Is he going to get up and fly all the way to New York and arrest Heller or Krak?  Write a report to his boss?  Or suppose the humans suddenly develop the ability to put two and two together and realize there are aliens among them - what happens then?  The Apparatus controls the flow of information to and from the planet, so they ought to be able to find a way to keep the debacle under wraps until Hisst can complete his coup.

The point is, Code Breaks don't matter, and have never mattered, so there's no reason to keep bringing them up and expect some sort of tension from them.

So let's find some excitement elsewhere.  As Gris makes himself comfortable in preparation of watching Krak fly all the damn way to New York, "to make very sure this lepertige got out of Turkey," he idly fondles his "rank locket," an emerald bit of jewelry he borrowed from Utanc's stash because he lost his actual insignia.  But it's "GONE!"  Oh, the drama!  How will Utanc react if she learns Gris lost one of her trinkets?!

Gris rushes out into the hospital, asking if anyone's seen an emerald whatsit, backtracking, searching, but to no avail.  "Oh, Gods, Utanc would scream and rage and throw things in absolute hurricanes for days, weeks, months!"  And of course Gris can't replace it because he's broke. So he spends an hour waiting after dispatching the cab driver whose name was only relevant for a gag in a single chapter of the last book, only to be told that there's no sign of the thing. 

So Gris gives up and goes back to watching Krak on the viewscreen.

She's reading a French fashion rag called Oo La La, La Femme, which leaves me trying to think of a word that means the opposite of enthusiasm.  Yes, as the book jacket promised, Hubbard is going to turn his razor-sharp satirical wit to the world of modeling and clothes design

Somebody had explained all this to me once--a man on a plane.  He had said the fashion designers were all homos and they hated women because they saw in them competition.  So they covertly dressed them as bizarrely as possible to keep men off of them.  He was probably right.  Looking at these pictures made me hate homos all the more!  To dress women strangely was one thing but to dress them so expensively was unforgivable!

If you think jealous homosexual fashionistas trying to change men's sexual orientation by designing ugly dresses is the stupidest plan you've ever heard, obviously you're new to this blog and need to start at Mission Earth's beginning.

Krak evidently isn't impressed with "Le Look Garbâge" and discards her first magazine for the American Vague... what the hell, that was understated and somewhat clever!  While she studies "The Marionette Look" (women twisted and strangled by strings), the woman sitting next to Krak introduces herself as Mamie Boomp, a singer returning home after touring the Middle East.  This evidently involved threatening to castrate the king of Morocco and cut off his foreign aid if he didn't give Boomp a diamond ring.  Also, Morocco is in northwest Africa.

Boomp asks about the "rags" Krak is wearing (tactful woman, Miss Boomp) and comments that she looks like she just came out of a "camel crash," causing Krak to explain that she was held captive for three years in a fortress.  This leads to Boomp boasting of her own adventures and showing off the diamond ring she blackmailed Moroccan royalty for.  Krak asks what other kinds of jewelry are valued "on this planet?"  As expected, her companion doesn't bat an eye at this.

While Boomp tutors Krak on fashion and "what really puts the beasts in heat," Gris suddenly remembers those suspicious incidents of bodily contact between him and the Countess.

Sleight of hand  She was an expert at it.  She had trained magicians by the score!  All she had to do was unhook the clasp with one hand and catch it as it fell into the other!  

Conviction!  The Countess Krak had the emerald locket!

So wow, lots of stuff in this chapter.  The ongoing tension between Gris stating the obvious and Gris always being wrong.  A plot to turn the world gay that doesn't involve psychology (yet).  Gris having to replace his "girlfriend"'s jewelry before she finds out he borrowed and lost it.  And I think there was something about aliens, but it didn't seem all that important.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Part Thirty-Six, Chapter Three - Suspicious Displays of Affection

Bwa ha ha ha!  Gris barely restrains his mirth when he brings the Countess Krak to the airport's waiting area, and watches as she "ruefully" compares her "dingy cloak and hood with the holes in it" to the other women's silk clothes and gold brocade (or more specifically, those parts visible under their veils and cloaks.  I didn't know Turkish women rocked the burqa).  He decides that "the comparison was not favorable" and exults how Heller will have to buy the Countess a better wardrobe.  Truly these are dark days for the forces of righteousness.

His mirth is short-lived, though.  Like one paragraph short.  After snickering at what he made her wear, Gris goes back to urging Krak along, since "just being around her was a pretty nerve-wracking experience."  So she has to remind him to give her Heller's address and Earth alias, and when the guy on the P.A. system directly tells him "You'll miss your flight, Sultan Bey!  Move it!" Gris gets thrown "into confusion."  He tries to find a pencil, gets one from a counter, can't find any paper, finds a scrap in his pocket, scribbles down the address... I can see what Xignals Magazine meant when they said this series had "the kind of adventure and excitement that made all of us fans to begin with."

When they finally reach the gate, it happens - Krak grabs Gris' shoulders and gives him a peck on the cheek, calling him a "good man" and thanking him for his help.  She hurries up onto the plane, while Gris stands in numb shock.

That burst of affection was so unlike her, I knew down to the roots of my soul that it boded no good.  Yes, the more I thought of it, the more certain I became.  Some horrible trick was involved!  I knew her too well!  And to my sorrow!

So here's the first bit of real tension in Fortune of Fear.  Gris is convinced that Krak's uncharacteristic affection must mean she's up to something.  On the one hand, this is a pretty reasonable observation, like Gris noticing that being tortured by sadistic lesbians isn't nearly as fun as the internet makes it out to be.  But on the other hand, the universe exists to prove Gris wrong and otherwise abuse him, so even a logical conclusion like this could very well turn out to be incorrect just to spite him.  So is Gris stating the obvious or once again misinterpreting things?  Guess we'll have to keep reading to find out.

Also, "roots of my soul?"  Isn't Gris a psychologist, and therefore an amoral atheist?  I mean, the guy thought his entire personality would change because his dangly parts got enlarged.

Back to Chapter Two

Monday, September 24, 2012

Part Thirty-Six, Chapter Two - A Critique of Modern Currency

The act of wringing his hands gives Gris a glance at his watch and reminds him that he has two hours to get the Countess Krak on her plane, so it's time for some last-minute preparations.  Apparatus agents usually get five hundred bucks for travel expenses or emergencies, but Gris is broke, so he pockets everything but a fifty for the Countess to get a cab with.  Then it's off to find Raht so the agent can tail Krak and Heller with the relayer for the implanted bugs.

Gris admits that Raht is looking younger and healthier than ever after the treatment for broken bones and pneumonia and all the other injuries Gris kept putting him through.  And Gris, of course, rails at Raht for "lying around doing nothing."  And I guess I could get annoyed at Gris for failing to appreciate the value of a good minion, but since he's going to keep repeating this mistake, what's the point?  Gris pulls his knife on Raht to make him shave his beloved mustache, so Krak won't recognize him.  I'm not sure if this is "comedy" or a redundant effort to make Gris seem as petty and unlikeable as possible.

Krak comes back with two hypnohelmets, which are not nearly as bad as that disgusting false science of "psychology," and compliments a bowing and scraping Dr. Prahd for his work.  The helmets are disguised as World Health Organization specimens, because nobody at customs wants to rummage around in a sample of spinal meningitis.  Krak thinks Gris' alias for her, Heavenly Joy Krackle, is awfully "sweet" of him.  And then the issue of money comes up.

First there's Gris' commentary that "modern U.S. money, a dingy blackish green on gray-green paper, does not compare very well in appearance to the gold gleam of Voltar currency."  I guess this implies that Gris has made a study of the history of American currency and finds the original dingy blackish green on gray-green paper notes from 1862 noticeably different from today's dingy blackish green on green-gray paper notes, suggesting an incredible eye for detail and nostalgia for the good old days.  Also, this might be the closest we've come to a description of Voltarian currency, but I can't be certain.  It's been so long since we've been on Voltar, after all.

Krak is confused because the fifty dollar bill says "Grant" on it, which means "give away," so "This bill can't be very valuable if they just give them away."  Gris, in a stroke of inspiration, explains that most people on this strange planet use something called "credit cards," with which you can just buy whatever you want.  Krak finds this a bit odd, but accepts it.

So the super-advanced 110-world alien empire has no notion of "credit."  Which is a bit odd, because I'm almost certain the first book mentioned things like gambling debts and debtors' prisons, but I'm not going to check.  The important thing is that, for this plot point/gag to work, the Countess Krak has to have no idea that using credit cards carries any repercussions, to say nothing of a grasp of basic economics.

So the chapter ends with Krak deciding she'll have to get a credit card from somewhere, and patting Gris on the shoulder - remember this.  And then it's off to the airport.

Back to Chapter One

Friday, September 21, 2012

Part Thirty-Six, Chapter One - The Warehouse of Forgotten Espionage Equipment

Let's start the book off with a moment of panic.  When we last left off, Gris had taken a seat outside Krak's room, her clothes in a pile next to him and his feet propped up on her "spaceboots" in a way that would jolt him upright if the boots were moved.  He wakes up around five in the morning to find things a bit off.

Something was wrong.  I could not place it.

The boots!  The boots my foot had been resting on!

They were GONE!

My eyes darted to where I had left the pile of clothes.  They were gone!

I started up.

My hand went to the knob of her door.  Silently, I opened it.


And so, not only were Gris' painstaking preparations from last chapter completely ineffectual, but it took us less than a page for him to go into an all-caps freakout.

This is gonna be a long book. (edit from the future: you have no idea how long)

He rushes into Prahd's room and once again finds the "good" doctor in bed with an underaged girl, who complains "You broke your promise!"  Then Gris runs all over the hospital looking for the Countess, and grills the receptionist and guards over her whereabouts, to no avail.  Then he finally remembers that he implanted a bug in her head, and he can just turn on... uh... the Krak Channel?  KTV?  Well, the important thing is that we get to the meat of the chapter: watching the Countess Krak look at things.

Gris finds her poking around the warehouse, rummaging through medical supplies and assembling a first aid kit.  But not for her, oh no, this is all for Heller.  She picks up some healing agents because "He could put his hand on something hot," (yes, conveniently for us the Countess talks to herself all the time), some space-age poultices "That would heal a blastgun scar," that sort of thing.

There's a, ah, clever shout-out to Hubbard's more infamous book, as Gris wonders where the Countess got the idea that "Earth was a battlefield!"  And then it's right back to gawking at alien doodads - again, for Heller.  "I'll bet his spinbrush is all worn out. . . . Maybe his nerve ends have gotten dull. . . . Maybe he has grown a mustache and wants it speeded up. . . ."  And then she gets into the Eyes and Ears of Voltar stuff.  See, when Gris raided that shop waaaay back in book one, he didn't just take the bugging equipment, he looted the whole vault.  And then shipped it to Earth.  And promptly forgot about it.

So we get almost a full page of alien espionage equipment: "A gadget that detected eye-pupillary shift when someone was lying," a very useful device nobody in the Apparatus uses.  "A perfume that makes a person say yes to anything," man, that'd be useful for taping false confessions, you wouldn't have to muck about with hypnohelmets or anything.  A "dart that causes people to grow warm and itch so they will disrobe and you can get divorce evidence," that's a device with a strangely specific function.  As is "a headlight fitting which installed in one's own headlights causes other drivers to act like they are drunk so they can then be arrested for drunken driving" - well if you're not going to breathalyze them but want to jail them anyway, why not lie about the swerving too?  Oh, and here's a "field coil that stimulates the desire to pick up money so the person can be arrested for stealing."  Yes, influence behavior by shooting Greed Radiation at people!

It's just bizarre.  Not just the gizmos, but the sudden deluge of creativity and imagination, an avalanche of fantastical spy toys that are only showing up five books into the series, amazing devices that have not been used by anyone in the story despite their obvious utility.  And these were all made by a civilian company, not the Apparatus' private labs!

And again, I must wonder why psychology is being treated as the worst thing imaginable when these Voltarians have invented "a case of emotional perfume bombs that cause people to react with emotions that make them say the required things: packs of eight assorted emotions.  Caution: point away from self when breaking tip."  Bloody alien hypocrites.  Or maybe they're dismissive of psychology because it doesn't work as well as their "field coil" devices.

Well, Krak helps herself to this bounty of gadgetry, and Gris is about to go stop her when he remembers that doing so would reveal that he isn't under hypnotic suggestion to let her run freely through the hospital.  He then takes stock of his weapons but glumly concludes that a stungun, couple of blasticks and knife just wouldn't be enough to handle one flat-footed female loaded down with loot.

There was only one thing I could do and I did it.  I sat there and suffered.

She had tricked me.

Wow, the Countess "tricked" Gris into sitting on his arse watching another character's actions on a television set.  She's certainly something special, isn't she?

Back to the Start of the Book

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Wow, That's a Lot of Gold

I get annoyed just looking at the cover of Fortune of Fear, or more specifically after reading the inside cover jacket of my hardback copy.

There's a very 80's-looking woman, presumably the Countess Krak, in a skintight red outfit that presents just the suggestion of nipples, while behind her stands a nervous-looking twit in poofy pants carrying a stack of gold bars, presumably Gris.  And then you realize that the two are standing on a veritable mountain of gold ingots, a pile of treasure that nearly eclipses the pair of shiny, triangular, nondescript spaceships also adorning the cover. 

The synopsis on the bookjacket hypes how the Countess has finally arrived on Earth, which will never be the same - and specifically that Atlantic City will never be the same.  It also claims that she's "the most beautiful, the most deadly and certainly the most feared woman in the 110-planet Voltarian Empire," which is a load of crap.  Krak's only killed what, three, four people?  And how can she be the most feared person in the Voltar Confederacy if only her immediate associates in the Apparatus know she exists? 

But not only is Krak going to "threaten the future" of our world, the book jacket goes on to say, there's also "the sudden arrival of $250 million in gold" from Voltar that could prove to be "the death blow for Earth."

Now, Gris already tried to smuggle in some gold bars he synthesized on Voltar, but those were only eighteen bars valued at "more than $349,999.99!" a piece, for a total worth of approximately 6.3 million dollars.  Those bars were stolen while he wasn't looking, of course, a turn of events Gris seems strangely disinterested in, given how it left him not just bankrupt but deeply in debt.  So not only is this $250 million being promised by the book jacket not his original treasure, but it presumably solves Gris' financial problems.

And my question is: why?  What was the point of Gris losing the money if he's going to get it all back in a sudden windfall?  Why did those events have to happen if he ends up in the same place he started?

One of Mission Earth's many failings is its lack of character development.  When Gris gets tortured by a scary lesbian brainwashed by "psychiatric birth control," he doesn't have any doubts about psychology, he continues to follow it religiously.  When Gris sees the devastating power of public relations, he doesn't learn from it and try to improve his image, he crows about it for a few paragraphs before moving on with his life.  He's the exact same character at the beginning of The Invaders Plan as he is at the end of An Alien Affair... well, I guess he has a bigger package after Prahd's surgery.  But that's about it.

Likewise, Heller is just as handsome and intelligent and strong and boring now as he was when he was first introduced.  He hasn't had to come to terms with associating with a criminal syndicate to further his mission.  His reaction to psychology was "haha that's dumb," he hasn't started questioning if the people of Earth can be saved from themselves, or if they deserve to be saved.  Or maybe he has grappled with these questions, but the audience will never know because the author never gives us a chance to get into the hero's head.  We just see Heller throwing cats at people or kicking thugs to death with metal cleats; his character, what little there is, is largely inferred.

The closest thing we've seen to character development was when the Countess Krak, introduced as a frigid, ruthless instructor, burst into tears at the sight of Heller, declared that she was unworthy of him, and became his devoted love interest.  And that took place over the course of a chapter or two back in The Invaders Plan.

So the two main characters are doing things, driving in races, blowing up federal employees, getting tortured as part of a lesbian couple's heavy BDSM session, and going into crippling credit card debt.  These activities are utterly meaningless if you judge them by how the characters changed as a result of the experience.  But maybe they've at least advanced the plot?

Well, Heller was making some progress towards saving the world by winning a car race, but that fell through and now he's out of the mob.  So he's back at about square one, maybe a little better off than when he started since he now has connections.  And Gris bought and lost a slave girl's affections, then lost all his money, but according to the book jacket that's about to be corrected.  So he's about as well-off as he was when he arrived on Earth.

In other words, we're starting Book 5 and we have jack squat to show for it.  Things have happened, but the plot has not progressed, and the characters are just as flat and static as they always were.  The best you could say is that we might have had entertaining hijinks in the interim but... well, I'd have to politely disagree about this book being in any way entertaining.

Wrapping things up.  The book jacket goes on to hint that "the future of high fashion, the power of a Squeeza credit card and an army of mounted highwaymen in the streets of New York City may well derail everyone's plans."  But I'm too jaded by lesbian torture sessions and an aircraft carrier's launch cable being used to trap an escaping publicist to get too excited about this.

Maps again, there's Atlantic City on the coast of New Jersey, and New York City but not Turkey.  The Voltarian Censor's Disclaimer is upset that the author would suggest that practitioners of "cellology" would use their skills to "make human freaks," so yeah, looks like Dr. Crobe is going to be up to his old tricks, that rascal.  54 Charlee Nine, the Robotbrain in the Translatophone, warns us about the Marquis de Sade, to which I respond "one book too late."

Though he does make me crack a smile when he complains about "Blindstein" and other Earth minds: "I don't know which one is worse: Blindstein, with his idea that nothing travels faster than the speed of light; or de Sade, who said that pain is pleasure; or Bugs [Bunny], who goes down a rabbit hole and then asks 'What's up, doc?'"  The only characters I like in these books are the two robots.

The book's Key explains what arbitrage is (selling goods internationally to profit from currency differences), but doesn't define Hot Jolt as more than "a popular Voltarian drink."  A native of Manco is called a Mancian.  Oh, did you remember the Turkish wrestler who tried and failed to beat up Heller three books ago?  His name was Musef.  I guess he'll be important in this book too.  So is Ske, Gris' driver back on Voltar.

Part Thirty-Six begins with Gris once again recapping the story to the Judiciary.  Despite everything that happened in the last book - most significantly Heller falling out of favor with Babe Corleone, and Gris having to flee New York only to discover his crippling debt - the "confession" focuses on the events of the last few chapters of An Alien Affair, when Krak and Crobe arrived.  Typically, Gris ends with a strangely-detailed segue into his state and mind and what he was doing when the last book ended - namely sitting down to guard the Countess Krak's recovery room.

I can just imagine Lord Turn reading it and thinking "I know, I just read that part you twit.  Cripes, why does your 'confession' read like an immediate, first-hand account of events rather than something penned with the benefit of hindsight?"

Back to Part Thirty-Five, Chapters Ten and Eleven

Friday, September 14, 2012

Part Thirty-Five, Chapters Ten and Eleven - Jettero Heller's Girlfriend is Physically Flawless

The Countess is directed to shower and change into scrubs for her cosmetic touch-up, and while she's busy with that Gris tells Dr. Prahd that he'll need to do a skin-search of Krak.  Prahd is upset that Gris will be tracking germs into his clean operating theater, but agrees.  A freshly-washed Krak complains about how bad the soap smelled, Prahd assures her that Gris will be leaving shortly, hur-hur-hur wait that doesn't make any sense, Gris never used the shower and she was smelling the stink before she got in the room with him.

Now, here's the confusing part.  The Countess is agreeing to this procedure partly because Gris has given her a "wrist-recorder" so she'll know if anyone's done anything inappropriate while she's unconscious.  However, Gris sees her fumbling with its controls and assumes she's not used to Earth devices - so even though we first saw a "wrist-recorder" on Voltar, these aliens aren't using their own equipment, they've picked up something on Earth, something that while unidentified functions in the same way.

But the weirdest part is that there's no attempt to sabotage or position the recorder in a way to keep it from picking up anything incriminating, like what Gris did with Heller.  It goes on Krak's wrist, but all Gris has to do to avoid detection is take off his shoes and tiptoe.  So it's audio only?  Krak is hoping the doctor will talk to himself and describe which procedures he's doing, without lying?  Or did the author omit an important detail?

Whatever.  Krak gets on the table, Prahd puts her out, Gris takes off his shoes and sneaks in, Prahd pulls off the surgical gown.  Gris declares that the naked Krak is "a beautiful woman!  No Greek sculptor had ever had a model like that!"  He's still too terrified of her to actually touch her, and Gris gets Prahd to flip Krak over (which of course doesn't affect the wrist-mounted recorder in any way) while Gris scans for hidden documents.  But there's nothing, not even in Krak's discarded clothing.  She has - pause for emphasis - managed to outsmart Soltan Gris.  "(BLEEP)!"

After vowing that "constant watchfulness" will be his new watchword, Gris puts thought to action and leaves the operating room to observe through the one-way mirror (another thing Krak was evidently fine about).  Which is pretty much all that the last chapter is, Gris watching Prahd work on Krak.  He takes some measurements, then waves Gris outside and declares that the Countess must be from Atalantan aristocracy.

"That accounts for it," he said.

"For what?" I said, irritated.

"The perfection.  She's the product of tens of thousands of years of selective breeding.  The aristocracy married nothing but the most beautiful and bright.  Do you realize that her thyroid..."

And truth be told, I'm just as annoyed as Gris is at this point.  Must be my innate American disdain for nobility.

Tinkering with nobles carries the death penalty, she's an unperson so it's okay, yadda yadda.  Prahd  implants the bugs and fixes the scars.  He heals old burns from "electric cuffs."  He examines every inch of her naked body and corrects every old scratch or blemish.  He cleans her teeth.  He gives her a pedicure and a manicure.  He gives her a tan, because the Atalantan nobility are "white but it is a white with a faint tan tinge.  He was restoring the exact shade!"  And when Prahd is done, he walks out with a "dreamy farawayness in his eyes" and murmurs that "Anybody who messed up such a gorgeous creature should have atomic bombs exploding in his head."  As opposed to feeling annoyed that he wasn't allowed to enlarge her ovaries and perform an artificial insemination.

And that's the last chapter of the book.  Jettero Heller's girlfriend can finally compete with his gilded spaceship in terms of physical perfection.  Afterward, Gris camps outside the sleeping Krak's room and congratulates himself:

I folded my arms across my chest and grinned.  Gris, I complemented myself, you got 'em.  Sending an implanted Krak to Heller and his whores would be like tossing an anvil to a drowning man.

Evidently he's forgotten that Heller is no longer rooming with the whores of the Gracious Palms.

Then when Hisst sent the OK, I could humanely end Heller's misery, get the forgeries even if I had to torture the information out of Krak (a delicious thought), sell her to the black market in Istanbul, settle matters with Utanc and rake in the money from my host of enterprises.

Evidently he's forgotten how Utanc hates him enough to defy Freudian psychology, and that he's so deeply in debt that selling his "host of enterprises" wouldn't make him solvent.

Sleep well, Countess Krak.

Tomorrow belongs to me.

I guess the author is trying to suggest that we're in the second act of Mission Earth, the part of the story where the heroes are at their worst and it looks like the villains could triumph in spite of narrative convention.

Except Heller's not at his lowest.  Yes, the all-powerful newspaper made him break up with the mob, but he still has his business, and more importantly friends and contacts.  He definitely has more than he started his mission with, and Gris just dropped his lover in his lap.  Meanwhile, Heller's misfortune is mainly Madison's work (somehow), while all Gris has done this book has been get tortured by psychotic lesbians, spend a week in the hospital, and lose all his money.

So it's really hard to spin this as some sort of victory for the bad guys, or feel any sort of tension that Heller is in serious trouble.

What will Krak do when
she finds Heller knee-deep 
in girls?
 Is this the end of
Heller's mission?

Volume 5

Even the author has forgotten that Heller is no longer rooming at the Gracious Palms.  Heller's "knee-deep" in Iggy and a cat with no name and sometimes Bang-Bang.  If anything, she might wonder if he's changed teams.

Back to Part Thirty-Five, Chapter Nine

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Part Thirty-Five, Chapter Nine - So Why Is Psychology Worse Than a Society With Mind-Control Helmets?

Why would you put Mission Earth on Kindle?  Sure, it's better than chopping down trees to do another printing of it, but is there seriously enough of a demand to justify scanning this trash into digital form?  Or is someone, or some group, hoping to take advantage of this hip new technology to attract a new audience of potential customers?

Anyway, Krak and Gris get to the hospital and meet Dr. Prahd, who stands gobsmacked at the unearthly vision of loveliness that is the Countess Krak, forcing Gris to privately explain that she's a criminal who has killed at least four people.  He gives Prahd orders to bug Krak the same way he did Heller, which means I'll have to think of a Krak-related analogue for HellerVision, and explains the whole hypnohelmet plan.

While Prahd goes to fetch the disabled helmets, Gris rummages through Krak's luggage, but can't find anything but the "language machine" and some toiletries.  Likewise, he can't find those forged proclamations he gave her on the clothes Krak was wearing.  Then he remembers that when he first gave them to her, she carried them directly on her person, "And that's exactly where they should be now."

Gris, when your instructors said you had "smart brains," were they coughing a lot, shaking their heads sadly, or rolling their eyes?

So Gris plans on strip-searching Krak once she's out, and Prahd comes in with the hypnohelmets, which Krak coos over.  Prahd gets to put his on first and fakes his brainwashing agreement to "not monkey with [Krak's] limbs or glands," and to use a knife on anyone who tries to touch her inappropriately while she's out.  The punishment for failing to do this is to feel like atom bombs are exploding in the doctor's head.  I'm disappointed that the Voltarians can think of any heavier ordinance than what humans came up with in the age of vacuum tubes.  Fusion bombs, quantum bombs, antimatter bombs, anything.

Then it's Gris' turn for some fake hypo-indoctrinating, where Krak attempts to expand the "feel urpy at the thought of harming Heller" programming to cover her as well.  When it's over, Gris again reflects on his "smart brains" and how cunning he was to spend those chapters implanting himself with something that disabled those hypnohelmets only to learn that he accidentally disabled all hypnohelmts in a several-mile radius.

Hmm.  I wonder why Krak trusts a hypnohelmet produced from an Apparatus facility, regardless of how "secure" its packaging looks.  Why didn't she bring her own helmet from home?  Why isn't she suspicious enough to pop open the devices and examine them herself?

Back to Chapter Eight

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Part Thirty-Five, Chapter Eight - A Noticeable Presence

After Gris has dealt with the other passengers, the Countess Krak makes her entrance.

Lulled by months of not seeing her, I had completely forgotten the impact of the presence of the Countess Krak.  You knew she was there.

She was wearing a spacer's greatcoat with the collar turned up.  She was wearing spaceboots.  Her blond-gold hair was in braids around her head like a crown.

Yeah, that's the extent of Krak's "presence."  Like many great figures in history, when you see her you say to yourself "Yep, she's there all right.  She certainly isn't absent."  And then you methodically tally what she's wearing.

She immediately asks if Heller is alright, and Gris remembers to feign a tummyache at the thought of his enemy being in any danger, because remember Krak thinks Gris is still hypnotized to barf up his last meal if he even considers harming Heller, a subplot that ate up a lot of time in Book 1 that could have been spent actually getting to Earth.

Gris asks about Krak's luggage, or more specifically some certain Royal documents, because remember, in order to secure Krak's cooperation in getting Heller off his ass and into space, Gris forged documents promising to pardon her for her past offenses, a capital crime that he's had to waste time in more recent books trying to cover up.  Krak assures him that they're safe but won't elaborate.

It occurs to me that I ought to have been taking notes to keep up with all these lingering subplots.

Gris hurries to get Krak reunited with Heller, which involves taking a fake passport photo, which Krak doesn't like because she looks like a mess and couldn't bring all those nice clothes Heller bought her.  Then she has to get dressed in the local custom with whatever Gris can find:

I found a dingy-looking woman's hooded cloak.  It was a sort of spotty brown.  I found a veil.  I couldn't find any shoes or stockings.  She was wearing spaceboots.  So let her wear spaceboots.

Sometimes I think Hubbard is just as bored writing this as I am reading it.

Krak gets dressed, Gris gets her into the cab, and then he starts to describe how crazy these Earthlings are about identifying marks, such as that little nick under Krak's right eyebrow or a faint scar on the back of her hand.  When this doesn't work, Gris suggests that Heller might not want to look at such "blemishes" for the rest of their life, and that convinces Krak to see a cellologist.

To sell the deal, Gris agrees that he and the doctor will submit to hypnohelmets (which of course Gris has already disabled), and reuses the old "and you can wear a wrist recorder while you're unconscious" trick he used on Heller back in the first book.  Yes, "Strategy Plan A" is succeeding.  Gris just restrains himself from hugging himself with glee.  I've never hugged myself with glee.  Maybe I've never been happy enough. 

Back to Chapter Seven

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Part Thirty-Five, Chapter Seven - Failure Rewarded

So hey, Odur the "little homo" is back.  Apparently the way disembarking works in the Apparatus is that guards take you off the ship one at a time for an interview with the local moronic villain.  So all the passengers get to breathe a bit more recycled air until an idiot needs to talk to them.

Odur reports that he has paperwork for Gris - lots of blank forms for him to stamp, because that could never backfire on him - along with a bunch of news from Voltar.  Apparently the home office is in turmoil ever since Bawtch and two other workers stopped showing up.  And even though there's no actual confirmation that Bawtch is indeed dead, Gris immediately concludes that Too-Too's plan to assassinate his old boss succeeded!  ...You remember that, right?  Towards the end of last book?  Don't worry, at this rate Bawtch's inevitable survival will only become relevant at the end of Book 5. (editor's note from the future: Book 9, actually)

The big news is that Lombar Hisst's dastardly plans are coming to fruition.  The Grand Council, court physicians, and even a lot of the general population have gotten addicted to drugs.  And we could wonder why there hasn't been a backlash from moral authorities or civilian physicians against this new addiction sweeping the planet, or how the Apparatus is able to keep up a steady supply of enough drugs to hook a whole world from a single base in Turkey, but really there's no point in questioning.  This is a setting where the hero was forced to cut ties with his benefactor because a newspaper said so.

But there is a hitch - Heller's platen-encoded mission reports.  The Grand Council is confident in the success of Heller's mission, while Hisst is antsy that Heller might upset the profitable situation here on Earth.  Or in other words, here's a recap of the premise that we established in Book 2.  But Odur does remember something else Hisst told him to pass along (because an encoded message of his own is just out of the question, apparently), namely that "some time in the future he would be able to give you a go-ahead and you could safely kill that man."

Yes, Gris has made so little progress on the "Heller's platen" plotline that his boss is going to solve it for him.  So we can look forward to some action-packed stalling on Gris' part until he gets that go-ahead.

And yet Gris' lack of progress hasn't gotten him killed by the mysterious Apparatus assassin.  Huh.

Gris also asks about the woman who came along with the Blixo, and Odur can only describe her in glowing terms.  He faints when Gris reveals that Krak's the girlfriend of the to-be-killed man in Odur's message.  Cruelty as comedy.

There's also Dr. Crobe, whose interview with Gris mainly reveals that he didn't properly learn English on the trip over.  Gris gives him copies of Psychology Rampant and To the Depths With Psychiatry, which despite their titles evidently aren't anti-psychology pamphlets but actual psychiatric texts.  Boo, hiss, psychology bad, grr.

Is the book over yet?

Back to Chapter Six

Monday, September 10, 2012

Part Thirty-Five, Chapter Six - Laundry, Errands, and Future Plot Points

There's a little something called the Unspoken Plan Guarantee.  Basically, if a character describes his or her plan in detail, it is doomed to fail, because having a character talk about doing something and then watching them do it exactly as they described is boring.  Conversely, if a character only mentions that they have a plan, but doesn't share its details with the audience, its odds of success are much greater because there's no drama in a plan we don't know about failing.

So, for the first time in a long time, Gris doesn't describe how he hopes a situation will unfold under the expectation that it will happen that way because he wants it to.  Instead he "laid his plans carefully" and goes over them in his head until he's convinced they're foolproof, and even though they were indeed planned by a fool, the fact that he's being a secretive narrator will nevertheless allow his scheme to succeed.

So that's the first four paragraphs of the chapter, Gris taking advantage of narrative convention.  The rest is pretty dull.

For Gris' plan to work, he needs to look suitably impressive, as if the Countess Krak will change his opinion of him thanks to a clean shirt.  So we get a page of Gris tracking down his uniform, washing it in a basin, and replacing a lost rank insignia with an emerald locket picked up during one of Utanc's shopping sprees.  He puts his Knife Section knife in its hidden sheath behind his neck.  He puts on the Antimanco control star that was introduced in book one and still hasn't been used yet.  He gets dressed, in other words.

Then Gris goes to the hangar and encounters another as-yet-unused plot point, that "line jumper" the hangar workers want to use to rob banks.  Gee, I wonder how Gris might use it to overcome his crippling poverty?  Doesn't that sound exciting, reading chapters about Gris pulling ridiculous stunts like snatching a vault full of cash, building and all, in order to return to the status quo?  Gris tells the guards to put some supplies in a certain place, and promises them a day off if they'll salute him in front of the Blixo's passengers.

Then Gris goes back to his room and makes some calls to the hospital preparing for Krak's bugging, then to Faht Bey to set up Krak's Earth identity of Heavenly Joy Crackle from Sleepy Hollow, New York.  Then he goes back to his room and spends some time worrying about how scary the Countess Krak is.  Then the Blixo arrives and he goes to greet it.

Obviously this isn't much of a climax for An Alien Affair.  I think the actual peak of excitement and drama occurred over a hundred pages ago when Heller left the Gracious Palms because newspapers told him to.  So the last two or three Parts have been an oh-so-thrilling denouement involving Gris' financial status and genitalia.  Assuming, of course, you make the mistake of applying traditional story structure to what was never intended to be a stand-alone story.

Back to Chapter Five 

Friday, September 7, 2012

Part Thirty-Five, Chapter Five - Lysistrata Would be Proud

Gris finds Heller approaching the United Nations building, only to encounter a group of women in coats who shout "Pretty boy!" when they spot him.  Why, it's the girls of the Gracious Palms!  Margie!  Minette!  And... "the tall high-yellow."  It takes several pages, but she's eventually given the name of Beulah.  I guess Gris suddenly remembered it.

Heller's there to see some sort of plan come to fruition, a plan he modestly credits to Vantagio, though it's the girls who have done most of the, ah, work, lobbying the UN delegates who visit the Gracious Palms to vote a certain way.  And if they vote the wrong way, the girls will, as Minette puts it, "knock zem up!"  Or, as Margie puts it better, put the delegates under "sanctions" the next time they visit the whorehouse.

So Heller and the girls go in, and there's an argument over which lucky lady gets to sit in Heller's lap that's only defused when there turns out to be enough seats for everybody, and Gris immediately starts worrying about what Heller's started and what "bill" is going to be voted on: "To bomb the Voltar base?  To declare Soltan Gris an international criminal?"  The girls and Heller take their seats in the viewing gallery, the delegates come in and give their favorite hookers furtive little waves, and then the voting begins.  And with 146 states in favor and 26 abstentions, a new resolution is passed:

UN Resolution 678-546-452

Hereas and wherewith, it is the wish and will of this, the General Assembly of the United Nations, by all sovereign powers attended, as follows, to wit:


And I guess this really is a comedy if something so farcical can come out of the UN.  So what, nuclear war is illegal unless you evacuate all the womenfolk from the bombs' targets?  Torture is okay if it's not being done to shut up a woman?  What if you slap a woman when they aren't talking, so you're not technically making any effort to shut them up?  Is it okay to slap a man to shut him up?  Or torture him?

But the crowd goes wild, and the women cheer, and they go out in front of the Statue of Peace and link hands in a circle around Heller and dance around him, and I'm not kidding about the dancing in a circle around Heller, it's right there on page 318.  Heller deflects their praise and reminds them that the Security Council still has to accept the measure for it to become "the law of the world" (insert laugh track), and refuses to come with them back to the Gracious Palms.  Not only that, but he forbids them from even mentioning that they say him.  So you can't slap a ho around, but you can still give bitches orders.

When the girls get back to their whorin', Heller talks to a seagull.  Again, I'm serious.

A seagull was walking near to him.  "Well, seagull," he said to it, "with any luck the Security Council will pass it and then you will be safe, too.  And Miss Simmons will have to realize that I am on her side."

Because really, who would dare defy a divided and ineffectual attempt at global governance that relies on volunteer forces to enforce its laws - assuming delegates, to say nothing of the Security Council, can actually agree that they need to be enforced?

On a less sarcastic note, if the UN in this world is actually powerful, why has it been virtually ignored by Rockecenter and his cabal?  Why hasn't the Apparatus tried to get its claws into it?

Anyway, all this has got Gris shaking in his boots.  If Miss Simmons, the unhinged man-hating apocalyptic hippy woman, suddenly suffers a total personality change as a result of this international legislation, she might help Heller finish college!  Plus, Heller just displayed his "raw, naked power" by getting all those women to pressure UN delegates to vote his way!  And somehow Heller is also "monopolizing" all the world's females and leaving none for Gris!  How can Gris possibly stop an unstoppable juggernaut who he was pretty sure had been stopped a few Parts ago?

The answer comes immediately when Faht Bey buzzes to say the Blixo will be landing that evening. 

Beautiful relief flooded through me.  The Blixo!  Of course!  With brilliant forethought, I had already solved the very problem I was now faced with!

With luck, the Countess Krak would be on that ship.  She'd slaughter Heller for even glancing at another woman!  She'd slow him down to a crawl as she had on Voltar!

Oh, good.  More slow.

I laughed with delirious delight.

I had it all solved!

Smart brains.  My Apparatus professors were oh so very right.  I had smart brains!

Notice that Gris' thought process is "with luck, the woman I ordered to take this ship will have taken this ship," rather than "with luck, this woman I can't control and am in fact terrified of will do exactly what I think she'll do without any effort on my part."

Back to Chapter Four

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Part Thirty-Five, Chapter Four - Genuine Imported Turkish Belly Dancers (No Refunds)

Hey, remember when Gris got back to Turkey, and he found out about his crushing credit card debt, and he tried to pay it with his stockpile of transmuted gold bars, only to find that they were painted bars of lead?  'cause Gris doesn't.  He hasn't spared the issue a second though, or wondered at what point he was robbed, or who did it.  He knows he's poor, but otherwise he's been pretty well distracted by his groin.

So is this plot point going to fall completely by the wayside, never to be revisited?  Or is Gris going to suddenly remember it at some point in the next book during some lull in the main plotline, allowing him to spend a Part or two snooping around the base investigating a weeks-old crime, hatching an elaborate scheme to spy on a suspect, botching the scheme, deciding the issue can wait and forgetting about it completely, only for someone to dramatically reveal that they were the culprit much later? (editor's note from the future: I forget the specifics, actually.  What happens in the next book does a pretty good job of driving all concern over lead-painted gold from your mind)

Anyway, this chapter.  After his disastrous attempt to apply Freudian psychology, he comes to a big decision: "I would stop being true to Utanc."  So he meets with... holy crap, the book actually calls him Deplor!  Once.  He's "the taxi driver" twice, and just "he" for the rest of the two or so pages he appears on.  Anyway, Gris has a chat with him about Utanc and the possibility of finding alternative female companionship, only for the taxi driver to explain that the market's fallen out on Soviet girls due to a surge in supply as more and more women hop the Iron Curtain to flee from the rapacious Red Army.  Instead, Deplor suggests Gris become a sugar daddy for local women seeking a dowry.

As the helpful cabbie starts to describe a nice limousine that he's sure would attract all the ladies, Gris explains that he's flat broke.  The cab driver promptly leaves.  Gris gets mad and cleans his room to blow off some steam, which includes putting away all the fake gold bars, and he still doesn't wonder about them!  He doesn't get angrier from the reminder that he was robbed!  He just puts them away!

He does find some unread mail, though, and aside from an ad promoting Hightee Heller's new musical Bold Prince Caucalsia - could this be foreshadowing? - there's a pair of postcards from the Widow Tayl, chastising him for not writing, reminding Gris that their baby is coming along nicely, and subtlety threatening him with legal action if he doesn't marry her.  And Gris panics because as ruthless and murderous the Apparatus is, and as dysfunctional as Voltarian society is, you can get "cashiered for knocking somebody up and not marrying them."

Yes, the Apparatus imprisons people indefinitely without trial, tortures them, executes them, or turns them into circus freaks.  But that doesn't mean they don't believe in family values.

So Gris, who never intends to get married, is mad.  Mad that Tayl is trying to get him in trouble, mad that her letters advise any eavesdropping young officers to investigate the matter ("in or out of uniform"), mad that she had "automatic (bleeps)" from merely thinking about Jettero Heller, and most of all mad at Prahd for performing the procedure that got the widow pregnant with Gris' child in the first place.

(Bleep), (bleep), (BLEEP) Prahd! It was a good thing he was legally dead. Otherwise, I would have shot him out of hand!

Um... wouldn't that make it easier for you to shoot him?  Just saying, if he doesn't legally exist, it should logically be easier to get away with whacking him than it would be otherwise. (edit from the future: also, I think he used this exact "I can't kill him because he's legally dead" statement in an earlier chapter)

Fuming about Tayl fantasizing about Heller leads Gris to start thinking about Heller, specifically how he got Heller away from the Gracious Palms and all the charming young ladies who lived there.  So he suddenly laughs at that victory and decides to switch on the HellerVision "and enjoy his discomfiture." 

I'm sure a psychologist could try and diagnose what sort of chemical imbalance Gris has that leads his train of thought to leap from track to track like that, but the fact of the matter is that Gris' brain works as the plot dictates.  Hubbard needed a segue into another HellerVision chapter, and here it is.

Back to Chapter Three

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Part Thirty-Five, Chapter Three - Mission Earth Sordid: Camel Wrecker

Unabridged version here.

Now, Gris started watching HellerVision at around 4:00 in the afternoon.  His scheduled five minutes with Utanc starts at 9:00.  But there's nothing between him tossing a blanket over the viewer and climbing into bed in anticipation of Sexy Time.  So I guess he sat there watching Heller make fake IDs for five hours straight.

Anyway, on to Soltan Gris' Sex Life.  The lights are out (at Utanc's insistence), and she comes in and lays down next to Gris, fully clothed as usual.  Gris takes her hand, guides it, and Utanc immediately freaks out.  First she's not convinced that he hasn't slipped on a "falsie," and then she's furious with him for going from "so God (bleeped) small nobody can even find it!" to "so God (bleeped) big nobody could get it into anything!"  And she lies there next to him with a glow-in-the-dark wristwatch, counting down the minutes until she can leave with her credit cards intact.

Gris begs her to reconsider, that maybe an attitude adjustment is all she needs to appreciate his oversized appendage, but the five minutes elapses, Utanc shoves the watch in Gris' face so he knows it, and she leaves in a huff.

"Listen, you (bleepard).  I am tired of your tricks!  One minute you couldn't even please a flea and the next minute you would wreck a camel!  I am going to my room now and don't you bother me again until you decide to be more NORMAL!"

In case any men out there are wondering if bigger is indeed better, remember that you can fit a cigar in more places than you can a baseball bat.

So Gris lies there, seething with unfulfilled lust, until he remembers that he bugged Utanc's room.  Hoping to catch her sobbing with remorse, he instead listens to her wake up her "little dears," put on some music and sing, followed by a lot of happy noises.  And the chapter ends with Gris aching with "unsatisfied desire!  All centralized in a very sensitive place!"

Given the content of this chapter, let us once again ponder at the (bleep)ing of the curse words as opposed to all the other things in these books that we could censor.

Back to Chapter Two

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Part Thirty-Five, Chapter Two - Killing Time

Having scheduled Utanc's "surprise," Gris prepares his chambers for the night's festivities only to find that he doesn't have nearly enough space to store all those new clothes, what with that whole crate of hypnohelmets cluttering up the closet.  The safest place to pack up and ship these is of course Prahd's warehouses, because it's not like the doctor has ever done anything drastic without Gris' approval.  I'm sure this hasty decision won't come back to haunt Gris later.

That done, it's still well before suppertime, so Gris decides to kill time the old-fashioned way - HellerVision.  He finds the book's hero in his Empire State Building offices, playing ball with the cat, who still doesn't have a name and will therefore turn out to be called Destiny or something to make one of Gris' complaints extra ironic. (editor's note from the future: actually, the cat's name will be even dumber than that)  Heller advises the cat not to bat around the ball too hard, lest someone "get the idea that you're an extraterrestrial and they'll get you for a Code break."  But all of Heller's near-Code breaks concerned him blabbing about alien concepts or terminology, while his own superhuman combat prowess has been accepted without question.  So it's a strange recommendation to make, is what I'm saying.

Then Bang-Bang shows up, carrying some photographs Heller had taken, a fluid to remove emulsion, and some exposition.  He describes how he's trapped doing his job and afraid to go back to the mob, but he has a few ideas to get "in clover."  First is to track down the license plate numbers of every single publisher (not publicist, he says "publisher") in the country, put bombs in their cars, and kill them all.  Heller dismisses this as "expensive," instead of saying "crap in a hat, you're proposing mass murder!" Bang-Bang's second idea is to set bombs in the buildings of NBC, CBS, and ABC, then if the fake Whiz Kid goes to one, bring the whole place down on him.  Heller objects to this only because "then the reporters would mob me," so presumably he's been wearing his fake glasses and teeth in public to ensure that he looks like the fake Whiz Kid.  His plans of indiscriminate carnage dashed, Bang-Bang sticks with his third plan: hitting the scotch with the cat.

I can only wonder what the Big Three networks' acronyms stand for in this terrible setting.  Network of Boring Commentary?  Clowns Broadcasting Slime?  A Bunch of Crap?

With his distractions gone, Heller gets to work, making a pile out of all the IDs he's looted from the corpses of the various thugs and assassins who decided to engage in criminal activity while carrying identifying and incriminating documents on them.  Gris belatedly realizes that Heller's killed a whopping forty people, from hoodlums to mobsters to IRS agents, "if, by some stretch of the imagination, you could call IRS agents human."  In fact, Gris goes on to deduce, Heller is actually "dangerous!"  So Gris resolves to keep Heller under control, then convinces himself that with Madison and Mr. Bury and Rockecenter around, the power of Public Relations has Heller completely neutralized.

So he watches unconcernedly as Heller carefully removes the photos from the various passports and driver's licenses, then sticks in some doctored photos of himself.  Though Heller is making an attempt to circumvent the negative publicity attached to the Wister identity and thereby escape Gris' trap right before his eyes, the Apparatus agent dismisses Heller's efforts because all those mobsters and crooks would be in police computers, so they won't do him much good as alternate identities.  And since that first step is thwarted, Heller will never, ever take further measures to create a better identity, or keep chugging away at the problem until he overcomes it.  Yes, Heller is defeated.  Forever.

He didn't have a prayer!

That would teach him the stupidity of trying to benefit a planet!

Planets and populations exist to be milked by the power elite.  Unless one understood that thoroughly, one could do a lot of stupid things like help people.

The Gods put the riffraff there as prey for superior men like Hisst and Rockecenter.  And there was very short shift for anyone who thought otherwise.

I hugged myself with glee.

I wonder where Gris puts himself on this two-rung totem pole.  He obviously isn't a superior man, since he nearly starved to death in the very first book, but he continues to look down on "riffraff."  Is there an intermediate "lackey" slot for him to fit into?

And I guess the "things fitting into slots" allegory is as good a way as any to segue into the next chapter. 

Back to Chapter One

Monday, September 3, 2012

Part Thirty-Five, Chapter One - Betting on Freud

Despite the previous chapter revealing that his name is Deplor (as in deplorable!), during his brief appearance in this chapter the taxi driver is only referred to as "the taxi driver."  I guess his name only mattered to make that joke, and now that it's over it doesn't need to be used again.

The Taxi Driver Who Has a Name But the Narration Isn't Using It drops Gris off at his house, and helpfully reminds him that all those thousands of dollars of clothing he bought for him are winter outfits, so he'll have to make a lot of new purchases come spring.  Gris lets the man dream instead of explaining that he'll be executed long before then due to his credit problems.  Then he has a heartwarming reunion with the woman he loves.

"Oh," [Utanc] said in what must have been relief.  "It's only you!"

"I'm just back from the hospital," I said.

"Oh.  Is that where you've been?  What are you doing coming around here and scaring people to death?  I thought you were a commissar or someone important at first."

Gris proceeds to patiently have a talk about credit cards, and asks if Utanc could possibly return some of her purchases.  She's disappointed that he isn't a bottomless well of income, but blames herself for not looking him up in Dunn and Bradstreet before putting herself up for auction.  Gris is sympathetic, since after all "as a wild desert girl, she lacked facilities to establish credit ratings." 

If only Prahd would make his patients' brains bigger instead of focusing his attention on their crotches.

While Utanc wonders aloud whether she could somehow turn Gris in to pay off some of her debt, Gris gets one of his Sudden Realizations - why, she's upset with him because of sexual dissatisfaction!  Even though she isn't really that upset with him right now.  At any rate, according to Gris' understanding of Freud, all he has to do to make everything better is get Utanc in the sack with him.  So he invites her to his room that evening, promising a "wonderful surprise."  "A big one," in fact.

Utanc considers the proposition, and suggests a compromise: she'll go to Gris' room that night - "just that and nothing more implied" - if he agrees to let her keep her credit cards and purchases.

I did a very rapid calculation.  There was no doubt whatever in my mind that once she found what I had now, all thoughts of jewelry and credit cards would vanish.  Freud cannot be wrong.  Sex is the basis of every tiny impulse, everything in fact.  If I could just get her in my room for one hour, after that she would be totally content to live the rest of her life with me in poverty if need be.

Immediately after having a doctor explain just how wrong Earth psychology has got things, and after a string of incidents in which Gris' understanding of psychology has utterly failed to benefit him - most recently his attempts to psychoanalyze Miss Pinch - Gris is still counting on it to make what he wants to happen, happen.

I just had a horrible vision of the next six books being me pointing out this idiocy over and over again. (edit from the future: what, that's so much worse than me spending the previous four books pointing out Gris' idiocy over and over again?)

Gris promises that if Utanc lies down on his bed with him for just five minutes that night, she can keep her stuff.  She agrees and leaves the room, and Gris does a dance of joy, convinced that the power of his mighty new dong will forever banish any thoughts of credit cards and imported clothing from Utanc's mind, allowing him to return all the goods and tear up the credit cards.   

That is the power of Freudian psychology: nothing less than psychic domination.

Back to Part Thirty-Four, Chapter Nine