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.
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