Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Intermission - Treasure of Terror

My copy of Death Quest still hasn't arrived yet - in retrospect ordering it so close to the holiday shipping season was probably a bad decision - so I guess now's a good time to try and wrap our heads around what we just went through.

Fortune of Fear.  Where to start?  What can we say without using words that 54 Charlee Nine would (bleep) out?

The title sucks.  It refers to Gris' fortune, which is won without any effort, involves no character development, lasts for less than a third of the book, and is utterly, achingly wasted.  There's certainly nothing fearsome about it, and the only effect it had on the plot was making Gris flee to America and do his bloody job once he'd wasted the money (after said fortune let him to waste a month neglecting his job).  But why'd he end up leaving?  Because he was facing punishment for the crimes he committed with the fortune.  What about the other crimes he'd done?  Why couldn't Gris have been forced to flee Turkey because of child abuse or his outstanding credit card debt?  Or why couldn't that Bloody Dagger assassin guy bully Gris into returning to America?

In other words, why did the eponymous pile of gold even need to be in the story?

I guess to titillate, because none of those other ways of getting Gris out of Turkey involved him spending a month in the backseat of a limo with random peasant women.  Though this theory is problematic because the author quickly undoes that bit of "fanservice" by revealing that the women were both coerced into spreading their legs for Gris and raped beforehand by his henchmen.  Why'd Hubbard do that?  Did he want to get the reader all flustered by reading a not-too-explicit-but-more-explicit-than-it-should-be sex scene, then make them feel guilty by revealing it had been rape all along?  If so, why?  Was it to ensure that the reader wasn't enjoying the adventures of Gris?  Then why include the sex, or make Gris the protagonist to begin with?

Come to think of it, sex played a bigger part of the story than what was in the title.  Gris' wasted his fortune on Turkish not-hookers, and the consequences of that forced him back onto the job.  Then he went to America and raped a pair of lesbians into becoming his benefactors.  And then Krak mind-raped the frigidity out of Miss Simmons and turned her into a gang-rape fetishist who gave Heller a pass on her class.  They should've called this thing Record of Rape or something. 

This in turn leads me to realize that there is exactly one healthy sexual relationship in Mission Earth, Heller and Krak's... well, assuming you consider a relationship built around exclusion, deception, and insane jealousy to be "healthy." All the other sex has been rape, prostitution, nymphomania, statutory rape, outright pedophilia, or homosexuality caused by Psychiatric Birth Control.  Is Hubbard making a statement about contemporary culture or just sex in general?  Or is there no statement to be made, and this is just what he wanted to write about?

Useless gold, unhealthy sex... did anything else happen in the book? There was that section in Atlantic City early on, but that turned out to be a big waste of time.  Maybe Miss Boomp will use her new casino to save Heller later or something, but I'm skeptical.  And then there was... well, those pirates back at the Apparatus base are presumably waiting for Gris to finish planning that heist of Switzerland, right?  Or did he manage to talk them out of it?  I hope not, because that would mean that the whole "line-jumper" subplot was only there to facilitate the "Gris' fortune" subplot, which I've already established was basically pointless.  Compound pointlessness.  Fractal subplots that lead into each other without affecting the main plot.

I can think of four meaningful events in this book.  First, the Countess Krak arrived to team up with Heller at the start of the story.  Then around the middle we established that Heller is cheating the stock market to build up the fortune needed to create the Eco-friendly technology that will save the world.  Shortly afterward Dr. Crobe designed a magical pollution-eating microbe to assist in the same.  And at the end Heller passed his Nature Appreciation class, apparently all that was holding him back from earning the degree that would force the world to take him seriously.

So what about these four events required them to be bracketed with rape and mind-control and poorly-invested gold ingots?  Or in other words, why did 90% of Fortune of Fear need to happen?

'cause Hubbard wrote it, that's why.  There was nobody around him to say "do you think having a character cure someone's homosexuality by raping her might be a bit controversial?"  Or "are there a few scenes we could cut to keep the plot moving on at a brisk pace?"  Nope, this was a man convinced of his intellectual greatness and status as a master storyteller, a man about to change the world through his satirical sci-fi-romance-spy-humor epic, a man venerated as a prophet by the people around him. 

Or maybe Hubbard was more level-headed than that, and knew full well that Battlefield Earth's sales figures had been inflated by his followers, which meant that it didn't matter what he wrote.  So he just strung together a bunch of rants and rape and rambling subplots and called it a bestseller.

All this criticism aside, I can think of a few positives about Fortune of Fear - it really fleshes out Heller and Krak's relationship, or more specifically how horribly dysfunctional it is.  Theirs is a romance built around withholding information from each other, duplicity, and outright lying.  After the oh-so-perfect "love story" involving Jonnie and Chrissie in Battlefield Earth, such a disturbing affair is almost refreshing, even if the author probably didn't intend it to be as such. 

Similarly, I was worried that the Countess Krak was going to be another Chrissie, a vapid collection of attractive body parts whose only characterization was her slavish devotion to the male lead.  Boy was I wrong!  Krak is manipulative, vengeful, and delusional.  Gris and the book's jacket spent a lot of energy hyping how dangerous she was, and while part of this is due to her being a rare Mission Earth character capable of forming and then executing a basic plan, Krak really is kind of a scary psycho lady.

The downside of these revelations is that we no longer have any reason to root for our heroes.  They aren't sympathetic, and now it's hard to say they're even good people.  And since the closest alternative protagonist around is Gris, we're left with nobody to cheer on, nobody to care about.  Combined with the excruciatingly meandering, plodding story, there's no incentive to pick up the volume in the series.

Well, no positive reason anyway.  Maybe you're using Hubbard's opus as a way of examining his neuroses and warped worldview.  Maybe you're fascinated by how horrible the series is, and are perversely interested in just how much worse it will get.  Or maybe you decided to start a blog about Mission Earth.

The point is, five books in and we're just getting started.

Back to Part Forty-Two, Chapters Ten and Eleven

Monday, December 10, 2012

Part Forty-Two, Chapters Ten and Eleven - We Can Ony Speculate What the Homework Is

Miss Simmons tells Heller not to move from his seat on the tree stump, because he's "in for the biggest surprise of all."  Then she addresses her thirty-odd students, explaining how some "fiend so merciless as to defy all the annals of Hell" has been making her life miserable.

Miss Simmons sighed and looked back at he class.  "Now, students, a vile, foul trick has been played on me.  You have all had basic psychology from kindergarten up, so you know about HYPNOTISM!"

Is it normal for the people who want to mind-control the world to tell everyone else, from an early age, how they're trying to mind-control the world?

While the Countess Krak shudders and wonders if the game is up, Simmons describes how she got a letter warning her that she'd been hypnotized, making her realize that someone had been messing with her sex life.  Then she talks about her childhood, and how her father would tell her bedtime stories about how men "were no good and only wanted vile gratification of their base desires."  So when she got Gris' warning letter, Simmons immediately realized that her father was the one who had hypnotized her, went to the police about it, then confronted her parents. 

This is why, when you're sending an anonymous tip that someone's been hypnotized by someone you want them to retaliate against, you tell them who you're talking about.

I'd also like to note that there's no real-time reaction from Gris regarding the magnitude of his failure, no "I clutched my head," no "cold sweat ran down my back," nothing.  He narrates very loudly when Heller sees "THE COUNTESS KRAK!" a page later, but it's only at the end of Chapter 11 that he starts existing again and summarizes what went wrong.  Hubbard went through a great deal of trouble to make in-story justifications for Gris to be a narrator, and here he is forgetting to make him narrate.

Miss Simmons tells how she confronted her parents, how her mother made her father confess that "he had told me again and again under trance that I was FRIGID!  He told me that if I had a man or experienced an orgasm I would go BLIND!"  Y'know, important things to tell a grade-schooler.  Simmons calls him "a craven traitor to psychology!  It is supposed to (bleep) everybody, not make them frigid!"

And while we could explore the twist of a psychologist going against his own teachings to protect his daughter, instead Miss Simmons calls attention to the fact that she's not wearing her glasses, so the author can with uncharacteristic subtlety reference Dianetics, an ad for which claimed "You are only three or four hours from taking your glasses off for keeps."

Simmons then thanks "Wister" for letting her get raped - "Those orgasms were GLORIOUS!" - tenderly takes his hand, gives him an A+ for the course, thanks him again for letting her get raped, and dismisses him from further classes with tears in her eyes.  A confused Heller wanders off, spots "THE COUNTESS KRAK!" watching from nearby (she claims to be "Just visiting the classroom to see how the pupils were getting on"), and repeats what Miss Simmons told him.  He's a little confused and wonders if his teacher has "scrambled her main drives" and decides to go back and check on her, flat-out rejecting Krak's attempt to get him to head home already.  I actually rooted for Heller a bit when he did that.

They get back in time to watch Miss Simmons kick off the orgy.

"I am at last free to teach you what I subconsciously wanted to teach you in Nature Appreciation.  Now, Nature Appreciation is really about the birds and the bees.  So there will be a substantive change in course material.

"We will not use the texts of Krafft-Ebing, Havelock Ellis and Freud, for they are crummy fellows to run around with.  Such sources are bad, because they do not have any love in them.  Instead, the text we will now use for the class is a classic Persian book, The Seventy and Seven Variations in the Act of Love by Hammer Hammer, translated by the respectable Chinese scholar Hoo Chu Longdong, with beautiful illustrations and diagrams by Phullup Cummings.  I was able to get these at the college bookstore last night."

She flipped open the sack on the stump and began to pass them around.  The students took them with great interest.  "Now, girls, open your books to Chapter One, 'The Essentials of Orgasm.'  But the boys should open theirs to Chapter Thirteen, 'Variations of Gang Rape.'"

You're a freshman at the university, you've got to take this BS nature appreciation course because some hippie has a lot of clout when it comes to graduation requirements, and then the professor suddenly says it's now a sex ed practicum.  What will you do?  Panic and flee because you've already got a fiancee, thank you very much?  Call the cops?  Lodge a "WTF?" with the Dean?  Or drop trou and go along with it?

Even better is the Countess' reaction.

The Countess Krak, able to see those pages with her sunglasses

And Gris won't make a leering comment about those pages, even though he's looking at them through the Countess' eyes, because the author has forgotten that he exists.

sunglasses, muttered, "Now I know for sure why he was so tired Sunday nights.  That slut!  Jettero," she said in a louder voice, "I think we better be going."

When your boyfriend tells you how much he hates his professor, he's actually having sex with her.  When the professor tells you how much she hates one of her students, she's actually having sex with him.  When your boyfriend returns home, exhausted from a class he hates, it's because he's having sex with the teacher

So an increasingly befuddled Heller watches clothing fly through the air as Miss Simmons commands that "For classwork during the remainder of the term, each boy of the class must first handle me and then each female classmate."  He moves closer to investigate -

"Now Roger, we'll call that a pass.  Thompson and Oswald, you come over here at once.  The rest of you get busy.  BUSY!  BUSY!"

A boot landed in the brook with a tremendous splash!

Three girls' jackets went flying up in the air!

The very trees were shaking!

The Countess Krak had a leafy willow in her hand.  Miss Simmons' strained voice came through the speaker.  "Remember, it's no good without love.  So I love you and you love me.  OH, OSWALD!"  The Countess snapped the willow with a furious jerk.

- and Heller retreats, thoroughly lost and happy to no longer be taking the course.  But he has some uncharacteristic misgivings about his mind-raping, deceitful, paranoid girlfriend:

He was gazing at her very suspiciously.  "Did you have something to do with that?"

Her look was very bland and guileless.  The very soul of innocence.  She said, "Me?  Jettero!"

I guess... we should laugh?  That's the appropriate response when an insanely jealous woman uses mind control to make her not-rival think she'd been raped and turn a college course into a swingers' club, right?

Gris starts existing again and voices his disgust that Miss Simmons' father, "a renowned psychologist, would go against his whole profession and try to suppress promiscuous sex, the very backbone of Earth psychiatric treatment."  And this just raises a whole heap of questions.  Is that why all the students are willing to shuck their pants, regardless of their personal beliefs, existing relationships, or fear of sexually-transmitted disease - they've already been sexualized by their other psychology classes?  When Krak removed Miss Simmons' hypnosis, did that remove one layer of indoctrination, allowing her traditional psychological education to lead her to turn her class into an orgy, or did that merely let her realize her nymphomanic potential and sexualize her class, psychology or no psychology?   And if "psychiatric birth control" is a real thing, why isn't Miss Simmons trying to turn her students gay, and why are books on more traditional sex available from the school bookstore instead of copies of Brokeback Mountain?

It's like this book was written by a ranting conspiracy theorist rather than someone trying to build a rational and consistent narrative setting.

Gris reasons that his attempt to warn Simmons backfired because Krak had hypnotized her to disregard and find a reasonable explanation for everything that happened in her living room the next day, which covered Gris' letter.  Krak foiled him by complete accident.  And then "In a brilliant flash, as clear as lightning itself, I understood something utterly: In order to thoroughly wreck Heller, I would first and foremost have to get rid of the Countess Krak!"

Sure, there's no "INSPIRATION!" this time, but Gris is on a roll:

And then another lightning bolt.  Whereas I could not slaughter Heller until I got the word from Lombar that the former's communication line to the Grand Council no longer mattered, there was NO restraint of ANY kind WHATEVER in removing the Countess Krak.  She could be dropped off buildings or ground to mush under the heavy wheels of trains and I would suffer not the blink of an eye about it from Lombar.

After some herculean mental efforts, Gris has succeeded in recognizing the obvious.  And he's completely given up on the whole "find Heller's platen" subplot.  Now he's going to "Concentrate on that deadly female" and do whatever he can to take out Krak.

I could do it!  I would do it!

And my eyes slitted with firm resolve.


And after five books of Gris' repeated lack of success, we're supposed to view this as a dramatic moment rather than the set-up to another book of failure.  Speaking of which:

What crazy plan
will Gris use now?
Does this finish the
Countess Krak?

Volume 6

Even the book is acknowledging that for all Gris' drama, he's basically the coyote trying to off the roadrunner at this point.  What wacky hijinks will ensue as Gris tries to get that wascally woman?

Good grief, we're only halfway through this idiotic series.

Back to Part Forty-Two, Chapter Nine

Friday, December 7, 2012

Part Forty-Two, Chapter Nine - Simmons' Sunday

Yes, this chapter starts late Sunday morning, or what Gris tells us "would live long in my memory as Simmons' Sunday."  I'm not sure what's so special about this day given everything else that's happened to him.  What about Torture Session Tuesday?  Or Wanted for Adultery Wednesday?

Setting his viewscreens up in the closet again, Gris watches and Heller and Krak prepare for their day.  Krak thinks Heller is "agitated" after Bang-Bang told him that his Nature Appreciation class has been relocated from the Bronx Zoo to Van Cortlandt Park.  And you can guess what she's fixated on.

"That's that Miss Simmons, isn't it, dear?"

"I wish you'd forget about this Miss Simmons thing.  She hates me like poison.  My only interest in her is that she could cost me my diploma and nobody will listen to me when I make my proposals."

"I shouldn't be counting on proposing to Miss Simmons, dear."

"Please, can't we call a truce on. . ."

Hubbard spent a lot of effort telling us how wonderful Heller is, how he's brilliant and charming and smart and all that garbage, and we're supposed to be saddened when things somehow don't go his way.  But the only time I actually feel sorry for him is when Hubbard gives him a girlfriend like the Countess Krak.

Krak casually asks Heller about what the weather's going to be like for the day, then assures him that she's got some museum exhibits to see.  But instead of expanding her mind by studying the history and artwork of Earth, she hurries along to the garage ahead of Heller and hides in the luggage compartment behind the Porsche's front seats.  And Gris is nervous because she obviously had a shopping bag full of magic tricks again, but he "had forgotten to fill the strip well in her viewer and had no way to check back on what she had packed in that shopping bag."

I bet 54 Charlee Nine, the Robotbrain in the Translatophone, runs on a tapedrive.  We're dealing with aliens that harness the power of black holes to shift their capital forward in time so nobody can attack it, but apparently they haven't figured out digital data storage.

We get another case of Gris clumsily inferring what other people are thinking when Heller shows up at the garage.

He noted that the springs seemed a bit lower, for he gave the car a cursory exterior and motor check, probably for bombs.  Then he gave an "Oh, well," and started the car up, possibly believing all the monkeying he was doing with it had changed its balance or weight.

Or maybe he ran over a squirrel the other day and was worried the furry pancake had gotten kicked up and lodged in the underside of his car.

Heller speeds off in his modified car, and Gris takes a break from mentally ranting about how the Countess Krak is worse than a mafia hitman and a Dracula combined to worry that if Heller got pulled over for speeding he might miss his "appointment with destiny" or otherwise interfere with "the coming catastrophe."  Poor little guy still thinks everything's going to go his way.

There's also some suspiciously appropriate music on the radio, presumably another Hubbard original:

Fatal Woman,
Fatal Woman,
So drenched in sin.
 Fatal Womn,
The Devil's twin.
Fatal Woman,
You done me in.
And that's why I shall die.

This actually gets a smile - a hell of a smile - out of our villain, who "smiled so broadly, I almost tore my lip."  Not only does Heller unknowingly have the extremely dangerous (to everyone else) Countess Krak in the back seat, but he's on his way to meet Miss Simmons.  As Gris explains, "It was bad enough to face one woman.  But he was absolutely surrounded with the treacherous species."

I almost wonder if the author's trying to deflect any accusations of misogyny towards Gris after doing that "rape the lesbians straight" chapter.

Heller arrives at the park, disembarks and walks off.  Krak gets out shortly afterward, stalking her boyfriend from about two hundred yards back.  They soon arrive at Near-Rape Grotto, where there's still visible bullet scars in the trees and Miss Simmons and the other students are waiting.  The teacher is in a black topcoat and matching slouch hat, but not wearing her glasses, and bids Heller sit down on a particular rock, then resumes counting the attendees.

Gris is confused because he can also hear the counting coming from Krak's monitor.  She taps the pair of sunglasses she put on as part of her stalking outfit, and Gris realizes: "THE GLASSES!"  Yes, it's another Eyes and Ears of Voltar toy, sunglasses that amplify distant sound and can zoom in on things.  She focuses on her not-rival, Miss Simmons.

"The hussy," said the Countess Krak.

Miss Simmons is still doing a rolecall, by the way.  But apparently in a very slutty manner.

Twenty-nine," said Miss Simmons, in a cold voice.  "And thirty if you count Wister.  There are some surprises in store for all of you.  We can begin."

How ominous!

I'm glad Gris is here to tell how dramatic or exciting these scenes are.  Instead of the author conveying these emotions through, y'know, his writing.

I expected Grafferty or at least police to be waiting around that wood.  I hugged myself.  If they were, they would catch the Countess Krak!  Maybe even arrest Heller for the original eight murders!

Good old Gris.  He doesn't have a direct hand in events, or indeed any way of knowing how things are going, but he keeps these adorable expectations that just because he wants something, it's going to happen that way.  And after all these books and all those slaps to the face, he's kept this stupid, stupid innocence. 

Back to Chapter Eight

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Part Forty-Two, Chapter Eight - Gris Threatens to Shoot the Messenger

Having decided upon his course of action and been freed from his closety prison, Gris immediately gets distracted by "one thing and then the other and then the first thing again" as per his arrangement with the women he raped the heterosexuality back into.  But he eventually gets around to writing his letter.

Dear Miss Simmons,

I herewith return your glasses so you will know I am a friend.

I have to inform you that a dastardly deed has been perpetrated upon you.

You were hypnotized and lied to by the foulest fiend who ever existed between Hells and Heavens.  You were told a pack of lies while in hypnotic trance.  DON'T BELIEVE THEM!

The things you were told were utter hogwash and you should cast them utterly from your mind.  You have been absolutely right all along about him.

Just realize that your future and that of this planet depend utterly upon your exposing that (bleepard) for what he is.

Don't let the firm hue of resolution be sickled o'er by the pale cast of hypnotism.  ACT.  ACT.  ACT!

Your true friend,


Why, it doesn't look like Gris went into specifics over which of the foulest fiends who ever existed between Hells and Heavens told Miss Simmons that pack of lies, or even which pack of lies he's warning her about.   Gee.  I wonder how that could possibly go wrong?

Yes, he put his signature in the center of the letter.  Yes, that's a premeditated use of an "o'er" in contemporary correspondence. 

Come Saturday morning Gris calls up Raht and tells him to deliver the letter (and Simmons' glasses), then meet him in a park instead of Miss Pinch's apartment, even though Raht knows that's where Gris is staying.  Gris goes to the park, grabs a hot dog and a coffee for lunch, and relaxes for one hour, then grows increasingly worried over the next four hours.  Raht finally returns, explaining that some workers were putting in a new window and he didn't want to give the letter to them, so he waited an hour and a half for Simmons to wake up  Gris threatens to shoot him if he doesn't get to the point.

That got to him.  "I bet you would," he said.  "And cops would instantly be all over the place."  He gave me a glaring look.  But he got down to business.  "So she got up.  She was wearing a housecoat that was pretty wrinkled and she didn't seem to be bothering to keep it closed.  She sure is built.  Breasts nice and firm.  Brown pubic hair.  Nice legs . . ."

I made a threatening gesture with my hand in my pocket.

Er... he's got a gun in his pocket, under the table, aimed at Raht.  He's aiming a pistol.  That's what he's doing.

Anyway, Raht relates how he gave Miss Simmons her glasses back, but she put them down before reading the letter.  Gris protests that Simmons can't read without her glasses.  Hello, minor plot point that will be explained in a couple of chapters.  Once Miss Simmons finished the letter she turned colors and started screaming, then bid Raht stay at her house while she stormed out to talk to the police.  This would imply that after getting fear bombed Grafferty and his officers ran back to the station and hid under their desks instead of returning to the crime scene, but Gris is thrilled because he knows that between Simmons, Kutzbrain and the cops, they should be able to put together an I.D. on the Countess Krak.  Because the Countess Krak is good at using hypno-helmets to make people think they're rape victims, but not so much when it comes to covering her tracks.

Raht trailed Miss Simmons as far as the Downtown Express, then went back to her apartment and waited until she finally returned, no police in sight, "smug beyond relief.  These Earth women are that way.  They're happiest when they've got something on somebody, and that's the way she looked."  So Raht reported back to Gris to pass on Simmons' thanks for saving her life.

I was so enthralled, I didn't even notice when he left.

I could hardly wait for Sunday.  Wow, was this going in the most unexpected direction Krak could ever imagine.  (Bleep) her!  Her and all her fancy, stupid tricks!

Miss Simmons says nothing about Sunday.  There is no indication that whatever action she's taken with the police will come to fruition on Sunday.  There is no reason for the police to delay their search for the culprit until Sunday.  But Gris is somehow under the impression that nothing is scheduled for the rest of Saturday afternoon and evening, and the plot will advance the following morning.

In an amazing coincidence, the next chapter begins late Sunday morning.  Wonder how Gris knew that?

Back to Chapter Seven

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Part Forty-Two, Chapter Seven - Itchy Darts

Let's wrap up this scene, shall we?  You can only spend so many chapters in the same apartment scrambling peoples' brains before it gets old.

Krak returns to Grafferty and his three fellow officers, all frozen in ridiculous poses after grabbing those magical black squares thanks to Krak's "magician's forcer gesture."  The Countess collects the rounds from their weapons using skills learned off-screen from Bang-Bang Rimbombo, then puts the now-empty firearms in the men's holsters.  After that she packs up her mind-rape kit and puts her coat back on, but before she leaves she takes "A BOMB!" out of her bag and prepares to set it right under Kutzbrain.

Gris cranks up the melodrama to give a lament for the soon-to-be departed.

Poor Kutzbrain.  If only somebody had thought to warn him that she had slaughtered three men for simply making an innocent pass at her!  I knew she would never forgive that.  She had simply put it off because she had other things to do.  Now the world of psychiatry was about to feel the full degradation of one of its leading lights.  I wondered if in his final moments he would trace his downfall to the cheery words inviting her to lie down on the couch for a jolly romp?  How, in his profession, could he possibly suspect he had been dealing with worse than death itself?  Alas, poor Kutzbrain's professional habits--nay, his professional duty to rape women and wives--had not included a subcourse in dealing with a Manco Devil incarnate, like the vicious Countess Krak.

Krak hits the plunger (of course) of the explosive, while Gris warns that "The bomb was set to go on time!"  The author naturally forgets to tell us what time limit Gris is talking about.

The Countess causally steps out of the apartment, leaving the door open behind her, then waits in an alley across the street, "watching the apartment window intently as though expecting something to happen."  And this is what happens when you decide the book's narrator is a character inside of it watching things unfold through another character's eyes and ears - Gris can't just say Krak "watched the apartment window expectantly" because he can't see her face, so we get that awkward line even though it's clear from context that she's waiting for something.

What happens is a flash and smoke pouring out of the apartment windows, but not a true explosion.  Immediately afterward Krak triggers the dynamo to the paralysis paper (I guess Krak was looking down at her hands, allowing Gris to see what she's doing), causing "INSTANT SCREAMS!"  Grafferty and his officers bolt from the apartment, "howling" the whole time, and after fumbling with their keys they manage to get into their cars and speed away.

Kutzbrain, meanwhile, leaps through a glass window, extracts himself from a hedge, and starts running around in a circle while babbling about someone being after him.  And it's at this point that Gris realizes just what the hell is going on - those clever folks at the Eyes and Ears of Voltar make "emotion bombs," and Krak just used a "fear" variant.

This book would work so m... well, this book would be less irritating if the author just admitted that the characters were using magic.  Krak would be a powerful sorceress who knows Paralyze, Fear, and Geas spells.  Gris is of course a crap wizard who managed to get himself a scrying mirror or something, but is so inept that he has trouble keeping it on-target.  Heller's a magic knight trying to save the world through his spellcraft, but with enough subtlety that the natives don't realize they aren't the ones doing it.

Calling this science fiction just gives Hubbard an opportunity to show off his ignorance.

Anyway, Krak isn't happy with just Fearing Kutzbrain - as he spins around in horror, Krak shoots him with another dart, "a dart that causes people to get warm and itch so violently that they shed their clothes."

I'd like to say that Dungeons & Dragons doesn't have any spells so bizarrely specialized, but I'm sure if I flipped through a rulebook I could find something just as weird. 

So Kutzbrain, now nude, runs down the street, straight through a mob of staring children, who start running after him, yelling about the streaker.  Take that, you nasty sexual deviant.  Now you're buck naked... surrounded by children... feeling very hot... I think this might have been a bad idea.

The Countess Krak tidied up her shopping bag.  She fluffed her hair.

Sedately she strolled off in the direction of the subway.  She was thinking, no doubt--the sadistic female monster--that this was a day's work well done.  She even bought a Milky Way at the subway stand and munched on it quite happily as she rode triumphantly home.

But this time Gris is able to see Krak's expression as she eats a candy bar.  How about that.

Meanwhile Gris has to phone Raht and get him to call Miss Pinch to let Gris out of the closet.  He's irritated at getting trapped, and his lingering flea infestation, but most of all he's mad at "the smug manner in which the Countess Krak had been eating that Milky Way!"  But then he has more "INSPIRATION!" and decides to send Miss Simmons a warning that she'd been hypnotized, thus undoing Krak's conditioning.  Sounds like a reasonable plan.  Let's see how Gris screws it up.

Now, the troub... a troubling thing about this section is Krak's treatment of the policemen.  Obviously she has reason to retaliate against Kutzbrain - he propositioned her, and we've established that she's willing to murder over that sort of thing.  But Grafferty and his cops weren't actually a threat.  The worst case scenario would be that Krak would have to go to the station and answer some questions, which shouldn't be dangerous if she stuck to her cover identity.  Even if she wasn't willing to put up with that, she could have been patient and methodical and used her hypno-helmet to cover her escape, maybe even making the cops arrest Kutzbrain directly.

But instead she decided to use a Fear Bomb on them and send them screaming from the apartment.  And what then?  Are they supposed to forget that it happened?  Don't they remember her face, and the inexplicable terror they felt after encountering her?  What if they go back and find a comatose woman in the apartment?  What if they gather the debris from the Fear Bomb and start wondering what sort of device detonated in that room?

Instead Krak chose to humiliate them.  So either she has some strange grudge against New York's law enforcement, perhaps picked up from Heller's mobster friend, or the author got so caught up with stabbing strawmen in his "satirical" epic that he forgot to give his sock puppets reasons to do so.

Back to Chapter Six 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Part Forty-Two, Chapter Six - The Magician's Forcer Gesture

Krak makes each of the cops grab one of those little black squares to paralyze them.

Or to go into more detail: Grafftery kicks down the door and storms in with his men.  Everything I've seen in television, movies, and even video games tells me that the policemen should have their guns out and be screaming at anyone they see to get on the ground.  Instead Grafferty stares at the paralyzed Dr. Kutzbrain and yells out "Where's the rape-murder?", presumably expecting the murderous rapist lurking somewhere in the building to answer him.

Instead he gets the murderous mind-rapist Krak, who steps out of the bedroom, hits the plunger of the Magical Black Square device, and draws something that Gris only catches a glimpse of but thinks looks like a thumbtack.  She grabs Kutzbrain with that "thumbtack" in her hand and declares "If it's a rapist you're looking for, here's your man!"  And just after Grafferty asks about the murder, Kutzbrain starts ranting about tearing people to bits while demanding that they answer the questions he isn't asking.

See, as Gris explains it, Voltarian military science has come up with something called an "interrogator dart" that injects a man with something that makes him "so furious and overwrought he could not ask sensible questions."  So you're an alien super-spy, but you've been captured and hauled in for interrogation.  If you still have a way to fire your concealed dart-launcher, this way you can dose your captor with something to make them absolutely furious with you.  So you're still trapped, but now in a room with someone violently angry, which is... an improvement because... they'll just beat you to death instead of extracting useful information?

Why not just put poison on the dart?  Or cut out the "interrogator" part and develop a toxin that makes enemies go berserk and potentially attack their allies?  That would seem more useful.  Or maybe come up with a "make interrogator become your friend and help you escape" dart if we're just pulling things out of our ass.

Grafferty tells two of his officers to apprehend Kutzbrain, then tells the other to take Krak in as a witness and search the apartment for evidence.

Krak said, "I've got the evidence.  It's right here!"  She reached into the black case


case and tore four tabs off the black roll.

She reached out her hand to Grafferty and the cops, using a magician's forcer gesture, the way they make people feel they have to grab something.

So psychology is a bunch of crap, but stage musicians have a magical hand gesture they use to compel people to snatch at whatever they're throwing?

Also, BLAM!

They each took a tab, looking at it.

The Countess Krak pushed the dynamo plunger.

Grafferty and the three cops went into rigid statue stances!

So did Kutzbrain!

Like I said, she makes each of the cops grab one of those little black squares to paralyze them.

After dealing with that "threat," the Countess returns to the still hypnotized Miss Simmons.  And just in case you thought my accusation that Krak was making Simmons believe she'd been gang-raped was hyperbole:

"Now," said the Countess Krak, "we will take up how you really feel about Wister.  You know you are not good enough for him.  But you are eternally grateful to him for not having you himself but letting you be raped.  Your gratitude amounts to the worship you would give a saint and you know you would defile him if he so much as touched your body parts.  You understand that, don't you?"
"Yes," said Miss Simmons.

So she's not just convincing Miss Simmons she was gang-raped, but also that she's unclean, unworthy, and would "defile" the man she secretly longs for just by touching him.

There are no good guys in this book, no sympathetic characters to root for.  There are only Gris, the rapist, Krak, the mind rapist, and Heller, the totally closed non-entity who has been demoted to a supporting cast member despite ostensibly driving the plot.

Krak goes on to tell Simmons how "Wister" is such a good student that he deserves the highest grade and doesn't need to attend for the rest of the semester.  Not only that, but Simmons must now believe that Wister is a wonderful student and should brag about him to all the other teachers.  And then the Countess decides to give her victim some relationship advice.

The Countess Krak fingered the mike.  Then she took a deep breath.  She said, "After you have seen Wister away, you can please yourself.  It will be your life you are living and I have no wish to take control of it,


Ahem.  'scuse me.

but I want to give you some very sound advice.  Stop running around with this Krafft-Ebing fellow.  He and his pals Havelock Ellis and Sigmund Freud are a crummy crowd.  My suggestion to you is that you find a nice young man--NOT Wister--and get married.  It's your life, but you should consider settling down and doing things in a more normal way."

The person giving this advice spent years in a dungeon run by a corrupt alien intelligence service while training circus animals and freaks of nature.

"A normal way," muttered Simmons.

"Exactly," said the Countess Krak.  "You'll find it much more fun."

"More fun," muttered Simmons.

"Sex without love," said the Countess Krak, "is a waste of time.  Do you understand?"

"Waste of time," said Simmons.

With that finished, Krak programs Simmons to sleep peacefully through the rest of the day and evening, disregarding or forgetting anything she hears or sees in the apartment before she wakes up the next day.  Off goes the helmet, a no-doubt sticky and exhausted Miss Simmons immediately crawls under the covers and falls asleep, and now Krak has to figure out what to do with the five people she has paralyzed in the living room.

Gris is, of course, freaking out.

I flinched now as the Countess Krak went out of the bedroom and closed the door behind her.  I knew what I would do: kill the witnesses.

She doesn't have to you imbecile, she has a mind-control helmet.  Though in fairness Gris is stupid enough to murder witnesses even if he had the means of erasing their memories with one of those.  Just look at all the wonderful spy toys he left sitting in a warehouse for three books.

My only question was how she would do it. I was losing allies right and left and could only sit there in that closet, trapped, and watch, powerless to prevent the inexorable, crushing wheels of fate.

The guy sets up his mission on Earth to revolve around him sitting on an ass watching his enemies do things while occasionally barking orders to his henchmen or, in extreme situations, getting up to botch the job on his own.  And then he bitches about how terrible fate is and how he's powerless to do anything.

Wonder how the paint fumes are building up in that closet of his?

Back to Chapter Five

Monday, December 3, 2012

Part Forty-Two, Chapter Five - It's Not Mind Rape if You Enjoyed It

Unabridged version here.

After using her Scroll of Paralysis to disable the lascivious Doctor Kutzbrain, the Countess Krak returns to the apartment bedroom where Miss Simmons is still sprawled on her bed.  Somehow the mind-controlled woman has managed to undo the front of her bathrobe to expose herself, presumably for the reader's enjoyment.

Krak sends the hypnotized woman back to the incident in Van Cortlandt Park, convincing Miss Simmons that she begged "Wister" to go away and that he left her alone.  And then the eight men show up on schedule, and follow the Miss Simmons to a secluded section of the park.  And Krak tells Simmons to let him do what she wants him to.

"Like it says in Krafft-Ebing."

"What is Krafft-Ebing?" asked Krak

Holy crap he finally did it.

in a puzzled voice.
"The books like Psychopathia Sexualis.  Like Havelock Ellis' books or Sigmund Freud's.  My father used to read them to me every night at bedtime.  As a psychologist he said that all those nasty fairy tales were full of phallic symbols.  Like putting thumbs in pies.

Or a princess getting pricked in a story involving a dwarf named Rumpelstiltskin.  Or girls in Cinderella offering to let a prince try on their fur slippers (the French vair for "fur" sounds a lot like verre or "glass").  And let's not get started on all the rape in the original version of Sleeping Beauty.

And he said his daughter must read the same things they teach in kindergarten today because psychology is the best arousal-depressant for children as it pounds into them all the horrible things they must not do.  He did it to help my natural frigidity so I could be normal like the other children in my class."

So Father Simmons' brilliant plan was to use the very pseudoscience that turns college dorms into brothels and ordinary people into bands of nihilistic rapists to try and suppress his daughter's sexuality?

The sad part is that it was actually working until Krak undid it with mind-control.

The kicker is that, if you've bothered to glance at Krafft-Ebing's entry on Wikipedia, the man regarded women as sexually passive, and his work was pretty well eclipsed by the findings of Freud.  Also, Ellis was quite progressive for his time regarding homosexuality.

Well, Krak makes the mistake of asking how Miss Simmons wants the scenario to unfold.  The professor describes how she got/is getting knocked down in the mud, then mumbles a lot, and, ahem, really gets into her fantasy. 

An interesting moment occurs near the end of it.  Miss Simmons starts lecturing to an imaginary audience, saying "We will now take up page 92 of Krafft-Ebing.  I am certain that your psychology teacher called it to your attention.  Six of you form a ring.  The other two . . ."

The hilarious twist is that the Psychopathia Sexualis is out of copyright and available online.  The page in question is actually a clinical description of a murderer and necrophiliac's crimes.  Let's choose to believe that Hubbard isn't suggesting that's what Miss Simmons is into, and instead is sticking to his guns and refusing to study the heresies of psychology.  Not that this stops him from authoritatively denouncing it, of course.

After a lot of screaming and lamps falling off tables and chunks of plaster dropping from the ceiling, Miss Simmons is finally sated.

The Countess Krak shook her head.  In Voltarian she muttered, "Well, I hope she got her fill!  The slut!"  Then she raised her microphone and said in English, "The men are going away now.  They are waving good-bye.  You see them walk up the trail and vanish.  They were all very happy.  Are you happy?"

"Oh, yes," came the muffled voice of Miss Simmons from the helmet.

"Anything worrying you?

"I'm nice and lovely dirty with the mud.  But my leg fills a little strange."

"You broke it dancing for joy," said the Countess Krak.

"Oh, that's all right, then."

The Countess Krak now took a firm grip on her microphone.  She said, "The incident you have just been through is the right one, the correct one, the one that happened.  All other memories of that time and place are false and gone.  You have just been through the true one.  Do you understand?"

"Yes," said Miss Simmons.

And that's that.  The Countess Krak, through the miracle of mind-control technology, has turned a near-rape experience into... a gang-rape, but it's okay, the victim liked it.  Yay?

Wait, we can't end the chapter without a cliffhanger.

At that instant there were some shouts and car-door slams outside.

But no sirens, evidently.  No sirens to get other cars out of the way as the police speed to stop a murder. On the other hand, imagine how awkward it would have been if they'd shown up a few minutes earlier!

Somebody shouted, "Get up there to apartment 21!"

And they don't have radios, and weren't briefed on the way on where they were going, despite being tipped off in advance.

I tingled! Grafferty!

There's a man out there that makes Soltan Gris all tingly.

Well, this could be exciting.  I mean, what's Krak going to do to get out of this mess, make each of the cops grab one of those little black squares to paralyze them?

Back to Chapter Four