Monday, March 4, 2013

Part Forty-Nine, Chapter One - Snakes on a Brain

Let's meet a horrible new character and check on a horrible old character.

Now, this is all supposedly the jailhouse confession of Solton Gris, written well after all the events of Mission Earth have occurred.  He's thinking back and telling us how he felt when it all was happening.  Only in this case, he's thinking back to the morning when he was thinking back to the night before.  He's remembering the time he remembered something instead of just remembering that something.  It seems a very odd narrative decision, that's what I'm getting at.

I'm stalling.  Meet Teenie.

One of the candidates for sexual reeducation last night had been a thin thing, mostly bones.  In addition to an immature body, her breasts had not yet developed fully.  I speculated on her age: she must have been fourteen or fifteen at the most.  Someday she would be good-looking, maybe, but right now her eyes were too big and round and her oversized mouth was far too large for her face.  She wore her light brown hair in a ponytail.  She chewed bubble gum with very loud satisfaction.

Wonder if this character is based on someone, like the whole Rockecenter thing?  Vaguely horrifying thought.  "Well, the good news is that you're sorta in a book..."

Her name was Teenie and her job was licking stamps in Rockecenter's Medical Association Control Department.  I gathered that she had not been on the job very long, had come straight out of some psychology sex-education group in grade school and had not been wholly converted to Psychiatric Birth Control yet.  So, according to Adora, it was important that pains be taken with her: my pains of course!

Rockecenter has the planet by the short and curlies and he's paying somebody to lick stamps.  I'm assuming this is meant to show how he can afford to be stupid with his money, rather than making the reader question how he's still in business.

Last night Teenie had certainly expressed her enthusiasm for reeducation!  But "enthusiasm" is too mild a word for it.  She had been all over the place with me!  ACTIVE!  And the others had just smiled indulgently

And so the main character proceeds to bitch about having rough sex with a fifteen-year-old.  All that scratching, weird phrases like "Ride 'em, cowboy!"  Gris decides to reassure himself by counting out his paycheck, but finds himself wondering if it was really worth what he went through to get it.  He panics, worries that he's entering a state of "hypernegation," which would be Krak and Heller's fault, so Gris starts worrying about Krak and Heller, and how Heller might suspect him (a reasonable concern), or how Krak might hunt him down and sic Crobe on Gris (what?).  Then Gris remembers that he hasn't checked on Crobe in a while and does so.

Crobe is addressing an audience of "evident psychiatrists" - so evident that the author feels no need to explain how you can tell at a glance whether a someone is a psychiatrist.  He's got a patient strapped down, with a snake is sticking out of the poor guy's skull.  Gris immediately recognizes that Crobe is back to his old grafting tricks, while the evident psychiatrists are enthralled at this breakthrough on how you can stimulate the reptile brain to grow with Crobe's new wonderdrug.

"Zo!" cried Crobe with a flourish, "you dgentmens iss zo right!  Dere iss a reptile brain.  Man runs on de reptile brain.  It iss the zource which makes man zo evil!  Zychiatric zience iss right!"

The assembled evident psychiatrists immediately nominate Crobe for Psychiatric Genius of the Year, but wait, there's more!

"Zis patient coom here zuffering from inanity [sic, joke?].  By feeding Drug 32, I 'ave brought de cause to light.  Now, right beefoor yer eyes, I vill CURE de patient!"

The emotional-scale letters of the viewer said:


The hall hushed.  Crobe took a huge knife from the table.  He flourished it.  It whistled through the air.


It severed the snake from the skull!

Blood spurted all over the place!

The patient went into death seizures!

He died.

The letters on Crobe's viewer flashed:


Crobe's voice rang out in triumph.  "You zee?  De end product uf psychiatry 'as been attained.  ZE PATIENT ISS QUIET!"

Thunderous applause broke out.  The psychiatrists were on their feet in a standing ovation!

So the goal of psychiatry is to achieve peace and quiet by killing mental patients.  They've spent years screwing around with pills and electroshock and homosexual indoctrination, but it takes an alien with a fluctuating accent to remind everyone that a knife works a lot faster.

The press and mental health physicians swamp Crobe to congratulate him, while Gris turns off the viewer, blaming Krak and Heller for forcing him to bring Crobe over.  He's gripped by a "sudden rage" as he thinks of a way he could use this to his advantage, then immediately cheers up at the thought of sending one of his enemies to suffer at the hands of a man who makes snakes grow out of people's skulls.  Gris is confident that he'll think of some way of circumventing that whole "freak out at the sight of Heller" programming that Krak put Crobe under.

I had all the resources in the world.  Rockecenter's influence permeated everything and it was at my fingertips whenever I cared to use it.

I would strike back!

I thought the whole point of the last few chapters was that Heller and Krak had suffered devastating blows?  There's nothing to really strike back against.  Krak's run off and Heller is threatening to destroy immigrants' livelihood.

Still, at least Gris is taking what passes for a proactive stance for him, rather than sitting around hoping that things will go his way.  I'm sure he'll still find a way to botch things, of course.

Back to Part Forty-Eight, Chapter Six 


  1. Re Teenie: I think the ponytail and the bubble-gum are a reference to Vladimir Nabokov's "Lolita". That book is of course famous for its unreliable narrator: Humbert claims that he was seduced into a relationship by a willing 12-year-old girl, but if you read between the lines, there are hints that their relationship was less consensual than he wants us to believe.

    I'm not sure what Hubbard's intent is here. Is it a hint that unreliable narrator Soltan Gris is twisting the story to make himself seem less awful? (Later on, we'll find out that Gris is writing his confession because he wants to be sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of the death penalty. Except that he's already confessed to a number of capital crimes, so it's a bit late to start sanitizing things.)

    Or was Hubbard just thinking, "'Lolita' was critically acclaimed and sold a lot of copies so there must be a market for that sort of thing. I guess I'll add a Lolita character to the plot; these blank pages aren't going to fill themselves."

  2. I must say, of all the hatable characters in these books, there was none I hated as much as Teenie. I honestly wanted Gris to put a gun up her vajayjay and pull the trigger. I think we were supposed to feel sad about her end, but I felt a great deal of satisfaction and only wished it had been worse. I think the only character in fiction who annoyed me as much as her was Stephen R Donaldson's Linden Avery 'The Chosen'.