Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Part Fifty-Two, Chapter Six - Learn a Verb from Billiards

This chapter's weird in that it opens with Gris moaning how "Whenever the treachery optimistic thought occurs to you that things can't get any worse, watch out!"  Except things don't actually get worse for him this chapter.

Gris sleeps late and puts off checking on his highly sophisticated extraterrestrial spy equipment until after noon, whereupon he discovers that he's run out of recording strips for his highly sophisticated extraterrestrial spy equipment.  Let us once again boggle how an interstellar empire with mind-control helmets and time-raping telescopes managed to overlook digital data storage.

So Gris resolves that he'll have to just constantly watch the viewscreen, and tunes in to see Krak finish lunch and board The Vehicle, which turns out to be "a WHITE VAN!"  The chase begins!  He calls the motor vehicles department and uses his Federal credentials to ask for more information about a white van!  He doesn't know the plate number or model!  There's tens of thousands of white vans in New York, the motor vehicles department guy says, and hangs up!  The chase ends!

Well that didn't work.  Gris calls the lawyers' office and learns they're in court, can't get ahold of Judge Hammer Twist to warn him, and so instead calls Eagle Eye Security to tell them that the "foul fiend" is still on the loose and got to the women they were supposed to be protecting last night.  Then he catches the viewscreen to see that Krak is actually sitting in Judge Twist's courtroom that very moment, and orders the security agency to "NAIL HER!"

They don't, of course.  The thugs never even show up.  And no, Gris can't call the court security guards, the legal system's phone lines are just as tangled as its legal codes. 

So the Whiz Kid Wives are in the courtroom, as are Dingaling, Chase and Ambo, with Krak in the audience because I guess anyone can get into an explosive, highly-publicized case like this.  Judge Hammer Twist is bitching at everyone because "The livelihood of everyone connected with the law depends utterly upon ADDING cases to the calendar, NOT taking them off!  Oh, I can tell you, this is VERY irregular!"  But the girls are adamant about dismissing their previous charges.

Toots Switch Wister confesses that she was never married, but instead explains that the Whiz Kid stole her clothes without (bleeping) her, despite her protests, so she's now suing on grounds of abandonment.  Mamie Spread Wister confesses that she was never pregnant, and is filing a $2 billion class-action lawsuit on behalf of all the women of Kansas who similarly had their rights infringed upon by not getting (bleeped) and impregnated by the Whiz Kid.  And Dolores Pubianos de C√≥pula Wister confesses that she never married the Whiz Kid either - he simply (bleeped) her when she was a twelve-year-old before stealing her burro.

Think Krak or someone could point out that if the Whiz Kid just turned eighteen two books ago, he'd have been doing all this rapist bandito business that took place "many years ago" as a minor as well?  Or can nobody in this book do math?

Judge Hammer Twist (good porn name, if you need one) calls the girls before the stand, charges them with "false swearing, criminal libel, perjury, etc., etc." and accepts their guilty pleas, sentencing them to ten minutes' jailtime each.  In the meantime, he'll be accepting their new lawsuits, most importantly Dolores' charge of "RAPE OF A MINOR!" which is punishable not only by life in prison, but thanks to a new law, frequently-fatal sterilization.  It'll just take five days for the paperwork to get to Mexico and back, since that's where the minor-on-minor rapeage took place, and then the lawyers will have up to five days to issue their warrant.  Sounds like we have a deadline for the next hundred pages' action!  Court dismissed.

The Countess Krak, amongst the spectators, was muttering with subdued rage.  "Oh, the sluts!  The hussies!  They added to what I told them to say!"

Wow, turns out mind-controlling people to stop doing something you don't like doesn't prevent them from doing something else you don't like.  If only she'd added something about staying out of court or never placing any sort of charges against the Whiz Kid again.

Ten minutes later, inside the white van, she was recounting it to Bang-Bang as they drove.  "Somebody coached them!" she concluded.  "Somebody is behind this!"

The lawyers?  Y'know, the evil people who ruin lives so they can get rich from frivolous lawsuits?  Pretty sure Bang-Bang told you about them.

"Could be that bucktoothed nut that impersonates Jet," Bang-Bang said over his shoulder through the driver-compartment door as he caromed off a truck.  "Maybe he done them things."

Oh yeah, the bucktoothed nut, not the guys behind the girls' lawsuits who stand to make millions from them.  Definitely the clown doing publicity stunts, that's the mastermind.

The Countess Krak said, "Bang-Bang, I think you've got it.  But where do we find him?"

On the other hand, it's surprising it's taken Krak this long to contemplate going after the man defaming her twue love.  I mean, that bucktoothed, bespectacled troglodyte dared to besmirch the honor of the handsome, perfect Jettero Heller!  That's a killin' offense.

"Legwork," said Bang-Bang.  "I may not be very big but I can kick hell out of people.

That's actually almost funny.

You leave that up to me.  We'll get Jet clear of this legal tangle yet!"

He's clear of it now, he's on a boat headed to another country.  If Bang-Bang could use his mob ties to get him a new identity or something, they could just watch the Whiz Kid legal drama from the comfort of a new apartment.  Use the magical time telescope to rob the stock market, buy up all the old businesses and properties under a new company, ta-da.  Or hell, go to Turkey with him and start up a world-saving business there under asylum status or something.

But I guess that wouldn't involve Krak running around mind-controlling people.

So Krak and Bang-Bang escape the security guards who never showed up.  While the initial lawsuits against Heller have been neutralized, some even worse charges have taken their place, and now at least Gris knows what vehicle she's in.  All in all he's no worse than he was last chapter, and probably is doing better.  So that doom and gloom at the chapter's start is pretty misplaced.  

Next chapter, on the other hand...


Back to Chapter Five

Monday, April 29, 2013

Part Fifty-Two, Chapter Five - Gris Freaks, Krak is Disgusted, Bang-Bang Gets Lucky

So let's see.  Chapter one needlessly reestablished how evil psychology is.  Chapter two was a strictly formula "good guys bamboozle bad guys" event.  But hey, we haven't reminded the reader how achingly stupid the book's main bad guy is lately, so let's take care of that now.

Krak steps into the apartment living room, now filled with paralyzed, nude forms on the floor and one security dude slumped next to an off-the-hook phone.  And Krak, who evidently heard it ringing from the next room, picks it up.

"Who is this?" she said.

I went into total shock!

I was in direct communication with the Countess Krak!

She was talking to me!

Oh, Gods, my blood pressure went out of my head and splattered all over the ceiling.

I was on the verge of discovery by the deadly Countess Krak!

Measurements can't splatter all over the ceiling, Hubbard.  Also, it sure makes for an interesting read when the bad guy is mortally afraid of one of the good guys.  Let me point out that two books ago Gris was able to interact with Krak about as well as he could anyone else, even lie to her face, though his hands tended to shake and he flinched at physical contact.  Now he's literally frozen in terror because not only is Krak on the same phone line as he is, but she says she can hear him breathing.

A brilliant idea hit me!  I should put down the phone and hang up.

I couldn't unlock my arm muscles.

With the violent concentration that comes sometimes in threats to life, I made my muscles work.

I got the instrument down on the cradle and, with superhuman effort, unlocked my fingers.

And Gris proceeds to have a total freak out at the thought that Krak might somehow figure out it's him on the line, and then know where he was calling from - because after all, she's dressed like a policewoman, so she could trace the call.  And then Gris starts hallucinating.

My hands began to shake.  The corpse of the yellow-man she had killed back on Voltar was where the viewer should have been.  He was staring at me with sightless eyes.  He said . . . No, it was Torpedo.  He was saying . . .

"Wait a minute, Gris," I said.  "This is no time to go crazy."

"Who is this?" I said.

"This is Officer Gris of the Voltar Coordinated Information Apparatus, on duty as Section Chief of Section 451, Blito-P3.  How are things going?"

"Terrible," I said.  "How is Lombar Hisst these days?"

"Oh, he's fine," I said.  "Has hunting been good in the Blike Mountains?"

"Only passable.  Now that I have become Heller . . ."

"SHUT UP!" I screamed.

My hunch is that someone will have heard all this and try to blackmail or expose Gris later, leading to a hundred pages or so of him running around trying to get out of the situation.  It might be Adora "Pinchy" Bey, who yells at Gris to turn down the "TV."  Or maybe he didn't quite set the phone down all the way and Krak heard his rant, and this is how the author decided to have the good guys figure out that Gris was working against them.  I haven't read far enough ahead to know for sure. (editor's note from the future: nah, Pinchy is about to leave the story, and she's got better blackmail material on him than his rantings in another language)

Anyway, the yelling snaps Gris out of his self-incriminating nervous breakdown so he can get back to sitting around, watching the good guys thwart him through morally-dubious methods.  Krak puts on a pair of "Zanco SURGICAL gloves!" so she can safely handle all the naked people, clucking that "these primitives certainly can get tangled up in the subject of sex."  Mamie Spread of the Whiz Kid Wives turns out to not even be pregnant, and was wearing a pillow with straps under her clothes.  So Krak gets out a hypnohelmet to find out who put the "crooked slut!" up to it.  Gris laments not being within two miles of the scene so that the relay breaker switch in his skull would disable the hypno-helmet, which is nice because I'd completely forgotten that had happened.  When was that, Book Four? (editor's note from the future: Book Three)

Anyway, Krak hypnotizes the five naked men in the room so they'll forget the important bits and wake up on cue.  Then after wiping Dolores' face of a mysterious "something" ("Too stupid to even get it in the right place," says Krak), the Countess uses the mind-control helm to interrogate the Mexican gal, who admits that she's a local prostitute hired by Dingaling, Chase and Ambo to play a part in a legal drama.  Krak orders her to go to the lawyers the next day and tell them how she wants to confess in court and dismiss the suits, on pain of exposing them to the Bar Association.  I guess at some point Krak learned about this legal stuff.  Maybe when she was spending all those days crying in her room, or sailing around in her sea-going apartment.

Krak does the same to Toots Switch and Mamie Spread, adding a command for the latter to show off her pregnancy pillow in the courthouse  When she sees the security guy starting to wake up, she hypnotizes him too, ordering the man to "do something about this orgy" when he wakes up, while forgetting any details of the policewoman who came by.  Then she takes the wad of "something" into an ashtray, drops the surgical gloves on top of it, and torches everything with a match.  Krak snaps her fingers thrice to wake her victims so she can leave.

The party-goers immediately get back to what they were doing before Krak so rudely interrupted them.

The Countess flinched with disgust as the cries of the three girls soared eagerly into the passionate snarls of the five young men.  Bodies began to thud.  The record started up.

The security man stood, looked at the gathering pile of bodies on the rug.

"Move over!" he ordered the Hispanic youth.  "I got to do something about this!"  And he began to unbuckle his pants.

"I'll never understand these primitives," said the Countess Krak.  "You tell them the simplest things and they still manage to get them wrong!"

It's cute until you stop to think about how the mind control helmets really work, if there's this much wriggle-room when it comes to commands, or why Krak thought her definition of "do something" would be the same as the guard's.  Oh that's what went wrong, she told him to do "something" about the orgy.  See, that's what happens when you're careless with your euphemisms.

So Krak leaves the apartment, the security guards outside are still clueless and didn't notice the sudden cessation of voices or the flash of light or anything, and The Vehicle that Krak rode in is still parked in the shadows so Gris can't get its description.  Krak slips inside, and Gris guesses that she dresses in the dark.  Then the lights go on to reveal the policewoman whose outfit Krak borrowed, not even tied up, staring up at the ceiling with a big smile on her face.  She sits up and dresses, ignoring Krak completely, before hopping out when The Vehicle stops in front of her station.

Hey, remember two chapters ago when Gris complained about the missed rape opportunity?

The woman was humming a little song to herself as she got out and walked toward her office.

Krak closed the door.  The vehicle began to roll.

The Countess looked down.  The Eyes and Ears of Voltar envelope was lying on the floor.  The item that was Unit B was in it.

"Bang-Bang," the Countess called.  "Didn't you take the black patch?"

"Well, no, I didn't," was Bang-Bang's reply from up front.  "I don't entirely trust gadgets from the toy store."

"And that woman from the Vice Squad followed you?"

"Yes."

"But what could you have said to her?"

Bang-Bang's reply was muffled.  "Nothing much."

"Bang-Bang, have you been up to something?"

"Me, Miss Joy?"

How droll, Bang-Bang done seduced a cop... except Krak still gassed her when she followed Bang-Bang into the car, leaving the other woman unconscious, stripped to her underwear, and tied up in the back of The Vehicle.  So how could this scenario play out to not be disturbing?  Did Bang-Bang lure her after him somehow before cutting a "deal" in exchange for untying her?  Or is he enough of a charmer to win over the police officer once she woke up and realized she was trapped with him sans clothing?  Or was she willing from the start, making Krak's use of knock-out gas and rope completely necessary?  Why didn't Bang-Bang stay Krak's hand, then?  Did he just so happen to bump into the sort of woman who could be seduced in a matter of minutes, and who had a bondage kink, and who was willing to get knocked out before satisfying that kink?  Surely Bang-Bang didn't simply take advantage of the ten-minute knock-out duration, only for the woman to wake up and decide she was okay with the situation?

But beyond that, Krak never hypnotized the police officer.  Even if she somehow didn't get a look at Krak or Bang-Bang's faces, she can at least confirm that it wasn't a cop who passed through the outer layer of security into the apartment that night, regardless of whether the people inside remember it.  You really think someone so willing to addle people's brains would pick up on that oversight.

Blegh.  Tune in next time for a genuine plot twist.


Back to Chapter Four

Friday, April 26, 2013

Part Fifty-Two, Chapter Four - If Only Cell Phones Existed

Krak still doesn't look back at The Vehicle after hopping out, so Gris can't warn anyone to look out for anyone coming out of a particular van or whatever.  Not that it matters, as we'll see shortly.

After walking a "broken sidewalk under broken trees, poorly lit by broken lights," a line I'm sure was used back in Book Two or Three, Krak approaches the pair of security guards flanking the door of the Whiz Kid Wives' apartment.  She flashes not her badge, but "an I.D. folder" at them and introduces herself as Officer Maude Trick, here to see "those three (bleepches) and their lover-boys" about some unpaid-for marijuana from the disco.  The guards are smart enough to call the station to confirm her identity... but not to specify that Officer Trick was sent to that apartment for that reason.  Instead they are told that a policewoman had "just stepped out," an oversight that saves the Countess Krak from having to use an Eyes and Ears of Voltar "Make Person Fall Asleep Standing Up and Forget About it Afterward" Device to bypass the guards. 

Gris meanwhile is trying to find a way to warn the security team, but as mentioned last chapter he's been coordinating through those lawyers, and wouldn't you know it but when he calls this time, all he can get is their answering machine - they've closed for the night!  The best he can do is call the phone directory and ask for the number of the apartment.  So even if he had a description of Krak's vehicle, it wouldn't do him any good.  So that mystery about what she's riding in is pretty pointless.

Krak is escorted inside the apartment by a concerned security thug - the five guys who went home with the Whiz Kid Wives looked "pretty crazy," and right now they're having a Neo Punk Rock "sex orgy."  Krak and the guard make small talk on the way inside, and she's told that they're on the lookout for a "foul fiend dressed as a flower seller" or any other suspicious characters, allowing the reader to soak up the dramatic irony.  An elevator ride later and a second guard is shown Krak's ID - not badge - and then he does something odd.  He doesn't want to let Krak in just because of her ID, he wants to make a call to verify.  But he doesn't have a radio or anything, instead he opens the apartment door so Krak can follow him in while he uses the land line to presumably call her station to see that the woman he just let into the secure area is in fact supposed to be there.

The reason for this is simple: Gris has finally gotten the apartment's phone number from the operator.  So this bizarre situation is to justify less than a page's worth of "tension" or "excitement" as Gris calls the apartment and hopes the guard will pick up before Krak uses alien science on him.

The floor was carpeted with writhing, entwined bodies.  Cries and groans punctuated the shattering Neo Punk Rock.

The guard's expression was diffident as he stepped over and amongst the writhing bodies.

The phone sat unringing on the table.

My finger was flying on the dial.

The Countess Krak was looking into her pocket.  I could not see what the security man was doing.  She was getting something out.

I mean, you'd think that if Rockecenter was backing this case, which was vital for shutting down someone who could threaten his energy monopoly, they'd pick a security agency that had those earpiece radio thingies.  

I connected with the number!

The Countess Krak was reaching for the inner door.  She pitched something into the living room, remained in the hall and closed the door on the scene.

I heard the phone ring in there!

I was in time.  He had not yet placed his call.

Wait, couldn't he hear the phone ringing on his end too?

My phone went live.  The Neo Punk Rock was pouring through it with cries and yells.  "Eagle Eye Security," came the voice.

"This is a Fed.  For Gods' sakes, that policewoman . . ."
WHONK!

Aaaand there goes any tension.  Choose your sound effects wisely, folks.

The sound came through my phone. 

A streak of blue appeared around the cracks of the inner door she had closed on the scene.

A BLUEFLASH!

"Hello!" I screamed into the phone.

Only Neo Punk Rock came back.  "WHEEEOOOOOOO!"

Wow, this takes us back all the way to Book Two, and explains why there's still a Key entry for it at the start of this volume.  Blueflash, as you may remember, is a pulse of blue light that knocks out everyone who gets hit by it, something used by ships during covert insertions.  Except last book we saw Heller knock out a Coast Guard crew using a "radio nerve-paralysis beam," which seems to get the same effect without the fuss of a blast of observable light. 

So why do the Voltarians use both?  Where did Krak get the Blueflash device?  Why couldn't she use the radio nerve-paralysis beam emitter that Heller had been established as possessing just last book instead of a device last seen five books ago?

But really, it doesn't matter which Plot Device she uses to knock them out, what's important is the Plot Device she uses to reprogram their brains.


Back to Chapter Three

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Part Fifty-Two, Chapter Three - A Perfectly Good Rape Opportunity, Wasted

And here we have a chapter with the recurring "Gris is so evil he doesn't understand the good guys" theme, as if we needed to reestablish how vile a character he is.

Gris is still wondering what kind of vehicle Krak and Bang-Bang are cruising around in - it's got a little bunk in its windowless back and a door to the driver's chair.  Krak never looks at it this chapter, which is convenient, since it means Gris can't simply call in a description of the van or whatever and attempt (but fail) to get them arrested.

The two good g... the two less villainous characters see all the security thugs around the Whiz Kid Wives' apartment, so Krak has Bang-Bang drive to a nearby police station, despite his objections.  She whips out another magic item:

Eyes and Ears of Voltar

Follow Compeller: When Unit A is worn by the operative and Unit B has been placed on or into the subject, Unit B will compel the subject to follow the operative by inducing a wrong feeling when he does not.  For use in causing subjects to walk into embarrassing situations where divorce evidence can be obtained and subject executed.

So create a sophisticated, miniaturized device that manipulates a person's brain chemistry to make it feel "wrong" not to follow a second device, set up an embarrassing situation, covertly stick the device on someone, hope that the "wrong" feeling makes the person follow the device into that embarrassing situation, take a picture of them being present but not necessarily interacting with anything or anyone, show it in court as evidence that the person should be divorced or whatever, and get the person executed.  As opposed to skipping all of that and stabbing the person in a dark alley.

The Voltarian CIA, ladies and gentlemen.

The Countess Krak sticks Unit A on Bang-Bang and tells him to walk around until he finds a policewoman, slap Unit B on her, and run back to the ice cream truck or whatever it is they're riding around in.  Bang-Bang doesn't grasp the plan, and Krak starts to patiently explain it.  And Gris stops listening, instead opting to call the police station being targeted and warn them about what he thinks her plan is.

Oh, it was very plain what the Countess meant to do.  Bigamy, adultery, and other crimes in the Confederacy are punishable by death.

For reasons that have not and never will be explained.

And the only way you can get a divorce as such is to involve the marital partner in one of these and get him or her terminated by the State.

Instead of arranging for your unwanted spouse to meet a Tragic Accident yourself.

She was going to kidnap a member of the vice squad, get Bang-Bang to rape her, take photographs and use these to blackmail the female officer into arresting the poor, innocent girls!  That is what we would do in the Apparatus.  And the Countess knew how the Apparatus operated: she'd been a victim of it herself.

So because that's how Gris would do it, and that's how the Apparatus does it, and Krak is familiar with the Apparatus, that must be what she means to do.  And yes, that is the obvious Apparatus way of resolving the situation, rather than knocking out the cop and stealing her uniform as a disguise.

Bang-Bang returns to what is only referred to as "the vehicle," a hard-bitten but handsome lady cop in tow, and Gris can only helplessly "watch the awful tragedy unfold."  Bang-Bang jumps in the back of the van, the policewoman follows, and Krak uses a gas capsule!  ...While she's in the same enclosed space as her victim.  Huh.

A somehow still-conscious Krak ties up and strips the policewoman of her uniform.  Gris keeps wondering when the perversion will take place, but Krak instead puts on the clothing without having Bang-Bang rape the woman, or even going lesbian to rape her herself.  All in all, Gris considers the whole kidnapping quite the waste.  "If that had been I, I would have raped the victim just to go by the textbook.  Was it possible that I did not quite understand the motives and standards of the Countess Krak?"  Book Seven and he's still trying to figure out that he just doesn't get these people.

It goes without saying that the policewoman's uniform fits the Countess Krak just fine.


Back to Chapter Two

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Part Fifty-Two, Chapter Two - Learn a New Word for Loincloth

And the worst pa... well, an annoying thing about last chapter - Crobe knows the theory's named after the black widow spider, but he rips a tarantula out of that poor woman.  So did he not do the research, or simply not care?  Doesn't that run the risk of "disproving" the "theory" when someone realizes the spider's the wrong species?

Anyway, this chapter should be very familiar, because it's another iteration of the classic Mission Earth formula:
  1. Gris calls some contacts and orders goons to intercept a protagonist
  2. The protagonist somehow eludes the bad guys, while Gris boggles
  3. Gris suddenly realizes that the protagonist has been saved by a cunning disguise or contrived coincidence
  4. The protagonist does a mysterious something to effortlessly defeat the bad guys, almost always in a humiliating manner
  5. Gris suddenly realizes that the protagonist pulled Alien Gizmo X out of his or her anus and curses his foe's diabolic cunning
  6. Gris ends the chapter smugly confident that things will go differently during his next trap
In this case, Gris tears his attention away from Crobe's crimes against nature in time to see Krak walk into the Harlot Haven disco, instantly and painfully dating this novel.  He calls those lawyers (1) to let them know that Krak's followed their star witnesses into a dance club, instead of cutting out the middleman and contacting the police directly.  Their apartment's still being guarded, but the lawyers send a squad to the disco too.

Loud Neo Punk Rock music pounds as Krak takes a seat and watches a trio of white, black, and Hispanic lads (ethnic diversity!) drop by to fondle the Whiz Kid Wives.  The dress code is "feathers and breechclouts over cloth with spangles."  I had to look up "breechclout" too.  Krak talks to herself in public by calling the other girls "hussies," immediately summoning a pair of Neo Punk Rockers to drop by and proposition her by lifting his breechclout.  They suddenly scream and hurry off, and Gris uses his psychic powers to understand that Krak kicked them in the shins.

A new song with "savage, sexual drumbeats" picks up, compelling clubgoers to get on the dance floor and lift their breechclouts at each other.  It's been almost a month since we've had some quality L. Ron Hubbard songwriting, hasn't it?

Shiver, shiver, shimmy!
And rub, rub, rub!
If you aren't coming,
Put it in the tub!
Four and twenty harlots,
Leaped about with glee.
If you can't whip her,
Put her on your knee!
If you can't (bleep) her,
Get her to go down!
Can't have little babies 
Running 'round the town!
So shiver, shiver, shimmy!
And come, come, come!
WHEEEOOOOOO!

Definitely music that makes you want to flash people.

But then Shabby Man in Shabby Hat and Shabby Coat sticks his head in, and police swarm into the club!  "Bulldog" Grafferty runs around, clearly looking for someone.  His eye falls on the Countess Krak, but then "he RUSHED ON AND PEERED AT ANOTHER FACE!" (2)  Gris gets slightly encouraged when it looks like Grafferty is doubling back, but then Krak holds a little metal tube on her palm, flips a switch, puts one end in her mouth, and blows something at the police inspector.  Grafferty looks stricken and starts shouting about "POLAR BEARS!  MEN! ARREST THESE POLAR BEARS!" (4)

Oh hey, we broke the sequence.

Instead of wondering what the hell's wrong with the chief, or maybe getting him to have a lie-down, the cops rush the crowd, nightstick a-whacking, while the disco lovers flee for the exit in a panic, bowling over Shabby Man in Shabby Hat and Shabby Coat.  Krak gets up from her seat, finishes her 7-Up (favorite soda of alien infiltrators), and allows Gris to catch a glimpse of her arm so he realizes she's changed her skintone to that of a "high-yellow," or a person of mixed white-black ancestry, thanks Bob X. (3)  On the way out the door she takes care to step on Shabby Cubed's face and twist her heel, because he deserves it for serving that subpoena, the bastard. 

On her way out Krak yanks something out of Grafferty's neck, and Gris suddenly realizes (5) that Krak must have used a dart that "when put in a person, gave him sound and image that would make him think he had gone crazy.  But Grafferty had been incapable of that and had added his own interpretation to the vision."  Which makes no sense on a lot of levels.  Why is the dart that causes people to experience aural and visual hallucinations intended to make them consciously decide they've gone loco in the cabeza, isn't messing with someone's mind with the hallucinations an end in itself?  How can Grafferty be "incapable" of thinking he's crazy when rarely if ever do people who go crazy realize the fact?  Or wait, does the "incapable" thing mean that instead of seeing visions of polar bears and deciding "aaaah fake polar bears I'm crazy," he decided "aaaah real polar bears arrest them?"  What's the functional difference?

Anyway, Krak's out of the club, and then her viewscreen goes dark and muffled, which Gris doesn't so much as wonder about.  He hears her ordering Bang-Bang to take her to the Whiz Kid's Wives' apartment and a motor starting.

I sat back.  I didn't have to do another thing.  She was headed right into a steel-jawed trap of shoot-on-sight!

(6)


Back to Chapter One

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Part Fifty-Two, Chapter One - This Does Not Bode Well for the Rest of the Book

Unabridged version here.

If you were to ascribe to the theory that the author wrote this book by the seat of his pants, without bothering to plan ahead or go back and revise or god forbid cut things to tighten the story, look no further than this chapter.  Last chapter, remember, saw Gris marshaling his forces to stop the Countess Krak from going after the Whiz Kid's fake "wives."  It was a tense race to get a trap set before the Countess mind-controlled her way through another problem.

This chapter kicks off Voyage o' Vengeance with Gris turning on Krak's viewer to see her in a dark place with a stack of clothes.  He can't make out anything of interest, so he decides to watch Dr. Crobe's viewer.

So, uh, we interrupt this attempt to set a trap for a protagonist with a second-hand psychology lecture.

And what a lecture it is!  "Dr. Phetus P. Crobe" is introduced to great applause, and none other than Rockecenter himself is in attendance in a box seat.  At the doctor's signal, a visibly pregnant woman is wheeled in, strapped to her stretcher and screaming how she'd been kidnapped because her husband wanted to run off with another woman.

Crobe sternly slapped his hand across the woman's mouth.  To the attendant he snarled, "I told chu to gag her.  She iss inderruding a scientific lecdure!"

With his other hand he gave a signal.  Another machine was raced onto the stage.  Attendants promptly clamped electrodes to her head.  Crobe grasped a handle on the machine and then, hastily snatching his hand from the woman's mouth, slammed the lever down.  Letters on his viewer flashed

PLEASURE

Aren't you glad Gris whimsically installed that feature?  I mean, since we can't see Crobe's face due to the bugging equipment looking through his eyes, we wouldn't be able to tell how he felt about all this otherwise.  That might open up the possibility that he felt REMORSE or RELUCTANCE and save us the difficulty of inferring his emotions based on his actions or words.

Volts crackled and arced.  The woman's body bowed.  There was the grind and snap as she crushed her own teeth.  She lay still.  Crobe lifted the lever, gave a wave of his hand, and the attendants disconnected the machine and sped away.

In "GOOD HUMOR" now that his patient has been cured of "the insanity uf objecding," Crobe continues with his presentation.  He gets an oath of horror from Rockecenter by revealing that, during the patient's examination, he discovered she was "PREGNANTED!"  This is of course criminal insanity due to "de black widowed spider gene t'eory uf woman's evolution," something first proposed by the learned Dr. Kutzbrain.  But now Crobe can prove it, because "De fetus at de crucial stage uf evolutionary development ASSUMES DE VORM DAT BROOFS DE T'EORY!"

The two things to remember here is that 1) Crobe is a "cellologist" able to turn a person's brain into a snake, and 2) yes, this is the sort of author who would have a mad scientist kill a kidnapped, pregnant woman and rip the spider-fetus from her body.

Now, something I didn't notice last post - there's no blurbs between the book's cover and the introduction and crap.  There are only three quotes on the back cover, the L.A. Daily News saying "he'll sure roll them in the aisle," the Kansas City Star calling the book "a wildly wicked and deliciously cynical work... a hilariously satirical view of society."  George Clayton Johnson, author of Logan's Run, apparently thinks Hubbard's up there with Jack London, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and Dashiell Hammett.  But that's all the positive press the publishers have for it.  So either they ran out of friendly reviews to use, or realized that nobody who made it this far was going to be swayed by another two and a half pages of critical encouragement.  Guess if you make it through Torpedo and Teenie you're in for the long haul.

This means I have to ironically juxtapose Crobe tearing a tarantula out of a woman's belly with a quote from the previous volume of Mission Earth, in which none other than Orson Scott Card called the book "ironic, exciting, romantic and hilarious."  And that's not really fair, he probably wasn't referring to this book.  Maybe for him Mission Earth is ironic, exciting, romantic and hilarious except for "that book where the guy ripped a spider out of that pregnant lady."

Crobe pulls out "a homemade laser-beam gun he must have fashioned" to blast the spider.  Nobody reacts to the fact that this funny foreign doctor just pulled out a laser gun despite living in a society that still uses ballistic weapons, though this is probably because they're still reacting to the tarantula that very same doctor just tore from a woman's belly.

An attendant whispered, "That woman is dead."

"Serves her rightd!" bellowed Crobe.  "She hadt intercourses mit a male!"  To the audience he roared, "De Psychiadric Birt' Condrol iss de mos' bital brogram dat hoomanidy hass ever had!  SUBBORTD ITD!"

Rockecenter was on his feet, applauding hysterically.  This single clapping was not, however, spreading to the large assembled audience.

The Security Chief gave a signal.

All around the vast auditorium, security men levelled automatic weapons at the staff.

"APPLAUD!" roared the Security Chief.

The staff applauded hastily.

So hey, it looks like only a minority of quack physicians actually support the "voluntary extinction through mandatory homosexuality" plan, which of course we surmised from the actions of other psychiatrists in earlier books  And Gris doesn't even try to explain the whole spider thing, trusting the reader to remember last book when Crobe made a snake come out of a guy's brain using alien cellology.  And we'd already heard that psychiatry was taking in patients against their will and murdering them.  So this chapter told us absolutely nothing new!  Thanks, Hubbard!

Crobe leaves, and Gris tries to tie this interlude into the current plot by hoping that Krak ends up in a similar institution.

Oh, what a pleasure it would be to see her corpse as mangled and dead as the one on the stage!

(Bleep)* her!

The asterisk is of course for a footnote reminding us that, to protect the poor robots translating this book for us, all the curse words have been (bleeped) out.  Because in a story where a mad doctor pulls a tarantula out of a woman's uterus or the main character has sex with underaged women or rapes other women in revenge for being tortured as part of some heavy BDSM lesbian action or a necrophiliac hired killer defiles a corpse before his own mother blows his head apart with a shotgun and fake lesbians talk about having sex with farm animals and a mob boss invokes the power of Satan against the soul of her enemy and psychiatrists rape their patients and mobsters bomb parking garages full of federal investigators and the hero slices people apart with spiked cleats, we don't want some foul fucking language upsetting readers' delicate sensibilities.


Back to the Cover and Introduction

Monday, April 22, 2013

Space Monsters Enforcing Traditional Gender Roles

Well, the vacation's over.  My copy of Voyage of Vengeance has finished its epic journey across the continent to end up in my mailbox, so right when the mental scars were starting to heal it's time to pick at the scabs.  Just in time, too, I'd stopped getting ads for the L. Ron Hubbard website on TV Tropes.  So let's get to it!

The cover does not inspire confidence, hinting that a B-plot from two books ago is going to resurface and waste a hundred more pages in this volume.

We've got some sort of jaundiced, cone-headed ogre sitting in the center, and right away a lot of things go wrong.  First, I'm forced to go all the way back to Book One to confirm that this is probably supposed to be an Antimanco privateer.  That was the only place I could find a proper description for them beyond "Antimanco."  For the most part it matches up - Gris described them as seven-foot, three-hundred pound, swarthy folk with triangular heads, but the "savage sort of jaw" is depicted here as a double chin, and I'm not sure where the solid red eyes came from. 

The outfit is of course ridiculous, some sort of blue get-up whose pinstripes turn into metal studs around the feet, shoulders and stomach.  The pointy green boots are a nice touch.  And then there's the crate of cash and assorted jewelry.  So we've got some sort of brutish extraterrestrial who's evidently been mugging people, which leads to the problem of how he plans on spending those greenbacks.  So what, he's gonna stroll into town with that face and those boots to buy himself something nice?  Or does Planet Voltar take US dollars?

And then we have a girl in an immodest red dress in a cage.  So let's see, she could be the Countess Krak, or... Babe Corleone's been gone for at least books now, doubt it's her... which leaves... Mamie Boomp?  The newly-nympho psychiatrist?  Yeah, probably Krak.  I tell ya, after all of that "solving problems" and "taking action on her own initiative," it's good to see her reduced to a proper distressed damsel.

You can't see in this image, but on the back cover there's an open hatch in the bottom of the room through which a commercial airliner can be seen, trailing smoke from its engines and with a hole in its top hull.  So we've probably going to see a mid-air boarding courtesy of that line-jumper last used in the first third of Book Five.  Like I said, Revenge of the B-Plots.  We had a hundred or so pages last book of setting up a spore-producing factory to repair the atmosphere, that's enough main plot for a bit, eh?

The book jacket does something new... or rather, the one other hardcover Mission Earth volume I have didn't do this, blow half the space on an excerpt.  It's a standard Hubbard Action Sequence where Gris and Raht in a helicopter yank Madison out of a moving car, which then "WENT OFF THE END OF THE PIER!"  The rest is short "hooks" such as "A trained cat kidnaps the infamous Whiz Kid on national television," or "How does assassin Soltan Gris deal with a teenage nymphomaniac and a crazed PR genius?", to which the responses are 1) "assassin" implies training or competence when it comes to killing people, Gris has neither, 2) by having sex with her, and 3) badly.

Standard Voltarian Censor's Disclaimer, saying how the Crown has been "most lenient" in allowing this book to be published even though nothing in it is real and you the reader have much better things to be doing with your time than reading about "Earth."

Our friend 54 Charlee Nine, the Robotbrain in the Translatophone, returns for the Voltarian Translator's Preface, thanking us for having the courage to turn the page despite the Censor's advice to the contrary.  He also feels sorry for us since our "scientists" keep telling us we're alone in the universe, even though we've got Voltarian neighbors just twenty-two light-years away.  Who want to conquer us.  Finally, he advises us to stop wondering where life came from, "because you didn't come from anywhere.  That's a wrong road.  Anywhere and anything comes from you.  Chew on that for a while."  With respect, 54 Charlee Nine, I'm not really comfortable with the idea that I had something to do with Mission Earth.

The book's Key is updated.  Teenie's last name is evidently Whopper.  She listed as "Teenager who kept seducing Gris."  Pinch and Candy are still listed as lesbians, though, despite all that heterosexual interaction with Gris.

Finally, Part Fifty-Two opens with more of Gris' confessing, i.e. recapping the previous book for us.  He spends all of one line referring to that nonsense with Torpedo the hitman by mentioning he'd arranged for "the murder of a nonperson," and doesn't so much as mention the real plot points in the first third of Death Quest - Heller setting up the atmosphere-healing factory, and Krak mind-raping enough people to set Heller up as Rockecenter's heir.  No, instead Gris wants to talk about his marriage to Pinch and Candy, and Heller getting slandered by media allegations of polygamy.  Then he rants that he's "just a bunch of stupid chemicals" who can't be held accountable for his actions, and why it's vital for people to believe this.

Why, the next thing you know, people would be causing things!  They wouldn't ask psychiatrists for opinions anymore!  They'd believe they could make up their own minds!  Authorities would be taken off government welfare and they'd have to get jobs just like everyone else!  People wouldn't read Madison's newspapers anymore!

They'd see that it's all been a giant scam!

My Gods, that's dangerous!

Declare them insane!  Stamp them out!  Crush them!  Kill them!  Kill them all!  KILL!  KILL!!  KILL!!!

Whew!  There.

I feel better.

Where was I?

This "letter" is supposed to convince the judge to go easy on him, remember.

There's a bit about Teenie, of course, and then Heller getting put on a yacht and Krak going after the fake Whiz Kid's fake wives.  Gris spends the last lines of the introduction reminding us that he'd gotten Dr. Crobe installed as a psychologist, which leads us nicely into our first chapter.  Voyage of Vengeance isn't going to waste any time getting to the good stuff, oh no.


Back to Part Fifty-One, Chapter Six