Friday, May 31, 2013

Part Fifty-Six, Chapter Two - Shipper on Deck

It's important to remember Gris' primary objective here - avoiding cooties.

My prospects seemed marvelous.  Sailing along, getting back my health, I gloried in one simple fact---oh, Gods, it was wonderful: NO WOMEN!  My bed was utterly empty, my time was my own, and the smile on my face grew and grew.

Of course, since he decided it was necessary to bring Teenie along on his sabbatical, Gris needs to keep her out of his hair by nudging her towards Madison's bed.  

Dinner goes well in that regard, as Madison helps Teenie assemble a dress suitable for a formal meal out of a curtain... huh... and then he shows her what silverwear to use to eat.  Afterward they chat about their mutual love of outlaws, because a staggering number of people in this story happen to like notorious gangsters or fugitives from L. Ron Hubbard's childhood, and Teenie tells a tale about a ghost she saw once that I can't find on Wikipedia.  She describes a "Paddy Corcoran" whose ghost likes to collect heads, but I keep getting redirected to an Irish football player.  Maybe that's the point, Teenie Whopper tells whoppers.

As three days go by and the seagoing mansion continues its journey to Bermuda, Gris assumes that Madison and Teenie's daytime playtime is continuing when they retire for the night.  But then he hears a stewardess comment what a shame it is that Gris' "niece's" "boyfriend" will be leaving at Bermuda, as apparently Madison is considering catching a flight back to New York to try and redeem himself in the eyes of Mr. Bury.

Now, this is a luxury yacht with cutting-edge multimedia equipment, such as a radio-telex machine that spits out strips of news from international wire services.  So Gris sneaks in one night and alters the feeder tape, adding a story about the Corleone mob and police working together to hunt down J. Walter Madison.  He makes sure Madison sees it at breakfast the next morning.

And here we have another Mission Earth puzzle - is the inclusion of some sort of ticker-tape radiogram news service as opposed to a satellite TV showing CNN a product of Hubbard's lack of vision?  Did he foresee portable television but not satellite news, and not notice the way the world was evolving around him?  Or did he intentionally use this archaic news service because it was the only way he could come up with for Gris to scare Madison into sticking around?

Back to Chapter One

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Part Fifty-Six, Chapter One - The Voyage Begins

Just in case you'd forgotten - and I certainly had to check, it's been so long - the last time Gris fled America waaaay back in Book Four, it was to escape those sadomasochistic lesbians he wound up marrying.  This time he's fleeing to get out of performing a live sex show in front of some gay folks, for fear that the sight of his naked ass will incite his audience into a frenzy of sodomy instead of turning them straight.

Spend a moment to brainstorm some other ways the author could've gotten Gris to Turkey.  Secure transmission from Lombar Hisst?  Urgent request for oversight at the Afyon base?  Crobe's being unruly and needs Gris' delicate touch?  Needs to pick up some gadget he doesn't trust sending a henchman to retrieve?  Something at least related to the satirical espionage thriller you're supposed to be writing?

Or use your gratuitous and unerotic sex scenes to justify your character's movements.  Whatever works.

This chapter's a lot of nothin'.  The steward suggests Gris takes a bath and keeps talking about his "concubine" running off with that "CIA agent."  Pages 159-160.  The Chief Steward (not to be confused with the steward) spends a paragraph describing all the wonderful things available for dinner, such as Rainbow Trout, Venison Sauerbraten, and Neopolitan Flambeaux, then is confused whether Sultan Bey is a Christian or Moslem.  Page 161.  The personal trainer comes up with a regimen to get Gris back into shape, the fatty, and pushes him around the boat's track for five laps.  Page 162.   Gris hears that Madison is driving around on the go-kart track, play-chasing Teenie on her skateboard, then he hits the pool, where he's shortly joined by Madison and a topless Teenie.  Page 163.

Hubbard, you're losing the reader!  Quick, do something exciting!

"Last one in's a falsie!" screamed Teenie.  She raced up the diving board and SPLASH!  A wave of water hit me.  SPLASH!  Another wave hit me as Madison went in!

Teenie hadn't come up.

She grabbed Madison's legs from below and pulled him under.

They surfaced.  They batted tidal waves of water at each other.  They hit me!

"FOR GODS' SAKES!" I yelled.  "You're drowning me!"

They both bobbed, suddenly silent.  They looked at each other.  They raced to the side of the pool.  They surged out.

They grabbed me, one on either side, and THREW ME IN!

Three characters we have no reason to like and plenty of reasons to hate, horsing around in a pool on an absurdly luxurious yacht, as they sail away from the story's actual plot.  Voyage of Vengeance, ladies and gentlemen.

Back to Part Fifty-Five, Chapter Six

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Part Fifty-Five, Chapter Six - Escape from New York, Again

Madison is still wild-eyed when he picks himself off the helicopter cabin floor and asks what Gris was shooting at - Gris had to fire a few rounds from his pistol to get Madison's attention, because the PR agent didn't notice the strange man dangling from a rope ladder keeping pace just ahead of his car.  The Apparatus agent proceeds to spin a tale of a Corleone sniper he dispatched with his expert marksmanship, and adds that he distinctly saw three more enemy gangsters shaking their fists at the departing helicopter.  Teenie agrees with Gris because she's a compulsive liar.

"I saw them with my own eyes," said Teenie, her own oversized ones very round.

"Who's this?" said Madison, staring at Teenie.

"Miss Teenie Whopper, J. Walter Madison," I said.  And then a cunning plan popped into my head.

I think Gris is being tortured by the Demon of Bad Ideas.

If I could get them interested in each other, Teenie would leave me alone.  After all, he was a very handsome young man.

Yes, rather than locking his door or learning to ignore the annoying teenager or leaving her behind instead of dragging her along with him, Gris decides to bet on Madison enjoying statutory rape in order to get Teenie out of his hair.  We'll discover the main problem with this plan in a couple of achingly tedious chapters.

For now, Gris resolves to whisk Madison off somewhere, so onward to the harbor and the Golden Sunset!  "If luck were with me, I was going to steal my own yacht."  Gris introduces himself to the captain and fabricates another story about that "CIA agent" stealing his concubine, so they need to go home all secret-like to avoid the scandal.

"Well, that's how it goes in these rich families," said Captain Bitts.  "I will say that CIA man was awful good looking and that concubine was sure beautiful.  Looking at you, I can see how it must have happened.

He was convinced!  He was not going to query the Countess Krak!  For once my unprepossessing looks had stood me in good stead!

Why would the captain need to contact the "concubine" to verify the "sultan"'s story?  How would the captain contact Krak?  And why does Gris need to convince someone who is literally paid to follow his orders?

The boat's stocked for food and water, and that's good enough for Gris - he orders the ship to sail without fresh provisions, and of course there's no need to make a crew list or go into detail about the two other people in his party.  As everything's loaded aboard, and Teenie keeps gushing about how Gris runs "this white-slave ring in style!", Gris talks with Raht to hand over the activator-receiver for Krak's bugging equipment as well as the 831 Relayer.  He also orders his only remaining henchmen to mail Teenie's letter to Pinchy and Candy two days from now, so that her disappearance won't look like a coincidence.  So they'll think he's dead, and that she vanished... but Gris still needs to keep Teenie on his person in case they do decide that Gris kidnapped her, so he can produce the girl and say "yeah, she's not dead, I just took her with me across the planet."

Raht doesn't see the point of this either, though for different reasons.

"Ah," he said.  "You ARE kidnapping her.  I swear, Officer Gris, you do the craziest things.  Of what possible use to you is a teen-age Earth girl?  Thin as a rail.  No (bleeps).  Leaping around.  You could get into trouble, kidnapping her."

"You got no idea how much trouble she could be if I DIDN'T kidnap her," I said.  "Shows you're not experienced in this profession at all.  In addition to the charms you mention, she's also a pathological liar and even believes she sees things that aren't there.  It's NOT kidnapping her that would cause trouble.  So when I need you to teach me my business, I'll tell you."  Riffraff. Always getting out of line.

Or in other words, "here's a list of reasons why this girl is dangerous, which is why I have to take her with me."

Finally, Gris scribbles up two quick messages for Raht to pass on, first a note to F.F.B.O. explaining that Madison has been murdered and belatedly warning that the enemy is going to blow up their offices, I guess in the hope that Heller hasn't done so already.  Gris signs the note as "Smith" so that if the heroes intercept the letter they can continue to hunt him down.  The other note is for Krak explaining that the yacht has been inducted into the Turkish navy, which Gris signs as Capt. Bitts.  There.  All tracks covered.  Forever.

Wow, this is pretty boring, isn't it?  Think we can spice things up a little?

I glanced along the dock.  There was no sign of Heller or Krak.  And then something caught my eye.  The dock telephone man had parted the cable!

I could make it!

I rushed up the gangplank and they swung it away.

The tug was there.

Lines came off the dock bollards.

Space gaped wider and wider between the hull and the pier.

Still no sign of Heller or Krak.

I had made it!

Wooo.  It's like one half of a chase scene.  Also, I can't believe Gris went the whole chapter without checking Krak or Heller's viewscreen to see how close they were to catching up with him.

But yes, Gris has victoriously outrun his enemies to triumphantly flee the country with his tail between his legs, his main plan to thwart his foes in shambles, and now cut off from his most powerful ally.  Furthermore, he's decided the best place to strike back from is the country he fled from two books ago, after his long history of atrocities and stupid decisions threatened to catch up with him.  Truly this is a victory for the forces of evil.

I was still master of the fate of Earth.

Lombar and Rockecenter still reigned in the Heavens.

I chuckled.  I had won this round.  And because I had, millions would suffer.

It was a lovely spring afternoon.

It promised a future very bright for me.  And very dark indeed for Heller and the Countess Krak and Earth.

And so begins the Voyage of Vengeance.  Gris is on the run and will spend the next hundred pages or so dragging Madison and Teenie along his journey to Turkey, so there's the voyage part.  He's also convinced that this is his big chance to regroup and launch a devastating counter-attack, so there's the vengeance.

Now sit back and relax as the plot slows to a virtual standstill until the last quarter of the book.

Back to Part Fifty-Five, Chapter Five

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Part Fifty-Five, Chapter Five - The Flight of J. Warbler Madman

Normally when I complain about Hubbard getting sidetracked by satire, I'm referring to instances where the already plodding narrative stumbles to a halt so he can take the time to deride his enemies.  But this chapter kicks off with the characters in-story getting bogged down by snarky observations about La Gran Manzana.  As Gris and Teenie and Raht board the helicopter:

Teenie said, "Hey!  So this is how you run your white-slave ring.  Choppers!  How updatey!"

"What's that?" said the chopper pilot, turning around in his seat.

"Don't pay any attention to this (bleeped) kid!" I raved.

"If you're going to do something illegal," said the pilot, "you'll have to go back to the office and pay extra."

"No, no!" I cried.  "We're trying to save a man's life.  And even that isn't illegal in New York."

"Might be," said the copilot thoughtfully.  "There's several guys I know of it would be illegal not to kill.  There's a woman, too.  You ever hear of the mayor's wife?"

"Oh, Gods, please start that engine!" I wept.  "I'll pay you both an extra hundred, personally."

So why is this in here?  Did Hubbard feel that after six books spent in the city, readers needed to be reminded how corrupt New York is?  Or is this supposed to introduce a lighter side to the situation, where the people know how awful life is on Blito-P3 and banter about it so they can get up in the morning?  And is the start of an action sequence the best place to do this?  Because that's what the bulk of this chapter is, the daring rescue of Madison.

The helicopter flies over the city to Madison's address to find nobody waiting on the apartment roof - but Heller's parked below and looking up at the highrise.  Faced with the prospect of his enemy capturing a quote valuable ally end sarcastic quotes, Gris orders the pilot to keep hovering so he can think.  And by "think" he means "watch Krak and Heller on the viewscreens." 

"I'll go in and ring the bell," said Heller.  "You cover me, Bang-Bang.  If he's home, he might come out shooting when he recognizes who it is."

"NO!" said the Countess Krak in the back of the cab.  "There's no sense in making this into a shooting war.

Why not?  You just got away with chasing down a fleeing truck, throwing a grenade into the back of it, and interrogating the driver in broad daylight in the middle of the street.  Heller's killed a couple dozen people without any negative consequences.  And you just talked about bombing a law office because its owners had the temerity to bring you to court.  Why can't you go in, guns a-blazing, and use Krak's Bag of Tricks to bamboozle your way out of any attempt to bring you to justice?

I think Krak's objecting because she wants to be the one to destroy Madison, in her own special way.

He probably is not home, as it's working hours  I'll just take my shopping bag and go up and see his mother."

"I don't like it," said Heller.  "You don't have to fight in wars.  It isn't ladylike."

Men break bodies, women rape minds.  It's in the Space Bible or something.

"I've done just fine lately," said the Countess Krak.

"That you have," said Heller, "and I admire you and Bang-Bang for it to no end.

And this is why Heller is not a good guy.  He admires a woman whose solution to life's difficulties is to reprogram peoples' brains until they do what she wants.  He admires a hired killer whose solution to life's difficulties is a spree of indiscriminate bombings.  He consorts with bad people and does bad things in pursuit of a good goal that will help bad people do a bad thing.

But this guy is the worst rat I have ever heard of.  He actually pretended to be my friend.  And all the time he intended to knife me.  He's as bad as an Apparatus 'drunk.'  I'd better go."

Organized crime, fine.  Murdering people, fine.  Mind rape, fine.  But betraying a friendship?  Or more accurately, showing up out of nowhere, giving you some buckteeth and spectacles to wear during a photo shoot, and then proceeding to weave some ridiculous stories about you in the newspapers that only a complete idiot or mob boss or your girlfriend would believe?  Unforgivable. 

Think the author had a thing about betrayal?  And not, say, kidnapping or reprogramming people or breaking the law or lying or swindling?

While Teenie berates Gris for watching a "crime drama" and Raht risks a Code Break by commenting on the 831 Relayer, Gris continues to desperately work to salvage the situation by sitting on his ass watching Heller on the viewscreen.  Heller, Krak and Bang-Bang disembark and walk towards the apartment.  Heller finally notices the helicopter hovering noisily above them, but Bang-Bang decides it's a police "plain wrapper" and they decide to ignore it.  Gris resorts to praying in Italian for somebody to save him from this situation.

Does Raht have a gun?  They could drop him off and tell him to shoot Heller, since Gris is trying to get rid of him anyway.  Or hey, got a phone?  Maybe call Madison?  How about those security guys?  For that matter, why didn't Gris warn the security team earlier so they could help defend Madison?  Or Flagrant?

Luckily, Gris doesn't have to do anything about this problem, because "MADISON SOLVED IT!"  Just like the time Gris and Bury went to recruit him, Madison comes flying out in his Excalibur.  Gris uses his psychic powers to deduce how Madison had "apparently despaired of being rescued from the roof and, seeing 'Corleone' on that cab, had panicked and fled in his car!"

So, a five-page chase scene.  Heller and co. get in the cab and pursue Madison, while Gris inc. tries to beat them to it in the helicopter.  And even though Madison's car has state-of-the-art engines and a driver desperate to save his skin, it's still a tense and exciting sequence because he's being chased by a refurbished old cab driven by "a championship spaceship pilot."  Because what is a car but a spaceship with wheels?

Madison hits the freeways doing a hundred, while Gris resorts to screaming at him from the helicopter to "GO TO CONNECTICUT!" while freaking out about what might happen if Madison gets caught.

A new thought hit me like a lightning bolt.  Madison would reinforce the involvement of Bury and the Countess might take it into her head to run up the whole chain.  If she did that and found me, she would also add it up and find Lombar.  And Lombar would find me for permitting it!

Wait, doesn't Krak already know about Bury?  Yeah, that psychiatrist lady from last book spilled the beans about Bury's plan to use Rockecenter's long-lost child to take over the company.  She even aha'd about "The crooked lawyer is planning to usurp the empire!" when Flagrant spilled his guts two chapters ago.  So Krak already has reason to go after Bury, and Gris is once again two steps behind.

I was caught in a nutcracker!

I seemed to be in the center of a whirling, screaming circle of Demons. That was what I got for praying to Jesus Christ!

Earth Demons or Manco Demons?  Are the Demons going after you for invoking their enemy, or for breaching your contract and praying to a different religion?

Literally the next sentence after that revelation is an action sequence.

Madison caused two trucks to sideswipe.  One, a semitrailer, shot sideways to block the whole road.  But Madison was through!  Going like the roaring wind!


Heller was stamping on his brakes.  He slowed.  He sized up the scene.

Then suddenly, he rocked the cab by hitting a divider, went straight at the rail, skidded against the bars and shot back onto the highway.  He was around the obstruction.  Feeding throttle, he raced after the Excalibur!

Vehicle chases work well in movies because they're a visual medium.  We get to see the cars or planes or segways zipping around, and we can appreciate the stuntwork involved in creating such a spectacle.  They're harder to pull off on paper - authors have to expend a lot of words to paint the same picture a camera can do as a matter of course, and never quite as well.  What books do have on movies in this regard is that they can tell the reader what it's like to be in such a chase.  The wind roaring in your ears, the snarling engine, the way your arms ache as you keep a white-knuckled grip on the steering wheel, how your heart skips a beat as you feel the tires slip on the pavement and the car start to slide out of your control, etc.

We're missing out on that because first, our viewpoint character is watching this car chase rather than participating, and second, the author's terrible at his job.

Madison manages to outpace the cab so that Heller drops out of sight, but is panicking and only has three miles of road left before he hits the ferry terminal at the bottom of Manhattan.  Gris' psychic powers kick in again and he understands that Madison plans on hiding out at the docks like he did last time.  Except that's not what Madison does; instead the publicist just aims his car at the end of a pier and roars on full-speed.  Suicide counts as escaping, right?

Luckily Gris already decided to lower Raht on a rope ladder to snatch Madison out of the speeding car, and it only took a gun and a wad of cash to get everyone to cooperate.  And so we get that scene on the book's jacket where Raht grabs Madison, the two get pulled up by the copilot, and the driverless car "WENT OFF THE END OF THE PIER!"  Yay.

This stunt actually gets witnesses - Gris mentions cars stopping on the Elevated Highway and people watching from the rails.  All Heller, Krak and Bang-Bang catch is the tail end of the Excalibur going in the river and that "police helicopter" flying off, no doubt after trying to give out a speeding ticket.  Heller gets out to investigate, but Bang-Bang opines that they'll never find the body due to all the gangster corpses down there already.

"Good riddance," said the Countess Krak.  "Serves him right for talking about my Jettero that way!"

At this point I don't think they were planning on interrogating Madison at all.  Krak already knows about Bury, she just wanted to kill Madison for badmouthing her boyfriend.

Heller signals Bang-Bang that he's found something,  Wanna know what it is?  Too bad.  Instead Gris - say it with me - freaks out at the thought of someone having witnessed the helicopter rescue of Madison, which is pretty damn likely given all the rubbernecking going on.  He freaks out further when Krak suggests bringing the yacht around so they can search the water and ensure Madison's dead (not try to find him for questioning), because the next step of his escape plan is to get to that yacht.

So the chapter ends on the exciting question of whether an old taxi can beat a helicopter to a harbor.

Back to Chapter Four. 

Monday, May 27, 2013

Part Fifty-Five, Chapter Four - Adventures in Packing

This chapter is the equivalent of those moments in a horror movie when the female protagonist is fumbling with her keys as the masked serial killer slowly strides closer.  Except the female protagonist is a revolting imbecile, the masked serial killer is nominally a good guy, and instead of keys being juggled it's an underaged prostitute's luggage.  Also, the serial killer is several miles away.  And we don't really care who dies at the end of the movie, which is six or seven hours from now.  And somebody's spliced a homemade porno into the movie, along with some boring vacation photos.  And the screen's out of focus.  And there's an annoying kid a few seats over who repeats all the lame jokes.  And the theater smells like vomit and stale popcorn.

I'm getting a little sidetracked, which is strange, because there's so little in this chapter to be sidetracked from.

The cab driver comments on all the screaming coming from Gris' portable "television," unconcerned when Gris asks what happened to the other passenger.

"But on the subject of TV shows, you got to watch it.  Violence is bad for the heart."

"Especially when it's done with blastguns," I said.

"Oh, you're watching some rerun of Star Trek," he said.

Shouldn't that be Star Drek, Hubbard?

"That stuff is just garbage, you know."

"Please don't mention garbage," I begged.

You just got served, Roddenberry!

Gris gets to wondering whether Teenie's chickened out and run off on him, which would ruin everything.  Remember, if Teenie doesn't go with Gris, Pinchy will get him on those "rape of a minor" charges.  But if he takes her with him, he can occasionally produce evidence that Teenie is still alive, and then... Pinchy will fail to go after him for kidnapping her friend.  Also note that, as far as I can tell, Gris left that "suicide" note of his back at the apartment.  So it'll look like he's killed himself (somehow) and Teenie has gone missing.  So there's no logical plan or point to this, but it happens because Gris is an idiot and the author wants to have Teenie in the story being all sexy and underaged.

Teenie eventually reappears but says she needs two hundred dollars to pay off her landlady.  She has a lot of luggage.  The cab driver demands that Gris summon another cab because the load would otherwise break company regulations.  Gris checks the viewscreen and sees Heller on the expressway, drawing ever closer.  The view is so distressing that he takes a closer look at what Teenie plans on taking with her.

I looked in despair at all this baggage.  "What is this stuff?" I wailed, hoping she would abandon it after all.

"The labors of a lifetime," Teenie said.  "You see that big sack over there?  That's chock-a-block with the seed of the very best Columbia hemp.  That second bag is seeds of choice Acapulco Gold.  That red sack is preselected seed from Panama Red."

"But that doesn't account for a tenth of this!" I wept.

"Well, no.  Some of it is sentimental, I will admit.  That big box is a press camera, one of the original tools of my childhood.  It may be busted now, but oh, the pictures it has taken!  Me being forced to (bleep) my uncle.  Me being licked by a pervert that coughed up twenty G's.  And then there were all the family bangs when my parents had their friends over.  Oh, the memories of childhood.  

I'm going to focus on the absurdity of a teenager talking like this rather than what's actually being said.

You wouldn't want me to leave that behind!  It's museum-quality stuff.  And then there's two or three skateboards that can be fixed, to say nothing of the two new ones you got me."

I averted my face from such a painful subject.

"And then there's my collection of autographed jock straps."

"WHAT?" I said, startled in spite of my anxiety.

They're so you can blackmail athletes into getting free seats at sporting events.  So if anyone reading this goes pro, and a pretty young something tries to get you to sign some athletic supports, don't do it!

And then they're done packing and Gris and Teenie drive to the heliport, and there's Raht with a helicopter waiting.  Gris has to throw some more money at workers to get everything loaded.  Because if there's anything better than showering Heller and Krak with wealth, it's making Gris poor.

In summary, Gris and Teenie change location and prepare to board a helicopter.

Back to Chapter Three 

Friday, May 24, 2013

Part Fifty-Five, Chapter Three - The Fifty-Thousand Dollar Question

The more I think about the previous chapter, the more puzzled I get.  My overall impression from seven volumes of Mission Earth is that the author is putting the bare minimum of planning into it, writing by the seat of his pants with only the vaguest idea of how the plot's supposed to come together.  Thus the subplots that go nowhere, plot points that the author shows interest in for a few chapters before forgetting about, and the godawful pacing.

Yet last chapter looks like it was written backwards.  Flagrant drove a pickup instead of a proper garbage truck, and decided to cruise along in reverse, so that Heller could waste a concussion grenade by throwing it in the back and creating that miraculous barrier of garbage bags expelled from the other vehicle.  I guess the author decided the book needed an action sequence on page 133 instead of having Heller easily catch up to a slow, unwieldy garbage truck and pull a gun on the driver or something.

Anyway, this chapter.  Having been trapped by an impenetrable wall of garbage bags, J. P. Flagrant has no alternative but to crawl out of his vehicle, fall on his knees, and beg for mercy.  And refuse to rat on F.F.B.O.  Yeah, he definitely learned his lesson from Babe, and won't reveal the "scared" Rockecenter interests to a Corleone.  "Now let me go back to my garbage."

Well, he's got principles, at least.

Heller just wants Flagrant to tell him what F.F.B.O. means, because our heroes aren't smart enough to call a friggin' information desk or flip through a phonebook instead of a dictionary, and the internet certainly doesn't exist.  Flagrant again refuses, because "you're not from the advertising world or you would know."  Heller reaches into his pocket, Flagrant flinches, but Heller's pulled out a business card instead of a firearm.

Ochokeechokee, Florida
Sales Office: Empire State Building

I can only assume they're in New York for tax reasons.  And that Heller had a good reason to take their card and carry it around with him.  And a good reason to pick this business card out of any alternative.

Flagrant looked at it.  He stopped weeping.  He stood up and gave his green derby a twitch.  He said, "Fifty thousand dollars a year, one percent of the gross of those sold, a five-year contract with ninety-day renewal, my own secretary---a brunette, under twenty-five, nice build, nice (bleeps), pretty face?"

Heller said, "I hope the information is worth it.  The answer is yes."

I guess we're really spoiled these days.  Maybe it's just about impossible to figure out what a four-letter acronym stands for without the internet.  Maybe this really is the best way of solving this mystery: shelling out tens of thousands of dollars and objectifying a young woman to get a former enemy to explain what the letters stand for.

Now that Flagrant works for Heller... wait, so Heller owns an alligator farm company?  Is it worth asking why?  Anyway, Flagrant is now perfectly happy to spill his guts: F.F.B.O. stands for Fatten, Farten, Burstein and Ooze, the biggest PR firm working to advertise the Rockecenter interests, such as I.G. Barben Pharmaceuticals, Octopus Oil, and Grabbe-Manhattan Bank, and J. Walter Madison was the one behind the Whiz Kid job, hired on orders of Mr. Bury from Swindle and Crouch, the Rockecenter attorneys, and Madison lives with his mother Mrs. Dorothy Jekyll Madison, she's in the phone book if you need her address.

Good thing Heller has a perfect memory and doesn't need to write any of this down.

Gris is - say it with me - freaking out at this point.  He heard the "deadly voice" Heller used when asking where he could find Madison, and was particularly upset when Flagrant mentioned a "brown-eyed, swarthy" fellow he saw with Mr. Bury - Gris himself!  Flagrant rushes off to start his new life promoting alligator farms, Bang-Bang, Krak and Heller saddle up to hunt down Madison, and Gris wonders where Teenie is instead of why he's wasting time hauling her around instead of properly faking his death and escaping the country.

The Countess Krak said, "It would have been cheaper to use a helmet."

And I kinda regret that they didn't use one.  Because then we could've had the heroes pin down Flagrant, strap an alien mind-control helmet onto his head, and grill him for information, in the middle of the street in broad daylight.  And nobody would notice, because these are the only four people in Yonkers, New York.

The chapter doesn't mention them cleaning up the wall of garbage, either.  Jerks.

Back to Chapter Two

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Part Fifty-Five, Chapter Two - Garbage Day

Gris and Teenie's cab arrives in Tudor City, "a collection of twelve brick buildings built in the 1920s in the Flamboyant or Tudor Gothic-English style of architecture." Teenie gets to climb fourteen stories to her apartment, and while she packs Gris hangs out with the cab driver, watching his portable viewscreen.  I suddenly wonder whether it'd be possible to track Krak and Heller by the streaming video and audio they're constantly emitting from the transmitters in their skulls.  Are they giving their human friends cancer?  Will they die of leukemia in a few years?

The view shows the back of a garbage truck - Heller and Krak have caught up with Flagrant.  We know because they put his name on the side of the vehicle, along with a billboard boasting "TODAY'S GARBAGE IS TOMORROW'S AMERICA," a sign promoting a contest to win a trip to the garbage dump, and loudspeakers playing a garbage jingle.

Happy garbage to you,
Happy garbage to you,
Be kind to your garbage,
And it will love you.

I... guess this is satire, right, of how advertising agents like to advertise things that don't need it, and make up obnoxious songs for public sanitation services.  Or something.  It's not really important, because we're about to have a thrilling chase scene!

Flagrant notices the cab with the Corleone sign on it, and guns the gas.  "Now hold on," you say, "I've seen a modern garbage truck, and they're about as nimble as a drunken walrus."  But L. Ron Hubbard is one step ahead of you, see - Flagrant's not in one of those behemoths, but a pickup truck carrying sacks of trash in its open back.  So this car chase isn't completely implausible, it's just boring.

But (bleep) that Heller!  He was racing right alongside the garbage truck!

Then the old cab leaped ahead with a ferocious roar.  It snarled down the street ahead of the truck.  Heller applied his brakes and yanked his wheel.

With a scream of tires, the old cab went broadside.  It jarred to a halt.

It was blocking the street!

The garbage truck bore down on it like a juggernaut!

I prayed, hit that cab!  Then that will be the last of Heller.

I'm reminded that we're basically watching a guy watching an unexciting car chase. 

But Flagrant had jammed on his brakes.  The heavy vehicle was shuddering to a halt.  Oh, Gods, he was going to stop.  I wanted to scream "Hit that cab!"  Oh, Gods, if he stopped he would be caught.

He stopped.

But he wasn't caught.

Flagrant had the truck in reverse!

It started backwards slowly and then began to pick up speed.  He couldn't

Well, you get the idea.  Flagrant gets his not-quite-a-real garbage truck going forty backwards.  Heller gives Bang-Bang the wheel, steps out on the cab's running boards, and when he gets close enough to his quarry, throws a concussion grenade into the back of the garbage truck.

He didn't want to shoot out the truck's tires for fear of hurting Flagrant, so Heller threw a grenade instead.

Don't worry, it gets dumber!  The concussion grenade's blast blows all the garbage out the back of the truck, while lands in a perfect barricade sealing off the street, and because Flagrant is fleeing in reverse, he plows right into it.  And instead of bludgeoning through the sacks of trash and spraying banana peels and used tissues everywhere, the trash bags have just the right consistency to bring his truck to a "squishing halt!"  And even though the concussion grenade that thew Gunsalmo Silva from the Empire State Building was powerful enough to leave a dent in the floor, after this grenade Flagrant and his truck are unharmed.

One last bizarre thing to note - Flagrant got slowed down by traffic stopped at a light.  They're out in public having this little car chase, throwing around explosives.  And nobody notices.  There's no mention of alarmed bystanders, much less police officers showing up to politely inquire what the hell's going on here.  Aside from that brief mention of stopped traffic, Yonkers is completely empty save for the protagonists and the guy they're chasing. 

Tune in next chapter as Heller and Flagrant have a chat in the middle of a street, their parked vehicles and a wall of garbage cutting off traffic, and nobody minds because nobody else exists.

Back to Chapter One

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Part Fifty-Five, Chapter One - Hott Dogg

Think back on Gris' interactions with Madison the bizarro PR specialist.  Remember all the chapters of Gris grinding his teeth at the ineffectiveness of Madison's publicity campaigns.  Remember all the times Gris kept trying to get Madison to do one thing, only for the guy to do something different,  It took ages, but Madison's efforts eventually came to fruition, only for the heroes to undo the damage in this book.  Madison is now obsolete, and more than that, he's a liability who could expose Gris' role in all of this.

Gris decides to call Madison at home and gets the man's mother, who comments how despondent poor Walter has been recently.  She puts Madison on the line and Gris warns him that the mob is finally moving against him!  Yes, those dastardly Faustino mobsters want him dead, but are canny enough to subcontract the hit to their hated foes, the Corleones.  There's a Corleone taxi on its way this very minute, and Madison's only hope is to get on the roof of his building so Gris can pick him up with a helicopter!

This is a bunch of lies, except for the last part, strangely enough.  You might expect Gris to decide that murder is the best solution and spend another hundred pages hiring a necrophiliac hitman to fail to snipe Madison, but he actually intends to rescue the guy, and is even willing to pay out of pocket for Raht to get a helicopter.

It would be much cheaper to take a rifle and when Madison appeared on the roof, shoot him.  But no, he was far too valuable a man just to sacrifice because one had to follow the Apparatus textbook.  Madison had the whole procedure of PR under his belt.  He was well trained.  He could wreck anyone's life at will.  I made the crucial decision, no matter how painful it was.

Yeah.  Madison, the moron who wanted to start World War III for headlines, the guy who Gris just can't control, the guy whose smear campaign only payed off when the courts got involved but has now been neutralized, is just too darn valuable to have killed.  This is the guy Gris is going to break protocol and save.  Not his loyal henchman, or even the Apparatus-trained super-assassin Gris was irrationally frightened of, but the bloody publicist.

Step two of Gris' escape plan is to pen a suicide note to his wives explaining that he can't live up to their high standards.

And then Teenie shows up.

She was standing there in her flat oxfords and a plaid skirt, her ponytail thrusting out of the back of her head.  "I just graduated," she said with her too-big smile.  "And they gave me presents!  Look!  A genuine Hong Kong dildo.  A whole dozen lace condoms.  A package of joss sticks for luck.  And behold!"

She was unfurling a diploma.  It said she was a Certified Professional and that she had graduated Magna Come Loud.

"At last," he crowed, "I have completed my education!"

At this point you're probably expecting Pinchy and Candy to come home to an apparent murder-suicide.  And you'd be wrong, again.  Despite having hated Teenie since the first chapter she appeared in, Gris is going to take her with him, too.

My plans for Teenie had been a bit nebulous.  They consisted solely of capturing her  and holding her prisoner so that if at any time the court accused me of murdering her, as per the injunction, I could produce her and say "See, she's still alive."  That way she would not be around to lie about me or get me in trouble.  It was an elementary and effective solution and part of my general plan.

Yes, kidnapping a minor is surely the best way to avoid getting in trouble for alleged murder, and we certainly don't want Teenie to go around spreading more... actually, have Teenie's lies been a problem at any point?  I don't remember her saying anything about Gris, and he certainly hasn't been staying up at night worrying what she's been saying to her stupid classmates.  Teenie's compulsive lying seems to be more of a character quirk than anything.

So Gris tells Teenie that he wants her to run away with him, which she interprets as selling her into white slavery (the worst kind of slavery!), which she is totally fine with so long as she gets half of what he sells her for.  They shake on it.  This is a stupid book filled with repulsive characters.

The catch is that Teenie demands to go home and pack first, and Gris agrees if she's willing to write Pinchy a note.  It takes a second try before Gris is happy with the results.

Deer, deer Pinchy and Candy,
     I graduated & with honnors.
     They warded mee a bedpost gradadutaded coorss in Hung Cung.
     Keeep upp the gud wk.
     Hott Dogg!
How the hell do you misspell "me?"

And so Gris prepares to save his skin by dragging an illiterate, hypersexual teenager whom he absolutely hates and a delusional twerp who wants to immortalize his clients by getting them killed along with him as he attempts to flee the country.  Because the latter is just too valuable to lose, and the former...

Look, the author wants to send Madison and Teenie to Voltar in the name of hilarious satire, so Gris has to bring them along with him to Turkey and ship them off.

I could complain about it being out of character for Gris to do this, but that's the beauty of writing your villain as an idiot.  Bringing along a failure and a stupid kid during your daring escape?  No more stupid than any other of Gris' plans.

Back to Part Fifty-Four, Chapter Seven

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Part Fifty-Four, Chapter Seven - Feel the Raw Terror as the Main Characters Have Breakfast

Here's a tip: if you want to sustain some dramatic tension after revealing how the protagonist's foes are unraveling the conspiracy surrounding them and are possibly closing in on him that very moment, don't start the subsequent chapter with

I rose in an exhausted stupor the following day.  It had been very difficult the night before.  It had taken four bhongs of marijuana to get any performance going at all.  My throat was parched.  I was having trouble seeing. The threat of homo demonstrations was coming through like a nightmare.

I drank a quart of grapefruit juice almost without stopping.  I ate a package of Oreo cookies.  I still felt terrible.  I needed something to start me going.

It's kinda hard to feel like Gris' life is in danger if he's sitting around eating cookies.

He flips on the viewscreens to behold the "Raw terror!" of Krak and Heller having breakfast on the terrace.  Heller jokes about Mister Calico being in the newspapers, while Krak continues to complain about the "black propaganda by deletion" in the printed media, which hasn't retracted any of the nasty things said about the Whiz Kid even though Krak and Heller have brute forced their way out of their legal problems.  Heller remains disinterested.  Pretty scary stuff.

Bang-Bang shows up with a stack of dictionaries, so they can look up and discover what F.F.B.O. stands for, because I guess Webster's is full of the initials of contemporary businesses and organizations?  It's a useless gesture, though, because less than half a page after Bang-Bang arrives with them, Heller suddenly remembers something from the previous fall, when he visited Babe Corleone managing personnel at the docks.

"Who is that?" said the Countess.

"Babe Corleone is the head of the Corleone mob."

"Oh, Jettero," said the Countess Krak.  "Another woman!  I've got to get you off this planet before they eat you alive.  Women are dangerous, Jettero.  I know you don't believe me, but after all you have been through lately, I should think . . ."

Yeah.  It's not the fact that Heller was working with the mob, it's that Heller was working with a woman, that gets Krak upset.  Given Krak's peculiar notions of morality, this should come as no surprise.

Heller commands "All thrusts reverse!" and tries to explain that Babe's "Earth middle-aged" and like a mother to him, what with how she throws traditores into the river.  He remembers one such Italian word for "traitor," a J. P. Flagrant, a former executive for F.F.B.O.  If they can track him down, maybe he can explain what the initials stand for.

Bang-Bang calls up the New York Employment Office and learns that Flagrant got a job driving a garbage truck in Yonkers.  So I guess anyone can call an Employment Office and ask for the work information of anyone else.  Heller and Krak argue over whether they should take the Rolls-Royce or refurbished old taxi to Yonkers.  And Gris is forced to lurch into action.

J.P. Flagrant, when they found him, would spill his guts.  He would put them straight on to Madison and Madison would connect with me.

For them, fourteen miles there.  Fifteen or twenty miles back to Madison's place.  How much time would they consume?

I had had it!

If I hurried and luck was with me, I could escape.

I had an awful lot to get done FAST!

My time had run out forever in New York.

Which means, due to there being only two main locations on planet Earth this book is interested in, by default Gris will be returning to Turkey.  Turkey, the land of imported belly dancers, kids surgically altered to look like 1930's Hollywood stars, expensive limos, abused house staff, a mobster hospital, another underaged and oversexed girl, and huge credit card bills.

I want to complain, but it makes perfect sense.  Krak and Heller are making progress in their mission, so Gris will hide out in the Land the Plot Forgot.

Back to Part Fifty-Four, Chapter Six 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Part Fifty-Four, Chapter Six - Is It Still a Rescue When You Sent Them Into Danger in the First Place?

Gris is in full panic mode now that "the forces of evil had united their fangs against me."  His two most feared and hated enemies are working together once more, and have not only slipped the hasty trap he barely remembered to set for them, but are proceeding to muscle, murder, mindrape their way out of their legal problems.  On top of that:

If Madison lost his Whiz Kid double and imagined it had been my fault, the PR man might turn on me and decide to make ME famous.  Nobody could live through that.

Which is deeply confusing.  When Krak kidnapped and hypnotized Gerry several chapters ago, she programmed him to stay with her until his court appearance.  He's been missing for over a day.  And Madison hasn't noticed yet?  Also, why would Madison leap to the conclusion that this Federal agent he rarely comes in contact with would be behind Gerry's disappearance?  Unless Gris is realizing that his not-quite-warnings that someone might leak F.F.B.O.'s role in the Whiz Kid media circus might look a little suspicious in hindsight.

Also, let's add this to the pile of Gris' problems that could be solved by a new identity from the Apparatus base in Turkey that specializes in making fake birth certificates.

Gris calls up Raht on his state-of-the-art alien-made two-way radio, informing his remaining lackey that Crobe has become "supernumerary."  This is either the author subtly showing how Gris will pick up and use vocabulary words he hears other, smarter characters use, or the author showing off his word-a-day calendar.  Raht agrees to kidnap Dr. Crobe and ship him back to Turkey.

It's quite natural to wonder how capturing Crobe helps Gris defeat Krak and Heller, or would deflect Madison's blame over the loss of Gerry.  But this is in fact his half-assed way of saving the Whiz Kid double - not by freeing him from his imprisonment in a brain-scrambling asylum, but by removing one doctor from the mental hospital.

I clicked off.  It was all I could come up with.  I wondered if I could do more to rescue the double.  Factually, I didn't feel well enough to go over to Bellevue myself---and part of this was, I had to admit, a fear that they would latch on to me.  No matter how enamored one might become of the general subject of psychiatry, it was a wise thing to stay away from psychiatrists.  Just because the king needs a headsman is no reason to invite the hooded axe-swinger to dinner.

So there you have it.  Yeah, Gris' plan doesn't actually rescue the fake Whiz Kid, but he's tired, and those psychiatrists are scary.  So he has a liedown until later that afternoon.

It's only after being "nagged by a sense of duty" that Gris bothers to check on his hated, deadly foes.  Krak is packing, Heller's back to planning his anti-pollution campaign, and I can only assume Krak and Heller's talk about why it's wrong to imprison your boyfriend on a yacht and send him halfway around the world due to a misplaced desire to "protect" him happened off-screen sometime.  Now they're still trying to puzzle out what F.F.B.O. stands for.  Gris continues to fret that Krak may follow the trail to Madison and then to him, as if Krak would know that Mr. Inkswitch is an alias of Soltan Gris.

Then Raht calls in with bad news.  He and some guards went to Bellevue Hospital and were directed to Dr. Crobe.  They found a bucktoothed kid in his office hooked up to a shock machine and already passed out with a syringe in his arm, but before they could find Crobe the Apparatus thugs all lost consciousness by what Raht guesses was a Blueflash, that magical light that knocks people out.  When Raht's team came to, the bucktoothed kid was gone and Crobe was strapped in the electroshock machine in his place, with a note, in Voltarian, telling someone to "Take this murderer home and see that he stays locked up."  Crobe is on his way to Turkey, while the staff at Bellevue is now under the impression that the Whiz Kid passed his mental examination and is totally sane.

Or in Gris' words, Krak and Heller "HAD GONE FROM THAT COURT TO THE HOSPITAL!" while he was failing to nap.  And at least the people at the reception desk were hypnotized into declaring Gerry sane.  Nice of Krak to let the guy out after sending him over to be zapped and injected with crap, though I can't help but wonder if they could've come up with a plan that skipped that part.

So Gris is freaking out... again, like he does every chapter that Krak and/or Heller does something.  Did they hypnotize Crobe into spilling the beans?  What have they done with Gerry?  Who was the note in Voltarian for, do they know a fellow alien is involved in all this?

The answers are "I don't know," "I don't know," and "I don't know."  I've skimmed ahead through most of the book - we're in for a long, boring ride, folks - and can't find a part where Krak and Heller talk about what they learned from Crobe.  As far as I can tell, Gerry the fake Whiz Kid unceremoniously disappears from this point on, and not even Madison spends much time thinking about him.  And it doesn't look like the note's explained either.

Nope, the rest of this book looks to be mostly Gris touring his way back to Turkey (dammit), Krak and Heller doing stuff in Florida, and at the end, possibly that mid-air kidnapping indicated on the cover.

And Teenie, of course.

Back to Chapter Five

Friday, May 17, 2013

Part Fifty-Four, Chapter Five - Learn a Synonym for "Lucrative"

So has the mighty alien empire of Voltar figured out alarm clocks?  They managed to skip pharmaceuticals and the field of mental health, so it's certainly possible.  At any rate, Gris either forgets to set one or is ignorant of such devices' existence, and so oversleeps on his big day.  He wakes up at ten in the morning and worries that court may already started.

I freaked!

Yeah, see... I dunno if I'm okay with that sort of language coming out of a bona fide alien infiltrator.  Maybe if he was trying really hard to blend in and use the lingo of the natives, then we could have an obnoxious alien dropping all sorts of dated 80's (90's?) slang like "far out, dude!" or "totally radical!" But Gris' interests are centered around the 1930's, and he's too lazy to make that sort of effort to learn the locals' ways.  So this feels about as out of place as Gris successfully planning and executing an assassination.

Anyway, Gris hurriedly calls Eagle Eye Security and tells them that the lady with the "fifty G" bounty is in the courtroom of Judge Hammer Twist right now.  Off goes the security team to valiantly fail in the service of an idiot.

Job's a good 'un.  His master "plan" executed, Gris sits down and watches things happen on the viewscreens.  One viewer shows the Gerry the Whiz Kid Double sitting nearby in the busy courtroom, another shows a van interior, while Crobe is "diddling around" (snicker) "with some awful concoction of brain cells, humming happily."  Look carefully and you can spot the end-of-chapter plot twist.

Court goes slowly, there's a whole line of people waiting for some judgment.  Man who ran off on his wife, seven years hard labor.  Burglar slash strangler of secretaries, one year suspended sentence.  Bigamist pleading guilty, life imprisonment.  Gee, it's like the author thinks this country's bigamy laws are too harsh or something.  All the while security goons shuffle in, guarding every exit.  Gris gloats that Krak can't escape because the guards are specifically "on the watch for powder or paint," raising the question of how they'd be able to notice now what they didn't earlier, or why they let the obviously powdered or painted person pass by last time if they did notice the disguise.

After awarding a little old lady fifteen million dollars in damages for falling on a sidewalk

"Thank you, Your Honor," the old harridan said.  "And I'm not forgetting the Retirement Fund of Judges, like we arranged in chambers."

it's Gerry Wister up before the bench.  He announces that he's dismissed his attorneys and is representing himself

"Oh, my!" said the judge.  "This is bad business!  How do you expect lawyers to get properly rich if they don't get juicy targets like you?  You're pretty remunerative around here."

and we also learn that "satire" is an antonym for "subtlety."

Anyway.  Gerry's pleading guilty, not to any specific charge but "Any suits filed against Wister."  This forces the judge to go through a bunch of paperwork.  Those women have recently dropped their suits upon finding out that Gerry was going to do this and he... didn't have any money... what?  When did this happen?  Gris sure as hell didn't warn Madison back in Chapter Two.  Did he do it in between the paragraphs I read?  And here's the bigger question, why would Madison tell the girls to not bother with their suits instead of doing something about his kidnapped Whiz Kid?

The search for some crime to stick on this guy continues.  The "rape of a minor" thing is a big deal, "even in Mexico," except "American authorities refuse to believe that there are any virgins in Mexico," and burro stealing is no longer a crime due to the introduction of the Volkswagon.  Also, Gerry admits to never having visited Mexico, which the judge dismisses as irrelevant.

Twist was getting quite angry.  The sunburn went redder.  "Clerk, Mr. Prosecutor, isn't there something we can get this young man for?  Cant' be wasting the court's time like this.  Here we have a potential legal victim standing right here

If you ever needed evidence that this acclaimed master storyteller can't be arsed to proofread a single chapter he excretes, here you go.  I'm not pointing any fingers at the uncredited editor, mind you; if it'd been me, I'd have figured that anyone who made it this far obviously didn't care what they were reading and just left this stuff in.

and nothing to charge him with!  Unacceptable!  Wasting the taxpayers' money!  Unthinkable!"

The clerk does find an order to commit one Heavenly Joy Krackle for mental evaluation, specifying that she not see Dr. Crobe.  Since Crobe's a model psychiatrist - "You can always depend on him to get rid of unwanted people!" - the judge decides to ignore that part of the order.  But then a Mr. Philup Bleedum steps forward, representing Miss Krackle, and explains that she was ordered executed at Atalanta under the alias of Lissus Moam, going on to request a delay in the commitment order until her previous execution order is fulfilled.

And Gris gets worked up at this book's what, twentieth? meaningless Code Break.  The judge of course hears "Atlanta Penitentiary" and so doesn't discover the alien conspiracy, and when the attorney tries to put away the documents about Lissus Moam, the viewer's arm deftly exchanges it for a new piece of paper, too fast for anyone but concussed, hungover, sleepy Gris to notice.  "A magician switch!"

The new order is to send Jerome Wister to see Dr. Crobe, which means that Gerry Wister will get to have his brains scrambled instead.  The judge is happy to finally be able to convict the guy for something and sends the poor sap off to his doom.  Hooray!  Another victory for the forces of not-Gris!

But wait, there's more!  The viewscreen character gets up to walk out of the courtroom.  One of the security guards touches just off-screen, notices some makeup paint, but then is grabbed by the elbow and marched out of the courtroom and down a side hall to the top of a flight of stairs.

"I don't think you heard the judge.  Neither Heavenly Joy Krackle nor Jerome Terrance Wister are now wanted for anything at all."

Please note the revelation that doesn't occur here.

The security officer heard wide-eyed as he stood teetering.

"And I think when you go to collect your fee, you'll find a hole where Dingaling, Chase and Ambo offices once stood.  So skip the zeal, mister.  This is the only pay you're going to get."

And teeter, teeter, fall away.


That's the onomatopoeia for someone falling down a flight of stairs, of course.

The security officer went down the steps all arms and legs.

THUD!  He hit the bottom.

Philup Bleedum's face was reproving.  "Was that necessary?"

"Maybe not necessary, but oh, so satisfactory."

Then the viewscreen character exits the courthouse, a "BLACK van" pulls up, the door opens, "AND THERE INSIDE WAS THE COUNTESS KRAK!"

So, couple of things.

First, Gris didn't recognize Heller when he spoke, and it took seeing Krak on the viewscreen to make him realize that "All today, due to my impaired sight, I HAD BEEN WATCHING THE WRONG VIEWER!"  Second, at some point Krak taught Heller the magician's switch, probably in the same chapter that the Whiz Kid Wives found out about Gerry's decision to confess and Madison decided not to do anything about it.  Third, Heller just used brute force and threats of future violence to solve his legal problems, begging the question of why he didn't keep doing that in the first place.  And fourth, our brave hero just mentioned that he has or is planning to bomb the offices of the lawyers arrayed against him, which again raises the question of why he waited until now to do this.

Also, why would the security guard find makeup on Heller's face when he has that doodad that turns his skin black without any?  And why didn't he say anything, shout, raise the alarm when he made the discovery?  And what about being grabbed by the elbow completely incapacitated the guy?

This is actually a very Mission Earth-y chapter of Mission Earth.  None of the plot points fit together, the reader is hammered in the forehead with the satire, and the writing is just bad.

Back to Chapter Four

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Part Fifty-Four, Chapter Four - He Would've Enacted His Evil Plan, But He Got High

Let's say you're in a bit of a pickle.  You've been blackmailed by some people into being a sex slave they whore out to all their friends, threatened with charges that could see you imprisoned for life, if not killed.  Furthermore, your two mortal enemies are methodologically dismantling your life's work, and have a sinister plan that would also end in your death.  You just tried to neutralize one of them, but your foe slipped the net and is now undoubtedly trying to reunite with your other enemy and bring about your ruin all the faster.  But, despite the looming disaster hanging over you, you've come up with a plan, a way to strike back, a way to salvage the situation, to take the first step on the road to getting your life back under control.  Time to leap into action, no?

Gris goes home, gets stoned, does his sexy thing, and oversleeps.

Teenie's around, discussing a new "passive mode" sex technique where women feign death for their man's enjoyment.  Gris is of course still angry about the skateboard injury, not that he needs a reason to be annoyed with Teenie, who he has irrationally hated since she was first introduced.  One of the lesbians upsets Gris by going into this newly-described "passive mode," so Gris needs some marijuana to get through the act.  The ex-lesbians are of course impressed, but complain that there's no way they could get by with one Grissing a month, but Pinchy reassures them that Gris will be helping convert "those chauvinistic pigs of homos" soon, so there'll be plenty of man-parts to go around.  And at the mention of "homoes," Gris freezes up.

Bouncing off door jambs, I got to my room.  I locked the door.  I fell upon the sofa.  I lay there shivering.  I also felt like I was running a fever.

Would my plan work?

No.  You haven't done anything to make it work.  You have thought of the plan, and that is all.

Would I make it in time?

Have you made any effort to make it in time?  Set an alarm?  Get a courtesy call from someone?  Start your plan now instead of later?

If the Fates decreed NO to both, then I might as well blow my brains out, for life would become utterly unsupportable.

Obviously Gris doesn't kill himself, or else he wouldn't be narrating this "confession."  Which is not to say that Gris doesn't fail next chapter, he just puts as much effort into his suicide as he does his plan.

Too stoned and too blind to watch viewers, I wrapped myself in blankets and fell into awful nightmares where I did not make it and wound up in the Manco Devil's Hell, raped for eternity by homo Demons, even though I blew my brains out daily!

And of course Gris is too stoned to make a phone call.  That is all his awesome plan involves - punching seven buttons and having a twenty-second conversation with somebody.  And it'll all fall apart because, as stated previously, he oversleeps.

There's three more books in this series.  Somehow, the author plans on dragging this out for a thousand more pages.  And every chapter we can't help but wonder how Gris hasn't managed to drown in his bathtub yet.

Back to Chapter Three 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Part Fifty-Four, Chapter Three - Heller Impoverishes the Crew of His Girlfriend's Yacht

So Gris already knew the general time of day and exact pier that the Golden Sunset would be docking at thanks to eavesdropping on the Countess.  But then he calls Inspector Grafferty's office and learns that same information plus the exact time that the boat would be docking, because the police were smart enough to contact the harbormaster.  It'd have been even smarter if they arranged for any harbormaster on the East Coast to contact the authorities if the Golden Sunset tried to dock, but maybe a police force serving the most powerful man on the planet doesn't have that kind of clout.

Gris is willing to put himself at risk and attend Heller's capture in person, just to see the look on his face when Heller's wheeled away in a straightjacket and sentenced to "mental extinction."  Police, Feds, and customs agents are all over the place, and Grafferty's chomping at the bit to get at this guy he's sure he recognizes from a "sex-pervert" lineup.  The Golden Sunset coasts in, unaware of the trap waiting for it.  Surely this time it will be the end for the man who has consistently outsmarted and outfought the bad guys.

The Feds actually have no clue what Gris and Grafferty are here for, and storm aboard the boat searching for Chinese being smuggled in... on a Turkish vessel... on the Atlantic... and attempt to plant contraband because every part of the U.S. government is actively trying to destroy its citizens' lives.  Once they're done, Grafferty's force moves in, surrounding every exit, and start interrogating the crew about their passenger.

They relate how that "CIA agent" had been teaching the ship's crew to shoot dice, won back all the money he owed, and went on to clean them out.  Then he put all his winnings on the line, betting that if he could shoot five consecutive sevens, they'd have to let him ashore early.  And gosh darn it, he did, so they had no choice but to let Heller land at Jersey the night before.  Gris is forced to conclude that when he checked on Heller last time and saw him staring up at a ceiling, it wasn't in his cabin on the ship, but a hotel room!

Once again defeated without Heller even trying or being aware of the danger, Gris takes a taxi home.  But then, it happens.

Suddenly, just like that, I got a terrific PLAN!

Even if it all went wrong, left and right, I was not lost after all!

The plan was utterly brilliant!

As far as I can tell, it isn't so much a plan as it is Gris remembering that Krak is due to appear in court the next day, and Gris happens to know a security agency that has been trying to capture her.  So not quite "INSPIRATION!", just his inferior intellect managing to put two facts together and suggest a response.

In this alternate universe, the Turkish flag is red with a yellow star and crescent, rather than a white star and crescent.

Back to Chapter Two

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Part Fifty-Four, Chapter Two - Gris Gives Madison Something to Worry About

Gris wakes up the next day with a headache, as well as fresh bandages because Pinchy knew that a blackened face would frighten the soon-to-be-ex-lesbians Gris got to cure.  He's already called Grafferty to set up a trap for Heller, now it's time to go visit Madison.

The publicity agent has long since come up with a headline for yesterday's events, "SEX-STARVED BEAUTY KIDNAPS WHIZ KID, TRAINS CAT TO EFFECT SNATCH."  No, Madison is not in the least bit bothered that his star actor has been kidnapped and is still missing (Krak really doesn't want anyone interfering before Gerry's day in court), he's so pleased that he's been handed "the hottest story since Marc Anthony raped Cleopatra in a rug."  He and his team brainstorm the next day's headlines, passing on "mobs of minors in California lining up in hope of being raped by the Whiz Kid" in favor of a nationwide cathunt.

"The animal angle always gets them," said Madison, sinking down at his desk, utterly spent but happy.  "The day after, the cat will tell all in the most sexy details you ever imagined!"

And people would believe it.  Because on Blito-P3, not only does the public unconditionally believe whatever's printed in the newspapers (save for a rare few who are in on the scam), but people will believe that a cat is talking to them live on stage.

Gris isn't interested, and comes with a warning.  Not a warning like "Gerry has been kidnapped by a murderer and is now compromised; she plans on forcing him to confess in court to all the crimes in your stories.  You are about to lose your key asset."  No, it's "Would F.F.B.O. tell anybody who it was who handles this account on the Whiz Kid?"  Which is more of a question, but anyway, Gris is concerned that the firm might reveal Madison's involvement.  So he... starts talking about the "real" Whiz Kid, and how dangerous he is.

Turns out the objective is not to warn, but scare Madison.  Gris talks about Heller's fifty-seven confirmed kills, thoroughly impressing the other man, since after all Billy the Kid only got to twenty-one, bringing the Whiz Kid close to Wild Bill Hickock's seven-six, and it really is amazing how many characters in these books have interests that intersect with L. Ron Hubbard's childhood.  Why get too involved in your sci-fi espionage saga when you can instead reminisce about speakeasies, cowboys, gangsters and 1930's Hollywood stars?

Since Heller's bodycount isn't doing the job of intimidating him, Gris dares Madison to call the Narcotici mob and ask about a hit on Jerome Terrance Wister.  The publicist does so, talks a little, turns white, hangs up, and stares blankly at a wall.  He'd been redirected to Razza Louseini, who demanded to know if Madison was the same guy who called in the previous hit on Heller that cost them nineteen mobsters and a million dollars.  The mob's so mad that they're threatening to put out a contract on whoever called that hit!  ...And I didn't know the mob accepted anonymous contracts.

So Madison begs Gris to keep the secret that he was the one who ordered that disastrous failed assassination, and Gris agrees, happy that now he "knew how to persuade Madison to make himself scarce if I had to."  Madison has not been warned of the disaster that has befallen his star employee, and doesn't know why Gris is concerned about F.F.B.O. pointing the finger at him, or that someone might try to kidnap him like she did Gerry.  But he might run and hide if Gris says "mobsters."

That's sorta like a warning, right?

Back to Chapter One

Monday, May 13, 2013

Part Fifty-Four, Chapter One - The Tale of Gerry Wister

Take a moment, if you will, to compare the previous chapter, in which a bunch of goons chased a cat down a flight of stairs only to slip on some banana peels, to the first chapter in this book, in which a mad scientist electrocuted a captive pregnant woman and killed her by tearing a tarantula from her uterus. 

The Eagle Eye Security team proves to have been named ironically by the story's author, and fail to agree on the make of the van they just watched escape.  After informing them that "You goofed!", Gris leaves them to their attempts to set up roadblocks to nab the fugitive, catches the last minutes of the Weirdo World (the audience has started to make cat puns), and decides to head home.  I mean, sure, one of his most dangerous foes is slipping through his fingers, but he's pretty tired, his head injury is bleeding again, and more importantly:

Besides, I was afraid I might be overdue for my afternoon appointment with lesbians at the apartment.  Adora must get no suspicion that I had to figure out how to do in Krak and Heller and run, before the homo education began.  Teenie I would get to somehow, some way.

Bros before hoes, but hoes before foes.  Not sure where bros and foes end up in relation to each other, it could be a linear continuum or a triangle.

Gris is able to find the energy to turn on the portable viewscreen during his cab ride home, though.  Krak and Bang-Bang are in their van, which apparently has flip-on license plates, and take the abducted Whiz Kid to a safehouse in a warehouse.  He can't get the location because nobody mentions the address, there's no windows in the back of the van, and Krak keeps looking at the purring, grinning Mr. Calico.  The most he can say is that by the sound of running water, it must be an old bootlegger's hideout with a trap door to help smuggle booze by boat and current.

When the body double who looks nothing like Heller refuses to spill the beans, Krak sends Bang-Bang outside to stand guard so she can whip out the alien headwear and violate free will some more.  Unfortunately, the Whiz Kid doesn't know all that much.

"[...] Who gives you your orders?"

"A man."

"What man?"

"I don't know."

So instead she just has him give her his life story.

Gerry Wister is a Georgia-born orphan who was attending the Massachusetts Institute of Wrectology... that's... One day, a man offered him a job going around, saying and doing things in exchange for money, girls, good grades, and so forth.  The man explained that this may look like it was getting him in trouble, but it would really help another guy, Jerome Terrace Wister, become famous.  Gerry went along with it because he thought he had a brother named Jerome, and sure he'd like to help him become famous.  Also, he was promised wimmin.

And he is an exceptionally shallow pool of information regarding the anti-Heller conspiracy.  He doesn't know the name of his boss, and just calls him Ed.  He gets paid in blank envelopes, and just has to sign a receipt made out to F.F.B.O., some meaningless initials to him.  An attentive reader might, after checking his or her notes for names and concepts that get dropped for entire books at a time, remember those initials as representing Fatten, Farten, Burstein and Ooze, the Rockecenter cartel's PR and advertising firm.  But Gerry doesn't know that, and Krak doesn't either.

Instead she programs the sap into confessing for all of Jerome's crimes, ignoring anyone who tries to "tell you to do different" (Krak isn't taking any chances this time).  So this stupid schmuck will get hit with the full penalty for rape of a minor and bigamy and all those other completely fictional offenses cooked up by Madison's team, so the magnificent Jettero Heller can return to the US and work in peace.  Yay?

Then she makes him write up a full confession explaining that "this is all a put-up job."  So he'll confess to the crimes that he confesses are fake?  Could we maybe skip the first step and have Gerry explain that this is all nonsense so nobody has to go to jail for crimes that never existed?  No?  Really need him to get imprisoned and executed by sterilization?

While a soon to be selectively amnesiac Gerry sits down with a pen and paper, Krak consults Bang-Bang about the initials, but all he's interested in is the leftover scotch in this throwback to the author's memories of Prohibition.  And then I guess Krak has decided that because Gerry has now been programmed to confess to Heller's crimes tomorrow, it's safe for her to call in the yacht and have it land the next evening so she can see her Jettero again.  Because the last time she tried to get someone to clear things up in court, it went just like she wanted, right?

And Gris is just pleased as punch. He now knows the time and place that Heller's getting dropped off, and unlike Krak he knows that Judge Hammer Twist will be out of town tomorrow, and I guess that's important somehow.  I'd assume that this gives him time to warn Madison or try to stop Gerry from confessing, except as far as I can tell he doesn't try.  So is his plan to bet everything on grabbing Heller at the docks and letting his ongoing, successful scheme fall apart?

Oh, thank Gods for this sloppy, slow court system!  Heller would not only be picked up but would be safely in Bellevue and maybe even dead before she ever got her confession before the judge.

Looks like it.  Bank on stopping the unstoppable object through force instead of continuing the successful legal campaign.

The seizure of Heller would drive her out of her mind!  And if they killed him, she'd be so grief-stricken, she'd be no menace to anybody!

That last part may actually be credible, considering how much sheer moping Krak did when she read that newspaper last book.  But Gris is otherwise assuming Krak will sit around if Heller gets in trouble, despite the fact that here she is, actively foiling Gris in her efforts to get Heller out of trouble.

I think I could summarize half of this blog with "Soltan Gris is quite stupid."

I might not know where she was.  But I was saved after all!

I reached for the phone to call Grafferty.

That yacht would be MET!

And so we end the chapter with a sentence that, while grammatically correct, still feels like it was cut in half.

Back to Part Fifty-Three, Chapter Six

Friday, May 10, 2013

Part Fifty-Three, Chapter Six - The Cat Came Back

In this book, there's no National Institute for Mental Health, but there's one for Mental Stealth.  There's no New York Times, but there's the New York Grimes.  But the ABC television network gets no such, uh, "satirical" treatment.  Neither does 7-Up soda. 

Wait, Hubbard keeps spelling it out as "Seven Up."  Maybe that counts.

So Gris goes to the ABC "TV show hall" to oversee the capture of Krak when she crashes a live show of "Weirdo World" to try and kidnap the Whiz Kid.  He had to get stitches from that skateboarding accident last chapter, so his head is wrapped in bandages, saving him the trouble of coming up with that part of the disguise.  This isn't to say that Gris didn't come up with anything else to add.

Witty repartee!

I plucked at [the Eagle Eye Security Officer's] sleeve.  Annoyed, he pushed at me.  "Beat it, you old bat," he said.  "Can't you see I'm busy?"

I laughed delightedly.  I was disguised as an old woman with a floppy hat and had smeared bootblacking on the bandages to give me a black face.  He thought I was some Negress!  "It's you that's the bat," I said, "for I have heard they are quite blind.  I'm Smith, you idiot, the man Dingaling, et cetera, take their orders from."

"Well, Jesus Christ," said the security officer.

"No, Smith," I corrected him.

The Wachowskis totally ripped this off for Matrix 2: The One With More Hugo Weaving.  Also, Gris' disguise consists of blackened bandages wrapped around his face.  And people mistake him for a black woman.  Oy.

Gris Will Suffice is assured that the security team has the studio surrounded.  Gris settles down in his seat with his portable viewscreen and tries to keep his vision clear despite all the bandages and lingering bleeding.  And apparently he's remembered that he's an employee of an alien infiltration team rather than a henpecked husband threatened with being in the same room as some "homos," 'cause he declares "Lombar Hisst and the fate of the Voltar Confederacy were depending on me, to say nothing of the fate of Earth!" instead of "maybe if I got Krak taken care of I could get back to figuring out what to do about Teenie!"

So he sits on his ass and watches (a portable) TV.

Krak's in a little room with her own portable screen and microphones in front of her, making Gris worried because she's not even attempting to disguise herself, and talking to Bang-Bang about making sure someone "knows the route".  He tries to relax as host Tom Snide comes out to do talkshowy things and make bad jokes, and because this is a work of satire, there's the usual question of whether statements like "my dearest friends who keep sweeping my popularity from coast to coast - just don't sweep it under the rug" are meant to be legitimately funny, examples of the kind of faux-humor that appears on daytime television, intentionally not funny, or what.


The fake Whiz Kid capers about while "dressed in the black of a Western outlaw," discussing his recent rape charges and dropping double entendres like "I admit I have been lying down on the job."  Gris gets spooked when his portable TV shows Krak watching her portable TV and seeing a disguised Gris in the studio audience.  The host eventually upsets the Whiz Kid by going off script and introducing his next guest, a lawyer.

Crap in a hat this book is moronic.

Another sound.  Voltarian!  I thought I had lost my wits.  Then I located it.  It was coming from my viewer.  The Countess Krak had her left-hand microphone in her hand and into it she had said, "Cue.  Walk to center stage."  In VOLTARIAN!

Snide had risen and was making an elaborate, ushering bow.


The good news is that the author has finally made use of Krak's uncanny, some would say unbelievable, ability to train animals.  The bad news is that this is how he decided to do it.

So... the cat walks on stage.  In a bow tie.  He is a smart enough cat to know what a chair is and which side is his right.  Krak has put a little receiver in his ear and a speaker on his collar so he can introduce himself as "I am a lawyer cat," and he even is smart enough to work his mouth like he's talking.

The girl with the cards had recovered.  She raised a card.


The audience didn't read the card.  They were saying, "A talking cat."  "It's really talking."  "What a cute cat."  "Listen to it TALK!"

Ventriloquy, Earth-made hidden speakers?  No?  Can't think of any way this might be a trick or special effect?

So... the cat explains that "Cats are the very basic of the law," and makes a lot of animal-related puns.  Terrible, terrible puns.  Puns that are capitalized so that you, the drooling, balefully stupid reader, will know where the funny is.

The cat seemed to say, "The law violently opposes anything DOG-matized.  Police CAT and MOUSE with criminals.  Criminals RAT on one another.  Judges think everyone is a RAT.  And the end product of any legal action is a CAT-astrophe!"

The crowd howls in laughter, and in their defense, they do seem to earnestly believe this is a talking cat, so we have to cut them some slack.  Gris meanwhile warns the security team that their target is the one making the cat talk.  A security officer assures him that "We'll handle."

But they're too slow.  The cat tells the audience and the Whiz Kid that he... well, the cat's a male, but Krak is doing the voice... anyway, the cat proves its lawyer status by doing "what every lawyer does."  It jumps up on the Whiz Kid double, and Gris thinks the cat may have taken something from its harness and put it in the man's pocket.  Then it grabs the double's wallet with its teeth and runs off the stage. And of course, "THE DOUBLE RACED AFTER IT!"  And so does Gris and the security detail.

The page-long chase scene takes everyone to an external staircase near a van, which we are told is different from the one Krak and Bang-Bang were using earlier, and nothing else.  Different color?  Make?  We don't need to know right now, I guess.

Several things happen.  Gris realizes that Mr. Calico must have slipped one end of the "follow-compellers" on the Whiz Kid, and is wearing the other on his harness to make the man follow him.  The fake Whiz Kid crashes to the bottom of the stairs and is scooped up by Bang-Bang and stuffed in the van.  The security guys, and then Gris, go "ZWOOP!", skid down the steps, and land in a pile at the foot of the staircase.

I say "and then Gris" because he watched the security team start to slip but doesn't hesitate in trying to run down the steps right behind them.

The van escapes, and nobody can get the vehicle number because "IT HAD NO LICENSE PLATES!"  And Gris has to take a moment figuring out how it all went so wrong.

I couldn't account for any of this.

What had caused such a catastrophe?

And then I looked at the steps.

The cat could run down them but nobody else could.


I'm tempted to say we've reached a new low for Mission Earth, but then my stomach lurches and I remember Gris raping Candy and Pinch back in Book Five, or Torpedo raping that dead cop last book.  I think I can state that this chapter has some of the highest concentrations of Stupid seen thus far.  We've got Gris' disguise, a talking cat, and banana peels on stairs.  This leaves Heller smearing Grafferty's face with tomato sauce in the dust.

Back to Part Fifty-Three, Chapter Five

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Part Fifty-Three, Chapter Five - The Prat Falls

The only thing of consequence that happens this chapter is Gris deciding that he's not going to settle for tipping off the security guys that Krak will be attacking the Whiz Kid during his TV appearance tomorrow.  No, he's going to go to the talk show in person to ensure she's captured!

He is of course high when he decides this.

Gris sups with his wives upon strawberry and sausage pizza, Teenie drops by and discusses homosexuals, and Gris needs some puffs from the "bhong" to stop shaking after hearing the word "homo."  While Teenie goes on to babble about school lectures on how easy it is for a woman to "get caught," the phrase starts bouncing around in Gris' skull, prodding his atrophied brain into action.

The talk show!

If I disguised myself as an old woman, took Krak's viewer and worked behind the protection of Eagle Eye Security, two things could be accomplished: one, the Countess Krak could not slip out of their grasp, and two, thanks to the breaker switch I carried, THE HYPNOHELMET WOULD NOT WORK IF I WERE WITHIN TWO MILES OF IT!  If she tried to get it on the Whiz Kid in that talk show, her efforts would be totally foiled.

I'm just wondering where he got the notion that Krak was gonna brain-fry the Whiz Kid on the talk show set, is all.  Ah, but drugs, of course. 

With the Countess Krak disposed of in Bellevue, I could somehow finish off Heller and then somehow handle Teenie.  Aha!  I could win this yet!

Observe that his overall objective is getting out of giving a live heterosexual intercourse demonstration in front of some indoctrinated-into-gay folks.  Mission Earth is officially no longer the main plot.  Heller, Krak?  Just distractions from what's really important - Gris' sex life.

Gris "cures" two brunettes and is able to perform despite Teenie hanging around, giving encouragement.  On his way to bed he trips on "TEENIE'S SKATEBOARD" rather than falling down due to having too much dope.  The author spends a full page on this event, so the reader can properly appreciate the irony and humor of a drug user falling down for reasons unrelated to drugs.  Candy yells about Gris getting blood on the carpet.

And while I would love to say that there's no slapstick next chapter...

Back to Chapter Four