The next morning the good ship Nothing Worthwhile Happens On This Ship is in the Aegean Sea. The clouds are low, threatening rain, a nearby reef is being pounded by the surf, but other than that the sea seems strangely empty. The crew has subtly changed behavior - no fitness instructor is trying to make Gris exercise, while a sailor on deck neither smiles nor speaks. Captain Bitts is nowhere in sight, but Teenie's on the bridge.
And Gris, who owns the friggin' boat and presumably pays the crew's salary, retreats to his cabin rather than asking questions or taking charge. Actually, first he looks around fearfully for any sign of the country of Turkey, then he flees.
I knew it would not be until night when we would come close to Turkey but still, it made me nervous just to feel that it was there to the east, waiting like some monster of the deep to devour me. Eerie. The feeling was almost palpable. In imagination I could hear the snap of its teeth that would be followed by a grinding sound as it chewed me to bits.
And it's an open question where this is another serious attempt at producing dread or another effort to make Gris as stupid and cowardly as possible.
The rest of the chapter is dumb. Gris ignores whatever's happening on his boat in favor of sitting down, trying to puzzle out which of his enemies was behind yesterday's "attack" at Thessaloniki. Yes, Madison already said it was the American consul, but Gris decides Madison is wrong. Could it be:
- The nameless Apparatus assassin who only shows up in Turkey?
- The Countess Krak?
- Torpedo Fiaccola?
- Gunsalmo Silva?
- The Countess Krak?
- The ghost of the old man Gris killed during his flight from Turkey two books ago?
- Pinchy and Candy?
- The Istanbul banker Mr. Zengin?
I didn't make any of those up. Yes, Gris suspects Krak twice. Gris is able to remove five people from that list on the logic that they're either dead or presumed executed, but yes, he still includes the ghost of another victim as a suspect. Yes, this pretty much evaporates any serious mood the author was trying to create for the chapter.
Give yourself five bonus points if you're able to identify the three Voltarians who haven't appeared since sodding Book One without using the character sheet I haven't updated in two books.
Gris eventually decides the culprit was Nurse Bildirjin's father, who used his medical connections to whip up those protests and is surely in cahoots with all the Turkish women Gris has wronged (i.e. impregnated outside of wedlock and/or raped). Why, those "protesters" were probably Turkish women in disguise!
In a sudden surge of enlightenment, I thought I knew what this was all about.
THEY WERE TRYING TO DRIVE ME HOME!
That is to say, Turkey. Their home, not Gris'. Gris is some sort of outer space man, not a Turk or Turkish citizen.
So the chapter ends with Gris resolving to never, ever go to Turkey. Excuse me, he prays that he won't go to Turkey. He's so helpless - on this ship that he owns, with a crew he pays - that he's begging for divine intervention to keep him away from Turkey. He moans about how terrible it would be if he was ever forced back to Turkey, calling it "the most painful method of suicide ever devised!"
All this, of course, makes it inevitable that Gris will be going back to Turkey. I mean, you don't spend pages hyping how hard it would be to get into Mordor, how the very air you breathe is a poisonous fume and all that, and then not go there. You don't establish the Death Star as a threat and then run away from it at the end of the movie. Turkey is the inevitable destination at this point in the, for lack of a better word, story.
I will say this - while the author has botched his attempt to create a serious tone for this chapter, the reader is almost certain to share Gris' dismay at the prospect of returning to Turkey.
Back to Chapter Two