Friday, July 19, 2013

Part Sixty-One, Chapter Eight - Don't Stop Believing

So Heller's, ahem, dead.  And Gris is feeling weird, more numb and dazed than jubilant.

A fantasy that his ghost might come and haunt me passed through my mind.

I shook it off.  Psychologists and psychiatrists were all agreed men had no souls.  They were just animals, just a bunch of cells.  There was no life after death.  Thank Heavens for that!  It sort of steadied me.

Ahhh, see?  The "thank Heavens there's no life after death" bit lets us know the author wants us to appreciate just how inconsistent Gris is being here, so I don't need to point out how he thought that Greek guy he killed for his clothes was haunting him for revenge, or that a Manco Devil was after him.  It's intentional bad writing, see? 

So Gris gets up and starts spreading the news in hope that it'll make him feel better.  He tells Captain Stabb and the pirates, and all those mangy criminals cheer because that no-good Royal officer they haven't seen since the flight to Earth so many months ago is dead.

And then Raht radios in.  He says he's been shot in the leg and can't walk, but he somehow still managed to poke around the roadhouse for Code Break material and found all those synthesized diamonds.

Nothing about Heller at all.  Gris doesn't ask.

Gris promises to take the luxury tug to pick up Raht in a few hours, come nightfall.  Well, pick up those diamonds, burn all the evidence, and kill Raht to save his assassination fee, to be more accurate.  So Gris gets ready for departure.  The assassin pilots - remember them? - show up to threaten to kill him if the tug looks like it's leaving the planet.  Faht Bey shows up to yell at Gris.  Musef and Torgut show up and grab each other to dance around in a circle upon hearing that the guy who beat them up way the hell back in Book Two is dead.  Utanc shows up to kiss Gris.  She doesn't celebrate Heller's death because Gris doesn't tell her and she doesn't know who he is, but if she did she'd surely be up for a quickie.

And then Gris realizes he now has a superfluous hostage.  Heller is dead, after all, there were explosions and his viewscreen went off and everything, so he doesn't need Krak anymore.  Her screen is blank too... well, she must be sleeping, obviously.  Since Gris' feet still hurt, he has Ahmed take a poison-gas grenade and throw it up into a hole to kill a noisy badger keeping Gris up at night, yeah.  He watches as Ahmed drops the grenade down the ventilation shaft to Krak's cell, releasing a cloud of white vapor.  Gris goes back inside, checks Krak's screen, and it's... still blank.  Which means that she's no longer sleeping, and has been killed by poison gas, naturally.

I waited for a thrill of exultation.

It didn't come.

I said aloud, loudly, "COUNTESS KRAK, YOU'RE DEAD!"

I threw the viewer across the room.  It broke.  I was finished with it at last.  I looked at the shards of glass that now spattered the floor.  I went over and stamped on the speaker.

It hurt my foot.

Rage shook me.  Even in death she was able to injure me!

This is actually depressing.

I stamped harder.

It hurt more.

I jumped on it with both feet!

I found that I had begun to scream.

That wouldn't do.  I was the winner, wasn't I?

What do you think, viewers at home?

To take his mind off the pain, Gris once again recaps all the building demolitions he needs to do after picking up those diamonds, and how it will enable him to weasel out of his latest batch of financial problems.

I would then go home to glory and reign supreme as the Chief of the Apparatus.

Feeling steadier, I went down to the hangar magazine to collect weapons and explosives.  I planned that my last days on Earth would end with a big BANG!

Unlike this book.

Is this the
end of Earth?
Volume 8

Yeah, this is our "denouement" or whatever.  After an endless stretch spent puttering around on a boat, we eventually get back to Turkey and in the last hundred pages Gris finally takes action.  Krak is captured in a single chapter, Heller is "killed" in a page-long gunfight, Krak is "killed" just as quickly, and Gris does a self-destructive victory tantrum before preparing for the next mission.  It's not just quick, it's totally unconvincing, and not just for metafictional "the author wouldn't kill the main characters" reasons.  All the evidence of Krak and Heller's deaths is pretty damn circumstantial, and it's only by very deliberately not asking questions like "can you confirm he's dead, Raht?", or not performing simple actions like lifting the curtain on Krak's window to check on her corpse, that Gris is able to maintain the delusion that he's somehow won.

Now Mission Earth was of course excreted as a single document before being artificially chopped up into books.  But I wish the editor had picked a less abrupt ending point for this entry, because the whole "climax" feels rushed and then the story seems to suddenly cut off

Back to Chapters Six and Seven 


  1. The "Red Wedding" episode this is not.

  2. If you want me to send you the final three by post, I will. That way you won't have to give any money to the Scientologists.