Monday, November 25, 2013

Part Seventy-Five, Chapter One - Smells

So we've got our "gang" of potential PR-ists, and they've got clothes now, so you'd think we'd be ready for Madison to finally start PR-ing Heller's brains out.  We're nearly two hundred pages into the novel, after all, so we're running out of time for him to do some evil deeds for Heller to combat in Book Ten.  But no!  We're gonna spend a chapter dwelling on the fact that the Apparatus is stinky!

The Apparatus Stink is irritating Madison's nose, he mentions as much to Flick, and is recommended to try a "chank-pop" without any further description.

Madison got one out: it seemed to be just a small round ball.  He twisted and turned it, trying to make it do something.  In the dimness of the airbus he didn't see the indented line that you press.  He, in some annoyance, tried squeezing the whole ball between his palms with force, the way he was sometimes able to crack walnuts, a small fruit of Earth.

The mind-boggling thing about this paragraph is that the author decides to explain what a walnut is, not the stupid "chank-pop."

To cut a long page short, Madison squeezes too hard, shoots himself in the eye with the cap, and gets a concentrated blast of "summer blossom sighs" to the forehead.  Laugh at the physical comedy!  Laugh, damn you!

By now they're flying over the shopping malls between Commercial City and Pleasure City, albeit malls populated by only a few stores.  The closest two happen to host the imaginatively-named Restaurant Supplies and Beauty franchises, and Madison demands a stop.  All those criminal chefs are ordered to get comestibles from the first store.  "Get anything you want," "WHAT A CHIEF!" and so forth.

While they see to the, ugh, gang's food supply, Madison runs into that Beauty Supplies store... wait, it was just Beauty last page... and demands "SOAP!  And LOTS of it!"  A salesman gives him a little bottle of ultra-concentrated stuff.

"No, no," said Madison, "I'm trying to get rid of Apparatus stink."

"That," said another clerk, "would be VERY bene­ficial.  In fact, I wish we could sell you a solvent that would get rid of the whole Apparatus."

Remember that by the time Monte Pennwell assembles the epic tale of Mission Earth, the Voltarian government has somehow buried the existence of this secret state department that even random beauty parlor workers knew about at one point.

He had their interest now.  "I've got fourteen women and thirty-four men.  They haven't shaved, they haven't bathed, they haven't cut or coiffed their hair for years.  They STINK!"  He looked around.  The stacks of goods bore no placards or advertising signs.  "I need stuff to cut beards and hair, shave them and polish their teeth, make them look like high-class people and also to cut toenails and make them tan--and no chank-pops!"

Interesting that Madison knows that these aliens polish their teeth with space wizardry rather than use a toothbrush like primitives, as well as that tanned flesh is associated with class on this planet, not, say, the porcelin white skin tone of someone who never had to go outside for work.  Or the solid black skin of a scion of Old Voltar.  Or the flushed red flesh of one touched by the Blood God.  Nope, just like on 1980's Earth, high class means a fake tan.

Well, if this alien society was too imaginative and different it wouldn't be satire, eh?

"High-class people?" said another clerk.  "From Apparatus thugs?  Sir, we heartily agree.  You DO have a problem.  Come on, boys, let's help him out.  Start getting what he needs."

"In QUANTITY!" said Madison.

They laughed and began to rush around with carts, grabbing big boxes and cases and grosses of this and dozens of that.

This is all so unfair.  Those poor criminal chefs and secretaries have been in the Apparatus for less than a day.  If Madison hadn't decided he needed a film crew recruited that night, half of them wouldn't be in the Apparatus at all.  Their stench isn't even exclusive to the organization, the other convicts at that prison smelled as bad.  And I bet Heller got pretty ripe spending weeks behind enemy lines doing commando stuff instead of showering.  But we're expected to judge books by the smell of their bindings, and since the Apparatus is clearly the worst of the worst, they must have an appropriate odor.

While examining all the beauty products, which sport numbers instead of proper labels, Madison ruminates on Voltarian society.

These people had so much technology, such a stable economy, such cheap fuel, that they weren't fixated on having to market some new invention every day, and lives were not lived around logistics as they were on Earth.  PR was a creature which had grown out of advertising, and these people, despite their high culture, had never developed it. 

Um, what?  Post-WWII America had advanced technology, a stable economy, and cheap fuel up until the oil crisis of the early '70s.  America was also very much accustomed to advertising - part of developing an advanced, consumer-based economy is finding ways of encouraging people to buy your products, after all.

That meant that they would really have no inkling of PR.  It made him feel powerful.  He could, he realized suddenly, get away with anything, no matter how old and stale, and never even be suspected.

Madison was trying to think of some of the oldest and hoariest PR tricks that had long since become pure corn on Earth.  He realized they would all work, even selling the Brooklyn Bridge, and he began to laugh in delight.

Now come on, that's not PR, that's a con.  And from the crimes of some of those prisoners, clearly these people are familiar with fraud.

This is all getting out-of-character for Madison.  He sounds like an egotistical shyster looking forward to swindling a bunch of rubes, not a blithering idiot who sees nuclear war as a way of helping his client.

A clerk had paused with a piled-up cart.  "I'm glad you're so pleased, sir.  I wanted to ask you if you'd also want some paint masks and party things."

"Oh, there'll be a party," said Madison.  "In fact, it will be a ball!"

"Right, sir, we'll add it to the order," and the clerk rushed on.

And that's a natural place to end the chapter, only Hubbard spends a third of a page discussing how the flying buses are so full that crates have to be strapped to their roofs.

Tune in next time as we... park the buses.

Back to Part Seventy-Four, Chapter Eight

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