Friday, January 3, 2014

Part Seventy-Nine, Chapter Six - License to Chill

The author uses the ol' "like a maestro conducting a vast orchestra" simile to describe Madison's PRing of Gris, but I'm not sure it's the best for this situation.  After all, this maestro's orchestra wasn't even playing instruments two months ago, and their audience has never heard music played before.  But whatevs.

Using his well-placed network of wives willing to believe sex with strangers will make them better people, Madison has spread the sordid tale of Gris through high society - and of course all those publishers and editors have to bring the story to life in print.  So the author gets to pad the chapter with headlines!  "MYSTERIOUS PRISONER HIDDEN BY AUTHORITIES," "WHO IS THE GOVERNMENT REFUSING TO BRING TO TRIAL?" and then the big "IDENTITY REVEALED!  PRISONER IS APPARATUS OFFICER SOLTAN GRIS!"

Between the all-caps, boxes drawn around the words, and the spacing around the boxes, just four of these and a one-sentence paragraph of normal text can take up a page.  Guess Hubbard hated trees too.  They're obviously working with the Nazi-Psychiatry-Journalist conspiracy, supplying oxygen to those evildoers.

Once Gris' name is revealed to the public, subsequent headlines detailing his crimes are unleashed - "ORDERED MURDER OF HIS OWN OFFICE HEAD AND CLERKS," "ORDERS MURDER OF MOTHER OF DEFENSELESS BOY," "ILLEGALLY EXPORTED METALS"... wait, what?  When did Gris ever - oh!  The "metals" are the gold Gris went through so much trouble to smuggle to Earth, right?  How interesting.  The way the newspapers word it, stealing a bunch of gold is as mundane as pinching a bunch of tin or whatnot, which is exactly how things should be when you belong to an advanced society that can synthesize "precious" metals with relative ease.  And yet this consistently clashes with how the characters from that society behave - Gris and all the other Apparatus scumbags are as gold-thirsty as pirates, and the shiny stuff remains the mark of status and wealth since it encrusts the belongings, and frequently clothing, of all the upper-class characters.

Or maybe I'm wrong, Hubbard is a good writer, and he's referring to a chapter I overlooked where Gris stripped the copper wiring from an old office to sell to an unscrupulous salvaging company.  It's not like we're given any information about what the "metals" headline is referring to.

At this point that Lady Arthrite person calls Lord Turn at the prison, demanding to know when they'll bow to public opinion and bring Gris to trial, only to be told "please keep your nose out of the affairs of the Royal prison" before he hangs up.  "JUDGE TELLS PUBLIC 'HANDS OFF GRIS!'" scream the headlines, and soon all the other papers are badgering the legal system, or I should say one of Voltar's legal systems.  And Lord Turn gets angry and refuses to explain, and the headlines get worse, and the cycle continues.

But we can't properly destroy Gris with those few crimes, so Madison manages to drag more skeletons out of Gris' closet, thanks to some convenient surprise surveillance.

Now, unfortunately for Soltan Gris, when he had been blackmailing the Provocation Section of the Apparatus, the head of that section had been radio-recording back to his own office down by the River Wiel during the whole time that he had been shadowing Gris to get the goods on him.  And a recording of every single one of these crimes Gris had pulled at that time existed, with pictures and sound, in the Provocation Section. Gris, unaware of this, thought he had handled it with the final murder of that chief.  And now Madison began to feed these crimes one at a time to the press.

This is an irritating revelation because it forces me to go back to Book One and reread parts of Mission Earth.  But credit where it's due, there was a moment after icing the head-plumber that Gris thought he saw a flicker of movement in the shadows.  So this isn't something as bad as the author rewriting his own material after the fact, it's something as bad as the author expecting the reader to hold on to a miniscule detail for approximately 2,500 pages before it becomes relevant and makes sense.    

Anyway, Madison's still not done, there's more surprise evidence!  See, when Old Bawtch was laughing to himself about having Gris dead to rights, which we learned back in Book... Three?  Second-hand, through Twolah or Odur?  Well, Bawtch wasn't going to nail Gris over the forged Royal documents, because Gris left Dr. Prahd's coat next to his desk, along with a badly-forged suicide note.  "Unfortunately, he had written it on a piece of paper which had been under a document when he stamped it for Bawtch.  And dimly under the writing on the Prahd suicide note could be seen the identoplate outline of Soltan Gris!"  I'm not even going to bother checking which of the occasions that Gris hastily stamped his way through a mass of papers might be referred to here.  

The important thing is since Prahd is missing, Gris obviously murdered this promising young doctor, which is of course much more heinous than all the aforementioned murders and destruction.  I think Madison even overlooked that time Gris' car crashed into a children's hospital.

So the public has been whipped into a frenzy, and yes, Madison wrote a song for them to sing while they march through the streets.

In the name of the government he murdered and killed.
Many an innocent victim he has chilled.
He is an Apparatus officer!
Why does the government love this cur?
He grows fat on his victim's blood,
Then with glee stamps them in the mud.
Coddled and protected for his crime,
They extoll his virtues as sublime.
We are demanding his life should cease.

Evidently "Gris" rhymes with "grease," not "this."  But "Spiteos" rhymes with "spit-e-os," not "spee-tee-os."  Voltarian is almost as confounding as English.

Madison's has done his thing, the newspapers are clamoring for the prisoner's head, Anti-Gris fervor has reached a feverish peak, and... nothing is actually accomplished.  Lord Turn refuses to budge.  An unelected aristocrat ignoring the common rabble, who'd have thought? 

If he could only get Gris on the stand accusing Hel­ler, Madison knew he would have it made.

Remember, this is really about Heller

But he had reached an impasse.  The fury boiling in the streets was not moving Lord Turn up there in his high castle.

Other measures were needed.

Which we'll get into next chapter.

I guess the big thing about this chapter is that it proves that the author, despite all the compelling evidence to the contrary, was not making this meandering narrative up as he went along - or at least, not all of it.  So, uh, props?  Way to incorporate basic planning into your storytelling?

I've got a problem with Madison regarding Gris.  Here he is, using his awesome PR skills to destroy Gris' character, telling the world of his crimes and moral failings.  Yet he doesn't notice that the same tactics he uses to do terrible things to Gris are quite similar to what he hopes to do to "help" Heller.  And of course Madison can't be allowed to come to that simple conclusion, because remember - even when the author doesn't - the guy is supposed to be so stupid and naive that he never understands that his boss hires his particular brand of "help" because he wants someone ruined.

But it's not like Madison is the only Mission Earth character suffering from plot-mandated stupidity.  They should start a club or something, invite the cast from Battlefield Earth, have a little mixer.  Their attempt to order snacks would probably kill thousands, but at least they'd be socializing.

Back to Chapter Five 

1 comment:

  1. My brain melted when, after nine books, I learned I was pronouncing Gris wrong (and the alliteration with "grease" isn't even subtle or just alliteration anymore. But, as we established, subtlelty went out the door with twa and cun)