Monday, March 31, 2014

Part Ninety-Two, Envoi III-xxii - Monte's Ode to Earth

Unabridged version hereWow, this one stupid song is more explicit than most of the sex in these books.

Mission Earth's final chapter is twenty-two pages long, and consists of four distinct documents stuffed next to each other in the same section.  It also boasts the highest concentration of italicized and capitalized letters in the story, which is a pretty strong disincentive to read it.

The first section is five-and-a-half pages of Monte summarizing things for us, arguing that the real cover-up of Mission Earth is not to hide the existence of a harmful planet, but Heller "DEPRIVING VOLTAR OF SOME OF THE MOST MAGNIFICENT DEVELOPMENTS EVER HIT UPON IN THIS WHOLE UNIVERSE!"  And then he lists those developments.

Monte hails PR as what will rescue him from obscurity and make him a man to be respected and feared, as well as what allowed him to uncover this vast conspiracy.  He doesn't mention the whole "PR nearly destroyed my civilization" thing he read and wrote about to make this "book," much less argue why PR is worth pursuing despite such hazards.  And then, well, it doesn't take long for things to start making even less sense.

INTELLIGENCE SERVICES: Unless you can spy upon your own population, you cannot keep them in line.  The riffraff will get out of hand and impudent--even revolt--unless spies and armed spy forces are planted on them at every street corner.  How else can a government get even with those they do not like?  How else but by provoking them into crime and then arresting them?  Unless you can make continual trouble for citizens individually and keep them at each others' throats, then they may unite and in a screaming wave overwhelm the government!  On Earth they have developed those skills to a very fine point and practice them in every country.  Only there can our power elite learn how to do it! 

Again, Monte inexplicably develops Lombar and Hisst and Rockecenter and Bury's contempt of the "riffraff" and a desire to stomp on their faces.  The problem is that this spy stuff didn't come up during his "investigation" of Mission Earth, nor did Monte ever discuss a need for the government to adopt such tactics - in fact, he seemed quite shocked that his government would keep a secret of such magnitude.  Yet here he is, calling for more skullduggery. 

Next Monte sings the praises of Earth BEVERAGES as being far superior to tup and sparklewater in lowering inhibitions, making people see double, or taking them "into the land of I-Don't-Care" - apparently the best Voltar's drinks can do is make you "relaxed and cheerful."  Please ignore how a civilization incapable of brewing an intoxicant nevertheless called its disreputable intelligence branch the "Drunks."  Don't ask why the other 109 worlds in the Voltarian Confederacy haven't discovered alcohol.  Also ignore the author's favorable treatment of gin-running gangsters and Prohibition moonshiners during the early books on Earth.

Then Monte raves about Earth's MUSIC, particularly Punk Rock, that wild, atonal, blatantly sexual sound that could "sweep aside our too-smooth and complicated melodies and chords."  I wonder if Hubbard's minders had to carefully keep rap music away from him?  I mean, obviously they did, he didn't die before he could complete this book.

Monte next spends a paragraph dismissing the "cabal and propaganda" about DRUGS, which doesn't make a lick of sense as the majority of Voltarians don't even know such substances exist, much less that they're supposed to be bad for you.  Monte claims that he experienced marijuana, "the most powerful of these drugs," and didn't even care what the stuff did to him.  Not that it did anything to him, any negative effects are all lies and propaganda.  At any rate, "DRUGS YOU NEVER HEARD OF ARE AVAILABLE FROM EARTH!  IT IS THE SOLE SOURCE OF THE THRILLS YOU CAN EXPERIENCE!"  Because, as I must repeat one last time, Lombar Hisst was too stupid to start his own opium farms or meth labs and decided to import all his materials from Earth. 

There is, inevitably, a section on  

PSYCHOLOGY and PSYCHIATRY: These are obviously the most advanced population-control techniques ever heard of anywhere.  Imagine a government having a corps of doctors it can use to kill anyone it doesn't like and no questions asked!  That's POWER!  Imagine the boon of a state monopoly in bending the minds of children, making them into anything it wishes, even animals just grazing in the fields!

What's particularly odd about this is that in the next paragraph, Monte argues that if Dr. Crobe had been allowed to properly treat Lombar Hisst, "all would have been well!"  We could take this as Monte suggesting that things would be better of with Hisst dead, except on the next page, Monte gushes about Crobe psychoanalyzing him to solve all his problems.

It's really quite amazing - Monte wants Voltar to adopt psychology to keep the riffraff in line through lobotomies, yet wholeheartedly believes that the same techniques cured him of his own mental problems.  Which I guess can make sense, you could theoretically argue in favor of punishing your political rivals through electrical torture, then swear that electroshock therapy cured your schizophrenia.  Even if Monte just finished writing a book documenting how psychology was a scam thought up by Sigmund Freud and the Nazis to sell magazines and have sex with children, or however it went.

Speaking of SEX, Monte declares that Voltar - not just him, certainly - is woefully unenlightened and "dreadfully inhibited" when it comes to the finer points of bumping uglies.  He praises Teenie, who he never met, as a "divine Goddess" sent to lead Voltar out of the darkness of chastity, and criticizes Pratia Tayl for hoarding Teenie's teachings among her own family instead of spreading the good news.  "We could have oral sex and anal sex rampant in every salon.  We could have mass orgies.  And we could have incest as a common way of life."  Of course, we've already seen plenty of evidence that Voltar has some experience with Monte's first point, among the "deviant" segments of its population at least, and I'm pretty sure the sort of nobility that breeds an army of hunks on their private islands can dabble with the second.  As for the third, I'd like to remind everyone that Voltar is a backwards, feudal society, which historically liked to limit their breeding partners to their fellow nobles, which tends to cause problems in the long run.

Last on the list is, oddly enough, CATAMITES, and Monte declares that the "stupid fuss surrounding catamites is a cover-up in itself."  Then he gushes, as previously mentioned, about how grateful he is to Dr. Crobe for restoring his sanity by revealing that Monte was oral-erotic, and promises that as soon as this book is printed, he'll be seeking out Har from several chapters ago "and importune him or blackmail him or anything and force him to let me do it to him every day."  This would make more sense if we'd ever established that Voltar didn't have homosexuals until Lombar brought psychology to it, or that there was a "fuss" surrounding them instead of catamites existing under the radar and grossing out the Countess Krak whenever she ran into one.

Monte wraps up the first section by repeating Crobe's assertion about Heller, who is not only a schizophrenic for being Jettero Heller and the Duke of Manco, but someone who had even more names, and therefore identities, while he was on Earth.  A "schizo-schizophrenic," in other words.  "THE WHOLE OF THE VOLTAR CONFEDERACY HAS BEEN GUIDED FOR NEARLY A CENTURY BY A MAN WHO IS COMPLETELY AND UTTERLY CRAZY!"

Oh, let's forget for the moment the imagined successes of the Confederacy during that period, since they are hardly to his credit.  That Voltar, since he took over as Crown, has never lost a war is simply a tribute to the Army and Fleet, and wars have been few, remember that!  And let's not harp upon the fact that Voltar has never in her history been so prosperous internally: when everybody is employed and working cheerfully, you can't help but have prosperity.  His popularity doesn't count, for it is based on the fact that he is never in the news and there are no investigative reporters around to tell people the TRUTH!

I know that we're supposed to automatically assume the opposite of whatever Monte says, but is it really realistic to attribute all of Voltar's successes, even its economic prosperity, to our book's hero?  I can get the military stuff, 'cause Voltar's armed forces are incompetents who don't have access to Heller's hax advanced tactics and devices, but when was Heller put in charge of the economy?  What reforms did he make in that sector?

At any rate, Monte rants, with many capitalized words, that Heller is a madman denying Voltar the benefits of Earth's various delights, but reminds us that there's still time to restore the sacred inviolable-except-when-they're-violated invasion timetables and invade Earth.  He does so with a two-and-a-half page song.

What, you thought you'd make it out of here without one last example of Hubbard's lyrical genius?  Except if you decide the song sucks, in which case it's a satirical parody of bad music.

O Earth, O Earth, you luscious globe, 
You beckoning, wine-fat treasure-trove, 
You whet our hunger as you spin 
And lure us with your wealth to win. 
You saved my life with your PR. 
I triumph now without a scar! 
Your spy techniques are quite sublime 
And can be used to undermine. 
And who could think but to extol 
Your psych and psych for mind control. 

Which incidentally also cured me
Of my disregard for sodomy
But it's still a good tool for oppression
If my mind it also... freshened?

Who would refuse to cut their fug 
If offered some divine Earth drug?

...What the frak is a fug?

Who can deny that men will drool 
For just one shot of good white mule? 
And no musician would heed sneers 
If he had Punk Rock to drown their ears. 

110 worlds in the Confederacy and we've heard nothing from these aliens but the sort of musicals that were popular in the mid-20th century.  And on our one primitive planet we've come up with sounds and songs that blow their minds.  I'm actually okay with this.

And who, pray tell, would show aversion 
To lovely butt and mouth perversion? 
And Earth, you number in your riches 
Sex that converts girls to (bleepches). 
Did I say sex? Oh, you excel! 
Sex is the thing you do so well! 
Never has such concentration 
Been levelled at self-gratification! 
Nowhere else in the universe 
Did anyone dream that sex came first! 

Yeah, we saw all this on Voltar before we got to Earth.  Nice try, though.

We thank the Gods that you are weak 
And believe so well when your leaders speak. 
We praise to the Lords your internal squabbles. 
We'll just step in and grab your baubles! 
It is so nice you can't unite, 
For you won't offer any fight. 
We are so thankful for your schisms 
Brought on by all your social ISMS. 
For all your wealth, you stand around 
And eat suppression, finely ground. 

This is stupid.

Monte wrote the story we just read, so he knows about how Earth was when Heller got there, but he's disregarding the changes Heller made before he left - how Heller deposed the Rockecenter world-running conspiracy and gave the country over to the mob, or how Izzy turned the world into a collection of corporate states.  For all we know, the planet has been bought up by Weyland-Yutani or Wal-Mart to usher in a new era of blissful consumerism a la Battlefield Earth.

Not that the author bothered to tell us that when he had Monte conjecture-exposit what happened to all of Heller's Earth friends.  But from these verses, the author is negating everything his obnoxiously perfect hero did! 

Your leaders lead you to the slaughter. 
You're as easy to rape as a poor man's daughter! 
So we'll throw you on your back 
And insert-

Aaaaand now it gets creepy.  You can read the whole thing on Mission Spork Uncensored, but the song abruptly takes a disturbing turn into some sort of slave-rape rock epic.  It's really quite astonishing: the author starts with a lame reverse "ode" to Earth's "virtues" like psychology and spies, then goes and undermines any sort of goodwill we had towards Voltar by describing in lurid detail how it would conquer and brutalize us.  So we're left with two disgusting planets, except one regularly conquers other planets, but we're supposed to side with that one over our own?

Ugh.  There's too much of this to do in one sitting - tune in next time as we wrap up the final chapter.

Back to Envoi III-xx-xxi

Friday, March 28, 2014

Part Ninety-Two, Envoi III-xx-xxi - The Monstrous, Final Cover-Up

So we just killed off the last of the villains, save for the one the author likes to put in sexy situations, and we've already seen how wonderful things are on Voltar, and how successful and happy the heroes are.  There's not much else for Monte to do at this point.

After the incident at the prison, Monte promises Neht that he'll "hush the matter up," not that he wouldn't publish a book about it.  He's an investigative reporter, after all, and "Lying to get access is a key technique of that profession--with cheating here and there and a dash of misrepresentation.   For what are lies to the riffraff when I can bring the truth to you, dear reader?"

Who exactly is Monte's target audience?  At this point I do believe he's lied to representatives of every level of Voltarian society, so it's odd for him to try to differentiate his readers from "riffraff."

Monte makes another trip to Hightee Heller's home at the Pausch Hills... it's a pretty amazing coincidence that the name for an upper-class residence on an alien planet happens to sound like an English word for upper-class extravagance.

Anyway, Monte's admitted for an audience, left alone in a salon, and proceeds to use his investigative reporter skills to invade his host's privacy and snoop around.  There are of course presents and gifts all over the place, because everyone loves Hightee and sends her freebies on Hightee Heller Day.  Then Monte spots Jettero Heller's name on one package - "IT WAS THE SAME BOX I HAD SEEN HIM CARRYING ON MANCO!"  And now you know the theme of this chapter: random and obnoxious capitalization.

It's almost painful to read.  Half a page of Monte examining the box.  Half a page trying to describe some glass figurines on an ornamental platform.  Monte spotting another slip of paper.


Had I seen it before?

Oh, any clue was welcome.


Also, try to remember that Monte is supposedly writing this after-the-fact, and not narrating his fumbling as it happens.

The next half-page is Monte trying to get at that paper, but he accidentally hits a switch on the doodad, then has to scrape off the tape, before he finally gets what he wants.  But then... it's pretty sad, but I suppose this would count as the book's final Hubbard Action Sequence.

The edge of the platform, when I released it, hit the table with a thump.

The ring began to turn!


I went into a panic that the noise might be overheard.

I stared at it.  Then I grabbed one of the levers on the edge and yanked it.


The ring went faster!

The paper sleeves flew off the figurines.  They were glass dancers!

 They were turning in a circle now and dancing to the music.


Frenziedly, I yanked up and down on the levers!



Yeah.  The last bit of "excitement" in these wretched books is an inept amateur historian's battle with a music box.

Monte accidentally overcharges the thing so that the figurines go flying off and shatter, causing a butler to storm in and toss Monte out.  But it's all worth it because Monte got that tantalizing slip of paper from Hightee's present, which he takes to the Royal Institute of Ethnography's super space dictionaries and machines at its Department of Unconquered Planets for a translation.  No mention of any Robotbrains in Translatophones, though.  Maybe such devices only exist in the books' forewords.

At any rate, turns out what Monte stole is a receipt for an 18th century Venetian music box worth $21,000, purchased from Tiffany's at New York, under the names of General Jerome Wister (retried) and President Israel Epstein III of Grabbe-Manhattan Bank.  Shockingly, it's dated "ONLY THREE WEEKS AGO!"  Dun duhn dum!  "ANOTHER MONSTROUS COVER-UP!"

Monte makes some calls, and discovers that just ten years after returning from Earth, Heller commissioned a tugboat identical to the lost Tug One, right down the gold and gemstones and "phantom duelist in the gym," but with the noted addition of disintegrator digging tools.  Heller can afford this easily since as Duke of Manco, Heller receives one percent of the world's annual revenue, because he's a (bleeping) duke you peasants.  He's got a hereditary title and will be rewarded for it accordingly.  The stated reason for this purchase is so Heller can make quick trips between Voltar and Manco, but Monte knows what's really going on.

And then, well, we see just how terrible this framing device is.  Hubbard very much wants to tell us more about how things went on Earth in the decades following Mission Earth's success/failure.  He's also committed to running around with Monte as our viewpoint character so he can lampoon investigative journalism with his typical wit and subtlety, and Monte has never been to Earth and has by now alienated anyone who could have told him more about it.  So we get two pages of exposition disguised as speculation.

Monte states that Heller "probably" felt sorry for Izzy, and "it is vivid now" that Heller dug himself a new hidden landing site in the hills of Connecticut, "less than an hour's easy drive from the Empire State Building or the condo."  He's "probably" gotten Ralph and George's descendants to guard the place as part of the imaginary Maysabongo Marines, assuming you remember that insipid, pointless subplot.  And Heller's "probably" attended the funerals of all his Earth friends, and used his influence as "Uncle Jet" to help out Bang-Bang and Izzy and everyone else's descendants.

And Heller would have to finagle Earth's Social Security system so that nobody notices he's over a hundred years old, so Monte guesses that they "probably" keep his legal age somewhere around sixty-five, though of course he looks fifty, and "maybe" Heller puts white powder in his hair to help maintain the illusion.  And Monte can just imagine the conversation Heller had with Lord Bis of the Combined Service Intelligence Committee, excusing Heller's trips to Earth as using his status as a five-star general in the local military to keep an eye on the planet, though since Earth has no FTL spaceships "you would have to regard such a conversation as an utter sham."

It's all so... fake.  So ham-fisted, so clumsy, a desperate attempt by the author to provide "closure" when he's written himself into a corner regarding how to disclose that closure.

And that's it, the "MONSTROUS, FINAL COVER-UP!"  The guy who helped bury Earth from Voltarian records is still trying to keep it buried, but is also abusing the situation for his own benefit.  A corrupt feudal lord/government official, who'd have thought?

Back to Envoi III-viii-ix

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Part Ninety-Two, Envoi III-xviii-xix - The Ascension of Lombar Hisst

Though Crobe has finished curing Monte of his oral erotic dysfunction, the investigative reporter announces that his business isn't quite done, and he swivels a lamp to shine through the bars dividing the hut.  On the other side is a shadowy lump, gray-haired, deeply wrinkled, yellow-eyed, but blank-faced.  "LOMBAR HISST!"

"Oh, him," said Crobe.  "I gave him ninety-some years of psychoanalysis, but for the last five or so, he refuses to talk.  Actually, it is a psychiatric case and requires the expertise of a neurosurgeon.  You see, the frontal lobe has become too involved with the parietal lobe of the brain, causing the inevitable biofeedback predicted by the magnificent Earth scientist Snorbert Weener in his work, Stybernetics, based on his constant association with pigs at the Massachusetts Institute of Wrectology.  Believe me, it would cause Weener to absolutely squeal with rage and wiggle his tail if he knew his vital work was not being applied.  Ah well, the mighty are often forgotten. 

I have no idea.

Note, however, the use of italics - presumably Crobe is shifting into English for words like psychology or Massachusetts, which wouldn't exist in Voltarian vocabulary.  The fact that he has to do the same for frontal lobe indicates that Voltar doesn't have an equivalent term for that part of the brain, suggesting that they've never bothered to study it.  Presumably because there isn't much to work with.  Yet they can still devise and implant bugging devices that hijack electrical signals directly from the optic and aural nerves...

Crobe blathers on for another page, but the short version is that he knows from his studies at the "American Meddle Association" that all Lombar needs is a good lobotomy with an ice pick.  Then he tells a story about how a doctor at Bellevue once gave him a free demonstration, operating on over fifty people, "impoverished black people, charity cases," with a mere 70% mortality rate.  See, psychology is racist, not Hubbard.

Monte asks whether Crobe's years of psychoanalysis have made Lombar any saner, and Crobe insists that it has, his patient's just being obstinate - Lombar's a mute, motionless husk who doesn't even react when the prison staff come in to wash the excrement from his body.  Monte takes another shot of moonshine and feels confident enough to try interviewing Voltar's former dictator.  He also knocks over a jug of booze while saying goodbye to Crobe, spilling fuming hooch onto the cell floor.  This is actually a plot point.

Our current narrator has to step outside the hut so he can enter Lombar's side of it, and the guard warns that Hisst attacked an orderly some seventy years ago, then worries that Monte had some of the drink Crobe offered, and suggests he get his stomach pumped.  So obviously the prison staff knows about Crobe's bathtub gin, and how dangerous it is, but they can't do anything about it because of what the author intends to happen next.

Monte's admitted into Lombar's side of the hut, which is wrapped in shadows, though the fumes from the spilled moonshine are spreading to that side too.  When he approaches, the still-hulking Lombar suddenly moves to look Monte in the eye and, "in a perfectly normal voice," asks for a puffstick - either the one Monte lit two chapters ago is still in his mouth, or Lombar saw him offer one to Crobe.  Monte is polite enough to comply.

"Could I have a light?" he said.

I reached in my pocket again and found a firestick. 

Why are half the things in these books (function)sticks?

I squeezed its shaft.

It flamed.

I extended it close to the end of Hisst's puffstick.


The power was bone-crunching!

With his other hand he grabbed the shaft of the falling firestick.

With a roar quite like a lepertige he surged to his feet! 

And so we get a good two-page Hubbard Action Sequence.

You might think that years spent absolutely motionless might have atrophied Lombar's muscles or something, but it looks like Voltar's progressive asylum health program has left him just as strong as he was a hundred years ago.  Lombar is able to toss Monte against the far wall, then tears a blanket from his bed and uses the firestick to light it.

He swished the blanket as though it were a whip and rushed up to the bars!

He screamed as he flogged fire through the bars, "I'm sending you to HELL, you hear?  I'm sending you straight down to HELL NINE, DIRECT!"

He was hitting the bars with the flaming blanket!

Gouts of fire were flying off and spraying into Crobe's room.

"You and your psychoanalysis!" shrieked Hisst.  "I've waited decades just for this!"

Crobe had sprung up, clutching a jug of white mule to his bony breast.  He added his screeches to the din.  "Keep those blasted angels on your own side of the bars!"

You might be able to guess what happens next.  "Angels" of flame spurt from Lombar's blanket, igniting the spilled hooch on the hut's floor and creeping towards the still.  Monte, despite being inebriated and pretty damn stupid, has enough presence of mind to make a run for it, but unfortunately collides with the incoming prison guard on his way out, allowing Lombar to barely escape the flaming hut.  With his blanket.  That is still on fire.

Suddenly there was an awful roar!

The jugs of white mule had blown up!

The whole roof of the hut blew wide in a geyser of red and blue.

And there went Crobe sailing skyward!

Just as the roar of the explosion died, I heard Crobe's voice.  In tones of exultation the doctor cried, "Look, I'm flying! I'm flying!  I WAS AN ANGEL AFTER ALL!"

Abruptly, high in the air, carrying his white mule bomb, Crobe exploded with a tremendous BANG!

And so the twisted cellologist-turned-psychologist is ultimately ended by... beer.  Huh.  That's fairly unsatisfying.

Lombar, meanwhile, has decided to do his best Denethor impression.  And not the sympathetic character from the books, no, Lombar only saw the Lord of the Rings films and is trying to beat Movie!Denethor's goofy-ass death scene.

Lombar Hisst, wrapped in the burning blanket, was racing toward the far point of the cliff.

He reached the edge.  He was still running.  He tried to spring up in the air.


He went plunging, a blazing fireball, two thousand feet down toward the water, a spectacular arc.

He struck a piece of floating ice in a final gout of bursting flame!

He slid off to be crushed in the thundering surf against the cliff, a charred and roasted nothing, ground to pieces in the cold, green sea.

The remarkable thing is that Monte's still entangled with that prison guard and rolling downhill away from the hut, but he's nevertheless able to see over the edge of the cliffs and what's happening at sea level two thousand feet below.  For all of his many faults, Monte has very good vision.  

Crobe and Lombar Hisst were very, very dead.

And once again Hubbard tries to have it both ways.  Heller gets to be merciful and not have Crobe or Lombar rightfully executed, "merely" sentencing them to a hundred years of imprisonment and psychological torture, but the author is still able to write their hideous deaths, and since they were self-inflicted, Heller's hands remain clean.  Aside from the blood of five million Russians, of course.

The saddest thing is that these aren't the stupidest death scenes we've seen in these books.  Madison probably wins in terms of motive, while what's-his-name the hitman (editor's note from the future; GUNSALMO SILVA!) still has the least dignified death, having gotten his ass kicked by a housecat and then getting blown off the Empire State Building.

And that wraps it up for the bad guys.  Gris is still being held prisoner and punished with sex, while the rest killed themselves, or had the misfortune to be next to someone else who picked an explosive way to do so.  Hubbard has dispelled any ambiguity about their ultimate fates and replaced it with a farcical anticlimax.

Aren't you glad he wrote this "Envoi" to do so?

Back to Envoi III-xvi-xvii

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Part Ninety-Two, Envoi III-xvi-xvii - One Last Session With Dr. Crobe

A third envoi.  Makes as much sense as having three epilogues.

A guard leads Monte to a hut perched precariously on a coastal outcropping, two thousand feet above the crashing arctic seas.  Battered by snow and the howling boreal winds, Monte can't help but find it all "a gruesome place--think of being incarcerated here for nearly a century!"  We're presumably supposed to approve of this as an appropriate location to imprison two of the books' worst villains, except this horrible prison is a short walk away from a humane, perfect mental asylum whose "inmates" are treated with care and respect.  Same "gruesome" scenery.  Same arctic winds.  Same distance from the rest of civilization.  Same level of treatment, too.

They reach the rectangular hut made out of insulating blocks, and Monte bids the guard remain outside while he interviews Number 69,000,000,201.  What an unlikely number.  The hut's interior is one big, gloomy room divided by iron bars.  The place is furnished with books and a tub, over which is perched a man with bird-like limbs and an overly-long nose and chin.   "IT WAS CROBE!"

Even though the guard told Monte that the hut had just been cleaned (and good thing too, otherwise they could've smelled the place from a hundred yards away), which presumably included some laundry, Crobe's coat is already filthy, because Evil is of course corrosive and unhygienic.  Crobe doesn't bother asking who his visitor is, and announces that he's just in time for some home brew Crobe ferments from his leftovers.  Crobe demands that Monte lie down on a couch and have a sip.  And Monte, who has read everything we've read, and has found nothing to suggest that Gris or Heller or any other sources were lying about how good or evil the story's characters were, decides "This was no madman.  He was even smiling pleasantly."  And so he voluntarily stretches out on the furniture of a known psychologist.

The drink hits Monte's throat like "PURE FIRE!", and Crobe describes the beverage as his recreation of Kentucky Bourbon, "one of many gifts to Heavens from the planet Earth."  Now, Hubbard, you're getting into some dangerous territory here.  Everybody hates psychologists, journalists, intelligence agents, etc., and everyone can agree that drugs are bad.   But suggesting that alcohol is another disgusting Earth disease like the above might alienate some of your readers.  You might want to stick to the statutory rape and necrophilia.

After Monte's boozed up, Crobe directs his patient to lie down and start some free association.  Monte unhesitatingly gives his speech about how important it is for him to get his book published, so that his uncles won't stick him with a desk job or force him to marry Lady Corsa "and spend my life, much like you, in a cultural desert, Modon, an exile."  My inner editor is screaming.

"Ah," he said, "trouble with your mother!"

"How did you know?" I said. 

See, Monte never mentioned his mother, so it's a joke about how... yeah.

"Obvious," he said.  "Sigmund Freud covered it like a blanket.  An Oedipus complex!  I can get to the bottom of your case at once.  It is a classic example of psycho-pathology.  You see, there is the anal passive, followed by the anal erotic.  Then there is the oral passive, followed by the oral erotic.  There is also the genital stage but no one ever really reaches that.  These are ALL the mental stages there are.  Everything is based on sex.  Sex is the single and only motivation for all behavior.  So there you are."

Our friend Monte is a bit confused by this, but Crobe insists that obviously Monte's mommy didn't let him play with her nipples enough, so he's stuck in the oral erotic stage, and the only recourse is for Monte to commit himself "to making love only to young boys and men--orally, of course."  Then Crobe announces that's all the time he has in his busy schedule for his latest patient, but it's fine because Monte is now cured.

Monte gets up and thanks Crobe for his therapy, offers the doctor a "puffstick" (Crobe eats it), and then asks for his "professional opinion" about the guy who sent him here, who may have had him illegally incarcerated.  Crobe admits that Heller is a very difficult case, someone suffering from alto-libido, velocitus-libido, urbanus-populi-libido, justitius-libido and lascivious-libido - which is to say that Heller is comfortable with heights, likes to go fast, is pleasant to people, "pretends" to be fair, and likes sports.  Worse, Heller is not just achiever-oriented and GOAL ORIENTED, which as psychology tells us are very bad indeed, but to top it all off Jettero Heller is now the Duke of Manco.  In other words he has "TWO NAMES!  TWO IDENTITIES!  SCHIZOPHRENIA!"

Crobe concludes that Heller is obviously the insane one, and should be in this asylum instead of him.  Monte doesn't really have a reaction to this - next chapter he'll ask Crobe about Hisst, but he never mulls over Crobe's lecture.  Monte never thinks about whether Crobe's assertions make sense, or compares them to his own morality.  He certainly doesn't recognize that Crobe's diagnosis sounds exactly like the poisonous, insane rantings that Mission Earth warns us psychologists like to make.  No, Monte just accepts it all.

Now of course he's had a few shots of moonshine at this point, except even later, after he sobers up, Monte continues to parrot Crobe's phrases and sings the praises of psychology.  So now I'm not sure whether psychology is insidiously persuasive, or else Voltarian brains are as impressionable as silly putty.

Back to Part Ninety-One, Envoi II-xv

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Part Ninety-One, Envoi II-xv - The Internment Camp of Mental Health

After his drugged-up sex romp with Tayl's family, Monte spends three days recovering from an overexerted heart, red eyes, and dry and bruised throat.  Among other injuries.  "The body contusions and chafed (bleep) just showed that I was not used to sex."

We learn a tiny bit more about the mysterious creature called a "snug," insomuch that Monte's injuries are mistaken for a mauling by one, necessitating some shots for a snug-bite.  The side-effects of this treatment are worse than his actual injuries, but on day four he feels well enough to continue his amazing investigation, yellow bruises and ruptured veins be damned.

You see, last chapter cut off at the most dramatic moment ("I had found Soltan Gris!"), but Monte didn't up and leave immediately after that revelation.  Instead he blackmailed Prahd into writing him a note saying he was a medical inspector, because of course that's all you need to identify yourself as one, a memo on the official stationary of the King's Own Physician.  The threats were that Monte's great-uncle Lord Dohm in the Royal prison might be interested in Gris' whereabouts, which is pertinent, and that angry mobs might burn down Minx Estates if they heard about Gris, which is much less pertinent.  If it's been a hundred years since his trial, and people had already forgotten about Dictator Lombar Hisst less than a decade after the near-collapse of the Confederacy, who's going to care about Gris?

Anyway, Monte's off to track down the last of the bad guys.

I was heading for the Confederacy Insane Asylum on the chance that Doctor Crobe and Lombar Hisst were still alive!  If there had been a cover-up on so many other things, might it not be true that their TRUE condition might also be masked?  Perhaps they had just been the victims of political opportunism and chicanery!  It might be that they were illegally held!

What a coup if I established THAT!

If I'm following Monte's logic, the fact that someone who orchestrated a cover-up is continuing that cover-up, and some prisoners blew themselves up, and another prisoner was smuggled to a new prison without the authorities realizing, all raise the possibility that everything he's read to compile Mission Earth is a lie and maybe Crobe and Hisst weren't a mad doctor and ineffectual dictator, respectively.  This sounds pretty stupid, but then again he is an investigative reporter.  You know how those are, always imagining or inventing scandalous claims while investigating you or your religion.  Riffraff.

The important thing is that we'll be getting a good look at the proper treatment of the mentally ill - not the torture chambers maintained by despicable Earth psychology or psychiatry, but the product of enlightened, benevolent doctors.

The Confederacy Asylum is far, far to the north.  There is a wasteland there that borders a vast ocean near the northern pole of Voltar, a dismal place, covered most of the year with ice.

It was the autumn season and the quarter of the year which covered the north with perpetual night had not quite arrived, though Voltar's sun was awfully low on the horizon on these brief, remaining days.

After an overnight stop at a midway air hostel, we arrived in the twilight of a 10:00 A.M. dawn.  As far as one could see, there were small huts and buildings.

Well this is odd.  I was expecting to read about a mental hospital, but it looks like some passages about Soviet work camps have gotten spliced into the book by mistake.

At the reception center is a charming fellow named Neht, and he almost falls out of his chair at the sight of Monte's stationary, indicating that he's probably a political appointee rather than a technocrat.  But when Monte says he's here to investigate allegations of mistreatment, Neht is not at all threatened.

To my astonishment, his alarm did not just switch to charm.  It went right on to laughter.  "I can't imagine where that came from," he said at length.  "We have a staff of physiological doctors unrivalled in skills.  You will forgive my seeming mirth.  Actually, it is relief.  There has been criticism of a different kind: that our employment of gerontological technology on inmates adversely affected our budgetary burden.  No, no, inspector, you will not find mistreatment here.  The bodily illnesses of the insane--and they are many--are extraordinarily well cared for.  And I can assure you that this task is performed, despite its difficulties: you see, the insane do tend to bash themselves around.  But we patch them up, regardless.  You see, we are forbidden by law to tamper with their nerves or damage them, but I assure you that, when they get ill or even scratched, they are cared for at once." 

You can see the Hubbard Logic here - since, as we all know, psychiatry is an excuse for perverts to chop apart captives' brains, proper mental health is exactly the opposite, and is forbidden to mess with nerves.  And if quack psychiatrists try to twist people by treating mental issues, real therapy ignores the mind and maintains the body.  And since Earth mental health is all about killing people, the perfect Voltarian mental health system is about working to extend patients' lives.

"You spoke of gerontological technology," I said.  "Are there abuses there?"

"Some say so," replied Neht.  "But personally, I am proud of it.  By extending age in inmates, it can be argued that the cost of running this place is heightened.  But you must realize that, despite the short northern growing season, we actually EXPORT food to northern government installations: the inmates, many of them, seem to find relief in working outdoors despite the weather, as it gets them out of their cells. 

Yes, it's better to do arduous physical labor in a frozen wasteland than stay in the "cells" of this perfect mental healing facility!

So, what does it matter if we extend age?  Sometimes, though rarely, aging is attended by calming reflections, if senility does not set in.  Just the other day we discharged a man who had reached 195.  He said his wife would be dead by now, so there was no one left to keep him insane and he went away as happy as could be." 

See, insanity isn't caused by childhood trauma or brain chemistry imbalances, it's caused by other people!  If your wife is driving you crazy, get yourself institutionalized into a bleak work camp until she dies of old age, so you can declare yourself sane and live out your last half-dozen years in peace.  Because you can't divorce her or anything, this is Voltar after all.

Regardless of how wonderful things are at the space asylum, Health Inspector Monte insists that he be allowed to look around, touring the "barracks" and talking to the "inmates."  Not "patients," it's always "inmates."  There's a guy who thinks Monte is a cloud, a guy who writes him an invisible check, and a guy pushing a wheelbarrow upside-down because otherwise people would put things in it.  There's no description of any doctors or therapists working with the mentally ill, but Monte notes that they all seem healthy and uninjured, and the facility is nice and clean, so hooray!

Still, Monte's not making any progress toward his real objective, so he uses his cunning as an investigative journalist to say how he hasn't seen any elderly inmates, accusing the staff of killing them off.  While Neht goes through the records, Monte makes another remark about political prisoners.  Neht insists they have none, Monte conjectures that they must've killed them, and drops the names of Crobe and Hisst.  Neht puts them into the computer, "AND THERE THEY WERE!"  Amazing!  We were told that Crobe and Hisst had been sent to the space asylum, and Monte found them in the space asylum!!

Monte demands that he be allowed to "inspect them," but Hisst's file has a Royal notice saying "INCOMMUNICADO: May only speak to Crobe," while Crobe's has "INCOMMUNICADO: May only speak to Hisst."  Nevertheless, Monte claims that his not-fake Royal orders supercede the last administration's Royal orders and threatens to report that the asylum is keeping not-insane political prisoners.  Naht tries to insist that the two are "as mad as mad," but Monte retorts that could only be proven with an unbiased interview.  Naht agrees.

I swelled with elation.  Investigative reporter skills were absolutely fantastic!

Here came my next coup!

His great coup of... finding more evidence that the cover-up he already has a lot of evidence for did indeed happen.  Or maybe he's just hungry for an interview.

So is there any particular reason the best site for the Confederacy Insane Asylum was in Space Siberia?  Space Florida sounds like a more relaxing and restful place.  Hell, Space Kansas would be better than the arctic.  Or did all the tropical paradises and beautiful hills get snapped up by hostage queens and other useless nobles?

Back to Part Ninety-One, Envoi II-xii-xiv

Monday, March 24, 2014

Part Ninety-One, Envoi II-xii-xiv - The Secret of Minx Estates

Wait a minute, if Voltarians age more slowly than humans, so that Heller's a seasoned space commando but still passes for a college freshman on Earth, then those 21- and 19-year-old girls Monte is sexing with are really... god dammit Hubbard.

Asa and Lik are sobbing as Tayl finishes her story of Queen Teenie and Madison's astonishingly stupid demise, so the licentious hag orders them to cheer up with some music and entertainment.  Potentially Underage Girl #1 puts on some tunes that Monte has never heard the likes of, "punk rock" copied from Teenie's records during Tayl's visit to Relax Island.  In this chapter at least it would appear that the author's songwriting genius stumbled a bit, as the lyrics are nothing more than:

Psychedelic sunset! 
Woo-oo!  Woo-oo! 
Psychedelic sunset! 
Woo-oo!  Woo-oo! 
Psychedelic sunset! 
Woo-oo!  Woo-oo! 
Psychedelic sunset! 
Woo-oo!  Woo-oo! 

Wait, no, obviously this isn't terrible songwriting, but a satire of terrible songwriting.  My apologies, Hubbard.  Wait a minute, have we heard this song before in Book Seven or so?

Potentially Underage Girl #2 gets some strange green leaves out of a drawer, rolls them up into paper cylinders, and teaches Monte how to smoke this "Panama Red."  Pratia yells "All right, girls!  You can practice your lessons now!  HAVE AT HIM!"  And so Envoi II-xii ends in a haze of sex and drugs.

With searching fingers, the two girls were seeking out my spots.  Before my eyes there was a blur of hands.  I fixated on a finger that was probing at my throat.

A joyous feeling began to spread through me.

Two angels on the ceiling were leering down.

More joints.

More music.

Hours later, I slept.

Envoi II-xiii... ugh, that's still awful... is more of the same, perhaps to make up for the extended sex-less exposition from Envoi II-xi.  Monte wakes up to find Asa and Lik still asleep and Tayl gone, so he tries to sneak out, but fails.  The girls grab him, announce that with their granny gone they "can skip the fancy stuff," and offer Monte a blunt of the dog that got him high.  And so this chapter begins in a haze of sex and drugs.  And music.

My mama never told me
About the birds and bees.
My papa always told me
To stay off all boys' knees.
So I have had no training,
My appetite to vex. 
I have to find out on my own 
What there is to sex.
So please excuse ferocity 
In ripping off your clothes. 
If you decline, please be assured, 
I'll punch you in the nose. 

Ah, L. Ron Hubbard's ode to rape.

Oh, now let's do it all again. 
I think I've got the hang. 
But I can't believe the birds and bees 
Get such a huge end bang! 

There's a lot of pounding music, and leering cupids, and screams causing curtains to fly out windows, but no explicit description of what's going on, for what little is left to our imaginations.  Mission Earth's sex scenes - or rather the few that aren't rape, necrophilia, or statutory rape - occupy a strange twilight realm between erotica and innuendo, too detailed for a non-smutty novel but not sexy enough for written porn.  At worst they're mentally scarring, at best they're an annoying distraction from what passes for plot. (editor's note from the future: and they make figuring out how to comply with Adult Content restrictions a right pain if you don't want to flag the whole stupid story as such)

Monte worries that he's made the girls pregnant, but they assure him that they're on the space pill and not as innocent as Granny Tayl thinks - "And there won't be any virgins left in the whole Confederacy when we get through spreading Teenie's stuff around!  We're only learning now, but you just wait."  Monte asks if Prahd ever dot dot dot, an icky question since they have his green eyes and yellow hair, but they laugh that he has nurses for that kind of thing.  And then it's off to have sex in the shower.  With a "rod vibrator" they use on Monte.

After this they put Monte in makeup and a woman's negligee, as a present for "Har."  There's more bad music

Two on one is lots of fun, 
When you can't have three. 
It's now begun for everyone, 
So let's all have a spree! 
When we're all done, another one 
Will start with you on me!

and then a green-eyed blond man walks in with bushels of "Gold Colombian" harvested from the family farm.  This is Har, who Monte assumes is one of Asa and Lik's brothers, and they introduce Monte as "more or less a virgin" who has only been with girls, which makes Har laugh that Monte's "never had it real Earth-style?"  It's only around this point that Monte realizes that Har has a painted face too.  Because remember, homosexuals are all effeminate cross-dressers.

The clothes come off, the girls hold him down.  Monte has a hallucination involving one of the angels on the wall diving through space, screams, and finds himself toweling his face in the bathroom.  While Lik, Asa and Har are still busy (sexually) in the next room, he lets himself out.

There, two chapters' worth of sex, now for a bit more exposition.  In Envoi II-xiv, Monte calls home to be picked up, but notices a green-eyed, graying man taking out the trash nearby, and recognizes him as Prahd!  (He has a photo of the guy)

After Prahd somewhat dismissively takes him for "one of the children's shiftless friends," Monte uses the power of investigative journalism to lie that he's a medical student investigating the strange case of a brown-haired woman who married a blue-eyed man and gave birth to a lot of green-eyed blondes.  Prahd is happy to explain the incident in question, involving an officer from a now-defunct organization and a planet that no longer exists.  When Prahd's medical examination found that said officer had one atrophied and one crushed testicle, rather than harvest the reproductive organs of the short-lived natives of the planet the two were serving on, Prahd used cells from his own body to replace Gr- I mean, the officer's ruined balls.

Prahd is "rather proud of the result," even though there was unintended fallout due to the officer's lifestyle.  Just around the hospital in- on the alien planet, the officer sired some thirty children, and then over a dozen more in a distant city, all of which came out as green-eyed blondes regardless of local ethnic trends.

Monte asks the obvious question that I'm too disinterested to notice - how does Prahd know what all these children look like, if he didn't stay long on the planet and it no longer exists?  And at this point the good doctor Bittlestiffender gets suspicious and grabs Monte's collar, but that lifts the twerp's gaze towards the attic window, where he conveniently sees someone.

A face was there, peering through the curtains.

The hair was gray and matted.

The eyes were wild, quite insane.

But even age did not fully change him from his pictures.

A shocking plot twist that undoes a previous plot twist!  Instead of dying in a stupid explosion instead of serving a life sentence in jail, Monte realizes that the not-Widow Tayl must've negotiated for custody of Gris during the fuel rod deal, so Gris is back to serving a life sentence!

Here he was, surrounded by his worst enemies--Ske, Meeley and even Bawtch--before he died!  How they must torment him and gloat!  What glee they must feel with him locked up there in the attic! 

How are they keeping him locked up in an attic?  There's no suggestion that it's been reinforced or anything.  Or maybe I'm giving Gris far too much credit.

I was staring at those insane eyes and then I further understood.  He was carrying another man's sperm: every time he had impregnated a woman it had been not for himself but for Prahd!  How devilish Prahd had been, siring babies all over the place without a single blot on his professional ethics! 

This is a weird little paragraph.

Now, we've established that the enlightened world of Voltar is a bit Taliban-ish when it comes to marriage, so that out-of-wedlock children are a matter of life and death.  It's clear why Prahd wouldn't want to have a bastard on record.  It's not clear why he would be eager to father children via Gris' surrogate penis, since that cuts Prahd out of the fun stuff that occurs in order to make the woman pregnant.  It could be that Prahd still finds the idea appealing for some reason, but then Monte's reaction should be confusion rather than awed admiration for his devilish cunning.

My hypothesis?  The author is a big fat pervert with an impregnation fetish.

Monte actually giggles into Prahd's face after discovering how Pratia has kept Gris around as a sex slave, "(bleeping) himself crazy all these years siring another man's children!  A TERRIFIC, MONSTROUS ADDITIONAL COVER-UP!"

The chapter ends with him exulting that "I had found Soltan Gris!"  How exciting, the criminal sentenced to life in a harlot's prison with a spot of physical torture has escaped to a life in a harlot's attic with constant psychological torture.

I'm still confused about the kids.  Prahd mentioning how he knows about Gris' Earth children raised the possibility that he'd gone back to bring them to their father's homeworld for whatever reason, but with Gris held captive by Tayl, it seems more likely that she's been squirting out offspring for the past century.  As far as I can tell, what little that remains of the book will not clarify this.  And on further reflection, it doesn't really matter.

Back to Envoi II-viii-xi

Friday, March 21, 2014

Part Ninety-One, Envoi II-viii-xi - Madison's True Genius

Unabridged version here.

Wha- no.  That's not how numbers work.  You don't start a new Part and a second "Envoi" but continue the lowercase Roman numerals from last chapter!  Hubbard, are you even listening to - ah, right, I'm yelling at a dead man.

After a big dinner, Monte is led into the boudoir of Pratia Tayl, who was ever-so-briefly Pratia Gris before she was "murdered" in one of the greatest news events in Voltarian history, which doesn't seem to have impacted her later life much.  Her bedroom has floating furniture, white and gold decor, and dozens of leering cupids looking down on the bed.  Tayl sits down and picks up a knitting kit, but Monte's relief proves short-lived when she still orders him to strip and get on the bed with nothing but a sheet for modesty.  Once he's in position, Tayl calls in her green-eyed, blond granddaughters Asa and Lik, twenty-one and nineteen respectively.

"Girls," said Pratia, "this is a real, live author named Monte Pennwell.  Isn't he nice?"

The girls promptly began to get out of their clothes, shedding them with an alarming speed.

I hysterically pulled the sheet up over my head!

"Now, don't get alarmed," Pratia said to me.  "They are both virgins.  I wouldn't dream of letting them indulge in actual sex.  I am just making sure I am bringing them up right.  We're very proper people: I wouldn't condone letting them touch their brothers and it's almost never that we get a nice young man to practice on."

Well... while we're getting an aggressively gratuitous sex scene, at least the author isn't having the 150-year-old crone participate, so yay?  Also, glad to see that Tayl draws the line at direct incest, even if having siblings simultaneously share the same partner isn't much better.

At any rate, the chapters alternate between the girls performing heavily implied sex acts that do not threaten their virginity, and a hefty chunk of exposition.  Let's focus on the exposition.

Five years after Mortiiy's coronation, when everyone had mostly forgotten about Hisst, Relax Island, and the near-collapse of the empire, a fisherman arrived at Tayl's estate, bearing a bona fide message in a bottle promising a monetary reward if it was delivered to her.  Though it's not so much a message as it is a news story.  You can guess who wrote it.

Tell Papers Headline



The exile colony of Queen Teenie, Hostage Monarch of Flisten, not only imperilled but doomed! 

Unburied dead littering the roads are making an unbearable stench. 

The piteous moan of infants rends the air. 

Death stalks from the crown of Mount Teon down to the southernmost cliff, planting its crushing hooves into the guts and brains of this defenseless and shuddering population. 

No medical supplies exist. 

Unless immediate help is received, there is no hope. 

PS: For God's sakes, get this to the papers, Pratia!

Tayl did forward the story to the papers, but they never printed it.  Fortunately Prahd had opened his little side clinic in her backyard by this point, and Heller was off-planet on business, so Prahd went under the radar, contacted the Lord of Health, and cleared a humanitarian mission with Planetary Defense.  Tayl went along disguised as a nurse, because.

Prahd and Tayl's rescue mission arrived at Relax Island during the "changing of the guard," which is to say a half-dozen guys walked out of Teenie's bedroom adjusting their clothes.  Evidently five years "hadn't changed her much," suggesting that Teenie will never finish puberty, but the "queen" was surprised to hear of the medical emergency.   Then she exploded after reading the letter.

Teenie led them to Madison's "press office," where he lived having horrifying non-incestuous dubiously-consenting intercourse with Flip, found the man in bed, and started hitting him with a chain for risking having them all evacuated from their sticky, sexy paradise.  The punchline: Madison had a mere cold/allergy but was feeling seriously ill for lack of headlines.  Teenie tore open his skull with her chain.  This is humor.

"Madison broke down and wept.  'All my genius is gone,' he said.  'Ever since I began to sleep with Flip, I am deserted by real ideas.  I started to PR the governor and almost got him executed and then Teenie found out and put me in a dungeon for three awful weeks.  I'm a failure.  I can't even get a minor revolt going!  She won't even let me start up a paper!' 

After fixing Madison's horrifying head injury, Prahd gave him something for impotence and stuck around doctoring the locals, while Tayl moved in with Teenie to learn the way of the slut.  Monte is surprised that Prahd didn't get jealous, since all of Pratia's children have his eyes and hair, but Tayl insists that he's too professional to (bleep) his patients.  Underage nurses are a different story, of course.  Teenie ended up teaching Tayl every last filthy Earth sex trick in exchange for fifty years' worth of fuel rods, since Relax Island was in danger of running out and Teenie needed them to power the "necessary screens and probes" to train the island's female population.  Tayl eventually graduated "Magna Cum Loud," hur hur hur.

Monte asks about Gris, but Tayl claims that "Teenie might get angry but she was never cruel" and probably got bored after tearing out a few of Gris' fingernails, and when Tayl asked her about him Teenie just shrugged with disinterest.  So after all we went through to appease Teenie, all that garbage with Madison and the media trials, all that sideplot... she lost interest in her torture toy in a week or less.

For all the deviant sex in these books, I think the author's real fetish is for wasting the audience's time.

The more important thing is what happened after Tayl and Prahd got the shipment of fuel rods sent over.  Three days later there was a tremendous earthquake and tsunami, and "RELAX ISLAND HAD BEEN BLOWN TO BITS!"

Heller returned and immediately questioned Prahd, who insisted that the fuel was all stored in separate containers, and he had very specifically told them not to stack them in one huge explosive pile.

"And Jettero said, 'I know what happened.  Madison said he'd put it on the map: he didn't.  He took it off forever.  It was only a volcanic bubble.  I warned Teenie.  Madison blew up Relax Island just to get a headline!'

"And the sad part of it was," said Pratia, "he didn't even get a single mention of it in the papers.  Not even his own obituary.  And that was the end of all of them, and Relax Island, too." 

This is what I meant about Hubbard's cake.  He was able to paint Heller in a merciful light by having our hero merely "exile" Teenie and the Catamites to an island paradise where they could party all the time, party all the time, party all the time.  But to ensure that these monsters got their just deserts, he had Madison kill them all in an achingly stupid publicity stunt.  It's neat, convenient, and basically cheating.

On another note, Madison was literally too dumb to live.  The Confederacy was nearly destroyed by a suicidal attention whore.  The book's most successful bad guy, the one who enabled the other antagonists to come as close as they did to victory, blew himself up for a headline.

This does not make the villains look dangerous, Hubbard.  This does not make the heroes look awesome for overcoming such deadly foes.  If your bad guy can be defeated if you ignore him for long enough, he's not bringing much to your story, is he?  Or if he is, what does that say about the rest of the story?

Back to Part Ninety, Envoi I-v-vii

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Part Ninety, Envoi I-v-vii - The Search for Relaxation

Another fun thing about last chapter was that we're obviously supposed to be impressed with the heroic humility of Heller, who feels no need to have his many incredible deeds recorded in a biography... and then you flip to the back of the book and read the "About the Author" section.  The Doomed Planet's biography of Hubbard is relatively restrained, and only makes comparisons to H.G. Wells and George Orwell while pausing halfway through to include blurbs about Battlefield Earth.  But Villainy Victorious gushes about how Hubbard became the "blood brother of a Blackfeet Indian medicine man by age six," among other horse droppings.

Anyway, after getting trolled by Heller, Monte returned to Voltar where he was "busy for a very long time writing the story you have read," only to be told once he was finished that he has wasted his time.  His mechanic Shafter produces a map of the Western Ocean, and presumably Monte uncovered the coordinates of Relax Island at some point, because he's startled to look where it should be and find nothing but ocean.

So, road trip.  Well, it's a flying car, but... anyway, Monte and Shafter fly to the "exact coordinates" of the island, but can find nothing on screens.  They come down through the cloud layer, Monte warning about a sudden collision with Mount Teon, but there's nothing but water and "a batfish being chased by a whole school of toothers."  The would-be journalist even has Shafter check in with the Planetary Defense grid to ensure that they're not swatted for traveling into restricted airspace, and ends up being issued a fine for traveling without a map after Shafter jokes about avoiding the mountain.  With that, they give up and go home.

I was boggled.  This was more than just a cover-up.

What had been the fate of Queen Teenie and Madison, the catamites, the Palace City staff and five thousand people?

Oh, Shafter had been right. I had my wires loose and waving in the air!


Monte wonders whether "that archvillain" Heller had the site nuked from orbit, just to be sure, and the next morning does more digging.  I'll excise the pampered aristocrat's exchanges with his manservant, but while being shaved and combed by a bootlick, Monte calls the editor of The Planet to ask about earthquakes that happened a hundred or so years ago, and gets nothing.  I'm beginning to think that Voltar doesn't have an internet at all. (editor's note from the future: so where did Madison get his information about Relax Island's history last book?)

So Monte further disgraces himself in the eyes of his manservant by planning a visit to the Ink Club in Joy City, that disreputable hangout for journalists and other rude mechanicals - Hound raises "his eyeballs so high they clicked!"  The place isn't that bad, though, and has a "huge electronic sign that simulates a river of ink that changes colors and splashes," and instead of its interior being decorated with images of natural disasters and such, it's actually "all soft gray and soothing music, somewhat like an undertaker's."  Certainly superior to our Earth journalists' hangouts, all spattered with gore and punk rock.

But maybe not by much.  When Monte expresses his intent to speak to a reporter to a "young boy usher" working at this bar... huh... and the kid mockingly asks the other patrons if "any of you splashers qualify" he gets a tup canister thrown at him by a "tough-looking fellow."  Still, Monte mans up and sidles up to the bar, buying everyone a round as he explains how he's trying to tackle a cover-up.

"What's a cover-up?" somebody wanted to know.  "You don't cover them up.  You take the covers OFF.  Only then can you see what the girl looks like!  You've got to be careful what you're getting into!"

Monte insists that's he's after a highly-ranked politician, which gets him declared "drunk as a Lord" by the rest, but after they have a few more rounds they get mellow and chatty enough to properly converse.  

This isn't a drug, by the way.  Yes, alcohol is a drug, and these guys are getting "drunk," and the substance they're imbibing is changing their behavior, but they're drinking tup.  It's different.  Voltar doesn't have any nasty, destructive drugs on it.

Monte still wants to find some archive newsheets about ninety-year-old earthquakes, and is told that the only way he'd get them is by talking to a reporter, not an editor, except the problem is that nobody stays in the reporting business for ninety years, so nobody would have such records.  And of course there's no other place to look this stuff up, no libraries or publications, much less some sort of site on a worldwide web of information.  But then someone points out Old Shif, a "gray-haired wreck" sitting by himself across the room.  Ominous.

So Monte sidles up to offer a cup to the old wreck, who remarks that "Drinks always cost something" and asks what Monte's after.  He doesn't show much interest in old earthquakes in the ocean, but...

Old Shif watched the canister arrive.  "Maybe you better be more specific."

I decided to confide, he looked so old and wise.  I leaned over and whispered in his ear, "I'm trying to find out what happened to Relax Island."

His head whipped around toward me.  Something flashed in his eyes.  Was it fear?

Then he did the incredible.  He pushed the canister of tup right back at the barman! 

Old Shif warns that Monte is in Censor territory and tries to leave, but Monte uses his amateur detective skills to deduce, from the manner of the barman, that Old Shif has an enormous debt.  Using the power of inherited wealth, Monte is able to clear Shif's tab in exchange for more information, which turns out to be a name and address: Pratia Tayl, Minx Estates, Pausch Hills.

God.  Damn.  It.

So... we gotta go to Tayl's house.  There's a heart-shaped pool surrounded by statues of nymphs, and a hospital out back.  Tayl herself is a 150-year-old pile of furs and make-up failing to disguise her age.  And apparently it's customary to just land at someone's house and walk onto their pool lounge, bumping into the homeowner by chance rather than appointment.

Tayl coos over how handsome Monte is, and there's an enormous number of her green-eyed, yellow-haired offspring coming and going in the background, with names like Jettero and Bis.  There's some other familiar...ish names as well, a "really old hag" named Meeley, and a deaf butler named Ske who mentions how Old Bawtch finally died.  Each time they appear Monte asks if they're "the former landlady/driver/chief clerk of..." and is answered with "That (bleep)?"  It is very droll.

Somehow Monte is able to, for the umpteenth time this post, explain that he's trying to find out what happened to Relax Island and its inhabitants.  Tayl is startled by this, and says that the King's Own Physician Prahd Bittlestiffender, who owns the Cellology Beauty Clinic out back, wouldn't like it if she told him.  But she agrees to tell Monte the story... if he stays the night.  "Don't you know a girl can't possibly impart secrets unless it's in bed?"  And Monte, glory-hungry amateur investigative journalist that he is, agrees to this diabolic bargain and sends his driver home.

Little did I know what I was letting myself in for! Oh, Gods, what I have been through and how I have suffered, dear reader, getting you this vital tale!

I did not have the least inkling of the shocking experience that awaited me!

I should have read it from the smile on the face of Pratia Tayl when I helped her to rise and go in to dinner, a smile which stayed there all through the meal.

We are at yellow alert for flower pots and decorative figurines spontaneously exploding.

Back to Part Ninety, Envoi I-iv

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Part Ninety, Envoi I-iv - Interview With a Twerp

I would just like to point out that the wording of the title is purposefully ambiguous.

Monte scampers out to watch the incoming spaceship land.  It's coming in so fast that he's at first afraid that it will crash, but of course at the last second it pulls out of its dive and "settled on its tail so gently, it hardly bent the grass."

Again, I'm perplexed why a society with hover tanks and other antigrav devices would design spaceships that land on their tails.  I'm also confused why you'd land such a ship on the grass rather than a launch pad, since you'd set the lawn on fire if you took off like that.  This would also make disembarking more difficult, as the pilot has to throw out and slide down a safety line to reach the ground, while if he'd put down on some ventral landing gear he might've been able to extend a stepladder or something.  But I'm just a stupid Earthling, what do I know?

The ship's pilot is in "a pale blue civilian suit, without ornament but of expensive cut."  Remember, Heller is rich as balls, and while he's too heroically modest to slap a lot of bling on his clothes, we need to recognize how pricey they are regardless.  After someone still inside the ship tosses him some luggage and packages, the pilot ignores a flight crew belatedly wheeling out a stepladder to walk Monte's way.


He was quite tall, very slender, the sort of man who even in late middle age keeps himself in condition.  Although his features had thickened, he was still a very handsome fellow.  He fixed his gray-blue eyes upon me.

Pretend to be shocked that the man who Krak mentioned was coming home last chapter did, in fact, come home this chapter.

Heller asks if Monte's the guy he heard was meeting with Hightee, and our current narrator introduces himself.  Then he asks if the spaceship, which is of course a tugboat, is Tug One.  Even though Monte wrote about how the ship exploded in the Great Desert a century earlier, he recognizes its description from the story he's assembled, identifies those awful Will-be Was engines, "distinctly saw silver handrails" when Heller opened the airlock, and furthermore it has Prince Caucalsia written on the nose.  Heller frowns and denies this charge, and mentions that it sounds like Monte has been "gossiping" with the ladies of his family.

Monte proclaims himself an investigative journalist here to write a story on "Your Lordship, Sir"'s life, and "Just call me Jet" agrees to help, leading the twit inside.  After Heller hands over packages meant for Hightee and Krak to a nearby minion, Monte talks about his would-be publisher, also giving us some exposition about the pathetic state of Voltar's media.  Before Monte started his Mission Earth project, no one had made the connection between the famous racer, athlete and space commando Jettero Heller and "the enormously popular and fabulously wealthy Duke of Manco."  Nobody asked who the new Viceregal Chairman of the empire was when he came to power a hundred years ago, and nobody in this backwards civilization obsessed with Royalty and hereditary titles was able to figure out where the newest Duke of Manco came from.  And again, there is not a single published biography of Heller.

Monte also mentions how he got into the Apparatus vaults at Spiteos, hoping to "trick" Heller into making some sort of incriminating comment, but the guy's reaction is only a bland "imagine that."  Heller then moves the conversation to - this is not a terribly exciting chapter, I'm sorry - Monte's personal life, and our narrator complains some more about nobody taking his writing career seriously, and his family trying to get him to marry Lady Corsa of Modon.  We end up learning a lot about Heller's views on marriage.

"Lady Corsa?" he said, wide-eyed.  "Why, she's the heiress to half of the planet Modon!"

"She's awfully athletic, half again my size.  And she has no soul at all!  She thinks writing is a waste of time."

"But, good Heavens," said Heller, "you'd wind up one of the richest men on Modon in another half-century.  The lands of that planet are legendary for their productivity and the uplands are beautiful and full of game.  A paradise!"

This doesn't sound like something you'd expect from a guy who fell in love at first sight with a woman who didn't officially exist, and who only restored Krak's land and title after she procured the means for it.  Should we go back and re-examine Krak and Heller's courtship?  Could there be evidence that he was interested only in a fling with an attractive psycho until he learned about her true identity?  Did he only commit to marriage after learning that she should own the demesne of Atalanta, and was so swept up in the Prince Caucalsia legend that he decided to seal the deal and take the lands?

You can if you want.  I've got The Invaders Plan buried under a stack of other Hubbard crap, and there may it rot.

Monte bemoans how "provincial" such a life would be and stresses the importance of his writing career, so Heller takes pity on the guy and settles in for the biographical interview.  Monte turns on his generic recording device and mentally prepares himself for the "adroit and tricky questioning" that would unravel the greatest conspiracy of all time.

"I was born," said Heller, "in Tapour, Atalanta Province, planet Manco, 127 years ago."

I was tense.  His eyes took on the hue of nostalgia and reminiscence.  Now I would get down to it.

"Then," said Heller, "I lived until now.  And here I am."

I felt the very room spin.  I opened my mouth.  I closed it.

A bland and innocent smile remained on Heller's face. 

And so the hero, like the book he stars in, knowingly and maliciously wastes our time.

While Monte is still reeling from the impact of Heller's trolling, Duchess Krak comes in. 

Some footfalls were sounding in the hall.  The Duchess of Manco swept in.  Despite her age, she was beautiful.  She was wearing a dinner gown that shimmered blue and yellow and seemed to reflect the color of her hair and eyes.  Had I not known how old she was, her skill at makeup would have had me fooled. 

So did the author forget that Monte met her last chapter?  Or does Krak Wearing Makeup count as a separate character warranting another introduction?

 Krak chides Heller for surprising her with an early return and for his "jokes" with Monte, whom she says is only trying to get him the recognition that Heller deserves.  Heller deflects this by agreeing that he wants recognition "that I'm starved.  What's for dinner?"  And that's all Monte was able to get out of his visit to the Duke of Manco.  We're not told whether he went home crying immediately or tried and failed throughout the rest of the evening to get Heller to cooperate, but either way, it's pretty sad.

So you see?


Pretend to be shocked that the guy who went through such lengths to bury the existence of planet Earth a hundred years ago is still doing so today.

But there is still time, dear reader, there is still time.  The sacred Invasion Timetable can yet be restored and executed.  However, as Shafter is reminding me, I have not told you all.

Yeah, we've learned what happened to Earth and Heller and some other nominally good Voltarians, but we haven't gone into the fates of the other half of the cast.  Next time we start tracking down the book's outright villains.

Back to Envoi I-ii and I-iii

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Part Ninety, Envoi I-ii and I-iii - Earth Update

Ugh, just look at that post title.  These are chapters, Hubbard, stop pretending this is something sophisticated that deserves lower-case Roman numerals.

Envoi I-ii is nothing but a letter to the Countess - excuse me, Duchess Krak of Manco - marked Confidential and relayed by a "Censorship Clerk."  The letter itself contains the translation of another letter addressed to "Mr. Jet," found on a "mountain cone" by a survey team sent by the Chairman of Intelligence.  Despite the ban on interaction with Earth and an order to destroy any evidence that the planet exists, Crown, His Lordship Heller is breaking his own rules so he can get news from his Terran buddies.

The letter-within-a-letter is a sloppy list of minor characters and what they've been up to since Heller left Earth ten years ago, something I'm tempted to summarize as a bulleted list.  And not to ruin the surprise, but the letter's by Izzy; I'm not going to play coy and call him "the letter writer" until the huge reveal at the end of the chapter or anything.  Excuse me, end of the envoi.

Anyway, cue up your favorite "Where are they now?" pre-credits montage music.  I have none to recommend 'cause I don't watch TV.

Heller's penthouse is still being kept ready for him, and the tailor checks in on occasion to see if Heller is back and needs anything.  Izzy mentions that Heller's clothes are still well-maintained but a decade out of style, indicating that they never humor the tailor and update the absent Heller's wardrobe, even though they're willing to keep paying rent and upkeep and staff expenses for the apartment.

Mr. Stampi from the Speedway invites Heller to the "new American Grand Prix."  (Bleep) Mr. Stampi and his speedway.  That was a bunch of pointless stupidity that took up a whole damned book for no good reason, and the only way you could say it impacted the plot was by delaying its resolution for another five hundred pages.

"Queen" Babe Corleone speaks of you often.  Just the other day, at the world board meeting, she said she missed "Prince Charming" and cried a little bit.  She said maybe Jerome had never forgiven her after all, because he didn't come back.  She is doing fine, though.  The American Rifle Association elected her Woman of the Year.  There are no other mobs now, only Corleone.
She is very popular and her name is up in lights over the UN since she ordered them to pass the Women's Thermonuclear Rights Bill.

In case you missed the "world board meeting" remark, Izzy will make it clear in a bit that he succeeded with his plan to replace governments with corporations, which "Queen" Corleone has mixed with organized crime and a monarchy.  So Earth is now controlled by an unelected business elite playing both sides of the law, organized into a feudal hierarchy based on loyalty to an all-powerful dynasty.  The author presents this as a good thing, and way different from what Rockecenter was pulling.  After all, Babe was able to ban nuclear war!  Something we've managed to avoid without any such "law," but anyway...

Vantagio keeps a portrait of Heller in the Gracious Palms brothel, and the girls there "keep votive candles going in front of it."  For my own sake, I'm going to assume they've stopped short of outright worshiping Heller as a god.  Bang-Bang misses Heller but has been made a five-star general "so he could show them how to drill."  I don't think that is something generals normally concern themselves with, which bodes ill for Earth's military.

Mr. Bury "showed his true colors" after disposing of Miss Peace and Miss Agnes, so that his wife, and the New York mayor's wife (after escaping her exile to Elba Island) were both last seen with Bury at the zoo reptile house.  Izzy does not mention firing Mr. Bury for feeding people to anacondas, so presumably he's still around working for the nominally good guys.  Also, we're expected to care about Babe Corleone's feud with the mayor's wife, and find all this funny or something?  'cause he's an utterly amoral lawyer, who likes reptiles and killing people?

Twoey spends most of his time on all the pig farms he's bought in New Jersey, and can barely be troubled to sign Rockecenter paperwork like a good little puppet.  He named an award-winning sow "The Beautiful Krackle," which Izzy suggests Heller not tell Krak about.  And all Izzy's willing to say about himself is that without Heller around, he ran off the stage when "Barvard"... seriously... tried to give him an honorary degree for replacing the last of Earth's governments with a corporation.

So anyway, Mr. Jet, when you're finished surveying the Moon in depth or whatever is keeping you away, your condo penthouse is still waiting.  The gardeners keep the garden up and there isn't even any dust around.  I go there now and then and pretend you'll soon come home.  It sort of calms me.  I hope you don't mind. 

Yours very truly, 

PS: 1 would ask you to give Miss Joy my best but she probably doesn't remember me. 

PPS: I do hope she is enjoying her life as Mrs. Jettero Heller and the wife of an officer of the Fleet.

Man is Izzy just pathetic.  Also, Code Break.

Monte is stunned by this shocking and wholly inconsequential revelation, and asks the Duchess Krak how a stupid, neurotic Earthling was able to discover Heller's badly-kept secret.  Krak explains that Heller's name was on a Fleet receipt "pasted inside the time-sight" Izzy regularly used to cheat the stock market.  And also that Heller kept an English-Voltarian dictionary around his office.  And I started to laugh at this, until I realized that a hypno-helmet might be able to teach you how to listen to or speak a foreign language, but not necessarily read it, and then I wondered at what point had Heller been taught English on paper, before realizing that I didn't actually give a lepertige's haunches.

But wait, there's more: Krak somehow knows that Colonel Gaylov of the KGB, aka Utanc, sent in a report to Rockecenter about finding an alien base in Turkey.  You can be forgiven for being surprised by this, since there's no indication that this happened anywhere else in the story.  At any rate, Krak goes on to know that the file made it to Izzy when he took over the Rockecenter cartel, who "put six and six together" and paid a visit to Afyon to leave behind a letter in case Heller or his associates returned.  So that's how the author is going to explain how Izzy was able to send mail to Heller from another planet - by widening the "and nobody cared there were aliens?!" plot hole introduced when the KGB showed no interest in an alien base beyond its drug supply.

Following this baffling plot twist, Monte asks about Snelz, who Krak tells him died twenty years ago as a Fleet brigadier general.  Did Monte even bother to look any of this up in public records?  That sounds like something easily found on Voltarpedia or something, and really an anticlimax after the previous revelation.

It's at this point that Krak realizes that all of Monte's questions have related to Earth.  Rather than being disturbed that someone is investigating that wretched planet, especially since it's supposed to be a state secret, Krak instead insists that Earth was only a small part of Heller's long and awesome career.  Worse yet, he's just so damned modest that he refuses to answer historians' questions, so Voltar's encyclopedias still list him as a racer rather than Crown, Your Lordship Duke Heller of Manco.   Because remember, Voltar's journalism is (bleep). 

"Good Heavens, even the Colipin invasion is more interesting than that.

So why did the author waste our time with ten books about Mission Earth?!

He gave the Emperor Mortiiy an absolute fit!  We lost five squadrons and Jettero got so upset he grabbed the creaky old Retribution and went right over there and won the war and had peace in a week. 

Why is Heller the only one who can accomplish anything?!  Why are we supposed to be delighted that Heller was able to help the Confederacy conquer another planet for no reason?!  Is it because it had five billion people on it but none were Heller's friends?! 

And Mortiiy, who'd gone touring to inspect Calabar, belatedly heard about it and came rushing home thinking he'd have to take over the government and he came storming into the Grand Council hall and Jettero was sitting right there and Mortiiy roared, 'What the blazes do you mean going out risking your life in that confounded war?' and Jettero just smiled and said, 'What war, Your Majesty?' and handed him the treaty of peace.  And even Mortiiy had to break out laughing, he looked so innocent. 

Why do you need an emperor if he doesn't do anything?!

But the papers never even MENTIONED it!  We gave you access to the logs and files so you could really tell people about him." 

So why didn't you write about the wonderful Jettero Heller if you want to read about him and have all the records?!

This book is a self-inflicted sinus migraine.

The stupid is interrupted when Mr. Calico X yowls and points out a window.  On second thought, the stupid continues when Mr. Calico X yowls and points out a window.  Heller's spaceship is coming in for a landing a day early, and Krak scampers out of the room, complaining that she's "a wreck" and hasn't told someone what to make for dinner.

Guess next time we'll see how the man himself is getting on.

Back to Envoi I-i