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

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