Saturday, June 7, 2014

Book-by-Book Breakdown

They all kind of blur together after awhile, don't they?  It's easy to remember which volumes of Mission Earth had Gris wasting his gold in, or hiring a hitman, or spend a third of the book on a boat 'cause of the titles, but remembering which book Madison debuted in or when Krak arrived on Earth is more tricky.

So here's a guide of sorts, a trip down memory lane.  I've tried to break down the Mission Earth books by plot or subplot, giving page numbers for how much time Hubbard wasted on Gris getting lost in the mountains, or Madison and Flick robbing their own apartment.  I've also capped each with a sort of mini-review, but I'm not gonna do a book-by-book recap 'cause someone else already has and I don't want to be redundant.  Besides, the plot listings should give a good idea of what went on.

The Invaders Plan

The book where we meet the main characters and the story's premise is established, followed by 500 pages of preparation for a trip.  It's a very busy book, with tons of characters introduced, and a bunch of subplots set to go off much later - Gris' shipment of gold, all those people he tried to kill with fake money, Prahd and Snelz and more.  What's remarkable, of course, is just how inconsequential most of these later developments will be.  Gris wastes all that gold in a single book, and the most you can say about its impact on the plot is that it gave Gris an excuse to leave Turkey and get back to work, which is by no means exclusive to that particular development.  Prahd's only plot-relevant actions are to bug Heller at the story's beginning and keep His Majesty alive at the end, the rest is nonsense like the mobster hospital or giving Gris a freakishly large penis.  And then there's all the flat-out pointless sections of this book, such as Gris wandering around in the mountains, or his "date" with Hightee, or his failure to find a way to blackmail Heller.  We could cut almost four hundred pages from this lump and not impact the story in any meaningful way.

In short, The Invaders Plan is a good preview of what to expect in the rest of Mission Earth, in all the worst ways - a main plot that stalls for hundreds of pages before lurching forward in fits and spasms, a tangle of subplots that loop back on themselves but are unconnected to that main plot, and lots of murder, scheming and sexual deviancy to give us even less incentive to keep reading.  Like a broken-down tractor in an overgrown field that's featured in the background of a bad pornographic slasher movie.
  • Preface, disclaimers, introductions, keys, etc. henceforth referred to as "preface" - pages 1-16
  • Heller's capture and the hatching of Mission Earth - pages 17-51
  • Fun times at Spiteos, Krak and Heller's "love story," Gris failing to find something to blackmail Heller with - pages 51-233
  • Meet Tug One - pages 234-285
  • Gris is broke and starving while doing office work - pages 286-319
  • Gris tries to kill people through counterfeit money, gets lost in the mountains for three weeks - pages 320-358
  • Double date and riot with Hightee Heller - pages 359-401
  • Gris discovers he's been hypnotized - pages 402-435
  • Fake amnesty docs for Krak, Gris orders a shipment of gold, recruiting Prahd, stealing bugs, bugging Heller - pages 435-571
  • Finally launching the damn spaceship - pages 572-615

Black Genesis

If the previous book is a warning of what to expect of Mission Earth in general, here's our example of what we'll see on Earth in particular: Gris wasting time in Turkey, watching Heller progress on the HellerVision set, and screaming at his lackeys to do something.  Though from this volume you might get the impression that Mission Earth will be completed quickly - just look how fast Heller makes headway!  In two hundred pages or so he's trained by the FBI, bought off by the Big Bads after foiling their assassin attempts with ease, blunders into an alliance with the mafia, and is all set on getting the credentials he "needs" to fulfill his mission, with nothing but a bitchy teacher to stand in his way.  Surely we'll be back in time for Christmas, eh?
  • Prefaces - pages 1-17
  • Voyage, breaking physics, arrival on Earth - pages 17-63
  • Dicking around in Turkey - pages 64-128
  • Heller arrives in US, meets Mary, apprehended by FBI, given Wister identity by Mr. Bury after foiling hit - pages 129-258
  • Settling in at the Gracious Palms, Heller gets good with the mob, beginning of Gris' hassling Raht and Terb - 259-361
  • Heller goes to college, recruits Izzy, new nemesis Miss Simmons - pages 361-477

The Enemy Within

Roughly a quarter of this book is devoted to Gris' "relationship" with Utanc.  I guess this is to make up for finally introducing the Big Bad of the Earth stuff, in order to keep the book from being too productive.  Sure, you might question why Heller is setting up his Earth base and getting the necessary equipment now instead of in the previous book, but other than that, from this summary it looks like things are moving right along - Heller's doing classes, starting up a business, and getting ready to unleash his alien carburetor on an unsuspecting world.  This is of course Gris' problem, hence his efforts to make subsequent books as drawn-out as possible.  The villain's plot is literally to insert as much padding as possible into the story.

  • Prefaces - pages 1-16
  • Heller gets into business - pages 17-37
  • Gris' "courtship" of Utanc - pages 38-76
  • Heller buys a roadhouse and gets a delivery from the tug - 77-159
  • Prahd arrives in Turkey, Gris messes with hypnohelmets and installs that shut-off device in his skull, GUNSALMO SIVLA! - pages 160-240
  • More Utanc - pages 240-282
  • Gris in America, meets Rockecenter and Bury, ridiculous recruitment of Madison - pages 283-374
  • Madison turns Heller's fuel invention into a demolition derby - pages 375-424

An Alien Affair

Coming out of this book, you may think you've seen the worst Mission Earth has to offer.  We get Hubbard's equivalent to Episode I's pod-race sequence at the beginning, a wholly unnecessary and roundabout way to exhibit Heller's new fuel technology.  We get hundreds of pages of Gris lounging about, Heller puttering around, and Madison's newspaper headlines creating an alternate reality that only really stupid people buy into.  And then we had the infamous torture chapters with Candy and Pinch.  The only plot-relevant bits are Heller temporarily losing Babe as an ally, which turns out not to mean much in the grand scheme of things, and Krak returning to the story as part of another roundabout assassination attempt by Gris.  The main plot has slowed to a crawl, the useless subplots are taking over, and the author's found new ways to horrify us.

If you learn one thing from Mission Earth, it's this - things can always get worse.
  • Prefaces - pages 1-21
  • Action scene and waiting for the race to start - pages 23-43
  • Demolition derby race - pages 43-63
  • Some more Madison headlines - pages 65-85
  • Doldrums.  Heller mopes in "defeat," intermittent Whiz Kid stuff, GUNSALMO SILVA! kills and is killed, Gris is broke again - pages 85-168
  • Gris tortured by Candy and Pinch - pages 168-194
  • Whiz Kid nonsense, Satanic funeral, more Gris torture, Heller falls out with Babe - pages 195-251
  • Gris' flight to Turkey, new penis, credit card debt deepens - pages 253-324
  • Arrival and bugging of the Countess Krak - pages 324-347

Fortune of Fear

This is definitely the low point of the miserable series.  Hubbard takes a fiendish delight in wasting the reader's time with page after page being spent on Heller's fruitless trip to Atlantic City and Gris rolling around in the back of a limo with what he thinks are whores.  And then there's the infamous "Gris rapes the lesbians straight" sequence, giving an excuse for the author to have more such "treatments" for the next two books.  It's only at the very end that something relevant finally happens, when Krak hypnotizes one of Heller's opponents into submission, another thing we'll see again and again until we're done with Earth.
  • Preface - pages 1-15
  • Gris realizes that letting Krak team up with Heller may have been a bad idea after all - pages 17-58
  • Gris acquires, invests, and immediately starts wasting the fortune of fear - pages 59-114
  • Heller's completely pointless trip to Atlantic City - pages 115-166
  • Crobe arrives, imprisoned, given psychology texts - pages 167-179
  • Gris wastes his fortune on whores, or what he thinks are whores - pages 180-201
  • Crobe sicced on Heller, ends up in the clutches of psychiatry - pages 203-228
  • Gris flees his legal and money problems in Turkey for the US - pages 229-271
  • Gris rapes Pinch and Candy straight - pages 272-294
  • Gris tries to use Miss Simmons to stop Heller, Krak mind-controls her into a slut - pages 295-360

Death Quest

After spending the last two books parked in the driveway, Mission Earth's plot starts lurching forward again.  Interspaced between more Gris sex time and the introduction of the dreaded Teenie, we get the full Rockecenter story, Heller ticking a few things off his Mission Earth checklist, and Krak continuing to zap people's brains.  Oh, and I guess there was that necrophiliac gunman who was put on the cover despite lasting less than a third of the book.  Other filler includes Krak and Heller splitting up for about a hundred pages for an extremely stupid reason, prompting needless Hubbard Action Sequences and yet another vehicle added to the cast herd.
  • Preface - pages 1-15
  • Gris buys a hit - pages 17-29
  • Lesbian deprogramming - 30-42
  • Gris continues to buy a hit, Krak tracks down Miss Agnes and learns the whole Rockecenter story, more lesbian deprogramming - pages 43-143
  • Heller returns to Virginia and becomes one of the "non-identical Rockecenter twins," Torpedo fails in his mission and is killed by his own mother - 144-185
  • Krak and Heller buy a luxury penthouse and vintage car, Heller sets up his spore plant and power company, Madison makes headlines the main characters ignore, Pinch and Candy are pregnant - pages 187-229
  • Krak finally notices the Whiz Kid headlines and leaves Heller, Gris is tricked into a bigamist marriage and blackmailed by Pinch and Candy - pages 231-268
  • More lesbian deprogramming, introduction of Teenie, Heller evades the Coast Guard to go after Krak - pages 269-310
  • Gris blackmailed further with compromising pictures with Teenie, Heller and Krak make up, more Gris and Teenie - pages 311-375
  • Krak starts hunting down the Whiz Kid Wives, Gris tries to (order others to) stop her - pages 375-385

Voyage of Vengeance

This is probably where Hubbard just ran out of ideas.  He's already got Krak started with the tactic of hypnotizing her problems away, so she continues to dismantle all those "obstacles" facing Heller.  And I guess the author wanted Madison and Teenie to go corrupt Voltar, so Gris gets to grab them when he flees Krak.  And thus we get 120 pages of Gris on a boat while Heller and Krak work unimpeded, some of the most mind-numbing chapters in the story.  Hubbard still isn't done torturing his voodoo doll, so more terrible things happen to Gris on both sides of the Atlantic, and he makes one last attempt to present Gris as a credible villain by having him kidnap Krak and "kill" Heller, but this whole book feels like Hubbard was getting tired of writing the Earth parts of the story but didn't know how to wrap them up.  So they just plod on and on.

Really, if the plot of a third of the book is "the main character admits that he has no idea what to do, and so does nothing," why even bother writing it?
  • Preface - pages 1-18
  • Krak hypno-helmets the Whiz Kid Wives - pages 19-49
  • Candy and Pinch further blackmail Gris with incriminating photos of him and Teenie - pages 50-68
  • Krak hypno-helmets the Whiz Kid "double," clears Heller's legal problems, starts tracing who gave the orders for what - 69-124
  • Gris panics, nabs Teenie and Madison, fakes their deaths and flees New York - pages 125-157
  • The Voyage of Vengeance: Gris and co. return to Turkey the long way as Gris struggles for "INSPIRATION!", Heller builds his spore plant and graduates from college - pages 159-270
  • Arrival in Turkey, Gris' shotgun wedding and more financial difficulties - pages 271-329
  • Gris finally has a plan, kidnaps Krak with the Antimanco pirates, has Raht "kill" Heller - pages 330-377


And here we rush to finish up Earth so Hubbard can get on to showing us what psychology and PR can do to an unsuspecting civilization.  So Heller gets to come back from the dead as suddenly as he was "killed," just about fixes Earth's energy problems, and kills millions and millions of innocent people.  But we've gotta get Gris in prison to write this "confession," so we hurry back to Voltar for that.  And then the story comes to a dead stop for fifty pages so Hubbard can do a hilarious satire of wannabe historians or something.  Or because he's not used to moving the plot forward so quickly and needs to catch his breath.  At any rate, more action when Heller rescues the Emperor, more action when Heller captures the New York City council for the mob, and then the climactic encounter with Rockecenter... that ends in ten pages, on a cliffhanger.  If Empire Strikes Back was a Hubbard production, it'd end with Luke falling from Cloud City after his confrontation with Vader.

Still, after the likes of Voyage of Vengeance and Fortune of Fear, this feels like an exciting book.  If you ignore Monte's section.  And can tolerate the books' hero wiping out a whole country, which everyone else decides is a good thing.  And get over how a major action sequence is just an excuse for a guy to get in his office, when he already has a flying sled and gadgets that can easily circumvent the men guarding it.  The point is, nobody sat on a boat and wondered what to do for a hundred pages.
  • Preface - pages 1-17
  • Heller kills the Antimancos, captures Gris, kills the Assassin Pilots, fake-irradiates the world's fuel supply, and kills Russia - pages 19-99
  • Reunion with Krak at Afyon, Heller fixes all the base's problems, everyone hates Gris - pages 101-160
  • Return to Voltar, Gris fakes his death and escapes, Heller raids Spiteos, Gris places himself in Royal custody - pages 160-206
  • Interlude with Monte - pages 207-254
  • Heller rescues the emperor - pages 255-289
  • Return to Earth, Heller leads a mob assault on New York City so he can get into his office - pages 290-346
  • Dealing with Rockecenter, who it turns out is a cheat and a liar - pages 347-357

Villainy Victorious 

Realizing too late that the previous book wasn't absolute crap, the author quickly sets things right by beginning this volume with an anticlimax, followed by hundreds of pages of filler.  The most we can say about "Queen" Teenie's festivities and Madison and Flick raiding a holographic treasure trove is that they indirectly nudge the plot forward.  On the other hand, if the author was keen on more debauchery and criminality, why did we need to leave Earth?  What's the point of exploring an alien society if it's just more of the same of what we've been reading about for eight books now?

Still, in a mere 450 pages, the author manages to get psychology, psychiatry and PR all established on Voltar, so Heller can be properly horrified and have something to do when he comes home.  The stage is set for the real final showdown, not to be confused with all that stuff on Earth, which doesn't really matter since Voltar won't even want to invade the planet by the end of the story... wow.  Hubbard is truly the master of the pointless plotline, isn't he?
  • Preface - pages 1-15
  • Heller kills Rockecenter and takes over the world - pages 17-36
  • Lombar recaps the plot so far - 36-45
  • Madison arrives on Voltar, meets with Lombar, finds Teenie - pages 46-83
  • Teenie's Big Gay Underage Orgy, Madison promises to deliver her Gris for her help - pages 84-126
  • Earth is doing swell, Krak can't get Heller to worry - pages 127-139
  • Madison gets Lords to bow to Lombar, receives unlimited pay grade- pages 140-156
  • Flick hijacks the plot and recruits a criminal crew to purchase and rob a house - pages 157-217
  • Madison convinces Hightee to star in The Outlaw - pages 218-251
  • Teenie and Madison tour Relax Island - pages 253-280
  • Madison uses Crobe to spread psychology on Voltar - pages 281-317
  • Heller and Krak leave Earth - pages 319-348
  • Trial of Soltan Gris and associated media frenzy - pages 349-406
  • Heller meets with Mortiiy - pages 406-412
  • More Gris trial, Madison keeps working on making Heller famous though it - pages 413-438
  • Hightee puts on The Outlaw, is arrested, scheduled for execution, and rescued by Heller, all in four chapters - pages 438-459

The Doomed Planet

A hundred pages of action, a hundred pages of denouement, followed by a hundred more in case the first weren't enough.  The climactic battle against the forces of evil is over almost insultingly quickly and laughably easily, given the amount of effort sunk into setting it up.  And then we get to talk, about all the evil things we've already seen and where all those evil ideas came from, so that the author can exposit at length about everything wrong with our disgusting little planet.  We get our guide to fixing society, evil is punished, and the good guys lives happily ever after.  And then another section with Monte, where we see how fixed Voltarian society is, how punished evil was, how happy the good guys are living, followed by another speech about everything wrong with Earth by having a corrupted Monte recommend them.

It's like in place of a cliffhanger, which won't work because this is the last book, we got a second ending instead.  God forbid Hubbard's name go on a novel that's less than 250 pages long.
  • Preface - pages 1-14
  • Gris' trail exposes Apparatus' crimes, chaos on Voltar - pages 15-56
  • Coronation of Lombar Hisst, chaos intensifies - pages 56-75
  • Heller literally knocks over Spiteos and singlehandedly storms Palace City - pages 77-130
  • Teenie takes Lombar prisoner, Mortiiy takes throne - pages 131-144
  • The big conference, Heller fixes everything, a hologram of Earth explodes - pages 144-240
  • Envois begin, Monte bothers the Hellers - pages 241-257
  • Monte discovers the fate of Teenie, Madison and Gris - pages 258-301
  • Monte visits Crobe and Lombar at the Gulag of Mental Health - pages 301-324
  • Monte bothers the Hellers some more, specu-narrates the fate of Earth - pages 324-331
  • Monte's Ode to Earth, gets lectured by Uncle Cuht - pages 332-355

So there they are, the books of Mission Earth and what was in them, abridged.  I think the obvious thing to do is dive into the pacing problems and try to find a way to fix them, but that may work better in a more general "fixing Mission Earth" bit, and that is gonna be a long post.

Back to Hubbard the Reformer


  1. I finally caught up with all of these entries and left a few comments along the way that you probably haven't seen. Most of them aren't important, but I have questions regarding the time line. How long did it take Soltan Gris to write his 3,000+ page confession? The way I had taken it, Gris was finished before Heller even returned to Voltar with Mortiiy, and given the supposed time frame between trips and the time Heller was in Turkey I estimate it to have only taken a few weeks at most. Which... is utterly inhuman so Gris must have super-fast writing ability to match Heller's super-fast reading. Can you draw up a timeline of these events?

    I have thoroughly enjoyed all these framing devices! Here's my chart of the framing devices:

    Nathan Johhnson the sporker framing device -> Mission Earth Dekalogy framing device -> Lord Invay and the Voltarian publishers framing device -> 54 Charlee Nine censorship framing device -> Monte Pennwell's historical documentary framing device -> Soltan Gris confession framing device -> The viewer implant framing device.

    That's an oogly-moogly of framing devices within framing devices! Can you make a blog about Hubbard's dedication (and frustrated contrivances) with these narrative perspectives?

  2. I'm not sure what more to say about the nested framing devices. My best guess is that Hubbard wanted to write from Gris' eeevil perspective, went along until realized he'd put his narrator in jail, and had to invent a transitory POV character before abandoning the first person conceit and jumping from Heller to Madison to Lombar. The alternative would be revising and rewriting things, and that would mean admitting that Hubbard made a mistake.

    But according to ghost editor Robert Vaughn Young's account (linked in the first blog post), the "confession" framing device was created after some initial reviews complained that the series was transparently a single story awkwardly cut into ten volumes, and though Hubbard approved of them, most were ghostwritten after he went off to do research in deep space. Young talks about 54 Charlee Nine's intros and whatnot, and doesn't elaborate on how much of the books were rewritten by him and other editors to accommodate these framing devices. But I would argue that if Hubbard wanted sole credit for these books, we should feel comfortable with giving him all the blame.

    As for how long it took Gris to do his confession, that's tricky:

    Gris throws himself into Royal custody near the end of Book Eight, the same night Heller and Krak raid Spiteos and rescue-kidnap the Emperor. Three day voyage to Earth, flight to New York, night of upheaval with mobilization and whatnot. Heller mobilizes the mob and the next evening takes New York City. Morning after that, he meets with, kills, and usurps Rockecenter. It's sometime in July.

    At the same time, Lombar is ironically hoping nothing has happened to Rockecenter, and Madison arrives after being shipped to Voltar by Gris. Madison meets with Lombar that day and endures Teenie's attentions that evening. Three days later he gets his unlimited pay grade, buys a haunted apartment, and recruits Flick's ideal gang through the night. Next day he buys supplies, everyone takes a daytime sleep, then learn that the house is full of holographic treasure. The next day(?) Madison gets started PRing Heller, two days later visits Hightee, gets yelled at by Teenie, and when he tries to visit Gris in prison hears that Gris is on his "third roll of vocoscriber paper." Next day tours Relax Island with Teenie, continues PRing. More PR the next day, and the day after that. Recruits Crobe the following day. We get "the ensuing days were a blur" as Madison keeps PRing and psychiatrying, and he tells Teenie it should take "two or three months" to get Gris. A week after that Crobe gives his psychiatric demonstration.

    Cut back to Heller leaving Earth at the end of August. Back to Madison, summoned to Lombar's meeting, two days later the Gris press conference. Assuming each headline is a different day, this is followed by about two weeks of news. When Lord Turn finally gives in to the Gris "wedding reformation" attempt, Gris has turned in his confession, presumably recently.

    By my tally, that's about 38 days, so either Heller took over Earth pretty late in July, or even more time passed in those vague timeskips. Call it a month and a half to write seven-and-a-half books' worth of material. So that's what, 66 pages a day? Not too shabby, even if the author is in prison and has nothing else to do.

  3. Again, coming in late: the only thing I can say about the timeline is that Heller has already rescued Cling, and gotten an arrest warrant slapped on him, by the time of the letter that was inserted between Parts Three and Four. Apart from that, the speed and relative sequence of events is determined by the order and rate in which they came from Hubbard's purple but smoking typewriter, fueled by pinks and greys.