Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Masters of Sleep - Chapters One and Two - Like the Last Book Never Happened

We now join our adventure, already in progress.  Our hero is over a hundred feet above the deck of a ship, sitting in what I would call the crow's nest and what Hubbard calls the "fighting top" of the Graceful Jinnia, one of twenty men-o-war sailing under the colors of Queen Ramus the Magnificent.  Tiger's keeping an eye on the fifteen enemy vessels in Balou Bay, which have raised their anchors and are moving into attack position.  He yells down at Captain Tombo, who looks like a "fat scarlet doll, mostly hat," from Tiger's height, but the ifrit is stuck in a loud argument with the other captains of the fleet and doesn't reply even when Tiger yells into a trumpet "Hey, fatso!  Your pal Arif is going to dine on you for dinner!"

Gotta say, I'm less surprised that Tiger lost his barony now.

The narration explains that Tiger is only playing lookout because he mouthed off to the gunnery officer yesterday, and he's supposed to stick to this new posting, "But following orders was no long habit with Tiger," so he uses his cap as a handle and slides down a rope to the main deck, descending so quickly that he has to kick out a spark.  This is no doubt meant to impress us, but it still fails to catch the attention of the squabbling ifrits.  Capt. Tombo is insisting that he's going to follow his orders, maintain position, and wait for the marines to come and capture that Two-Worlds Diamond, but the other captains want to give up this blockade because their crews are mutinying and they're out of supplies and other nonsense like that, the whiners.  Plus, they've gotten the news that Ramus is dead, so...

So Hubbard just killed off a fairly important character from the last story, completely off-screen, on literally the fifth page of this one.  Nothing to do but turn to the camera, give an exaggerated goofy shrug, say "That's our Hubbard!" and play canned applause.

Anyway, when the other captains hear that on top of everything else they're dealing with, here comes Arif-Emir's fleet, they are officially Done.  Saying that there's no point in fighting a hopeless battle for a dead queen, the jinn return to their ships and bug out, leaving a furious Captain Tombo to fight on, one ship against fifteen.  Tiger watches the captains flee "passionlessly," then taps Tombo's shoulder and suggests he prepare for battle.

So Tombo starts snapping orders, and Tiger gets down to the port battery to get the gun crew pumped up.  It's not an ideal situation by any means, but Tiger has gotten through worse.  Remember Zongri's fleet, when Tiger only escaped from the brig when the vessel he was on was being grappled on both sides, and all the other friendly ships were either sunk or fleeing?  Compared to that this is no big deal - all he has to do is hold up the Seal of Sulayman, command all the bolts holding Arif-Emir's ships together to come undone, and whammo, easy as

Two hours later [the Graceful Jinnia] was a bloodied and shuddering ruin, her every spar gone, her sheets trailing in the sea, her sodden hulk lifting less and less to the running sea.  More and more her castle lifted, less and less of her bow was shown and then she plunged with a bubbling sigh into the littered water.  The tangled flag of Ramus, twisted about a staff, was black against the frothing maelstrom for an instant and then the ship was gone.

Admiral Tombo, the sailing master, Tiger and twenty men, the remainder of her crew, were prisoners aboard the Tong-Malou, flagship of Arif.

pie, wait, what?  Oh that's right, Tiger doesn't have the Seal of Sulayman anymore.  Apparently.  Well, obviously not, because otherwise he'd have used it, right?  But since the narration doesn't so much as mention it, not even with a little section in which Tiger wishes he still had the thing, we can only speculate what happened to it between this story and the one previous.  Did the ring mysteriously vanish, leaving Tiger so that someone else somewhere could make use of it?  Did the darn thing run out of juice and became a worthless bracelet?  Did Ramus talk him into burying it beneath the palace so that no one could abuse its power?  Did Tiger pawn it off for drinking money?  If the author knows, he's not telling.

So that's Chapter One, in which Tiger and a genie captain stupidly lead a one-ship assault against an enemy fleet that ends predictably, though I'm surprised the author didn't feel like showing us the battle itself.  Maybe he's saving all that for later, when we like last time have another big naval engagement during this story's climax.

Chapter Two is only three pages long, compared to Chapter One's four pages.  Presumably Tiger has passed out or gotten knocked out after being tossed in a cell, because over in Seattle, Jan Palmer wakes up with a headache.  He's momentarily confused, because he feels like his hands should be bloodstained and the rest of him half-dead, yet here he is in bed with his wife Alice.

As Palmer is vaguely aware of memories escaping him, we get another paragraph-long recap of Slaves of Sleep - copper jar, evil genie, "Curse of Eternal Wakefulness," Tiger the sailor, and again no mention at all of the Seal of Sulayman.  But those recollections fade, and Palmer feels "like a man whose vitality was ebbing from him.  He felt as though some necessary portion of him were slipping away and he could not tell how or why."  So maybe that's the real Curse of "Eternal" Wakefulness, you're not permanently one soul being bounced between two bodies, you just experience enough to know that you're less than what you should be, but can never really understand or articulate this feeling of loss.

Not that Tiger was all mopey because him brains were going with no Palmer's influence.  Again, I think that Palmer got the better end of the shared-soul dealie.

For many years now he had not slept but, transferring from the Land of Awake where he was Jan Palmer into the land of Sleep where he was Tiger, he had lived a dual and highly fascinating life.  In the Land of Awake he ruled Bering Steamship Corporation with a vigor which had never manifested itself before the opening of that jar and the subsequent adventures had made him Tiger.  Asleep, he was awake again in the land of the Jinn where, as Tiger, he carried out an amusing role.  It had been a highly satisfactory continuance of a beginning which had seemed harshly adventurous.  The Jinn ruled humanity when humanity slept, for the soul wandered far in sleep.  But Jan was suddenly unaware that his soul had ever wandered anywhere.  One last datum tried to penetrate his wits: The soul of Alice, his wife, was Wanna in the land of the Jinn and Wanna was waiting for Tiger somewhere in the world of sleep.  And then that fact too was gone.

One of these sentences doesn't belong, and in fact interrupts the flow of the whole paragraph.  But there you have it, Palmer was enjoying his happy ending from the last story, and... it just suddenly went away one day.  So when his headache recedes and he gets ready for his day, he shudders at the thought of all those vice presidents and desks and documents he'll have to deal with, just like he did at the start of Slaves of Sleep.  Alice wakes up and mentions a funny dream that she can't quite remember, asks if her husband is well, and when he insists he is, tells Palmer to get downtown for a board meeting.  Palmer would rather go out on a boat instead, just like he did at the start of Slaves of Sleep, but Alice is having none of it.

"You'll get to that board meeting!" said Alice.  "Sailing indeed!  With all that fog.  Not a breath of air and every ferry boat apt to run you down!"

Miserably he laid aside the sneakers he had picked up and grasped his business shoes.

"Yes, Alice," he said meekly.

Their relationship hasn't regressed to how it was last story, but I'd rather have Palmer as shy and awkward and Alice as professional and straightforward than this "henpecked husband" routine.

So that's the first bit of Masters of Sleep.  It just, I dunno, feels like it's lacking something.  Slaves of Sleep had its faults but was earnest, this just feels forced, like Hubbard wasn't really interested in writing it.  Which begs the question of why he wrote it, but I have my theory, and it involves something we'll see in one of Palmer's chapters.


Back to the Intro

Monday, August 29, 2016

Masters of Sleep - Intro - If It Was Important I'm Pretty Sure I'd Remember It

The problem with happy endings is that they get in the way of sequels.  After the hero finds a magic ring, solves his personal problems, defeats the bad guy, gets the girl, and attains a position of wealth and prestige, it can be difficult to find something to do with him afterward.  Because where do you go from there?  Ramp things up a notch, introduce an even bigger threat, which will require an even more powerful magic ring to defeat, which will earn the hero even more treasure and glory?  Or just slam that Reset Button, take away everything the hero accomplished, and make him do it all over again?

Some eleven years after writing Slaves of Sleep, Hubbard examined these two options and decided, 'Why not both?'  And so we have Masters of Sleep, the sequel it's hard to imagine anyone demanded.  But I have a theory why Hubbard wrote it, one tied into something else that Hubbard published in another magazine at around the same time.

The story's Foreword is just a page-and-a-half long, and is mostly a recap of Slaves of Sleep.  You probably remember the story: Jan Palmer ran afoul of the ifrit Zongri, the Curse of Eternal Wakefulness led to adventures in the world of the jinn and mishaps in the world of humans, until Palmer mastered "the problem of his duality" and solved "the Curse of Eternal Wakefulness," so...

Wait, what?  When'd he do that?  I remember Palmer using the Seal of Sulaysolomon to sink a lot of ships, and then he inflicted the curse on the Genie World counterparts of some douchebags he knew in Seattle, but he never de-cursed himself or anything.  He didn't have to, the Curse of "Eternal" Wakefulness turned out to only last a few weeks before the Genie World personality regains total control of the Genie World body.

So is Hubbard retconning the first story here, or is he so unwilling to proofread or reread his own work that he just plain forgot how Slaves of Sleep went when he decided to write a sequel a decade later?

Anyway, the Foreword tells us that things went great for Palmer in both worlds, because he "became, as himself, truly the head of Bering Steam, for in Seattle he was now partly Tiger and in the world of the Jinn, as Tiger, because he was partly the brainy Jan."  Which is an unwieldy sentence and a half.  But then, the author smashed that Reset Button.

So matters stood for some time.  But Tiger's nature was unruly and, in the world of the Jinn, little by little began to outweigh the good sense of Jan.  Escapade after escapade brought Tiger and Wanna, his dancing girl, down the ladder in the favor of the Jinn.  Humans in the world of sleep were, after all, slaves.  At length, after nearly oversetting the government itself, Tiger, as punishment, was returned to the fleet as a common sailor.

"Oversetting," yeah, gotta love that archaic and obsolete vocabulary.  But that's how the mighty Baron Tiger wound up back in square one.  Presumably Palmer just couldn't control Tiger's thirst for pranks, and everyone got fed up with his dickery and kicked him out of the palace.  And at the same time,

As Jan in this world, he became more and more immersed in scholarly concerns and became less and less Tiger.  Wanna, too, began to separate her natures as time went on and became less the dancing girl of the Jinn and more the authoritarian housewife in Seattle.

I think Wanna is mentioned by name as much in this little section as she was in the entirety of the previous story.  But how about that for some character assassination?  Mrs. Palmer née Hall was transformed by the horrors of matrimony from a supportive woman who was willing to stand up to her crooked boss and throw her career away to try to save Palmer, into a domineering yet vapid spouse ready to fill the void left by Aunt Ethel.  And Palmer's character development from his time spent adventuring in Tiger's body in the land of the genies?  You can just forget about all that, he's back to being meek and wanting to run away from his corporate responsibilities.

Also gotta love how Alice-Wanna in Genie World was just Tiger-Palmer's "dancing girl."  Maybe humans don't have the right to get married in that place.  I mean what's next, human-genie marriage?

But it's weird, I can't help but think that this Foreword is forgetting something.  Something that allowed Zongri to be pickled in the first place, something that became vital to Tiger's adventures in the Genie World.  Something that makes Tiger's fall from grace a bit far-fetched, since it should have allowed him to intimidate or destroy any jinn who dared to stand against him.  Something that is in fact prominently featured on the book's cover.

Yet not only does Masters of Sleep's Foreword fail to mention the fabulous Seal of Solomon, I can't remember the story itself mentioning it, and have flipped through the first few chapters for any word of what happened the thing, to no avail.  Maybe something will come up when I go through it again, and more carefully, for this blog?  Because how crazy would that be, the sequel to a story utterly forgetting the mystical doohickey that everyone in the first tale was so desperate to recover?

Though if the Seal has been forgotten, we shouldn't be worried, because Hubbard has a new magical MacGuffin for us to focus on.  The Foreword explains that Tiger has worked his way up to becoming a gunner's mate on a man-o'-war, and is liable to see some action shortly.  Because

Ramus, ruler of Tarbutón, the principal nation of the Jinn, had become old.  She dispatched an expedition to the land of Arif-Emir who owned a strange gem called the Two-World Diamond.  Arif-Emir refused to part with his stone, though Jinn custom seemed to indicate that it should be lent.  A war was declared and Admiral Tombo with a fleet of twenty sail was sent to beat Arif-Emir into submission.  Aboard Tombo's flagship was Tiger.  And while Jan slept in Seattle-

I'd have preferred ending the Foreword with an ellipses instead of a dash, it's less of a hard break to the action.

So there you have it - Slaves of Sleep happened, Palmer learned about another world and dodged a trip to the asylum, but afterword everything went back to just about the way it was before Zongri popped out of that jar.  As for the Seal of Solomon... well, this Two-World Diamond seems pretty powerful, we should focus on that now.

In other words, after his brush with near-competence in the previous story, Hubbard is back to normal for this one  Oh, it won't be as bad as Mission Earth - you have to really make an effort to top that masterpiece of awfulness - but we'll see many of the ingredients for that recipe for disaster in this tale.  A stunted understanding of international affairs, casual misogyny, and of course brain-scrambling psychologists who hand out lobotomies like candy on Halloween.  It's almost like coming home.

Now wait, that genie royal astronomer was hella old, right?  Several millennia old, in fact.  So how did Ramus go from 'ugly and scary but otherwise just like any other ifrit' to 'the reaper is sharpening his scythe' old in the space of how many years it was between Slaves of Sleep and now?  Did it all just suddenly come crashing down on her at once?  If that's true, how did the astronomer survive so long?


Back to Slaves of Sleep's conclusion

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Slaves of Sleep - Conclusion - It Only Needs a Tune-Up, Not an Exorcism

Everything's relative.  A bad day for a millionaire would be better than a good day for one of the migrant workers who grows his food.  George W. Bush looks like a competent and thoughtful leader when compared to Donald Trump.  And when you stand it next to the other L. Ron Hubbard stories featured on this blog, Slaves of Sleep looks pretty good.

Admittedly, a lot of this is due to what isn't in the story.  No sex crimes were committed, our viewpoint character didn't take malicious glee in anyone's murder.  The plot didn't stall as the author wasted chapter after chapter boating around, no act of genocide was hailed as proof of God's existence or mankind's manifest destiny to rule the stars.  Hubbard didn't froth about evil psychologists trying to kill us all, no racial caricatures graced the pages.

But Slaves of Sleep does have some good points, rather than a mere absence of horrible points.  The protagonist undergoes character development, after his bizarre experiences in another man's life help him be more assertive and effective in his own.  The "two bodies, one soul" idea is an interesting one, a different twist on the old "hero travels to another world" story.  The action is... well, it's pretty clear that nobody's going to land a sword hit on Tiger, but the battles aren't insultingly one-sided or descend into slapstick.  All of the villains in the story are such because they're willing to hurt others to get what they want, not because they have a devotion to evil for evil's sake.

Hmm, these are starting to sound like the "absence of horrible" points.  And while Slaves of Sleep does do some things right, and it avoids the catastrophic failures of the likes of Mission Earth, it also does some things wrong, and the things it does right could have been done better.

Like the whole genie world, for example.  The notion that our souls travel to another land to take up a second life whenever we fall asleep is a novel concept, but I've pointed out some of the logical problems that would arise when it comes to things like insomnia or naps.  Additionally, the Land of Sleep itself is surprisingly mundane given the number of jinn walking around, and while the variety of peoples and cultures represented there is unusual, it's not what we could call a "magical land" other than how the protagonist visits it.  You'd think it would be a place where a statue of a goddess would move and speak on its own rather than through chains and trickery, where places like Frying Pan Shoals would endanger ships not with reefs but with sheets of fire.  But it's more like an counterfactual Middle East than a true realm of fantasy.  Even the jinn themselves are disappointing - mighty tyrants like Zongri can be put in check with a bunch of musketmen, and he's stuck using a cutlass when trying to kill Palmer instead of shooting fire or anything.  The cover lied to us, man.

Palmer's character development is also problematic, since it's not so much that he's learning from Tiger as he is letting Tiger's instincts take over in certain situations.  This isn't a bad thing when it's time for swordplay, muscle memory and all that, but Palmer finding a backbone when dealing with his family and business associates is harder to swallow.  Palmer never gets a chance to learn from Tiger's example in that case, he's not riding along while Tiger swaggers his way through the crowded streets of Tarbutón - instead, Palmer spends most of the story a frightened nerd in a buff body, which occasionally goes out of his control to prank someone or steal something.  So did the pranks give Palmer the courage to stand up to his auntie?  Did picking on a weak crewman make him think he could stand up to a judge?  But the story insists that Palmer learned a lot from Tiger('s body), and that Tiger in exchange learned from Palmer, which might be true if Tiger is ordinarily too thick to use the magical artifact his body was so keen on stealing.

And then there's the Seal of Sulayman itself.  It's more or less as powerful as mythology describes... even though Palmer never tried to bend the hordes of jinn to his will, like Solomon did according to Muslim tradition.  Hmm.  Anyway, the thing is really too powerful, and makes the adventure almost pathetically easy for our protagonist.  A locked door stands in Palmer's way?  The Seal unlocks it.  A solid wall blocking the path?  The Seal knocks it down.  Enemy sailors carrying deadly weapons?  The Seal makes them fall to pieces.  An enemy fleet has the good guys outnumbered ten to one?  The Seal sinks it.  While this makes it abundantly clear why anyone would want such a powerful artifact, it also means that the story isn't very exciting once Palmer has his hands on it. 

It's like if in the Lord of the Rings, plucky little Frodo could use the One Ring to as devastating effect as Sauron did during that awesome battle sequence in the movie prologue, and without being corrupted by its power.  While watching a hobbit smash his ways through the armies of darkness might be hilarious, it wouldn't keep us interested in whether or not Frodo could succeed in his quest.  This isn't to say that readers are necessarily spending every page worried whether Frodo will survive in the original story - he is a main character, after all - but we can at least fret about the price of victory, or what hardships he'll have to endure to attain it.  With the Seal of Sulayman, we know exactly how Palmer is going to get out of danger, making his success even more of a foregone conclusion than it'd normally be thanks to his plot armor.

Making the Land of Sleep a bit more fantastic is the simple matter of inserting lines about perpetual magical flames being used for lighting, bizarre creatures in Queen Ramus' menagerie, and letting a jinni do magic ("on-screen") more complicated than Ramus' bit of shapeshifting in that one chapter.  Similarly, making Palmer's character development more believable just involves tweaking the way he and Tiger share Tiger's body.  But the Seal of Solomon is harder to deal with.  Since Hubbard is obviously basing this story off "The Fisherman and the Jinni" he can't not have it, though it must be noted that the plug in that story was merely stamped with the seal, and the king's magic ring doesn't appear in person, as it were.

But if we downgrade the Seal to a cameo, how exactly is Tiger going to prevail at the end?  We could give Tiger some thief skills to let him get through locked doors, but that enemy fleet is a bigger obstacle, and of course the most important use of the Seal of Sulayman was to grant the Curse of Eternal Wakefulness and thus prove Plamer's innocence in the murder of Professor Frobish threaten the judge into voiding his sentence.  For the core of this story to work, Palmer needs both knowledge of the two worlds and a way to share that knowledge with those who doubt him, and it's hard to do that without a magic ring or some other plot device... hmmm.  Maybe there's a magic mirror in Queen Ramus' palace that shows your life in the other world, and Palmer uses Tiger's thief skills to free it.  And if Tiger's a thief, he doesn't have to be a sailor, so we wouldn't need the naval battle at the end of the story.  Of course this forces changes in Zongri's motivation and actions-

Anyway, the point I'm trying to make here is that Slaves of Sleep has its problems, but they wouldn't require the amount of re-writes and revisions needed to make something like Mission Earth not awful.  But even if we did all that, we'd only end up with a fairly average pulpy adventure - one with a more interesting premise than most, but in execution not very different from any other swashbuckling tale.  And that says a lot about L. Ron Hubbard, doesn't it?  That his best stuff could, with some effort and editing, be improved to become mediocre literature?

Also, Curse of "Eternal" Wakefulness my ass.  Over the course of the story the Tiger persona steadily wears away at Palmer, and even the characters admit that they'll be back to normal in a week or two.  Try harder, Zongri.

So that's it for Slaves of Sleep.  Next time - either at the end of this week, or the start of the next - we'll move on to the sequel, Masters of Sleep.  It should go without saying that Hubbard didn't learn from the mistakes of the first story when it came time to write the second.


Back to Chapter Twelve

Friday, August 19, 2016

Slaves of Sleep - Chapter Twelve - Seal My Problems Away

And I guess nothing worth mentioning happened after the hearing, because we go from Palmer being escorted to an ambulance to Tiger - well, "Jan" in Tiger's body, but I'm going to call him Tiger until he acts like Palmer - getting jolted out of bed in Genie World.

At dawn the sound of ten thousand kettle drums struck violent at once shook the seventy-four from stem to taff!

"taff: (n.) taffrail; the upper part of the stern of the ship.  At dawn the sound of ten thousand kettle drums struck violently at once shook the seventy-four from stern to taff."

I tell you, nothing keeps a reader invested in the story's final confrontation than getting to flip back and forth between the action and the glossary.

Directly under the starboard gun deck, Jan leaped up, not yet awake but already aching from the concussion.

Yeah, this is problematic with the 'one soul, two bodies' mechanic this story operates under.  Like when Palmer is awake in Human World, he's got the shared soul on lockdown, right?  It's only when Palmer falls asleep that the soul is able to cross over to Genie World and have adventures in Tiger's body.  So how could someone get startled awake by a loud noise, then?  If someone shot a gun outside Tiger's window, or just reached and shook him awake in the middle of the night, would Palmer suddenly collapse in a narcoleptic fit so his soul could whisk over to animate Tiger's body?  Or what about that time Palmer had to stay up all night finishing his thesis?  Were Tiger's buddies all concerned because their friend just wouldn't wake up one day, no matter what they did to him?

Maybe it all works out somehow, and Palmer just so happened to fall asleep at the very instant Tiger heard the drums - wait, how do naps work?  Is that why I sometimes wake up for no reason at four in the morning?  My dream self is resting his eyes after a long day slaving for the jinn?

Anyway, the sound of feet on planks, the ruffling of canvas in the wind, and the groan of the yards - "(n.) a long pole, fastened to a mast, to which a sail is fastened" - means that a battle is imminent.  Tiger leaps to his feet, ready for action, but the marid guard outside the bars points a pistol at him and orders him to simmer down.  So for the next four pages, we get to experience an hours-long naval battle from belowdecks, locked in a brig.  The ship moves around and "heeled" at one point,

...Huh.  That's not in the glossary.

Well, Tiger can hear the sounds of guns firing and feel the ship shaking as it takes hits, so he passes the time spent sitting out the fight by talking to the guard about how he thinks the battle is going, how yeah, that last hit definitely hulled us, and it feels like one of the masts is down and dragging in the water by its rigging, but at least we'll be buried at sea inside a shipwreck instead of chucked into the water for the sharks, eh?

The marid is unnerved by all this casual talk about how screwed they are, but it's only when Tiger surmises that they've been grappled and boarded by another ship that the sentry finally leaves his post, allowing Tiger to use the Seal of Sulayman to effortlessly open the cell door.  See, he couldn't do that with a guy standing watch outside... even though marids are dimwits and Tiger has better reflexes than them... as well as an artifact that can blast a door clean off its hinges, or even explode the wall the door is set into... okay, if Tiger had broken out at the start of the battle, he'd have just Seal of Sulayman'd his way to victory before things even got exciting, and that would be an even worse climax than what we're left with now.

So Tiger escapes from his cell, climbs blood-slicked stairs to the main deck, and wow it's a mess - bodies are everywhere, there's only a few Tarbutón soldiers resisting the swarm of enemy sailors, and the ship they're fighting on is such a wreck that it's only being held up by the enemy vessels grappling it on either side.  Some bad guys spot Tiger, our hero snatches up a sword a dead guy won't be needing, and wouldn't you know it but three guys attacking at once can't overcome Tiger's defensive swordplay?  And of course none of them just step back, draw a pistol, and plug him in the chest, that wouldn't be heroic.  Hilarious, but not heroic.

But it just so happens that one of the ships clinging to the Morin is Zongri's flagship!  And one of the enemy officers boarding her is none of that than Zongri himself!  Awfully considerate of the level designers not to stick too many trash mobs between players and the boss.  So Tiger goes on the offensive, slashing up one enemy, driving off another, as he pushes his way along the mizzen, "(n.) the lowest sail on the mast or the mast aft, or next aft of the main mast in a ship (see diagram on page 298)."

And yes, the narration continues to refer to our main character as "Jan," but I refuse to.  Palmer is not a fighter in general, and not a cutlass-wielding swashbuckler in particular.  The most Palmer-ish thing he'll do over the next couple of pages is remember that the Seal of Sulayman is an immensely powerful magical artifact, and use it.

When he has a moment to catch his breath, Tiger is able to get a quick assessment of how the battle is going.  The good news is that Tarbutón's navy managed to whip together a scratch fleet of eight warships supplemented by some merchant boats, the bad news is that they're still horribly outnumbered by the Barbossi pirates, and the three Tarbutón vessels not locked by grapnels are currently legging it.  So it's not going too well.  Man, if only our protagonist had an immensely powerful magical artifact he could use to turn things around.

Jan took a deep breath, not knowing whether he would meet with success or not.

He wrapped an arm about a halyard

"halyards: (n. pl.) rope or tackle for hoisting and lowering something (as sails).  Jan let go his jib and main halyards and guided the sail down into a restive bundle."

and gripped the ring.  "By the Seal of Sulayman!" he roared, "I command the sundering of every bolt and lock in those two Barbossis ships below!"

I mean, what are ships but a bunch of wooden planks secured together?  Locked into position, as it were. 

He reeled from the jerk he received.  The grapnels which held so tight to the railing went abruptly limp, their splicing unwound.  And then, slowly, the two Barbossi men-o-war began to fall apart!  Plank by plank they disintegrated, but all at once so that, within a minute or two they were nothing but floating wood upon the water, all snarled in hemp and canvas through which struggled hundreds of men, screaming with terror as they fought toward the maimed seventy-four.

Well, that was surprisingly effective.  Though I wonder why our hero didn't go for broke and try to sunder every Barbossi ship at once?  Did he think that'd be pushing the Seal of Sulayman's power past its limit?  It's not like he's making a show of force to try and convince the rest of the fleet to surrender right now, he's still focused on Zongri.

Zongri's focused on Tiger, too - when he hears someone invoking the Seal of Sulayman, he roars "YOU!  By RANI, today you die!"  And Tiger's like, nuh-uh, "Rani is dead!  Last night she died in a heap of rubbish just as I shall kill you!"  And I'd like to say that we get a proper pirate duel at this point, with acrobatic leaps and flashing cutlasses and biting quips, but the actual 'battle' is more along the lines of Zongri struggling to get up to where Tiger is clinging to the rigging while Tiger keeps invoking the Seal.

His first attempt is interrupted by a cutlass swipe aimed as his feet, but Tiger manages to command "that every Barbossi vessel be treated as these two."  And there goes the entire enemy fleet - splash, screams.  It's at this point that he suggests Zongri stand down before he blasts the wreck of a ship they're fighting on, but the ifrit is past reason and intent on ending his old enemy.  So Palmer Seal of Sulaymans the mast, because what is a mast but, uh, a big piece of wood locked into an upright position?  Anyway, it's easier to ride the plummeting thing into the water than diving a hundred feet from the rigging.

Tiger swims to and climbs back aboard the Morin, and finds that a lot of soggy Barbossi sailors have also gotten aboard and are preparing to overwhelm the ship's remaining crew.  So Tiger uses the Seal once more, commanding "that every weapon in Barbossi hands fall apart!"  Because... okay, I've got this, because what is a cutlass but a lot of formerly-molten steel locked in a sharpened curve?  And what is a musket but some metal and wood locked into the shape of a projectile weapon?

So it's at this point that the bad guys surrender, and by the time Zongri hauls himself onto the deck, there's twenty unfriendly guns aimed at him.  Tiger orders his enemy wrapped in chains and tells the ship's crew to get him and the other prisoners stowed before returning to  Tarbutón as quickly as possible.  Admiral Tyronin enters the scene and is astounded that Tiger has the audacity to take command of his ship, but our hero replies that "I'll be issuing orders for many a day to come" and tells Tyronin to get busy.  And since Tiger has that Seal of Sulayman on his wrist, the human crew all cheer, and Tyronin the jinni can only nod and comply.  Commander Bakon appears to pat Tiger's hand and say that he knew "Someday this had to happen.  God bless you, my friend," which would be a more touching moment if Tiger and Bakon's relationship had been built on-page.

With everything settled, Palmer goes into the admiral's cabin in search of "Alice" - not Wanna the temple dancer he rescued the chapter before last, consider her overwritten by Palmer's love interest.  Then there's a paragraph break, but I don't think it's a 'and then they banged' sort of paragraph break, Hubbard probably didn't want to write dialogue of Tiger explaining the situation to Alice.  Though I suppose they might have banged once he was done doing that.  Depends how far out they were from Tarbutón, I guess.

Fast-forward to later that afternoon as a grand triumph marches down the streets of Tarbutón to its palace.  There's prisoners in chains, captured figureheads from sunken enemy ships, and a golden litter that usually bears Admiral Tyronin, but now carries Tiger and a temple dancer.  Queen Ramus is understandably a bit gobsmacked by this, and makes shocked oaths like "By the blood of Baal!" or "By the death of the devil" as she tries to get a grip on what's going on.  Tiger just disembarks with Alice and bows to the queen, presenting Zongri and a host of other nameless captives.

Tiger also admits that last night he might have stolen a dancing girl and "caused a goddess of granite to be destroyed" and assumes that a cleric waiting by Ramus' throne might have some words for him, but when the presumably newly-promoted high priest steps forward to start haranguing Tiger, our hero has Commander Bakon haul him away.  Good talk.

It's not quite a coup, as Tiger explains to Queen Ramus.

"Your rule has not been onerous to his land," said Jan.  "Pray retain the throne.  I care not for its worries."

"You... uh... what?" cried Ramus.

"Unless of course," said Jan, "you want every human being in this world to awake this instant and so swarm over you and put you down.  I dislike threats."  But he touched the glittering seal upon his hand and all saw it and recognized it.  In that instant the army set up a great shout for Tiger and almost brought the roof down on their heads.

So if you were wondering whether this hero would use the incredible power of the Seal of Solomon to free the humans of Genie World from bondage... well, now you have your answer: nah.

So Ramus gets to keep her throne, and the jinn get to keep their slaves.  The captive Barbossi sailors can be shanghaied into Tarbutón's navy once they get it rebuilt, and Tiger suggests that Zongri be sentenced to ten thousand years hard labor.  Ramus is surprised that Tiger is still giving orders.

"You said I was to rule."

"But not against my wishes," said Jan gently.

Ugh, how is this better than him just seizing overt power, Hubbard?

So Ramus "sighed quiveringly" and makes Tiger's order a reality, and that's the Genie World situation sorted.  Now we just need to wrap up the main plot in the last three pages of the story.  Palmer-in-Tiger already has been explaining the situation to Alice-in-Wanna, and has some naval officers fetch some thugs, a fishmonger's wife, and a fourth guy, the Genie World counterparts of Shannon, Green, Aunt Ethel, and Judge Todd.  They're brought, weeping and horribly confused, before Ramus' throne, where Palmer explains that they're not crazy, they're just in the magical land their souls go to when they fall asleep, and their condition won't last for long.  And while Queen Ramus has power over life and death in this realm, she "might be persuaded to spare your lives and merely imprison you if you undo a great wrong in another world."

Or in other words, our hero is holding a gun to a judge and demanding that he overturn a sentence - "You can expect execution here if restitution is not made there.  Am I making myself clear?"  Yes, Ethel and everyone are all scumbags trying to get Palmer carted away so they can take over his fortune, and Palmer obviously isn't insane if his talk about genies turns out to be true, but Palmer isn't trying to reason with Judge Todd.  He doesn't say that the judge's experiences in Tarbutón make it clear that Palmer is perfectly sane.  He goes straight to the death threat.

Huh, guess the mild-mannered scholar became a Hubbard Action Hero after all.

So these human prisoners are thrown into the palace dungeons, Ramus says that "Baron Tiger" can have an entire wing of her palace and tells a genie noble to go "buy a hundred serving wenches for her Ladyship," because it's always satisfying when our hero's girlfriend has slave labor available.  Everyone loves Tiger for saving the city from pirates, all the jinn are too scared of the Seal of Sulayman to ever go against him, and his counterpart in the other world is set to be freed from an asylum with his vast fortunes restored.  Happy ending get.

Alice was beginning to lose some of her fear. She looked searchingly at Jan's face and then squeezed his arm.

"Then it's true," she whispered. "It's true, it's true, it's true!"

And Jan gave her Tiger's swaggering smile and, content, she walked proudly beside him, returning the bows of the multitude through which they passed.

The story ends with an excerpt from a nameless Seattle newspaper, explaining that an embezzling businessman named Nathaniel Green committed suicide, and that Jan Palmer had known about Green's actions but "did not wish to mar my honeymoon or worry my bride" by dismissing him immediately.  And then the article goes on to describe how Green was behind Palmer's false imprisonment in an insane asylum and apparently murdered Professor Frobish to cover up his embezzling and get Palmer framed.  And "Though Judge Dougherty says that this is the case, no post mortem action is to be taken against Green and so the matter is closed."

So wait, what just happened?  I thought Palmer agreed to have Green's Genie World counterpart merely imprisoned, so it's unlikely his "suicide" is the result of that other Green dying.  So could Green just not take waking up in another world every time he hit the hay?  Is this the first and only time in the story that the Curse of Eternal Wakefulness really does a number on its victim?  Or did Green know that Palmer finally took a look at the company finances and had discovered Green's theft?  Then why did he kill himself when Palmer was busy boinking Miss Hall, why not make a run for it while they were busy?  And how are they going to pin Frobish's murder on Green when any competent investigation would show that Green only set foot inside the crime scene on the heels of two policemen?

What a problematic way to end a problematic story.  At least we learned that Judge Todd's last name is Dougherty, since Hubbard finally bothered to make up a proper name for the character in literally the very last sentence of the book.  


Back to Chapter Eleven

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Slaves of Sleep - Chapter 11 - How Not to Help Your Case

So last chapter, Palmer - or mainly Tiger - Seal of Sulayman'd his way through a variety of obstacles to rescue a dancing girl from the most sacred of jinn holy sites, tearing the heart out of their religion in the process, then decided to flee in the direction of the climactic final battle scheduled for Chapter 12.  A pretty full day, all things considered.  But since Tiger needs some shuteye, it's time to check how Palmer's doing in Seattle.

He wakes up with "the uneasy realization that elsewhere he was asleep with a cocked pistol pointing at him" and hopes that Tiger's slumbering body doesn't do anything to antagonize the guard.  Hold in that late-night fart, Tiger.  Palmer is of course back in his cell at the police station, and has been rejoined by a still-sleeping Diver Mullins.  Specifically, Palmer is back in his nerd body rather than his Hubbard Action Hero body, so he has an introspective and pessimistic moment.  He wonders where Mullins and the other prisoners have gone while they sleep in this world, reflects upon how he's doomed himself not just by kidnapping a temple dancer but also by getting himself - that is to say, Tiger - stuck on a ship that will soon be fighting a hopeless battle, and concludes that since his alter ego in the World of Sleep is screwed, he'll "sleep himself into death" before the next morning.

Nothing about his continuing troubles in this world, however, Palmer doesn't stare hollowly at the wall while wondering how he's going to get out of his legal trouble.  An interesting omission.  Has Palmer become enamored with Tiger's adventurous, vivacious lifestyle in the Land of Sleep, and views his time spent as himself in Seattle as an unwanted interruption?  Has he concluded that Jan Palmer will spend the rest of his life in a jail for a crime he didn't commit, and thus won't spare a thought for his hopeless existence in this world?  Is he naively convinced that if he just tells the truth about all of his trouble being a genie's fault, he'll go free without any problems?

A better author might do something with this, use what isn't said to say something about a character, but I think Hubbard just forgot to have Palmer respond to the situation.  So our hero just lies on his cot, trying and failing to rest until it's properly morning and the rest of the jail wakes up, then Palmer paces until eleven o'clock rolls around and Shannon the lawyer comes to take him to a hearing.  No 'I saw you in the other world and you were a slimeball there too' reaction, either.  Huh.

Outside the judge's office they meet Doc Harrington, a "thin, skeleton-faced" man with pince-nez spectacles, a beard, and little hair on his head.  He is, dramatic pause, a psychiatrist.  He has "certain questions" for Palmer which aren't elaborated upon, and then does some word association which again we aren't told the details of.  Harrington doesn't even mention Freud at any point.  This is a surprisingly restrained psychologist for an L. Ron Hubbard story.

But although he doesn't immediately diagnose Palmer with an Oedipus Complex, he does arch his eyebrows very high after reviewing our hero's answers.  Then Palmer is led before the judge himself, and also finds Aunt Ethel dabbing at nonexistent tears, Miss Hall ready to take notes, Thompson the butler gnawing on a hat... okay, and Green the absolutely honest businessman is pacing and complaining about the delay.  If we brought in Diver Mullins for no reason, we'd have the entire named cast of this world assembled in one room.

Anyway, let's get the hearing started.  Judge... dammit Hubbard, just flip open a phone book and pick the first name you see!  Right, his name is Todd now.  Judge Todd asks Palmer to give his account of the circumstances of Professor Frobish's untimely near-bisection, and adds that "We're all your friends here so you need have no fear."  Palmer has to resist the urge to laugh at this.

Now, it's not explicitly spelled out for us - which is unusual coming from an author who usually pronounces 'subtlety' through a megaphone - but some of Tiger might have rubbed off on Palmer.  He bluntly suggests that they just call him crazy and skip this farce, and when he says "I'd rather be in a hyena's den" then among these "friends," they're all amazed at his tone.  Alternatively, I suppose Palmer might have given up on this life and feels he has nothing to lose.  Isn't this novel, though?  We get to choose our own interpretation for a character and their motivations, instead of arguing with the author's insistence that someone is heroic or villainous or whatever.

Since Palmer decides there's nothing to lose, or gain, he decides to tell them the truth, i.e. that this is all a genie's fault.  We're spared a plot recap, so I don't have to recap the recap.  When Palmer is done, Judge Todd reads the paper Doc Harrington slips him, sits and thinks for a good long while, and then has his clerk fetch a form.  When the judge says that it'll need some signatures, Aunt Ethel and Thompson get to race to be the next to sign after Green.

And it would seem that's how Hubbard thinks it all works - if you're suspected of murder, you argue your case before a judge, he reads a psychiatric evaluation, and that and three signatures are all it takes to get you committed to an asylum.  None of that 'trial by jury' nonsense, just your word against a psychologist's.  Maybe that's how things were in the dark days of 1939.

Just before Judge Todd can hit the buzzer to get Palmer carted away, our hero finally objects to these proceedings and how eager everyone was to chuck him in the loony bin.  He also says that if Judge Todd has any interest in justice, he needs to bring out "Exhibit A," the copper jar at the heart of this case.  The judge is surprised that there really is a copper jar.  I'm starting to wonder whether anyone actually examined the crime scene and if Todd read a police report or anything like that.  But the papers are all signed, it's almost lunchtime, and when Green reminds Judge Todd how violent Palmer can get, it looks like our hero is screwed.

But then Miss Hall has her moment, and rises from her chair to announce that "the papers would like to print a story to the effect that you might have received money to put a millionaire in jail."  The judge is dismayed at what the narration calls a "wholly unjust charge" - I can't tell if that's sarcasm or not - and wonders if Hall has gone crazy too.

"Not at all," said Alice.  "And I wonder if he is, either.  His mistake lies in having been meek to a crowd of wolves.  The papers, I think, would enjoy such a story, true or not.  If it is even whispered about that Jan Palmer, heir to the Palmer interests, was railroaded to an insane asylum to cover the thefts of his manager, Nathaniel Green..."

"What's this?" shouted Green.  "Young lady, you are fired!  Leave this office instantly."

But Miss Hall refuses to leave - Green isn't her boss anymore, heh - and suggests that it would be wise to bring in that copper jar Palmer is talking about.  You know, that important piece of evidence critical to the defendant's testimony.  That little old thing.  An hour later and O'Hoolihan the vintage Irish Bailiff brings in the artifact before a hungry judge and pacing Green.  Judge Todd asks Palmer if this is indeed the jar that the ifrit sprang out of, and how tall the genie was, and has trouble conceiving how a fifteen-foot monster popped out of a four-foot container.  After the psychologist titters, Judge Todd concludes that this just proves how crazy Palmer is.  Case closed.

Miss Hall's efforts aren't all for naught, however.  Palmer, "in a very quiet voice," suggests that the judge should "think twice before I call proof disproof"  ...yeah, I don't think I'm being cynical by suspecting that the presence of a ruptured container doesn't necessarily prove that it once held a much larger magical being inside of it.  Might want to put more effort into producing the genie that came out of the bottle than the bottle itself.

Anyway, Palmer says it might be "dangerous" to dismiss his testimony, Judge Todd is alarmed that Palmer is threatening him, an Palmer agrees that he is, adding that "There is one phase of this story which I have yet to mention," the one that concerns what happens to a slumbering soul.  And so, with a dramatic flourish, he grabs the jar's lead plug, inscribed with a certain magical emblem, and shouts "By the Seal of Sulayman and by the token of all the deeds already done by its mighty power, I invoke upon all of you, the sentence of Eternal Wakefulness!"

And nothing seems to happen.
 
Welp, you tried, Palmer.  But really, why would a copy of a magical sigil have the same power as the original?  If that was the case there'd be no point in holding the actual Seal of Solomon, and any third-rate occultist could whip up their own.  Palmer could've drawn a Star of David on his breakfast napkin and gotten the same effect.  Oh, sure, Zongri was able to lay down the Curse of Eternal Wakefulness a few nights ago, but he didn't invoke the Seal of Sulayman to do so, he was presumably using his innate jinni powers, something Palmer noticeably lacks.

So Palmer is escorted to a waiting ambulance by O'Hoolihan, who doesn't have any lines, thus saving us the trouble of trying to read Hubbard's attempt to write an Irish accent.

Jan stopped beside Alice. "Don't worry. Things may yet turn out well." He did not miss the moistness in her eyes and he knew then that even though he might be mad, she loved him.

Good grief, lady, why?  The guy's been nothing but a cringing weenie since you met him, but you inexplicably believed his story about a genie murdering that man last seen in his room?  And then you threw away your job to try to help him even though he insists on sticking to his crazy story?  And now he's literally being taken off to the loonie bin after trying to cast a spell in the judge's chambers?

She's dedicated, if nothing else.  Just not someone who knows when to stop throwing good money after bad.  Anyway, tune in next time for the drama... for the conclusion to Slaves of Sleep.


Back to Chapter Ten, part two

Monday, August 15, 2016

Slaves of Sleep - Chapter Ten, part two - Break-In

We can only imagine what Tiger does to pass the rest of the day, because Hubbard fast-forwards to dusk after a break in the paragraphs.  Our hero is back at the foot of the hill, looking up at the Temple of... the Shrine of...  Hubbard.  Hubbard.  Names.  They're useful things to have.  If Tiger knows how to get around Tarbutón, and remembers the location of a dive he can take shelter in, why didn't he know the name of this temple when he ran up to it earlier in this chapter?  Why isn't he thinking to himself 'Ah, the fabled Basilica of Tarbutón!' or whatever?

We only get a hint about what to call it on the next page, when the narration mentions the treasure in the house of worship sometimes inspires would-be robbers to "scale the heights of Rani."  So it's presumably the Temple of Rani, or Pagoda of Rani, or Rani's Funhouse, or something.  But I just can't wrap my head around how much trouble Hubbard is having coming up with proper nouns for the characters and locations in this book.  Even at the end of his life he was able to make the effort and come up with names like Twa and Cun for bit characters in Mission Earth, so what was giving him problems here?

Oy.  Again, it's dusk, so the temple is glowing with the light of great braziers and torches, and there's a huge procession of jinn marching up the hill into the place, presumably for an 'oh crap we're about to be invaded please help' ceremony.  Slim chance of slipping in, Tiger almost turns away, remembers the dancing girl, finds the courage to proceed, you get the picture.

Although the reasoning for Tiger's mission is a bit interesting.  She and Tiger have never met, but since she looks like Miss Alice Hall, "the girl who had shown him the only kindness he had ever received," our hero feels that he owes it to her to rescue this dancing girl and send her to someone like Admiral Tyronin who would be influential enough to set her free and keep her safe.  Now unlike Palmer, Miss Hall isn't in danger of suddenly expiring because her dream counterpart got executed by an angry jinni, this temple doesn't seem to practice human sacrifice, and it probably won't be touched by a victorious Zongri given what we'll see in a few pages.  And also unlike Palmer, Miss Hall isn't aware of her dream twin's existence, so she isn't suffering each night, forced to go from the life of a stenographer to that of a dancing slave.  But I guess freeing an uncompensated worker is the sort of good deed both Palmer and Tiger can get behind, especially if she's a looker, so here we are.

So Tiger gets his Conan the Barbarian on and raids this temple to a heathen idol in hopes of rescuing a shallow female love interest.  He climbs the hill, facing only as much resistance as tall grass can provide, but nearly falls into the first real obstacle, a thirty-foot-wide and -deep moat filled with hissing and rattling

"Snakes!" said Tiger, feeling the hair rise on the back of his neck.  He took a hitch on his nerve and felt with his foot over the edge.  But the drop was sheer and the slimy things at the bottom rustled as they moved to the foot of the drop, waiting.

You think a frontier outdoorsman like Hubbard, who was of course a six-year-old Blackfoot blood brother to boot, would know that snakes like all reptiles are dry and scaly, not slimy like amphibians fresh from the pond.

He cursed impatiently at such Jinn hellishness.  But he wasted very little time mourning about it.  He had only one recourse - to ascend by the stairs through the main entrance!

I'm unclear whether these are mundane snakes, who presumably would need to be fed a ton of mice every so often, or magical snakes.  Jinn obviously have access to magic, since Queen Ramus was able to change her appearance to that of a human, and Zongri traveled between the worlds, and of course the ancient jinn managed that whole trick with reanimated corpses and captured souls.  So you have to wonder why they don't have much, or anything, in the way of magical defenses.

I'm not saying magical locks would help, our hero has the "I Win" Button Seal of Solomon, after all.  But it'd be a nice bit of consistency.

So Tiger crawls around to the front entrance, surrounded by marid guardsmen more invested in looking pretty in the torchlight than watching the shadows around them.  It's another obstacle, but Tiger grows only more determined, yadda yadda, because "now he was certain that his salvation, at least on Earth, depending upon his reaching Alice Hall in this world."  Huh.  Wonder what led him to that conclusion?  Is this another example of a Hubbard protagonist just suddenly knowing things?  Or - gasp! - could this be some of that fabled Wisdom of Soloman leaking out of Tiger's new bracelet?  Nah, I'm going with 'Hubbard protagonist suddenly knowing things.'

Also, I've already read this story once, and I just flipped through the rest of it once more, but I can't find where rescuing Genie World!Alice is what saves Human World!Palmer's nebbish hide.  Instead it's- well, later.

Instead of stealing a guard's cloak and trying to pass himself off as a marid, Tiger works his way along the temple's foundation, on the inside edge of the snake moat, until he finds a locked door.  It turns out enunciation is important when using the Seal of Sulayman, because this time, when Tiger whispers "open wide," the door opens silently.  Ta-da, we're in the temple.  Specifically in its main hall, a grand chamber with an even grander decoration.

At the far end was a gargantuan idol, gleaming with precious stones, all of gold and silver and ivory.  The hands rested upon the hilt of a sword some fifty feet long and the feet were spread apart in an attitude of battle.  This was Rani, Rani, goddess of the Jinn, terrible of eye, lovely of form, lustful and mystic, beautiful and murderous.  Other humans - and few they had been - had paid for such a sight with their lives.

Religion in this setting is wonky.  The jinn know damn well that God, or Allah, whatever you want to call Him, is real and powerful enough to stuff their smoky asses in a jug for millennia.  Tiger is carrying a blessed relic of that deity capable of blasting apart walls, silently picking locks, and defusing any sense of excitement and tension in the story's climax in another twenty or so pages.  Since Zongri was sealed away for refusing to convert to the One True Faith, there ought to be plenty of jinn Jews/Muslims/whatevers.  Yet here we are, in a temple to some homebrewed genie goddess of contradictions.

And no, this Rani isn't a goddess to rival the big G, as we'll see shortly.

The horde of worshipers haven't filtered inside yet, but the hall isn't quite empty - Tiger is able to overhear a knot of priests discussing something.  They've come to some sort of decision, talking about how "he" is one of the faithful and won't harm them, while Ramus hasn't been giving them enough freedom.  Tiger "of a sudden, remembered" how Queen Ramus' reliance on Zeno the Astrologer broke the church of Rani's monopoly on prophecy.  It sounds like these priests are planning to deliver an omen that will demoralize Ramus' forces, hopefully so "he," presumably Zongri, will reward them.  But how will they tell their goddess what prophecy to deliver, hmm?

So when the priests leave the scene, Tiger does some exploring, and finds a trap door leading to a staircase that spirals deep underground, follows it to a long cobwebby corridor, then climbs another staircase leading up.  This lands him in an observation room overlooking Rani's idol, and our hero, "being well versed in such obtuse subjects as ordinary necromancy" ...really, Hubbard?  Is this what you think people who finish college learn about?  Anyway, Tiger is disappointed that the jinn resorted to such old-fashioned tricks as eye holes carved in statues to allow them to watch the temple proceedings from concealment.

Fortunately no one's using this spy closet, so Tiger - excuse me, the narration is calling him "Jan" again - is able to watch the ceremony.  He's not interested in what the priests are saying, but searches the hundreds of dancing girls moving in complex geometric patterns before the ten thousand "Jinn and Jinnia" filling the great hall.  Eventually he spots this world's Miss Hall, who seems to be leading all the other dancers.  It wouldn't do for our hero's designated love interest to be one of the interchangeable back-up dancers, you see.

What Palmer can also see is that the statue of Rani has some big chains extending from its back, out of sight of the worshipers in front of it.  He's not shocked when the thing begins to sway in time to the music, and he assumes there's speaking tubes in it that led the "goddess" make pronouncements on command.  And man, it sure is disappointing that these powerful, magical beings have to resort to such mundane measures to give a statue some semblance of life.

Anyway, our hero goes downstairs again and finds a passage leading into the idol's base, another spy chamber.  No luck finding the idol's control center and delivering a prophecy in favor of Ramus, unfortunately, but our hero still has an idea.  There will be dire consequences if it's pinned on him, "But Tiger was bold and Jan was cunning," and there's a vanishingly rare reference to the two souls working in unison, how 'bout that.

The ceremony itself is interesting.  Drumming builds to a fever pitch, the dancers twirl until the music stops and they drop into poses of supplication, and then the high priest gets out a whip and demands that "Rani" tell them who will win tomorrow's battle between Ramus and Zongri.  It's very confrontational, with the goddess glaring down at the whelp daring to give her orders, clergy poking at the statue with smoldering coals, making "Rani" shudder, and the head honcho repeating his demands until the goddess lets loose a "flood of strange words" that the high priest helpfully translates as a pronouncement of doom upon Ramus.  So this isn't a deity who you placate with worship and hopefully get an accurate prognostication in exchange, it's one you mollify with song and dance, then you force an answer out of her with whips and hot pokers.  So she's simultaneously a goddess powerful enough to worship and able to offer insights to the future, but also one you can boss around with sticks.  Again, genie religion is weird.

The audience is shocked by the prophecy, and Palmer decides this is the moment to act.  "By the Seal of Sulayman!  Part the chains!"  And thus the focal point of worship in this city of jinn promptly faceplants right on top of the high priest, while ten thousand of the faithful watch in horror.  Next Sunday's service is going to be awkward.

In the chaos that follows, as the priests will about in dismay and all the worshipers flee, Palmer - no, Tiger now - is able to dash to where the dancing girl he's after is huddled in fear, and scoop her up in his arms without her resisting.   Then he's able to tear the yellow cloak off a priest and wrap it around both him and his cargo, and since a human carrying a smaller human looks a lot like an ifrit holy man, they escape from the temple without incident.  Our hero reaches the city docks and orders some fishermen to boat him over to Admiral Tyromin's flagship, and since they assume he's some secret agent or something, they comply.

It's only at this point, after running through the temple, down the hill, and through the back alleys of the city to reach the harbor, that the dancing girl asks who her kidnapper rescuer is.  She's astonished to learn that this is the Tiger she's heard naval officers seek blessings for... well, at least Tiger's not the one being worshiped, so there's that.

Anyway, our hero asks if she's ever heard of the name Alice Hall, and she says no, as far as she knows she's Wanna.  I think this is the only time that name appears in this entire book - even after we're given it, the narration prefers to refer to this character as "the dancing girl," or "the girl," or just "she."  This is because Wanna isn't actually important to the story beyond looking like Alice Hall.

I guess fishermen are able to just dock with military vessels without any problems, because the next thing we know, Tiger's boarding the Morin and asking to see the admiral.  When halted by an officer he explains that he's the Tiger, prompting the other man to immediately place him into custody.  First he encounters a Commander Bakon, who the narration explains was the officer who stopped him on his way to the palace several chapters ago, and soon he's brought before Admiral Tyromin himself.  To summarize two pages - Tiger is in serious trouble, not just for breaking out of the palace, but now for stealing a priest's cloak (why are you still wearing that, Tiger?) and a sacred temple dancer.  But it's too late to go to shore, there's a battle to fight in the morning.

So the dancing girl gets put in the admiral's quarters, while Tiger is put in another ship's brig under armed guard.  Hope you didn't get your fill of boats in Chapter Five.

The sentry took Tiger's pistols and saber and at pistol point escorted him back to the deck.  Tiger was conscious of the girl's despairing eyes upon his back - and conscious too of the short-lived gratitude of man.

Tyromin and Bakon are both ifrits, though.

So that's how you break into a sacred temple - you point the Seal of Sulayman at things and problems go away, easy-peasy.  Makes me wonder why Tiger felt the need to bring the dancing girl to Tyromin for protection in the first place, since our hero is packing an artifact that can overcome any obstacle.  Why not just skip town, make a start somewhere else?  Use those secondary powers to make gemstones rise from the earth, make a fortune, found a kingdom?  But I guess while the Seal of Solomon can defeat locks and shatter walls, even it is unable to overcome the raw power of Plot.


Back to Chapter Ten, part one

Friday, August 12, 2016

Slaves of Sleep - Chapter Ten, part one - Breakout

So last time we had a whole lot of exposition dumped on us.  We learned about the true nature of sleep, the duality of the human soul, and the mind-boggling lengths genies will go to if it means they can get someone to carry them around on a palanquin.  We also learned that Zongri got loose and plans to enact a horrible revenge on Tarbutón in general and Palmer-Tiger in particular, that rascal.  But our hero is going to take action, and use an incredible magical artifact to... visit a temple dancer who resembles someone Palmer has a crush on in his home world, and Tiger's fine with this because she's hot.

He stood squarely before the door and Jan took a deep breath as though for a plunge into cold water, and Tiger fingered the great seal upon his wrist and chuckled.  The ring had struck Zongri's fetters from him and now, now he would investigate its efficacy on other types of locks.

"By the Seal of Sulayman!  Open wide!"

Unfortunately, an invocation that works on manacles and chains is quite different from one that would work on a bolted door, so Palmer ends up looking like an idiot while the door remains closed.  The guards outside, however, hear him shout about the Seal, and with unusual initiative for marids, proceed to rush in and subdue the prisoner, capturing the artifact for

Jan almost leaped out of his wits at the resulting crash, so certain was he that it would be heard by every Jinn in the palace.  On the instant of command every bar, inside and out, leaped upward from its bracket and fell down with a clang.  The great lock was rended as though a bolt of lightning had struck it.  The portal smashed back against the wall and Jan stood facing three astounded Marids.

Just kidding, of course it works.  And though Tiger is still stunned by success, he recovers faster than the marids and proceeds to dodge their attacks and ultimately tackle one marid and more or less ride him down the stairs.  He springs to his feet, "like his name," and is off and running through Queen Ramus' palace.

There's not a whole lot to say about the escape, since it's mostly a foregone conclusion that our hero will be able to evade all the jinn's attempts to apprehend him.  I will note how Hubbard describes said hero, however - he's inconsistently named "Jan" in one paragraph and "Tiger" in another.  Assuming this isn't sloppiness, I'd say it's an attempt to show that the two souls are working together or something like that, but if this is the intent, I don't buy it.  Palmer isn't taking over at moments that require scholarly thought or anything like that, instead Hubbard uses "Jan" when our hero is clobbering five genie officers at once, or sliding down a vine like it was a zipline.  Okay, there is a moment where Tiger's first impulse is to fight, and it's Palmer who remembers to use the miraculous ring that lets him open any door, but other than that, this escape is all Tiger, and Palmer's just along for the ride.

Palmer runs right through Ramus' great audience hall, and she spams Caps Lock as she cries his name and tells his guards to stop him and warns that he'll be killed if he goes that way.  He ignores her and keeps running, comes across a well-guarded door, invokes the Seal of Sulayman to bust it open, and proceeds to charge right into a genie general's office.  Oops.  This is the point where Tiger forgets about the thing he just used to get access to the mess he's in.

Tiger had no time to think about it.  Battle was battle to him.  But Jan cried out, "By the Seal of Sulayman!  Down with the wall!"

With a thunder of cracking stone, the front of the room fell outward, obscuring everything in a white cloud of mortar.  The flash and roar which had followed the order and the sunlight which abruptly poured in upon them held the soldiers for a terrified instant.

I mean, what is a wall but a particularly large and stubborn lock?  That can only be opened with battering rams or siege engines?  Or maybe the Seal is unlocking the door that could have been built into the wall if the architects had been more considerate.

So Tiger blasts a huge hole in a capitol soon to be attacked by an overwhelming enemy force, shimmies down a vine, and flees the palace.  A marid policeman manages to spot and pursue him despite all the chaos, but our hero neutralizes this threat by simply running around a corner, pressing against the wall, and extending a leg so the jinn trips when he charges around the bend after him.  Then "Like the sailor he was" he climbs a drainpipe to the top of a building, and spends an hour jumping from roof to roof.  Again, there's a moment when the narration refers to "Jan" considering whether to use his "broadjumping skills," but I'm pretty sure it's Tiger who did the leaping and bounding from building to building.  Unless Palmer is one of them Action Nerds who does parkour and judo but still flinches from human interaction and lets himself get pushed around by an overbearing auntie.

He only takes a breather when he's in sight of his objective, at the base of a hill crowned by the genies' temple, a "great, varicolored cube which, like the head of some monster, swallowed and disgorged thousands of Jinn."  This comparison comes right after he gazes "admiringly" at the place's architecture, so maybe Palmer-Tiger thinks it's hideous but well-made?  At any rate, the temple is crawling with guards and constructed like a fort, so Tiger reluctantly decides to wait until nightfall to make his attempt at infiltrating it.

Luckily, our hero knows a place to lay low in, and fill his belly to boot.

Though he well apprehended

Another one of Hubbard's patented "technically correct but not the best word for the job" vocabulary choices.

the danger of entering the town again, he was aware of thirst and hunger and suddenly bethought himself of a certain deep dive where the proprietor was indebted to him through said proprietor's undue faith in dice.  Jan smiled as he very vividly remembered a night when Tiger had won the place, tables, hostesses

Wait, what?

and kegs and had magnanimously loaned it all back forever.  It was weird to recollect such a thing because Jan had never experienced it himself, just as Tiger couldn't have told one end of an astrolabe from another.  But now Tiger could work an astrolabe and, no doubt, Jan could shoot dice with maddening precision.

Still can't help but feel that Tiger's gotten a raw deal.  Yeah, the sailor has belatedly learned how to navigate using a certain instrument, but he's also got this dweeb stuck in his head, while Palmer now knows how to kick ass and take names.  Both are learning from each other, but it's not close to an even exchange.  If I was Tiger I'd be upset that my otherworldly counterpart was such a disappointment.

Anyway, Tiger makes his way through the alleys of Tarbutón and arrives at the right tavern, and lets himself in through the back.  The owner is shocked to see the most wanted man in the city, and says that just ten minutes ago a squad of marids searched the place as a likely hiding spot.  Tiger concludes that this means the lazy jinn won't bother checking the dive a second time, and breezily asks for some grub.  The bar's owner isn't surprised at Tiger's lack of fear, and after Tiger assures him that in a worst case scenario he'll claim that the guy didn't recognize him, he agrees to set out a plate if Tiger takes a seat against the wall, mostly out of sight.

And no, the barkeeper is never named.  Or maybe he is, but Hubbard will only reveal it several chapters from now in a different character's conversation.  But he's just the "proprietor" or the "tavern keeper" for this section. 

While waiting for his lunch, Tiger is puzzled.  He's good at remembering faces and names, and while he thinks the people sitting next to him look familiar - a hook-nosed guy with evil eyes and a fat, oily fellow - he can't quite place them.  When they realize he's staring at them and confront him, Palmer suddenly recognizes them as Shannon and Green!  ...You remember them, right?  The lawyer and business executive we last saw six chapters ago?  Well, if you do remember them, and thought they were shady characters back in Seattle, the poor hygiene and sinister appearance of their counterparts in the Land of Sleep should make it clear that their villains in either world.

The two scoundrels are agitated when Palmer starts laughing at them, but it's such a strange situation, with someone insisting that they are other people, and Tiger is so physically intimidating, that they back off.  The poor, nameless barkeeper complains about Tiger provoking "Dauda's jackals" and asks him to leave when he's done.  Who is Dauda?  I can't tell you, the book doesn't tell us here, and if Hubbard explains things in a later chapter, it was so crucial to the narrative that I've completely forgotten it.

So that's how Tiger broke free from the palace of a mighty jinn queen - he waggled an old bracelet that knocked down any physical obstacle, then outfought and outmaneuvered purportedly-threatening monstrous humanoids.  Next time he'll try to gain entry to the jinn's most sacred site, a heavily-guarded temple-fortress.

Boy.  I wonder how he'll manage that?


Back to Chapter Nine

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Slaves of Sleep - Chapter Nine - How to Solve a Labor Shortage

Oh excuse me, Palmer-Tiger is napping with a purpose.  He's passing "through the veil as one who pushes cobwebs from his face in an old deserted corridor, sleeping hardly at all, so great was his anxiety to discover if his treasure was still there."  He's agitated over the fate of his magic doodad and was recently shocked to see himself in a mirror, but he's still able to flop onto his bunk and fall asleep on command - even though the narration just admitted that he's hardly sleeping at all.  So does the quality of your sleep impact the transition between the worlds?  Is Palmer able to have less influence over Tiger's instincts if he's having a fitful doze in his cell, but could properly control the rascal's impulses if he was having a deep, restful sleep in his proper bed?  Can there be lag and long loading times if the connection isn't a good one?

When Tiger-Palmer comes to, he's in that huge bed in Queen Ramus' tower, and though he's aware that he's been there all night and slept only poorly, he also knows "his strong body was not one to demand more than the scantest rest."  Most importantly, a certain mystical doohickey is still under his pillow.

The Seal of Sulayman!  The crossed triangles and the magic circle about them seemed to vibrate with a mighty power.  Solomon the Wise, ruler of his world, mightiest monarch of all time!  And he had worn this ring upon his hand and had thereby been wise and great and omnipotent.  And what if he had destroyed its power for evil over humans?  What if Zongri had made it powerless in turn against Ifrits?  Was it not enough that it still brought all wisdom, that it struck away all locks and that, among other things, would reveal the hiding places of all the treasures of earth?

Spoiler alert: Palmer will not obtain Solomon's legendary wisdom by using this thing.  It's basically a glorified magical lockpick, with a very generous definition of "locks" it can open.

While he's gloating, someone starts unbarring and unlocking his door, and he has to hide the Seal before the portal opens to admit a couple of marid sentries and a breathtakingly beautiful woman.  Hate to drop two quotes right next to each other, but

She was robed in the sheerest of golden silk which showed every curve of her voluptuous body.

Of course it's gold.

Her only jewels were a girdle and a cap of pearls which lay like a moon against the midnight of her hair.

That's a lot more "only" than most of us can afford.

Her eyes were fathomless seas of jet, making the pallor of her lovely, somehow bold face all the more exquisite.  She appeared as one sculpted in alabaster and given, by some enchantment, the breath of life.

People are just more beautiful the whiter they are, am I right?

Mesmerized, Palmer can only take her hand and help her up as she takes a seat on the edge of the bed and dismisses the marids - both in sending them out to re-lock the door, and also in calling them fools who are easy to order about.  Palmer remembers that the jinn mooks aren't supposed to let anyone talk with him, and the woman only laughs and says "And yet I, who have no earthly business here, can walk airily through their ranks and into their presence as if they were so many dolls."

The woman never bothers to introduce herself, and Palmer never asks, he just calls her "M'Lady" if anything.  But you're clever, aren't you?  Smart enough to hazard a guess who this lady could be?  Someone who knows her way around this palace, someone able to boss around its staff?  My real question is why Tiger can't make a guess, but either he's still pacified by Palmer's actions in Seattle or he's content to play along for now.

M'Lady pours some wine... lady, it's only just morning, isn't it a bit early to be hitting the sauce?  Anyway, she says she's here to give counsel, Palmer asks what her counsel is, she voices her surprise that the "gallant" Tiger is so eager to be rid of her and starts toying with the holes left in his earlobes by some earrings.  So banter, more or less, and maybe a hint of foreplay.

It goes on for another two pages or so - Tiger explains he pawned his earrings to buy a dancer a veil, M'Lady describes herself as "the finest of [the queen's] servants," and Palmer eventually asks what information he's supposed to have that's dangerous enough to justify his isolation.  But after describing "scholaring" as a "dread disease" in which the more you know the more you know you know nothing, we finally reach the long-awaited infodump that might spell out this book's underlying premise.  Two-thirds of the way through it.

Palmer, M'Lady explains, is in the Land of Sleep.  Or rather that's what he'd probably think of it as, since people in Tarbutón consider Seattle to be in the Land of Sleep.  It depends where you're dreaming from.  Anyway, M'Lady goes on to talk about how "Human beings are weird people.  Long ago we found that they had souls."  Palmer is in fact bright enough to catch that M'Lady is talking about humans as beings different from herself, but doesn't press the issue, and instead mentions a Native American belief that a man's soul crosses into a different world when he sleeps.  I have done literally minutes of research into the matter and can't find what Hubbard is talking about, but he was after all made a Blackfoot blood brother at the tender age of six, so he must know his American Indian folklore.

This may be why there weren't any red men seen a few chapters ago when Palmer scoped out Tarbutón - M'Lady says that "Long, long ago we found the Indian had to be very closesly watched because of just that consciousness."  But most humans live their whole lives unaware that they're actually living two lives, switching from one to the other whenever they fall asleep.  This might be where we get notions of "'double personalities' and 'split egos' and such," but that's all patently absurd.  It's not one person struggling to deal with two personalities in the same body, it's one person having a different personality in different bodies.  Much more reasonable.

Palmer asks why these two personalities can be so very different, and M'Lady doesn't quite know the answer, but can try to repeat Zeno's theories... who the hell is Zeno?  M'Lady says Zeno told her about Palmer using the astrolabe - oh, Zeno was the royal astronomer from Chapter Six.  That would have been useful information to know in Chapter Six.  Hubbard, why do you keep introducing new characters into the story without properly introducing them to the reader until several chapters later, after they've had their big scene?

Anyway, to answer Palmer's question: "There really isn't just one man or one soul or one human," instead people consist of "a certain kind of energy," and if you can convert one type of energy into another, "does it follow therefore that life is convertible into other kinds of life?"  Palmer immediately derails the conversation when M'Lady carelessly mentions a fakir who managed to merge his two souls into a single ecstatic existence, and jabbers about "Yoga!  The Veda!  The goal of the greatest cult in India!  The attainment of complete Unity!"  I can't help but wonder where he picked up all this stuff.  I went to school too, but never saw any Occult Studies courses offered.  Did I just pick the wrong university?

Anyway, to continue to try to answer Palmer's question if he would just shut up long enough for M'Lady to talk: men have two souls that are connected somehow, and when someone falls asleep in one world their "brother" in the other world wakes up and goes about their day, with their sleeping counterpart none the wiser.  The reason this is such a big secret is... both surprising and disappointing.  The jinn aren't worried that this metaphysical knowledge will lead humans to surpass them or anything, they're worried about a slave uprising.

See, the jinn had gone through some nasty wars back "before humans were more than apes," so they were having trouble getting stuff done, and more importantly, genies just don't like doing manual labor.  Their dedication to laziness led them to hatch a scheme to gather a ton of slaves - all they had to do was travel to another dimension, raid cemeteries for corpses, bring them back to Genie World, try to bring the corpses to life with genie magic, fail at this, come up with the bright idea of trapping the wandering souls of dreaming humans in those corpses, and somehow change things so that humans only traveled between those two worlds, which revived those stolen bodies and allowed the genies to breed this trait in the former corpses' descendants, thus ensuring that they'd have plenty of slaves to maintain their decadent genie lifestyle.  The only hitch is that occasionally some of those slaves catch on to the "two worlds" situation and have to be put down before they spread the word.  Other than that, it's gone off without a hitch.

"And so we have slaves.  Lots of slaves.  And we do them a great favor, too.  Eh, sailor?  Is this not a fine land?  Is it not beauteous?  And is it not a great, great pity that we cannot allow humans in their own world to know about it and, perchance, do something to stop it?  What is so bad about slavery?  We are generous.  Right generous, I think.  The soul here is the true soul.  Just as yours is the soul of a sailor, how unhappy you must have been as a scholar in your other world?  I... uh... where was I?"

I mean... it's not as bad as the thing with the black holes moving a capital forward in time by thirteen minutes, thus rendering it invulnerable to enemy attack, while not interfering with traffic moving in and out of it.  That's Hubbard's story smashing headlong into hard science.  This is something fantastic, something we can't argue with as a blatantly incorrect understanding of how the universe works.

Still, this is kind of silly.  If a Human World fellow and his Genie World counterpart have separate bodies, personalities, memories, and souls, is there a compelling reason that there'd be any sort of connection linking the two?  Beyond the fact that the situation is the bedrock for Hubbard's story, I should say.  I mean, if there's someone on a distant alien world who doesn't share my name, and has lived a completely different life than mine, but he has a slight resemblance to me, can I really say he's my brother from another reality?  The other half of some whole I'm not normally aware of?

Also, the jinn have the supernatural power to travel to the human world, and were able to reanimate bodies after snagging wandering souls to inhabit them, but this was the simplest and most straightforward way of getting manual labor?  They couldn't build golems or anything?  No medieval, magical robot servitors?  Why didn't the ifrits just enslave the marids, why'd they need to drag humans into this?

And why is the knowledge of a world where humans aren't ruled by jinn the only thing that could spark a slave revolt?  None of these human servants have just gotten fed up with being a genie's property and revolted?  They just accept their lot as the natural order of things because they have no example of an alternative?

But, there you have it, the great secret of the Land of Sleep.  Now at least we can see why Ramus was so upset that Zongri cursed a human with Eternal Wakefulness, allowing him to learn of a world where hideous monsters held people in bondage.  Still waiting for an explanation of why Zongri thought this would ruin Palmer's life.  Was he hoping that Palmer's Genie World counterpart would be a particularly miserable slave, only to end up sending him to share the life of a Hubbard Action Hero instead?

At least a token effort is made to explain how a night of sleep in one world covers a full day's activity in the other - "the days are of disproportionate length, though all is on the same ratio, the sleep soul was sixteen hours here and sixteen hours in its own world."  So you can stop trying to work out how long Palmer's been sleeping over the course of his adventure, secure in the knowledge that it all works out properly.

M'Lady might be feeling the effects of her drink, and trails off with "Where was I?" three times over two pages before giving up on her story, remarking what a "handsome devil" Tiger is, and getting in close for some non-verbal communication.  But then there's a commotion outside the room and the door opens to admit a disheveled Old Zeno who bursts in quite rudely, crying out for "Your Royal Highness!"

Please pretend to be surprised that the beautiful woman immediately transforms into the terrifying, furry, fanged Queen of Tarbutón.  Please don't question why a magical race that can shapeshift like this still couldn't animate a bunch of corpses to do their laundry, and instead had to rely on their power over souls to get the slaves they wanted.

Zeno has bad news - Zongri has broken free, killed every guard in the dungeon, stolen a ship out of the harbor, and all the royal postal pigeons have been missing for a full day now, so the only possible conclusion is that Zongri did it and has already sent for his fleet in the Barbossi Isles and plans to meet them halfway.  Which sucks, because he's got forty ships to his name, while Tarbutón's navy amounts to a whopping four boats.  So Ramus takes off screaming for her admiral and her officers and her guards, leaving behind a stunned Palmer and a morose Zeno.

Tiger tries to crack a joke about Zeno getting a prediction of doom correct, but the old jinni points out this is all Tiger-Palmer's fault, and Zongri isn't just coming to destroy his rival kingdom, but find and kill Palmer-Tiger.  And with the threat of very personal doom on top of impending general doom, Palmer finally feels horrified.  When Zeno leaves, the prisoner helps himself to two more steadying drinks, then straps the Seal of Sulayman onto his wrist because... it's so big...

The Seal of Solomon was a magic ring, right?  Made for a human?  So why is it so big that he has to wear it on- screw it.

"Zongri will take care of me in time.  But before that, by Allah and Baal and Confucius, I've still a dancing girl to see!"  And who knew, he thought, hauling on a boot, but what this same dancing girl, who might be Alice Hall, would prove his salvation at least in the other world?"

No, I didn't mistype anything, that's how it appears in the book, and no, I can't parse it either.  As for Miss Hall possibly saving Palmer's hide in Seattle, it'll be a good twenty pages before we learn the answer to that question.  Next time we start a big, long action sequence where Tiger shows us the power of the mighty Seal of Sulayman.

Basically, it makes him the Kool-Aid Man.


Back to Chapter Eight

Monday, August 8, 2016

Slaves of Sleep - Chapter Eight - Part of a Complete Breakfast

Man, I dunno.  Maybe Hubbard decided that since it's been fifty pages or so since anything happened in the world of humans, now was a good time to check on Palmer's body.  Maybe he was writing this thing a chapter a day, and just had an uninspired afternoon after finishing Chapter Seven.  At any rate, here's a three-page intermission in the story of Palmer's adventures in a world of genies.

Palmer wakes from a doze, gropes for the mighty Seal of Sulayman hidden under his pillow, and is surprised when it isn't there.  This makes him explode into action, leaping out of his bed and tearing into it, scattering sheets and clothes and dust and cockroaches as he frantically searches for the priceless magical artifact.  It's only when Diver Mullins asks "What the hell's going on?" that Palmer realizes he's no longer in a plush bedroom in a genie's palace.

That brought Jan into a realization of his whereabouts.  He stopped stock still and then, like a cloud, the odor of disinfectant and unwashed feet and halitosis settled over him.  Like a hum of bees the sound of restless men came into his ears.  Like a judgment he heard a bell tolling somewhere over the city, calling people to church.

It was jail and it was Sunday.

I think it's possible to have too many similes in a given paragraph.

So yeah, last chapter ended with Palmer feigning sleepiness and crawling into bed so he could covertly inspect the Seal of Sulayman, an item of incredible power that he'd certainly want to learn how to use.  But I guess he really was sleepy because evidently he nodded off as soon as Chapter Seven ended, and here we are.

Now, everything we've seen about the "Curse" of Eternal Wakefulness so far indicates that it acts as a one-way trip.  Palmer's consciousness got sent to Tiger's body when he fell asleep in the world of humans, but Tiger's consciousness didn't take over Palmer's body when he fell asleep in the world of jinn.  But before we get too cocky about working out the mechanics of this magic based on our observations, Hubbard's gonna change things up for us.

Mullins, being the bullying cellmate, orders Palmer to clean up the mess he's made.  Instead of meekly complying or standing his ground, Palmer instead goes still for a moment, then bursts into a frenzy of motion, making "a great show" of tidying up all the clothes and stuff that ended up strewn all over the place, working so hard and so fast that Mullins has to stand up against the bars to keep out of the way.  In no time Palmer declares that he's finished, and Mullins goes back to his bunk - the good one, if you'll remember - only for the chains holding it upright to give way and dump him on the floor.

We get some cartoony nonsense when Mullins kicks the uncooperative piece of furniture, which ends with him clutching his injured foot, "hopping around like a heron and swearing like a pirate," because iron is hard.  When he recovers, the surly pickpocket dumps Palmer's stuff out of the remaining bunk and claims it for himself, only for Palmer to pick up his stuff and immediately reconnect the chains to fix Mullins' previous bed.  Mullins accuses his cellmate of doing all this on purpose to leave him with a bed that "isn't fit for a hog to sleep in!", Palmer counters "Then why should you object?", but before things can escalate to a fistfight, breakfast is pushed through the door, and Mullins claims it all for himself.

Once again, Palmer - and yes, the narration still refers to him as "Jan" for this - doesn't make a fight of it, but instead just watches Mullins hog all the food.  But just as he starts digging into the eggs, Palmer cries "Look out!"

"What's wrong?" snarled Diver.

"Why, good golly, you wouldn't want to eat that, would you?"  And he advanced, placing his hand close to the plate to indicate something.

Diver took his eyes off Jan and looked at the plate and there, squarely between the two eggs was the biggest cockroach he had ever seen!  And not only that but only half of him was present.

Now, Mullins ought to be a little suspicious of this, since after all he thinks Palmer just cheated him out of the good bunk with some sleight-of-hand, and Palmer pointed out the roach by putting his hand nearly on the plate.  But the criminal instead puts one hand on his mouth and the other on his stomach, and presumably goes green with nausea.  Palmer starts talking about cockroaches being as poisonous as arsenic, yells for a guard, and soon Mullins is being escorted to the prison infirmary.  When a counterfeiter (sigh) in another cell asks what's going on, Palmer explains that "It's something he thought he ate" before finishing the untouched and unroachy parts of the breakfast.

Again, Palmer is still referred to as Palmer, but the narration adds that "Tiger purred with contentment and the luxurious feeling which always followed a job well done."  So it would seem that some measure of that lovable rogue has followed our protagonist from Genie World to Seattle, something that didn't happen the last time Palmer returned from the place in Chapter Four.  But it's not that Tiger is taking control like during those pranks in the Genie World, instead it's more like Palmer remembers how to prank when he's back in the world of humans, and has gained the confidence and daring to do so.

So once again I wonder why it's the Curse of Eternal Wakefulness and not the Boon of Eternal Wakefulness.  Palmer's a more assertive person after his experiences being Tiger, and the narration says that when he woke up in his prison bunk, Palmer wasn't exhausted from a full day's experiences in Genie World, but felt "the sleepy sensation of one who has spent a night of snoring," so he's not even being enhanced interrogation techniquesed by sleep deprivation.  Aside from the disorientation of Palmer being in Tiger's place, a temporary inconvenience since Tiger is steadily reasserting himself in Genie World, there does not seem to be any downside to this condition.

Maybe it'll make sense next chapter, when we get hit with a big, long infodump that will try to explain all this weirdness.  Which unfortunately means that I'll want to cover Chapter Nine in its own update, so I can't just breeze through this wimpy little chapter and merge it with the next one.  Blarg.

Anyway, this chapter ends on a confusing note.  Palmer has been Palmer this whole time, and Tiger only appeared once when he purred after Mullins got evicted from the cell.  But,

The feeling of well-being, however, did not last very long.  Jan, recalling Alice's present, stripped down and prepared for a shave.  All went well until he confronted himself in the glass.  With a shock he beheld nobody but Jan Palmer.

This shouldn't be shocking.  Again, the narration has consistently referred to our main character as Jan Palmer, even when he was flinging clothes around and sabotaging bunks and sneaking half a cockroach onto a pickpocket's breakfast plate.  If Hubbard had called the guy Tiger over the past three pages, then yes, this would be a shocking note to end the section on.  But he didn't, so it's just a lot of "huh?"

And if that wasn't enough, we go from Palmer looking in a mirror in this chapter to Palmer waking up in a genie's bedroom in the next one.  So what, did he pass out in shock and come to in the other world?  Probably not, since the next time we focus on the world of humans Palmer is getting up from his bunk.  I guess he woke up, discovered he wasn't in Genie World, sent his cellmate to the doctor, ate breakfast, had a shocking revelation when he looked in the mirror... and then took a nap.

I mean, I get that falling asleep is how you transition between the two worlds in this story.  But it still undermines the drama somewhat when your character's response to an existential crisis is to go to sleep.


Back to Chapter Seven