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

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