Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Masters of Sleep - Chapter Fourteen - Banish My Problems Away

Well, if life gives you an "I Win" button, and has also thrown an enemy frigate at you, it would only make sense to push that button.  Especially if this is merely the danger facing the you in one world, and in another world your other body is due to get its brain scrambled by a quack psychologist who stubbornly refuses to see the truth of Dianetics, available now at major booksellers.  Also, the frigate is commanded by vengeful genies.  Sometimes life is pretty weird.

The diamond blazed in the sunlight, bluer than the deep, whiter than the spray which flew above the reef.  In its depths lay the three-dimensional Seal of Sulayman, the monarch who had conquered once all the tribes of Jinn.

I think there was something about a deity helping Sulayman, though, some unfathomably powerful entity that gave him the magic ring in the first place.  But Yahweh or God or Allah doesn't get any credit, at least in this story.  Wonder why?  Is Hubbard fine with all-powerful ancient kings of legend, but doesn't like acknowledging anything greater than man?  Is that why, for all the rants about godless psychology in Mission Earth, religion plays little role in its heroes' lives?

Just when the enemy ship is about to fire, Tiger looks into the depths of the magic rock, then points it down "in the banishing sign," and while the author is willing to spend fifteen pages on a diagram of a ship's sails and a glossary of nautical terminology, he can't be bothered to spare a single sentence explaining what this arcane gesture is.

"Ifrits and Marids of the Ras Faleen!  To the center of the Withered Desert all!  Go!"

And they do.  Tiger can see the frigate's gun crews standing at their stations, but the genie officer who was about to tell them to shoot is gone, as are any other jinn on the ship.  The narration assures us that "if one cared, at the moment, to go to the Withered Desert he would have found a stunned group of Ifrits standing about, naval coats unfitting for that scenery of desolation and sand."  Thank you, omniscient narrator, for dispelling any confusion that the Two-World Diamond might have just up and disintegrated the genies or something.

Oh hey, remember how the Diamond can also swap souls between bodies?  "By the Seal of Sulayman!" our hero wishes that he was "the most commanding fellow on the Ras Faleen!" and boom, Tiger takes over some bearded gunnery sergeant on the ship, announces that he's taking command, and browbeats the crew into launching a boat to land on the island.  Once they hit the shore where a very confused Tiger-looking person is waiting, Tiger takes a moment to appreciate "how well his body looked despite the sea stains," wow.  Then he walks his stolen body to the rock that he was cunning enough to stuff the Diamond under in the split-second between wishing he was someone else and having his soul swapped, un-swaps bodies with the sailor, and uses his natural charisma or whatever to take command of the frigate's crew.

So two hours later, Tiger and the rest of the survivors from the Terror are aboard the frigate and sailing off to regroup with the rest of the formerly-genie fleet.  He orders a signalman to pass on the command for everyone to sail back to Tarbutón, and when the officer protests reminds him to "Sign it 'Tiger.'  They'll understand soon enough."  He also uses the Two-World Diamond to banish all the jinn aboard the armada, so another two hours later the newly-freed human sailors are just thrilled to follow the legendary Tiger.

A break in the paragraphs and an undefined amount of time later, Tiger's new fleet sails into Tarbutón's harbor, which is filled with very confused people wondering where all the local genies vanished to.  Some cheer when a lookout shouts "It's Tiger!" while others are more hesitant about the notorious troublemaker, but Tiger doesn't need the masses' approval.  Instead he has his sailors disembark and ready chains, then uses the Two-World Diamond concealed in a pocket to conjure the former admiral Tombo, Arif-Emir of Balou, and Zongri the recent ruler of Tarbutón.  As soon as the ifrits appear they are subdued and bound.

"By Ahriman!" screamed Zongri, age-old enemy of Tiger, "I demand-"

"Pipe down!" said Tiger.  "You demand nothing!  By virtue of a power I hold and which you know, I give you your choice between exile and a swift voyage to hell.  Before these witnesses assembled, Zongri, declare to me the lordship of your lands or else, by Ahriman, you'll roast!"

Huh, Hubbard's characters will invoke a Zoroastrian deity, but not the god behind the Seal of Solomon?  The god that Zongri was put away for not acknowledging?

Arif-Emir warns Zongri that Tiger has the magic rock, and so, in all a half-page, both of those genie rulers have ceded control over their realms to this pirate, and Tiger once more banishes them to the Withered Desert.  A sniveling Tombo begs Tiger not to send him away with the others, since they'll surely kill him for revealing the secrets of the Diamond.

Tiger looked at him.  He knew him for what he was, a Jinn that haunted in human form another world and wore the name of Dyhard.

Does Tombo even know he's opposing Tiger in the other world as well?  I mean, he's not exactly offering to have his human counterpart let Tiger-Palmer out of the loony bin in exchange for mercy, is he?

"All I care to do to you," said Tiger, "is to curse you with eternal wakefulness and memory in another world of this!

I guess that confirms it, Tombo has no idea of the offenses he's committed in the other world.  But he sure as hell is going to be punished for them.

Except for that, you are free.  Come lads, pass the word to the fleet to organize their ships and send me in a palace guard."

So the crowds go wild with cheering for this notorious ne'er-do-well who showed up with a fleet of cannons under his command and browbeat the jinn into handing over their thrones, and who is now going to rule the only two nations worth mentioning in the Land of Sleep.  Tiger doesn't shake hands or give any speeches on the policy goals of his upcoming administration, though, instead he pushes past the throng and enters the late Ramus' palace, until he's standing in its empty great hall.

"Sulayman!  Sulayman!" he said.  "By virtue of this diamond hear me where you are in the world of the dead.  The Ifrits who rebelled against you stand in the wastes of the Withered Desert.  Bewitch them there so they can trouble man no more."

There was a rumbling sound above him as though the sky was laughing with pleasure at the deed.

Why the hell didn't Solomon do that when he was alive?  What, he couldn't enslave the jinn to build his palace and keep them from causing mischief?

But that's that.  Tiger is now effectively King of Genie World.  All those humans he didn't care to free from genie bondage last time around are now fr- are now his subjects.  I'm sure Wanna's very impressed by all this, though since she doesn't actually appear in this chapter or get any lines, we can only speculate.  So let's see what kind of ruler Tiger wants to be, how he'll lead this cosmopolitan assembly of former slaves into a brave new world of

Jan sat in a hospital bed, a strong and forthright Jan.  He seemed bigger than he had and no wonder for he held as well the power of his other self in another world.  He was much besieged by callers.

Or we could cut back to Palmer, sure.  The super nerd is quickly recovering in a proper hospital, tended to by a "pretty nurse" who tells him that his leg is almost healed and he'll be able to go home tomorrow.  His wife is there, too.

Alice, sitting in a chair at Jan's left, looked fondly at her husband.  A definite change had taken place in her.  She was her composite self, warm and interested, no longer coldly businesslike, the artistic part of her restored and shining in her glance.  She patted Jan's hand.

Bullcrap.  Alice wasn't "coldly businesslike" this book, she was a borderline sociopath more preoccupied with her outings with girlfriends than her husband's head injury or brain surgery.  And her "composite self?"  She acted that way in the first story, before she knew of her second life as Wanna the vacuous temple dancer.  She gets even less out of this 'one soul two worlds' dealie than Tiger does from Palmer.

Let's wrap this up.  A visiting policeman mentions how Davies the commie got arrested in California, confessed to several robberies, and was carrying enough forged papers to get put away for a long time.  Also, that cop who shot Palmer is getting reassigned to the suburbs, where he wouldn't be able to do any more harm to rich, influential businessmen trying to chase down and attack someone after violently escaping an insane asylum.  A Bering Steam bigwig, eager to appease his boss after the second failed attempt to oust him, talks about how he'll be backing that highway to Alaska and will let Palmer rename that recently-launched ship from the Zachariah Palmer to the Greg Palmer like he wanted.  And a newspaper reveals that Dr. Felix Dyhard underwent a successful prefrontal lobotomy after starting to rave about being from another world, "and can be expected to experience an uneventful recovery after which he will be transferred to the state institution until such time as some routine employment which requires little thought can be found for him."

"Poor Tombo!" said Alice.

Jan went back to reading the comics.

Cue laugh track while we wonder what happens to someone who's been lobotomized in one world but not the other.  Do they alternate between periods of coherent thinking and emptiness, or does the operation damage the very soul?  How much is Tombo suffering for the sins of another person?

But that's it, that's our ending - after a chapter spent chasing after the thing, our hero uses the Two-World Diamond to wish all his problems away.  Palmer has retained his wealth and prestige in one world, destroyed the lives of his enemies by a means that cannot be linked to him, and escaped any punishment for vehicle theft or assault and battery or anything.  Tiger in the other world has managed to overthrow an entire society with a few commands directed at a magic rock and now faces the challenges of governing a nation with a skillset that consists of sailing, fighting and breaking the law.  There was no character development, nobody learned anything - at best our hero(es) recovered to where they were at the end of the previous book.

And at no point did we learn whatever happened to the all-powerful Seal of Sulayman the previous story revolved around.  Only that everyone was wasting their time with it when there was a much better artifact to play with.


Back to Chapter Thirteen

Monday, September 26, 2016

Masters of Sleep - Chapter Thirteen - Race to the Dead End

We go from Palmer being shot and arrested in one world to Tiger waking up at dawn in the other, and since he comes to with the echoes of madmen's screams in his mind, we can infer that Palmer didn't lose consciousness after taking the bullet, but got carted back to the mental hospital and fell asleep at a normal-ish time.

Though I have to wonder, if "Jan the Tiger" is once again aware of his dual nature and the twin worlds inhabited by humanity, why didn't he try to go to sleep early so he could switch to Tiger the Palmer?  Get a head start on the search for the Two-World Diamond in Genie World and all that.  But that wouldn't make this chapter as dramatic, I suppose.

Tiger gets up and takes in the crew swabbing the Terror's deck, and there's some foreshadowing or symbolism or whatever because the sunlight makes it look like the decks are being "scrubbed with blood."  And don't bother nitpicking about whether the dawn sun is red or not, let's just appreciate this effort and move on.  Tiger immediately goes to find Muddy McCoy, the Genie World counterpart of the communist ex-lumberjack-turned-diamond thief Chan Davies, but he's vanished.  Inconvenient, that.

So up Tiger goes into the rigging to look around and spell out the situation for us.  His pirate fleet is making full speed toward the island of Denaise, their base of operations where they can try to make a last stand.  Racing them to this destination is Arif-Emir's fleet, which has joined forces with the remnants of Tombo's fleet, "unconditional surrender" be damned.  The genie fleets are lagging behind since they had to go around Frying Pan Shoals due to Tiger's roadblock, and the pirates would have been able to make it to Denaise about a day ahead of them, but two enemy frigates have leapt to the front and are slowly gaining on the freebooters.  And then there's a complication, a cutter that has ditched the pirate fleet to run for some islands and reefs, a ship that Tiger knows is carrying Muddy McCoy thanks to his patented Tiger Sense.

Tiger gives his new orders - change course and intercept McCoy's cutter.  No, Tiger doesn't know for certain that the Two-World Diamond is with McCoy right now.  And no, he doesn't know how to use the Two-World Diamond, despite his hopes that it can magic all his problems away.  "But Tiger knew he had to take that chance to save himself in two worlds if he could and to save these buckaroons and humankind as slaves to the Jinn."  You know, that thing he didn't do last time he had a terribly powerful artifact in his hand.

So we get a naval chase as promised in the chapter's title of "The Chase."  It's probably exciting if you're nautically-inclined - Tiger tells his men to run out the stern chasers, whatever those are, and then they dump all the auxiliary boats the ship is carrying in order to squeeze every last knot out of it.  After a page of this the enemy frigates get in range and start taking potshots, and manage to land one hit on the Terror, but all it does it take down Tiger's "fore-r'yal yard" and kill a nameless gun crew.  Nothing that seriously impacts Tiger's ability to win, just enough to create the illusion of danger.

Tiger has his men load chain shot, which if you don't know is two cannonballs linked by a chain, which causes the projectiles to whirl around and rip through rigging with ease.  The story at least is helpful enough to explain this to us in the text itself, instead of not featuring it in the glossary like most of the other nautical garbage.  The bad guys try a proper broadside, but Tiger watches the enemy officers and tells his helmsman to "Brace and trim!" right when he sees the genies give the order to fire, so the Terror dodges all but one shot to the bow.  In response, Tiger has his batteries fire and wreck both enemy ships' mizzen and rudder and stuff, inflicting enough damage that they'll have to stop for repairs, if only for a time.

As the Terror sails on, one parting shot from an enemy ship hits its counter... oh hey, that's in the glossary for once, "(n.) the curved part of the back of a ship."  It won't be enough to end the Terror right then and there, but the ship starts to slowly sink even as it continues to chase after McCoy's cutter, while the thief tries to force a retread of Chapter Eleven by losing the Terror in some rough reefs.

But hey, you know how Tiger has been itching to figure out what the Two-World Diamond actually does?  And a couple chapters ago he took a high-ranking genie captive, a genie who had been intent upon getting the Diamond for himself, and knew stuff about it that Tiger didn't?  Well, it's only now, when his ship is sinking and the brig is flooding, that Tiger decides to question Admiral Tombo about the Diamond, demanding information in exchange for freeing the genie from a watery tomb.  Tombo is hysterical, though, raving about being caught and trapped.  Hmm.  And there's something about that fanged face that makes Tiger stare for a moment...

Gripping the Jinn's throat through the bars, Tiger yanked him close.  "Tell me the power of that diamond!  What can it do?"

"Let me out!  I'm caught!  I'm trapped!" screamed Tombo.  "Anything, anything!  But let me out!  He's a maniac!  I'm caught, I'm trapped!"

The phrase about the maniac completed the identification for Tiger.  For a moment he had thought this might be the prefrontal case, but that was not so.  Tombo was Dyhard in another world!  A Jinn!

Uh... wut?

Let's rewind to Queen Ramus' talk with Tiger last book.  When she discussed the nature of the Land of Sleep and souls and all that, she only described human souls as traveling between the worlds and inhabit different bodies, there was never any suggestion that genies did the same.  Why would they need to, when jinn like Zongri are able to physically travel between the worlds?  Why would Zongri's imprisonment in a copper jar so terrible if he had another body in another world to fall back to?  And if a genie can live tens of thousands of years in one world, how could they live as a brief mortal in the other?  Would their soul just go to a new human body each time the old one kicks it?  If souls can do that, why does Tiger need to risk his life in this world to save his body in the other world?

I don't know, maybe Hubbard thought this would be more satisfying for us, allow us to combine all the hate we feel for Dyhard with all the "meh" we have towards Tombo.  It's certainly convenient for the author, since it lets our hero deal with both antagonists in one fell swoop.  But that's next chapter.

Tombo tries to resist Tiger's demands for information, since that would betray the entire race of jinn, but when our hero keeps encouraging Tombo's panic by reminding him how he's trapped. the genie spills his guts.  The trick to using the Diamond is to make the "banishing sign," whatever that is.  Aim it down and the Diamond can send jinn anywhere whether they want to go or not, while if you aim it up, the thing conjures up the spirit of Sulayman himself, who famously commanded the jinn to do his bidding.  No magic words required, just flip it one way or the other, and tell it what you want it to do.

And that's the Two-World Diamond.  It moves around between the two worlds when a human has it in their possession, which is how it gets its name, but its main power is over genies.  The jinn use it when they grow old and want to steal another jinni's body, but don't want humans to have it because then one could summon the ancient king that enslaved their entire race.

Arif-Emir wore the thing in his hat.  During a parade.  Surrounded by cheering humans.

Hubbard Villains, man.  Well, after Tiger learns the secrets of the Diamond, the sinking Terror hits a reef and starts to get battered apart by the surf.  As you might expect, Tiger manages to escape the wreck as it disintegrates around him, and soon he, a sodden Tombo, Wanna, Mr. Luck, Stagger Ryan, and probably some nameless background characters, all find themselves stuck in the lagoon of the island McCoy had been running toward.  Oh, and Muddy McCoy's ship has wrecked as well, so he's there to be chased down by Tiger, who grabs the thief by the throat.

But it was not Muddy McCoy's throat he wanted.  It was the lump in Muddy's sash.  With eager fingers Tiger too unto himself the Two-World Diamond.

Well, I say "thief," but I guess it was Davies who actually stole the Diamond in the other world, McCoy just woke up with the thing in his possession and decided to run off with it.  While pursued by a vast fleet after that very item.  And he ran towards a very small island with no escape route.  And managed to wreck his ship in the process.

Or does McCoy even know he has it?  Maybe he was trying to save his own skin, hide while the genies took out Tiger, and never knew the Diamond was in his bag.  We'll never know, because he isn't mentioned in what remains of the book.  For all we know Tiger throttled him and McCoy's corpse is slowly drifting across the lagoon.

Seaward, the Ras Faleen

That's one of the jinn frigates, by the way.  The other was the Mount Kaf, if you're interested.  It's also the Mount Kaf if you're not interested.

was standing in as close as she dared, gun ports open, the black mouth of grape-stuffed cannon hungry to cut down the Terror's crew as it struggled toward the far beach.

This is a stupid cliffhanger, Tiger just captured the obscenely powerful magic item that gives him control over jinn.  If you wanted to have one last page of tension in the story before the ante/anticlimax, end the chapter with him pursuing McCoy as the enemy ship bears down on him, so there's the question of whether he'll get the Diamond back before he's blown apart in a hail of lead and shrapnel.

Next time, we'll wrap this up in a way that's just as, if not more unsatisfying than the end of the last book.


Back to Chapter Twelve

Friday, September 23, 2016

Masters of Sleep - Chapter Twelve - Running in Circles

Once again Palmer wakes up with the distinct impression that he was very recently on a boat, only to realize that no, he's actually still stuck in the loony bin.  Dr. Dyhard is showing two "internes" the "Let me out.  Let me out" guy and complaining if the patient had been more of a schizophrenic then the procedure would be more successful, but stumbles and stammers whenever they ask what was specifically wrong with the guy.  Then the muttering patient gets hauled away in a straightjacket so Dyhard can try to cut out whatever part of the brain makes him so noisy.

Palmer spends a good, fat paragraph reflecting on what he learned of elementary psychology back in 1936, which stressed the importance of the very frontal lobe that these modern quacks are so keen on scrambling, and wonders why anyone would try to cure insanity by cutting up the part of the brain that regulates rational thinking.  "Could it be that some of the those 'healers' through long association with insanity were, themselves, no longer sane?"  Perhaps.  Alternatively, maybe Palmer's old professor was wrong when he concluded that man's mighty frontal lobe "probably contained the ability to rationalize," which according to Wikipedia is a view that's been challenged by recent research on great ape brains.  Also note that the article doesn't even use the word "rational," and explains that lobotomies and the like were attempts to reduce the patient's distress, not fillet the part of the brain that let them talk.

Either way, Palmer is not looking forward to brain surgery, especially after the hospital nurses deposit "a something" in the cell across from his that stares vacantly and silently at the ceiling - "The operation had been an entire success."  But he doesn't resist when they come for him next, since he figures he should save his escape attempt for a more opportune moment.  Which is to say, it wouldn't be very dramatic if he managed to break out before we properly experienced the horrors of neurosurgery.

Palmer's wheeled into the operating room, Dyhard gets suited up in his surgery kit, and Palmer desperately offers the nurses a bribe to let him go.

"I can pay you twenty thousand dollars apiece if you will get me out of here!" he said urgently to the male nurses.  "I'm Jan Palmer, head of Bering Steam-"

"Pleased to meetcha.  I'm Rockefeller," said the shorter nurse.

No, no, you're Rockecenter.  Can't be too obvious with our satire, see?

Since that fails, Palmer bursts into action, chopping a "rabbit punch" to hit a man in the base of the skull when he tries to strap him down, then double-kicks the other orderly backwards.  He nearly makes it out of the operating room but the guard outside gets him in a bear hug and hauls him back.  So he gets strapped to the table with his head held still in a vice, they shave half his hair, and set out the tools for the operation - "a device like a brace and bit which was obviously used to drill a circle out of the skull," as well as some wire loops and knives and hooks.  All Palmer can do now is beg his captors not to kill the part of the brain that makes him him, but Dyhard has eyes like someone "in a Roman audience or in a father accustomed to beat his child or an executioner bent on doing his public duty."  And personally I would have picked only one of those similes instead of slathering it on that thick, but what do I know.

A cone shoved in his face hits Palmer with nitrous oxide, and he tries to hold his breath but can't.  So, who's up for some brain surgery?

The point of the bit began to screw into his bone.  His scalp jerked away from it.  He tried to keep from taking another breath but could not.  The cone spun faster and faster before him.  The bit was finding a hold in his skull and the worm was going deeper.  The extension blade began to sweep a circle.

Somwhat understated and mechanical compared to Gris' surgery in Mission Earth book three, but more effective I think than a lot of "FLASH!"es and "YEEOW!"s.

But then... man, I don't know how it works.  Two chapters ago it was Palmer hitting his chin on the table that knocked some Tiger back into him, while in this case it's a drill making its way into his skull that accomplishes the same.  So Palmer suddenly sees a ship's lantern instead of the anesthesia cone, and is filled with both pain and rage, and flexes his arms, and

There was the crack and pop of webbing, the rip of canvas jacketing and the snap of laces which went like thread.

Tiger, strong and mighty, snatched at the auger and twisted it out of his skull!  He sent the instrument crashing into Dyhard's face.  With a leap he came off the table, leaving the frayed straps behind and with a sudden snatch had in his hands the heads of the nurses.  He smashed them together and with a vicious raise of his knees, now right, now left, he wrecked his assailants for days to come.

Okay, I can get Palmer's "Tiger" personality knowing how to fight better than the meek boat enthusiast.  I'm just confused how Tiger was able to use the very same muscles to rip free of his restraints.  What's the explanation for that?  Does Tiger know how to use Palmer's muscles better than he does, and can get more done with them?  Is Tiger pushing Palmer's muscles past their safe limits, like how people in moments of stress are able to lift cars off their loved ones?  If so, why wasn't Palmer's adrenaline surge at the prospect of getting lobotomized enough to do the same?  And why hasn't any other patient managed to escape this way?  What, they couldn't channel Napoleon Bonaparte or whoever to get the berserk strength necessary to break free?

Whatever.  There's a moment of delicious irony or something when Dyhard starts panicking and babbling "I'm caught!  I'm trapped!" like Palmer's old roommate, and then a moment of satisfying revenge or something when Tiger jams Dyhard's skull underneath the "steam sterilizer" and slams it with enough force to nearly break the man's neck.  Then he rushes out of the operating room and in all of two sentences manages to burst out of the hospital.

A car was on the drive, Dyhard's.

How does Palmer know that?

Tiger paused for an instant, disoriented, blinking in the afternoon sunlight.  Suddenly, from a dual nature, he became himself a unity anew.

Yes, somehow Palmer's time in a mental hospital has cured his existential confusion.  He is no longer Jan Palmer the millionaire or Tiger the pirate, but Jan the Tiger, the complete package, combining scholarly wisdom with bold action!

Again.  Over the course of this book we've managed to return to where we were at the end of last book.

Insensibly separated after the Curse had unified his two natures once before, Jan the Tiger was oriented well in two worlds.  Half of his mind knew suddenly things the other half knew.

Like whose car that was in the driveway?

However he knows it, Tiger-Palmer understands that the Two-World Diamond was in Thunderguts' safe in Genie World because it was in Palmer's safe in Human World, but vanished when it was moved from the latter.  And since he's about to get attacked by a genie fleet in one world and charged with potentially murder in the other - "for he could not guess whether or not he had killed anyone in that operating room" - he really needs a Dues Ex Machina diamond to save his ass.

So he drives off for a bit before ditching the stolen car... wait, how'd he start it?  Did he pickpocket Dyhard's keys when we weren't looking?  Oh, Wikipedia says the first ignition keys were introduced by Chrysler in 1949.  Guess with old cars you just pushed a button to start them or something.  And Dyhard forgot to lock his doors.  Anyway, Palmer-Tiger ditches the car and takes a cab home, pops in and out to throw some money at the guy before the cops find him, then starts looking for the Diamond.

Alice is there eating supper, but Palmer walks by "without a nod," and her only reaction is to note that "aside from his determined stride and face, he looked just like Jan."  No delighted cry of "Honey!" or anything, or even shock that he's back unexpectedly early.  She doesn't even remark that half his head and shaved and someone's tried to bore a hole in it.  She does follow him into his study, however, where Palmer checks the safe but finds it empty, no surprise.

"Who took that diamond?" he said sharply.

"Isn't it there?" she said.

And that's these lovers' first interaction after being reunited after some very trying times.

Palmer belatedly notices that someone's drilled holes in his safe, remembers that the Diamond wound up in the hands of Muddy McCoy in Genie World, and concludes that McCoy and Chan Davies the communist ex-lumberjack are the same person.  He asks if Alice has seen "that Commie" around, Alice finally asks what Palmer's doing home instead of getting "one of these splendid new scientific operations that make everybody so well.  Didn't you want to go through with it?"  Instead of answering "NO!" or slapping her, Palmer just repeats his question, and Alice admits that yes, she hired the guy who hit her husband with a lead pipe, but he quit.

As a police siren nears and tires come up the driveway, Palmer tells his wife not to let anyone know he's here, then goes to interview The Swede Girl.  She's distraught that her "boyfriend" has ditched her, but eventually Palmer "extracted" Davies' location at the Friends of Russia Social Hall.  He slips out a back door and gets in Alice's coup, and waits for a moment, expecting the police to be sent away by his wife.  Alas, "he had not reckoned upon the propaganda which tells a public about the glories of neurosurgery."  PR isn't mentioned by name, but you know it has seduced Palmer's wife and turned her against him.

With no other options, Palmer guns it and blows past the cops in the front yard, then manages to lose his pursuers by slipping past a train that forces the other cars to stop.  In one of those convenient coincidences he reaches the social hall's front steps just as Davies is coming down them, Davies screams and flees when he sees Palmer after him, Palmer rushes after him...

There was the crack of a pistol shot.  Jan's leg buckled under him.  He fell.  There was a slam as Davies made the back door and vanished and then two police officers were standing over Jan, steel bracelets ready.  There was a click and Jan's arms were cuffed behind his back.

One of the officers is named Mike, just like the pair that arrested Palmer back in Slaves of Sleep chapter two.  An intentional call-back, a little bonus for his fans?  Or is Hubbard so uncreative that he's reusing names without realizing it?  At any rate, they talk about how this guy is "Screwy as a bedbug on the subject of Commies" and gets ready to send Palmer back to the good Dr. Dyhard.

And so the theme of going in circles continues, as Palmer is hauled back right to where he'd escaped from.  But it's the journey that's really important, right?


Back to Chapter Eleven

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Masters of Sleep - Chapter Eleven - Into the Frying Pan and Out of Excitement

It's an indeterminate amount of time since last chapter, a consequence of the author abandoning a POV that alternates between Palmer and Tiger whenever one goes to sleep and his decision to fast-forward through "several" days of Tiger's pirate fleet waiting for their enemies to attack.  So Palmer's been in the loony bin for what, a week?  Longer?  And it was only after banging his head last chapter and channeling Tiger's sauce that he finally gave Dr. Dyhard an excuse to scramble his frontal lobe?  And Alice never checked on her husband during all this time, not even once?
Anyway, after x many days spent waiting, a lookout finally spots sails on the northern horizon, lots of them.  It's Admiral Tombo and the fleet from Tarbutón, twenty warships against Tiger's six mangy pirate vessels - our hero has doubled the size of his fleet at the expense of some merchants, see.  It's for a good cause, though, freedom and all that.

Tiger gives Stagger Ryan an order to steer for a weather gauge, which isn't in the glossary because up yours, and then tells Wanna to get below before the shooting starts.

"I won't!" said Wanna.  "I've a right-"

Tiger picked her up like a chip and sped down the ladder with her.

Sullenly she permitted herself to be deposited.

Tiger tries to explain that battles are dangerous, what with the cannonballs and grapeshot flying everywhere, but Wanna doesn't wanna sit in her cabin and wait to sink, and starts to cry.  Tiger tries to reassure her, tells her that in a worst-case scenario she can hang on to the table, which will float, and gives her a knife to defend herself, but-

"You are abandoning me," she wept logically.  "You mean me to be cast up adrift on some foreign shore, alone, friendless and hungry, pray to anyone who-"

"Stow that," said Tiger.

Sometimes less is more.  The anti-psychology tracts in this book are more effective than Mission Earth's because they don't go overboard and accuse the entire field of being a genocidal Nazi plot.  Similarly, Masters of Sleep makes me despise women not because they're psychotically-jealous, mind-controlling slatterns, but simply because they're self-centered, easily-deceived, and generally useless.

Tiger checks the cabin's safe to see if there's any treasure he can give Wanna to shut her up, only to find the glittering Two-World Diamond "slowly materializing" in front of him.  He's astonished and relieved, reaches out to pick up the magic rock that can solve all his problems, but the diamond vanishes just before he can touch it.  How inconvenient.

We get about a page of Tiger ruminating, first on how the diamond disappeared before it was halfway finished materializing, then he thinks back to the off-screen battle for the Graceful Jinnia in Chapter One and how... oh, really?  Apparently, Tiger's problems, re: something ineffable missing from his personality, only manifested after he took a head injury from a marid's pike during his capture by Arif-Emir's forces.  Much like how Palmer picked up Tiger traits after hitting his head last chapter.  So all Tiger needs to do to set himself straight is to headbutt a wall.

He doesn't do that, though, and just gives some of the gems and junk in Old Thunderguts' private stash to Wanna in case of an emergency, tells her to put them out of sight and shut up, and heads back abovedeck.  Stagger Ryan asks if Tiger really means to commit to this unbalanced fight, and Tiger admits that he "overplayed a hand," waiting around for a magic rock to appear and fix things, and now they've got no choice.

Then a new character appears warning that they're getting close to Frying Pan Shoals.  To summarize two pages of dialogue: Mr. Luck is the nickname of a cabin boy whose father was Thunderguts' navigator, and picked up everything his old man knew.  He doesn't bother to introduce himself by his real name, and Stagger Ryan explains the kid got his nickname by using astrology to predict that Thunderguts would die by necromancy.  This makes Tiger immediately like the kid, because 1) he was absolutely right and 2) he was bold and honest enough to give bad new.  And it happens that this kid knows a lot about Frying Pan Shoals, namely how wide and deep the safe channels through them are.

So you can guess what we're doing for the next eight pages: big, fat paragraphs of boats sailin' around.

Tiger orders his fleet into the shoals, following his ship as Mr. Luck calls out directions.  The ship turns one way, stuff is done with the rigging and sails, the ship turns another way, more nautical stuff happens.  The pirate fleet threads its way through the difficult waters in a line, while the enemy fleet, which has now grown in size to twenty-seven ships, manages to follow.  Then two pages after Tiger's fleet enters the shoals, Hubbard remembers to mention that one of the pirate ships refused and made a run for it, only to get intercepted and annihilated by a pair of frigates.  No, he couldn't move that segment to a more logical place, that's the sort of thing an author who believed in proofreading and revision would do.

Tiger transfers from ship to ship, giving mysterious orders to each before staying on the rearmost vessel.  Boats move through the water, some called luggers, other brigs.  Ships furl and kedge.  Tiger does something with a lanyard.  It's all the excitement you'd expect from an action sequence partially-translated from another language, where you have to keep flipping through a dictionary if you want to figure out what the hell is going on.

But to summarize four pages of boating: Tiger has his three rearmost vessels ground themselves against the shoals, forming a barricade the pirates can fight from.  The genie ships don't realize what's happening until it's too late and most of their ships have committed to working their way through the shoals, but decide to fight anyway.  Then there's a tremendous naval pile-up when one of the men-o-war in the middle runs aground, followed by a typically one-sided Hubbard battle in which pirate sharpshooters are able to pick off genie officers without taking fire themselves, and when the jinn forces send a landing party to clear the barricade of beached ships, they get wiped out in one blast of grapeshot.  No, none of the genie ships can use their cannons to blast apart the pirates' improvised fortress, not even the ones that didn't make it into the shoals before the trap was sprung.  And don't even think about any of these supernatural creatures using any sort of magic to save themselves.

So at the end of the day, Tiger has taken Admiral Tombo hostage and gotten him to surrender after slightly stabbing him - only an inch of steel, just the tip, babe - and now has six new men-o-war under his command and four thousand human sailors eager to work for a proper captain instead of some stinkin' genie.  But when he regroups with the Terror, Stagger Ryan rains on his parade by reminding him that there's still Arif Emir's fleet to deal with.  I'm not sure how many ships the guy has, since Ryan mentions both "twenty-two sail" at the north end of the passage and "fifteen more men-o-war," but either way it's more ships than Tiger has.

Boy, do you think Tiger can triumph against unfavorable odds?  Especially right after we've seen him do exactly that, with less resources than he has now?

This Tiger stuff is boring.  Let's go back to Palmer and rant about lobotomies some more.


Back to Chapter Ten

Monday, September 19, 2016

Masters of Sleep - Chapter Ten - Fun Times in Balmy Springs

And now we're back to the part of the book that it feels like Hubbard was most interested in writing, his exposé on the horrors of psychology and mental health.  Palmer is stuck in a small, padded room, bored out of his mind while Dr. Dyhard asks him simple questions like how many fingers he's holding up and what time does his watch indicate.  The psychologist is disappointed that Palmer keeps getting the answers right - how's he going to talk Alice into paying for a big, expensive procedure if there's nothing wrong with the patient?

All his reputable colleagues had adopted Dianetics sometime since and were prospering.  Dyhard had never prospered.  Too thoroughly bad a surgeon to remain in the A.M.A., he had taken up neurosurgery and from this had degenerated into country work and was almost outlawed for his belief that socialized medicine should be adopted by his brethren.  They, feeling that Dyhard's type could not support a personal practice and must therefore lean on the state, spoke to Dyhard on professional occasions only.  But Dyhard was somehow not averse to maintaining his own side practice whenever he could get a patient and had therefore short-circuited Jan from the state institution to Balmy Springs, where, with skill, he could run up a considerable bill.

While we're no strangers to Hubbard's hate towards the mental health industry at this point, it is remarkable how different this early "satire" is from his final work.  In Masters of Sleep, the destructive quack psychologists are a small minority, diehards like... Dyhard, who clings to backwards and barbaric procedures like lobotomies while his colleagues embrace the enlightenment of Dianetics and become wealthy and successful and handsome and great in bed and so forth.  Hubbard's optimistic and operating under the assumption that his revolutionary new self-improvement program will transform the world for the better.  But fast forward thirty years to Mission Earth and Hubbard casts all psychologists as irredeemably evil perverts and murderers out to do as much harm as possible, who know that their talk about man being a soulless animal is nothing but lies, but keep spreading this false gospel anyway.

Guess that's what happens when the "experts" dismiss your work as a pseudoscience instead of embracing the truth.

Anyway, Palmer's so bored that he's got an elbow on the table and his chin propped up in his hand, but he slips and bangs his head.  And with this sudden blow comes some curious sensations - he thinks he sees a lantern swinging overhead, and can feel a ship moving beneath him, and can smell the sea salt on the air.  It only lasts for a moment, but afterward Palmer feels for the nth time that "he was somewhere else," and "the feeling that he was strong was stronger."  In other words, head trauma has knocked some Tiger into him.  Between this and Tiger getting Palmer-ish last chapter without the Two-World Diamond in his possession, I'm starting to question why the stupid rock is necessary to the plot.  Beyond providing a Deus Ex Machina to solve Tiger's problems, I mean.

So when Dyhard does the finger question again, Tiger-Palmer replies "six," and when asked the time says it's "Twenty-six bells!" before telling the psychologist to scram and demanding a meal.  Dyhard is delighted at these signs of a persecution complex, conversion of the auto-erotic libido, and so forth.  The doctor flees before Tiger gets violent, only to return with the owner of the facility, a Mr. Sharpington, who is eager to agree with Dyhard's diagnosis.

"There he is," said Dyhard.  "See that scowl?  All classic paranoid schizophrenics have that scowl.  All of them."

"Hmmm, yes," said Sharpington, hoping that Dyhard wouldn't kill this patient on the operating table.  Patients were getting scarce since Dianetics.  Only the electric shock and surgical failures of the yesterdays were taken to private and public institutions now and this Palmer was worth two hundred a week for the time he was here.  Of course, on the brighter side, if whatever neurosurgery Dyhard tried came out with the usual lack of success, Palmer would be here for the rest of his life, a zombie without will or coordination, a drooling thing which would have to be fed like a baby and wear diapers.

So Sharpington just "Hmm, yes"es and "Indeed so"es as Dyhard blathers on, and they schedule an operation for tomorrow, so long as Sharpie gets his 10%.  They leave, and Palmer finally gets his meal, though he has to eat it with a guy in the next cell constantly jumping around and screaming.  When he asks a guard about it he explains no, normally people get all quiet after their lobotomy, that guy just "ain't got good sense or gratitude."  Palmer attempts to bribe the guard to send a message to his wife, telling her to bring that diamond he had to him for a cool thousand dollars, but the guard isn't willing to take an IOU after getting burned in the past, and since Palmer doesn't have any cash on him, no dice.

With that attempt at escape thwarted, Palmer can only sit in his little padded room and worry.  First he wonders whether he's already been "treated" and that's why he feels like he's lost something important, then he spends some time listening to a neighbor endlessly repeating "I'm caught, I'm trapped!  Let me out!  Let me out!"  How can such a thing happen to a man in the United States, how can someone have his rights stripped away by a doctor's diagnosis and a relative's consent, even criminals are subject to a trial before being punished, etc.

Needless break in the paragraphs, then another page denouncing psychology and neurosurgery.  Forgive me for not being very interested in this stuff, it's just that, well we've seen it all before.  After going through Mission Earth, it's hard to be engaged by this comparatively-restrained rant.  Nazis aren't mentioned even once!  How am I supposed to concentrate on Palmer/Hubbard's fearful questions of what happens to a soul after a lobotomy when the author doesn't try to tie the procedure to a global conspiracy trying to wipe out the human race?

Okay, real talk - there's actually a key difference between Masters of Sleep's anti-psychology rants and Mission Earth's, and it's not just in how much spittle is flying out of Hubbard's mouth.  Masters of Sleep is somewhat timely.  If my minutes of Wikipedia research have left me properly informed, this story came out when public opinion was starting to turn against stuff like lobotomies as a cure for various behavioral ills.  So when Palmer unsuccessfully tries to pick the locks of his cell-
 
And as he stood there a stretcher was wheeled by.  On it was a young girl.  Blood had spilled and caked from her swollen eyes.  Her temples had been scorched by electrodes.  Her mouth was slack and one arm dangled rigidly.  A transorbital leukotomy, on its way to a cell, a woman, made a zombie forever, her analytical mind torn to shreds, ruined beyond repair.

Jan became sick at his stomach.

-the passage might be part of a movement that was accomplishing something positive, convincing readers that such procedures should be, if not banned outright, then reserved for very special cases, and not to be undertaken lightly.  Also, it's much more effective, when you're trying to expose the evils of psychology, to portray something that actually happens instead of casting psychologists as people who are trying to kill their patients, or who would be delighted if a doctor made a snake appear out of a patient's skull, all after some thirty years of advancement in the fields of neurosurgery and mental health.

So what I'm saying is that in this one chapter of Masters of Sleep, Hubbard might done more than in all ten books of Mission Earth.  Give the man a round of applause, everyone!

We wrap up the chapter by ditching Palmer and checking on Alice.  She's got her girlfriends over, who are chatting about how the labor unions ought to be machine-gunned, or how their cousin got electroshock once and now she doesn't complain about her husband's drinking, or anything for that matter.  Alice just repeats what Dr. Dyhard said about her husband being scheduled for "a little operation.  A minor thing," that will nevertheless cost ten thousand dollars, but at least it will make Palmer better-adjusted.  I'm still annoyed that Alice went from someone who questioned authority figures and turned on her crooked boss to someone who implicitly trusts someone trying to charge her thousands of dollars for a medical procedure without telling her too much about what he'll be doing.  But I guess that girl on the stretcher isn't the only character to have gotten her brains scrambled.

The only significant development in the non-Palmer section is that The Swede Girl and Chan Davies the ex-lumberjack are there too, and Davies learns from Alice that she's recovered Palmer's belongings from the police, and then learns from his girlfriend that it's being kept in a safe behind a picture frame.  So he decides to head to town to meet up with some skilled associates of his.

And there we have it, the set-up for the final four chapters of the book.  In Genie World, Tiger's meager fleet of free men is due to be attacked by an enemy armada, while in Human World, Palmer's got mere hours to live before his higher brain functions get shut down by steel and electrodes.  And the deciding factor will be the Two World Diamond, coveted by a dirty commie and carelessly guarded by Palmer's worse-than-useless wife.  It's a race against time to see which half of our protagonist can get his hands on the thing everybody wants and magic all his problems away in an unsatisfying and anti-climactic fashion.

Feels weird to have a Hubbard chapter that spent so much time condemning psychology without mentioning homosexuality.  I mean, why didn't Dr. Dyhard try to turn Palmer gay?  There's already a moment where our protagonist admits that the constantly-muttering guy in the cell across the hall "had not been bad-looking," so there might be some latent homosexuality to build upon.  What happened in the thirty years between Masters of Sleep and Mission Earth to add promoting gayness to psychology's sinister agenda?


Back to Chapter Nine

Friday, September 16, 2016

Masters of Sleep - Chapter Nine - I Refuse to Call Them "Buckaroons"

We interrupt this withering satire of primitive psychology to check in on Pirate King Tiger.  Hubbard gives us a page's worth of belated background for these pirates, how they started out as revolutionaries under Emperor Lenny... sigh... but their zeal faded when they discovered how much easier piracy was, then Lenny and his loyal officers suddenly fell ill and died, allowing someone named Stahlbein to take over and turn a bunch of escaped slaves into slavers themselves.  Eventually Stahlbein took on the name Thunderbolt, and... yeah, that pretty much covers it.

So see, it's alright that Tiger used magic to force ol' Thunderguts in a duel and stab him in the heart before he knew what was going on, since we've now learned how the former Stahlbein probably killed the good pirates and turned them into bad pirates.  And no, Hubbard couldn't have given us this information in earlier chapters, because then this already dinky chapter would only be four pages long.

Anyway, Tiger is able to whip the crews into shape and inspire them to fight for freedom again, so the ships are cleaned and reorganized and all the pirates are thrilled to be sailing with a purpose instead of lounging about.  Good thing too, because Tiger expects a Jinn fleet to show up in a few days that will outnumber then twelve-to-one.  The only bright side is that the genie ships' human crews might defect to the pirates once they realize this is a fight about liberty or something.

What about the diamond, though?  Well first, it's vanished once more, as Tiger finds out when Wanna asks if he'll let her wear it when they're home agai- Wanna, honey.  "Home" is under the control of Tiger's mortal enemy.  You and he are sailing with a bunch of outlaws that have sworn to overthrow the jinn tyrants of this realm.  So are you so optimistic that you're assuming that Tiger will defeat the forces of geniekind, defeat Zongri in Tarbutón, and go back to a somewhat normal life in whatever dwellings you were able to hold onto after he lost his barony?  Or are you so dense that you haven't quite grasped the current situation?

Anyway, Tiger tries to produce the diamond but can't find it, and McCoy hasn't stolen it either, so he can only conclude it's "playin' games" with them.

"Maybe it has a spirit that carries it," said Wanna thoughtfully.  "In the temple we had three talismans that had spirits which took them around.  I remember one of the girls had the office of feeding one of the spirits."

"Probably it was a priest," said Tiger, who cared little for superstitions of the Jinn.

"No, they were real spirits.  One of them sang awfully cute."

"I'll bet he did," said Tiger.  "But that isn't solving where that diamond goes."

Is it me, or does Tiger seem really dismissive of his wife consort here?  And why is he being so quick to roll his eyes at Wanna's story as some superstition or trick?  The genie goddess turned out to be controlled by chains and levers, true, but Tiger saw firsthand how Queen Ramus was able to transform herself into a beautiful woman, so it's possible there is more to Wanna's wandering talismans than a corrupt priest moving them about when no one's looking.

But back to the diamond.  Tiger is certain that the Two World Diamond has some magical powers, and he was hoping to do some quiet tests to try and work out how to use the thing to his advantage during the inevitable naval battle, but that isn't an option now.  Again, there's no continuity with the last book, no admission that Tiger used a similar artifact to wreck an entire enemy fleet.  He wasn't even hoping to use the diamond to pull the nails out of enemy ships, but was thinking more about how it moved Wanna and Tombo and Malek around.

So Tiger is uncharacteristically troubled.  There's also some uncharacteristic sympathy between Tiger and his unknown human world counterpart, as the sailor has been suffering an unexplained headache all day, feels strangely thoughtful and cautious, and is troubled by "Dim recollections of things he felt he had never seen or done," a sense that some vital part of him has returned but is in danger.  Which would mean that now that the Two World Diamond is gone Tiger is finally feeling his connection to Palmer, who has similarly lost the thing in his world.  So you just need to handle the thing for a bit to get your two-souls aligned, and then it's okay if you lose it?

And that's the situation in Genie World - Tiger's fleet is preparing for battle, which will either begin a campaign that could see him in control of the sea lanes and thus the world, or he'll get curbstomped by sheer numbers.  There's nowhere to run, no magic diamond to bail him out this time, and he has a headache.  And so days pass, with the pirates waiting for the enemy to appear... huh.  First time we've fast-forward like this without switching to Palmer each time Tiger calls it a night.

Well, as we've seen, consistency isn't one of this book's strong points.


Back to Chapter Eight 

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Masters of Sleep - Chapter Eight - Alice Makes Everything Worse

Tiger presumably has a decent night's sleep as the newly-installed emperor-admiral of a pirate fleet, while in contrast Palmer regains consciousness in his living room as a doctor prattles on about the marvelous design of the human skull and how Palmer might have died if the blow that knocked him out had fallen an inch to the right.  His servants carried him there after discovering him sprawled on the floor of his study, and now there's a crowd that includes doctors, police, and a weeping The Swede Girl apologizing and hoping she won't get blamed for her boyfriend's attack.  Alice is of course horrified, tending to her husband and-

Oh.  Wait.  No, that's not what she's doing.

Alice sat at a secretary desk writing notes of invitation to a tea party and commenting sideways now and then on her amazement that Jan would lie down in his study all night without calling anyone and on her concern that he might miss out on a board meeting scheduled for that afternoon.

I just wonder what happened in the decade between this and Slaves of Sleep to make Hubbard hate Alice so much... oh, right, bigamist marriage in 1946, belated divorce in 1947, so at the time this was published Hubbard's second marriage was on its way to collapsing the next year.  Yeah, that might explain some of this.

In the midst of this commotion, Palmer is gloomily focused on that stolen diamond, which he knows is the key to reversing the terrible change in his life, the way to restore that nameless thing that has been lost.  He staggers up to his room to shave and change out of bloodstained clothes, while The Swede Girl follows him around and wails, and when he finally returns to the main floor, all Alice can say is that she hopes he feels better and can he be a dear and take these letters to the post office on his way to work?

Jan took the letters.  He was about to reply submissively when he astonished himself.  "Mail your own damned letters!" he said.  "What the Great Horn Spoon's the idea trying to make me run your errands?  What am I, an errand boy?  And as for you," he roared, turning on the Swede girl, "go down to your galley and stay there and shut up that confounded yapping!  And if I ever catch you haying around with another condemned Commie I'll give you exactly what you deserve, a taste of the cat!  Now!" he barked, dropping the letters and thrusting Alice aside, "get out of my way and stay out of my way."

He left and the two women promptly collapsed into one another's arms in an orgy of tears.

Good name for a rock band, Orgy of Tears.  But yes, Palmer seems to be channeling Tiger here, which is to say he's being a dick, but in a commanding, heroic manner.  Which means that he must have the Two World Diamond on his person somewhere, since Tiger took it off McCoy last chapter.  But it'll be another three pages before Palmer actually checks his pocket and finds the thing.

So he goes to work, despite his terrible head injury, because what kind of millionaire executive would take a day off?  He hits his office "like an Alaskan williwaw," decisive and invigorated.  He sweeps all the letters and such off his desk and starts pressing buttons.  It's time for some changes, dammit, starting with Bering Steam supporting a project to build an Alaskan highway instead of "a military miscarriage designed to favor Canadian mining interests," like the rest of the board favors.  But instead of getting members of the board, Palmer instead encounters a union delegate from the Friends of Russia Communist International Objectors Seaman's Union Local No. 350, someone who believes "anyone who belonged to a democracy or indulged in trade was a capitalist and that only Communists were free and he believed besides that the only way Communism could make the world free was to enslave it and the only way to do that was to set up a super-capitalism called Sovietism."  And man, you know you're in for some good satire when the author is using economic concepts that don't actually appear in textbooks.

This little commie, one Simon Lucar, comes in to complain about Bering Steam's discriminatory hiring practices - why, this American company refuses to employee anyone who isn't from the United States!  Palmer has no time for this foolishness, and when Lucar calls him a racist, he punches the guy clean through the glass door to his office, then picks the union delegate up and throws him across the door.  Yeah!  Take that, communism!  This is democracy and freedom in action, solving disagreements through force and demonstrating the rightness of their cause by attacking anyone who defies them!

"I'll get you!" whined Lucar, struggling up.

"Go to hell!" said Jan.

Lucar instantly collapsed.  He collapsed in a very peculiar way.  He collapsed as does a man when he is dead.

Uh oh.

In Palmer's defense, it's only after he checks the guy's pulse, confirms he's dead, and shakily reaches for a handkerchief that he realizes he's once again holding that magic stone that does dangerous things when you speak carelessly around it.  He knows that the battery he just committed wouldn't be enough to kill Lucar - "Besides, it was impossible to kill Commies with a tap on the head." - so he must have sent his soul somewhere with the magic diamond.

By this point other people in the office are starting to gather around the scene of the crime and send for police and paramedics, so Palmer has an audience as he experiments with commands.  "Come back from hell!" doesn't work, but "I conjure you to return from hell!" causes "the Commie" to shudder back to life.  Lucar immediately screams and recoils from Palmer, and orders the approaching police officers to arrest him.  "He suddenly went crazy!  Insane!"  And while the police are reluctant to get involved, since Palmer is of course the very rich president of Bering Steam, when a dazed Palmer admits that yes, he did attack Lucar, they have to cart him off.  Lucar has no residual ill-effects after a taste of the fire and torment that awaits the godless communists, but instead continues to crow about Palmer's fit of insanity.

In all of a paragraph, Palmer gets taken to a police station and processed, and the diamond is confiscated and placed in a safe along with the rest of the contents of his pockets.  He expects that his attorney will get him out in no time, but that darn board of directors is up to its old tricks again, and sends someone else instead.

The psychiatrist was a very learned man if not quite bright.  He examined the idea that the blow on the head might have unsettled Jan's wits but being a rather backward individual the psychiatrist had neglected to read anything about Dianetics, though it was well known to his fellow psychiatrists.

This is Dr. Dyhard, who like Doc Harrington last book wears pince-nez glasses, but while our previous psychiatrist had the excuse of ignorance when it came to his diagnosis, Dyhard just refuses to see the light and embrace Dianetics, whatever that is.  He examines the case, and how Palmer was accused and jailed for murder last book, and declares the man a paranoid schizophrenic who feels persecuted by communists, who are of course harmless.  Fortunately he has a solution: a transorbital leukotomy, a procedure involving electric shocks and metal in the frontal lobe, after which Palmer will no longer be troubled by any delusions.  A lobotomy, in other words.

And there's the "This is not a real operation!" and "But the frontal lobes are what makes man a thinking animal!" and the like from our hero, while the psychologist villain explains that "Men think and men go insane, therefore thinking is insanity" and "if you think you or anybody else can question our right to do these things you are mistaken" and so on.  Nothing we haven't seen/will see in Mission Earth, in other words.  And even though Palmer doesn't want his brains scrambled, it turns out Dyhard already contacted Alice, who tearfully agreed to put Palmer through an operation to cure his fits of rage under the logic that "if a psychiatrist said so, it must be so."

Nothing about Palmer's strange personality shift, how he seemed to be channeling a salty sailor that morning.  Maybe the fact that he was actually yelling at his wife trumped what he was yelling.

Palmer gets outraged that he's lost his civil rights by being declared insane, Dyhard gets enraged at Palmer's rage and tries to grab him only to get punched for his trouble, allowing the psychiatrist to call the guards for help and feel vindicated that his patient is "hopelessly insane.  A classic paranoid schizophrenic."  So Palmer's screwed.  All he did was scream at his wife and servant, throw someone through a door and against a wall, and now these maniacs are calling him some sort of dangerous psycho!  Once he gets his magic diamond back and regains the power to manipulate human souls, I'm sure he'll be able to prove his sanity.

We get a break in the paragraph before checking in on what some other characters are up to.  Lucar gets a bounty of rubles for getting a capitalist thrown into jail, while Chan Davies - oh, did I not mention that two chapters ago?  Well, that communist ex-lumberjack who stole the diamond from Palmer is named Chan Davies.  I was a little unsure whether it was his name or if that was the identity of The Swede Girl, so that's probably why I didn't mention it.

Anyway, Davies is upset when he finds out that his stolen diamond has in turn been stolen from him, but he's pleased to hear the news about Palmer's incarceration, and goes back to the Palmer residence to regroup with The Swede Girl and comfort her for being a victim of one of "Jan's racism rages."  Alice, as per her new role for this book, apologizes to the lumberjack for Palmer's accusations and assures him that any charges will be dropped, then agrees when he offers to be her "bodyguard" as she goes to the jail to recover Palmer's possession.  The lumberjack does a lot of wriggling during this, because remember he has lice.  This is probably a metaphor or something about communist parasites leeching the lifeblood from capitalist democracy.  And don't bathe.

So Alice and Davies go to the jail, not to visit Palmer, of course, but to take his stuff home, including that big-ass diamond.  But a sergeant explains that the diamond is such an irregular find that without a receipt or information about where it was bought, they can't let it go, especially if it was in the hands of "a nut--excuse me--of a prisoner."  And since Palmer is incommunicado at the "spinbin," the police will have to go through a list of stolen gems to see if they'll be able to release the diamond.

"That's illegal," said Alice.

"That's good sense," said the sergeant.  And as far as he was concerned the interview was over.

Alice shrugged, put the wallet and small possessions in her purse and guarded by a tragically disappointed Davies, drove back home again.

Note that Alice doesn't ask if she can get in touch with Palmer, purely to ask where he got the stone instead of checking in on his condition, she was asking whether sergeant could do it.  Now, Hubbard is doing his damnedest to make Alice as unlikable as possible, and while I'd love to spite him on general principle... well, he's just done too good a job.  Alice in this story is as much an obstacle to our protagonist as the book's outright villains, and we can't even say she has good intentions because she shows so little interest in her husband's well-being.  What's worse, she's being inconsistently obnoxious - before she was a domineering housewife bossing around her hubby while she loafed around with her girlfriends, now she's bowing to this psychiatric authority figure and weepingly consigning her husband to brain surgery.

Hubbard has created awful female characters before, of course - the Countess Krak, Teenie, Chrissie, and so forth - but what makes Alice stand out is that last book she didn't suck.  She had character development when she found the strength to stand up to her boss and save Palmer's bacon.  She had good points as well as flaws, such as her inexplicable attraction to Palmer in his weenie phase.  And here she is, two-dimensional and worse than useless.  The disgust is deeper because we know what was lost.

Though it's still unclear how it was lost.  Palmer reverting to his previous characterization makes sense because he forgot he was Tiger.  But Alice wasn't nearly this bad before she learned about her dual life as Wanna the temple dancer, so how has forgetting that made her so obnoxious?

If Slaves of Sleep was Hubbard's Super Metroid, Masters of Sleep would be his Metroid: Other M.


Back to Chapter Seven

Monday, September 12, 2016

Masters of Sleep - Chapter Seven - From Baron to Prisoner to Admiral

You'd think that Palmer being sent to bed early with the help of a lead pipe might have some impact on Tiger's transition from sleep to wake in the other world, but although he is the first person in the cell to wake up, he doesn't suddenly jerk awake or come to with an unexplained headache.  He's just a little stiff from volunteering his arm as Wanna's pillow all night.  He doesn't even remark that he's up earlier than usual, so maybe Tiger's the sort of person who normally wakes up at dawn.

Tiger stretches, "like a big cat" of course, which disturbs and wakes the others, who start to complain "until they found it was Tiger who had done the disturbing, at which they relapsed into sufferance."  Remember, the key characteristic of heroes is that they can get away with crap that normal people can't.  Tombo and Malek also wake up, and Tombo immediately decides it's time to look for that diamond.

Don't worry, the beautiful white girl doesn't get felt up by the brutish ifrit, Tombo decides that Wanna's skimpy outfit doesn't have any pockets to search.  But Tiger gets patted down, then the other humans, until with a cry of surprise followed by a punch and a yelp, Tombo pulls the Two World Diamond from Muddy McCoy's person.  Tombo taunts that the "foolish humans" have no idea of the stone's true power, tells Malek to grab his arm, and with a cry of "To Ramus City both!  Fly!" the two jinn rocket into the sky, a rainbow trailing in their wake.  Excuse me, vanish in a blast of sudden wind.

You know, like how Zongri managed to vanish from Palmer's study at the start of the previous book, without the aid of a powerful magical artifact.  Boy, this stone must be powerful if it lets these genies do what we've seen another genie accomplish on his own.

Once the humans are done being stunned that the supernatural genies actually used magic, Tiger scrabbles on the floor and holds up the "magic stone" Tombo used to escape, and tries to do the same.  He gets everyone to gather close and hold on to each other, lifts the diamond up high, commands "To Ramus City all five!  Fly!" and-

Wait, Ramus City?  Hang on, let me yank at the book jacket and see if I can read the map on the inside of the cover... o-kay.  The World of the Jinn apparently comprises of a paltry two landmasses.  The one on the north is Tarbutón - excuse me, Tarbuton, someone forgot the diacritic - which consists of the Withered Desert in the northeast, the city of Tarbuton in a bay along the south coast, but there is also the settlement of Ramus City a short distance to the northwest of that.  The weird thing is that it looks like the Palace of Ramus is in Tarbuton the city, while the Temple of Rani is in Ramus City.  But I thought Tiger was able to reach the temple by running the streets and alleys of Tarbuton?  If it's one sprawling settlement, why is the part of it that Ramus doesn't live in called Ramus City?

Oh, and there's also Balou to the south of Tarbuton, and if you consider Tarbuton to be a continent then Balou could only be called an island.  Balou's capital is Balou, situated on Balou Bay.  And aside from those two landmasses and three cities, Genie World is nothing but water, some small isles, and the squiggle of the Frying Pan Shoals to the east.

Anyway, Tiger can't get the Two World Diamond to work, even when he spends the next two hours trying out various commands.  When he finally gives up, he asks McCoy where he got the thing, and the pickpocket insists he didn't do nothin', he just woke up and the thing was on him.  How strange.  Much like how Wanna ended up with the thing after Alice took it from Palmer in the human world.  Gee, I wonder who McCoy's human world counterpart might be?

Also, for an artifact that purportedly "becomes the soul companion of its possessor but attaches itself to the material being" it sure changes hands a bunch.

Tiger tells McCoy to shut up and suddenly asks Wanna how things were doing back in Tarbutón "when the old lady kicked off?"

"You mean Ramus the Magnificent?" said Wanna, dutiful subject that she had been.

"I mean Ramus of the Triple Chin," said Tiger.

"She died."

"I know," said Tiger patiently.

This is what happens when you marry take someone as your consort based on how they look in a slave dancer's outfit.

Wanna explains that they tried to keep Ramus' death a secret, but then Zongri took over.  Oh yeah, didn't you know?  Our old friend Zongri escaped from the work camps last March and just swept in and replaced Ramus once the old bat kicked it, but he still plans to continue the campaign against Arif-Emir over "some silly jewel" ...Wanna, uh, well she does the best she can with what she has, okay?

So Stagger Ryan summarizes the situation for us, that between Arif wanting to kill them for stealing his diamond and Zongri wanting to kill Tiger over that dimly-remembered stuff that happened last book, they might actually be safest as prisoners on a pirate ship.  Wanna starts bawling because she wasn't able to figure all this out for herself - her "education was, after all, only that of a temple dancing girl" - and tells Tiger to just get rid of the diamond.

Tiger, following the Arabian adage of always listening carefully to the advice of women and then doing the exact opposite, chucked her under the chin.  "Honey, if I were Old Thunderguts up on deck--"

Whirrrrrrr!  Zzzzzzt!

I mean... this isn't a complete retread of "If I Were You."  We're on boats instead of in the circus.  There's no little people involved.  The only Tiger around is a human.

So Tiger is now in the flabby, lice-infested, intoxicated body of Thunderbolt the pirate emperor.  He's able to push through the alcohol and come up with a quick scheme, and tells a guard that he's bored and orders the prisoners brought up.  In due time the five humans are produced (those two genies have vanished, oddly enough), and for some reason one of them is ranting and raving about how he's Thunderbolt the pirate emperor.  Wanna is of course crying.

So Tiger-as-Thunderbolt confiscates the magic diamond from Thunderbolt-as-Tiger, then he makes an announcement - he knows his crew is starting to think him old and weak, so he'll challenge each of these prisoners to a knife fight, and the winner gets his crown.  He starts with Thunderbolt-as-Tiger, and takes care to mention how he's heard of Tiger the legendary sailor and former baron, and asks the ship's crew if they'll except him as leader if he wins.  Naturally, the crewmen all cheer at the thought of following a Hubbard Action Hero into battle.

"Wait!" said Thunderbolt as Tiger, for his rage had cooled to a point where he realized that he would be stabbing his own body and was, in short, in a considerable mess against unknown magic.

Tiger as Thunderbolt threw his opponent a knife.  The quarterdeck was cleared.  And then Tiger gripped the stone and whispered, "If I was you--"

Whirrrr!  Zzzzt!

Whirrr!  Zzzzt!

Tiger steadied himself as Tiger and plunged ten inches of good steel into the heart of Old Thunderguts.

This feels kind of murder-y, doesn't it?  Tiger using magic to make someone agree to duel him and then stabbing them in the heart while they're still disoriented from having their soul moved from body to body.  I mean, he could've taken Thunderguts over and abruptly announced his retirement and Tiger's surprise appointment as his successor.  But nope, he killed the guy instead.  Simpler that way, isn't it?

So a "shudder of pleasure" goes through the ship's crewmen, that very physical happiness that comes from being commanded by a Hubbard Action Hero, but the late Thunderguts' guards had been ready to follow a nameless guy in the red shirt, and they immediately lunge at Tiger.  What follows is... not really an action sequence.  We get a paragraph explaining that Tiger learned how to fight with a rapier after becoming a baron, then two paragraphs summarizing the fight.  Unsurprisingly, Tiger is too skilled for anyone else to lay a finger on, and cuts down five grunts without breaking a sweat.  When Red Shirt himself presses our hero, Tiger fights him on the after house, throws a rope at his enemy to entangle him, then "with two quick punctures, let out Red Shirt's sinful life."

It's all so matter-of-fact, so disinterested compared to those old Hubbard Action Sequences that are still decades away from when this book was written.  Not a single exclamation point to be seen.  Guess even the author knew how much a foregone conclusion any battle against Tiger is, so why pretend there's any question over who will win it?

So Tiger strikes a heroic pose on the rear of the ship, with his headsilk glowing in the sun and his sword red with blood, and the crewmen cheer because now they're going to be commanded by a proper captain.  Our hero gives orders, installs his buddies as officers, and sticks Wanna in the "emperor"'s cabin because she's useless before bedtime.  By the end of the day the fleet of mangy pirates is starting to look more respectable, any recalcitrant captains have been giving a thumping by the new boss, and Tiger's fellow outlaws are worried that Tombo will come back once he learns he left the diamond behind, or that Arif will catch up with them.  Tiger's so unconcerned that the chapter ends with him saying "Pass the salt horse."

So while Palmer's situation back in Seattle has taken a turn for the worse, and will continue to decline, Tiger's star is rising even if there's... uh, other stars out there that are trying to kill him?  And want to take a planet from him?  At any rate, we're all set for yet another climactic naval battle.  But don't worry, Hubbard has more satire in store for us in the intervening chapters with Palmer, so at least some parts of this book will be entertaining.


Back to Chapter Six

Friday, September 9, 2016

Masters of Sleep - Chapter Six - The Perils of Hiring Swedes

It's debatable whether it's better to let your spouse sleep if you find him or her or other slumped over their desk, or to wake them up and encourage them to get in a proper bed so they don't feel gross the next morning.  Alice evidently believes in the former approach, so Palmer wakes up feeling "none-too-oiled" the next morning.  He rings a bell to summon "the Swede girl" to make him some coffee while he "applied the materials necessary to make his cheeks smooth, like in the ads."  Which is to say that Palmer shaved.

I dunno, there's just something weird about this book, and not just from reading it right after the previous volume.  The POV has stopped jumping around so much, but there's still odd phrases like that, attempts at wry humor or something that just don't suit Hubbard at all.  Like he's trying to imitate Douglas Adams thirty years before The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy came out, except Hubbard also wants to put in - well, we'll see soon enough.

Smooth-cheeked and caffeinated, Palmer sits down at his desk to study the diamond some more, and is so certain that it should be where he left it yesterday that it takes him a while to notice that it isn't right in front of him.  He searches his office, calls in the Swede girl to ask her about it, but she explains she "vas not seeing" a diamond and won't stand for any accusations of theft.  Except we don't see this interaction play out through dialogue, it's just summarized in a brief paragraph.  More evidence if you wanted to make the case that Hubbard was phoning this one in.

Palmer manages to mollify den svenska tjejen right before Alice comes in to tell him it's nine o'clock and he really needs to be at the office, before anyone on the board of directors tries to take over the company.  Again.  Hubbard inexplicably decides to give a belated description of Alice's character, and presents her as "a hard-eyed ex-businesswoman who had gotten her man and, having gotten him, was making very sure that he did all the business necessary not only for the money involved but also because she had a lifetime habit of keeping a man at his job."  Because it's just ludicrous to think that a woman might want a career of her own, especially after getting married.

Nothing we couldn't guess already, in other words, but Hubbard also insists that this is a recent change, that Alice had lost "something poetic" just as Palmer recently lost his courage.  We'll have to take his word for it, though - unlike Palmer, we never saw Alice's character change as a result of her becoming aware of her dual existence as Wanna.  So we can only speculate how that timid temple dancer rubbed off on Alice, and what "poetic" traits were gained, and lost, entirely off-camera between this book and the last.

Palmer meekly agrees to get moving, but remembers to ask his wife about a diamond, and she says yes she saw it, and it's much too expensive a present, "what with the government and its silly taxes and all.  You'll have barely enough cash to pay your income tax as it is, despite the fact that they are letting you keep one half of one percent of your own money this year and only telling you how to spend two-thirds of that."

Ladies and gentlemen and smizmars, I believe the Satire is well and truly beginning.  God help us all.

Palmer decides to let her keep believing that it's a present to be returned to the jewelry store rather than a magic rock that suddenly appeared in his pocket the other day, and asks where it is so he can go take it back.  But Alice can't quite remember, though she does think it might be in the pocket of one particular gown.  We get a paragraph of her summoning a maid and trying to find the specific outfit while Palmer hides his impatience, and in the end they realize the dress has been sent to the cleaners.  Then over the rest of the page we get a cursory description of how Palmer called the cleaners, learned the gown must still be on a truck, and so set out in his car, desperate to find the diamond even though he's not quite sure why, only that it might be connected to the strange nightmares he had last night.  He eventually tracks down the right vehicle, only to come up empty-handed when he searches its cargo of dirty laundry.

He goes home, defeated, only to be greeted at the door by Alice with the diamond in hand.  They found it under the bed.  Welp.

Jan sighed with relief and asked for it.

"Not until you give me a kiss," said Alice.  "There, that's a good boy."

Did Hubbard forget to write Palmer giving his wife the kiss?  'cause she went for asking for one to thanking him for one without any other indication that she'd actually gotten one.

But she didn't give up the diamond.  "If I were you," she said, "I--"

Whirr!  Zzzt!

No, no, we're going with the doodily-doodily-doodily sound effect, Hubbard, it's much more dignified.  But yeah, no sooner does Alice say these careless words than suddenly Palmer is looking at himself from the other side of the doorway.  And I have to say, this stupid diamond is awfully trigger-happy.  We went from Palmer saying "Good lord, I wish I was someone else" and thus activating it, to Wanna simply wishing that she was with her Tiger, to Alice speculating about if she was someone else.  Thing needs a child safety lock or something.

If this book were written thirty years later, there's no telling what kind of kinky stuff would have happened after Palmer and his wife swapped bodies, but in this case Hubbard is restrained enough to have Palmer immediately grab the diamond and say "Good lord, I wish I were Jan."  And with a Zzzt!  Whirr! doodily-doodily-doodily they're back in the right flesh sacks.

"Wha-what happened.  I-I-" gasped Alice.  "I-I'm sure I was you for a minute!  I felt as though-"

"Nonsense," said Jan hastily.  "Delusions, delusions.  Why don't you go see your Dianeticist.  Something restimulated, no doubt." 

You can just imagine the slow, incredulous smile that spread across my face when I got to this part.  Yes, Hubbard's program to cure all your physical and mental problems at very reasonable rates was launched in the May 1950 issue of Astounding Science Fiction, a few months before Masters of Sleep debuted in the October issue of Fantastic Adventures, so he decided to include it in this story as well.  Feels almost like cheating, writing a book in which your other product is wildly successful.  And kind of sad, too, like charging other people to read your wish-fulfillment fan fiction.

But this does lead to a possible answer to the question of why this story was written in the first place, so long after Slaves of Sleep, and when Hubbard seems oddly unenthusiastic about it - this nonsense about Palmer and the Two-World Diamond could be nothing more than a way of advertising Hubbard's entry in the self-help business, a story driven by the power of corporate synergy.

Let's get back to this joyless effort to shill pseudoscience.  Palmer doesn't go on to work like Alice wants, or does he drive off to take the diamond back to the jewelers.  Instead he locks himself in his study and gets out all the ancient tomes he has on Arabianology to try to find information about this thing.  By four o'clock he uncovers a reference to it in Ibn Mahmud's Magical Stones and Jewels of the Eastern Kingdoms, a book so rare and valuable that even Wikipedia hasn't heard of it.  The text's "Arabian script," which sounds a lot harder to read than plain old Arabic, describes the Two World Diamond as something that landed in a meteorite near Thebes, then was inscribed with a magical seal in Sulayman's workshops.  It also calls the sigil within it a tetrahedron even though we've wondered about this in the comments section of Chapter Three.  Oh, and the rock is two hundred and ninety-six carats, in case you wanted to try to attach a material value to this magical shiny thing.

Anyway, the Diamond is meant to command the air elementals, much like how the original Seal of Solomon is said to have bound genies to Solomon's will, but it can also move souls around, and has the quality of bind itself to whoever possesses it and travel between the world of genies and the world of men.  Neat.  Though designed to be used by a human, the jinn like the thing because they can use it to hop out of an old and dying body and take over a new one, kicking the body's previous owner's soul straight to hell.  Dick move, genies, but at least now we know why Ramus wanted her turn with the thing.

So there, the powers of this book's incredible magical artifact all laid out for us.  Makes you wonder why everyone hyped Solomon's magic ring when this puppy is so obviously superior to it.  On that note, once again said Seal of Sulayman is not so much as mentioned despite it being directly related to this artifact, and we're running out of chapters in which to learn what the hell happened to it.

Palmer reads the whole passage twice, feels foreboding from all this talk of jinn and magic, but keeps going through his books in hope of finding more information.  And then - dammit Hubbard, I just said the POV hopping had calmed down, and here you go again.

So while Palmer is pondering over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore, the Swede girl comes by with dinner since Alice is doing girly stuff this evening - and no, Hubbard didn't forget that Palmer locked himself inside his study, he mentions that Palmer had to let her in.  He'll let last book's magical artifact slip from memory, not minor details like this.  Anyway, she spies the huge diamond, then returns to the kitchens, where her fiancée is hanging about, a "sly-eyed lumberjack" who was actually just fired from his job at a lumber camp "up on the Skykomish or Snohomish or Snoqualimie or some equally Seattlesque name," so I guess he's just sly-eyed now.  Also, there's some more of that new Hubbard humor.

Anyway, he's not just a sly-eyed ex-lumberjack, this guy is also a lice-infested ex-lumberjack, so he wriggles.  A lot.  Several times a sentence, if Hubbard can help it.  And after his girlfriend describes this fist-sized stone, this ex-lumberjack suddenly remembers that he should leave for his meeting at the Friends of Russia Communist International Objectors Social Hall Lumberjacks Local No. 261, and also propaganda work to do as Chairman of the Committee for Making Dissatisfied Minorities Dissatisfied... okay, I'm scared.  This is starting to feel a lot like Mission Earth.  I've already read this stupid story but I'm still afraid that some lesbian is going to be raped straight in the next chapter.

So the lice-infested ex-lumberjack Communist wriggles his way down the driveway, then doubles back and wriggles his way to the shrubs outside Palmer's window.  Our protagonist has just been dismayed to learn that a work with additional information about the Two-World Diamond was lost when Julius Caesar burned down the Great Library of Alexandria, and doesn't hear someone use a wire to undo the latch of his window...

Okay, you'd think after Professor Frobish broke in, Palmer would have invested in better home security.  As it is, the ex-lumberjack breaks in and confronts Palmer with "the chief Communist political argument, the lead pipe."  Two whacks later and Palmer is out cold, while that dirty Communist is gleefully daydreaming about how many servants he'll be able to afford after he sells the diamond in his pocket.  Man, it's bad enough getting KO'd by a blunt instrument, but getting KO'd by a blunt instrument being wielded by a hypocrite is even worse.

And that's our chapter.  Sure was... something, wasn't it?  Learned a lot plot-wise, and learned a lot about what the author might have been doing when he wrote this turkey.


Back to Chapter Five

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Masters of Sleep - Chapter Five - Dude, Where's My Diamond?

It's nighttime in Seattle and Palmer is asleep, so it's morning off the coast of Balou and Tiger is sitting in the boat, going through his pockets, unsuccessfully searching for the priceless diamond that so many people want to get their mitts on.  Walleye is the first to notice and comprehend what's happening, then Stagger Ryan sees the look on their faces and quietly asks Tiger "The diamond or the money or both?"  When Tiger admits that he's lost the rock, Ryan draws his cutlass, and Muddy McCoy finally stops sharpening his knife and realizes what's going on.  McCoy jumps up, his blade dancing in his hands as he insists "I didn't do nothing!" as the others advance on him, ready to shake the stolen rock out of him.

So I guess it's one of those situations, where the band of criminals turns on each other over suspicions of theft or squealing or whatever.  Might be more effective if we knew or cared who any of these non-Tiger people are beyond what we heard Tombo tell Malek two chapters ago, but whatever.  Everyone's ready to believe McCoy stole the diamond because nobody likes him and he's so nasty he'd give the sharks indigestion, which begs the question of why Tiger decided to escape with him in the first place.  McCoy gets up on the ship's railing and threatens to jump, but Tiger is easily able to overpower him and throw the thief onto the deck, an interaction so routine and unexciting that Hubbard doesn't try to spice it up with an exclamation point.

Tiger and Ryan search McCoy for the diamond but can't find it, so Ryan suggests they cut him open in case he's swallowed it.  But then someone says "I'll save you the trouble, lads," an interruption so dramatic it causes a break in the paragraphs.  Turns out Tombo and Malek have found the ship's supply of pistols, which they're pointing at the humans, and Tombo demands the Two-World Diamond.

Yes, the two ifrits were watching this squabble, waiting for their moment to step forward, but the narration helpfully explains that for all their power - snrk, sure, Hubbard - ifrits aren't actually all that bright.  So no, they never picked up that the humans might be squabbling because the diamond disappeared.  Tiger explains to the "dear admiral" that they don't know where the diamond is, then...

Well, that 'squabbling thieves' stuff was getting boring, wasn't it?  So here comes three pirate ships.  The Age of Sail equivalent of Chandler's Law, I guess.

Tiger leaps into action, giving orders and altering course, completing ignoring the pistol-toting jinn whose puny brains are still having trouble processing this sudden change in fortune.  Despite Tiger's efforts, the pirate ships are still faster than the cargo lugger, so after the second warning shot hits the water in front of their bow, Tiger gives the order to pull over, nautically-speaking.  A pirate demands through a trumpet that they come aboard, Tiger replies that they'll have to send a boat to fetch them since their ship doesn't have one of its own... and the funny thing is, the narration points out right before they do this that the pirates are flying a red flag to indicate that they aren't giving any quarter.  So I'm a little confused why they aren't just plugging Tiger and company where they stand.

Anyway, a bunch of pirates come to take over the lugger, and when asked if he stole the boat, Tiger grins in response, earning him some points in their eyes.  Then he and the other captives are ferried over to the buccaneers' flagship, the Terror.  Or, as the narration explains, maybe it "might better have been named the Horror for so she would have appeared to any seamanlike eye."  Why, the ship's rigging is so askew that its masts are raking in different directions, the ship's halyards are chafed, even its blocks are rusted!  And note that of these nautical terms, only "halyards" is in the book's glossary, because go to hell, landlubber.

This filthy, mismanaged boat is run by His Majesty Thunderbolt, a fat drunk in a silk robe with a gold crown on his head, who sits on a throne while his red-shirted lieutenant gives the orders to keep the ship moving.  Once Tiger and friends associates are brought before him and his retinue of bodyguards, he takes one look at the prisoners and sentences them to death.  So I guess the red flag means that prisoners will be executed eventually, once the captain has gotten a good look at them.

Tiger immediately replies that it'd be a waste of a ransom amounting to three hundred thousand... well, he doesn't specify a currency beyond gold coins, so let's just assume it's gil.  Anyway, he keeps repeating that three hundred thou figure, pirate king Thunderbolt keeps repeating his execution order, and all the pirates around them mutter their suspicions and suggestions.  The story Tiger spins is that good old Admiral Tombo is a very wealthy jinn who owes Tiger a life debt, and when a pirate suggests they just kill the humans and ransom the genie, Tiger goes from putting a hand on Tombo's shoulder to holding a knife to his throat.  Needless to say, Tombo is getting really confused by this point.

In the end, Thunderbolt tells his crew to put the captives all in the same brig as Tiger demanded, then as they're being led away complains that "You never do what I tell you.  Never.  But I get the next captives and I get to do it like I want!"  Despite this, as he follows Tiger belowdecks, Tombo tries to insist that this is "Old Thunderguts," the fearsome leader of a crew of escaped slaves who now terrorizes the sea lanes.  Point the first, let me say you just can't do that, introduce the characters to a drunken 'king' who can't properly command his subjects, then insist he's some sort of scourge of the seas.  You can do the opposite for comedic purposes, of course, but it doesn't work the other way around.  Point the second, don't ask me to fear someone whose name evokes the sound of flatulence.

Fast forward to two o' clock in the afternoon, when Tiger and associates realize that someone in their dark, cramped cell is sobbing.  After sparking a light with some flint and steel, Tiger finds a girl huddled in the corner, and the sight of her sends him reeling - "Her delicate and lovely face, seen through her veil, discovered her to be Wanna, one-time temple dancer, the fragile beauty who had become by his conquest, Tiger's consort!"  Which is to say that he stole a slave and never properly married her.

Now, Tiger's puddle-shallow female 'love' interest should be in far-off Tarbutón, safe in "what remained of the baronial possessions which he had mostly squandered," and when Tiger tells her to "Stand and deliver" and "stow the weeps," she admits she has no idea how she ended up in the belly of a boat.  She starts crying again when he lets slip that she's stuck on the vessel of the dreaded "pirate emperor" Thunderguts, but eventually gives a half-page-long paragraph trying to explain what happened.

"When I woke up this morning (sniffle) I didn't mean any harm (dabs with Tiger's headsilk) and I put on my bathing gown and started to go to the baths (two sniffles) when I felt in my pocket and there was something there (more dabs with the headsilk) and I took it out and oh!  I almost went blind!  (Swift recovery with no sniffles whatever.)  It was a diamond as big as my hand!  What a stone!  I almost fainted

You get the picture.  Like Palmer, she freaked out after thinking of all the things that could happen to her if someone found out she had such a valuable treasure on her hands... you know, it's really strange that Hubbard is taking the time in this book to consider some of the burdens of wealth, when he spent most of his life trying to stuff as much of other people's money in his pockets as possible.  Anyway, Wanna got scared and hid the diamond under her bed, wished that she was with her Tiger, and doodily-doodily-doodily, here she is.  If she'd just said 'I wish Tiger was with me' this book would be pretty different, and I suspect a few chapters shorter.

Tombo, eyes on the prize, asks for the diamond now, but the squirrelly thing has of course vanished once again.  Tiger gets Tombo to back off while demanding to know what's so important about this shiny stone, but all the ifrit says is that he'll wait until the thing reappears, then it's his.  And that's where we end the chapter: waiting for this whimsical artifact to make up its mind about what dimension it's in and where it wants to be. 

So... last time Tiger had the Two-World Diamond until he fell asleep, then it wound up in Palmer's pocket.  When Palmer set it down and fell asleep, it stayed put until Alice found it and moved it around, but it should have gone back to Tiger, right?  And if Alice had it until she fell asleep, and then Wanna had it until she accidentally used it to transport herself to Tiger but she's still awake, is it just sitting in the floor of her room?  I don't think so, because next chapter-

You know what, it's magic, there's no use trying to explain it.


Back to Chapter Four