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

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