Friday, September 2, 2016

Masters of Sleep - Chapter Three - It's 50% More Powerful than the Last Doodad

And now we're back with Tiger in the World of Sleep.  Huh.  Last chapter it looked like Palmer had gotten up and was getting ready to go to work.  But since Tiger and Palmer are two bodies that share one soul, one sleeping while the other is awake, Palmer must have gone back to bed, right?  That's how it works, that's one of the core rules of this setting.  Maybe he did his tie too tight and passed out, and Tiger will suddenly fall asleep at the end of this chapter when the paramedics revive Palmer.

But back to Genie World, where a triumph is being led through the streets of Balou, whose human population is cheering wildly because marids with whips are on watch for insufficient displays of enthusiasm.  Other marids lead the procession as trumpeters, followed by human-pulled chariots carrying Arif-Emir's ifrit officers, how's that for a tongue twister, and then there's the... okay, so is he an emir, or is he using that as a name?  If that's his title, why does it come after Arif's name?  If that's not a title, what is his title?

Anyway, Arif is resplendent in his golden sedan chair, borne on the backs of human slaves, the Two-World Diamond shining in his turban, while he waves a wand to make "magic signs, pieces of golds, crosses and stars and other things, shedding his glorious light upon the multitude."  And I'm not sure whether he's using actual magic or just being grandiose.  Probably not, since this is a mostly low-magic setting.  Behind him comes the prisoners from the breaking of the blockade: Mr. Malek the sailing master, quite depressed about being in chains, Admiral Tombo, who is taking things in stride and bowing and grinning at the cheering crowds, and then...

Oh, but what's this?  Some of the captive human sailors have hoisted that rapscallion Tiger upon their shoulders, and now he's pompously imitating Emir Arif by waving a stick around, making the crowds scream with laughter!  The paragraph break that follows this revelation is presumably there to give us time for this scandal to sink in.  Tombo tries to go back and stop Tiger from screwing up any hopes of getting a light sentence, or maybe even a job as an emissary to Ramus' former holdings, but he's chained to the back of Arif's chair, and Tiger responds to his frantic gestures with more waves of his stick.  It's only when they reach Arif's palace and a guard helpfully points out the ruckus that Arif becomes aware of this mockery, and he promptly turns "three shades bluer than indigo."  So if indigo is a mix of blue and purple, he just turned blue?  His skin tone lightened when he got angry?

Whatever, Arif gets out of his chair to personally punish the prisoner, or rather tries to.  In a scene we've seen at least twice in Slaves of Sleep, an important genie gets all tangled in something and falls over, and Tiger rushes over to "help" them up in a way that gets them even more humiliated as they trip and fall down over and over.  This escalates to a whole crowd of soldiers and servants trying to assist their liege, and when the commotion is over - try to hide your shock - not only has Tiger and three other prisoners vanished, but a guard's keys have been stolen and his pockets picked.

Arif is furious, and thirsts for "the very special blood of Tiger" ...Hubbard, come on.  Admiral Tombo goes into full toady mode and offers to identify "our worst human" the instant he's captured, and Arif demands that the guards "Produce him!"  So yes, we're on the downward trajectory that will eventually end with Mission Earth's wonderful dialogue.

But Tombo, even though he was eager to stay on Arif's good side earlier, yanks his and Mr. Malek's chains free of Arif's throne and scampers off to allegedly search for Tiger.  Twenty minutes later the two fugitive ifrits have hidden themselves aboard a little cargo ship, unseen since all the harbor works are apparently still lining the parade route.  So two hours after that, a very nervous messenger gets to tell Emir Arif that - well, before he says anything meaningful, he asks for his master's kerchief as an assurance that he won't be decapitated for giving bad news.  And that makes sense, who'd want to get blood on a good hanky?  Especially someone else's blood.  That's not hygienic.

First is the revelation that not only are the four missing humans still at large, but the two ifrits captured from the Graceful Jinnia have vanished as well.  The second, much more important bit of news, is that the Two-World Diamond has been stolen.  The irreplaceable and unmistakable treasure that nearly glows with a light of its own.  The diamond set in the turban that Arif is currently wearingThat diamond.

Arif reached to his turban but reached in vain.  The fabulous gem was not there.  He grew gray.  He shook.  He staggered back and looked at the apprehensive faces of his officers.

"You know what this means," he said in a hoarse voice.  "If it comes into the hands of a human slave and he knows its use--"

The next paragraph mentions that all the genies know what's at stake here, and the whole war between Ramus and Arif was due to the former not trusting the latter with something that absolutely must not fall into human hands.  Paragraph break for no reason.  Arif flies into action, ordering his men to ransack the town for the Diamond, and to bring him that insufferable Tiger.  "He'll be taught, when we get him, he'll be taught!"  But Tiger is already-

Okay, Hubbard, you just interrupted a scene with a paragraph break but you didn't use one when you changed location.

Amazing what a difference ten years can make.  Anyway, Tiger's stolen a small trading vessel with the help of his fellow fugitives - Muddy McCoy, Walleye, and Stagger Ryan - and they're already far enough away from Balou that they can only just see the flash of signal guns ordering its port to be closed.  But in a highly convenient coincidence, they've stolen the vessel upon which Mr. Malek and Tombo are hiding, and the two jinn are peering at the humans from the cover of a bunch of sacks.

I think Hubbard is going for one of those classic comic duos with these two genies - Tombo is the big, bombastic one while Malek is dour and a bit dumb.  When they see that Tiger has the Two-World Diamond, Tombo has to clamp down on Malek's mouth to keep him from crying out in shock, then restrains the other ifrit before he stupidly goes charging out.  When Malek whispers that they should just jump the humans, Tombo has to point out that Walleye is a triple murderer and quite handy with a cutlass, Stagger Ryan is strong enough to climb a 160-foot rope hand-over-hand, Muddy McCoy is a former pickpocket and gutter-fighter, and they're all armed and the jinn aren't.  And then there's the matter of the diamond.

Malek blinked expectantly.

"The man who has the diamond is Tiger," said Tombo.

Mr. Malek heaved a very dismal sigh, wriggled backwards and gave up.  "It's impossible," he agreed.

At least they know who the main character is.  But yeah, it's a shame that these hulking, magical beings have no hope of overcoming a quartet of humans armed with sharpened bits of metal.  Especially when that ifrit on the cover of the book is shooting fire from his fingertips and everything.

But Tombo points out that the mortals have to sleep sometime, so the two genies wait while Tiger and the murderers and scumbags who he hangs out with eat their supper and speculate over how much the diamond he stole is worth.  The others think they could pawn it off and buy half a kingdom, but Tiger is strangely distracted, and admits that it feels like he can't quite remember something before shrugging the sensation off.  Then he takes a good, close look at his new treasure.

It was a limpid stone and its many facets were almost blinding when the light struck fair upon it.  But he had seen something else.  Down deep in its depths, etched there by some necromancy he could not understand,

Since necromancy involves trafficking with the spirits of the deceased, classically for the purposes of divination and more recently for the purposes of raising the dead, it's safe to say Tiger is out of his depth here.  This is just further evidence that Palmer's influence over him is gone, since as a college graduate he'd know all about necromancy.

he saw the three-dimensional Seal of Sulayman, three triangles made with only six lines.  

A tetrahedron, then?

He blinked and looked again and then sat back.  Tiger was not unacquainted with the two interlaced triangles which was Sulayman's original seal and which had itself vast powers.  He had seen the original seal knock every bolt and fastening aside which it met.  But here, here was a greater mystery.

It's almost as great a mystery as what happened to that original seal?!  The book finally mentioned the damn thing, but it has nothing else to say about it, much less an excuse for why Tiger hasn't been using it for the past twenty pages to get out of all his problems.

I mean, Tiger still remembers how to use the thing, he experimentally invokes the Seal of Sulayman and commands "that every nail in this box fly out!"  But nothing happens beside the other guys wondering what the hell he's doing.  So they go back to shooting the breeze, and when Tiger mentions that Ramus is dead - no other reaction to her death, no snide laugh that his puppet finally stopped being useful, no regret that one of his few genie allies is gone - they start talking about her throne being up for grabs and how Tiger would make a great emperor.  Or rather Stagger Ryan thinks Tiger would be a "swell" emperor, Muddy McCoy says he'd just get them all into trouble.  I'm with Muddy on this one - the last thing the world needs is an absolute monarch with Tiger's sense of humor.

Eventually it's time for bed, and after two changes of watch, Tombo creeps out of hiding to quietly search the slumbering Tiger.  But he can't find the Two-World Diamond, and returns to Malek empty-handed.

"I knew we'd fail," said Malek.

"You may know that," said Tombo, "but I don't.  All I know is that the diamond has never before been in human hands.  It becomes part of the soul, you know."

Malek blinked.

"It's gone now for Tiger sleeps," said Malek.  "It will be here when he wakes.  We'll have to plan for that.  Go to sleep."

So wait, if Tombo knew that the Seal of Sulayman 1.5 bonds with the soul, and that human souls flit between bodies whenever they fall asleep, why did he bother to - you know, whatever.  If Hubbard isn't going to answer the big questions, there's no hope for getting answers for the little ones.

Back to Chapters One and Two 


  1. I'm confused what's going on with the perspective, here. You'd think a story like this would either be in first-person or in third-person limited, right? You know, because that's what makes the best use out of the one protagonist, two-bodies thing (or some kind of Frisk-Chara relationship, whatever you call it). Obviously Tiger is unaware of the two stowaway genies plotting against them, or he'd get up and do something about it. Why would Hubbard ruin this concept by using Omniscient narrative? He always finds new and worse ways to fail, it's almost as bad as Stephenie Meyer when she finally decides to switch out of Bella's perspective during the only time her point of view would actually be interesting.

    Also, Tetrahedron? That's a 3D shape made out of four triangles, but only three would ever be visible at the same time.

    I was thinking the seal looked like a triforce from that description, but that also makes no sense since it also has four triangles. I really can't vision what shape hubbard was going for.

    1. We could speculate that the body-swapping that starts in the next chapter means that Hubbard couldn't be limited to a third-person perspective focused on Palmer-Tiger, but it's just as likely that this inconsistency is another one of the changes in style that happen when you take ten years between books.

      I don't know how this 3-D Seal of Solomon is supposed to work either, but can only hope that it has nothing to do with one of my favorite video game series. I don't know if I could enjoy another Zelda title if I kept seeing something from a Hubbard story in it.