Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Part 3, Chapter 3 - So Easy, Even a Caveman Can Do It

We skip ahead to Terl snickering at how stupid Jonnie looks in a huge Psychlo tractor seat, then immediately flash back to how they both got there. It's puzzling. Why do some trivial sequences get described in real time, while just as trivial sequences are covered in a neat bit of narration or flashback? What's the criteria L. Ron used to determine how to present his tiresome behemoth of a story?

Whatever. First there had been the Quest to Clothe Jonnie, made difficult because he's half the size of a Psychlo... and the little twit refused to wear purple. And then repeated himself after Terl smacked him for being so very, very stupid. Our hero is like a three-year-old. He doesn't wanna wear those clothes! They're the wrong color! If Terl physically forced a bawling Jonnie into a purple uniform, the little chimp would defiantly strip naked, folding his arms and jutting out his lip.

Terl, a terrible parent, caved to this negative behavior and got some blue Chinko fabrics for a Jonnie-sized uniform. Even though the stuff was "trash," nobody had thrown in away in the x number of years since the Chinkos were killed off. Jonnie also got an artifact belt buckle of plot significance, which bore the same eagle and arrows device as the stuff he found in the forbidden mountain and Great Village.

After that hubbub was the Quest to Procure a Vehicle, which ended in an outright brawl between Terl and a recalcitrant Zzt over what Jonnie would drive. It's really a shame that this throw-down was summarized in two sentences, because it's an action scene that the story solely needs after page after page of Jonnie in a cage. It'd give us a chance to see just how terrifying the Psychlos are in a fight, and really underscore their sheer physical power. It would help make them better villains, while at the same time highlighting the violent, hateful society they supposedly live in.

But no. Instead we get "Terl had hit Zzt hard and they had gone around and around for almost five minutes, blow and counterblow. Terl had finally tripped over a tool dolly and gotten himself kicked." Thrilling.

Since Terl lost, his pet is stuck with the 'dozer with the smashed cabin. Jonnie learns what color Psychlo blood is when he asks what all that green stuff coating the seat is, and then he asks why there's charred bits, which earns another whack from Terl. But the Pscyhlo does explain that there must have been a trace of uranium in the gold ore, which made the cabin's breathe-gas explode.

Keep in mind that Terl wants to mine gold from a radioactive area. Gold which could very well contain uranium impurities.

He also lets it slip that he can't speak English, thus compounding his stupidity for letting his rebellious servant know that the air he breathes explodes when exposed to a certain, reasonably common element.

After dooming his race to destruction in later chapters, and after showing Jonnie the basics of the tractor controls, Terl leaves his pet unsupervised, operating heavy machinery, so that he can take a nap. Y'see, Terl's been up all night trying to figure out what Numph was worried about in his never-ending search for leverage. Hours later, Jonnie's dug up his practice field, knocked over some trees, and even sliced them into pieces. This is the same Jonnie who has never driven a vehicle before today, never seen a vehicle before encountering Terl, who constantly mouths off to people who could kill him with one hand, and who was once bitten by a window.

Terl asks about the wood.


"Let's say I'm tired of a diet of raw rat, my friend."

For some reason, this insolence does not earn a righteous beating. Jonnie needs more beatings. I'm not worried about brain damage at this point, and maybe it could emphasize how he needs to take care when interacting with creatures twice his size that are holding him captive. But really, I'm just in favor of Jonnie suffering violence.

We end with a smug and warm Jonnie enjoying roasted rat by a roaring fire, examining his new belt buckle, which he can now read.

The disk said The United States of America.

The belt buckle said The United States Air Force.

So his people long ago had been a nation. And it had had a force of some sort devoted to the air.

The Psychlos wore belt buckles that said they were members of the Intergalactic Mining Company.

With a smile that would have frightened Terl had he seen it, Jonnie supposed that he was as of this minute a member, the only member, of the United States Air Force.

No you idiot. You are a Marty Stu who owns a remarkably well-preserved fashion accessory that once belonged to a member of the USAF. You have just finished driving a tractor. A tractor does not fly through the air, nor does it constitute a "force." There is no United States for you to belong to even if your tractor counted as a "force." You are stupid and I hate you and I hope you die but I know you won't and that angers me.

I'm also shocked that concepts of God and the apocalypse that devastated humanity have made it through the years in his tribe' oral tradition, but not the concept of nationhood or geography. But mostly, I hate Jonnie.

We end just above the bottom of page 99. Next chapter, we finally get a look at the seat of Psychlo power. Don't get your hopes up.

Back to Chapter Two

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