Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Part 3, Chapter 8 - I Liked It Better When Jonnie Was On Fire

Jonnie's a "mound of misery" in his cage, too blistered to make a fire, his eyebrows and beard scorched away. He speculates that the Chinko uniform he's wearing is fireproof, which gives us hope that one day Jonnie will die of an asbestos-caused cancer.

Bless the Chinkos. Poor devils. With their polite phrases and brightness, they had yet been exterminated.

No, the Chinko were exterminated because, despite being slaves to the cruelest and most merciless power in the galaxy, they tried a strike. Politeness alone doesn't get you killed, Jonnie. In fact, it can help you live longer.

So keep being your unlikeable, surly self.

There was one lesson to be learned. Anyone who befriended or sought to cooperate with the Psychlos was doomed from the beginning.

Jonnie doesn't wonder if it's just the Psychlo regime that's cruel, or if it's a racial trait. The idea of a good or even neutral Psychlo just doesn't seem to occur to him. They're all evil and worthy of extermination, it's as simple as that.

Terl had not made one motion in the direction of that burning vehicle to salvage him, knowing he was tied to it. Compassion and decency were no part of the Psychlo character. Terl had even had a gun and could have shot the flexirope in half.

Jonnie's judging an entire species by the actions of the one representative of it that he's had any amount of contact with. We'll see if these views change once Jonnie starts interacting with more Psychlos... not that it's going to stop him from trying to wipe out their entire race.

Terl shows up and blames Jonnie for the disaster, since he didn't know anything about remote controls and didn't check the tractor for them. He's being illogical and cranky, and Jonnie calls him on it, but doesn't get smacked. Then Jonnie informs Terl that there won't be an "again" for him to correct his mistakes. Again, Terl doesn't smack him.

You have to wonder why Terl hasn't killed Jonnie yet. His "trained humans" ambitions have been thwarted for the foreseeable future, and Jonnie has been nothing but trouble since his capture. As a slave, he's obstinate and defiant, and stupid enough to refuse an order from a being that could snap his neck one-handed. At best he was an experiment which proved that yes, humans can be trained as workers, but he has outlived his usefulness. Kill him and start over, maybe with a more cooperative captive.

Instead, Terl welds a new cable to Jonnie's collar, ignoring the man's attempts to squirm away from the flame. After that, he leaves.

Jonnie wrapped himself in the dirty fur of a robe and lay in sodden misery beneath the newly fallen snow.

Hint: we're supposed to feel sorry for him.

That's it for Part 3. We're now 111 pages into this nightmare of plot contrivances, unlikeable heroes, and unimpressive villains. Over a hundred pages of Battlefield Earth with nary a battle in sight. So far, all that's happened is that we met a caveman named Jonnie, who got captured by an idiot named Terl, and then tried and failed to successfully operate a tractor.

I was going to complain about how much books like Lord of the Rings, Ender's Game, the Harry Potter series, etc. accomplish in one hundred pages, how much character development and plot gets done in such a span. But maybe I ought to be thinking in terms of percentage, eh? This book's over a thousand pages long, so we're just over 10% into it.

...Which is a really depressing thought.

In Part Four, Terl hits the kerbango, searches for leverage, and continues to sow the seeds of his race's extinction. Until then, I'm taking a week off for the holidays.

Back to Part Three, Chapter Seven

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