Friday, February 12, 2010

Part 6, Chapter 10 - The Riddle of Numph: Noonlit Psychlo

Once again, L. Ron starts the chapter in medias res before flashing back a dozen hours or more.

After Jonnie's, uh, "speech" to Clanfearghus, messengers were sent to the neighboring clans in the surrounding caves and secret glens, prompting a great gathering of enemies bringing together numerous Scotsmen, a "subdued English lord from a group in the lower hills," and even "the king of a tiny Norse colony on the east coast." Turns out a thousand years from now it'll be a thousand years ago.

At the gathering, Jonnie finally elaborates on who he is, what Terl wants, and his strategy for ridding the planet of Psychlos. Or so L. Ron tells us - we don't actually hear Jonnie's no doubt inspiring and inspiring speech. The men are interested in the idea of using the enemy's knowledge and technology against him, which Jonnie puts down to "some Scot love of guile." Which... certainly isn't the stereotype that's been presented. All we've seen are feisty spearmen and some dude with a claymore. Oh, and there's this great bit:

But when he told them about Chrissie, held as a hostage against his good behavior, and that part of his own plan was to rescue her, he had them. A streak of romanticism, which had survived all their defeats and humblings, welled up in them. While they could agree to a long-shot objective with their minds, they rose to the rescue of Chrissie with their hearts. What does she look like? Black eyes and corn-silk hair. How was she formed? Beautiful and comely. How did she feel? Crushed with despair, hardly daring to hope for rescue. They were angered by the collar, disgusted with the leash, violent about the cage. They shook their chiefly weapons in the flashing firelight and made speeches and quoted legends.

If there's one thing I've learned from all this, it's never read Battlefield Earth if you already have a headache.

Let's see, first there's the slightly condescending and cynical way L. Ron/Jonnie views the clans' romanticism, as though he's inwardly sneering at how manipulable these primitives are. Then there's the fact that these chiefs are more interested in some stranger's girlfriend then the survival of their species, much less the specifics of Jonnie's war plan. There's the assertion that these people who have been avoiding the Psychlos instead of fighting them have suffered "defeats and humblings." There's Chrissie's dark eyes and blond hair, which suggests to me a dye job. And then there's the fact that her dialogue and behavior, what little of it Hubbard has decided to spend time on, doesn't quite suggest "crushed with despair." She seemed more worried about Jonnie then herself last time. Maybe Jonnie's embellishing the story a bit.

Flashback over. Jonnie's scampering back to the ship to beat his noon deadline before he tries shooting up the place. No doubt we are meant to be tense over whether Jonnie will make it in time, especially since he can hear the ship's engines beginning to start up, but I'm too worn out from all the stupid in this and the previous chapter.

Whaddya know, Jonnie makes it in time, throwing his kill-club to get Terl's attention. He assures the big galoot that the fires last night were signal fires instead of cooking fires for a Jonnie-themed dinner, and tells Terl that the gathering will be in a nearby meadow. The Psychlo just can't wrap his head around diplomacy succeeding, and Jonnie loses his temper and hurls a moccasin. He and Terl shout at each other as Jonnie puts his shoe back on, but Terl agrees to come along to "frighten them into submission."

And so the chapter ends, leaving the reader to fearfully wonder what new idiocy will be unleashed next time.

Back to Chapter Nine

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