Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Part 10, Chapter 1 - The Lightless Depths of Colorado

These next few chapters are probably my favorites. Not because they're particularly good, but because I like the idea of exploring ancient ruins. In fact, this chapter needs some appropriate music.

Nobody's been by to close the massive doors of the "tomb" since Jonnie's youthful visit, but now he's back, and this time he has Scotsmen with him. Angus gets the portal open all the way with some oil, and with gas masks on to avoid spores from the bones of the dead, and a cage full of rats to play the role of canaries, the explorers go in.

On this graveyard of a planet, they were no strangers to dead remains. They lay in structures and basements in abundance wherever there was any protection from wild animals or the weather, corpses more than a thousand years dead.

No. Wrong. Human remains do not instantly fossilize. And what do you mean "structures and basements?" Rain wears away rock. Metal rusts and fatigues. Earthquakes, tornadoes, wildfires, years and years of freezing and thawing - all these wear down buildings. Yes, the Great Wall survives from its construction in the sixth century BC, but it was maintained in the intervening centuries. Yes, the Pyramids and Sphinx still stand, but they're in an environment that's very friendly towards artifacts, and even so the latter was mostly buried for hundreds of years.

Now maybe a missile silo buried under the Rocky Mountains could survive a thousand years (but what about the earthquake that uncovered The Lode?). Maybe the steel doors are made of some remarkable alloy that never rusts and never collapses. But dwellings in Scotland? No.

Anyway, the descending staircase behind the doors is covered with what's left of hundreds of people, their weapons and clothing still "somewhat preserved," but their bones "gone to powder." Robert the Fox concludes from the placement that they died entering the complex, as the stragglers failed to shut the doors before the Psychlos' gas rolled in.

Apparently the Psychlos have a chemical weapon that rushes up hills to chase survivors. And also is able to spread over entire continents with terrifying speed, despite being dispersed by a single bomber.

If nothing else, Battlefield Earth makes me want to become a better scientist, just so I can explain how wrong it is.

A vanguard of five men with Tommy Guns (remember the miracle truck in the cave?) sweeps ahead for hibernating animals, killing a sleeping bear and some rattlesnakes. And here we're told that "the sub-Thompson ammunition was dud two rounds out of five, and to get a sustained burst one had to recock the bolt in midfire." There was no mention of this in Part 7, Chapter 2, when the guns work without comment, and it's just confusing now. The guns have survived a thousand years, but only some of the ammo's gone bad? It's a token acknowledgment of reality that ends up feeling dumb and inconsistent.

Pure science fiction.

The advance team informs them over short-range radios (good thing those work well underground with lots of metal nearby) that they've found a second set of doors, these sealed tight, but before the explosives team can have some fun the mechanic gets them open (Angus says "Naw!" instead of "Nae!", because L. Ron gets his Scottish and Southern accents confused, I guess). The ventilation team sets up some fans to get the air circulating again, and Jonnie and his remarkably tech-savvy barbarians move deeper into the tomb of Cold War America.

Back to Part Nine, Chapter Six

1 comment:

  1. It's been forever and a day since this was posted, but I have to pop in and say something: "Na!" as an exclamation is perfectly fine in Scots; it's only "nae" when you're using it as an adjective, as in "nae licht" or "nae mair", or in one select part of the North of Scotland. At least, that's what this lovely little website is telling me, and it ought to know: http://www.scots-online.org/mobile/dictionary/engscots.asp

    Not that that stops any of the rest of Hubbard's Scottish accents or customs or anything else from being any less terribly offensive and wrong ("Dunneldeen" indeed, that's not even a name!), or the rest of his firewood-with-words from being any less awful, or this spork from being any less entertaining. :)