Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Part 15, Chapter 3 - Losing My Religion

Time's passing, days into weeks, and people are still worried about Jonnie; yes, he's out of his coma and in no danger, but he's still brooding. Foxrob the Ert and the chiefs of Clanfearghus and Clanargyll - why have they condensed those into single words? - are trying to figure out what's wrong with their friend, whether he's worried about a Psychlo reprisal or if the fact that he can't walk and has lost some functionality in his right arm has something to do with it. They resolve to find him some good news to cheer him up.

So we get an update on the state of the planet. "Jonnie Isn't Dead Day" is apparently over and everyone's back to work. Some Swedes and Russians are rebuilding the Air Force Academy to meet the insatiable demand for pilots, and the Council has moved in until the capitol in Denver can be refurbished, because building new structures is more difficult than reconstructing thousand-year-old ruins.

Oh, and Chrissie's hanging around Jonnie's room, trying to keep his disturbances to a minimum while he recovers. I've now spent two sentences discussing Chrissie, which is more than what Hubbard did.

The World Federation for the Unification of the Human Race, a.k.a. "the Scots Jonnie didn't pick for his mission," have raided Oxford and Cambridge for books about languages and foreign cultures, acting as "coordinators" for the task of making contact with all those scattered tribes of men... which the last chapter implied already happened. Hmm.

Anyway, some thirty-five thousand humans are estimated to remain on Earth, "mostly survivors who had withdrawn to mountainous places, natural fortresses their forebears had mined, as in the case of the Rockies. But some were in the frozen north in which the Psychlos had no interest, and some were simply overlooked strays."

The one incredible fact that after over a thousand years there was freedom from Psychlos, even if possibly temporary, united them in a wave of hope. They had once gazed from their mountains on the ruins of cities they dared not visit; they had looked upon fertile plains and great herds they dared not benefit from; they had seen no hope whatsoever for their dying race.

"Freedom," huh? But all we saw the Psychlos doing was mining. The Scots complained that you can't go too close to the mining bases or else you'll get killed, but the Psychlos didn't even think men were sentient, and they aren't getting paid for hunting trips. The Psychlos were more like a terrain feature than an oppressor.

So how did the humans manage to keep dying so much?

And then suddenly men from the sky, speaking their language, telling them of the remarkable feats that led to possible freedom, had brought them soaring hope and reburgeoning pride in their race.

Right, so assuming the Psychlos are strafing tribal huts somewhere, the other humans just stood and watched an alien craft land nearby, without running for it or throwing a spear at the first thing to disembark? And when a complete stranger hopped out and started spinning a tale about coffin-bombs and nuclear bazookas, they accepted it without question? And felt proud about it?

The council's existence they accepted. They joined it and, with radios parked on rocks and in huts, communicated with it.

Just like that. "Oh, you - Scots, was it? - claim to have defeated a bunch of aliens? Okay, yeah, you're our new overlords. How may I serve?"

They all had one question. Was the Jonnie MacTyler of whom the coordinators spoke a part of this council? Yes, he was. Good, no more questions.

The problem is that I can't smash my face against my keyboard after reading this, because my glasses are already crooked and I don't want to make things worse.

Anyway, the council has decided to maintain the barbarous tribal governments and is simply spreading the Scots' clan system by appointing local "clanchiefs." There's a lot of changes happening across the world, and quite a few new faces in Colorado. South Americans in "baggy pants and flat leather hats, swinging wide lariats and riding almost as well as Jonnie once had" arrive with their womenfolk to wrangle some bison. Two Italians join the kitchen staff. Five Swiss-Germans open a factory to repair tools. Three Basques start making shoes. Some "serious-eyed Chinese from a mountain fastness" help the historian with the task of managing tribal legends and building a history.

Notice a pattern? So what's missing, some Arabs to open a hookah bar? Jewish bankers? Kenyan soccer players? Indian... tech support?

I suspect that Hubbard simply doesn't understand people. He thinks they'd all just rally around his obnoxious main character, and can only conceptualize foreigners as stereotypes.

Psychlo becomes the technical lingua franca, which causes some consternation over using the language of the baddies until the historian (somehow) discovers that Psychlo is itself a bastardization of several different tongues and concepts (none of which had a word for "cruelty," apparently). People still prefer calling it "Techno" all the same. For "arts, humanities and government" English is used, and in other affairs everyone's old tribal tongues are spoken.

The parson is faced with the fact that there are now oodles of different religions in close proximity to each other, which share similar apocalypse myths from a thousand years ago but little else. But he doesn't evangelize, seeking peace instead of converts, and everyone else agrees to hold off on the holy wars for now.

The parson had neatly handled the whole thing for the moment. He would disturb no beliefs at all. Every one of these tribes was demanding to know what was the religion of Jonnie MacTyler? Well, he wasn't really of any religion, the parson told them. He was Jonnie MacTyler. Instantly and without exception, Jonnie MacTyler became part of their religions. And that was that.

Yep. Jonnie gets "woven into the pantheon of about forty religions."

God dammit, Hubbard.

Back to Chapter Two

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