Friday, June 25, 2010

Part 17, Chapter 5 - Jungle Japes

Jonnie and Co. land at the hydroelectric plant, an old human ruin built over by the Psychlos, the facility automated and self-maintaining, of course. Then the humans follow a power line through the rain forest for three days, knowing that it'll eventually lead them to the Psychlo compound. This takes them from Lake Victoria in the East African Plateau to the Ituri Forest in the former Congo (referred to as Haut-Zaïre in the book), which depending on how close to the lake they landed is a trip of a hundred miles or so. Not bad for three days' hiking through dense jungle with "buckskin and moccasins and a limp."

There's the expected rain forest imagery - vines "wrapped like gorged serpents," a "warm waterfall" of constant precipitation, etc. Along the way the expedition spots elephants, buffalo, gorillas, antelope, two species of big cats, crocodiles, monkeys, peacocks, and most intriguingly a "giraffe-like animal." Presumably this is an okapi, from which the Okapi Wildlife Reserve that contains a fifth of the Ituri Forest derives its name. I'm just wondering where Jonnie learned all the other animal names, and how he intuitively knew that the okapi is more closely related to a giraffe despite looking like a weird zebra, and for that matter how Jonnie knows what a giraffe looks like.

In other words, we're in Darkest Africa, which the narrator insists has never been fully explored despite the presence of tribes who actually live in it. I guess this is a grab at the pulp-era "fearless adventurer" story, as if Hubbard couldn't restrict Jonnie's heroics to one genre, or else realized that the sci-fi angle of his story kinda sucked.

They find the compound, which looks deserted, but Jonnie knows that Psychlos never wander about outdoors. While Robert the Fox mumbles about there never being "a more unplanned raid," Jonnie scans the area for tracks - not tire tracks, but the crushed underbrush left by the floating devices of Psychlo ore trucks. Which makes the earlier comment about tanks not being able to handle the terrain all the more nonsensical.

Anyway, reconnaissance is interrupted when Colonel Ivan knocks out someone. The interloper "might have been any nationality, or any color for that matter," his face "scarred and brutal," and he wears a monkey-skin tailored like a military uniform. Ivan got a poisoned arrow in his canteen but is otherwise fine, but then Jonnie notices the captured Brigante has a grenade with a Psychlo fuse, and a Psychlo radio. Then, an explosion! Gunfire! Action!

There was an instant hammering of assault rifles.

Bursting grenades racketed and smoke poured through the rain.

Running feet of men covering each other as they went forward in alternate waves.


Russian and Scot battle cries!

Then a lull. Then another furious hammer of assault rifles.

Another lull.

And then the attackers surrender.

Yes, that was the fight scene in its entirety. It's not really worth mentioning, and could easily be summed up with "there's some noise, but the Brigantes surrender," but it was a good example of Hubbard's writing style so I included it. In all honesty it's about as long and detailed as the stuff for the fight for the Colorado minesite. That's Battlefield Earth's action sequences: a bunch of short sentences that sound like notes on a movie script given to a stunt coordinator with the order "make something interesting out of this."

Jonnie plays no part in the skirmish, but surmises that the compound is truly abandoned since the racket doesn't provoke a Psychlo response. And that's it for the chapter.

Back to Chapter Four

No comments:

Post a Comment