Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Part 21, Chapter 7 - Some Kind of Force Field

The heroes - or rather Angus working with some German and Swedish pilots, who are of course all skilled craftsmen - install a radio telescope on top of Mount Elgon so they can listen to everything those "monkeys" in orbit are saying to each other. Meanwhile Glencannon ferries over some more discs of Terl, as well as news from Scotland: Pattie's gone ill but is being cared for by Crissie, who has picked out an (intact) house near Castle Rock and filled it with (intact) furniture from the ruins. She sends her love to Jonnie, who as usual has no reaction.

Instead Jonnie starts watching the recordings of Terl at work. The Psychlo opens another false cabinet bottom to get out a map for "Defense Installations of Planet Number 203,534," or Earth. The map indicates that there's an "Emergency Defense Armament Receipt Point" near the Kariba Dam in Zimbabwe, a staging point for a counter-strike in the event that the main outpost on the planet fell. So off Jonnie and friends go to secure the area, but it's deserted except for a bunch of buffalo and elephants, and the platform itself is overgrown and neglected.

After a bit of work hacking away at the jungle and digging trenches, they find transhipment poles and the buried power lines leading to the dam, where there's a control room. The humans monkey around with the buttons and cause a fireball that shreds trees and bangs up the poor Scot spotters. It's actually a forcefield that surrounds the dam and teleportation platform. Jonnie throws rocks at it.

Why didn't the Colorado minesite have this shield? Oh yeah, it would have kept Jonnie from running onto the platform and priming those bombs.

So they booby-trap the place and go home. I'm not sure where "home" is - certainly not America, and probably not Africa, so I'm guessing Scotland. Everybody's optimistic now that there's hope of figuring out teleportation, which will solve all their problems. The "lesser menace" of Brown Limper's regime can wait - the main issue now is protecting the remnants of humanity from those orbiting aliens or a Psychlo counterattack.

Terl and his bomb are not mentioned.

You know, I just realized - you can only have one teleportation going at a time on a planet, right? Because otherwise there's interference and the shipments try to pass through each other. Which is why there are only very slight, very specific windows for teleporting to and from Psychlo.

So how in the world is the Psychlo military supposed to swoop in and launch a counter-invasion if there's a constant stream of ore shipments coming in from mining colonies? Heck, how are they supposed to receive word of the loss of Earth before the scheduled firing? And for that matter, how are the mining colonies able to survive for an entire year when there's no mention of a mountain of supplies coming along with the new workers, especially if the Psychlos need a special air supply and can't eat the local food?

The plot was already contrived and stupid, but now it's contrived, stupid, and contradictory. I just wish I'd caught this two chapters ago.

Back to Part Twenty-One, Chapter Six


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Hubbard was a fan of reeling off large numbers to impress his followers, but it just now occurs to me that if he really wanted to make use of his "base-11" gimmick, he should have thrown in a "Z" or "A" or "$" or some other symbol as a substitute for the 11th digit in their numeric system every so often, instead of leaning on "all things have been converted to Earth units".

    It's not like computer programmers haven't taught themselves to think in base-2, base-8, or base-16 without a great deal of trouble. It's really not much of a head-scratcher to convert between base-10 and any other base, compared to the advanced math needed to understand quantum physics equations. Presumably their alien technology would involve some form of even more advanced math.

    But Hubbard wrote what he knew, and he didn't know very much math or science. He was really a dilettante. Too lazy to look up facts like how thick the Earth's core is, and too proud to ask for information from anyone else. His followers were too sycophantic to dare question him either. So we get this.