Thursday, August 26, 2010

Part 22, Chapter 2 - Nice Hat

But where's Jonnie during all this? Surely there can't be any kicking of alien butt without the book's unstoppable, bland hero?

He's in Russia. Jonnie navigated by "a pattern of lakes and rivers" from two hundred thousand feet, which sounds almost implausible to me, but I'm not a pilot. He is of course mobbed by five hundred rabid fans after landing, then meets Colonel Ivan, who is wearing a black band on his arm in honor of the fallen Bittie. No mention of that Russian guy who also died that day.

All the onlookers (including some South American ranchers and Mongol drummers) are in their best clothes because it's another Jonnie-based holiday, and despite Jonnie's pleas to get on with business since they're being invaded and all, he's roped into his formal moccasins for the occasion. Oh, and a gold helmet some Siberians made for him. It's actually armored aluminum plated with berylium, which I'm sure is an important detail.

And then Jonnie meets a character he's known and been friends with for years but who hasn't appeared in the book before now: Tom Smiley Townsen, who proves that Jonnie has no monopoly on embarrassing middle names. Smiley just graduated from machine school, and will soon be married to a South American girl named Margarita. She doesn't speak English, but fortunately Smiley has picked up Spanish. Hmmm.

Jonnie drinks vodka that "almost took the top off Jonnie's head," he mingles with some German pilots, Colonel Ivan leads him to a hill to point to the southeast where a distant tomb houses the remains of the great warlord Timur i Leng, Jonnie remembers Napoleon and Hitler and privately wonders "if such vermin had not been so intent on personally ruling the world---man might have had the cultural advancement to repel the Psychlo invasion."

Cultural advancement? The Psychlos might have stayed their furry hands if they'd seen our arts? My guess is that he's referring to a world government, which would (at best) have the same weaponry available that didn't stop the Psychlos.

Aaaaand then there's Sir Andrew MacNulty, "the head of the Federation and chief of all the coordinators" who we haven't seen before and who will probably play no large role in the rest of the plot, and then there's a series of fireside dances from the various tribes, and I'm actually looking forward to the next round of the aliens' attempts to invade this rock.

The next day Jonnie tours the local underground base, which features working flamethrowers and AK-47s (but not AK-74s, which would have been out for nearly a decade at the time of this book's printing), nukes, the decayed heaps of "MIGS" (but not MiGs), and a portrait of a "former tsar named Lenin" who was possibly a contemporary of Timur i Leng. The base personnel describe their plans to figure out the nuclear manuals and harvest wheat and mine coal. Why are we being told this?

And the day after that Jonnie's off to inspect a base in Tibet, stupid golden helmet and all.

Let me give this chapter credit: it really heightens interest in the alien invasion. I'm desperate to get back to the alien invasion. Even if the aliens are incompetent pushovers, it's still better than reading about Jonnie touring military bases.

Random fact for the chapter: a Siberian tribe, descended from a bunch of former political prisoners who "spent most of their time starving to death," migrated to the base with their dogs, presumably sled-pulling animals. They wear polar bear furs.

Another random fact: Colonel Ivan has no dialogue. Instead his interactions with Jonnie are narrated. As in "Jonnie washed his face and got dressed and told the colonel he was a bully and the colonel confessed he was far worse than that."

Back to Chapter One

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