Friday, October 29, 2010

Part 27, Chapter 8 - So Much For the Tolneps

Schleim is relieved to hear the distant whine of the approaching Tolnep fleet, so is in a good mood when he tells Jonnie to turn on the projector and show "the latest picture of your fake model!"

It's shot at a new angle, so Schleim has a clear view of the Tolnep insignia sculpted into the planetoid. He spots a hangar entrance:

The moon had deflated further now. It resembled a blue balloon with one side being poked relentlessly in, a great pucker that was growing bigger now and at a more rapid rate.

What appeared to be black gases were eddying up to fill the sunken part.

And then out of that yawning hangar bolted a war vessel! Although it must have been traveling very fast, the enormous size of it caused it to seem to move in slow motion. At least thirty thousand tons of Tolnep capital ship was seeking to escape into space.

But it was too late. It had already been touched by the pucker within the moon. A whole back section of the ship was gone!

Before the fixated eyes of the delegates, the vast space vessel was eaten up from tail to nose, its massive metal turned to gases.

Schleim has had a terrible day. The holoprojector hurts his sensitive eyes. He's been mocked for his accent, and his dirty shoes. His government has been accused of employing a loathsome journalist. And now someone has imploded his moon.

So he screams, pops his earplugs, strafes the audience with his paralyzing scepter, and tries to sabotage the atmosphere armor. But the pistol he draws doesn't fire, Jonnie breaks his visor with his thrown "knobkerrie" - oookay, I'm just going to assume Jonnie was always carrying it, whatever - and the tree-person gets Schleim in a full nelson.

I think there's a goof here, because suddenly the nameless "lord from Fowljopan" has become simply "Fowljopan." Whoever he is, he uses a presumably very sharp knife to cut the metallic skin of Schleim and extract a suicide capsule, then asks if there's going to be a trial "under Clause Thirty-two, threatening physical violence to the conference!"

Jonnie comes over to taunt Schleim, explaining that the reason the paralyzing scepter didn't work was because the humans swapped it out for a decoy. If you're wondering when the hell they found the time and materials to do this, just assume it came from whatever factory mass-produced the limpet mines they seeded the atmosphere with.

There's an argument over whether or not Jonnie is in any position to make threats or demands of the future defendant, until he invokes Clause Forty-one and his role as the one responsible for the conference's security. After a "bulbous creature from a mostly liquid world" named Lord Dom suggests that calling a ceasefire would play well at Schleim's trial, the Tolnep fleet is called off. Or rather, it is once the Tolnep admiral is assured of Schleim's safety by one of the Small Grey Men.

And so ends the wholly uninteresting and unnecessary "Tolnep attack" subplot. While the event has the benefit of getting the other aliens attacking Earth to give their forces a similar ceasefire order, now Jonnie's worried about the clout of the grays.

And who was this small gray man who exerted such power over these? Where did he fit in? Who was he? What would he want out of all this? Another threat?

You know when would've been a good time to get answers to these questions? Before you signed The Gray Man's document and took his advice without so much as asking his name!

Now. Let's talk ethics.

Jonnie just blew up a moon housing a vast naval shipyard, belonging to a civilization of slavers that was attacking his people. It'd be easy to make a comparison to the classic Star Wars and Luke Skywalker's destruction of the Death Star. Both actions destroyed massive planetoids and killed countless thousands, if not millions. Both were arguably acts of self-defense, even if there were certainly some civilian contractors or good men trapped in a bad situation amongst the death toll. But there are some important differences.

Luke torpedoed a moon-sized weapon, an instrument of terror designed to blow up planets. Luke didn't do this with some superweapon of his own, but by taking advantage of a design flaw.

Jonnie blew up a moon currently serving as a military base, but a naval installation can easily be refitted to accommodate civilian traffic. Furthermore, he blew up a planet's moon, which is going to have all sorts of consequences on the planet's tides and whatnot, to say nothing of whether or not that black hole thingy is going to stick around. And Jonnie didn't plug an exhaust port with a photon torpedo, he used a planet-killer weapon on Asart in front of an audience of other aliens, with the implication being "if you oppose me, I will use this on your planets, too." Even in this chapter, while he's trying to get Schleim to call off his fleet, Jonnie nearly threatens to annihilate the Tolnep homeworld and every last lifeform on it, good Tolnep, bad Tolnep, and slave alike.

Like the guys in charge of the Death Star, Jonnie could have made his demonstration on an uninhabited world and it would have been just as effective. But instead he went for the huge body count. So Luke was a hero, albeit one with a lot of blood on his hands, while the only thing stopping me from calling Jonnie a terrorist is the fact that he picked a (predominantly) military target.

Back to Chapter Seven

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Part 27, Chapter 7 - OM NOM NOM

If nothing else, you can say that things definitely happen in this chapter. Boy do they ever...

So the alien delegates are outside around the transhipment platform, enjoying the night air and chatting amiably amongst themselves. The representative from Splandorf offers to buy a dog from a Chinese refugee for six thousand credits. They have no idea what Jonnie has in store for them.

After apologizing once more for getting sidetracked by Schleim and piracy, Jonnie takes the stage and vows to settle the Tolnep issue once and for all with "a demonstration of excessive appetite." Two techs roll out a minecar, presumably on tracks laid on specifically for this demonstration.

And on the cart sat a dragon like the one on his helmet. It was about five feet long. It had wings. It had a neck. And it had a very ferocious head, a gaping fanged mouth, glaring red eyes and horns. And from head to tail it had spines jutting out all the way along. A gold-scaled, scarlet-mouthed dragon.

Schleim states the obvious: "That's just a painted figure made of clay!" But the other aliens are impressed by Jonnie's theatrics and shush the Tolnep. Jonnie explains that the "beast" is a dragon, and gestures at its "mother," the dolled-up teleportation console, as well as the dragon on his helmet. But he goes on to point out the key difference - the beast on his helmet has been fed. The one on the cart "is an imperial dragon! It eats moons and planets!"

The assembled ambassadors chuckle at the joke, and how the technicians "pet" and "catch" the "wild animal" to be hauled onto the teleportation platform. Jonnie walks over, leans down, and whispers into the statue's ear: "I know you are hungry. SO GO EAT UP ASART!"

And so the "ultimate bomb" within the dragon is armed, and it is teleported away.

A few minutes go by, then Jonnie borrows a "picto-recorder" from the emissary from Fowljopan - foul Japan? - and teleports the recorder away. When it comes back a short time later, it's freezing cold. The recorder is uploaded to the projector, which implies that if nothing else these diverse aliens have agreed upon a universal media storage format. An image of the harbor moon of Asart materializes in the air, but...

They didn't see anything strange for a moment. And then as the picture rolled off the disk, they saw a hole. A hole occurring in the upper right surface of Asart. Just a hole. No, there was a bit of black around the edge of it.

Schleim, still listening for the Tolnep fleet, dismisses it as more of Jonnies theatrics, but the other aliens are now afraid. Another camera is teleported away and back, and the resulting screens show how the hole is growing.

A breath of terror trembled through the gathering. But Jonnie was not going to let it become a riot.

"You see, my lords, the dragon was hungry." He laughed lightly. "He is also a very obedient dragon. Told to eat the moon, he is eating Asart! A very controllable dragon after all!"

Had he hit them with ice water he could not have produced a more chilling effect. Their eyes focused on him in growing horror.

Jonnie has now become a more effective villain than Terl.

Schleim declares that this is just a trick, that Jonnie is showing them pictures of a model or something. But he offers to use his own recorder to verify things, which gives him an excuse to go to his room and grab a hamper loaded with spare weaponry (has he noticed he's been pickpocketed yet?). When he returns, Schleim reveals that there is a diamond emblem on the "back" of Asart done with "hyperband nullifying material" that can only be seen with special Tolnep equipment. He puts his camera on the teleportation platform, confident that he's about to uncover Jonnie's deception. All the while awaiting reinforcements.

The really depressing thing- well, more depressing than the "good guys" blowing up a planetoid - is that by the aliens' reactions, there's no indication that the Psychlos ever did this. Which means that 1) the big bad Psychlos have once again improperly utilized their technology and 2) the depraved and thoroughly evil Psychlos have nothing on Jonnie.

Maybe I'll be proven wrong later. Maybe Jonnie is merely just as vicious as the Psychlos, rather than more so.

Random fact for the chapter: Schleim mentally explains "Theatrics, good Lord" at one point, and wonders "what in the name of fifty devils was going on" at another, which raises some fascinating theological questions that unfortunately go unanswered.

Another random fact: one of the alien diplomats is some sort of tree-person, with bark for skin and leaves for hair. Why the hell not.

Back to Chapter Six

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Part 27, Chapter 6 - In Case You Were Wondering How the Wider War Was Going

While Jonnie has been wearing a dragon on his helmet and generally making an ass out of himself, the secondary characters have been locked in fierce combat for days.  This chapter is nothing but three little vignettes from the battlefield (for a given definition of "battle") that is Earth (fighting not guaranteed to be truly global in scale).

Colonel Ivan, blistered and singed from his flamethrower, rests in the tunnels beneath the Russian missile base.  The blast doors are glowing from a sustained barrage, his planes have been recalled due to running out of fuel and ammo, his radio is down, and all of the thousand mines... where did they come up with a thousand land mines?  Were they in the bunker, somehow surviving the centuries when ammunition didn't?  Or did the humans somehow produce their own off-screen?

Anyway, the unexpected and unexplained minefield has been depleted from the aliens using the time-honored tactic of throwing soldiers at an obstacle until it goes away.  No mention of hovering vehicles to float over the minefield, air transport being used to circumvent the minefield, or battlefield engineers safely destroying the minefield.  Stupid aliens.

Chief o' Clanfearghus, who might have been named in the time-shrouded early chapters of the book, is in Edinburgh, which was in ruins before the aliens set it on fire.  The bunkers and tunnels under the city have collapsed in places, their anti-air defenses are down to one gun now being used for perimeter defense, and the only pilot left is Dunneldeen, who I thought was the only pilot in the first place and still has yet to be shot down.  Chiefy is wounded and cursing his foolishness for making his stand in Edinburgh out of sentimentality instead of relocating to the more easily defended Cornwall minesite like Jonnie requested.

And in Singapore, a Scottish officer Hubbard can't be bothered to give a name is boggling at the aliens' tactics.  The Tolneps have blasted a gap under the "atmosphere-armor" dome with sustained artillery fire, even though it cost them twelve tanks and five marines... argh, guys, you have a warfleet.  You don't need to land artillery in a combat zone.  You bombard the shields from orbit until you open your gap, then send in the marines.  There is no reason to lose soldiers beforehand when you have the high ground like this.

Why are all the aliens hopelessly incompetent with their arsenals?  Why do I get the feeling that anyone who's played a game of Command & Conquer could annihilate these guys?  Why is everyone in the book so freakin' stupid?

Well, a Scottish officer Hubbard... you know what, his name's Steven now.  Steve was fully expecting the Tolneps to send in more marines to disable his force field, but they didn't.  Instead the other alien ships are headed towards Edinburgh and Russia, while the Tolneps have left the field for their own vessels, which are now heading towards Kariba at great speed.  Steve would have been overrun in twenty minutes, but instead the Tolneps have decided to hit Africa.  He has his men send a warning to the human base there.

Again, I have to wonder: is any of this necessary?  Was the "conference to decide the fate of the planet" not enough?  Why another obstacle, another delay?  Can't this story just be over with already?

At least next chapter things get back on track.

Back to Chapter Five

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Part 27, Chapter 5 - Tolneps Need Those Hannibal Lecter Masks

Schleim's extremely cunning plan is near fruition, and he hangs behind while Jonnie leads the other aliens out. But the Tolnep's plot to lock the conference room door is foiled by the lingering elderly Chinese host, forcing Schleim to pretend to be looking for something he dropped. And then two technicians come in to move the projector, and bump into the alien.

A technician caught a glimpse of fangs right in front of his face and raised his arm. Unable to check its forward crush, the technician's heavy sleeve banged into Schleim's mouth.

The reaction of a Tolnep was inevitable. He bit! He bit hard and repeatedly, hissing in rage as he struck!

Because when you think of an alien descended from dinosaurs, you think "venomous spaz."

So one techie clutches his critically-wounded shirt sleeve, the other apologizes frantically and gives the alien his scepter, and the host apologies some more while brushing Schleim off. Then after the alien leaves, the three Chinese men go to the hospital to visit Dr. Allen, who extracts the Tolnep's venom from the fake techie's reinforced sleeve to develop an antivenom. The host shows off the knife and gun he pickpocketed from Schleim. The whole collision was planned, you see.

Aaaaand that's the chapter. Schleim bites someone and we get to see how incredibly three-steps-ahead-of-everyone the humans are. Boy, that sure puts my mind at ease, I though this whole conference might be dangerous or exciting or something, since we spent entire chapters playing up how out of his league Jonnie was. The whole "which moon is your least favorite" plot is going to have to wait a bit longer, too, since next chapter we get to see a Russian try and inject some tension into this story.

Back to Chapter Four

Monday, October 25, 2010

Part 27, Chapter 4 - Astronomy Lesson

This whole chapter is a big build-up to Jonnie's plan for galactic peace, as he shows off some holograms taken while all the diplomats' credentials were being verified. The projector displays an image of the binary system Sirius, known as Batafor to the Psychlos. Jonnie asks Lord Schleim to verify what he's looking at, but the suddenly calm Tolnep is being a twerp so the Hawvin representative gives a visual tour.

Nameless Hawvin Guy gives a nice walkthrough of Sirius/Batafor, which the Hawvins call Twino ("mother and child"). It's not really important, but there isn't much else to the chapter, so...

More Than You Need to Know About the Sirius System:
Planet 1: Jubo, uninhabited due to high gravity and heat.
Planets 2-5: Just as uninhabited as Jubo, but unworthy of being named for whatever reason.
Planet 6: Torthut, former Psychlo mining outpost, population "annihilated"
Planet 7: Holoban, owned by the Hockner Confederacy
Planet 8: Balor, a CR 20 Demon... er, Hawvin world
Planet 9: Tolnep, has five moons in a system where most worlds have none
Planet 10: Tung, another Psychlo mining base, before which the Tolneps removed the native population.
Planet 11: At this point Jonnie's had enough and shows a new picture.

The hologram now displays Creeth, the Tolnep capital. Landmarks include the Tolnep legislature, the House of Plunder, and the slave market/public park Grath, famed for a clock built of slave bones (?!). "It is said that fifty-eight thousand female slaves were killed to make up the border you see." You know, just in case you didn't hate the Tolneps with all your being yet.

...Seriously, a clock made of bones? Why would you do that? If you're a slave-trading civilization, why cut into your own profits for a gratuitously EVIL timepiece? And why single out females? Wouldn't it be more efficient to use larger male bones - assuming these aliens follow human sexual dimorphism, which let's face it, they probably do since they're basically humans with rubber foreheads.

I bet the streets of Creeth are paved with babies and each night for dinner every Tolnep eats a kitten. This is just awful writing.

Anyway, by the time on the pointlessly macabre timepiece, Jonnie's hologram was taken two hours or so ago by the teleportation rig. Which was one point of this display. Next Jonnie does something that quite rightfully makes Schleim worried, and asks him "as a native of Tolnep and someone undoubtedly fond of its moons, could you tell me which moon you like best?"

This is like when the bald guy with the underground lair and stolen nuclear missile asks the hero which is their favorite city, or when the mad doctor asks the guy strapped to the table which is his favorite organ.

Schleim tries to evade the question by saying he likes "any of them" the least, so Jonnie picks for him - Asart, the moon that serves as the base for the entire Tolnep fleet, a closely-guarded, high-security Tolnep secret. Then Jonnie ominously asks for the alien delegates to join him outside. He does not give a worrying chuckle or sinister smile, but he really should.

Random fact for the chapter: did you know that the Tolneps are nocturnal, and are rumored not to be indigenous to Tolnep? If Hubbard tries to pass them off as transplanted dinosaur descendants I'm gonna be cranky.

Another random fact: Sirius is known for its higher-than-normal amount of infrared light, which could be responsible for the Tolnep's infrared-based vision... I guess. I'm impressed that Hubbard did that much research on Sirius, though it does make me boggle why he could get so much wrong when it comes to radiation.

Further note: The Tolneps control exactly one planet in the home system, with four others in alien hands. This is absolutely pathetic, and yet they're in the Big 30 intergalactic races. I've said it before and I'll say it again, Battlefield Earth's aliens suck.

One last note: Asart also serves as the Tolneps' shipyards, because "the mighty nonatmosphere ships of Tolnep could not even taken off from a planetary surface." Instead all the parts are flown up to Asart and assembled there. Flown up. From Tolnep. By Tolnep freighters. Flying in atmosphere. Also, Asart is supposed to be a state secret, even though there's literally three other alien races in-system that just have to look through a telescope to see the ships coming and going.

Back to Chapter Three

Friday, October 22, 2010

Part 27, Chapter 3 - A Duplicitous Diplomat

Having been humiliated in front of the other diplomats, Lord Schleim is trying a new tactic. Using a device hidden in his scepter he's sent Captain Snowl a coded, scrambled message on a "hyper-nondirectional" radio band that only the Tolneps know about and only specific receivers can pick up, ordering the newly-promoted officer to gather the Tolnep fleet currently over Singapore and move on the conference site.

Schleim, meanwhile, will use the "paralysis beam" built into the other side of his sceptor to incapacitate everyone around him, while he will be protected with "deaf-flaps" over his ears. From this we can gather that this "beam" is not in fact a focused stream of particles, and though its operation is based on hearing it's somehow able to affect a diverse array of life-forms in the same way.

With the conference-goers at his mercy, Schleim will go out and deactivate the "atmosphere armor" and let the Tolnep marines in. The alien actually acknowledges the humans' teleportation console, but is more interested in seeing it destroyed than seizing its secrets for himself. Widespread teleportation could only cause trouble for slavers like the Tolneps, after all.

Schleim even has a back-up plan: if his fleet is defeated, he'll just claim they turned pirate too. And though his actions risk the ire of The Small Grey Men, the Tolnep thinks their power has weakened in these "very troubled times" and that he should be able to pull this off. Once he gets everyone outside, that is.

At least this promises some upcoming events that aren't Jonnie being overly-theatrical and alien diplomats being stupid, even if those events will be "Jonnie saves the day" again.

Back to Chapter Two

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Part 27, Chapter 2 - Further Accusations of Piracy

Jonnie shakes his head and apologizes to the other aliens on behalf of this stubborn Tolnep, who is forcing the assembly to linger on the issue of piracy. He asks Schleim to produce the orders issued to the Tolnep forces on Earth, which Schleim, as an ambassador, does not have. Jonnie interprets this as meaning the Tolneps had no legal orders pertaining to Earth, which Schleim objects to.

Two techies wheel out a, I kid you not, gold-plated minecart bearing a gilded projector. Turns out that "atmosphere-armor" technology can also be used to make incredibly lifelike holograms. Naturally, the assembly of seasoned intergalactic diplomats has never seen such technology before and are "enthralled" by the device.

Let me just remind everyone that these diplomats were teleported to this conference.

The projector... projects an image of that diseased, pock-marked, rotten-toothed slob, Roof Arsebogger, whose disfigured visage disgusts the assembled aliens and makes Schleim declare that such a revolting journalist would never be chosen to represent Tolnep. As to where this picture came from, we're told that it was compiled by "pilots flying air cover at the Purgatoire River," using their "radio telephoto camera(s)." Since Buttswamper never to my knowledge left the Capture, they must have been aiming their cameras through the capital ship's viewports.

On that note, Jonnie rolls some footage of the Capture's bridge, in which Arsebogger is giving orders to Quarter-Admiral Snowletter. "Smash the place. Seize the people and sell them for your own profit. I will cover you. And like it or not, this is what you must do! The power is mine! And we will split the profits! Understood?"

As to where this came from: somehow those "radio telephoto cameras" were able to not only record the images but the sounds of this conversation through the bridge window. There are two possibilities here: firstly, that this was captured while the ship was in the atmosphere (which Tolnep ships don't handle well), and that the recording equipment was able to enhance the sounds of distant, muffled alien voices while editing out most of the engine noise of the surrounding fleet, to say nothing of all the other conversations going on in that ship. The alternative is that these words were somehow captured across the soundless void of space.

I guess a third option would be that Jonnie has a magical camera.

Anyway, Schleim is indignant that he's been verbally pantsed by this barbarian, and insists that the images must be doctored. Jonnie's argument is that they're "too clear" to be fake, and the other aliens, who are completely unfamiliar with this type of audio-visual equipment that for all their knowledge could easily put words in somebody's mouth, are in full agreement.

With all the Tolnep forces over Earth thus proven to be pirates, Jonnie demands that Schleim get his comrades to surrender. The previously-bored aliens are happy with this diversion from the real issues of the conference, and The Gray Man and his kin, who have been watching worriedly from the sidelines, change their ships' broadcast to one warning that any ships entering the intergalactic conference zone will be subject to "penalties," just in case Schleim tries something. Which he will.

I'm actually missing the days Jonnie beat bears to death with his gun.

Back to Chapter One

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Part 27, Chapter 1 - Let's Talk About Pirates

So it begins.

Music began to be heard in the conference room. It was slow, dignified music. Ponderous. Impressive. The emissaries looked about with some interest, wondering what was going to happen.

In walks a huge beefy Mongolian stripped to the waist, carrying something invisible, a "glassine electronics table used by Psychlos for small electric work that required light from every angle. It had been sawed down and sprayed with lens spray that passed light one hundred percent and so reflected nothing." Yes, Hubbard's 'verse has spray-on invisibility, just in case you were still taking it seriously.

After that comes two "beautifully gowned Chinese boys" carrying pillows bearing a Dictionary of the Psychlo Language and Intergalactic Laws By Treaties of Governing Nations. Then the boys leave, the music stops, and a drumroll accompanies someone announcing "Masters of all planets! Lords of the great and powerful realms of sixteen galaxies! May I now introduce to your august presence, LORD JONNIE! He who embodies the spirit of Earth!" And with a fanfare, Jonnie enters.

Jonnie came walking down the aisle. He was walking slowly, heavily, commanding, as though he weighed a thousand pounds. He was dressed in black and silver and he carried a silver wand. But it wasn't silver; it looked so, but when the light caught it on the slightest movements it flashed with blindingly bright rainbow colors.

A costume so fancy Hubbard had to describe it twice.

He came to the platform, stepped up, moved behind the table, and turned.

At that instant a mine spotlight placed just above the door flamed on. He stood there in black and silver and yet a blaze of living color.

He did not speak. Feet apart, not blocked from their view by the table, he held the silver wand between his two hands and simply looked at them with a stern and even disdainful expression. Dominant.

The gilded and bejeweled alien diplomats are impressed despite the usual pomp and pretentiousness they have to deal with, partly because of Jonnie's helmet.

That beast on the helmet! It looked alive. The trick of the light, the play of the silver metal that flashed, the glowing red coals of eyes, whatever it was, it looked alive. Was he wearing a live winged beast on his helmet?

No, it's a sculpture you morons. These guys are seasoned political animals used to ceremony and gaudy wardrobes, yet are still intimidated by a garish helmet? And so what if the "dragon" was alive - sixteen universes and they've never encountered a species that wore a pet while at a conference? It's just... arrrgh... everything Jonnie does has to be impressive and awesome, even if it's something these aliens should have been used to.

Lord Schleim, on the other hand, is snidely pleased after Jonnie is introduced as "the spirit of Earth," because the Psychlo term for "spirit" could mean "mind," "angel," or "demon." Wait, what? One of those things is not like the others, and the other two are diametrically-opposed. What a great language.

So Schleim questions this "devil"'s credentials, but Jonnie makes a big show of having him repeat himself because of his "uncouth Tolnep accent," which gets the other aliens laughing at the rustic representative ("Tolneps were really quite rural; they had only one planet, and that was quite distant from the center of things.")

So one of the Top 30 species that dominates interdimensional affairs never founded a single colony.

To add insult to injury, Jonnie uses his wand/flashlight to illuminate Schleim's dirty blue booties, stifling a laugh. But he moves on, using all the deferential and polite words and mannerisms from those Chinko instructional discs, and explains that such an august assembly shouldn't be meeting for a minor dispute - such as, say, piracy.

Jonnie looks the term up in the provided dictionary and finds the expected definition, but when he checks the book of law he finds that the Psychlos defined "pirate" as "one who feloniously steals or mines minerals." Everyone laughs at those greedy Psychlos, and Jonnie suggests that the conference pick a definition to determine if "the Tolnep fleet officers and crewmen are to be slowly vaporized individually as pirates or simply shot as military men when court-martialed."

This makes Schleim spit venom as he protests such a prejudiced slander, and Jonnie explains that he believes the other aliens were coerced into following the Tolnep's lead on their attack on Earth. Schleim counters that the other Tolneps were following government orders and that this talk of pirates is just a waste of time they could be spent negotiating Earth's surrender. The chapter ends on this... well, it's not a cliffhanger so much as it is an impasse or pause in a conversation. Maybe it's a commercial break.

If nothing else, this chapter makes me regret that there won't be a sequel to the Battlefield Earth movie. It'd be hilarious to see the result of trying to film this chapter as it's written...

Back to Part Twenty-Six, Chapter Seven

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Part 26, Chapter 7 - Sir Robert is Not a Diplomat

The plan is for Sir Robert the Fox to go in and do his best as a diplomat for as long as he can, then call in Jonnie as reinforcements when things inevitably go south. And so a sleep-deprived, stressed-out warrior with no inclination for conferences, whose home town is being pressed hard and whose wife is missing, is sent to trade words with a bunch of alien emissaries representing the Tolneps, Hawvins, Jambitchows, Bolbods, Drawkins, Kayrnes, and more.

Remember the Tolnep who "looked like trouble?" His name's Lord Schleim, which sounds like both a Captain Planet villain and a Jewish caricature. Subtle Hubbard ain't. Schleim is wondering why so many "august persons" have been called by "an upstart lot of barbarians involved in a petty, local dispute," and all the jewel-encrusted and gilded aliens with him are inclined to agree.

This is mind-boggling. The invitations were teleported to their capitols. They were teleported to this planet. And the people doing the teleporting weren't Psychlos. The long and inexplicable Psychlo monopoly on the god-like power of teleportation has been broken, and these aliens are wondering what the big deal is.

Sixteen known universes and no signs of intelligent life.

There's a heart-pounding moment where they question Foxy's credentials, and then the tension rises when Schleim wonders if the humans can afford the monetary costs for holding a conference. Next Sir Robert loses his temper at the Tolnep's suggestion that they're meeting to discuss terms of surrender, and has to remind Schleim that the Capture is a blasted hulk just a few miles away. For Schleim is, like all diplomats, an arrogant, condescending twerp able to ignore unpleasant facts when convenient... sarcasm aside, how do you run a galactic empire if these are the chuckleheads you send to negotiate treaties and foster good relations with your neighbors?

Lord Schleim goes on to run a video of the twenty-five (abandoned, ruined) cities that alien bombers have set aflame, which he claims as proof that the war for Earth is practically over. He offers "very liberal terms," moved as he is by pity: Earth's population will be sold into slavery to cover the costs of the invasion ("over fifty percent survive such transportation on the average"), Earth's "king" can go into exile on Tolnep, and the other aliens will divvy up the planet's loot as restitution for "this unprovoked attack upon their peaceful ships." And the other aliens go along with it, convinced as they are that "they had been called here just to witness some surrender terms in a petty war."


Sir Robert stubbornly insists that the meeting is to discus the aliens' surrender, but knows that he's beaten. So gives the signal to summon Jonnie to save the day.

He knew he had failed miserably. He hoped he had not hurt any chances Jonnie might have. Forlorn hope. It was all up to Jonnie now. But what could the poor lad possibly do?

Like I said: save the day. Now brace yourself. It's about to get really stupid.

Back to Part Twenty-Six, Chapter Six

Monday, October 18, 2010

Part 26, Chapter 6 - Jonnie Gets a Haircut, Gets Dressed, and is Told a Story

And now, Jonnie gets a haircut from Mr. Tsung's daughter.

I guess it's not a complete waste of time because it gives Jonnie longer to fret over how he's supposed to deal with this alien overlords controlling hundreds of worlds and trillions of lives, all more experienced at the art of diplomacy than he, a humble warrior relying on ancient Chinese secrets to survive the upcoming conference.

This pretty much assures Jonnie will be triumphant - the only reason the odds against him are ever brought up is to beat the reader over the head with how awesome Jonnie is for winning despite them. A bunch of humans against the Psycho empire? How can he possibly hope to oh, that was anticlimactic. One man trying to crack a secret that aliens have been failing to decipher for thousands of years? Surely there's no way he could huh, that's it?

For reasons known only to L. Ron Hubbard, Tsung's daughter gives Jonnie a haircut based on pictures of "somebody named Sir Francis Drake that had defeated somebody called the Spaniards long, long ago." Maybe we're supposed to view Jonnie as the heir of that Sixteenth Century explorer and privateer? Given some of the controversy surrounding Drake. i.e. slave trading and massacres, this may be more appropriate than Hubbard intended.

Jonnie suddenly takes a moment to listen in to the base radio, and hears Stormalong complaining that the aliens are firebombing Detroit, which is both recognizable enough to be targeted despite a thousand years of neglect and also completely uninhabited. Oh, and Dunneldeen's downed sixteen Hawvin aircraft. On his own. While dodging Edinburgh's anti-aircraft fire. Isn't it exciting when the bad guys are so stupid they bomb uninhabited ruins, and so incompetent that one B-list character can cut them down by the score on his lonesome?

Then it's time for Jonnie to get dressed, and there's over a full page spent describing his fancy new outfit: black silk with lots of buttons coated in "a one-molecule-thick metal spray of an iridium alloy" that sparkles with all the colors of the rainbow. Even Jonnie's boots are coated in the sparkly stuff. And it's topped off with an iridium-plated helmet with a golden-winged, blue-spined, ruby-eyed dragon sculpted onto it, holding a white orb in its mouth.

Point of order: eastern-style dragons don't have wings.

Jonnie asks Tsung about the dragon, and is told a story. It's a story we'll have explained later after some major plottage, but for now all we know is that it invigorates Jonnie and gives him an idea that he rushes to tell Sir Robert about. Poor Foxy only gets a paragraph describing his new digs (a kilt, what a surprise), and warns Jonnie that this new plan is dangerous and might antagonize all the aliens. Which, again, ensures that it will succeed.

Back to Chapter Five

Friday, October 15, 2010

Part 26, Chapter 5 - Jonnie Takes a Bath, Learns Some Manners

Jonnie goes to his room, feeling dizzy as the heroic willpower that has been keeping him going for so long starts to falter from worry about Chrissie. This is exacerbated when he runs into Mr. Tsung and his family along the way, forcing Jonnie to bow in greeting to each one before they get back to work on a mysterious Something.

Jonnie's room now has viewscreens showing feeds of the headquarters, empty conference room, and the teleportation platform, where he watches a Tolnep arrive.

He was in shimmering green; even his cap was green. But he had on dirty blue boots.

Would you be surprised to learn that the boots are a plot point?

Huge glasses hid his eyes. He carried a sort of scepter with a large knob at the top and a green hamper on green wheels for his food and supplies. A reptilian creature although he walked upright and had a face and arms and legs.

I like how "reptilian" apparently precludes having arms and legs. Also, weren't Jonnie and the other humans mistaken for Tolneps by some of the Psychlos? Despite being, y'know, hairy mammals?

A genetic line from dinosaurs that had become miniature and sentient?

1. How the flaming frak does Jonnie know about dinosaurs? Were they part of his tribal legends, or did the Psychlo educational machine include data on long-extinct species from a backwater mining world?
2. How the flaming frak is an extraterrestrial race supposed to be descended from a terrestrial species that went extinct sixty-five million years ago?
3. How the flaming frak would a species of reptiles evolve into a venomous, super-dense lifeform with vaguely-defined "time freezing" powers?

He made his speech much like the Hockner, accepted the reply with an evil smile, folded his shimmering green cloak about his steel-hard body, and was led away to a private apartment. He looked like trouble.

Yeah, since we've kinda killed off all our named antagonists by this point, it's time to come up with a new villain: Evil Tolnep Diplomat.

Suddenly Mr. Tsung barges in, notices how filthy Jonnie is, and demands that our hero take a bath. Jonnie caves, and not only enjoys a hot soak, but gets scrubbed down by his Chinese manservant, then put in a comfy robe and fed some soup. Then Dr. Allen and "Psychlos are Viruses" MacKendrick show up with "that false joviality doctors assume just before they take you by surprise and do something gruesome" and inject Jonnie with some "B complex." I'm left wondering if there's any profession Hubbard has a favorable opinion of.

Feeling better, Jonnie orders Tsung to bring him his buckskins, but the Chinese man refuses, because "They lords!" A translator is brought in to help figure out what Tsung is agitated about. Turns out the Tsung family served the Ch'ing dynasty as chamberlains up until the time of Mao, and even after the communist revolution and through the thousand years since the collapse of civilization they've scrupulously kept records and retained the lessons of protocol befitting a mandarin. All because they were patiently waiting for a dynasty to emerge for them to serve.

Yep.  Over the past ten centuries at no point did a young member of the Tsung bloodline say "shouldn't we be worried about getting enough food to survive the winter, instead of how a feudal ruler should behave in the presence of a foreign power?" None of the Tsungs even thought to apply what they'd learned about pomp and authority to their own bid for power - after all, if you know how an emperor is supposed to behave, what's to keep you from passing yourself off as one? But no, they've just slavishly maintained the old traditions, content in their role as servants to greater people.

I'm depressed now.

So, through the translator, Tsung gives "Lord Jonnie" a crash course in how to act regally and what to expect at the conference table, all with lots of ellipses:

"'Do not,'" the Scot obediently translated, "'agree or seem to agree to anything. . . . Your words can be tricked into seeming to agree . . . so avoid the word yes. . . . They will make preposterous demands they know they cannot attain . . . just to gain bargaining points . . . so you in

You get the picture.

Then there's a lesson on deportment, that is to say the proper stance and motions of a commanding leader. How to hold or waggle a scepter, how to walk, etc. But before Jonnie's ready, there's one mysterious other matter left to attend to... next chapter.

Back to Chapter Four

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Part 26, Chapter 4 - Enter: Blan Jetso!

After all that intense repairwork from last chapter, this three page section seems like an anticlimax.

Someone (probably The Gray Man) has found a record - not a CD, or tape, or MP3, but an actual vinyl record - of The Cleveland Symphony Orchestra to play in the background for the arriving alien diplomats. TGM has also worked with Dr. Allen to set up a mesh screen around the platform for "disease control," thus negating any questions about the health risks of linking drastically different worlds through the miracle of teleportation with a single wave of the hand. All the Chinese workers have cleaned up the base, a multinational uniformed honor guard is in place, and Edinburgh is on fire.

In light of the Psychlo-made defensive weapons making a mockery of their attempts at bombing, the attacking aliens have switched to munitions that sometimes aren't exploded in mid-air. The news is enough to make Jonnie feel a "contraction of his heart" and think of Chrissie. The Scottish officers are understandably distracted, and leave the handling of the xeno diplomats to Jonnie.

Cue the Hockner representative arriving on the platform. Despite the muddled explanation in Chapter 1 of this Part, you can retrieve objects, even life forms, using a teleporter. Those invitations Jonnie sent out included instructions for their representatives to stand around in the spot the note appeared in, as preparation for being yanked to Earth a few hours later. And I'm not exaggerating when I say the Hockner's greeting takes up close to an eighth of this chapter.

In a supercilious tone of voice, the Hockner emissary said in Psychlo, "I am Blan Jetso, Extraordinary Minister Plenipotentiary of the Emperor of the Hockners, long may he reign! I am empowered to negotiate and arrange final and binding amendments to agreements or treaties in all things political or military. My person is inviolate and any molestation cancels any agreements. Any effort to hold me hostage shall be in vain, for I shall not be redeemed by my government. At the threat of any torture or extortion, you are warned that I shall commit suicide instantly in ways unknown to you. I am not the carrier of any disease nor weapon. Long live the Hockner Empire! And how are you today?"

The chapter ends shortly after, with Jonnie suspecting that the 29 other aliens are going to be pretty much the same, and worrying about how he's going to deal with them. But let's talk more about how that Hockner got here.

There's two possibilities. The first is that nobody's ever done something like this before, sending an invitation promising future pickup for a distant conference. And that despite this being unheard of, all thirty alien races went along with it and sent their diplomats to wait around in front of their centers of government. This implies incredible trust or incredible naivety, and gives me some ideas of how to prank the Tolneps.

The other possibility is that this is routine, and that the Psychlos regularly brought alien dignitaries over for conferences. And that these talks were civil and polite enough for the aliens to consider them both legally-binding and worth repeating. Which is a bit unexpected for a backstabbing, bloodthirsty race that drips with self-indulgent eeeeeevil, isn't it?

I can't remember which is correct, or if it's even commented upon later. My memory of these upcoming chapters is a blur because they're that dull. And stupid, but that'll be later.

Waaaaay back at the start of the book, I complained that drone miners would make the whole "humans mine gold" plot unnecessary, and then I learned that the Psychlo had drones, they just didn't use them on Earth. And recently I whined that teleporting things to you would make mining in general unnecessary, and now I've learned that you can grab things with a teleportation platform, but the Psychlos apparently didn't think to apply that to resource acquisition.

It's mind-breaking. It's not just convenient natural laws preventing an action from happening, in the case of the "samespace" garbage. This is a supposedly intelligent species not making logical, beneficial actions they are fully capable of, just so that the plot can unfold a certain way. The universe of Battlefield Earth, from the evolution of alien races to the physical laws of reality, exists so that Jonnie can take a specific series of steps to become everybody's hero.

Back to Chapter Three

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Part 26, Chapter 3 - Dam

And now for eleven pages of Jonnie and the others repairing the Kariba dam in under two hours.
Why? Why can't we just get to the intergalactic conference? What does this chapter full of contruction work add to the plot and story? Why does every action the characters take have to be faced with an arbitrary obstacle to overcome?  First there was Terl trying to convince Numph to authorize training humans for mining, then there was the sabotage of Terl's demo, then there was Terl having to come up with a way to blackmail Numph, and then there was that earthquake affecting The Lode, and so on.

You know what the Battlefield Earth movie did? Terl gets Jonnie, blackmails Numph, the humans acquire Terl's gold while preparing for the uprising, and that's that. None of this padding. The craziest part is that the things that should require lots of effort, like Jonnie walking into a Scottish village and convincing them all to fight for him, happen in a heartbeat with no difficulty.

I'm getting sidetracked because this is an incredibly boring chapter. Maybe I'm just jaded, but after those heart-pounding sections involving mining The Lode, it's hard to get excited about silt and erosion.

The short version is that the charred hulk of the Capture (containing fifteen hundred dead Tolneps and the remains of one suicidal Scotsman) is blocking the river, so Jonnie has some new channels blasted around it. "Blowie! Blowie! The sharp cracks of blast cord exploding." Then he has to get in a plane and blow up a pile of explosives to destroy the impact crater and get the river flowing back to normal. There's constant talk about how dangerous and impossible the task is, and how nobody's done x before, but in the end, with 33 seconds before the deadline, the teleportation platform has enough power to fire. Yaaaay.

Note that the levers and wheels of the dam controls haven't been moved for a thousand years, but don't crumble away to rusty powder when someone tries to move them. Also note that the power requirements of rearranging the very fabric of the universe sixty times in an afternoon can be met by one hydroelectric plant on the Zambezi River.

Back to Chapter Two

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Part 26, Chapter 2 - Pitch-Black, Cavernous Plot Holes

So Jonnie meets The Gray Man under the pagoda near the teleporter platform, and notes that the alien is indistinguishable from a human save for his gray hue. He also only comes up to Jonnie's shoulder, and is wearing a Scottish-knit sweater. TGM notices that they only have one console, which makes Jonnie defensive and he insists they can build more.

That small talk done with, they get down to business, conversing in Psychlo since the translator device The Gray Man uses occasionally "miswords critical clauses that lead to disputes." They get Chief of Clanfearghus on the line to empower Jonnie and Robert as acting on behalf of the government, i.e. the Scottish chieftains, and then TGM asks if the humans have any galactic credits, at least five hundred of them. 12,000 GC is quickly gathered from the human pilots, who "had been taking them off pilots they shot down."


While fighting for their lives against an alien foe that badly outnumbers them, the human air force is taking the time to search the wreckage of downed enemy aircraft for loot. That, or they've been industriously capturing aliens who ejected, who for whatever reason were carrying their wallets. Now I'm not a military man, but it seems strange to me that a pilot about to go on a mission over enemy territory would have any reason to bring along some currency. Were they expecting to have to bail out and wanted to be able to buy a sandwich afterward?

The small gray man - I shoulda abbreviated him to TSGM, since that's how the book always names him -writes up a document for Sir Robert and Jonnie to sign. After they become his paying customers, TSGM/TGM launches into his role as legal counsel, breaking out a big "address book" of teleportation coordinates and telling the humans to act fast and contact the home planets of the attacking aliens, declaring a temporary truce over the Kariba base for a conference over the planet's future. Since it'd take forever to enter the coordinates by hand, The Gray Man gets a crewman to bring out a computer that'll help with all the firings needed, and runs through the seven-hour process of sending a form letter to the twenty-nine "basic civilized nations" (and Lord Voraz).

Jonnie asks if TGM knows how to work a teleportation console, and the alien says no. He just has detailed information about how to operate an add-on computer to manage the teleportation. I guess the Psychlos didn't mind other races learning how to use peripherals for their top-secret technology?

So letters requesting an intergalactic conference are sent to the front steps of the Hockner Imperial Palace, the Tolnep House of Plunder, and so forth. And now you might be wondering "wait a tick - the Psychlos can send objects right to their rivals' capitols, and can build bombs capable of obliterating planets, so why haven't they annihilated those stupid Tolneps and Hockners already?" And neither I nor Hubbard have an answer for you, even though Jonnie just wished he could do something similar to the orbiting warships. There's no BS about the limitations of transshipment or some technological defense to such an attack. It's a plot hole, another oversight concerning the implications of the miraculous teleportation technology this book uses. Maybe, if my memory is failing me, there will be an explanation or excuse in a later chapter. But I'm not optimistic.

His job done, The Gray Man steps aside, saying the rest is up to Jonnie and Foxy, who exchange a concerned glance when they realize that "six and a half hours from now authorized ministers of twenty-nine races, which apparently made up about five thousand separate planets, would be here!"  We're not told this yet, but these rapacious, hostile aliens will be hitching a ride on the humans' new teleporter. 

In any event, the next plot point is set up - the dam is damaged, and unless it's repaired will lose power in a matter of hours. Oh no. Whatever will our heroes do.

Also note that despite hiring him as their legal advisor and working with him to send those summons, at no point do the humans get The Gray Man's name. We're told he initialed his part of the document, but not what those initials are. Given that the Scots all but agreed to serve as Jonnie's army before someone wondered who he was, this should come as no surprise.

Back to Chapter One

Monday, October 11, 2010

Part 26, Chapter 1 - 834 Pages In, a Breakdown of Teleportation Rules

Lots of teleportation mumbo-jumbo this chapter, as Hubbard attempts to answer questions in a way that raises further questions.

Jonnie and Angus have successfully test-fired their shiny new teleporter by sending a "gyro-mounted camera" to the moon and Mars. They do this because a teleportation rig can be used in two ways, and I'll let Hubbard explain how:

The rig could "cast" an object out and bring it back or it could "cast" one out and leave it. You moved "this space" out there and brought it back in order to just send out an object and recover it. Or you moved "this space" out to the coordinates of "that space" and "that space" now would hold the object and you brought "this space" back empty. Actually nothing moved through space at all. But "this space" and "that space" were made to coincide.

Once again, let me boggle at the idea of tearing sections of the universe apart and somehow relocating them. Even assuming such a thing is possible, the logistics of it is staggering - you'd not only have to devise some standard of coordinates in an infinite, three-dimensional, ever-expanding operating area, but you'd also have to compensate for the fact that any two points in said area were hurtling away from each other. I can't imagine the processing power you'd need to run those numbers and keep a link open between Earth and Psychlo (which is, on top of everything else, in another universe) for hours at a time. The energy requirements, the computing requirements... the Psychlos can do all this, but they can't synthesize gold? They can't come up with a radiation-proof suit for them to wear for mining in dangerous conditions?

Also note that (and I'm going to feel real stupid if a later chapter proves me wrong), while it is possible to send "here" to "there," there's no mention of bringing "there" to "here." So Terl can't sneak off to that back-up platform in Africa and beam the gold from Colorado right into his lap. ...That's really it, the reason for this inexplicable limitation in how you can use teleportation: because otherwise the plot falls apart.

Speaking of plot-related limitations , there's also something called the "samespace" phenomenon. Transshipment is dangerous if you try to send things too close, since the locations being swapped are too similar to each other or something. The short version is that you don't teleport within 25,000 miles of your rig if you want what you're sending to be recognizable at the end. This is annoying Jonnie, who wanted to beam nukes aboard the orbiting alien cruisers.

Anticipating your outbursts, Hubbard explains that teleportation motors are completely different:

A motor ran on the principle that "samespace" resisted distortion heavily. The shorter the distance, the more the distortion. Thus the motor thrived on the refusal of space to distort. But here one was not moving an object; one was moving merely the position of the motor housing. You could even run a dozen motors in the same room and though they would cross-distort, they would function.

How is "moving the position of the motor housing" not "moving an object?" For that matter, wouldn't this just shoot the engine itself along its course and leave the rest plane behind? I can't wrap my head around this, and I really shouldn't bother trying to. The reason teleportation-based engines run under different rules is so that Hubbard can keep using them. Because by god, his spaceships don't run on plasma or dilithium or any of that nonsense, they're powered by teleportation, dammit, which is original and visionary and awesome and pure sci-fi.

So while Angus and Jonnie are fretting over all this, they suddenly receive a message in English from that ship that was sighted on the Scottish coast ages ago. After The Gray Man names what it was the old lady gave him (yarb tea), Jonnie cautiously agrees to a meeting. And so the endgame begins.

Back to Part Twenty-Five, Chapter Five

Friday, October 8, 2010

Part 25, Chapter 5 - I Suppose This is the Turning Point

The Gray Man tagged along with the bulk of the aliens to assault Singapore, where he hung back and wondered at what cheap defensive weapons the Psychlos used, and why there's no orbital weapon batteries, which is something I'd overlooked. He puts all the incompetence down to the Intergalactic Mining Company's pursuit of profit over all else, though in fairness the humans are kicking tail with these budget weapons. Not that it's much of an accomplishment, given these aliens, but still.

TGM also notices something that all the distinguished military commanders of the other races have missed - there's no teleportation rig at Singapore. While there's something that looks like a console (it's a burnt-out spare), the fact that there's weapons fire and aircraft operating nearby means that there's no way anything can be teleported from the site. This doesn't stop the invaders from enthusiastically blowing up everything they can, and The Gray Man tsks-tsks and wonders why the military would level an undefended city that might contain the very loot they covet. Because we all know the military only exists to pillage and revel in destruction, and is incapable of grasping a more complicated objective than "kill stuff," right?

While the other aliens blow up the crumbling ruins of Singapore, The Gray Man goes on a tour. He arrives in Russia just in time to see five hundred Hawvin marines blunder into a minefield before getting strafed by aircraft. The American minesite is abandoned, still burning, and irradiated. Edinburgh is burning both from bombs and from the wreckage of bombers falling onto it. But nowhere is the teleportation trace that The Gray Man is searching for.

After chastising himself for feeling worried about that Scottish biddy who gave him something for his stomach, TGM takes a nap. When he wakes up he realizes that maybe those planes that went to Africa were carrying something of interest. He flies there just in time to see the Capture belly-flop, and while inspecting the area his scanners pick up that teleportation trace. For the first time in all of recorded history, a captured Psychlo teleportation console has fired twice.

The Gray Man, unprofessionally jubilant, sends a radio message in English towards the base, requesting an interview.

The small gray man waited. He hardly dared breathe. An awful lot of things depended upon the reply.

Get ready for some white-hot, pulse-pounding, edge-of-your-seat diplomacy.

Back to Part Twenty-Five, Chapter Four

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Part 25, Chapter 4 - Vengeance for Unnamed Swiss Guy

Glencannon's back, and this time, it's personal.

In his mind he could still hear the voice of his Swiss friend, "Go on! Go on! I will shoot them down! Keep going!" And then his scream when he was hit just before he ejected. And back of Glencannon's eyes [sic] he could still see the viewscreen of his friend's body being shot to pieces in the air.

Already mad with survivor's guilt and the thought that if he hadn't followed orders to flee he and Unnamed Swiss Guy could have won that fight, when Glencannon saw the Capture approaching and realized it was the the same ship that launched the fighters that killed his friend, Glencannon snapped.

So he stole the only aircraft on base, heavily-armored and carrying a payload of bombs each of which is capable of destroying "half a city," and went off for some sweet, sweet vengeance. Glencannon ignores Stormalong's voice on the radio and flies up out of the atmosphere to meet the Capture, downing a fighter on the way. Once he takes some defensive fire he moves out of range and sits for a while, studying the capital ship. As it continues dispatching bombers, Glencannon notices that past the constantly opening and closing hangar doors, there's a lot of fuel and ordnance sitting about.

So Glencannon waits until the doors are open, swoops forward through the defensive fire, and enters the hangar, guns a-blazing.

From the ground, Jonnie and Stormalong watch the Capture suffer catastrophic damage and slowly begin to fall. Now I've tried to do the math and figure out if this is possible given that the ship was "fifty miles above the termination of the Earth's atmosphere," but I'm not sure how stable an orbit that would be and if suddenly losing engine power would cause the ship to fall. Dammit Jim, I'm a political scientist, not an astrophysicist.

Waaaaait a minute. Two chapters ago, according to the Psychlo guide to alien races: "No Tolnep vessel can operate in atmosphere due to the great inefficiency of its star energy drives which, being essentially reaction engines, use up too much of their power in atmosphere." So that's why the Capture is falling faster once it's in the atmosphere. Yet it's launching fighters. Wave after wave of fighters, flying down, dropping bombs, flying back up for reloading, and going out for another mission. Fighters which are handling the atmosphere just fine.

And why do they need fighters anyway? Why not just develop smart bombs? Or, again, laser batteries. Ah, bugger it.

So down comes the Capture, right into the lake next to the hydroelectric plant, wiping out the (evacuated) Chinese workers' village in the shockwave and battering the dam. The generators are still running, and wouldn't you know it but that dam is practically indestructible, but the lakebeds on either side of the dam are eroded enough for water to leak through. In a matter of hours, there won't be enough water to run the dam. Dun-dum-duhn!

But on the bright side, at least they aren't suffering the annoyance of a harmless bombardment, right? And now they have a window to fire that teleporter. That's what Jonnie clings to after Glencannon's heroic but problematic sacrifice.

But the best thing about it? At no point was that dead Swiss pilot named. Not even in Glencannon's thoughts. He killed himself over a nameless chara- no, not character, that implies characterization. Glencannon was driven to grief-fueled suicide by a vague idea.

How are we supposed to react to this? Should we be upset that Glencannon, whose characterization so far has been "pilot" (he might have been a Jonnie body double, I can't remember), died to avenge someone we're never introduced to? Why not have someone, let's say Angus, get killed in the bombing, and have Glencannon avenge him? At least Angus the mechanic is easy to keep straight; all those Scottish pilots are pretty much interchangeable...

I hope you enjoyed that bit of action, because it's all downhill from here. Two hundred pages of talking, scheming, theatrics, legal wrangling, and jaw-dropping stupidity. I think someone may try to shoot someone later, and there's another round of bombing, but that was the last "battle" in Battlefield Earth.

Back to Chapter Three

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Part 25, Chapter 3 - Not So Much a Siege as an Annoyance

After getting dressed, Jonnie doesn't rush to take command or head outside to take a look at the situation. Instead he goes to the hospital to check on the wounded from the last operation, because he's all heroic like that. A rousing speech isn't necessary, however, since the Scots are all buoyant from wiping out the Brigantes and settling that blood feud.

I'm trying to remember if there's any Brigante survivors mentioned later, but I'm not optimistic.

Jonnie goes outside after that, where everyone's gathered under the not-a-force-field, and marvels at how inspiring and multinational everything is - Italian-Swiss electricians, Scottish officers commanding Russian and Swedish soldiers, Sherpa hunters, and Chinese laborers. The free peoples of the Earth, all fulfilling their national stereotypes.

The Chinese chieftain and designer of the base, Chong-won, shows off the tricked-out teleportation console - it's been reinforced with armor in the shape of an eastern dragon. Then, as the ground occasionally shakes from distant explosions, he takes Jonnie on a tour of the facility, showing off apartments, an auditorium, and eventually the operations center. By the displays and viewscreens, Jonnie can tell that Singapore, Russia and Edinburgh are all "really catching it."

No, we don't actually see the battles raging over Scotland and Asia. We're not told how the skies boiled with laserfire, how swarms of alien fighters blotted out the sun, how alien drop troops battered at the humans' defenses like a tide of monsters. We're just told that the antiaircraft fire in those areas is pretty heavy, and that the situation is so bad that they have two pilots flying air cover for two separate bases. Seriously: Thor is overhead in Kariba, and Dunneldeen's flying over Edinburgh. That's it. That's how dangerous this invasion is.

Oh, and Glencannon's acting unstable, all shaky hands and unresponsive, staring at pictures from the mission that cost him his friend, and scans of the carrier headed towards them. What could this mean?

Jonnie wants a tour of the defenses, and checks out the Psychlo AA guns they're using outside of the force field dome. They're push-button devices - a computer tracks a target, you hit "fire," the target explodes. Exciting. The aliens are dropping bombs from above the guns' range, but the guns are good enough to blow up the bombs in mid-air. And before you ask, the reason that these guns weren't used to blow the humans out of the sky a year ago was due to the attack being "a total surprise," and Terl letting the defenses go neglected.

My question, though, is why the aliens aren't trying energy weapons. I'm assume blast rifles are analogous to lasers or something, right? And a capital ship could field some pretty big blasters? And those blasters could be used in conjunction with those super-detailed scanners to rain death upon the enemy from high orbit? But no, they're going with bombs that are being intercepted in mid-air, even after seeing how useless the attack is. Heck, the only times the ground's shaking is when the bombs hit so far off target that the humans don't bother shooting them. So not only are these bombs impotent, they're wildly inaccurate and are hitting things ten miles away.

Stupid aliens...

And then, so that something actually happens this chapter, Glencannon jumps into a Mark 32 battle plane and takes off! And so we end on an exciting cliffhanger, a prelude to the last gasp of what passes for action in this book.

Oh, and to give Jonnie credit, when he sees how "bad" things are in Edinburgh he does spend a second to worry about Chrissie, before being assured that she's safe in a bunker.

Back to Chapter Two

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Part 25, Chapter 2 - Back in Africa

We're back in Africa, in the bunker the Chinese built next to the teleportation platform. Jonnie wakes up to feel the ground shaking, and is quickly attended to by Dr. Allen and some of the named Scots. The doctor assures Jonnie that he's nearly made a full recovery from the heart-exploding venom, Angus explains that the control console for the platform is hooked up and ready to go, Thor tells how they only lost Andrew and MacDougal (whoever they are) in the fighting in Denver, while Foxy is being suspiciously nonchalant about what's happening outside.

Thor also has a package. While searching for bodies they found a scorched, mangled corpse with a pellet of matter in it - the core of Jonnie's duplicate bomb, which Terl tore out and threw like a bullet to kill Brown Limper. Terl's bomb was apparently recovered and disarmed by Angus, I guess while he was sitting in a coffin-foxhole hiding from the recoil?

Oh, and Terl's recycling has been rescued, which includes gems such as a pamphlet titled "Known Defenses of Hostile Races and Surveys of Their Homelands." An excerpt reveals that Tolnep vessels' engines are too inefficient to work in atmosphere, which is a rather convenient bit of foreshadowing.

Jonnie realizes that his henchmen are trying to paint a rosy picture for him and demands a true report. The aliens are attacking the false base at Singapore, but also Russia and Edinburgh. Oh, and there's a carrier approaching Africa that's been bombarding them for hours and could launch a thousand Tolnep marines at any minute. So a still-dizzy Jonnie gets up and heads to his room to get dressed. He now has a Chinese manservant named Mr. Tsung who in broken English tells Jonnie to have some soup, then helps him put some clothes on. Though initially worried due to all the bombing going on, Tsung quickly feels better now that this shining Aryan hero is here to save the day.

Aaaand that's about it for this chapter. A lot of exposition, and Jonnie gets dressed. In case you're curious, he's in a fancy black sling for his still-wounded arm, but positioned so he can quickly draw his Smith & Wesson if he needs to.

Back to Chapter One

Monday, October 4, 2010

Part 25, Chapter 1 - This Time Will Be Different!

This chapter starts on page 801. There's only 280 pages to go. I'm not sure how I feel about that.

The aliens are in an uproar over the huge, non-planet-destroying explosion they saw. Except for The Gray Man, who for the first time is feeling hopeful after catching that trace of a teleporter, though he's the only one who caught it.

Instead his fellow xenoforms are discussing the next course of action. They conclude that the explosion was a nuclear bomb going off as part of that yellow-robed priesthood's takeover of the planetary government, making now the perfect time to strike, while the enemy is disorganized. But then someone floats the idea of this world being the one and not even realizing it, which adds the extra incentive of reward money to an invasion of Earth.

While the other aliens argue over who would be in charge of a coalition of the greedy, The Gray Man watches a human convoy go to a river and wash themselves off to decontaminate themselves. "Radiation! The way to get rid of contamination was copious use of water. The particles could be washed down and away due to their weight."

I'm going to float a theory here: L. Ron Hubbard didn't like the idea of subatomic particles or rays of energy or anything like that. To him everything needs to have concrete substance, be it gamma radiation or alien souls. Hence his conception of radiation as a sort of dust that you can just wash off, rather than something invisible and insubstantial that gets soaked up by matter and remains dangerous for generations. And the whole Thetan thing.

We're also told that the Psychlos have viciously suppressed knowledge of nuclear weapons, making them "a nearly forgotten chapter of ancient warfare." Even though the aliens just mentioned one and obviously know what an A-bomb is. I'm also curious as to how these advanced, spacefaring species would have been able to develop without discovering atomic theory, splitting some atoms, and realizing the military applications. I guess this is to handwave why no other species has nuked the Psychlos into oblivion yet.

The Gray Man keeps watching his screens, noticing the teleportation console being loaded up into a plane and correctly surmising what the recent battle was over. Unfortunately the other aliens see it too and get even more excited. But then the six planes that are loading up all of Jonnie's men and the console do a confusing bit of tight flying, which with the static makes it impossible to figure out which plane is carrying what.

Then two planes start flying northeast, racing along a course that takes them to the "pagoda place" in Africa. The other four craft head towards Singapore, where the aliens know there's an old Psychlo minesite. The aliens conclude that the two ships headed to Africa are a feint, and set a course to Singapore and presumably the humans' headquarters... except for Quarter-Admiral Snowleter of the carrier Capture. He starts towards Kariba in Africa, the "pagoda place."

The reason was that he hated all religions. Religious people were zealots and upset governments and always had to be crushed. This obviously was a religious revolt and they even had evidence of it. A religious order had upset the government of the planet and had now stolen a console. This planet was the one and he ordered them all to head for the pagoda objective.

Aw, someone was feeling persecuted when he wrote this part. Hubbard, honey: America loves religions. We're one of the most faithful Western countries. We were founded by religious zealots. Our political parties routinely pander to the devout when it comes time for elections. We've got Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Taoists, Wicca, Deists, Agnostics, Atheists, Pastafarians, and a myriad of denominations and sects within those categories. There's no government conspiracy trying to suppress your movement. It's just that Americans know religions, and they can tell the difference between a spiritual movement and a cult-like attempt to get tax-exempt status.

Well, most of us, anyway. There's something in the water in Hollywood, apparently...

Anyway, here comes the last lurching gasp of action in this wartime epic, as the aliens try a full-blown invasion instead of sending their men in convenient waves of three to six. At least for a few chapters. Then there's over a hundred pages of talking. And talking. Also, a makeover.

Back to Part Twenty-Four, Chapter Six