Thursday, December 23, 2010

All Good Things Come To An End. Also, Battlefield Earth is Over

Finally, the last eleven pages.

Timeskip to "a few months later," with Jonnie hearing about Scotland's attempts to fund its reconstruction. There's talk of taxation for the first time in recent memory, which our hero scoffs at - "taxation, as a government way of life, was sort of silly business: couldn't a government earn its keep? Why did it have to go around robbing people?" I guess Jonnie's in favor of nationalized industries or campaigns for foreign plunder.

Instead of those abominable "taxes," Jonnie comes up with the idea for "contribution" boxes for the Scots to drop coins into (where did they get coins?) while Jonnie secretly pays for everything with his Buildstrong Inc. company. This leads to his Chatovarian workers deciding Edinburgh would be centered around the fields of "planetary government, extraterrestrial training, and Scottish handicraft," which ends with about a page dedicated to the layout and architecture of the new capital. Think medieval spires.

Edinburgh isn't the only city to feel the fury of Hubbard's fantasies of urban design, as the huge number of Chatovarian construction crews used to rush the Scottish capital's completion leads to a lot of workers needing something to do. So they set out refurbishing all those other ruins, even though they haven't been inhabited for "eleven hundred years" (I thought this was a saga of the year 3000?) based on future, potential uses for the city sites. Hubbard takes another jab at "modern" architecture with his report that America had "gone so madly modern and the Chatovarians couldn't abide it." Instead they copy the landmarks they like and apply it to the whole scheme.

So across the world the aliens construct gleaming metropolises with abundant parkland and super-fast public transportation, which are then are sealed up, waiting for a population. "Oh well, Jonie thought, when he saw all those empty cities going up, maybe somebody would live in them someday."

The man who came up with the economy that will save the universes sends his workers to build empty, unneeded cities so they'll have something to do?

What else, what else... Ker is head of an Edinburgh mining school, where the other surviving Psychlos help out as teachers... those Communicator folks start going out to other planets with former Psychlo slaves off hiding in the mountains and help them rebuild, since no other race in existence is capable of doing this without human help... Chiefy O'Nameless of Clanfearghus is declared king by the Earth government, but is benevolent enough to defer to tribal chiefs... "The Democratic Valiant Red-Army People's Colonel" Ivan gets Russia, natch... Chong-won rebuilds China into a center of intergalactic cooking where aliens learn to prepare cuisine they can't actually metabolize, with a side industry of silk...

Oh, Chrissie's upset by the new money again, because each issue looks increasingly more like a Selachee than Jonnie. Which is entirely intentional, since Jonnie wants his anonymity. In other bank news, the load from The Lode sits behind armored glass in the lobby of Galactic Bank's newest complex, with a sign reading "This gold was mined personally by Jonnie Goodboy Tyler and some Scots. He has left it with us because he TRUSTS us. So can you. If you start your new account today, you can reach through a slot and touch it!" This is both amusing and contemptible.

Blah blah blah, new teleport car, beings across the galaxies are awed by "pots and pans and suchlike" and demand these strange new "consumer products..." everyone's raving about this revolutionary new idea of not fighting war... urge to destroy universe rising...

Oh, Galactic Bank plants a report that's "leaked" by the Hawvin's intelligence agency, which claims that Jonnie's "if you fight I'll kill you all" teleporter platforms have been increased in number from twenty-eight to fifty-three, and hidden in the seventeenth universe. Since there's only sixteen known universes, this prompts a flurry of exploration that indeed discovers a new universe, but not the Universe #17 Jonnie fabricated for that report. How clever?

All those emissaries who bent over backwards for the magnificent Jonnie become insanely wealthy by selling overstocked planets for settlement. Jonnie, on the other hand, has a minor gripe when his company's Earth division runs in the red making all those useless empty cities. Then that point is temporarily dropped when Jonnie and Stormalong and Dries go up to the moon to walk around, where they discover tire tracks and footprints and a gum wrapper and "the very faded remains of what might have been a flag." So yes, books in a moldering ruin keep better than a plastic-wrapped flag sitting in a vacuum.

Only when he's returning to Earth and spots a new inland sea in the Sahara does Jonnie discover how his company plans on running a profit. Those Chatovarians have been running around planting quadrillions of trees to convert the Middle East or the American Mid-West into forests to feed off-world and starving Chatovarians (they're beaver-people, remember). They admit that this will lead to climate change but overlook the fact that they're destroying millions of miles of grassland or desert habitat, thereby dooming countless species to extinction.  Jonnie gives his general manager a pay raise.

There's a bit about Jonnie finding Pierre as a panhandling preacher describing how the former can walk on clouds and fight demons. Jonnie doesn't stand for it and flies him back to that mountain in Africa with the Psychlo cadavers to set the record straight. And then Pattie...

Ah, this part.

Now, Bittie MacLeod's sarcophagus survived the bombing of Edinburgh after "three beams of the collapsing cathedral [fell] across it almost protectively." So when Pattie turns sixteen, she goes to the crypt and demands that she be married to Bittie. The parson, "who could find no law against it," concedes, and she becomes Mrs. Pattie MacLeod.

She marries a corpse.

Let's examine this again - Bittie, whose age is not given to my knowledge but is described as a "boy" and never a "teen," meets nine-year-old Pattie. They decide they are in love and Bittie gets a "to my future life" pendent for a prepubescent girl. Then he dies. The nine-year-old is devastated, of course, but in seven years never gets over it, never rethinks their early relationship, never meets anyone else, and becomes set on getting married to a sarcophagus.

This is not heartwarming or romantic. This is ick. At least she founds the MacLeod Intergalactic Health Organization afterward, so something not horrifying comes out of this development.

Oh, and Jonnie and Chrissie have a baby they name Timmie Brave Tyler, proving that the tradition of silly middle names will continue, while disabusing any notion that such monikers are earned instead of given at birth as a kind of wishful thinking. When Timmie turns six, Jonnie "blew up" after concluding that the child, who's learning multiple languages and can do math in his head and drive a go-cart, is growing up "totally ignorant of the vital things in life." So he takes his wife and kid and disappears into Colorado to spend a year teaching him how to ride horses bareback and track deer, skills sure to serve him well in a world of trans-dimensional teleportation.

And rest assured, the legacy of hurling "kill-clubs" instead of figuring out the freaking bow and arrow for the love of God these people are defective will live on.

One day after this Dunneldeen and Robert the Fox fly over to explain how they've sent Thor (one of Jonnie's body doubles, remember) on a tour of the universes in Jonnie's place. But they also miss Jonnie and want him to come home. So he does, "and while Timmie learned to speak fifteen languages and do five kinds of math, while he learned to drive a ground car like Ker and drive and fly anything the company made, on any planet, including Dries Gloton's new yacht, his education was never finished. It was probably the one failure in Jonnie Goodboy Tyler's life."

So not that business with the gas drone or Chrissie and Pattie's capture or the death of Bittie. Just his son not being as barbaric as his father. That's the failure. Whatever.

Almost done... MacDermott the historian writes The Jonnie Goodboy Tyler I Knew, or The Conqueror of Psychlo, Pride of the Scottish Nation (HE WASN'T A SCOT YOU MORONS) and sells 250 billion copies on its first day, though "it was not as good as this book, for it was intended for semiliterate people." And that may be my favorite line in the book, due to the possible interpretation that the people who would enjoy Battlefield Earth aren't quite literate. The good doctor goes on to found the Tyler Museum, and I'm just grateful it's not the First Church of Jonnie.

The book finally, finally ends with the news that a while after being called home, Jonnie disappeared with "a pouch, two kill-clubs and a knife," to the concern of his family (!) and friends, though they understand that he never liked all the attention he got and kept saying he wasn't needed anymore.

But people in the galaxies do not know that he is gone. If you ask almost anyone on a civilized planet where he is, you are likely to be told that he is there, just over that hill, waiting in case the lords or the Psychlos come back. Try it. You'll see. They will even point.

He never went to an alien world, but he's right there. He's never even heard of my species, and indeed we weren't even sentient when he blew up a planet, but he's right there. He's surely been dead for hundreds of years, but he's right there. We only heard about him when our ambassador came back from a routine conference to announce that we'd been blackmailed into pacifism with the threat of annihilation by a species we'd never heard of on a second-rate rock who somehow managed to blow up the Psychlos, then we decided he was greater than any of our peoples' heroes and embraced him into our mythology, so he's right there waiting to save us from any danger because we're so damn incompetent we can't do anything ourselves, be it defeat a race of drunken morons or figure out an economic system that doesn't require constant warfare.

This book sucks.

Wait, scratch that. This book sucked.

Much better.

Back to Part Thirty-Two, Chapter Seven

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Part 32, Chapter 7 - No Hard Feelings About the Genocide

Soth apologizes for not being able to personally build a teleporter for Jonnie, but is told that his help will bring prosperity to countless worlds. Soth finds the notion not just nice, but "very nice," and offers Jonnie a computer he's set up to solve Psychlo equations, and even has ideas of how to convert the Psychlo base eleven system (which they held onto because it was annoying to work with) to the sacred simplicity of the decimal system.

For all this Jonnie writes up huge checks for Soth, making the old Psychlo muse about how he'd have a dozen wives and start a noble dynasty, but of course that's impossible now. When Jonnie wonders at this, Soth explains that the catrists "long ago pulled back the only Psychlo colonies that had begun. They convinced the throne that colonies on other planets might mutate, might be able to live in other atmospheres, and constitute a threat to the crown."

I am at a total loss as to how having a branch of your species develop the ability to breathe a different atmosphere threatens your power structure. Then again, these are the Psychlos we're talking about...

Anyway, those dastardly catrists wanted all Psychlos to be born on their homeworld, where they could have those capsules implanted in their skulls. So all females sent to work on other worlds had to be sterilized. The Psychlo race will die out after this generation. Jonnie's sorta-accidental act of genocide is complete.

And yet Soth isn't angry at Jonnie for killing billions of his people and dooming his entire race to extinction, because "From the moment the catrists began to gain power, the race started to go bad." He says the catrists were the ones who destroyed the Psychlo empire, not Jonnie, and the civilization was doomed the minute they took over.

After this, Soth sighs at the heap of contracts and paperwork on his desk and tells Jonnie that it's been a privilege to work with him. End chapter.

What. The. Hell.

No wishful thinking about what the Psychlos could have been without those moronic catrists implanting pointless and defective mind-control devices. No regrets that more Psychlos weren't brought up like Ker. No tears shed over the deaths of friends and loved ones caught up as part of an oppressive empire, or women and innocent children murdered for the sins of others. Not even the barest flicker of hostility towards the man who wiped out your entire species. Instead Soth absolves Jonnie of any sense of guilt (not that he was feeling any) and carries on.

God forbid our handsome hero feel bad about destroying a planet and killing millions.

The scariest thing about Soth's speech has nothing to do with Battlefield Earth, but Hubbard's views on psychology. So if any civilization, any people are tainted by the catrists/psychiatrists' immoral teachings, it's okay to kill them? Like you're doing them a favor for ridding the world of such a hated scourge? They're acceptable collateral damage for the war against oppressive charlatan physicians? The destruction of those ideas is worth the price in lives?

This is twelve kinds of effed-up.

Back to Part Thirty-Two, Chapter Six

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Part 32, Chapter 6 - Are We Done Yet?

Jonnie is crushed with the news that he won't be cracking teleportation engines after all, but patiently waits for Soth to explain. The Psychlo tells how paranoid his government was that an employee might try to build his own teleporters, and so included fake equations and unclear sequences in their texts. Instead, the catrists groomed the most brilliant students to be masters of mining and the only employee on a given planet who would be able to build or repair a teleportation console. The other Psychlos called these elites "brain-brains," which is dumb, but not as stupid as the next bombshell: "brain-brains" were always appointed as Security Officers.

That's right. Terl was the best and brightest the Psychlos had to offer. I can make no greater condemnation.

Jonnie tries to look on the bright side, that with what he's learned about Psychlo math he can make anything but teleportation motors, but mentions how executives used to repair motor consoles. Soth takes this to mean that Jonnie is only interested in the circuit, not the math behind it, and takes him outside.

Remember how Jonnie popped the top off a motor console and the thing went dead? The solution is to stick it in a pressurized bag, because fuses inside the device blow out if someone reduces the air pressure by opening it up. There's also the now-expected dummy wiring and a hidden circuit in the cover plate. With some powdered iron, an electrical charge, and a metal analysis camera, Jonnie is able to get a picture of the true circuit. So Jonnie finally has what's he's after.

Even if he doesn't understand any of the physics behind it. Not that I'm complaining, really; I don't want to hear Hubbard try to explain how a box of wiring and buttons manages to tear space-time apart and enable teleportation.

Back to Chapter Five

Monday, December 20, 2010

Part 32, Chapter 5 - It's Possible to Like Mining Too Much

Soth gives Jonnie a crash course on mathematics, discussing the Chatovarian binary system and others centered on integers from three to twenty, but he admits that the decimal or "base ten" system is the best. "Whenever they discover it one some planet they engrave the discoverer's name among the heroes." So of course the Psychlos use base eleven.

Then he goes through the Psychlo numerals, explaining that they were originally pictographs. This is too good to summarize, so:

"Zero is an empty mouth; see the teeth? One is a claw; just one talon. Two is a being and a pick. Three is a being, a shovel and a rock. Four is a mine cart; see the four corners? Five is what we call the 'off' paw, the one with six claws. Seven is an ore chute. Eight is a pot smelter; see the smokestack and the smoke? Nine is a pile of metal ingots like a pyramid; nine of them originally; but now just the pyramid. Ten is a lightning bolt; symbol of power, now just a slash. Eleven is two claws clasped; that represents contentment.

"It's a little moral lesson, you see. If you dig and smelt ore, it lifts you from starvation to power and contentment."

Where to start...

First, this is probably the most effort Hubbard has put into fleshing out the Psychlos in a way that isn't plot-required. He's given us the bare bones of history, jack squat about their beliefs or mythology, but suddenly a whole paragraph about the reasoning behind their number design. Twenty pages before the book ends.

Second, Buddha on a pogo stick, MORE MINING. The magpie-like obsession with gathering minerals was one thing, and the city built like a mining base with minecart-styled public transportation was just sad, but now it's getting stupid. Like nothing the Psychlos came up with could compare to the importance of digging for shiny rocks in their collective psyche.

Can you imagine a whole culture focused on the primacy of pottery? An intergalactic empire seeking out new sources of mud and clay to make storage and artwork from? Glazed buildings? Ceramic buses? How about a civilization based around basket-weaving, or simple agriculture, or mammoth hunts?

Third, the alphabet suggests that the Psychlos got around to making a written language long after learning how to smelt ore into ingots.

Jonnie is amused by the Psychlo numbers, but presses on and asks about Psychlo force equations. Soth surmises that the human is after teleportation formulas, and after bargaining for a lifetime supply of food and breathe-gas, as well as private housing and access to compound books and tools, explains that some cryptography is involved - letters on the equations have a numerical value based on how the Psychlo numbers match up with the alphabet, as well as some stuff about the eleven gates around the Imperial Palace, each of which have their own name. So math + codes + ciphers + headache + disinterest + antipathy = the resolution to Battlefield Earth's last real plot point.

...Or is it? After four pages of lecturing, Soth admits that "all this will be of limited use to you." Oh no! Will Jonnie ever figure out the secrets of alien technology? Will he ever build those ridiculous teleportation engines? What a cliffhanger to end the chapter on!

Back to Chapter Four

Friday, December 17, 2010

Part 32, Chapter 4 - Even More Psychlo History

Soth has his own room (his cough kept the other Psychlos in the dorms up at night), and that's where Jonnie finds him. The elderly alien immediately concludes that Jonnie is here to have him transferred again, and I have to boggle at him for a moment. The Psychlos know their planet got blown up, right? Their empire has collapsed, their entire civilization is gone. And they're all treating things like business as usual, as if Jonnie got promoted to their superior instead of taking them all prisoner. Their whole world has been turned on its head, and yet they assume everything's going to continue as normal. I mean, why would Jonnie transfer Soth? To where?

Jonnie evades the question, of course, and comments on Soth's collection of books, then asks how Soth's string of transfers got started. The answer, of course, is those damned catrists, who had him exiled for being impolite to one of their number. Or more specifically, one of Soth's students got yelled at by a catrist who insisted that they were all animals, but Soth shouted back denials. Soth's mom was in an "underground church group," you see, and taught him heresies like "sentient creatures have souls."

Soth goes on to describe the rise of the catrists from what he's pieced together of his people's history. 250,000 years ago they weren't known as the Psychlos yet, but there were fears of an invasion that allowed a group of "carnival performers--you know, mountebanks, frauds" who hypnotized people on stage--to gain the favor of the emperor. And "the next thing anyone knew, they were in charge of the schools and medical centers." The entire race was renamed the Psychlos after that original group of hypnotists.

We can only imagine how galactic history would have turned out if the ventriloquists or fire eaters had gained power like that instead.

Oh, and "Psychlos" means "brain" (or in an older dialect "property of"), while "catrist" means "mental doctor." What little subtlety that existed has now been kicked out the front door to sob in the rainy gutters. After this bit of preaching Jonnie flat out asks Soth if he'll teach him mathematics, and after a dazed moment of overcoming his lingering mental servitude, Soth agrees. End chapter.

Back to Chapter Three

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Part 32, Chapter 3 - Talking About Math

Jonnie goes through the old Psychlo personnel records and comes across an engineer named Soth, a 180-year-old former under-professor of "ore theory" who's been relocated every two to four years. Additionally, he'd been "cross-fired" each time he was moved rather than sent through the transit hub of Psychlo.

This raises the point that the Psychlos' insistence on linking every flippin' outpost of their empire to their homeworld slowed their expansion due to limitations of the single teleporter platform there. Jonnie's tried to avoid that problem by doubling up his platforms, dividing the duty into loading and receiving. This confuses me by implying that there are multiple teleporters running on Earth at the same time, or that while one platform is firing the adjacent one is receiving, both of which I thought were impossible due to Hubbard's rules. But whatever.

The reason for Soth's mysterious spree of transfers is a note from "Fla, Chief Catrist, Gru Clinic, Psychlo," declaring that Soth was "unsuitable for teaching profession." Jonnie rages how one "little slip of paper had condemned a being to obvious exile for a hundred thirty years!" Darn those catrists! I hope Jonnie... oh, right, they're all dead.

Jonnie doesn't go to this Soth immediately, and instead runs a test with a miner named Maz who Ker wants to get a tungsten mine started with. Jonnie brings up mathematics, but Maz doesn't try to kill him - instead he spends a long time thinking he shouldn't be talking about the subject, though he isn't sure why. Then Maz rambles about "somebody holding a whirling spiral in front of me," has a vision of his group's old catrist, and suggests that he do the calculations Jonnie was asking about for him. Two days later he hasn't tried to off himself, so Jonnie takes it as a good sign.

Jonnie also looks up the spinning spiral thing in a book called Hypnotism for the Millions and gives us another rant.

What a weird idea world those Psychlos had lived in! Imagine putting a whole population under a mental cloud! But the idea wasn't solely Psychlo's, for there it had been among the spider webs of the old man-library! And it had been a man-book which had led him on to the capsules.

How could any being consider itself so right as to think it should make all other beings into robots to do its bidding? He thought of Lars. Had Hitler been doing things like that?


The scary thing about Hitler was not that he stole people away, held them captive, and proceeded to break their minds until they were unwaveringly loyal to him and his ideals. He just gave speeches. He ranted and raved and promised glory and revenge, and it was enough to make World War II happen. Sure, he tried to indoctrinate the youth and ran a mean propaganda machine, but those weren't his main means of recruitment or even exclusive to his movement. He never needed to brainwash.

Scientology, on the other hand...

Back to Chapter Two

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Part 32, Chapter 2 - Dental Plan

Yay, another dinky little two-page chapter.

Due to the danger of handling Psychlos, who are big stupid lummoxes that Jonnie can toss around in close combat three at a time, the humans devise a cunning scheme to get them to go through with the crazy capsule-removing surgery safely. It involves dentistry. Dead serious.

Jonnie comes up with a fake regulation requiring Psychlos to submit to teeth cleaning and repair. While the patient is under anesthesia they get their mind-scrambler removed as their fangs get cleaned. Though the aliens are unfamiliar with the concept of a company dental plan, an assembly line process is developed that sees all their capsules removed in twelve days. The Psychlos all admire their beautiful smiles ("A Psychlo admiring beauty was a major change in itself"), and Ker wants in on the action even though he lacks the implant.

MacKendrick warns that the Psychlos may still have residual Evil left over from tradition and education, and says it's all up to Jonnie now. Well, Jonnie and whatever Psychlos decide to hold his hand and teach him math, but let's not forget who The Hero is, eh?

Back to Chapter One

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Part 32, Chapter 1 - Roll Where?

So it begins, the last Part to Battlefield Earth: seven more chapters followed by a ten-page epilogue. The end is nigh, and I'm not complaining.

An attempt is made to build suspense and urgency as Jonnie worries that without figuring out Psychlo math and therefore the secrets of teleportation-based engines, the economic prosperity he promised would never arrive, leading to another round of wars. I'm not sure if the Psychlos' ridiculous method of transportation is cheaper or easier than all the alternative engine types, so I fail to see what the problem is. Maybe it was explained back in Luxembourg or something.

The day after her surgery Chirk is still weak from illness and bedridden, and in case you were wondering about Pierre the Fainting Frenchy, he was last sighted "sky-hiking" his way back to Europe, far away from the big scary Psychlo corpses. And then Pattie shows up again, asking Jonnie if Bittie lived very long.

After the requisite "wave of grief" over the loss of the dearly departed wannabe squire, Jonnie nods, and Pattie concludes that if a doctor had been around that day, Bittie could have been saved. Jonnie doesn't have the heart to explain that Bittie was in two distinct pieces during his final moments. So Pattie snaps out of her depression and decides to become a doctor, an aspiration Jonnie approves of, but immediately sabotages by sending her to study under "Doctor" MacKendrick, who thinks Psychos are viruses.

The next day Chirk is in the library organizing things, and talks a bit about mathematics without going into a coma. So Jonnie rushes off to tell MacKendrick "they could roll."

I'm still trying to figure out if "lapsin" is a cipher for something L. Ron hated. "Aspirin" is a bit obvious and nonsensical, but then again so was "Psychlo" and "catrists," so all bets are off.

Back to Part Thirty-One, Chapter Nine

Monday, December 13, 2010

Part 31, Chapter 9 - Chirk Wakes Up

Finally, over five hours after her surgery, Chirk wakes up. Her first words after coming out of her months-long coma are about a library form Jonnie was supposed to send in, but once she figures out she's recovered from lapsin she gets spooked, wondering why those dastardly catrists haven't killed her yet.

"You're sitting there so they won't come in and vaporize me. Jonnie, that's brave and I should thank you, but you can't stop the catrists! They're the law. They're beyond any law! They can do anything they please, even to the emperor. Jonnie, you better get out of here before they come."

But Jonnie assures her that he "fired" the catrists, mentally adding "radioactively" like he's being clever. He tells Chirk it's her day off so she won't rush off to work, and has those two nameless Psychlo females take care of her. He tries to convince them that he's got paperwork exempting Chirk from vaporization, but "Whatever else he had said, he had a palm resting on his belt blast gun. They understood that." And so, as our hero threatens violence against captive females, the chapter and section ends.

Was there any good reason to drag out Chirk's awakening over three chapters? And then there's the whole "catrists" angle, that nefarious cabal of false physicians who wield absolute control over Psychlo society. Sounds like a good villain, right? Too bad we're only learning about them literally less than a hundred pages before the end of the book, long after they've already been killed.

Mind-blowing storytelling, L. Ron. Most writers set up the Big Bad early on and have the whole plot build up to the final showdown. You resolve the main plot less than a third of the way through your book, have an absolute dunce for an antagonist, and then explain how the hero accidentally and unknowingly defeated the real bad guys almost as an afterthought.

Back to Part Thirty-One, Chapter Eight

Friday, December 10, 2010

Part 31, Chapter 8 - Chirk Doesn't Wake Up

While Jonnie's guarding Chirk's recovery room, Chrissie comes by and apologizes for losing Pattie, but quickly moves on to more important matters - the proofs of the new Galactic Bank currency. It's not the annoying Psychlo base-eleven math system that's bothering her, it's how Jonnie's portrait has an upturned nose, gray skin, and gills. Jonnie just laughs off how he's been turned into a Selachee and says he might bring it up next issue.

Once the girls leave, Ker shows up with a bunch of aliens who all shrink away from the sight of Jonnie, to the latter's confusion. Then there's a narrated paragraph mentioning Ker's actions during the attack on Edinburgh, I guess because Hubbard couldn't figure out a way to work it into a conversation. Turns out Ker was in a cave guarding some African children, telling them stories through a Psychlo-Dutch translator device (I guess the Chinkos were just anal-retentive about translating long-dead languages). After this heartwarming if random bit of character development, Ker asks about getting his mine running before leaving.

Aaaaand that's all that happens. Chirk doesn't wake up, and Jonnie talks to some people. Another exciting entry in the saga of Battlefield Earth.

You have to wonder how much Jonnie likes Chirk. On the one hand, he's trying to revive her first, but on the other hand, he's attempting a potentially dangerous, untested operation on her instead of some other Psychlo.

Back to Chapter Seven

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Part 31, Chapter 7 - I Think It's a Reference to "Psychiatrist"

Next morning, it's time to try the mind control device-ectomy on Chirk, who is still comatose and near-death. MacKendrick sets the operation up in a completely different room from the one they played with Psychlo corpses in.

"We don't know enough about Psychlo diseases," he told Jonnie, "and their cadavers might be very infective to them when decayed. They are built of viruses and there may be a virus smaller than viruses. So change your clothes and get brand-new wires and equipment."

Mac has now gone from "obviously not a real doctor" to "dangerous to have around medical equipment."

Jonnie takes a minecart to pick up Chirk - y'know, the Psychlos are supposed to be the ones with a mining fixation, but every time Jonnie or another human needs to have something moved, they push it on a minecart. Psychlo corpses, hologram projectors, you name it, they never get a dolly or wheelbarrow. Always a minecart.

Anyway, the two Psychlo females caring for Chirk are incredulous at his claims of trying to take her in for surgery. They think he's here to torture or kill her, the only treatments the "catrists" allowed for "lapsin." Some narration (not dialogue) explains that the "catrists" were "the medical scientist cult that really ran Psychlo," and "lapsin" was a disease that Psychlo females could get, most commonly at young ages. It's explained that it was illegal to try to cure lapsin, or for "an unauthorized person to trifle with the mind." Anyone who came down with it was simply executed.

Jonnie carts Chirk out anyway, hauls her in for surgery, and just under two hours later her mental wiring is extracted. Mac says it'll be another four hours until the anesthesia (Psychlos get conked out by methane, which just begs for a fart joke) wears off. The two other females are astonished when Jonnie brings Chirk back alive, but assume that he's going to order them to kill her instead. After kicking them out he ends up standing guard outside her room lest someone else get any "odd Psychlo ideas."

Oh, and Jonnie has a "Poor Chirk" moment when he sees how thin she is. Didn't he have fun getting her all terrified half a book ago?

Back to Chapter Six

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Part 31, Chapter 6 - Pattie Goes Where She Wants

MacKendrick shows up and Jonnie explains that "we're going to do it!" He's referring to the capsules implanted in Psychlos' skulls, but I'll take what amusement the accidental innuendo gives me.

Yes, Jonnie has an idea. He and Mac have known of a hole or gap a "thirty-second of an inch in diameter" where the Psychlo jawbone connects under the ear. Both of them dismissed it as being too small to fit an instrument through, even though it's aligned perfectly with those nefarious brain-scrambling capsules. But Jonnie has... well, it's unclear exactly how he cracked this medical mystery and what thought process allows him to advance the plot. But he's nevertheless figured it out.

The short version is that you can stick some wires through that hole and connect them to a molecular plating gun, which using electrolysis or something will allow you to coat your bit of cerebral short-circuitry with metal transmitted down the length of the wires. Jonnie and MacKendrick manage to implant and remove a device from one of the dead Psychlos, and they're eager to try it on a live one. End chapter.

There, I just condensed four pages of technobabble.

Two other things happen, though: first, Jonnie's magical singing button goes off ("Gone are the days/When my heart was young and gay/Gone are the days...") in the middle of the surgery, so he finally gets rid of the stupid thing.

Second, one of the nurses mentions "I don't think this little girl should be in here during all this," which is when Jonnie finally notices Pattie standing nearby. I almost burst out laughing - after she was overlooked and got to stow away on his plane, she wanders off again! Jonnie "put [her] down" somewhere at the beginning of the chapter, and then everyone forgot about her until she meandered her way into a hospital! And even then it took a while for anybody in surgery to notice there was a little girl hanging around!

But it's all okay, you see, because Pattie is finally acting interested in something (even if it is a Psychlo skull or a vivisected alien), so Jonnie convinces the nurses to let a ten-year-old stay and watch some surgery.

I just realized - if Pattie is ten now, after an indeterminate timeskip that was preceded by a year in captivity, then Chrissie took her into the unknown wilds when she was at best nine years old. She took her nine-year-old sister with her into lands filled with wolves and boars and bears and Psychlos, with no warrior escort, or even a weapon.

Chrissie is criminally stupid.

Wait, that's not fair, Pattie kept following her when she tried to leave. Which means that even at an early age, nobody cared to stop Pattie from wandering around. And since nobody came racing after Chrissie or Pattie once they left, they probably didn't notice Pattie missing back then, either.

Someone get that kid a leash. And maybe one of those collars with a bell on it.

Back to Chapter Five

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Part 31, Chapter 5 - Fearsome Psychlo Corpses

After a few minutes Jonnie notices that Pierre is unconscious. While he's hauling Frenchy into the plane, he is startled to find Pattie inside helping hold the door open, but reasons that "They must have overlooked her in their scramble to get through the rain. She made so little sound and motion these days she easily went unnoticed."

So Pattie's doting sister Chrissie completely overlooked her, nobody else amongst the passengers noticed the mopey ten-year-old getting left behind, and nobody realized she was missing after the plane took off and radioed Jonnie about it, either. Pattie's such a non-entity that even other characters forget about her.

Jonnie gets Pierre and the two frosty Psychlos loaded and flies back to the base, where there is, of course, a crowd of admirers. When they see two inert, damp Psychlos dropped by a forklift into the back of a truck like so many sacks of manure, everyone recoils in fear, because Battlefield Earth is full of frickin' idiots. Ker "explains" that the two corpses were Psychlo guerrillas hiding in the jungle who attacked Jonnie's copilot, but Jonnie got mad and strangled both of the aliens at once. A former Hawvin officer breathes "No wonder we lost this war," totally buying the story that Jonnie is strong enough to lift two hulking Psychlos, each twice his size, at once.

The chapter ends with Ker trying not to laugh, and me wondering if there was any point to these scenes besides showing how timid and gullible everyone is. I mean, we could've cut right to the dissection table with a paragraph explaining that Jonnie retrieved the Psychlo corpses from the mountains. But nooooo, Hubbard wanted to spend time laughing at a cowardly Frenchman and stupid Hawvins.

Back to Chapter Four

Monday, December 6, 2010

Part 31, Chapter 4 - Now We Laugh at the French

Jonnie flies everyone to the Lake Victoria. It's night now and there's a storm hampering vision, so he's flying mainly by instruments. And poor Pierre the French copilot is terrified the whole time.

On landing he finds Ker waiting for them. The usually friendly Psychlo is cranky over his own struggles with Psychlo math, as well as the mopey behavior of "all those other ------ ------ Psychlos" who have been depressed ever since they saw pictures of their home world aflame, the bunch of babies. Jonnie has him get Pattie and Chrissie settled in the compound, then he and Ker and Pierre are off for the snowy mountain peaks they'd stashed Psychlo corpses on from that ambush all those chapters ago.

Pierre, naturally, panics and babbles that Jonnie's "landing on a cloud!" His tribe had been under the "domination" of Jesuit priests who "controlled it by instilling a heavy fear of heaven and hell, mostly the latter," so poor Pierre's superstitious and easily spooked. He has to don a jetpack before opening the door and stepping out onto the "clouds," which he's sure Jonnie can walk on but not confident about his own chances.

I wonder how the Jesuits would react to all this Jonnie worship?

An unconcerned Jonnie uses a crowbar to pry a corpse out from the snow and ice. The sight of a "demon rising from out of the cloud," combined with "Ghost Riders in the Sky" playing from Jonnie's magic button at an inopportune moment, is enough to make poor Pierre faint dead away. Har har, the French are cowards, har har.

Keep in mind that Pierre just flew up there with a live Psychlo. A Psychlo who jokes and talks with Jonnie. And he still faints away at the sight of a dead one. But hey, we've got to maintain the stereotype, dammit.

And that's all that happens this chapter.

Oh yeah, we're told more about Fobia, which is a planet instead of a moon... I think. Anyway, it's got such an elliptical orbit that its atmosphere alternatively freezes, liquefies, and evaporates. Which explains why you can "mine" breathe-gas from it, though not how the deuce Psychlo produced it. Anyway, Ker found it, so he won't suffocate anytime soon, just in case anyone cared.

Back to Chapter Three

Friday, December 3, 2010

Part 31, Chapter 3 - That's Enough Luxembourg, Let's Go Back to Africa

Now we're airborne somewhere near the Alps as Jonnie flies south with his new copilot, a young Frenchman just out of training named Pierre (of course) Solens, who (of course) is a little nervous at their low altitude. Along the way the plane is pestered by some of the Chatovarian-made security drones, part of Earth's new top-of-the-line defenses.

Drones with a really weird defensive measure:

Each one had a big eye painted on its nose. But those big, staring eyes were not a Chatovarian fixation on decoration: a pilot would instinctively shoot into the center of them, and if a pilot did, the drone used the shot as a return carrier wave to send a surge back that blew up the attacker's own ammunition and thereby his ship. Don't shoot at one of the eyes!

This is just one of those little details that becomes completely stupid with a bit of thought. So all alien races instinctively attack the eyes of their opponents? Every navy in the universes uses a sustained "beam" of energy to attack with that can be reversed somehow, rather than distinct "bolts" of energy or, God forbid, missiles or bullets? All of the myriad alien air forces will wait until they're close enough to see the markings on an enemy's plane before engaging, instead of firing missiles at extreme range using instruments only?

Well, points for creativity, at least. This is stupid in a way I haven't seen before.

Then there's talk about an orbital probes' "lens" that acts as a "light magnet" to create magnifications "into the tens of trillions," narration about how wildly popular the "peace or I'll kill you" treaty is, blah blah blah... Pattie is ten now, and still mopey and crushed from Bittie's death - oh, this will get worse, folks. Mr. Tsung's brother is starting a college of diplomacy, while Tsung himself is hiring Russian and Chinese girls to work as clerks and "vocotyper" operators - L. Ron Hubbard, feminist. Lord Voraz wants to come up with a formula for the validity of commercial loans...

I should just make a bullet point list of character updates. Nothing's really happening except we're being told how a bunch of third-tier characters are discovering commerce and industry.

Well, there is a bastardization of a Christmas carol. Dries gave Jonnie a Galactic Bank button that uses magical science to play music based on "old records of American ballads" once you hum a note. Jonnie clears his throat and the trinket plays, to the tune of "Jingle Bells:"

Galactic Bank!
Galactic Bank!
My friend so tried and true.
Oh, what fun it is to have
A neighbor such as you!

I guess this is some of the "humor" promised on the back of the book jacket. When Jonnie laughs the button switches to "Home on the Range," right around the time they spot Lake Victoria. Maybe next chapter we'll learn what revelation Jonnie had that sparked this excursion.

Back to Chapter Two

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Part 31, Chapter 2 - Jonnie's Palace

After accusing his horse of showing off, Jonnie arrives at his "palace," formerly the home of the Grand Duke of Luxembourg. Jonnie and Chrissie found it as a collection of stone piles, but then Chrissie started running around, excitedly chattering about where they could put the cattle yard and the tanning vats and chimneys and how they could divert a stream to a kitchen.

So Jonnie got those beaver aliens to "restore" the ruins with a mix of Gothic and Neo-Gothic architecture, featuring armored slabs of rose and green and other-colored marble. They did divert a stream to the kitchen, but the place has plumbing, and they did build chimneys, though the fires are simulated and powered by "solar-driven infraheaters." There's even a drawbridge, but not a starship landing pad because Jonnie notices how Dries Gloton must have visited by the scorch marks on the lawn.

And... well, there's huge, rambling paragraphs describing how minor characters are all becoming successful and wealthy. The original Small Gray Man got a salary raise and spends a lot of time in Scotland. Mr. Tsung's family is living in Jonnie's palace, making lots of money by selling paintings or dragon medallions, when they aren't cutting Jonnie's hair or spraying a molecule-thick layer of metal on the furniture so the Chatovarians aren't tempted to eat it.

After coming home, Jonnie, who has been instinctively expecting a "nice thing" to happen today, suddenly realizes what it is without letting us know until next chapter. He has a Buddhist communicator order I-refuse-to-call-this-man-a-doctor MacKendrick to meet Jonnie for a medical conference in Africa. Chrissie is to bring Pattie along even though she doesn't feel well. And Mr. Tsung rushes to gather "a white coat and a pair of spectacles--which had no glass in them--in a sack. That was proper dress he had seen in ancient pictures."

I think that last bit was a try at humor, but it made me depressed.

The most random moment in this chapter comes while mentioning how Jonnie "was treated to a dissertation on architecture," allowing L. Ron Hubbard to offer a scathing critique on a certain style:

It was only then that Jonnie found that "modern" had been a type of architecture prevalent on Earth about eleven hundred years ago; that it consisted of plain, straight up-and-down walls on a rectangular base; that it often was a vast expanse of glass windows; that it had been conceived by somebody dedicated to stamping out all indigenous architecture of an area. In short, modern was an architecture that wasn't architecture, but just a cheap way to throw rubbish in the air and get paid for it.

It's weird: when Pratchett talks about building a box and gluing some cherubs and halved columns on the outside to create "architecture," I don't mind. But when Hubbard does it I find him arrogant and obnoxious. Maybe I'm prejudiced? Or maybe it's all about delivery. Pratchett makes his criticisms through wordplay and humor. Hubbard has his opinions presented as fact to characters a thousand years in the future, as if he's certain that history will vindicate him.

And for all his talk about ugly buildings, I'm can't imagine a "Neo-Gothic" palace with multicolored marble walls turning out pretty...

Back to Chapter One

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Part 31, Chapter 1 - Now We're in Luxembourg

Earth is free of alien aggression and free of debt, the Psychlo menace is gone forever, Jonnie has gripped the collective cojones of the galaxies' races to enforce a permanent peace, and humanity is on track toward a new era of unprecedented prosperity. By most standards, the story is over.

But Hubbard has more to say. We've got to see exactly how ridiculously wealthy Jonnie is, and how much every sentient lifeform adores him. We've got to take another look at the Psychlos to see how eeeeeevil they are (were). And there's more Psychlo mathematics to ponder.

So the chapter opens with Jonnie riding Windsplitter along the Alzette River, Luxembourg, watching a bear go fishing and pondering recent events. Three months ago he bought the entire Grand Duchy and set up his teleportation console factory with Angus and Tom Smiley, and now they're able to pop out two hundred of the things in a day. Jonnie named the company "The Rig Industry," displaying laudable humility for not naming it after himself, while at the same time showing a breathtaking lack of creativity for a reputed genius.

He's also bought up eleven firms from an alien race called the Chatovarians, whose planetary defenses are so strong that not one of their seven hundred worlds has fallen to Psychlo invasion, and are even capable of downing gas drones. Now Earth's defenses are being built by the short, bright orange, buck-toothed, industrious... umm... well, if they were yellow I'd accuse them of being a Chinese stereotype, but since these Chatovarians are merely "bright orange" I'm just highly suspicious. Maybe it's just a coincidence - I mean, these guys have webbed hands and eat wood, and that's not part of any Oriental stereotype I've ever heard of.

So what's the tally now? We've had shark people, tree people, dinosaur people, and now beaver people? I wonder if the Psychlos were supposed to be a type of animal. Maybe bears?

Anyway, Jonnie is pondering the mystery of teleportation motors, which he can't figure out how to build because of "Those blasted Psychlo mathematics! Nothing ever balanced." So that's one of the lingering plot threads these last seventy pages will help clear up. And that's all there is to this chapter.

Random facts: Tom Smiley's wife Margarita is pregnant. I wonder if she ever learned English? Also, Windsplitter "sort of laughed" in this chapter, and when Jonnie touches his shoulder the animal mistakes the gesture for "run at full speed." I'm going to keep an eye on this horse.

Back to Part Thirty, Chapter Five