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

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