Friday, October 4, 2013

This One Goes to Elevener

Hiero's Journey, Chapter Eight, continued:

(For the previous installment in this series, click here.)

Hiero and friends have defeated the frog mutants who attacked them in our last installment, but the sinister salientians' boats are too small or fragile for our heroes to use, or else Hiero and Luchare and Gorm are too tired to think, for instead of fleeing the island they choose to stay and fight the Evil Unclean priests who are on the way.  Were we talking of a more conventional post-apocalyptic action hero we might assume that Hiero simply doesn't know that the Really Bad Guys are on the way, but Per Desteen has already used his extra-sensory perception to sense their approach, so ignorance does not explain his or his friends' disinclination to skedaddle.

Around dawn the EUMs glide up to the island in their lightning-gun boat, and their leader, S'carn, oilily offers Hiero one more chance to join the Evil Conspiracy. Hiero replies that he knows the offer is a trap, and taunts the Unclean priest with the sort of pulpy, campy diction that makes reading this book such fun:

“Come and try with your weapons! I defy your Unclean crew, your filthy, perverted Brotherhood, and above all, you, shave-pated master of foulness. If you have us fast, come and take us!” (192)

It works better if you imagine Hiero's part played by some forgettable action hero from the 1970s, like Jeff Cooper in Circle of Iron, and the evil priests played by a talented but dissolute European actor, like Max von Sydow or David Warner.

The heroes then resume preparations for one last stand-up fight, when, abruptly, deus ex machina arrives.  It takes the form of an old and plainly dressed “Elevener,” who warns the EUMs to depart. They refuse, naturally, whereupon the newcomer summons his secret weapon: an immense mutant fish with six-foot-long teeth!  The leviathan proceeds to shatter the Evil Mutants' boat and its crew. As the Elevener – whose name is “Aldo” - subsequently explains, the Eleveners have some psychic mojo of their own, including the ability to communicate with non-intelligent and semi-intelligent animal species.

Aldo tells Hiero, Luchare, and Gorm that he has come to find out why the heroes are causing such havoc on the Inland Sea. He promises, after Hiero summarizes the party's adventures thus far, to tell all he knows about the Unclean Menace and its plans, which apparently date back to the great radioactive war 5,000 years earlier. This must, alas, wait for the next chapter.

I'm not sure what became of Mister Giant Fish, but I suspect he swam off to digest his Unclean Mutant meal in peace.  Bon appetit!

Coming next: Sterling Lanier writes the first rough draft of Norman Spinrad's Songs from the Stars (1981).

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