Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Blood-Sucking Monkeys of Northern Ohio

Hiero's Journey, Chapter Ten:

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

We begin this new chapter with a brief change of scene, from the pirate battle on the Inland Sea to the evil port city of Neeyana (named for the ancient land of Indiana, wherever that may be). There, in an Evil Tower, members of the Evil Unclean Mutant conspiracy's “Yellow Circle” are meeting to discuss our hero Hiero Desteen and whether he can be stopped before he achieves his goal. They reveal to the reader that they are tracking Hiero's movements, which Per Desteen has not quite figured out himself. Only bad things can come of this, we realize.

Back on the good ship Foam Girl, Hiero and Brother Aldo study a map they captured from the pirates and EUMs they defeated in the last chapter. We learn that it is an Evil Map, which reveals that “Neeyana is wholly given over to evil” (231). (I believe that's also the modern Indiana state motto.) It also displays an Evil Trail heading south through the Great American Forest, whose northern fringes, Captain Gimp helpfully notes, are inhabited by "a wee kind of red dwarf man with poisoned arrows" (233). Presumably these descend from modern Ohioans. At the trail's end lies a ruined city bordering a wasteland, contaminated by radio-cobalt bombs in centuries past. There, allegedly, is the Macguffin Hiero has spent the whole novel trying to find, i.e., the Computer.

After an uneasy night's sleep Hiero realizes the mind shields he captured from the pirates in the last chapter are probably also tracking devices, and he destroys them. But too late! Aldo senses an EUM lightning-ship in hot pursuit, and Captain Gimp runs the Foam Girl into a mangrove swamp to elude them. The EUMs set fire to the heroes' ship with their lightning gun, but the crew, or most of it, manages to escape into the forest.

The two dozen sailors, ex-pirates, and assorted hangers-on who now constitute Hiero's companions head south, where, later that day, they are attacked by a giant mutant animal, because Lanier has a random-action-scene quota to meet. The beast may be a neo-mammoth of some kind. Aldo calls it a "poro," and reports that he mentally directed it to run off to the Inland Sea and cool its feet, which it had wounded in another battle. In any event, Mssr. Poro blunders through the travelers' camp and charges off to the north without hurting anyone. Whew.

Another anti-climactic scene soon follows, as Brother Aldo and Captain Gimp have a brief altercation. Gimp wants to know who will pay him for his destroyed ship. Aldo tells him the Eleveners will compensate him. The captain says, essentially, "Well, that's good enough for me! Orders, please!" Apparently he is Agreeable Doormat Captain.

The travelers continue south into the Great American Forest, which is hot and tropical and full of monkeys. We are reminded that the climate of North America has greatly warmed since the Final War, as monkeys are not currently endemic to northern Ohio. Later that day, two of the sailors, presumably wearing red shirts, are killed in a hit-and-run raid by giant mutant foxes, and two more are hauled off that evening by large unnamed creature, possibly a giant blood-sucking monkey. Hiero agrees that he and Aldo and Luchare and Gorm, who have greater mind-mojo than their companions, will take watches henceforth. One suspects that Gorm will sleep through his watches, or possibly just suck his paws, like C.S. Lewis's Bulgy Bears.

A few days later the sojourners reach a fork in the trail that does not appear on their maps, but decide to continue south anyway, thereby entering “the realm of Vilah-ree, unknowing” (248).  Whom this mysterious female-type person might be, and what she may want of Hiero and his cohorts, is the principal subject of the next post in this series.


Coming next: The House is indahouse.