Wednesday, November 02, 2022

Walter R. Brooks, Freddy and the Flying Saucer Plans (1957)

Okay, staggering towards the finish the spite of the “flying saucer” right there in the title, you wouldn't really call this “science fiction” except incidentally.  This is actually...I suppose a “spy novel,” if anything.  The idea is that after people saw how powerful the Martians' flying saucer was, everyone wanted to get their hands on it and the Martians just got sick of it all and fucked off back to Mars.  But Uncle Ben, being a genius, has written up plans to make one of his own to provide the US with, I suppose, a Space Force avant la lettre.  But oh no!  Foreign Spies want the plans for their own nefarious purposes!  So to get rid of them, our heroes concoct a scheme where Freddy pretends to steal the plans, only actually he steals fake plans and lets the spies steal them.  Is he worried about his reputation?  Well, “any good American would sacrifice his reputation to get flying saucers for his country.”  All right then.  This is made difficult by the fact that there are actually spies from tons of different countries (I believe seventeen is the number specified), and they're all trying to stop one another, so it's hard to get the plans to just one.  But Freddy does, only to have it revealed that, oops, Ben actually gave him the REAL plans.  JESUS CHRIST, Ben.  So now we gotta get that back, which for some unclear reason involves Freddy disguising himself as a gypsy woman (hoo boy).  It should've been revealed in the ending that the “real” plans still didn't work.  That woulda made the whole thing admittedly kind of funny, if trolly.

There are also a few sort of half-formed side-things in the book: Brooks introduces a mole character, Samuel Jackson, who talks with a Foghorn Leghorn affectation: “'Well what's the matter with that?' the mole demanded.  'It's a good name, ain't it?  I say, it's a good name.'”  Also, a weird thing with ants (this features the return of Freddy's ant pal Jerry), and also bigger cannibal ants.

Here's the problem with this book: flying saucers don't exist, and therefore there's no such thing as “real” flying saucer plans.  It's all just pretend.  And if that sounds like an objection an alien with no concept of “fiction” might make, well...blame Brooks, I'd say, for failing to arouse interest.  This whole thing is really pretty grueling; Freddy and Simon the Dictator did arouse at least a little interest in spite of everything, but there's just nothing to say for this one.  Bad and boring.  Also dumb.

[Jinx] wanted to visit Montreal and Quebec, where he could hear people speak French.  “I want to see if they really understand each other when they make those queer sounds,” he said.  “Personally I think it's all just double talk.  I've heard it talked on the radio, but nobody can make me believe that that stuff means anything.  You and I could get up, and I could say: 'Ollicky pigglebob foozle?' and you could nod your head and say: 'Mealy toofer condespation,' and we could say we were talking Sanskrit and everybody's believe us.  That's what I think French folks do when there are no foreigners around.  When they're alone they probably talk as good English as we do.”

That is an extremely provincial attitude ya got there, Jinx.  And most annoyingly, it leads to a later scene where they fool the spies with gibberish into thinking they're speaking a Romani language.  Gah.

So at one point they take the “cannibal ants'” queen hostage, and Freddy remarks: “If a cat can look at a king I suppose a pig can look at a queen.  Not that it's any pleasure; she's no pin-up girl.”  And THAT is the first time in the series that there's been even the vaguest hint of Freddy conceivably having any sort of libidinal interest whatsoever.  I dunno; coulda lived with Brooks maintaining his perfect record.

I will say that the ending is a little bit poignant, in that meta way, with the animals—Freddy and Cy, Jinx and Bill, and Samuel Jackson the mole also—off on the road, singing songs, including “the song they had sung on the road to Florida, so many years ago.”  It's hard not to imagine Brooks looking back on his career here.  And then it turns out that Samuel Jackson is actually a really great singer, so they have a real ensemble:

And so they went on, singing song after song, up around the east end of Otesaraga Lake.  It got to be two o'clock, and three.  Lights went on in lonely farmhouse windows, and heads were poked out, wondering where the lovely music was coming from.  Deer and rabbits and woodchucks raised their heads to listen, and even porcupines, who are not a musical race, grunted appreciation.

So that's quite nice.  But it's actually only the second-last paragraph; in the last one, they lie down for bed and SJ sings a lullaby, after which “he “curled up in the saddlebag and closed his eyes and smiled happily.  'Now,' he thought, 'I'm one of the gang,' which suggests that his quest for acceptance was a major theme of the novel, as opposed to something that never had come up until just now.  Who can fathom the mind of Brooks?


Blogger Pan Miluś pontificated to the effect that...

So is uncle Ben like their Gyro?

Also is Freddy still a mayor in this one or was that development ignored?

The last two ending you described made me think of last few Asterix books by Uderzo (well last at the time, volumes 30 and 31) where each time there was a sense the author was doing them thinking "This maybe the last one I make so I better put some type of symbolic Goodbye to his audiance". You can feel something similiar in Don Rosa's final story. I do wonder if it's better when creator dosen't do it and sometimes the final scene of the series gets meaning on it's own by "acident", but nothing wrong if a creator do it. It's just when he do it and then produce few more book, that senthimental goodybe feels sort of undercut. I also as a reader just feel better if the series dosen't have any define ending and I just can imagine they move on anda had brand new adventures as they tend to do.

But speaking of moving stuff - Oh no, now I'm sad for Geoffrey have one Freddy the Pig book left. I hope he will manage to hold in these manly tears as he get to the end or let it all out as real men aren't scared of emotions...

Now I hope for some TOP 10 mr. Beans farm animals post or something.

8:29 AM  

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