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Literature / Norby Finds a Villain

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First published by Janet Asimov and Isaac Asimov in 1987, this Science Fiction Adventure story is the sixth story in The Norby Chronicles.

Princess Rinda and her robot, Pera, have decided to visit Jeff at Space Academy. Jeff is taking an exam while Norby is giving them a tour, and naturally causing an accident in the process. Admiral Yobo takes him to task over this, but Rinda manipulates him into setting them up with tickets to watch his act as Master of Ceremonies for a circus act. Little do they suspect, one of the clowns is actually Ing the Ingrate, disguised as Threezy the clown.

Ing has been using a hidden Mind Probe to steal the secrets of piloting the prototype hyperdrive ship, which he proceeds to steal. With the bombs in his possession, Ing plans to destroy the universe and start a new one. Jeff and Norby have to act fast to find the villain Ing before his plan succeeds.

Norby Finds a Villain contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Agony Beam: One of the Psychic Powers developed by the Master Cult is the ability to cause pain at a distance. In a false future, each Master controls an entire planet, wielding their ability to inflict pain as a punishment for the smallest infraction.
  • Alternate Universe: In this story, it is discovered that, with enough power, robots like Norby and Pera can use hyperspace to travel into other universes.
  • Apocalypse How: Ing's Evil Plan this time is to go into hyperspace with a bomb so that he can blow up the entire universe at once. Fortunately, it doesn't work. Unfortunately, it does rip a hole and sends him into an Alternate Universe, causing a Bad Future where tree-like aliens conquer the galaxy.
  • Bad Future: When Norby tries to go to Space Command, he misses the mark by five hundred years, ending up in a future where creatures from an Alternate Universe have invaded and established a fascist regime over every planet in the galaxy.
  • Caused the Big Bang: Ing's plan for revenge is to set off a bomb in hyperspace. He believes that this will cause the current universe to collapse and create a new one in its place. He ends up being wrong, as it sends him into a different universe instead, one ruled by the Master Cult.
  • Dedication: This book is dedicated to Clifford Simak, because he is their favourite Science Fiction writer.
  • Distress Call: At the end of chapter eleven, Jeff has picked up an S.O.S. signal in standard Federation code, indicating that Ing must be nearby and in danger. He takes Hopeful over and investigates.
  • Fun with Acronyms: Norby nicknames Rembrandt's computer "Yib", short for "Your Immense Brain".
  • Grand Theft Prototype: Ing has been hiding himself as a clown named Threezy in a circus act. His Evil Plan began with using a Mind Probe on Admiral Yobo, head of Space Command, so that he could learn how to pilot the prototype hyperdrive spaceship, Quest, and now he kidnaps Pera and two bombs with him as he takes off into hyperspace. The next step in his plan is to set off a bomb to destroy the universe, causing a new one to replace it.
  • Historical In-Joke: In chapter four, Norby and Jeff are bouncing through time to find a place where Jeff can rest and eat for a while before going back to when they're fighting Ing. The last place Norby tries is the kitchen of the RMS Titanic, on the day it sank.
  • Language Barrier: When they're flung five hundred years into the future, they find a tree-like alien species has taken over, but they cannot understand the language. There are translators who use Martian Swahili, but one of the aliens teaches Jeff the language via Touch Telepathy to make it easier to talk.
  • Mind Probe: Ing's "magic box" actually had a mind probe inside, which he used to learn how to control the prototype hyperspace ship on his own.
  • Newspaper Dating: In chapter four, Jeff uses the menu of the RMS Titanic to recognize that it was April 14, 1912. When he realizes that the ship is sinking, he orders Norby to take them away.
  • Psychic Static: Norby warns Jeff to recite nonsense poems to himself while the Master of Mars teaches him their language through telepathy.
  • Shout-Out: In chapter eight, while shielding against mind reading, Jeff quotes from "Jabberwocky".
  • Space Pirates: Unusually, there are two examples in this book, and both of them are good. Remberant's ancestors self-identified as pirates because they fought (and won) against a more controlling organization of the Others. Blif and her crew are pirates fighting against the Master Cult, an oppressively tyrannical organization.
  • Starfish Aliens: The Biguglies and the Twintas are the most unusual alien species by Asimov. They have a tree-like shape, skin a pale peach (when healthy), eight stubby (root-like) legs, and ten palm leaf-like appendages extending from the top. The Biguglies have a strong cultural divide that has had linguistic effects as well; a pirate branch that is rebelling against the M.C. (Master Cult). Both species have enough latent Psychic Powers that they can utilize some Touch Telepathy, but the M.C. has also developed the ability to cause pain at a distance.
  • Two Aliases, One Character: By chapter three, Threezy is revealed to be Ing, from Norby's first adventure. As Ing, he's malevolent and attempts to destroy the universe, but nearly dying and then getting healed by the Twintas causes a realignment of his priorities. Once he wakes again at the end of chapter fifteen, he chooses to remain as Threezy the funny clown who does magic tricks.
  • Villainous Harlequin: Threezy is the name of a clown who plays an over-the-top villain… except it is a cover for Ing the Incredible, as he prepares to destroy the universe and remake it in his image. However, because of nearly dying and then getting healed by the Twintas, he chooses to remain as Threezy the funny clown who does magic tricks.