The Overton Window: Chapter 25 & 26
As I mentioned I am once again selecting a comment of the week, and this week that "honor" goes to Sassafras for, frankly, giving me happy dreams:
"They'd been rolling down a desolate, moonless stretch of Interstate 80 for a number of miles. The road was so dark that the world out front seemed to end at the reach of the headlights, and there was nothing to see at all out the window behind."
Ooh! Ooh! I know how this ends -- with Danny digging his own grave in a cornfield, right?
PLEASE SAY THAT I AM RIGHT.
Oh. No. Wait. That scene is from a good movie with a solid script whereas I'm starting to think this book would do nicely to line bird-cages of damned vultures in hell. Nevermind.
Srsly. These characters are too dumb to live, too bizarre to die. I can only hope that Mr. Puddles is busily plotting his litter-box-inspired demise of them all back at the bunker -- er, double-wide.
Imagining Danny digging his own grave is, indeed, a glorious thing. At least until you realize that he's the kind of jackass who could complain about how long it was taking and how bad his blisters were going to be while doing it. At that point, you sort of just want to cap him and let the buzzards sort him out. Well done, Sass, and keep at it, folks- this posts ain't gonna get any better without you.
And, with that, let's begin! As always, page/line numbers are in bold, quotes from the book are in block quotes, my commentary is in regular print, and you can navigate the whole series with the provided tag. My footnotes use the traditional star system (e.g. *, **, etc) while references included in the Afterword to the book are noted with numbered parenthetical tags (e.g. (1), (2), etc.). Pshaw!
Dramatis Personae: In an order determined by a drinking game.
Eli Churchill: Former janitor at a volcano lair. Fan of remote telephone booths. Shot in the head by parties unknown.
Beverly Emerson: Mysterious correspondent of Eli Churchill's. Molly's Mom.
Noah Gardener: 28 years old. Sets the dating bar "medium-high".
Molly "Hottie McPretty" Ross: Dresses like a hippie, but not really. Looks like a free spirit. Perfectly captures the essence of womanhood. Auburn hair. Green eyes. Pale skin. Has a tattoo on her chest. Wears a silver cross around her neck. Lost her father when she was young. Impressed by fancy cars. Cocktease. Possibly suffering from bipolar disorder.
Arthur Gardner Noah's father. Owner of Doyle & Merchant. Megalomaniac. Surprisingly vigorous for a 74 year old man.
Khaled: Lebanese cab driver. Sold out by Noah Gardener.
Hollis: Friend of Molly Ross. Very polite. From the country. May be a Yeti.
Danny Bailey: Some kind of YouTube celebrity. Former lover of Molly Ross. Kind of a dickhead. Loves conspiracy theories and incoherent speeches. Sodomized by inmates following the rally. Once dressed up as Colonel Sanders to infiltrate the United Nations. May be afraid of cats.
Charlie Nelan: Gardner family lawyer. Silver hair. Impeccably dressed. Looks awesome. Has some sort of weird relationship with GQ. May have the ability to sense when Noah's in trouble using some sort of clairvoyance. Possible kleptomaniac.
Stuart Kearns: FBI agent. Works on homeland security matters. Kinda old and wrinkly. Not particularly trusting. Lives in a double-wide trailer.
Mr. Puddles: AKA Gray Death. AKA Ninja Cat. Stuart's cat. Large. Dangerous looking. Possibly plotting his demise.
Chapter 25: In which we hear about a tense meeting third-hand.
Recommended Mood Music:
Page 180, Line 1:
The gathering got down to business.
The what now? The gathering did what? Got down to business? Is that even something that a "gathering" can do? Christ, I think that may be the worst opening sentence in the book thus far. And, let's face it, that's really saying something. Anyway, Danny matches up the members of the militia posse against a printed list and realizes that the missing man alluded to last chapter is someone known as "Elmer":
No doubt he's missing 'cause it's wabbit season.
Page 180, Line 12-15:
At his [Danny's] request they'd each given a bit of background on themselves, sticking to first names only. The one interesting thing about this part was the seamless transition each managed to place between the sane and the insane things they'd said.
I feel the same way about conservative talk radio most of the time. Also when I listen to John Boehner (which I insist on pronouncing "Boner"), although never with Michelle Bachman. She'd have to say something sane before any sane to insane transition could occur.
Page 180-181, Line 180: 15-17, 181: 1-2:
I'm Ron, I grew up near Laughlin and worked out here in the mines since I was a teenager. Married at one time, two beautiful kids, and I've been wise to those Zionist bankers and the good-for-nothing queen of England since I saw what they did to us on 9/11. [emphasis original]
I'm just annoyed they cut off the quote before we got to: "I've been an alcoholic for twenty years, but I've been clean by the Grace of God for the past six days." Or am I just thinking about binge drinking because I'm reading this book? More seriously, I'm a little disappointed that the authors didn't put any more energy into crafting a decent conspiracy theory, particularly given that Beck basically does that for a living. Back in the "story" it turns out that Danny is a pretty "good" thespian. Sort of.
Page 181, Line 8-18:
One of them asked about the bruises and other battle damage on Danny's face, and that gave him an opening to explain his own recent part in all this. He'd been picked up by the cops after a patriot meeting in New York City, he told them, and then they'd beaten him within an inch of his life while he was in custody. Everyone has their breaking point, and this had been his. He knew that there wasn't going to be any peaceful end to this conflict; the enemy had made that clear. Sp he'd called his old friend Stuart Kearns to come and bail him out so he could be a part of this plan. He was here now to help with whatever he could, and then to get the story out to true believers around the world when all of this was over.
Wow, where do we even start? I think the first thing I'd like to note is that Danny was described back a ways (Page 121, Line 17-20) as walking bow-legged as a result of his abuse in prison. This does not fit my definition of "within an inch of his life". A beating that bad is not one that leaves you still able to get up and move about under your own power the next day. No, a beating that bad leaves you in f-ing traction. The second thing I'd like to note is that he just told the would-be terrorists that his response to being arrested and beaten was to call a dude he knew to possess a nuclear weapon. This dude, in turn, was about to contact a would-be terrorist cell. So, in short, there's now a phone call, not to mention the bail itself, linking Danny to the dude with the nuke and those two morons then proceeded to go to a meet with terrorists. One is forced to wonder whether he claims that, when leaving the police station, he screamed out "Hey! I'm going to go help some terrorists now! So you better not follow me!" Needless to say, if these guys were actual terrorists, at this point they'd calmly pull out a couple of hand guns and kill these two dumbasses. Sadly, however, that is not what happens. Instead, Kearns gives a tour of the nuke itself, in the process revealing to us that he brought the weapon to the first meet. So, really and truly, our nascent terrorists have no reason at all not to kill these idiots and take the damn thing. Ah, whatever. The weapon is described as being connected to a GPS such that once you arm it, you just drive to the programmed coordinates and the weapon detonates. Slick, I'll admit, though this section has the decidedly creepy flavor of a terrorist how-to manual.
Page 182, Line 9-13:
The GPS soon found its satellites and its wide-screen display split into halves, one showing their current position and the other showing the ground-zero objective they'd all decided on: the home-state office of the current U.S. Senate majority leader, the Lloyd D. George Federal Courthouse, 333 Las Vegas Boulevard, Las Vegas, Nevada.
For anyone wondering, yes, this is in fact the address for one of Harry Reid's offices and Senator Reid is the current majority leader in the Senate. Classy, authors. Real classy. I'm forced to wonder why there's no footnote to that effect. I'm also forced to wonder why the crap the chapter ends right there but, hey, what do I know? In any case, it's time for...
Chapter 26: In which Stu and Danny drive away and nothing happens.
Recommended Mood Music:
Page 183, Line 1-2:
On the face of it the meeting had been civil, even friendly, but it had ended with an uneasy good-bye, and the tension was still lingering.
Leaving aside that this sounds more like how you'd describe a breakup between two people who don't really love each other anymore, but still own a condo together, I'm forced to wonder: how should a meeting to perpetrate nuclear terrorism have ended? A hug, perhaps? Danny asks Stu what went wrong back there, Stu answers "A lot of things" and then we're off into narration again. Honestly, the narrator to this wreck is one chatty sumbitch.
Page 183, Line 9-18:
The plan, plainly agreed upon, had been to leave the dummy bomb with their five co-conspirators in exchange for twenty thousand dollars the men had agreed to pay to cover Kearns's expenses. Tomorrow the men would make the eight-hour drive to Las Vegas and pull up to the target address. Instead of achieving martyrdom they'd be met by a SWAT team and a dragnet of federal agents who'd be waiting there to arrest them. None of these guys seemed the type to allow themselves to be taken alive, so FEMA would be running a local terror drill at the same time. With the area evacuated for blocks around there'd be less chance of any innocent bystanders being caught in the anticipated cross fire.
Wow. Thanks for explaining "the plan" only now that the plan isn't being followed any longer. Also, wow, is that ever some shitty writing. But ultimately, my biggest question is, "plainly agreed upon" by whom? I mean, did the would-be terrorists agree to the whole plan? Did Danny agree? Seriously, what's going on? Regardless, Danny thinks that they might finish the night in a shallow ditch, but Stuart has a plan. No mention is made of whether or not this new plan is also plainly agreed upon.
Page 184, Line 13-17:
"Can you handle a gun?" Kearns asked.
"I'm no expert, but yeah."
"If things go bad, there's a pistol in the glove box. The safety's off but there's a long twelve-pound pull on that first round. After the first shot the trigger's really light.
And that plan would be giving Danny a gun. Christ, they're all going to die. Hopefully, Danny first. And let's all keep in mind that Danny is only here because he's being essentially blackmailed by Stu, who has himself admitted that nobody knows that he's even an agent or what he's doing. So, that being the case, how is this a good idea? Whatever. Danny and Stu discuss the fact that the guys they met didn't seem like intellectual giants* and Stu asks Danny to guess who's the real brains of the terror cell.
Page 185, Line 5-11:
"Let me guess," Danny sighed. "The one who wasn't there tonight."
"Exactly. I'm not saying those boys we just met are harmless, but they're followers, and this guy Elmer is their leader. If they were lying about his whereabouts then he was probably back there somewhere checking us out, maybe through the scope of a deer rifle. And if he's really up in Arizona like they said then I've gotta wonder what he's doing there."
Right. So, the mastermind for this whole terrorist operation? Freaking Elmer.
All he needs is a white cat to stroke before he says, "No, Mister Bailey, I expect you to DIE!" Hot tip to any aspiring authors out there: "Elmer" is not a proper name for the villain. Not ever. Regardless, they keep driving, nothing untoward happens, Stuart turns on an oldies station** and begins singing along in an "off-key falsetto" (Page 185, Line 25-26). Then Danny asks Stuart why a man of his age isn't retired already.
Page 186, Line 4-10:
Kearns glanced over at him, turned down the radio, and then returned his attention to his driving. "You mean, why is a sixty-three-year-old man still doing street duty, instead of running a field office or enjoying his government pension."
"I was just wondering."
"It's a long story."
"Well," Danny said, "it's a long drive."
It is not, however, a long chapter because that was actually the last line of same. Seriously, we're at the end of the chapter. And if you're thinking, "Goddamn, seriously? The whole chapter was a recitation of things that might happen, or would have happened, but didn't!" then you're absolutely right. An utter waste of page space.
But, waste or not, that's it for this week. Come back next time when Stuart reveals his tortured past while, simultaneously, showing off what an absolute failure of an agent he really is. So, hey, at least there's something to look forward to.
* Yeah. As if anyone in this book seems to have sufficient brain-power to walk and chew gum at the same time.
** I really have to call bullshit there. I've been way out in buttfuck nowhere in the desert and you know what there is on the radio? German inspired mariachi music and religious broadcasting and that is f-ing all.
Labels: The Overton Window