The Overton Window: Chapter 41
As I mentioned I am once again selecting a comment of the week, and this week that "honor" goes to Ken for drawing a reasonable conclusion:
"Tapped him on the leg? Do strange men ever do that to each other?"
I think you might mean "straight" there. To which the realistic answer would be that I know no one, straight or gay, who does that.
They are strange men, and strange as men. It's called not being able to write a believable character, and the authors excel at it.
Yeah, you'd think that a demagogue would know something about how people behave. Sadly, however, to the extent that Glenn Beck is responsible for this work of "Faction" we have to assume that just isn't true. Well done, Ken! I'd also like to extend a special atta-boy to Jim for actually defending his heap of fail, even if it wasn't a particularly spirited defense. Thanks for trying!
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.). No whammy, no whammy, no whammy, STOP!
Dramatis Personae: In an order determined by my three-legged dog.
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. Injected with weed killer by parties
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. Looks just like Noah's mom. Also looks just like Natalie Portman.
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. Fast draw, terrible shot.
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. Sixty-three years old.
Mr. Puddles: AKA Gray Death. AKA Ninja Cat. Stuart's cat. Large. Dangerous looking. Possibly plotting his demise.
Tiffany: A stripper at the Pussycat Ranch. Thinks Danny is awesome.
Ellen Davenport: Old friend of Noah's. Second-year neurology resident at Mt. Sinai. Doesn't appear to need sleep or have good taste in her associates.
Chapter 41: In which we witness the least interesting gun battle ever committed to the page.
Recommended Mood Music:
Page 254, Line 1-2:
Their model bomb wasn't that heavy, maybe eighty or one hundred pounds, but it was unwieldy to carry between them.
Wow, what is this opening sentence supposed to say to us? "Your current protagonists aren't quite the weaklings you might think- they're actually way, way weaker given that they can't manage forty pounds each"? Maybe "The narrator is kinda whiny when helping people move"? Or maybe just, "We're such crappy authors, when meeting terrorists the most exciting thing we can think of to open with is a description of the difficulty of moving awkwardly shaped packages"? Honestly, it's impossible for me to choose between these lovely alternatives. Although, I admit the last makes me wonder if one or more of the authors ever worked for UPS. In any case, there are four terrorists present- not the expected five- and one of them gestures towards where Tweedle-dum and Tweedle-moron are supposed to put the bomb. One of the four guys has a satchel that looks big enough to hold $20,000, while the other two have assault rifles.
Page 254, Line 10-16:
The weapons these guys were sporting appeared to be some knocked-together variant of an AR-15, but with a very short barrel, stock target sights, custom noise suppression, and a nonstandard magazine. Good luck trying to buy something like that off the shelf. Not the most versatile choice for all-purpose combat, obviously laughable for hunting or target practice, but flip it to full auto and it would do every bit as well as a sawed-off shotgun for antipersonnel work at close quarters.
For those who don't know much about guns, the AR-15 is a trade name for the civilian version of the U.S. military's M-16 assault rifle. Unlike the M-16, the AR-15 is typically built and sold as a semi-automatic weapon rather than an automatic weapon, although depending on when it was built many M-16's lack the full-auto setting the authors describe and are limited to three-round bursts at most. This was done in order to save ammunition since, generally speaking, an M-16 has shit accuracy on full-automatic, so that's mostly just a great way to waste ammo for little to no effect. The specific variant the authors describe probably looks a bit like this as it's a short, carbine model. The authors are correct that the shorter barrel will reduce accuracy at range, an effect that will likely be magnified by the noise suppression, but having said that an AR-15 has an effective range of several hundred meters to start with, so the limiting factor in a firefight is more likely to be the shooter than it is the weapon. Now, given that the AR-15 is typically semi-automatic but these weapons are being described as fully automatic, and given that Danny seems to know at least a bit about firearms, I suspect what the authors mean is that the weapons have been modified. It's often possible to convert a semi-automatic weapon into a fully automatic weapon with fairly small changes (e.g. I could convert one of my rifles from semi- to full automatic by modifying the firing pin) but such changes are almost always VERY illegal and often entail certain costs (e.g. if I did modify my rifle that way, once I pulled the trigger it would keep firing until it ran out of ammo). The weird thing is, most modifications that would make an AR-15 fully automatic shouldn't be obvious to casual inspection. Now, does any of this really matter for the plot? Not really, but since the authors have a hard-on for guns, I figured I might as well go along. Anyway, Stuart goes to get his money, is asked if he's going to count it, and says he's not going to. Two of the terrorists get the fake bomb and carry it to a truck, which they open up to load said fake. Danny, however, becomes suddenly interested in the truck's other contents.
Page 255, Line 26-31:
Down the center, on a welded-together, waist-high metal rack, was what appeared to be a long, silvery torpedo. Not really, though; the nose was too blunt and flat and its far end was tapered and ringed by large aerodynamic fins. It looked like something from a war museum, an overbuilt piece of heavy-duty air-dropped ordinance from a bygone era of the Cold War.
Okay, so the crazy guys already have some sort of bomb? Surely this is a large, conventional bomb that they were planning to use in the event that their nuke never appeared? Because, seriously, how many terrorist outfits manage to lay hands on not one, but two nuclear warheads? And, even in such an event, would be stupid enough to bring the first to a meet with the guys who allegedly want to sell them a second? In any case, both Danny and Stu notice that the truck also appears to contain an occupied body bag. One of the terrorists receives a cell phone call, and then all of a sudden things get... well, not interesting, but at least slightly closer.
Page 256, Line 10-18:
Kearns bent and put the satchel [of money] down between them, shivered a bit, breathed some warm air through his hands, and then put them into his jacket pockets. When he looked at Danny, just for a second or two, there was such a crystal-clear communication between them that he almost heard the words form in his head.
You were right. Now we're going to let these guys give us just one more bad sign, the tiniest sign, and then we put their lights out. No "Freeze, FBI!," no warning shots; we shoot to kill until they're all down, or we are. And you and I both know who gets it first. [emphasis original]
And all of a sudden it's like we're in a buddy cop movie. Okay, well, technically the authors have been going for this feeling for chapters and chapters now, it just hasn't ever really worked. It doesn't work here, either, but at least the attempted genre has kinda become obvious. Regardless, a few moments later the dude on the phone turns away from Stuart and Danny and then taps one of the guys with an AR-15 on the shoulder. And that, apparently, is the sign we've been waiting for, and as you might expect in a book like this, it triggers a lecture before it does an action sequence.
Page 256-257, Line 256: 30-31, 257: 1-4:
When you've practiced enough it gets to look like one fluid motion, but there are four distinct parts to a quick draw, at least to the one that Molly had taught him. In the beginning the count is slow and you stop between the steps so your teacher can make sure you've got them right. After a few months and several thousand repeats, though, it starts to go so fast that if you blink, you might miss it.
Heh. That's what she said. Joking aside, did you enjoy the brief, pointless flashback? No? Me neither. I am once more disturbed however that in all those practice sessions Danny still never managed to learn how to freaking hit the target.
Page 257, Line 5-11:
Danny's right hand swept back to clear his clothing and found the pistol grip just where he'd left it; he pulled the weapon free and brought it forward, the barrel coming parallel to the ground and his left hand joining the solid grasp; he extended toward center-mass of his target with the iron sight rising level to his eye; and at the end of the forward movement, as it all came together at his ideal firing position, without pause, he squeezed the trigger to its stop.
And shot Stuart? Because that would make as much sense as anything. Why they didn't start with this paragraph, instead of the preceding flashback, I'll never know, because this was much more interesting. Not saying much, I know, but still.
Page 257, Line 12-18:
The boom of their first two shots was almost simultaneous, though Kearns had a much easier draw from his pocket. They'd chosen the same primary target, the man to whom Randy had given his too-obvious go-ahead, the guy who would have cut them in half with a hail of bullets if they'd given him half a chance to shoot first. As Kearns took off to his left, still firing, their designated executioner was crumpling backward, likely dead on his feet, but surely out of commission. [emphasis original]
Right, and with this paragraph Danny and Stu are supposed to magically transform from an awkward old married couple into a couple of badasses. I guess you have to respect the authors for trying. I guess. The next paragraph describes Danny running in the opposite direction from Kearns, shooting wildly without hitting anything, and running out of bullets. All of this basically suggests that Danny is gunning- pardon the expression- for a Darwin award. Fortunately, Kearns steps out from cover and squeezes off four rounds, at the end of which three of the four terrorists are dead.
Page 258, Line 4-7:
The silence was broken by the sound of a diesel engine turning over and starting. Danny watched Kearns limping toward the back of the truck, then grabbing on and hoisting himself up into the open compartment.
Okay, so, the gunfight is over, all the opponents are either dead or fleeing, and Kearns is apparently wounded. Or just old, the narrative isn't clear on that point. Kearns, being a super-duper FBI agent has decided to pursue the last terrorist and his fake bomb by climbing into the back of a panel truck, which is rarely a good way to go about it. Still, Danny is left behind with a sat phone, a van, and nobody trying to kill him, so this is probably an ideal time to make a break for it.
Page 258, Line 8-12:
As the truck dropped into gear and started to roll Danny got to his feet and ran for it. The faster he ran the faster it went, and it had nearly accelerated to the point of no return when he caught up to the tailgate, stumbled forward to get a grasp on to Stuart Kearns' extended hand, and felt himself pulled up and in.
Right, or he'll chase after the truck and hurl himself aboard. This, of course, leaves us all wondering what possible rationale Danny could have for doing something so utterly, unbelievably stupid. And really the only possible answer is simply that Danny himself is utterly, unbelievably stupid.
But, stupid or not, that brings us to the end of Chapter 41. Come back next time when we check back in with Noah and his
Labels: The Overton Window