Total Drek

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Friday, September 02, 2011

The Overton Window: Chapter 30

Welcome back one and all to our ongoing series on The Overton Window, the book that sucks so hard it might as well be the Great Attractor. Last time Danny and Stu prepared to go meet the crazy would-be terrorists again. What happens this week? Noah gets in to see his father and things get mighty weird.

As I mentioned I am once again selecting a comment of the week, and this week that "honor" goes to Sassafras for follow-through:

"Another day in captivity, comrades, and the Zombie Serum has finally started to show visible effects, even apparent to my idiot captors. Soon, though, I will be fully processed into experimental Zombie Stage 1 and begin Project Apocalypse.

Update: the incompetent plan of my foolish trailer-dwellers seems to be the plot from a Stephen King novel, The Stand, where a main character detonates an A-bomb in the middle of downtown Vegas. Do Americans ever TRY to be evil masterminds any more?!

It's just fucking lazy.

Soon, comrades. Soon.

Gray Death
AKA Ninja Cat
AKA Mr. Puddles"

And really all you can say to that is come combination of, "That makes as much sense as anything" and "I'd rather be reading that book". I mean, seriously: ninja, megalomaniacal zombie cats? It doesn't get much more awesome than that. Smoothly done, Sass, and keep at it folks. We'll get through this thing eventually. I mean, shit, today we're doing Chapter 30 and there are only 43 chapters total, so we're nearly there!

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.). Oma ist nicht da!

Dramatis Personae: In an order determined by quantum entanglement.

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". Works Vice president at a PR firm. Went to NYU. Is "witty". Frequently forgets where he's going and why. Not good at talking to women. Not really inclined to help out cab drivers. Low tolerance for alcohol. Lost his mother when he was young. Fond of chicken and waffles. Rich as shit. Views himself as a sexual panther. Likes bacon. Considers himself to be good at word games.

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.

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. Possible zombie.

Tiffany: A stripper at the Pussycat Ranch. Thinks Danny is awesome.


Chapter 30: In which Arthur Gardner and company explain shit that I figured out chapters and chapters ago.

Recommended Mood Music:

Page 197, Line 1-3:
After they'd delivered him to 500 Fifth Avenue Noah's escorts waited outside his suite as he took a quick shower and then changed into the neatly folded set of fresh clothes his secretary had arranged for him.

So, yeah, Noah apparently lives here. I guess we're- once again- supposed to be impressed at how rich he is. Personally, though, I'm more interested in this mystery secretary. Is she really a secretary, or more of a personal assistant? Is she really a personal assistant, or is she more of a hooker? Does she meet the "medium-high bar"? Seriously, I'm curious. Alas, we are not to learn anything as Noah is quickly hustled off to see daddy.

Page 197, Line 6-8:
Arthur Gardner was there behind his desk, looking thoughtful and sober as a judge, long fingers knit together, slightly reclined and contemplating in his favorite leather chair.

Presumably what he's contemplating is what on Earth made him think dragging Noah to his office, rather than to a hospital or clinic, after Noah's multi-day captivity was a good idea. Leaving that aside, this whole scene would be made better by sharks with frickin lasers on their heads, were it not for the fact that Noah is Arthur's son. Arthur seems like a dickhead, but he also seems to be unreasonably fond of Noah as well as cursed with an irrationally high opinion of Noah's competence (Page 19, Line 15-18). As a result, I doubt anyone really suspects Arthur is going to do anything even slightly harmful to Noah, therefore sapping this scene of whatever dramatic tension or dread the authors might have been going for. But, hey, whatever.

Page 197, Line 9:
Charlie Nelan was standing by the window.

Right, Charlie the kleptomaniac lawyer. Always a good sign. It gets worse, though.

Page 197, Line 15-16:
The doctor had given Noah an unlabeled prescription bottle that contained a number of small white pills.

Is that... is that even legal? I mean, can a doctor legally give you medication in what amounts to a brown paper wrapper? Is this pornographic medication or something? Is Noah in the placebo group? The text says it's a lower dose version of whatever the doctor shot him up with a few chapters ago, but that doesn't mean anything! Anyway, Noah sits down across from Arthur.

Page 198, Line 5-7:
The boss of the firm's security service, an ex-mercenary hard guy named Warren Landers, consulted for a few moments with his four employees who'd brought Noah in.

Oh, wow, is that just a really crappy sentence. Just... bravo, authors! Every time I think you've hit your limit for awful writing, somehow you surpass yourselves.

Page 198, Line 9-12:
Landers was the bully in the schoolyard who'd grown up and found himself an executive job where he could dress up and get paid for doing what he still loved to do.

Okay, this is a problem. I say it's a problem because this Landers fellow does not sound like a good pick for a security chief. See, first off, war and fighting are not about indiscriminate bloodshed and violence- they're about controlled, directed violence meant to accomplish specific aims. So, if you're a smart corporate czar or politician you shouldn't fill your officer ranks with men who like fighting because they enjoy inflicting pain. That's a sure recipe for sloppy, ineffective work and the kind of expensive excesses that corporations supposedly hate. Second, there's a world of difference between beating someone else up and arranging things so that none of your own side are beaten up. This gets even worse if you also want to make sure they're not robbed or hacked- in other words, handling security is a totally different skill set from cracking skulls in a schoolyard or in a Cambodian jungle. Security demands attention to detail, patience, and a degree of controlled paranoia, not a fondness for hurting people. Now, there's no particular reason why the authors have to make Landers good at his job but they want us to view Arthur as threatening, intelligent, and a deep manipulator. And it's hard to sustain that view when he has such transparently awful taste in subordinates.

Page 198, Line 23-27:
"How did you find me?" [Noah asked]

"The same way I found you last Friday night, at the police station," Charlie said. "We found your cell phone. They'd taken out the battery, but someone put it back in and turned the phone on about an hour ago."

Well, that makes sense, I guess. Hollis must have been done with him by then, right? More seriously, this does explain how Charlie found Noah at the police station, but only sort of. Given how quickly Charlie appeared, one is forced to assume that they have some sort of software monitoring Noah's phone just in case it happens to appear at the GPS coordinates for a police station. This invites all sorts of questions about the kinds of recreational activities Noah typically enjoys. I'm also forced to wonder about the response to Noah's "disappearance". I mean, he left the office on a Friday and when he didn't show up on Monday morning they were already prepared to send a bunch of mercenaries to get him? Doesn't that seem, I dunno, a bit odd? Is he really so reliable a worker that his being late on a Monday morning is justification for paramilitary action? And how do we resolve that reliability with the apparent need to monitor him at all times for contact with the police? Seriously, this explanation leaves us with more questions than answers and yet, still, Noah manages to focus on something that just isn't important.

Page 198, Line 28-29:
Noah thought about that for a moment. "I'm sorry, I don't understand- you tracked my cell phone? How did you do that?"

How did you...? *sigh* Boy, you'd better sit down for what I'm about to tell you.

Page 198, Line 30-32:
Landers finessed right past that question. "The first piece," he said, "was that we figured out who leaked that government document to the press last week."

Oh, man, please let it be Noah. We could use a good execution about now. Moving on, that wasn't really "finessing" past the question as just ignoring it outright. Second, that might explain why they were so eager to send a SWAT team to retrieve Noah, but it doesn't really explain Charlie's sudden appearance at the police station. If they knew by then, surely Charlie wouldn't have turned Noah loose and if they didn't, why monitor Noah so closely?

Page 199, Line 2-3:
"It was scanned and sent out from right here. About two hours after it came into the mailroom." [Landers continued]

Hmmmm... the mailroom, eh? Who does that remind us of? Anyone? Anyone at all? Noah says he doesn't believe it, so Landers gives him a manila folder.

Page 199, Line 7-9:
The tab on the folder wasn't labeled and the paper inside was still warm from the copier. The top document was the cover page of a dossier, and the bold heading was just a name: Molly Ross.

Not, "Ross, Molly" which would have made more sense, but "Molly Ross". I don't even know what to make of the detailed description of the office supplies. That's a fetish I'm just not in to. The dossier goes on to show a suspicious trail of computer activity wherein Molly e-mailed the memo to her cronies from inside the company firewall. One wonders why a temp in the freaking mailroom had access to the internet or e-mail at all, but I guess we're not supposed to worry about little things like that.

Page 199, Line 23:
"Keep going," Landers said. "It gets better."

Heh. That's what she said.

Page 199, Line 24-30:
The next page was a photo of her in some academic environment, and it took Noah a few seconds to recognize all the things that were different. She wore glasses, thin half-rim frames and subtly tinted lenses. Her hair was longer and lighter, almost blond. But the changes went beyond her appearance. There was a sophistication about her in this photo, a style and a seriousness that he'd either overlooked or that she'd somehow hidden in their short time together.

So... what? Did they compile this dossier by hacking her old modeling agency, or what? Moving on, I'd just like to note that this makes it twice that the authors have described Molly versus zero times for Noah. Hell, they've described her thrice if you count the minor changes to her appearance that they mentioned when he arrived at the- I can't believe I'm going to type it- Stars 'n Stripes Saloon (Page 51, Line 28 to Page 52, Line 8 or so). And if you're wondering what the relevance of this photo is to anything... yeah, me too. I think one or more of the authors just has a thing for sexy librarians.

Page 200, Line 3-8:
The next picture seemed more recent. Molly was alone, wearing aviator sunglasses, a backward baseball cap, cut-off Daisy Dukes, and a camouflage tank top. In her hands was what looked like a military-grade automatic rifle with a drum magazine, held as if it were the most natural accessory a pretty young woman could be sporting on a bright summer day at the gunnery range.

Well, frankly, yes, a gun is a useful item when hanging around at a gunnery range. Why, I can't think of the last time I spent any time at a gunnery range when I didn't have a gun with me! More seriously, this is the third (fourth?) time now that the authors have described Molly. Seriously, I'm sensing a theme! I'm not sure what to make of the comment about "cut-off Daisy Dukes". I mean, Daisy Dukes are pretty short to start with, so there isn't a whole hell of a lot left to "cut-off". On the whole, this description really ends up reminding me of one thing:


Page 200, Line 8-9:
For whatever reason he was reminded of that famous shot of Lee Harvey Oswald in his backyard...

Right, because the authors have just described the porno version. Nonetheless, I find it somewhat disquieting that what Molly reminds Noah of is this:

Kinda makes you wonder about the "medium-high bar," eh? Regardless, Landers goes on to explain that the way he figures it, Molly was an agent working for some wacky quasi-terrorist group all along. This speaks well of Landers, really, since by this point we've learned that Molly is, in fact, working for some wacky quasi-terrorist group.

Page 200, Line 23-31:
"Just say what you're trying to say," Noah said. "Do you really think I set out to help these people? I met her on Friday, totally at random, and then I brought her here on Saturday night, and that was a terrible mistake and I know it and I deserve whatever happens to me for that. But don't stand there and insinuate that I was in on this whole thing."

Landers took another folder from the desk, and at a nod from the old man he handed it to Noah. "What I'm saying is, there was nothing random about how you met her, and this all started a long time before Friday."

Wow, first off, Noah must be really, really bad at poker. Second, goddamn is this boy an idiot. I mean, just really, really stupid. Anyway, Noah opens the folder and sees a picture of Molly's company ID, only this time enlarged. I won't run through the repeat of the description we got in the first chapter, but Noah does add something.

Page 201, Line 6-7:
But he'd missed something important the first time he'd seen this picture: she also looked awfully clever.

What is it with the authors and this obsession with Molly's appearance? I mean, isn't her behavior adequate proof at this point that she's clever? Well, okay, more clever than Noah, anyway?

Page 201, Line 8-17:
In the right-hand pocket was a sheaf of printouts, and these pages weren't about Molly, but form their markings they belonged to her. It was everything anyone could ever want to know about Noah Gardner, much of it unwittingly supplied by the subject himself. His Facebook profile, his Twitter history, his full set of responses from a variety of questionnaires at his online dating sites, the rambling, soul-searching posts from his personal blog, even his browser history from a number of recent consecutive weeks- much of this was openly available, but some of it would have required some minor identity theft of targeted hacking skills to obtain.

Wow. One can only imagine how Noah reacted to the sudden realization that all the people in this room have seen his browser history. I'm also forced to wonder how Noah "Brilliant Boy" Gardner, youngest VP ever, has time to do all this shit. And then something happens. He finds a picture, but not just any picture- the sort of picture that nightmares are made of. Initially, he thinks it's a picture of Molly but, as it turns out, not so much.

Page 201-202, Line 201: 31-32, 202: 1-6:
It was a photo of Noah's mother that he'd posted on his blog a while back on some anniversary of hers. It might have been her birthday, or the date she'd died, or just one of the many late nights when he was missing her more than usual. She'd been in her mid-twenties in the picture, about Molly's age, a carefree young rebel with a smile that would almost break your heart. She was dressed in faded jeans, sandals, and a powder-blue knit sweater, and she wore a little flower in her dark, curly hair.

Okay, so, just to recap: Noah has suddenly realized that the girl he's wanted to screw into the pavement since the very first moment he saw her, the woman who makes his loins red hot, looks just like his own mother. Wow. Just FUCKING wow. What the hell am I supposed to do with that shit? I am very, very creeped out. And you know what? I think a change is in order:

Recommended Mood Music:

Surely everyone in this scene is as freaked out as I am.

Page 202, Line 7-10:
"You didn't stand a chance, Noah," Charlie said. "She came here specifically to get close to you and then make the most of it. This Ross girl was so far into your head you never would have seen her coming. Nobody would have."

Right, or everyone will think it's perfectly normal to want to roger your own mother. I hate this book so frigging much right now.

Page 202, Line 13-15:
So he [Noah] told them [about what happened with Molly]. In hindsight it was all painfully clear, but Mr. Landers occasionally chimed in to underscore the more subtle features of the betrayal in case anyone might have missed them.

In hindsight it was painfully clear? Dude, in f-ing foresight it was clear. You are a damned moron, Noah.

Page 202, Line 16-18:
He'd first met Molly in the break room- this was obviously meant to seem like an accidental encounter but it was nothing of the kind; he visited the snack machine like clockwork practically every day at that time.

Right, so, once again: super rich V.P. of an advertising company who routinely visits a damned vending machine during the work day? Seriously? He rides around in a limo with integrated computers and yet he just can't do without a stale tootsie roll?

Page 202, Line 19-21:
Her look was subtly put together to hook him in the defenseless depths of his unconscious mind. Then she'd acted completely uninterested, which served only to put him instantly under her spell. [emphasis added]

Are you goddamn kidding me? Jesus. It's like we're f-ing reading Twilight here and Noah is playing Bella. Anyway, blah, blah, blah- he took Molly home, she snuck out the next morning to make a copy of his keys, she got him to show her how to bypass the security at work. Shit we already know, more or less. It does mention that Molly told Noah's doorman when she left that she was going to bring some "friends" back with her, which makes one wonder (a) whether Noah routinely has orgies and (b) what the doorman thought when Molly came back with groceries instead?

Page 203, Line 1-6:
At her apartment she'd evidently given him some kind of short-acting drug to knock him out, and then they'd applied a fentanyl patch in hopes of keeping him unconscious for the duration of the weekend. The doctor had made it clear that this was quite a dangerous thing to do to a person, and it showed a callous disregard for Noah's safety.

So we were nearly rid of Noah? Wow, I suddenly feel so warm towards Molly right now. If you're curious, you can read about fentanyl but I can't imagine what good it would do. Some of the side effects might be funny, but that's about all. Anyway, they tell Noah that Molly and her pals managed to get some of the files but that the security system detected something fishy and locked the data down before they got very much, although nobody knows exactly what they did get. Noah finally asks what daddy is going to do.

Page 203, Line 29-31:
"We won't involve the authorities." It was the first time the old man had spoken in a while. "But there have already been ... repercussions ... for the people who've done this. And there are many more to come."

Yeah, again with the Dr. Evil bit. Whatever. He's not fibbing though, there have been repercussions, although they won't become clear for a few chapters yet, and sadly they involve neither sharks nor lasers. Anyway, Arthur tells everyone to leave except Noah, Charlie briefly argues, then leaves. Time for the beating, I guess?

Alas, however, this is the end of the chapter, so you don't get to see any of the old ultra-violence this week. And at this point I'm really forced to agree with my margin note, which reads, "This book would be a lot more 'thrilling' if all the interesting action didn't happen offstage." True enough, but what could really salvage this book at this point? What indeed?

Come back next week when we return to Noah and Arthur, who goes right ahead and launches into yet another pointless, maniacal speech. Yay?

* Yes, I know that picture is a fake. Give me some credit, eh?



Anonymous Jay said...

My guess is that they continually track Noah, on court order, to make sure he stays at least 500 feet from schools and playgrounds. I hear he sets the "dating bar" medium-high (about the height of a 12-year-old).

Friday, September 02, 2011 10:44:00 AM  

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