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Friday, January 06, 2012

The Overton Window: Chapter 46

Welcome back one and all to our ongoing series on The Overton Window, the book that is only slightly more tightly-plotted than some of my daughter's board books. Last time Noah was tortured by some mysterious and nameless people for mysterious and nameless reasons. Oh, and the authors tried to justify the use of torture. What happens this week? Another crazy monologue from Noah's dad. You know, in case you weren't tired of them already.

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

"If Molly was going down, she would go down swinging and silent. Knowing that gave Noah the first bit of hope that he'd had in a long time."

"Swinging and silent" is how everyone likes their blowjobs, amirite?!

Maybe not everyone, but definitely Noah, it would seem. Then again, since he's been trying to get in Molly's panties since damned near the first chapter, perhaps at this point even the worst quality fellatio sounds pretty awesome. Well done, Sass, and keep it up everyone! Just a few chapters to go.

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.). Book 'em, Danno.

Dramatis Personae: In an order determined by my annoying cats.

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 unknown blisteringly obvious to everyone.

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. Wants to bang his mom.

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. Almost certainly dead from a nuclear blast.

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. Died pointlessly in a nuclear detonation.

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. Died pointlessly in a nuclear detonation.

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 46: In which Arthur has a dramatic monologue and then reveals he's into incest bondage.

Recommended Mood Music:

Page 274, Line 1-6:
Noah had been savaged for many hours, of course, brought to the brink mentally and physically in his interrogation. No one would blame him if he didn't immediately recognize his visitor- the man was so rarely seen outside of his natural, elegant habitat. Yet, despite all of these mitigating factors, Noah knew instantly whom he was staring at because it was his own flesh and blood: the legendary Arthur Gardner.

Christ was that boring. I mean, by this point we've well and truly established that Arthur is the big bad for this story, so is anyone even slightly surprised to see him turn up here? I thought not. And isn't just a tad creepy that Noah's recognition of his own father sounds more like an MC introducing him for a roast than a tortured man catching sight of his own dad? Maybe not, given that it's hard to tell if the narration has any relationship to Noah's internal experience, but I'm really wondering if the authors have some serious daddy issues by this point. In any case, Arthur walks in, sits down on a stool, gives Noah some time to contemplate how this is to provide a psychological advantage over the tortured fuckwit still strapped to a table (i.e. Noah) and then begins speaking.

Page 275, Line 1-16:
"This woman you became involved with," Arthur Gardner began, "do you have any idea what she has cost us?"

"I don't know," Noah said. His voice was hoarse from lack of moisture , and from the suffering they'd already put him through. "Billions?"

The old man's fist came down on [Note: the text does not have a "the" here] edge of the table, hard enough to break a bone.

"She cost us impact!" he shouted, "It was to be a clean and spectacular event, a thing to be leveraged into a leap forward toward our new beginning. Instead it's become a complete debacle. We were left with an almost unnoticed explosion out in the empty desert that barely rattled a teacup in the nearest town. There aren't even any pictures- we've had to resort to artists conceptions and special effects. We'll be up all night trying to make a credible story of it all, to salvage the greatest effect we can. After all the years of preparation it was rushed forward, against my advice, due to the actions of this meaningless resistance. Which my son was somehow a part of." [emphasis original]

Okay, leaving aside that if my son had been tortured for a few hours, my first instinct would not be to make him listen to a dumb speech, it's quite obvious that Arthur has no idea what he's talking about. I mean, just think back over the "story" for a minute. Since the raid on the Stars 'n Stripes Saloon there has been no two-way contact between Danny and Molly. Anything she learned in her raid on Noah's workplace, she was unable to pass to Danny. What Danny learned, he really didn't pass to Molly. Yeah, he e-mailed her something vague about Las Vegas and "exigent", but she admitted to Noah that she had no idea what was going on. Moreover, Danny himself only found anything out, and was only involved at all, because Arthur's evil conspiracy pulled him into it. So, Molly hasn't cost Arthur anything. Indeed, she hasn't done anything except abuse Noah. And this is yet another major problem with this book- several of the main characters (i.e. Molly and Noah) don't actually have any role at all in determining the outcome of the plot. They're basically just along for the ride while Stuart and Danny bumble their way along to a plot resolution. And while Stuart and Danny do have some significant impact on how events unfold, it's too little, too late with them managing to lose control of their own nuke, get shot, and then killing themselves in a pointless gesture. In the entire goddamned book the only character who really does anything is Khaled, who eventually switched sides and teamed up with Jack Ryan to stop a group of renegade CIA agents from detonating a nuclear warhead in Tehran to provoke war between Iran and Pakistan to the advantage of an evil Neo-Nazi cabal in Saudi Arabia that wants a free hand to attack Israel on behalf of the Free Masons, who as we all know are just pawns of the Chinese Triad-based branch of the Illuminati. And all that took place in the Tom Clancy novel next door that Khaled was on his way to when Noah Gardner randomly jumped into his cab. Regardless, Noah observes that he didn't set out to be a total fuckup, Arthur acknowledges that this is true, rambles a bit, and then sets out to contradict himself.

Page 276, Line 6-14:
"Thankfully, there's already talk of suspending the presidential election. Though either candidate would have been equally useful in the aftermath, it will be a powerful bit of symbolism nevertheless. Many sweeping pieces of helpful legislation will be rushed through in the coming days with little or no debate, and those will be used to clamp down further on what remains of this Ross woman's pitiful movement. And naturally, a wholesale roundup is under way to ferret out all those connected with these backward revolutionaries, with full support of the media and the cowering public." [Arthur rasped]

"Now witness the firepower of this fully armed and operational battle station!" Okay, kidding aside, and with apologies to Palpatine who is a waaaay better villain than Arthur, this all contradicts what Arthur just got done saying. First he's all like, "Waah! Waah! Molly screwed up our whole plan! Nothing is going to happen!" and then he's all like, "But, fortunately, even so we're going to ram through tons of new legislation, round up lots of people, and suspend the presidential elections. Not postpone, mind you- SUSPEND! Muahahahahahaha!!!!" What the hell? The authors, and their character, are directly contradicting themselves within a page! It doesn't get much dumber than that. Anyway, Arthur makes a crack about Saul Alinsky being right about "the ends justify the means," which would be a lot more threatening if this weren't a variously debated point of philosophy stretching back to freaking Ovid (Exitus acta probat), and then takes a random swipe at evolution by repeating his whole social Darwinism schtick. He babbles on about how freedom is the exception, rather than the rule (1),* and then we run into a complete misunderstanding of history.

Page 277, Line 11-14:
"The United States should never have survived as long as it has, but all good things must come to an end. The system is broken beyond repair. It costs a billion dollars to run for president these days; Abraham Lincoln would never have lasted past the Iowa caucuses."

The what, now? The Iowa freaking caucuses? Good Lord, I think this man, the authors, or both, are actually stoopid. See, back when Abraham Lincoln was elected we didn't have the primary system as we know it now. We had parties, those parties had conventions, those conventions produced candidates, and those candidates ran in a race. Since the "reforms" that gave us primaries, we all get to directly pick our candidate, but that means that candidates essentially have to run multiple races to get one office. Of course it costs more! Not to mention the fact that there are more people now, so even if we assume that campaign technology hasn't improved in efficiency, it's going to cost more to get the same coverage. This entire crack about Lincoln is so dumb it's almost physically painful. But then, that's pretty much the case for the entire book. But, anyway, we're swinging in towards the big finish.

Page 277, Line 21-31:
"Whatever chance we have to take control of this world is in controlling who pulls the strings. Presidents, senators, governors- all of these come and go, but I and my peers have been here all along, raising them up and tearing them down. The real enduring powers in this world are older than any modern government, and it's past time that we put an end to these empty dreams of liberty. Now, we openly take the reins. Now, we'll give the people the government they've shown themselves to deserve. No one knows the people better than I do, and I know what they need. We'll give them a purpose: a simple, regimented, peaceful life with all the reasonable comforts, in service of something greater than any single, selfish nation."

Right, so, suddenly Arthur is sounding like Gargamel if Gargamel were obsessed with political systems rather than the Smurfs. It's hard to know what to say when a character jumps the shark to such a profound extent, especially when it's in comparison to their earlier still melodramatic performance. Yikes. And what's with that line about "controlling who pulls the strings"? If you control them, aren't you the one pulling the strings? Or do I somehow misunderstand the whole "pulling the strings" idiom? Anyway, Arthur talks about how he loved Noah's mom, and then decides to get all threatening and scary.

Page 278, Line 13-17:
"And as she lay dying, your mother told me that I should expect to see wonderful things from you, Noah. I've held on to that hope. But as I stood out there just now, watching outside this room for the preceding hour, I had to wonder if this was to be the end of my ambitions for you."

Right, so Noah's dad was watching him get tortured for an hour. Classy guy, eh? This makes me wonder about how last chapter the torturers cleaned him up before Arthur came in. At the time, it seemed like a move to hide what they were up to from their visitor. Alternatively, it could be seen as an effort to keep Noah from realizing that his dad was watching the whole time. And now it just seems like another example of awful writing. Woo-hoo?

Page 278, Line 19-27:
"Believe it or not, my boy, I won't live forever. There's much to do before I die; the outcome of my life's work is still very much in doubt, and I need help to see it through. I need your help."

"My wish has been that you would someday stand beside me as we bring forth this new world together. You have great gifts, Noah, but those gifts have been kept dormant by a trick of heredity. I know you've felt this conflict, and it must have been quite painful at times. You have your father's mind, but your mother's heart. Neither will permit the other to come to the fore." [emphasis original]

Man, I have seen this bit before and it was better the first time. Waaaaay better. So, unless Arthur is gonna chop Noah's hand off and offer to rule the galaxy together as father and son, this is just not going anywhere entertaining.

Page 278, Line 28:
"But it seems you may have been exposed to a disease...

Damnit, Molly!

Page 278, Line 28-31: your thinking over the last few days. I'm familiar with this infection, and once it takes hold in a person I'm afraid it's shown itself to be quite incurable. It will be with you until you die, in other words."

Yeah. Needless to say, he's referring to Molly's way of thinking about the world, which I have to concede is a little diseased.

Page 279, Line 3-6:
The technicians had already begun their preparations. Now some brought heavy copper cables and electrodes and fastened these to various points on Noah's body with wraps of white tape. A cold dab of conductive gel was applied to his temple on one side, and then on the other.

Yeah, so this isn't looking like much fun. I have no idea what the intent is, unless Arthur just wants to torture the hell out of Noah. As for the temple electrodes... well, the thing is, if you pass a current across both hemispheres like that it dramatically increases the amount of memory loss you sustain from electroshock. So, basically, it looks like these guys just don't give a shit how much of Noah's "gifts" they fry away.

Page 279, Line 7-16:
"I'm here to save you, Noah," his father said, "one way or the other, and to preserve my legacy. One of two young men will leave this room with me. The first was taken hostage by this Ross woman and her terrorist militia, but he managed to escape and then bravely risked his life by standing in the road to prevent a group of policemen and federal agents from being killed in that terrible explosion in the desert. This man is a hero, and will carry on my work and be my eyes and ears in the field as our plans proceed."

"The other man played a part in a similar story, with one sad exception: This other man is dead."

Whelp, it was nice knowing you, Noah! Ah, that's a lie. It has at no point been even vaguely tolerable knowing this douchecanoe. Go ahead, Arthur! Shock him like it's going out of style!

Page 279, Line 18-19:
"And now," he said, "let's find out together, once and for all, if Noah Gardner is really his father's son."

This... really makes no sense at all. I mean, I can totally understand wanting to shock Noah. And it's not like we've ever had a main character do something useful in this book. But exactly how is shocking the crap out of Noah going to tell Arthur anything? In the world of faction is electroshock some sort of weird lie-detector, or what? I mean, seriously, what?

Alas, lie detector or not, that's the end of the chapter. Come back next time when we get to witness Noah being shocked and the authors make a desperate attempt at... I dunno, cleverness? Closure? A colon-derived plot twist? It's really hard to tell. But, regardless, it's gonna happen, so come on back.

Really! I'll get lonely otherwise.

* I'd just like to observe with no small amount of pleasure that the above is the last of the stupid fucking citations in this book. I am so excited by that, I can't even begin to explain. Needless to say, this also means we're very, VERY close to the end of the book, which makes my wife happier than I can easily describe.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe he's going to give Noah that drug from Awakenings! El Dopa? And Noah "Should Be in a Helmet" Gardener will finally become a real brilliant boy! His dad has engineered this entire thing to smarten the dumb little cockhammer right the fuck up.


It's clear that Mr. Puddles is the only one in the novel with the intellect and adequate-sized cojones to pull off an election suspension.

So we can skip the end of this blather and just watch Red Dawn.

And the peasants rejoice!

Friday, January 06, 2012 1:46:00 PM  
Anonymous Jay said...

Arthur seems really short on vision.

The great thing about nukes, from a conspirator's perspective, is that they don't leave much physical evidence. When you see a twenty-mile-wide radioactive glass crater, there's no point in breaking out the fingerprint kit and the Luminol.

So, if it didn't destroy anything much, *say that it did*. Pretend that it destroyed the fileservers that control, say, Social Security checks, or DoD payroll, or the water supply for LA, or all of that and some other stuff. Give the system three months of chaos.

Arthur should be able to get plenty of impact out of this.

Friday, January 06, 2012 7:33:00 PM  

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