Tag Archives: political fiction

Holy Terror

Sometimes, really random things happen to me. For instance: today my boss recommended (based on the horribleness of it) that I read Frank Miller’s latest opus, Holy Terror, and then he handed it to me. Did you ever wonder how heroes thinly based[1] on Batman and Catwoman would react to a series of terror attacks, if they were interrupted mid-hate-fuck on the roofs of Gotham? Let me assure you that you will never have to wonder again.

Anyway, some sense impressions, and that will be all I have to say about that. Why so very much attention to ours heroes’ sneaker patterns? Why, for that matter, sneakers? I don’t care how artistic the impulse, three pages of empty white squares still comes off as lazy. I’m insulted by cartoonish villains at this point, much less cartoonish villains based on real people. Speaking of real people, the caricatures mostly came across as mean-spirited, and I wonder if that was the point; certainly it was the point of the rest of this story, right? It doesn’t matter that you ascribe the elaborate and pages-long rope bondage of Catw Natalie[2]-the-cat-burglar to frustrated Al Qaeda members, Frank, we still know it’s your fetish.

The worst part is, there are interesting ideas in here that will probably never be handled by an author who is more interested in them than in an anger-fueled revenge fantasy about Batman knocking out terrorist teeth. Al Qaeda as the tip of a much vaster conspiracy? I would read more. I would probably even read more if written by Tom Clancy, ’cause sometimes he can make a concept come alive. Archaeological discovery of an ancient and incomprehensible city beneath Manhattan? I would absolutely love for a good speculative fiction author to steal that idea wholesale and do something amazing with it. (Even if they had to keep and explain the utterly random T-Rex head coming out of one of the walls.) Instead, though, we’ve got this, which I hope I have prevented you from reading. Because the art? It would be the worst thing about the book if I hadn’t also read the words.

[1] I really, really wonder whether it was Miller or DC that decided to pull the plug and re-imagine this particular scenario with characters outside certain lucrative copyrights.
[2] let’s say

The Teeth of the Tiger

Then I read the latest Clancy book. Despite the agenda and the predictability, spy novels are pretty fun. I’ve got some Ludlum in the pipe too, and intend to snag a Cussler if I can ever remember which one to look for first while I’m in the store. But that’s neither here nor there. (Well, okay, it’s there. Sometimes, these idioms really don’t work in even the native language.)

In the case of The Teeth of the Tiger, the plan is to write an afternoon daydream in which we’re allowed to leverage all of that stock market know-how to fund an infrared ops organization who will analyze lots of data, pick out the exact right terrorist bad guys, and then go kill them without leaving a trace that murder occurred. Clancy pretty well succeeds at this fantasy; after all, it’s his novel. I can’t decide if this makes me a bad person since it’s fiction, nor if it was his intended outcome (probably not, since it’s happened in previous books too), but I find myself rooting for the bad guys. Maybe because the stakes aren’t high enough just preventing the bad thing, there has to be some fallout too. Or maybe I just groove on things going downhill. There’s plenty of evidence for that in my entertainment tastes, I suppose.

The problems are plentiful, though. First of all, you have the same Jack Ryan syndrome that has existed from day one, where this one guy is much better at analysis out of the gate than all the thousands of people with decades of experience. Which wasn’t so bad back in the day, but now it’s Jack Ryan Jr., and having a genetic lightning doublestrike seems unreasonable. (Oh, and to make matters better still, his twin cousins are the equally skillful assassins sent to do the jobs.) Based on multiple sets of dangling bad guys, expect CIA: The Next Generation sequels to be hitting shelves near you.

But the plot isn’t even my primary aggravation. It’s Clancy’s quirks. First, he makes sure that every noteworthy character has something like three names, minimum. And then he makes sure he never uses the same reference twice. I don’t want to have to work to figure out who is speaking or acting at any given moment, and I certainly don’t want to have to work at it when I’m reading an airplane book. Second, he takes exposition, a fine and necessary ingredient of anything containing a plot, and doubles it up. Constantly, you’ll get the same information presented in exactly the same way but a few pages later. Like he wanted to make sure you were really paying attention and didn’t just miss it the first time. It’s like he’s taking the necessary exposition, and then doubling it. (Annoying, huh?) All things considered, I’m pretty sure these novels were quite a bit smarter in the 80s. It could be that I was much less smart, though.

Oh, and although I’m pretty sure this is the kind of thing the terrorists have already figured out, I wouldn’t mind terribly if he’d stop writing up blueprints for the exact correct way to go about inflitrating our meagerly defended national borders. I’m just saying.