Last time on Let’s Read Hostile Intent we saw the beginning of a terrorist hostage scenario from an insider’s perspective; now someone on the outside is getting roped into the mess: a reporter at KXQQ, a small-time St. Louis news station. You would think this would be a difficult setting to politicize, but just wait. Walsh manages it.
First though, I have to talk about how the third chapter is extraordinarily ineptly written. Walsh introduces two new characters, a young reporter named Rhonda Gaines-Solomon and her boss, and then bounces back and forth between their viewpoints with absolutely no indication or justification. This is mostly to pull off a “literary” sleight of hand contrasting Rhonda’s optimism and determination with her sad-sack boss’ burned out weariness, something that feels like the work of Guy In Your MFA and is jarringly out of place with the tone established thus far.
Anyway, on to the author’s latest round of political dart-throwing. Here is a list of the things we learn about Rhonda within the first three pages of the chapter:
– She’s from California and hates the Midwest
– She’s “good looking in that tramp-next-door” kind of way, like all the women on TV lately
– She has had unspecified plastic surgery
– She is considering sleeping with her boss to get ahead and then getting him fired for sexual harassment, apparently just for the hell of it
In our previous post we were introduced to Hope, the Proper Women. Now he have Rhonda, who is Not A Proper Woman. You can tell because Walsh presents these ideas with all the subtlety of an exploding 18-wheeler.
Young people these days were on a first-name basis with the whole world, as if last names didn’t matter, or didn’t exist at all.
Yes, Michael Walsh is a cranky old man. Just in case you were wondering.
Rhonda is interrupted from thinking about how much she hates the American heartland and fantasizing about getting her boss fired when a mysterious man with an English accent calls her up and drops some cryptic remarks about something going down at Edwardsville Middle School. If at this point you’re thinking that Charles’ actions don’t seem to be making much sense, you’re wrong: no one’s actions in this book make sense.
Rhonda scurries off to see what’s up, and then it’s back over to Rory and co at the school. Charles leads them out into the hallway and toward the gym, at which point a terrorist leaps out of a side door and promptly bashes him over the head with a rifle butt, knocking him unconscious. During this scene I was unable to stop thinking about that bit in the Simpson’s Halloween parody of The Shining where Groundskeeper Willie rushes to Bart and Lisa’s defense and is immediately killed.
This man was quite different. He was funny looking and foreign looking
Remember Rory’s cannibals from chapter 2? He explicitly compares the terrorists (who we later learn are Azerbaijani) to his fictional cannibals, the ones who chase down and eat poor hapless Christian missionaries. It’s racist and stupid!
The terrorists lead the kids to the gym, where the rest of their classmates and teachers are already being held at gunpoint. The room has been rigged with explosives, the school principal has been savagely beaten, and several of the teachers are strung up in ludicrous Saw-style traps involving shotguns taped to their hands. Just in case you thought the terrorists were going to be realistic characters instead of absurd parodies.
(Trust me, it gets worse)
One victim of this arrangement is a black social studies teacher, who spends all day teaching his students to hate America and vilify white men and no, I swear to god I’m not making any of this up.
Indeed, Rory had wanted to go find some black people to apologize to, but there weren’t all that many of them in Edwardsville, and his parents wouldn’t let him go to East St. Louis, where apparently they were pretty easy to find.
You know, on some level I understand why books like this exist. Writers have a tendency to write stories that conform to their political views, and readers tend to like having those views affirmed. But surely even if you were the most reactionary far-right crank in the entire world, you’d realize that this was blatant pandering?
Except I guess not, because it’s important to remember that there are a whole lot of American ultra-conservatives who literally believe they are living in the world described by this book. Keep that in mind as we journey onward.
The school nurse accidentally triggers her shotgun trap and has her jaw blown off, spraying the kids with blood and teeth. How do they react to this? Shock? Horror? Tears?
Well, the girls do. Rory’s older sister whose boobs we were introduced to in the first chapter meets his gaze across the room and that’s when poor, gentle, timid Rory awakens to his suppressed masculinity and is filled with righteous anger
No, I’m also not joking about this. Check it out:
Practically from birth, Rory had been taught to hide his emotions, to conceal them, suppress them, be afraid of them. It wasn’t nice to feel bad things, and it was even less nice to express them. Boys, his teachers told him, were different now: they didn’t yell, they didn’t fight, even when they wanted to, they got along, even when they didn’t want to.
Again: there are lots of people who literally believe this, and who will, if allowed, talk at length about the feminization of American men and the tragic way boys are discouraged from the rough-housing that comes naturally to every single boy in the world if left alone by those durn feminists. Particularly extreme examples of this rhetoric started percolating in the wake of Sandy Hook, such as in this article in which the author spins a ridiculous fantasy about janitors and “husky” twelve year old boys taking down Adam Lanza (I have to once again note that the Sandy Hook parallels in this book are kind of eerie).
Next time: we get to meet the president! Strap yourselves in because it’s a doozy