Before we start today’s post, it turns out I picked a somewhat inopportune time to start a new Let’s Read series- I’ve got an exam coming up on the 17th and updates are probably going to slow down in frequency until then while I study.
I will, however, be doing another anime post around the middle of the month, covering a few of the new series starting up. Enjoy!
ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE
Hold on people, shit’s about to get real.
Chapter five introduces us to President Jeb Tyler, a “fabulously wealthy trial lawyer” with a dazzling smile. For reasons that are never explained, his rise to the presidency involved putting doctors out of business.
Men assumed he got laid a lot; there hadn’t been a bachelor in the White House since James Buchanan.
I’m assuming the implication of this is that President Tyler does not, in fact, get laid a lot and is therefore a limp-wristed not-man, unlike a certain protagonist we’ll be meeting soon.
Tyler is in the middle of a crisis meeting when news of the middle school hostage situation breaks, discussing a looming defeat in the next election. He rose to power on a strongly liberal ticket that involved universal health care, hate-crime laws and state-sponsored daycare for all working mothers. Given that these touch on some of the most bitterly divisive issues in current US politics you’d think enacting these polices would qualify Tyler as one of the most successful American politicians of all time, but no.
You see, his campaign rested largely on appealing to women, who voted for him not because of his obviously woman-friendly policies but because he has fabulous hair and they all think he’s handsome. But now American women are getting tired of him and his “metrosexual” persona and want to see “a lumberjack, a biker or a serial killer” type elected into office so they’ll have someone new to swoon over.
No, really. I’m not making that up.
I have a feeling this is going to become a common refrain during this Let’s Read, but it must be repeated: there are people who actually believe that women voters are this fickle and irrational, and they’ll quite happily use that belief as a reason to argue against women’s suffrage.
As well as being misogynistic nonsense, Walsh’s characterization of Tyler’s presidency makes absolutely no sense. If women are naturally prone to vote for handsome liberals with dazzling teeth, why hasn’t the White House been filled with attractive dudes pushing for free daycare from 1920 onwards? This scenario only becomes believable if you assume that either Tyler was the first person to realize women’s supposed weakness for hairstyles or that the election Tyler won was the first in which women were allowed to vote.
President Tyler isn’t actually the viewpoint character here, though. As usual Walsh seems to have a lot of difficulty deciding who is the viewpoint character, but once his selectively omniscient roving narration settles on one it turns out to be Senator Hartley, a scheming and opportunistic member of “the opposite party” (Democrat and Republican are never used, even though it’s quite easy to guess which parties they must belong to) who supported Tyler in an arrangement of convenience and now sees a possible opportunity to stab his ally in the back and claim the presidency for himself. Which is of course far more important than the unfolding hostage scenario.
Hostage situations usually played themselves out fairly quickly—half a dozen or so people dead and then the gunman ate his own weapon and that was that. There followed the inevitable suicide note, the video game type revenge You Tube fantasy,
I am trying and failing to understand what “video game type revenge Youtube fantasy” means. Unfortunately the rest of Hartley’s prediction- that America will go through a brief period of introspection and gun opposition before forgetting all about the incident with nothing to show for it- is depressingly accurate and once again has eerie parallels to the nation’s post-Sandy Hook mindset.
Before this band of craven weasels can get back to focusing on Tyler’s popularity contest they see something that draws their attention: Rhonda, the KXQQ reporter we met last chapter. They notice her at first because she’s hot, but then the head of the NSA points out how strange it is that she’s the only reporter on the scene.
“Where are all the other reporters?” asked the man sitting at the president’s right hand. He was Lieutenant General Armond “Army” Seelye, the director of the National Security Agency. Hartley despised him, and he knew the feeling was mutual.
I’m highlighting this guy because the NSA is going to become important shortly, even though its role in the story makes no sense.
Rhonda explains that the terrorists have threatened to start killing children if more than one representative of the media comes to deal with them and- I almost can’t believe this- the point of view switches to Rhonda, for one paragraph, for no reason. I mean, there’s bad writing and then there’s just sheer incompetence. I literally stared at my kindle in shock when I saw this, my jaw hanging open.
Anyway, the terrorists toss a video cassette or something out the window and instruct Rhonda to screen it, letting the Air Force One gang see a view of the inside of the school gym. For some reason this causes them all to go fucking apeshit even though they presumably knew what was going on when the attack was first announced and barely even noticed.
Inside Air Force One, all hell broke loose. General Seelye grabbed a secure phone to NSA headquarters in Ft. Meade, Maryland, barked some orders,
If you know anything about the NSA you might wonder why the head of that organization would be reacting in this way to a hostage scenario. Just wait, we’ll get to that soon.
On the screen one of the terrorists marches out waving a gun and the point of view once again pinwheels over to Rhonda so we can learn that she’s anti-gun before she gets shot in the leg. A-hyuk-hyuk, that sure is ironic! The durn liberal who doesn’t want people to have guns was the victim of a violent gun attack, and that, um, goes to show that….. uh……
Take that liberals!
The terrorist (who has somehow not been shot by any of the SWAT officers or FBI agents on the scene) takes Rhonda’s microphone and begins relaying a message to the president in broken English:
“I speak now to the president of the United States. Listen very carefully, everybody, and nobody get hurt no more…”
Chapter six kicks in and it’s now time to finally meet our protagonist….s backup, “Eddie Bartlett”. That’s not his real name. We don’t find out what his real name is.
“Eddie” is having a fun day out in Griffith Park, California, when he receives a mysterious phone call from a man named
Deepthroat “Tom Powers” (also not a real name) whose voice is electronically scrambled.
Before we get into the substance of that call, let’s take a look at how Eddie’s characterization is handled:
Say what you would about what kind of man Eddie Bartlett was, nobody could say he wasn’t a good father. Given the confidential and often clandestine nature of his business, his wife and daughter were everything to him, and he jealously protected his time with them. He even used his real name with them.
Sure, Walsh. Just explain what the character’s personality is like upfront. Also never stick to one viewpoint at a time.
Tom tells Eddie to borrow his daughter’s iPhone for a second so he can catch the tail-end of the terrorist’s demands: abandon the “Zionist entity” (which I assume means Isreal), pull all American troops out of Islamic regions, abolish NATO for some reason and the President must publicly embrace Islam on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial within twenty-four hours. Tom Powers runs “facial recognition scan” and comments that the demands are obviously a bullshit smokescreen for something else. Which is a relief, given what else is in this book I actually thought these cartoonish motivations would be genuine.
“My comrades and I are not afraid to die. Neither are we afraid to kill all your children. For we have many children each. And you—weak, decadent, intent on your own pleasure—have only one or two.
Yes, we’re seriously getting the old chestnut about Muslims outbreeding good god-fearing Christians. Although this is usually applied with a dollop of racism to people of middle eastern descent, whereas the terrorist is identified as looking eastern European.
“Got him. Suleyman Drusovic, forty-two, born Kosovo, currently Canadian citizen, resident Montreal.”
I guess the villain has to be both a Muslim fanatic and a dude with a vaguely Russian sounding name, because American writers of techno-thrillers never quite got over the end of the Cold War.
The POV switches once more to Rhonda so we can watch her get shot in the head, while Drusoevil mutters a prayer to Allah, of course. Tom hangs up and a helicopter pulls up to take “Eddie” away, with a limo arriving for his daughter.
Why is this mild-mannered father being called into duty? Well it’s quite simple, for you see, he has to assist our hero in resolving the hostage crisis. That’s right, “Tom Powers” is……
It’s…. not quite as badass a codename as it was intended to be, I’m afraid.