Let’s Read Hostile Intent ch. 46-47


Devlin is super pissed that he blew up some weather balloons instead of something evil.

Devlin switched off his PDA, atomizing the confidential report sent to him anonymously

Walsh really likes the word “atomize”, and he also loves using it in completely nonsensical contexts.

Devlin is lying low by taking on an assumed identity as a humble janitor at NSA headquarters; I’m not really sure how he manages to maintain this front full-time while also travelling all over the place shooting people, but whatever. The building’s bathroom comes equipped with more technological spy bullshit, needless to say. There’s a “tense” scene where Devlin has to finish entering a code or else plastic explosives will detonate and kill him, and another dude wants to use the toiler really badly. This is one reason why real security systems generally aren’t designed to explode if you don’t use them perfectly.

Devlin learns that the President has ordered Seelye to shut down his operation, but he decides he’s still going to take down Charles so he sets his super-duper spy computer searching for something and goes to info-dump a bit about his mom, who turns out to have been an NSA agent; Seelye had her accused of being a traitor after she died to cover up his own complicity in her death. Or something. It’s not very interesting.

He was under no illusions that his presence in NSA would go undetected for long. He was smart, but Army Seelye was at least as smart as he was.

If Seelye doesn’t know about any of this, how did Devlin set up his elaborate spy office in the middle of the NSA headquarters? Wouldn’t someone notice that?

Anyway Devlin discovers a hidden message from Seelye telling him to keep working on the mission if he wants to SPYBOTS HACKING COMPUTERS

His fingers flew: FALSNEGS TIL MIS/ACC. There were workarounds against even the most sophisticated ’bots. He knew, because he had developed half of them.

So on top of being an awesome assassin-spy and master linguist, Devlin is some kind of computer science whiz. Of course.

I don’t really understand what happens in the next part even after reading it twice, but Devlin hacks something and somehow deduces that the ship he ordered the marines to sink was a distraction, and Skorzeny’s real plan hinges on the other aid ship. Which confuses me, because there’s a throwaway line earlier that seems to imply that ship was randomly blown up by Charles, but now it’s apparently on its way to Baltimore.

It’s DAY FIVE and we’re back in London. Specifically we’re in the spacious and well-appointed home of Amanda Harrington, to which she has just returned after her boss raped her a few chapters ago. She plays the piano a bit and laments over the fact that she can’t have children and isn’t married and is therefore doomed to a life of loneliness. Because, you know, adopting or getting a room-mate is just impossible. I’m sure either would be fairly easy, given her aformentioned fantastic wealth and gigantic, beautiful house.

You couldn’t play Brahms by pounding the keyboard. Instead, you had to become one with it, ease into it, practically have sex with it, so that the tips of your fingers touched the strings, atomizing the keys and hammers and dampers and flanges and

Walsh really, really likes that word.

Especially now, in modern Britain, where the native population would be a minority in its own country in less than two generations unless the women of England stepped up to the wicket.

Excuse me for a moment, I must retreat to my fainting couch.

She finished the piece and looked around the room, at the books on the bookshelves, at the names of long-dead authors who had believed in Britain, who thought its ideals would never die, who had lived, and sometimes fought and even died through the first and second Somme, and Dunkirk, and Singapore. And what had they given their lives for? New Labour? Posh and Beck? The Finsbury Park mosque?

Well David Beckham’s ascendancy in the media was a legitimate national tragedy, but the rest is just more demographic-crisis right wing bullshit.

She closed the keyboard, protectively. There was something about the purity of the ivories—ivories that were now illegal, perhaps even a hanging offense, in modern Britain.

I’m just quoting all of these bits to demonstrate that there is literally nothing these characters won’t turn into an opportunity to complain about This Modern World We Live In. I’m fairly certain this thing with the ivory, at least, is Walsh trying to get inside the head of an English right-wing racist instead of just putting his own opinions into the mouth of one.

So now it’s time for the Big Reveal about Amanda: that she has Emma restrained and drugged up to the eyeballs as part of some vague plot by Skorzeny to use her as a bargaining chip (why they think any government agency would be deterred over the fate of a single twelve year old girl is beyond me), and seriously seems to have convinced herself that they’re going to be a happy family.

Now, a few things about this.

First of all, I find it kind of suspect that Amanda could have this gigantic and obvious a break from reality and still remain completely functional and lucid in every other aspect of her life- the woman clearly has some serious mental health issues- but okay, never mind that. Let’s dig into the more serious thematic meat here.

It’s made pretty clear that even apart from the whole drugging and kidnapping thing that Amanada is not doing a terribly good job of looking after Emma- for example, in this chapter she comments about ordering Indian take-away for her to eat and off-handedly thinks about how she sometimes “forgets” to provide any food for her. Now, on the surface this might just seem like a quirk of Amanda’s character, ie she idly dreams about how awesome it would be to have a child but would actually be a terrible parent. But remember, Amanda isn’t just a character- she’s a symbol for one of Walsh’s right-wing bugbears.

Remember way back when her infertility was first brought up, and the narration compared her to modern feminist women who don’t want to have children and who are dooming Europe to being over-run by the filthy immigrant hordes? Yes, that’s right. I strongly get the feeling that the message here isn’t supposed to be that Amanda is irresponsible and self-centered, but that she’s too busy working to take care of a child. Feminism makes women want to go out and have jobs instead of staying at home, and then they can’t cook good home-made meals for the kids!

I guess this counts as one of Walsh’s more subtle points by virtue of the fact that I had to think about all of that for more than two seconds.

(I also wonder if Amanda drugging Emma up in response to her post-event trauma from the kidnapping is meant to be some kind of commentary on parents supposedly doping their kids up on Ritalin or whatever, but I’m shakier on that)

Amanda gets a call from Skorzeny, but she decides not to answer it because she’s do busy doing, um…. something else.

She’d call him back later, when she had poured herself another whiskey, when she got downstairs, when she had slipped out of her clothes and stood naked in the solarium, with all the lights out, staring into the darkness of Kensington Park, stripped bare and alone not with her thoughts, which were for sale, but with her emotions, which weren’t.

Uh. Okay, then.

Her phone buzzed once more. She let it ring and turned on the telly.

See, Walsh clearly did his research- you can tell she’s English because she calls it the telly.

Anyway she’s watching the telly because Tyler just announced that he’s closed the stock market early (can presidents do that?) in response to the economic fallout of the terrorist attacks. The Skorzeny Foundation has somehow made tons of money off of this, in a process that as far as I can remember is never really described very well, probably because staging terrorist attacks isn’t actually a good way to make money.

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10 thoughts on “Let’s Read Hostile Intent ch. 46-47

  1. Pingback: Let’s Read Hostile Intent ch. 48-49 | Doing In The Wizard

    1. andrea harris

      And aren’t you allowed to keep stuff that you owned before the ban? Looking it up… Okay, it’s legal to keep stuff you already had before the ban and even pass it down to your heirs but you can’t sell anything made of ivory after 1947. So, unless she bought that piano within the last 24 years, there’s nothing illegal about her having it in her house.

      1. andrea harris

        (Adding that the ban went into effect 24 years ago, or 23 according to the article from last February I found. I don’t know why they picked the date 1947 to be the age cut-off.)

  2. Signatus

    “and goes to info-dump a bit about his mom, who turns out to have been an NSA agent; Seelye had her accused of being a traitor after she died to cover up his own complicity in her death. Or something. It’s not very interesting.”

    So… this is sort of like Chuck, where everyone and their mothers happened to be CIA agents. Interesting…

  3. Reveen

    Ummm, what? The stock market is just the result of all the stocks being traded. It’s not literally a physical thing that you can close. Maybe he means the stock exchange? But even if the stock exchange even matters with the internet, I’m not sure, I’m pretty sure that one guy can’t up and say “Okay boys, funs over. Go home”.

    Hmmm, it’s almost as if the writer has no idea what he’s talking about!

    1. braak

      No, it does. Trading can be suspended on the NYSE and it can have a big effect on the value of stocks. It doesn’t mean that trading doesn’t happen, necessarily, but it does have a pretty serious effect.

      1. Ian

        Closing the NYSE/NASDAQ after an unusual event, such as a terrorist attack, helps to limit the resulting ‘fear-based’ trading/speculation/gambling. For instance, after the Sep 11 2001 attacks the NASDAQ/NYSE didn’t open until 9/17; by this time investors had seen that the attacks weren’t a precursor to any large-scale invasion (irony…) and thus were a lot more secure in not selling their entire portfolios on a poorly-considered whim. It’s argued that this helped the economy because on one end retirees weren’t incurring all the costs associated with knee-jerk sell-offs of their 401Ks, and on the other end grocery store franchises weren’t taking massive hits to their companies’ market values for no good reason (a bombing at the Pentagon is going to have a negligible impact on Costco’s operations, despite what a fear-driven market may do to the company’s stock price). Put another way, even with the market shutdown the major indices still dropped ~7% in aggregate on 9/17; if the exchanges had opened on the morning of 9/11 following the attacks the drop would have been much more pronounced and the damage to participants and firms much greater.

        Also – I don’t think the president has any direct power over the stock exchanges. I’d assume that decision is made by the NYSE/NASDAQ exchanges themselves, with each getting ample input from the SEC, and Federal Reserve.

  4. Pingback: Let’s Read Hostile Intent ch. 44-45 | Doing In The Wizard

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