Monday, December 13, 2010

Chapter Thirty

Where were we? It's been a while, so maybe we need to get caught up. Oh yeah, Molly slipped Noah a mickey and he just now woke up, some days later. (Elsewhere, Bailey and Kearns are off to sell their nuclear warhead, but that's not important in this chapter.)

Noah showers, puts on some clean clothes, and heads to Darthur's office. Darthur is there, "long fingers knit together." I wish he'd been doing this, but c'est la vie.

Charlie Nelan, Gardner family lawyer, is there, though no longer looking like the fancypants he is. (From chapter thirteen: "No matter where you happened to see him, he always looked as though he'd just stepped out of the 'Awesome Lawyers' issue of Gentlemen's Quarterly.") But tonight, he's a mess:

Charlie Nelan was standing by the window. He looked over, then shook his head almost imperceptibly as Noah met his eyes. Charlie seemed worn-out and wired at the same time, his wrinkled shirt undone at the collar, sleeves rolled up to the forearms, no necktie. This was far from the lawyer's polished public face; it was the look of a man who'd been awakened from a sound sleep to help fight a five-alarm fire.

So, you know things must be really bad if Nolan's shirt is wrinkled. Noah pops some pills the doctor gave him "to counteract the lingering effects of that anesthetic patch she'd peeled off his chest when they found him." Okay.

Also there is "the boss of the firm's security service, an ex-mercenary hard guy named Warren Landers." Yay for new characters! boo for ex-mercenary hard guys. No offense to any ex-mercenary hard guys in the audience, but that is just a clunky, and seemingly disingenuous, descriptor.

Landers was the bully in the schoolyard who'd grown up and found himself an executive job where he could dress up and get paid for doing what he still loved to do. There was always an undertone when he spoke, a smirk in his eyes as if something about you was the punch line of a running joke he was telling in his head.

That is certainly a timely, if unfortunate, choice of words from our author. Anyway, Darthur is glad Noah wasn't hurt, but there are more important things to discuss.

"How did you find me?"

"The same way I found you last Friday night, at the police station," Charlie said. "We found your cell phone. They'd taken out the battery, but someone put it back in and turned the phone on about an hour ago."

Whut? They tracked his cell phone on Friday, too? Wasn't he supposed to be on a date on Friday? Do they always track his cell phone on his free time? Is that how they gauge his outstanding record of success with the ladies? Or did they know something was up from the beginning? And if they knew something was up on Friday, why'd they let all that business of breaking into to office happen Saturday? Jebus, that makes no sense.

Even assuming they had no clue on Friday, after Noah was arrested with the teabaggers, you'd think they'd have kept an eye on him and not let him break into the conference room and steal the Powerpoint presentations.

I must say, The New World Order's security team does not impress me very much.

"The first piece," Landers said, "was that we figured out who leaked that government document to the press last week."

"Who was it?"

"It was scanned and sent out from right here. About two hours after it came into the mailroom."


The next four pages or so detail how Molly infiltrated Doyle & Merchant, got herself close to Noah, and then used him to steal the Powerpoint presentation.

Noah looks at the dossier on Molly Ross, and it is apparent she sent out the document, and did her best to hide that fact.

"Keep going," Landers said. "It gets better."

And by better, Landers means, quite obviously, "even more ridiculous":

The next page was a photo of her in some academic environment, and it took Noah a few seconds to recognize all the things that were different. She wore glasses, thin half-rim frames and subtly tinted lenses. Her hair was longer and lighter, almost blond. But the changes went beyond her appearance. There was a sophistication about her in this photo, a style and a seriousness that he'd either overlooked or that she'd somehow hidden in their short time together.

In another shot she appeared to be at a rally of some kind, with her mother on one side and the ubiquitous Danny Bailey on the other, his arm around her waist and hers around his as they all pressed together for the camera.

The next picture seemed more recent. Molly was alone, wearing aviator sunglasses, a backward baseball cap, cut-off Daisy Dukes, and a camouflage tank top. In her hands was what looked like a military-grade automatic rifle with a drum magazine, held as if it were the most natural accessory a pretty young woman could be sporting on a bright summer day at the gunnery range. For whatever reason he was reminded of that famous shot of Lee Harvey Oswald in his backyard, holding his radical newspapers in one hand and his murder weapon in the other, just a few months before his appointment with JFK at Dealey Plaza.

Seriously? Cut-off Daisy Dukes and a military-grade automatic rifle? What garbage.

"The way we figure it," Landers said, "these people wanted to get some dirt on the government, our new clients, specifically, and they identified our company as a weak spot in the security chain. So they sent this girl to a temp agency we use, and you can see right there"-he tapped one of the papers in the open folder-"she wrote up a résumé that made her look like a perfect fit for a job here, and talked her way in. This Ross girl, she can be a charmer, I understand.

"But it wasn't enough just to get into the mailroom," Landers said. "Oh, it gave her some limited access, but to do the kind of damage they wanted to, they needed some inside help."


And blah blah blah, Molly had been sent in to put the moves on Noah, teabagger style. She used "his Facebook profile, his Twitter history, his full set of responses from a variety of questionnaires at his online dating sites, the rambling, soul-searching posts from his personal blog, even his browser history from a number of recent consecutive weeks" to get inside his head, as it were, and sidled right up to him.

"You didn't stand a chance, Noah," Charlie said. "She came here specifically to get close to you and then make the most of it."

Blah blah blah Molly copied the key to Noah's apartment while he was asleep and then used it to break into his place later. ("We'll know pretty soon if they planted something there, but it doesn't look like they took anything.") Then, after she drugged him, she took the teabaggers back to Doyle & Merchant to steal the rest of the Powerpoint files, which Noah just showed her how to do. Whoops again, Noah.

Noah "had a brief impulse to ask how Landers had managed to gather all of this" information, and it seems a really good question. Well, sort of. I mean, if Landers found out all this info so easily, why the fuck didn't they do this before she made her way into the mailroom?

I get that this is just a mailroom clerk form a temp agency, but still. You're trying to enact the New World Order or whatever. Wouldn't everyone get a background check? They just caught a fucking janitor stealing secrets, right? You think they'd tighten up security just a bit after that. (Nevermind that the woman the janitor called (Molly's mother) appears in the very fucking dossier everyone is mulling over right now.)

Like I said: The NWO's security detail: Less than impressive.

"They cleaned out that squatter's apartment where we found you," Charlie said, "but they left some conspicuous incriminating evidence behind: some radical wing-nut literature, a couple of weapons, and some other assorted contraband. They were probably going to call the police to the place with an anonymous tip."

"Why would they do that?"

"We think they wanted you to be found there with that stuff, so you'd be implicated as an accomplice in this whole thing. That way we'd want to keep it quiet to protect you, and we'd be less likely to make a federal case out of it."

That makes even less sense. They wanted to frame Noah for stealing files from work? To keep it quiet? Huh? Oh, who cares.

So, yeah, that's chapter thirty, more or less. The good news here is that this has brought us over the two-hundred page mark. So, yay for there being only eighty more to go! Though, that is gives us precious time for something to actually happen.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Chapter Twenty-Nine

Remember last chapter? The one where Noah woke up? Yeah, thrilling stuff, huh? In this chapter, there is three times the action! I'll just sum it up before we get started, in case you feel like skipping ahead.

First, Bailey sets his watch. Then he sends an email. And finally Kearns puts the cat out.


I think I've figured out why this book is called a page-turner. It's keeping me intrigued. Not in the usual sense, mind you, that one would apply to a thriller. I am not soldiering on to see what happens next. I keep reading to see if anything happens next.

I am tempted just to skip this chapter myself, but duty compels me to give you all the lowdown, as it were. Do people still say "lowdown"? Or did that go out of fashion when Starsky & Hutch was cancelled?

For a man so worldly and knowledgeable, Bailey is ignorant of time zones:

"What time zone is Nevada?" Danny called out toward the trailer's kitchenette. His watch was a Rolex knockoff and it wasn't easy to reset, so whenever he was traveling he always put off messing with it for as long as possible. This, however, was shaping up to be a day when he'd need to know the time.

I guess knowing the time is good if you're going to sell a nuke to terrorists? Maybe? Okay. Duly noted.

They'd both overslept a bit and now there was a rush to get on the road. To add to the tension Kearns had said he'd been unable to reach his FBI contact the night before, and this morning he'd received a rather cryptic e-mail from their new terrorist brethren.

Do you feel that? The tension? Yeah, it's there. It says so right in the text. It's tense. Because they overslept. And they are going to be late for work school terrorism. Mom is going to be sooo mad.

About that cryptic email:

The message had been from the missing man, the one named Elmer. There was to be another meeting this afternoon, the real meeting this time, at which the weapon would be exchanged for the money, and some final brainstorming would take place on the eve of tomorrow's planned bombing in downtown Las Vegas. The rendezvous was set for 5 p.m., out somewhere in the desert so far from civilization that only a latitude and longitude were provided as a guide to get there.

I guess the meeting in the desert is the cryptic part? Just points on the GPS. I hope Kearns has a spare GPS. Because his other one is strapped to a bomb! If not, they're going to have to stop by Radio Shack.

And in case you forgot this is faction, check this out: "Between the two of them Danny was more capable on the computer, so it had been entrusted to him to plan the route to this remote location through a visit to MapQuest." Mapquest! For authenticity! That's what all terrorists use. And soccer moms. Are there still soccer moms? Anyone know?

Also, did you note that the man in charge of a vast internet-based sting operation is not all that computer savvy? Oh, that can't be good. That can't be good writing, I mean. Though, that is in line with him being a sorry agent all the way around:

While Kearns was in the bathroom Danny had logged on to his favorite anonymous e-mailing site and fired off a quick text update to his staff in Chicago, with a copy to Molly and a short list of other trusted compatriots:

Big mtg today, Monday PM, southern
Nevada. If you don't hear from me by
Wednesday I'm probably dead*, and this is
where to hunt for the body:
Lat 37°39'54.35"N Long 116°56'31.48"W
> S T A Y A W A Y from Nevada TFN < * I wish I was kidding

Kearns has let Bailey off the proverbial leash long enough now to get out text messages and emails? And this is the guy standing between Harry Reid's office and a nuclear bomb? Between five yokels and the largest act of terrorism the U.S. has ever suffered?

And Bailey has a staff? Does Double Rainbow guy have a staff too? I guess someone has to hold the camera when you're making Youtube videos. Sounds a little... what's the word? Not-boot-strappy? Don't tell me Bailey is a dilettante. Is that the right word? And why the hell is this chapter inspiring so many questions? Nevermind.

Bailey and Kearns load up the bomb again, and Bailey settles into "the shotgun seat."

Kearns appeared a minute or so later, but when he was halfway out to the vehicle he stopped and lightly smacked himself on the forehead as though something important had almost slipped his mind. He turned back and hurried to the front door of the trailer, unlocked it and held it open, called inside, and gestured for half a minute until that moth-eaten cat appeared and scampered past him out into the barren yard. Then Agent Kearns knelt and filled an inverted hubcap with water from the hose and set it carefully near the stairs, in a spot where it would stay cool in the shade for most of the day.

And that is that. The watch, the email, the cat. Yay for chapter twenty-nine.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Chapter Twenty-Eight

A small fragment of his awareness saw everything clearly from a mute corner of his mind, but that part had given up trying to rouse the rest of him. Noah still lay where Molly had left him, not exactly asleep but a long way from consciousness.

Ah, yes, Noah. I was wondering what happened to him. He's been lying there, with a small fragment of his awareness seeing everything clearly from a mute corner of his mind. Whatever that means. He's kind of groggy?

Noah dreams he's drowning. And then hears the door kicked in. "People ran past, guns drawn and shouting."

There was a boom, a clattering much louder than the earlier sounds, then a grip on his shoulders, someone shaking him. He struggled against the pressure and somehow forced his eyes open.

A woman leans over Noah, a doctor, it seems. She sticks him with a needle, shines a light in his eyes, and generally gives him the Dixie McCall routine.

The doctor snapped her fingers in front of his face. "Noah? Can you tell me what year it is?"

Noah only asks "Where am I?", which annoys me. I have no idea what year this was supposed to be, but we've just been cheated out of the answer. As an aside, if there is a doctor (or other healthcare professional) in the house, but do they really ask people if they know what year it is when they wake up? I know they do it in the movies and on TV, but I was wondering if it happened in real life.

"What happened? How long have I been out?"

"It's Monday, about noon," the woman said. She snapped off her gloves and returned her things to the medical kit, then stood and turned to one of the men. "I'll take him now. Three of you come with me and the rest should finish up here, then be sure to call in."

Damn. Noah has been out all weekend? I guess that's a convenient way to move forward the timeline. Got him out of the way so we could enjoy The Kearns & Bailey Show.

Noah is helped to his feet and asks where they're going. "Your father wants to see you," is the ominous reply.

Well, it is supposed to be ominous, I guess, since we've heard how evil Darthur is. Not there we really have any sense of that. But it's a thrilling way to end a chapter, right? No? Maybe? Just a little? I dunno. Frankly, I am so past caring at this point.

So, yeah, if I may recap this chapter: Noah wakes up.

How many pages of this garbage are left?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Faction time, kids!

Fortunately, that "long story" about Kearns' career has been summarized in four short paragraphs. Whew. But, like I said, faction. So, not so whew.

Kearns "worked in the top levels of counterterrorism with a man named John O'Neill, the agent who'd been one of the most persistent voices of concern over the grave danger posed by Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda throughout the 1990s."

John O'Neill is a real person. A one-time special agent and Assistant Director at the FBI. He investigated the USS Cole bombing in Yemen, among other things. According to Wikipedia:

In 1996 and 1997, O'Neill continued to warn of growing threats of terrorism, saying that modern groups are not supported by governments and that there are terrorist cells operating within the United States. He stated that veterans of the insurgency by Afghan rebels against the Soviet Union's invasion had become a major threat. Also in 1997, he moved to the FBI's New York office, where he was one of the agents in charge of counterterrorism and national security.

And as Beck puts it:

John O'Neill had seen a woeful lack of preparation for the twenty-first-century threat of stateside terrorism, and he hadn't been shy about expressing his opinions. The people upstairs, meanwhile, didn't appreciate all the vocal criticisms of the Bureau specifically and the government in general, especially coming from one of their own.

In August 2001, O'Neill left the FBI (after losing some sensitive documents and equipment) and took a job as the World Trade Center's head of security. He died on September 11.

All of which isn't really Kearns' backstory so much as it is O'Neill's. But "Stuart Kearns's FBI career had likewise been derailed by his outspokenness and his association with O'Neill, but he'd stubbornly chosen to try to ride out the storm rather than quitting." I guess that's how Kearns ended up selling a fake nuke to a bunch of would-be terrorists in Nevada.

Kearns' career never much recovered from being O'Neill's protégé:

A bureaucracy never forgets and they'd kept pushing him further and further out toward the pasture until finally, for the last several years, he'd been banished so far undercover that he sometimes wondered if anyone even remembered he was still an agent at all.

I think, though, that the reason Kearns is being pushed out is because he's not a very good agent. For example: Bailey convinces him to pull over at the Pussycat Ranch so they can have a beer.

"You've got to be kidding me," Kearns said.

"We've had a rough night, Stuart, and I'd like to have a beer."

"I've got beer at home."

"A beer in a can in a house trailer with another dude and a beer in a Nevada brothel are two totally different things, and right now I need the second one."

I guess the Pussycat Ranch reference is more faction. It's not quite as tasteless as including John O'Neill as a character, but it is still pretty bad. Of course, Kearns opts to stay outside. "Fake or not, I'm not going to leave an atomic bomb unattended in the parking lot of a roadhouse."

Okay, now, you see where this is going, right? This is what I meant about Kearns not being the best agent the FBI has in that institution's employ.

Inside, he'd barely taken a seat at the bar and placed his order when one of the more fetching young ladies of the evening caught his eye and invited herself over.

"What can I do for you?" she asked.

"That's a loaded question in a place like this, isn't it?"

She frowned a bit and looked at him a little closer. "Do I know you, mister?"

The bartender had returned with his beer, taken his twenty, and left a ten-dollar bill in its place. Danny picked up his glass and his change and took the woman's hand.

"What's your name?" he asked.

"My name's Tiffany." Her eyes lit up suddenly. "You're that guy," she whispered, "on the Internet, in that video."

"I am indeed," Danny said. He leaned in a little closer. "And Tiffany, I need for you to do me a little favor."

Kearns stays with a fake, inert, prop outside, instead of keeping an eye on his wily, doesn't-play-by-the-rules stool pigeon. Whoops, no more promotions for you, Kearns! Seriously, that's pretty damn stupid.

Also stupid: "You're that guy, on the Internet, in that video."

And more stupid:

Outside at the bar the television had been showing the news, and in the crawl along the bottom he'd seen that over the weekend the national terrorism threat level had been raised to orange, the last step before the highest. Maybe that was related to this thing with Kearns, maybe not.

Just FYI, the threat level has been at orange (high) for air travel for more than four years. It's been at yellow (elevated) for everything else for more than five. There is a whole conversation to be had about the implications of a warning system that never moves, and the implication of constant and unending fear. Or maybe the lack of fear, the lack of vigilance when everyday normal is an elevated level of threat. Whatever. That is not the conversation Beck is interested in having.

As he composed the text message to Molly Ross he began to realize how little intelligence he actually had to pass along. He knew the code name of this operation he'd become involved in; he'd seen it on the paperwork they'd made him sign upon his release from jail. He knew when it was going down, and where. And he knew something was going wrong, and that the downward slide might be just beginning.

He checked the message one last time, and hit send.

molly -
spread the word --- stay away from las vegas monday
FBI sting op --> * exigent *
be safe

Whew! Thank you Hooker With A Heart Of Gold for letting your favourite celebrity use your phone, and thank you Kearns for being such a shitty federal agent! Without your help Bailey wouldn't have got word to the patriots about Operation Exigent!

Now, what will Molly and Noah do? Oh, wait, Noah ain't doing shit, he's been kicked to the curb, proverbially speaking. You remember that old proverb about curbs and kicking and whatnot, right? Nevermind. Anyway, thing are really starting to thrill up around here. Are you excited?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Chapter Twenty-Six

There's an old trick producers of b-movies would use when some element was too expensive to film: They'd just have someone from the cast, or maybe even a narrator, describe the events we never get to see. "The Alien invaders destroyed New York City! Trust me, I saw it with my own eyes." Nowadays a movie producer doesn't have to do that, because you can just have an intern Flash animate your alien invasion for free, and it doesn't even impact the budget. So, yay for technology! (Boo for crappy movies!)

All of which I bring up because for reasons wholly unrelated to b-movies. For reasons wholly defying explanation, the very same thing happens in chapter twenty-six.

The entire meet-up between the terrorists and Kearns and Bailey is described, after the fact, in a conversation between the two. Bailey asks a lot of leading questions and Kearns dutifully answers. Which is strange, because Bailey was there, so why does he need to be told what just happened?

"Why don't you tell me what's going on."

"First," Kearns said, "we still have their bomb, because they didn't have our money. It might be that they just couldn't get it together until tomorrow, like they said, or it might have been a test of some kind."

"A test of what?"

"Of us. Maybe they wanted to see if we'd leave the goods with them anyway, without the payment. If we are who we say we are they'd know we wouldn't stand for that. But if we were a couple of feds trying to set them up then we might, just so they'd be in possession of the evidence for a bust tomorrow."

It is, I suppose, an economical choice. Why spend an entire chapter describing the conversation between Kearns and the terrorists? You'd just need to flesh out characters, or at least give them names. And then the author would be forced to come up with some dialogue, and figure out a way to convey the tension and unease that permeated the meeting: The nervous looks, the awkward pauses, maybe an ominous rumble of thunder as if Mother Nature herself was eying the proceedings with cloudy angst.

Or, just go the Burt I. Gordon route and describe what happened "off-screen" in a half-assed conversational manner. Or let the "narrator" fill the audience in:

The plan, plainly agreed upon, had been to leave the dummy bomb with their five co-conspirators in exchange for twenty thousand dollars the men had agreed to pay to cover Kearns's expenses. Tomorrow the men would make the eight-hour drive to Las Vegas and pull up to the target address. Instead of achieving martyrdom they'd be met by a SWAT team and a dragnet of federal agents who'd be waiting there to arrest them. None of these guys seemed the type to allow themselves to be taken alive, so FEMA would be running a local terror drill at the same time. With the area evacuated for blocks around there'd be less chance of any innocent bystanders being caught in the anticipated cross fire.

This thing is making less and less sense as we go along, isn't it? Or maybe my brain is melting into corn syrup. Who knows.

The FBI's plan is to let the terrorists drive all the way into downtown Vegas and then apprehend them there, where crossfire is anticipated? Why not stop them somewhere in the desert in between Whereverthefuck, Nevada and Vegas? Did the FBI learn nothing from Waco? It sounds to me like Kearns and Co.'s plan is not well-thought out. And is Bailey a complete dumbass for falling for this?

And why are all five of the terrorists driving together. Why are the all willing to be vaporized together? Couldn't they have drawn straws? Shouldn't someone stay behind and, you know, contact media outlets and explain why they nuked Harry Reid's office? It sounds to me like the terrorists' plan is not well-thought out either.

So, as all this discussion and exposition is going on, Kearns and Bailey are speeding away from the meeting, not sure if they're about to be killed by their new friends:

"Can you handle a gun?" Kearns asked.

"I'm no expert, but yeah."

"If things go bad, there's a pistol in the glove box. The safety's off but there's a long twelve-pound pull on that first round. After the first shot the trigger's really light."

And there are more stupid questions:

"So what's next?" Danny asked. "Am I done? Can you cut me loose now?"

"Not yet. I told them to e-mail me when our friend Elmer gets back in town later tonight, and we'll have to arrange another meet-up tomorrow. Meanwhile I'll check in with my contact, and we'll have to play it by ear from there."

Again Kearns has to explain to Bailey what just happened. Maybe he had to wait out in the car or was in the bathroom or something when all this was discussed. They make it to the highway, and listen go some "golden oldies" and Bailey asks why Kearns is still doing undercover work. "Don't take this the wrong way, but shouldn't a man your age be retired by now?"

Kearns is vague.

"It's a long story."

"Well," Danny said, "it's a long drive."

I sure hope the author pulls another of his cheap tricks and skips this whole conversation too.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Chapter Twenty-Five

Contest time:

If you can guess what happens in chapter twenty-five, you might win one gently used gummi worm! Hey, who wouldn't want that? (You wouldn't want that, trust me.)

If you said "nothing happens" then you're a winner! But we're all winners here, aren't we? By reading this book, we've all had the opportunity to Grow and Learn, and that is something to be proud of. There is no second place in learning and there is no crying on Glenn Beck's TV show. Oh, wait, there is lots of crying on Glenn Beck's TV show. Nevermind.

Okay, so there are two plot points revealed this chapter, which, I guess makes them a slight bit more engaging than the previous three installments of The Kearns & Bailey Show. Maybe this story arc is starting to pay off.

To the plot point, the most important one, I am guessing:

Danny took a printout from his pocket, a transcript of the most recent chat room conversation, and matched up the four men with their screen names. The fifth, he was told, a guy named Elmer, had taken an unexpected trip to Kingman, Arizona, on a related matter and wouldn't return until well after midnight Monday morning.

Elmer is away. That is ominous, isn't it? Where do you suppose he is? I mean, aside from maybe Kingman. (Winona? Barstow? San Bernandino?) Wherever he is, I assure you it is not good.

No matter. "All of them agreed, though, that Elmer was a serious player and absolutely a man to be trusted." I think they had the same ideas about Kearns & Bailey too. No one in this bunch seems especially thoughtful. No one seems to have a name yet, either, aside from Ron, who has "been wise to those Zionist bankers and the good-for-nothing queen of England ever since [he] saw what they did to us on 9/11." (I guess that is supposed to be a joke.)

Nameless, faceless terrorists. At least they've not been saddled with the label "diverse."

Bailey explains the bruises on his face, the beating he took, and how it was the final straw, so to speak.

He'd been picked up by the cops after a patriot meeting in New York City, he told them, and then they'd beaten him within an inch of his life while he was in custody. Everyone has their breaking point, and this had been his. He knew then that there wasn't going to be any peaceful end to this conflict; the enemy had finally made that clear. So he'd called his old friend Stuart Kearns to come and bail him out so he could be a part of this plan.

Sure. Everyone who gets roughed up by the cops decides the best recourse is to nuke a major American city. That makes sense and is totally believable. By which I mean it isn't. Not even in the confines of this novel does that sound plausible. Maybe Beck is trying to demonstrate how far out there these terrorists are. Or perhaps, this is just shit writing.

Kearns shows the men the bomb.

As the men looked on with a mix of awe and anticipation, Kearns began to provide a guided tour of the device. The yield would be about on par with the Hiroshima bomb, he explained, though the pattern of destruction would be different with a ground-level explosion. The device was sophisticated but easy to use, employing an idiotproof suicide detonator tied to an off-the-shelf GPS unit mounted on top of the housing. With the bomb hidden in their vehicle and armed, all they'd have to do is drive to the target. No codes to remember, no James Bond BS, no Hollywoodesque countdown timers—just set it and forget it. The instant they reached any point within a hundred yards of the preset destination the detonator would fire, and the blast would level everything for a mile in all directions.

There is no "Hollywoodesque countdown timer" just a GPS trigger which does not qualify as Hollywoodesque either. Kearns arms the bomb, and "a line of tiny yellow bulbs illuminated, winking to green one by one as a soft whine from the charging electronics ascended up the scale." That is also not Hollywoodesque, in case you were wondering. Nothing Hollywoodesque to see here, move on!

Now, that second plot point I mentioned. The target: "the home-state office of the current U.S. Senate majority leader, the Lloyd D. George Federal Courthouse, 333 Las Vegas Boulevard, Las Vegas, Nevada."

Oh. My. God. The target of the plot is Harry Reid (D-NV). What the fuck? How is this appropriate, even for fiction? Even for faction? I realize Reid is a public figure and all, but this seems beyond the pale. Maybe I am overreacting. I don't know. However, I do know that I do not like this book at all.

I understand nuking a city is acceptable for a thriller. I think Tom Clancy did it once, right? And I've read enough post-apocalyptic fiction to not get all squeamish about California sinking into the ocean or whatever. It happens. It's supposed to be scary, in a roller coaster sort of way.


There is something frightening, and in a whole different way than the author intends, no doubt, about using a real, sitting U.S. Senator as the target for a fictional assassination in a book that is a thinly-, at best, veiled manifesto on the evils of the Left.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Chapter Twenty-Four

You know what? I am getting plenty tired of chapters where fuck all happens. Here is the third Kearns and Bailey chapter in a row where absolutely nothing happens. Frankly, I am sick of padding these posts out. If Beck and Co. can't be arsed to put in the effort, why should I?


Kearns and Bailey are driving on a dark desert highway, cool wind in their hair. Kearns suggests Bailey stick his head out the window and look up. Bailey does and sees lots and lots of stars. Then they arrive at their meet-up.

End of chapter.

End of post.

Go to hell, Glenn Beck.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Chapter Twenty-Three

Nothing much happens in this chapter aside from a phone call. That's not an exaggeration either. Chapter twenty-three clocks in at a whopping 435 words. Who the heck writes a chapter that is only four hundred words?

I wonder how much blank space is in this book. You think it's ten or fifteen percent of the total page count? Maybe more? It would be interesting to sit down and figure that out. Well, maybe not interesting, per se, but maybe it'd be a solid basis for a class-action lawsuit against Beck's publisher. What's the tipping point between a blank book and a novel anyway?

Kearns calls the terrorist cell using "a hacker gizmo called an orange box to fake the caller ID display" to make it appear he'd called from Bailey's cell phone. I guess it was too much a liability to just bring along Bailey's actual phone. And if he did, we wouldn't get to read about hacker gizmos.

By the end of the call "Stuart Kearns was heartily endorsed as a verified patriot who could absolutely deliver the goods." Whew.

The phone is passed around, since the entire terrorist cell I guess was sitting wherever together waiting to take the call. That's convenient. Everyone talks to their hero Bailey, who I think maybe is the Beckian figure in all this.

Something began to nag at [Bailey] after they'd hung up. The troubling thing was that, though each of those men had laid claim to being his biggest fan, and had seen every video he'd ever produced and read every word he'd ever posted online, they'd all apparently seen and heard and read things that Danny Bailey was pretty sure he'd never actually said.

Aww, the poor thing. He's had his words taken out of context. His violent, dangerous rhetoric has been taken to heart, maybe a bit too literally, by violent, dangerous men. Don't ya just hate when that happens? Whoops! The overthrow-the-government schtick ain't so charming when some douchebag has pinched a nuclear weapon and is actually prepared to detonate it.

Speaking of which...

The cousin of a man arrested for threatening Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) in response to her healthcare vote is claiming the man was "under the spell" of Glenn Beck.

Charles Alan Wilson left a series of threatening messages on Murray's voicemail, saying:

"Just remember that as you are politicing for your reelection. It only takes one piece of lead.... Kill the fucking Senator! Kill the fucking Senator! I'll donate the lead.... Now that you've passed your health-care bill, let the violence begin. Let the violence begin."

"By your attempts to overtake this country with socialism, somebody's gonna get to you one way or another and blow your fucking brains out, and I hope it does happen. If I have the chance, I would do it."

"Kill the fucking Senator! Hang the fucking Senator! I hope somebody puts a fucking bullet between your fucking eyes. Far left liberal socialist democratic bitch. You mother-fucker. You sold the fucking people of the country out for socialism. I hope somebody fucking erasers your fucking life. Yes, I hope somebody assassinates you, you fucking bitch."

"We are going to fuck you up. We are going to fuck you up as bad as we can. Yes, the independents. The real people of this country, not you spineless fucking socialists. You better watch your fucking back, baby, because there's people gonna come after you with fucking both fucking barrels, bitch."

Wilson was arrested by federal agents in April.

Wilson's cousin, in a letter to the court, blamed Glenn Beck's "persuasive personality" as the driving force behind the threats:

What happened later with Charlie is something I think I can understand. He became basically housebound due to illness and his small world became even smaller. His brother got him a computer and he was able to stay connected with family. And he watched television and found Glenn Beck... I found Glenn Beck about the same time Charlie did. I understand how his fears were grown and fostered by Mr. Beck's persuasive personality. The same thing happened to me but I went in a different direction with what I was seeing. Rather than blame politicians for the current issues, I simply got prepared for what Glenn said was coming. I slowly filled our pantry as Glenn fed fear into me. I did not miss watching his show and could not understand why the rest of the world didn't get it -- Glenn became a pariah to me. But I was finally able to step away and realize the error of my ways. The media lost its grip on me. But it still held very tightly to Charlie.

While his actions were undeniably wrong and his choices were terrible, in part they were the actions of others played out by a very gullible Charlie. He was under the spell that Glenn Beck cast, aided by the turbulent times in our economy. I don't believe that Charlie even had the ability to actually carry out his threats.

Another of his family members states that Wilson "has had many surgeries in the past and has battled some major health issues." It seems, irony of ironies, that Wilson actually stood to benefit from healthcare reform, but had been so manipulated, so frightened, that Beck's lies and misinformation "scared him beyond comprehension."

Wilson pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a year and a day in federal prison.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Chapter Twenty-Two

Kearns and Bailey, remember them? They're like Glenn Beck's own Odd Couple. "One's a narc, the other's a rat, they're Kearns and Bailey, Bailey and Kearns!" (Sing along!)

They're hanging out in Kearns' "double-wide" with "an ugly off-white cat, and a full-scale model of a small atomic bomb." (No singing!) The two are In Winnemucca, which is somewhere between Reno and Salt Lake City, prepping for their big sting operation.

"I don't want to come off like a puss, but is this bomb-looking thing, like, radioactive?"

"Nah, not too much." Kearns returned with their coffee and sat in a nearby chair. "The core's inert; it's just a big ball of lead. There's some depleted uranium under the lining, so it'll set off a Geiger counter in case anybody checks. Here, look." He flipped a switch on a boxy yellow gadget on the table and brought its wand closer to an open access panel at the fore end of the model. The meter on the instrument twitched and a rapid clicking from its speaker ramped up to a loud, raspy buzz as the tip of the wand touched an inner metal housing. "Sure sounds hot enough though, doesn't it?"

Oh, man, Bailey is such a puss! What a fag! Who's afraid of a little radiation? Radiation: You hear the most outrageous lies about it. Half-baked goggle-box do-gooders telling everybody it's bad for you. Pernicious nonsense. Everybody could stand a hundred chest X-rays a year. They ought to have them, too.


Where was I?

Oh yes, so Bailey asks how Kearns convinced his partners that he scored a real nuclear weapon. There is some faction (faction!) thrown our way as Kearns references this incident, except makes it more John Travolta/Christian Slater by saying "six nukes left the base, but only five showed up" on the other end.

"Now we both know that something like that can't just happen, not as an accident anyway. It's like the Secret Service accidentally putting the president into the wrong car and then nobody missing him until noon the next day. It's impossible; there are way too many safeguards in place. Unless, of course, it was an inside job."

Plot point! Plot fucking point! An inside job? The deuce you say! Anyway, blah blah blah, Kearns' story is that he, being the anti-government online superhero that he is, made some connections at the AFB and arranged to smuggle a nuke out before anyone knew it was missing.

Bailey asks more leading questions, delivers some clunky dialogue ("I haven't slept for twelve hours like that in twenty years"), and basically exists to give Kearns someone to exposit to.

"I would have thought you guys had all kinds of labs and engineers back at headquarters that would have built a model like this for an undercover operation. You know, so someone like you wouldn't have to bother with any of it yourself."

Plot point, part two, electric boogaloo!

"Yeah, they do, but these last few years I've gotten accustomed to working alone. The less contact you make when you're undercover, the safer it is. Hell, I've been out in the cold so long on this one, as far as I know only one guy inside even knows I'm still on the payroll."

Plot point III: Revenge of the Sith!

Woah! Are you getting all this? Because if you're not, I might be a little worried about your deductive capabilities, Miles Archer. Kearns' supposedly fake nuke is suspiciously real. Why? Because Kearns is so far undercover no one even knows he's still with the FBI! OMFGWTFHolyGuacamole! I am beginning to think Kearns ain't on the up and up. Danny Bailey, what have you gotten yourself into?

Is Kearns on the Doyle & Merchant payroll? Is the nuke active? Is Bailey a stooge? Yes! Yes to everything! Yes yes yes, and more yes!

At least that's my guess. What's your pet theory at this point?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Chapter Twenty-One

I think we all agreed that chapter fifteen was the creepiest, right? You remember the whole "don't tease the panther" incident, I hope. (And if you're fortunate enough to have scrubbed that from your brainpan, go here and re-read it.) I only bring this up because, somehow, Beck et al have produced a chapter even more unsettling. And there is no sex in it at all.

The taxi takes Molly and Noah to Molly's ... ummm ... safehouse? Hideout? Crash pad, like maybe the teabaggers are going to the matresses? "Come on up. See how the other half lives" is her invite. And the author spends the next page describing how run down and ramshackle the building is. I suppose this is to contrast with opulence of Noah's condo.

Inside, however, the place is quite nice:

Great effort had obviously been taken to transform this space into a sort of self-contained hideaway, far removed from the city outside. What had probably once been a huge, cold industrial floor had been renovated and brought alive with simple ingenuity and hard work.

Ah, yes, those ingenious and hardworking teabaggers. They made their living space nice. Not like Noah, who got his from Daddy. Noah is a schmuck for not living in a shitty apartment, obviously. He could learn a lot from these teabaggers.

"How many people live here?" Noah asked.

"I don't know, eight or ten, so don't be surprised if you see someone. They come and go; none of us lives here permanently. We have places like this all around the country so we can have somewhere safe to stay when we have to travel."

I don't know, but that sounds... well... vaguely communist, what with all the sharing of housing and whatnot. It also sounds, to be perfectly honest, a little like a criminal hideout. Or maybe a terrorist cell. Why the fuck are there "places like this all around the country"? Why do they need somewhere safe to stay? Is the Hyatt not an option?

Molly offers to fetch Noah some tea (of course!) while he settles in.

He walked about midway into the front room and found a slightly elevated platform enclosed in Japanese screens of thin dark wood and rice paper panels. There were a lot of bookshelves, a dresser, a rolltop desk, and a vanity. But the space was dominated by a large rope hammock, its webbing covered by a nest of comfy blankets and pillows, suspended waist-high between the red shutoff wheels of two heavy metal pipes that extended up from the floor through the ceiling. This room within a room was lit softly by small lamps and pastel paper lanterns. The total effect of the enclosure was that of a mellow, relaxing Zen paradise.

How ingenious and hardworking. And creepy:

A glance through the nearest bookcase revealed a strange assortment of reading material. Some old and modern classics were segregated on a shelf by themselves, but the collection consisted mostly of works that leaned toward the eccentric, maybe even the forbidden. There didn't seem to be a clear ideological thread to connect them; Alinsky's Rules for Radicals was right next to None Dare Call It Conspiracy. Down the way The Blue Book of the John Birch Society was sandwiched between Abbie Hoffman's Steal This Book, Orson Scott Card's Empire, and a translated copy of The Coming Insurrection. Below was an entire section devoted to a series of books from a specialty publisher, all by a single author named Ragnar Benson. Noah touched the weathered spines and read the titles of these, one by one:

The Modern Survival Retreat
Guerrilla Gunsmithing
Homemade Grenade Launchers: Constructing the Ultimate Hobby Weapon
Ragnar's Homemade Detonators
Survivalist's Medicine Chest
Live Off the Land in the City and Country
And a last worn hardcover, titled simply Mantrapping.

While there is no "clear ideological thread" that explains the commie lit jumbled up with works by professional homobigots, I think the list of survivalist manuals is more than telling.

"Those are some pretty good books she's got there, huh?"

It was only the tranquil atmosphere and a slight familiarity to the odd voice from close behind that kept him from jumping right out of his skin. He turned, and there was Molly’s large friend from the bar, nearly at eye level because of the elevated platform on which Noah was standing.

"Hollis," Noah said, stepping down to the main floor, "how is it that I never hear you coming?"

The big man gave him a warm guy-hug with an extra pat on the shoulder at the end. "I guess I tend to move about kinda quiet."

And certainly, Hollis, gentle giant that he is, likes Homemade Grenade Launchers. Hollis, though, seems to like guns. And bullets. And guy-hugs. Yay for guy-hugs! He shows Noah around the compound, taking him to his own room for a moment.

In the room that Hollis identified as his own there was a low army cot, several neatly organized project tables, and a large red cabinet on wheels, presumably full of tools. All these things were arranged as though bed rest wasn't even in the top ten of this man's nighttime priorities.

"What is all this stuff?" Noah asked. One table was covered with parts and test equipment for working on small electronics, another was a mass of disassembled communications equipment, and a third was devoted to cleaning supplies and the neatly disassembled pieces of a scary-looking black rifle and a handgun. More weapons were visible in an open gun safe to the side, but his focus had settled on the nearest of the workbenches. "Are you making bullets there?"

Yes, Hollis is spending his Saturday night just like any American patriot, making ammo. In his safehouse. With a complete stranger looking on. Okay, maybe Noah isn't a complete stranger. He did get Hollis out of jail and all that. Still, seems odd to me.

Noah asks why he's making ammo, instead of, you know, buying it at Walmart like most folk.

"Noah, do you like cookies? And which do you like better? Do you prefer those dry, dusty little nuggets you get in a box from one of them drive-through restaurants? Or would you rather have a nice, warm cookie fresh out of the oven, that your sweetheart cooked up just for you?"

So... homemade bullets are just like cookies from your sweetheart? Gak! WTF? This book is really starting to get to me. I just so cannot comprehend the sentiment here. It is so far beyond my reasoning.

Molly returns with tea, and shows Noah around the rest of the apartment.

At the end of this hall they came to a large room with a diverse group of men and women sitting around a long conference table. On a second look Noah saw that this furniture consisted of a mismatched set of folding chairs and four card tables butted end to end.

The people inside had been listening to a speaker at the head of the table but the room became quiet when they saw the newcomers.

"Everybody," Molly said, "this is Noah Gardner. And Noah, these are some of the regional leaders of the Founders' Keepers.

The regional leaders of the Founders Keepers are a diverse group. Just like the diversity at the Stars 'n Stripes pub. Just like the diversity in the real teabagging movement. What? They're diverse! It says so right there! Molly introduces the group, all using pseudonyms: Patrick, Ethan, George, Thomas, Benjamin, Samuel, John, Alexander, James, Nathaniel, another Benjamin, Francis, William, and Stephen. Oy.

One of the Founders Keepers leaders readers reads from a Thomas Jefferson text to the group. Noah is confused. I am unsettled.

"So what's the meaning of all this?" The book was clearly hand-bound and not mass-manufactured. It looked old but well cared for, and there was a number on the inside front cover, suggesting that this one and the others were part of a large series.

"It's one of the things the Founders' Keepers do," Molly said. "We remember."

"You remember speeches and letters and things?"

"We remember how the country was founded. You never know, we might have to do it again someday."

What? Now I am confused too. They need to remember how the country was founded in case they need to found it again? That doesn't make much sense, does it? I could see needed to know the Constitution, so you've a good base of law... but the how it happened? I'm not sure the how of it would translate, contextually. Unless slave-owning white dudes are somehow relevant in the post-NWO landscape. That seems a stretch.

"So you keep it in your heads? Why, in case all the history books get burned?"

"It's already happening, Noah, if you haven't noticed. Not burning, but changing. Ask an elementary school kid what they know about George Washington and it's more likely you'll hear the lies about him, like the cherry-tree story or that he had wooden dentures, than about anything that really made him the father of our country. Ask a kid in high school about Ronald Reagan and they'll probably tell you that he was a B-list-actor-turned-politician, or that he was the guy who happened to be in office when Gorbachev ended the Cold War. Ask a college kid about Social Security and they'll probably tell you that it was intended to provide guaranteed retirement income for all Americans. Ask a thirty-year-old about World War II and they'll recite what they remember from Saving Private Ryan. Do you see? No one really needs to rewrite history; they just have to make sure that no one remembers it."

Okay. So, Ronald Reagan wasn't a B-list-actor-turned-politician? I mean, I get that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme and should be outlawed, it's the one thing I really learned from reading this book. But what the hell is she talking about? I need me an elementary school history text, pronto. I'm getting lost here.

Molly throws out some Thomas Paine quotes and hands Noah his tea. Noah asks about Hollis' guns.

"That looked like a small arsenal Hollis had back there," Noah said. "Are all those guns legal?"

"Two of them are registered. The rest are just passing through. He's on his way to a gun show upstate."

"So the answer's no, they're not legal."

"Do you know what it took to make those two guns legal in this city?"

"I can imagine."

"It took over a year, and the guy who owns them had to get fingerprinted, interviewed, and charged about a thousand dollars to exercise a constitutional right."

Then, of course, there's a long bit about the Second Amendment. No need to tell you where Molly and Beck come down on that issue. Molly says "The militia was every citizen who was ready and able to protect their community, whatever the threat. It was as natural as having a lock on your front door." And no, I have no fucking idea what that even means. Militias are as natural as locked doors, maybe?

Noah asks about Molly's books:

"I was noticing some of the titles. That's quite a subversive library."

"People use some of those books to smear us, and some of them were written by our enemies. I read everything so I'll know what I'm up against, and how to talk about them. You don't see any harm in that, do you?"

"Who's this Ragnar Benson lunatic?"

She smiled. "He's not a lunatic. That's a pen name, by the way; hardly anyone knows who he really is. He writes about a lot of useful things, though."

"Like how to make a grenade launcher in your rumpus room?"

"That one was from his mercenary days. He's mellowed out some since then. Now he's more about independence, and readiness, and self-sufficiency, you know? The joys of living off the grid."

Ah yes, the joys of living off the grid. Whatever those joys are. It's not clear. Nor is it clear which books in her library are used to "smear" teabaggers, and which are written by their "enemies." But when Noah asks about Ragnar Benson, Molly confides two things.

First, Ragnar Benson is Hollis' uncle. (Faction!) Secondly, Ragnar has retired and Hollis now writes books under that name.

See? I told you this chapter was creepy. There really is a Ragnar Benson (a pseudonym) who writes books with titles like Guerrilla Gunsmithing, Breath Of The Dragon: Homebuilt Flamethrowers, Home-Built Claymore Mines: A Blueprint For Survival, The Most Dangerous Game: Advanced Mantrapping Techniques. These books are real. Scary as that may be.

And one of the characters, one we, the reader, are supposed to have some affection for, is now revealed to be that author. It's mind boggling. It's really unfathomable. I don't want the heroes of my books to be people who've authored Homemade C-4: A Recipe For Survival. The idea that someone else does is really unsettling.

Molly and Noah sink into the hammock, with Noah suggesting "What do you say we just stay here like this, for a really long time." Molly would love to, but she can't. Though, I am pretty sure Noah wasn't being literal. Molly encourages him to finish his tea, which he does in one long swallow.

Molly shows Noah her bracelet. It is inscribed with a Thomas Paine quote "We have it in our power to begin the world over again" on one face. On the other: "Faith Hope Charity."

"I guess I don't really understand," Noah said. "I mean, I understand those words, but that's not really a battle plan, is it? Do you know what you're up against?"

"Yes," Molly said. "But I doubt that our enemies do."

"So tell me."

She explains, sort of, what it all means. No, it doesn't really make sense. She tells how 'no taxation without representation' was coined by a preacher and how the French revolution failed because they don't believe in God in France. (Which totally goes against what I learned in The Da Vinci Code. Wasn't Amélie's grandpappy Jesus? She was French, right? No? Argh!)

"Our rights come from a higher power, Noah. Men can't grant them, and men can't take them away."

Okay. God doesn't like taxes? Or something. And we should definitely not render unto Caesar what is Caesar's? And all of our rights, like not having to quarter soldiers in our homes in time of peace, come from God? And no man can interfere with your right to own an assault rifle? Because God? Whut?

"And charity is simple. We believe that it's up to each of us to help one another get to that better tomorrow."

Unless the way to help your fellow man is by paying taxes to ensure a social safety net for the disadvantaged. Because that is bullshit, my friends. Remember when Mel Brooks quoted Jesus in Spaceballs?: "Fuck the poor!" Amen, sister!

If anyone can make sense of this, you're clearly smarter than I am. (And if you can't, well, it's probably safe to assume you're still smarter than I. At least you're not reading this claptrap voluntarily.)

Suddenly, Noah feels dizzy. He thinks, for a moment, that maybe he's drunk. Like in college. He tries to get up, but Molly tells him to be still.

As the cloudy room began to swim and fade he saw that three strangers were standing nearby, young men dressed in business suits and ties.

"It's time to go, Molly," one of them said, the voice far away and unreal.

Whoops! Looks like Molly slipped Noah a mickey.


"You'll stay with him, Hollis, won't you?"

"I'll stay just as long as I can."

He felt her arms around him tight, her tears on his cheek, her lips near his ear as the blackness finally, fully descended. Almost gone, but the three simple words she'd whispered to him then would stay clear in his mind even after everything else had faded away into the dark.

"I'm so sorry."

Molly, our hero, has spiked Noah's drink. Why? I have no idea. Maybe it will become clear later. I doubt it. Nothing in this book has made any sort of sense, so I don't think this will either. Just another random plot point in a series or random plot points.

In good news, at least something happened in this chapter. Right? That sort of makes up for nothing much happening the last five or six. Though, we didn't really need fifteen pages to get there. She could have just drugged him at the start of the chapter. But I guess then we'd never have learned that Hollis is Ragnar Benson. And we'd have missed all that bullets as cookies stuff. Truthfully, I could have stood to miss that. Gun fetishism always gives me the creeps. But then, so does our hero poisoning her love interest.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Chapter Twenty

Is it wrong that I feel relieved, that I feel thankful, that this chapter is only two pages long? "Once you've paid five dollars for a gallon of gas, three-fifty suddenly sounds like a real bargain." Yeah, and once you've read all twelve pages of chapter nineteen, the scant two in chapter twenty is like a Tuesday night rimjob.

The other nice thing is that we've made it more than half-way through the book, page number wise. This must be what Lewis and/or Clark felt like crossing the Continental Divide. It's all downhill from here. No doubt, in more ways than one.

This chapter is another cab ride. There's a lot of movement in this book. In taxis. In limos. On planes. Down halls. Up elevators. As if to suggest the story is going somewhere by virtue of the characters doing so. It's a cheap visual trick employed by filmmakers all the time. Unfortunately this is a book, not an episode of Criminal Minds.

The cab ride is nothing more than a short, silly conversation between Noah and Molly. Of course, there's the requisite proselytizing along the way. Noah suggests there was no clear indication when the NWO was going into effect, not in the Powerpoint. It's happening as they speak, according to Molly. How can she tell?

"The economy is crashing, Noah. There's no net underneath it this time. That's why they're rushing through all this stimulus nonsense, both parties. All the cockroaches are coming out of the woodwork to grab what they still can. It's a heist in broad daylight, and they don't care who sees it anymore. That's how I know.

"They've doubled the national debt since 2000, and now with these bailouts, all those trillions of dollars more—that's our future they just stole, right in front of our eyes. They didn't even pretend to use that money to pay for anything real, most of it went offshore. They didn't help any real people; they just paid themselves and covered their gambling debts on Wall Street." She looked at him. "You asked how I know it's happening now? Because the last official act of any government is to loot their own treasury."

Got all that? Good. I have just one question: When Molly says "that's our future they just stole," what exactly does she mean? The bailout and stimulus money was her/our future? How so? Okay, obviously she was being more philosophical. I just don't know what the philosophy is. It doesn't seem to mesh with the whole bootstrappy Libertarian viewpoint to say the government owed her some sort of future.

Noah offers to help Molly and her mom, no strings attached. He's rich. He'll be okay.

"You're wrong—you won't be okay. No one will. If they accomplish half of what we saw on those screens then money won't protect you. Nothing will."

Ummm... what? So if Darthur puts the New World Order into effect, Noah is hosed how exactly? Darthur won't protect his only son? What's he going to do? Put him to work making cogs in a cog factory in Cogtown? Huh? I don't even understand this book at all. I really don't. It soooo badly written, so poorly thought out, it doesn't hold up to even the smallest amount of scrutiny.

Especially literary scrutiny:

After a time her clasp on his hand tightened for a few seconds, but it didn't really feel like affection. It was more like the grip a person might take on the arm of the dentist's chair, or the gesture of unspoken things an old love might extend at the end of a long good-bye.

Huh? Oh, who cares...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Chapter Nineteen

Ah, chapter nineteen! You're a cornucopia of ideas. Most of them silly, some of them nonsensical. In good news, that cover image is finally explained. So that's something, right?

But before that big reveal, we've some nonsense to wade through.

Last chapter Molly had walked out on Noah and "all but disappeared into the river of weekend tourists and theatergoers flowing through the heart of Times Square." But now the two of them are back together, sneaking into Doyle & Merchant.

Because "weekend work was one of the many things his father frowned upon" Noah is forced to take the secret entrance into the office. Did I mention back in chapter five Darthur's hatred of watches? I don't think so. Let me do it now:

In 1978 an account executive had checked her watch during Arthur Gardner's heartwarming remarks at the company Christmas party. She’d looked up when the room got quiet and had seen in Noah’s father’s eyes what time it really was: time for her to find another job, in another city, in another industry. By the following Monday the unwritten no-timepiece rule was in full and permanent effect.

Huh? Okay, anyway. No clocks. No work on weekends. So Molly and Noah have to sneak in the office's back door.

A private elevator led to Arthur Gardner's suite of offices on the twenty-first floor, and that was the way they'd be going in.

The elevator had originally been an auxiliary freight lift, largely unused until its luxury conversion when Doyle & Merchant established their New York offices here in the 1960s. There was only one wrinkle in the layout: the ground-floor entrance to this elevator had to be located on the next-door tenant's property, which was currently a multilevel, tourist-trendy clothing store.

Ummm... okay. Darthur engineered the overthrow of Guatemala but can't con Heinrich's into moving out of their sublet to make way for his private elevator? Or was it intentional of Darthur to have his secret entrance near the belts and socks of the department store? Is this supposed to be the thrilling part of the thriller? Skullduggery among the Dockers?

It's another of those strange little details. Saying Molly and Noah took a freight elevator up to bypass security would have sufficed. But instead there's all this silliness about the elevator being at another address.

They ride up the elevator and Molly thanks Noah for breaking into the office. He replies "I'm not really speaking to you right now." Aww, how cute. Because he speaks to her to tell her he's not speaking to her. You crazy kids!

Noah gets philosophical:

There was only one way to warrant a blatant breach of business ethics such as this, and that was to attribute his actions to a higher cause. If Molly was right, then a cute but quirky mailroom temp had identified a grand, unified, liberty-crushing conspiracy that had been hatched in the conference room of a PR agency. The benefits of learning that would easily outweigh the consequences: forsaking his father's trust and violating the ironclad, career-ending nondisclosure clause of his employment contract. After all, with the fate of the free world in the balance, the prospect of getting fired, disowned, and probably sued into debtor's prison should be among the least of his worries.

I guess if you're willing to suspend disbelief that "a grand, unified, liberty-crushing conspiracy had been hatched in the conference room of a PR agency" then the rest of this book will be easy to swallow. Me, I just can't get past the ridiculousness of it. Then again, I can't get past how a dirty look translates into "no clocks, not here, not ever."

The elevator reaches the top and the two slink into Darthur's office. It's a swank, well lighted place, "a shrine to the very real forms of happiness that money could actually buy."

Molly paused at the sight of one thing.

"What is this?" she asked.

She was looking at a marble sculpture on a pedestal in the corner. Noah's father had commissioned it years ago. The figure depicted was a strange amalgamation of two other works of art: the Statue of Liberty and the Colossus of Rhodes.

Okay, so that's the cover:

The Statue of Liberty meets the Colossus of Rhodes. Which means what exactly?

"It's the way my father looks at things ... at people, I mean: societies. The law may serve some superficial purpose, but it only goes so far," Noah said, touching the spear in the statue's left hand. "At some point the law needs to be taken away and replaced with force. That's what really gets things done. People ultimately want it that way; they're like sheep, lost without a threat of force to guide them. That's what it means."

So, Darthur is a fascist. No surprise there. I mean, he's going to establish the New World Order or whatever. I don't get really how Liberty plus the Colossus symbolizes the effete nature of law and the will to power. But I guess that's what Wikipedia is for.

There is more walking down halls until they reach "the locked AV booth, where the presentation files were stored". There some espionage shit as Noah accesses some "coded folders on the computer" and starts up the Powerpoint again. And blah blah blah it's the same old shit from earlier.

Now, here's something I don't quite get. Either Noah knows about the NWO or he doesn't. He claims not to. But wasn't he right there in the room when Darthur laid it all out in chapter three? I started second-guessing myself. How could he have sat there in the room and then claim ignorance about the whole affair. That would make no sense. (Yes, I know, I know.) So I went back and looked at chapter three again, thinking maybe I misread it.


"Because we must, we will finally complete what they envisioned: a new framework that will survive when the decaying remains of the failed United States have been washed away in the coming storm. Within this framework the nation will reemerge from the rubble, reborn to finally take its rightful, humble place within the world community. And you," he said, looking around the table, "will all be there to lead it."

"The misguided resistance that still exists will be put down in one swift blow. There'll be no revolution, only a brief, if somewhat shocking, leap forward in social evolution. We'll restore the natural order of things, and then there will be only peace and acceptance among the masses."

That's pretty straightforward shit there. Either Noah is a liar (PR weasel!) or he has gummi worms for brains. It makes no sense that Noah would lie about the NWO plan then sneak into his own office to reveal the plan to Molly. But it also makes no sense that he doesn't in fact know about it. What the fuck was the point of him burying that leaked memo in chapter three if he wasn't fucking involved in the conspiracy?

It's all down to poor storytelling, I know. Speaking of which:

"Who was in this meeting, do you know?" Molly asked.

Ummm.... From the previous chapter:

"I know there was a meeting at the office yesterday afternoon," she said, lowering her voice but not her intensity. "I saw the guest list on the catering order. I know who was there."

Poor storytelling, like I said.

There are more exciting Powerpoint slides. Like this one:

The heading was "Framework and Foundation: Toward a New Constitution." No names accompanied the headings that followed, only the areas of government that each new attendee supposedly represented.

• Finance / Treasury / Fed/Wall Street / Corporate Axis

• Energy / Environment / Social Services

• Labor / Transportation / Commerce / Regulatory Affairs

• Education / Media Management / Clergy / COINTELPRO

• FCC / Internet / Public Media Transition

• Control and Preservation of Critical Infrastructure

• Emergency Management / Rapid Response / Contingencies

• Law Enforcement / Homeland Security / USNORTHCOM / NORAD / STRATCOM / Contract Military / Allied Forces

• Continuity of Government

• Casus Belli: Reichstag / Susannah/Unit 131 / Gladio / Northwoods / EXIGENT

Noah asks what Casus Belli means. Molly explains "It means an incident that's used to justify a war." Also, Reichstag? Are you fucking kidding me? I guess once can never pass up the opportunity to make an allusion to the Nazis.

More slides. Because nothing is quite so thrilling as Powerpoint. Or passwords.

A security dialog popped up, and with a vocal sigh Noah entered his override password. If anyone ever checked to see who'd accessed these files and when, this would be another nail in his coffin. An hourglass indicator appeared, along with the message: Please Wait ... Content Loading from Remote Storage.

Note the plot point: If anyone ever checked to see who'd accessed these files and when, this would be another nail in his coffin. Whoops! I suspect someone will be checking.

Molly had left her seat and walked a complete circuit of the round room, looking over the various headings on the screens. She stopped by his side, pointing out a bracketed rectangle that enclosed part of the illustration on the slide in front of them.

"What's that box?" she asked.

"It's called the Overton Window."

Two explanations in one chapter! In fact, that's the entirety of the cover explained. Well, almost the entirety. The part that reads "A Thriller" is still a fucking mystery to me.

What follows is a long, and boring, discussion about the Overton Window and airline security and anarchy and "complete top-down Orwellian tyranny" and the media with a little bit of speechifying thrown in for good measure. Noah sums up:

"We put a false extreme at both ends to make the choices in the middle look moderate by comparison. And then, with a little nudge, you can be made to agree to something you would never have swallowed last week."

Which, I guess, is how you end up with that liberal Patriot Act.

And I apologize in advance for this next quote. I really hadn't intended to force you into reading so much of this dreck. But there was just so much in these paragraphs I couldn't not share it with you:

"We never let a good crisis go to waste, and if no crisis exists, it's easy enough to make one.

"Saddam's on the verge of getting nuclear weapons, so we have to invade before he wipes out Cleveland. If we don't hand AIG a seventy-billion-dollar bailout there'll be a depression and martial law by Monday. If we don't all get vaccinated one hundred thousand people will die in a super swine-flu pandemic. And how about fuel prices? Once you've paid five dollars for a gallon of gas, three-fifty suddenly sounds like a real bargain. Now they're telling us that if we don't pass this worldwide carbon tax right now the world will soon be underwater.

"And understand, I'm not talking about the right or wrong of those underlying issues. I care about the environment more than most, I want clean energy, I want this country to recover and be great again, people should get their shots if they need them, and Saddam Hussein was a legitimate monster. I'm saying opportunists can attach themselves to our hopes and fears about those things, for profit, and this is one of the tools they use to do that. The question to ask is, if they've got a legitimate case for these things, then why all the lying and fabrication?"

I'm not going to unpack most of that. I'm too tired to bother. And you're all smart enough to do that without my guidance. But I am going to point out that one galling bit of irony that is laying there like a steaming turd in the snow: "Opportunists can attach themselves to our hopes and fears about those things, for profit."

Yeah, Beck, Opportunists certainly can attach themselves to our hopes and fears for profit. You'd certainly know a thing or two about that, wouldn't you? I mean, what would you call The Overton Window if not an opportunistic attempt to wring cash from your paranoid fanbase by playing on their fears?

More speechifying follows. About Al Gore and Goldman Sachs and Enron and blah blah blah. And more Powerpoint. And more bullet-points:

• Consolidate all media assets behind core concepts of a new internationalism

• Gather and centralize powers in the Executive Branch

• Education: Deemphasize the individual, reinforce dependence and collectivism, social justice, and "the common good"

• Set beneficial globalization against isolationism/sovereignty: climate change, debt crises, finance/currency, free trade, immigration, food/water/energy, security/terrorism, human rights vs. property rights, UN Agenda 21

• Associate resistance and "constitutional" advocacy with a backward, extremist worldview: gun rights a key

• Quell debate and force consensus: Identify, isolate, surveil opposition leadership/threaten with sedition—criminalize dissent

• Expand malleable voter base and agenda support by granting voting rights to prison inmates, undocumented migrants, and select U.S. territories, e.g., Puerto Rico. Image as a civil rights issue; label dissenters as racist—invoke reliable analogies: slavery, Nazism, segregation, isolationism.

• Thrust national security to the forefront of the public consciousness

• Finalize the decline and abandonment of the dollar: new international reserve currency

• Synchronize and fully integrate local law enforcement with state, federal, and contract military forces, prepare collection/ relocation/ internment contingencies, systems, and personnel

Interesting, no, the points like "Quell debate" or "Thrust national security to the forefront"? I seem to recall lots and lots of talk during the previous administration about how True Patriots didn't criticize the President during a time of war. Why, anyone who did that was a traitor! That wasn't something out of the Liberal Playbook. That's standard rightwing rhetoric. Does Beck think his readers are stupid? Does he think no one remembers that? Who was it that thrust national security to the forefront? It sure wasn't the Left who were in charge after 9/11.

Oy. I almost feel sorry for Beck's fans. Almost.

There is one final slide, set to go into effect. In three days! "Casus Belli." Oh noes!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter eighteen is notable for two reasons. First, it opens with a single word. A paragraph unto itself:


Secondly, Noah and Molly get their first kiss:

Molly looked into his eyes, and what he saw in her was a perfect reflection of a wanting that he also felt, so there was no delay of invitation and acceptance. It was a different sort of desire than he'd known before, an understanding that something now needed to be said that no language but the very oldest could possibly convey. He bent to her, closed his eyes, and her lips touched his, gently, and again more urgently as he responded. He felt her arms around him, her body yearning against his in the embrace, a knot like hunger inside, heart quickening, cool hands at his back under the warmth of his jacket, searching, pressing him closer still.

Still with us? Good. I wouldn't blame you if you'd given up after that. My only hope here is that there is no sex scene waiting for us down the road. Because if it's anything like the kiss, it's going to be brutal. I promise you, if there is a sex scene, I will warn you ahead of time. You've my word on that.

Anyway, back to the opening paragraphs.


Scent appeals to the most primitive of the five basic senses. Unlike a sight or sound or even a touch, an aroma can rocket straight to the untamed emotions with no stops required at the smarter parts of the brain. You like it or you hate it; that's the designed-in depth of raw stimulation the nose is built to deliver. So amid all the other deeper thoughts that should have come to Noah's mind upon awakening, it was bacon that crowded them out to come in first across the finish line.

I'm going to need your help here. I can't make heads or tails of this sentence: "Scent appeals to the most primitive of the five basic senses." What is the author saying here? That scent appeals to our sense of smell? I'm pretty sure most of us know that. Even if I didn't know that, I think I'd pretty easily deduce that scent does not appeal to one's sense of hearing. Or is he saying the sense of smell is the most primitive of the senses? If that's what he meant, maybe that's what he should have written. Because "scent appeals to the most primitive of the five basic senses" is nonsensical, no pun intended.

The rest of the paragraph ain't exactly Dostoevsky either, what with all the rockets of raw stimulation and whatnot going on there.

So, Molly has made Noah breakfast and the two of them sit in the sunroom (huh?) and enjoy a moment with the NYT Sunday crossword. Noah knows lots of big words and Molly soundlessly mouths letters as she writes. I guess this is characterization.

Then Molly drops the proverbial bomb. (Real bombs later.)

"I've been meaning to talk to you about something," Molly said. She got up and took his empty plate and silverware to the sink.

"Okay. Let's talk about it."

"I'm not going to be in town very much longer."


I'm just not. There were some things I wanted to do here, and I've done them now, so I'll be leaving."

What? What things did she have to do? Get arrested? Hang up flyers in Noah's office? Go to a Libertarian poetry slam? And she's been meaning to tell him since when? Since they got out of jail? Since he woke up and ate her bacon? Huh?


Molly cleans up the kitchen and asks about something Noah has framed in the apartment. He describes it as "a penmanship exercise, from the fifth grade, dad's favorite poem."

It wasn't quite right to say it was his father's favorite poem; more like the old man's justification of his life set in verse. He'd directed his young son to study it so he'd always know the way things really worked in this world.

Noah picked it up, let his thumb brush the dust from the corner of the glass, and read each metered line aloud.

Then the Gods of the Market tumbled,
and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew
And the hearts of the meanest were humbled
and began to believe it was true
That All is not Gold that Glitters,
and Two and Two make Four
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up
to explain it once more.

As it will be in the future,
it was at the birth of Man
There are only four things certain
since Social Progress began.
That the Dog returns to his Vomit
and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool's bandaged finger
goes wabbling back to the Fire;

And that after this is accomplished,
and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing
and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us,
as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings
with terror and slaughter return!

Ummm... Okay. I'm no poet laureate or anything, so I'm not going to pass judgement on the piece. Rudyard Kipling wrote it, and he's respected as a writer, and aside from that I know next to nothing about him. He wrote Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, and that cartoon used to give me the heebie jeebies as a kid, so this poem seems to fit.

Noah and Molly discuss the poem.

"And what do you think he was telling you with this, your father?"

"He told me the poem meant that history always repeats itself, that the same mistakes are made over and over, only bigger each time. The wise man knows that if you can't change that, you might as well take full advantage of it. But to me it meant something else. It's a warning, I guess, about what happens when you forget common sense. I think it means that there really is such a thing as the truth, the real objective truth, and people can see it if they'll just look hard enough, and remember who they really are. But most of the time they choose to give in and believe all the lies instead."

I see. Really. I do. Darthur's philosophy is that history repeats itself. Not exactly profound or anything. But Noah is sure there is more to the world than that: there is Truth to be seen, if only everyone would look. I guess there are worse philosophies to adhere to.

I think my favourite part here is how Molly's sole purpose has developed into facilitating Noah's Awakening. And cooking bacon. Nice. She's there to serve. Perfect, Beck, just perfect.

After breakfast, Molly and Noah go for a walk in Times Square. Like they're in a Meg Ryan movie.

They'd talked some along the way, though for the most part it had been a quiet walk. But there was nothing tense or self-conscious in those wordless stretches. He found himself at ease in her company, as if a conversation was always in progress, only spoken in other forms. She stayed close to him, at times with an unexpected gesture of casual intimacy: an arm around his waist for half a block, a finger hooked in his belt loop as they crossed a busy street against the light, a palm to his cheek as she spoke close to his ear to be heard over the din of the traffic.

See? Just like a Meg Ryan movie. And like a Meg Ryan movie, the two kiss in Times Square. (EIther there or Central Park, right? Because those are the only two places in NYC.) See above if you'd like a replay.

If this were a movie, do you think Molly would be played by Meg Ryan? The role seems against her type, but I bet Sarah Michelle Gellar would be up for it. That being said, I am positive Tom Hanks would not be Noah. Maybe Hanks' weird little cousin, Colin.

With everything to see and hear around them there at the very crossroads of the world, soaring billboards, scrolling news crawlers, bright digital Jumbotrons that lined the tall buildings and blotted out the whole evening sky, it all disappeared to its rightful insignificance, flat as a postcard. That place was left outside their small circle, and if asked right then he might have stayed there within it forever.

It was a really good kiss. I think that much can be said. Noah really really likes Molly. I really really dislike the author of this dreck.

Then it starts raining again and the couple ducks into a coffee shop to warm up. As they are sipping their Folgers Gourmet Selections (with Flavor Crystals™), Molly asks Noah for some advice. She wants to know what the PR whiz would do if the teabaggers were to hire him.

"What is it you want to accomplish again?"

"We want to save the country."

Noah thinks for a while and basically tells Molly that the teabaggers need to get their shit together. And through him Glenn Beck basically tells the teabaggers to their shit together. Noah tells Molly they need a platform.

"Start with the tax code, since your mom is so passionate about that. How about a set of specific spending cuts and a thirteen percent flat tax to start with? Get that ridiculous sixty-seven-thousand-page tax code down to four or five bullet points, and show exactly what effects it'll have on trade, and employment, and the debt, and the future of the country. And I'm winging it here, but how about real immigration reform? The kind of policies that welcome people who want to come here for the right reasons, and succeed."

Ah yes. A flat tax! That'll fix everything. Know what else fixes things? Bullet points! And immigration reform. The kind that lets people into the country for the right reasons, like being white!

"And what did you mean, save the country, by the way? Save it from what?"

She looked at him evenly. "You know what."

Heh. Yooouu know! Seriously, these are adults? These are adults trying to save this great nation from the talon grip of the NWO? No. Adults don't talk like that. Has the author ever spoken to another adult? I don't think he has.

She clarifies, sort of.

"I know there was a meeting at the office yesterday afternoon," she said, lowering her voice but not her intensity. "I saw the guest list on the catering order. I know who was there. I know you were in it. And I think I know what it was about."

"Okay, yes, big surprise, there was a meeting, but I wasn't there for all of it. And do you want to know something else? I don't even know what it was all about, so how could you?"

"Then let's both find out."

Okay, so the NWO might be undone by a catering order? These are the people who have spent fifty years implementing a plan to take over the world, or whatever, and they can't keep the menus out of the hands of spies? "Oh em gee, John Aschroft ordered a tuna melt! Do you know what this means?!" Actually, I don't know what that means. He always seemed more the egg salad type to me anyway.

Molly demands Noah prove her wrong. What? Prove what? You haven't said anything!

"Let's go right now and find out."

"I can't do that."

"Yes, you can. We'll go to the office right now, and you'll show me that I've got nothing to worry about. If that's the case then that'll be the end of it."

Okay, this is straight getting on my nerves now. What the fuck is she expecting to find? The plans for the NWO right there in the offices of Doyle & Mer­chant? It's not like there was a Powerpoint and a hand-out explaining everything. Whoops! That's right, there was a Powerpoint and a hand-out explaining everything. Okay, so even if there was, why can't Noah just bring home a copy? And why can't a VP visit the office on Saturday? It seems like someone in his position would have run of the place, no questions asked. Oh well, not that it matters anyway.

Molly gets a little creepy too and tries to blackmail Noah. What the fuck is with everyone in the fucking book? What a bunch of manipulative, mendacious turds. Even the people we're supposed to like are assholes. This whole book is garbage.

"Do you want me to leave?" Her voice was tight and there were sudden tears in her eyes. "Do you never want to see me again? Because that's what this means."

So. Yeah. Molly. Blackmailing a man you know has feelings for you. A man you just kissed. Now you want him to break into the offices of the NWO, like Old Mister Bullet-In-The-Head Churchill, and do I don't know what exactly, or you'll split. Wow. Everyone in this book is a douche.

"That is so incredibly unfair," Noah says. And rightly so. But it's too late. She's out. And Noah is left alone in a Times Square coffee shop. (Bubba Gump's? I hope it was Bubba Gump's.) And it's then that Noah decides what he must do.

If he's going into the office on a Saturday, I'm not going to be impressed. I've done that very thing countless times, and I'm not even a VP trying to stop the New World Order.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Chapter Seventeen

Oh, chapter sixteen, how I miss you. You made so much sense. I thought, with you, I understood what was going on. But no. Now I am lost. Chapter seventeen came along and ruined everything with its lack of coherence.

Danny and Kearns are on a private jet, on their way to a meeting with some militiamen. Militiamen intent on committing "a grotesque act of domestic terrorism." Kearns is an undercover agent. Danny is his bait.

I guess this all ties back into those missing nukes. But I thought Darthur's PR firm had those. Is the militia a cover group for Darthur's firm? If so, why do is Danny needed "to lend a crowning bit of credibility to the proceedings"? Suppose the militiamen really are just a bunch of terrorist douchebags intent on setting off a bomb in some U.S. city? Then why is Kearns portrayed as such a douche when his efforts to stop them are pretty fucking noble?

Last chapter, it was pretty clear Kearns was an asshole for coercing Bailey into waiving his rights and turning snitch. In this chapter Kearns is little more than a spoiled doofus.

Stuart Kearns took a pack of Dunhills from one jacket pocket, his lighter from another, then reclined his seat a notch and lit up. He inhaled deeply, then blew a thin white ring of smoke and watched it drift up toward the rounded cabin ceiling.

"What are you doing?"

Danny Bailey had awakened from his nap and was staring at the lit cigarette across the narrow aisle as though he were watching a bank robbery in progress.

"You can still smoke on a charter. On this one, anyway." Kearns extended the pack to him, shook a filter tip halfway out. "Come on, you know you want to."

Come on, you know you want to? Yeah, that's how adults talk to one another. I love how Kearns smokes Dunhills. The only people I ever knew who smoked Dunhills were me and my homo pals (and Liss). I don't think it's an accident that Kearns' brand of choice is an expensive, fashionable brand, rather than Camels or Lucky Strikes. Yeah, he smokes faggy cigarettes and blows smoke rings: what a stooge!

Danny is, of course, all business here. He doesn't cotton to Kearns breaking FAA regulations. Which is odd, for a rabble rouser with such a dislike of The Man and his Rules.


Several years ago, Kearns had the FBI set up a website,, and began posing as a disgruntled whistleblowing ex-agent. He'd been, according to his cover story, "run out of his job when he'd tried to blow the whistle on some dangerous truths." With his knowledge of Dangerous Truths and access to the FBI's database of Very Bad Things, Kearns became a "household name" in militiamen circles.

Kearns is described here as "ex-fed-turned-Patriot." Interesting, no, the notion that one can't work as an employee of the government, as a federal agent, and be a patriot? Ah, well, maybe that's how the militias see it, and not Beck. Except every character in the book has spent the last 125 pages lambasting every aspect of government.


A new discussion group had formed in a private chat room on the site, under the heading of "Direct Action." The members began to kick around the logistics of the Oklahoma City bombing, Tim McVeigh's attack on the Murrah Federal Building in 1995: what had gone right, what had gone wrong, and the various conspiracy theories still swirling around the event and its aftermath. With some encouragement from the forum leader the discussion evolved—some half-baked plans that would've gotten the job done better, other vulnerable targets, men, methods, and materials. Many dropped out of the conversation as things got more serious, but eight stayed on.

This remaining group progressed to tentative voice chats and then to encrypted e-mail exchanges, all the while inching their way from what had started as a mere discussion toward a solid plot that could actually be executed. Three more anonymous participants eventually got cold feet and dropped out, leaving five people ready, willing, and able to commit a grotesque act of domestic terrorism.

So Kearns lures five people into his fictitious plot to set off a nuke. And now needs Danny to help him close the deal, as it were.

Danny Bailey would be brought along to the first in-person meet-up, to lend a crowning bit of credibility to the proceedings; he was currently the closest thing the Patriot underground had to a national spokesperson. In essence, Bailey would play the Oprah to Kearns's Dr. Phil.

I don't know about you, but these militiamen sound like dopes. They're falling for this? Okay then. Thank maude they're stupid, is all I can say.

Danny isn't too keen on playing along.

"These aren't my people," Bailey said. "You've gotta be kidding me, man, I've never told anybody to do any violence—"

"I've watched your videos, son, and you don't exactly tell them not to, either."

"Aw, come on." Bailey sat back in his seat, shaking his head. "I've got to go over the top just to get people up off the couch. Have any of you guys ever actually read the First Amendment?"

It's nice that there is some rationalization thrown in along the way. All's fair in Patriotism™ and infotainment where the First Amendment is concerned. Good to know, Beck.

Now, the author uses this moment to indulge in some faction. Blending fact, with fiction. Or, pulling-a-Law-and-Order, as we like to call it, ripping off a real news story and passing it off as his own.

Kearns asks if Bailey's ever done any acting. Bailey whips out a photo of himself dressed as Col. Sanders shaking hands with Ali Treki, president of the UN General Assembly.

"That's me." Bailey pointed to the man standing next to him in the photo. "And that's Mr. Ali Treki, the president of the UN General Assembly, receiving an official state visit from the founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken, who'd been dead for almost thirty years at the time. It was a publicity stunt for my DVD on UN corruption, United AbomiNations. It's sold out, but I'll see if I can get you a copy."

"I'll add it to my Netflix queue."

Except that in real life, this was a publicity stunt pulled by KFC, to promote their new grilled chicken sandwich. I don't know why the author chose to glom onto this factoid and weave it into the fine fabric that is this story. I guess maybe he just liked it.

I'm thinking we'll find out that Hollis sang Chocolate Rain too. Or Noah was the techno Viking. Or Darthur is goatse. Us fans of faction can only hope.

All that would certainly be less confusing than what's actually going on.