Thursday, September 16, 2010

Phallic Intent

Did you ever reach into a grab bag of candy, pull out something that looked like it might be good, but after the first taste you realize you might want to just throw it away?

I kind of randomly picked a few books from the library, based mostly on subject (science fiction) and date published (2010). One of them happened to be a story by Dale Brown called Executive Intent.

It’s quite the thriller. You get to sit in the laps of presidents and generals as you listen to them make decisions that seem likely to push the world to the brink of a war. Proud men, like VP Ken Phoenix and Russian President Truznyev, as well as a few proud women, like Dr Anne Page and Colonel Gia Cazzotto, who don’t like to be pushed around and don’t shrink back from confrontation. The story takes place at a time of heightened international tension. There are a few references to a Russian surprise attack on the USA, apparently in the recent past. Now the USA has a number of weapons platforms in orbit, capable of hitting ballistic missile in flight as well as stationary targets on the ground. China and Russia aren’t happy, and are conspiring to take their rival down a notch or two.

It seems as if it should be an exciting story. But only a few pages in, and I find myself skimming ahead, turning pages almost as quickly as I can scan them. The story is in fact a banal recounting of technological wetdreams. What little human interaction takes place is uninteresting and silly. When L.E. Modesitt talks deprecatingly of “techno porn,” I’m sure this is the kind of story he must mean. When I read my wife just a page from the book to illustrate to her what was bothering me, she agreed. In fact, she told me it wasn’t just techno porn. It was gay techno porn. I could hardly disagree, seeing as the story is jam packed with rockets of every caliber. Phallus heaven!

But I did finish the story. It took me a fraction of the time it would take me to read a book I wasn’t skimming, of course. Aside from the banal characterization and the completely unrealistic military and political situation in which the plot evolves, Brown also indulges in surprise discoveries (like the sudden appearance of a privately sponsored paramilitary group that simultaneously takes out a number of hard Russian military targets) and a kinda sorta happy ending that completely skips the difficult part of what happens after the shooting starts.

Which is pretty much the same way actual porn works out, now that I think about it.

Oh, in case I’m not being clear: I’m not recommending this book.


At 9:52 PM, Blogger Lionel Mandrake said...

Sadly, I must say that long gone are the days of Dale Brown's greatest novels (Flight of the Old Dog, Night of the Hawk, Fatal Terrain, and even name but a few). I was always more pleased with the 'Megafortress'-related stories (possibly because of my years of work with Boeing), as I always felt the concept of a 21st Century B-52 to be intriguing ('Dr. Strangelove' not withstanding)!


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