August 20, 2009

The Better Angels **

** The Better Angels, Charles McCarry, 1979

Had to try another McCarry to see how he writes when he's not doing a dossier style. And the answer is, much better, but still pretty dry. However, he's got a real knack for the nice turn of phrase which pops up occasionally and makes me glad I read the book. Here are a few examples:

  • "Rationality is the enemy of consciousness."
  • She had mastered a vocabulary, but she had no ideas, only passions.
  • The table had been laid in the garden: white damask and blue china and silver as thin as an old voice.
  • "Where I come from, they've always liked a dead man a whole lot better than a coward."

There were some intriguing things about the book. It was written in the 1970s but set in the 1990s. McCarry's 90s included an atheistic, rational Republican party set on annexing Canada and building gulags in Alaska for dissenters, a religious Democratic party that imposed gas rationing and mandatory lights out for the entire country at 10pm, a Democratic president that had nicknames for everyone, much like Dubyah did, a private computer network that spanned the globe via telephone lines, and female fundamentalist Muslim suicide bombers with explosives implanted in their bodies blowing themselves up at US national monuments. (And at the Alamo!)

On the other hand, there was too much sex in it for my tastes. The book was also laden, almost turgid, with backstory larded in as early as page two. Not the pacing one expects from a political thriller in this millenium.

But, overall, a decent, if not must, read.

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