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Book Review – Boomsday by Christopher Buckley

This cynical farce of American politics includes a cast of disreputable characters. There are several ambitious politicians, a self-appointed spokeswoman for her generation on a crusade against Social Security (which she seems to have only a superficial understanding of), a fundamentalist Baptist minister (crusading against just about everything), and a slimy PR executive (who may be the most rational of the bunch). The people in this book are they type you would be best off avoiding, if possible, insofar as all, despite their differences, share one characteristic — that of negotiable integrity.

The lack of an admirable protagonist, however, does not prevent the book from being likable. It’s fun in a rather juvenile way, a low comedy in which the characters continually make and break agreements, deceive, lie, manipulate, betray and backstab one another. The characters are not thoroughly detestable, and we can sympathize at times, but mostly we laugh at their misfortune because, after all, they’re really not all that likable. What is amazing is that any of them ever buy the BS the others are trying to sell to them. They should know better.

I won’t say this is a great book, but insofar as my overall opinion of politics and politicians tends toward the cynical side, I got a laugh or two out of it. In my more rational moments, I doubt Washington insiders are as lacking in integrity and good judgment as the characters in this book, but sometimes I have to wonder.

Book Review – They Eat Puppies, Don’t They? by Christopher Buckley

A major defense corporation is having trouble getting Congress to approve funding for a weapon system it wants to sell to the military. The corporation’s CEO decides he needs to drum up public support so that the politicians in the finance committee will see funding the thing as a good political move. To get that support, he will need the public to perceive a threat, so he tasks one of his well-paid lobbyists to stir up some ‘anti-China sentiment.’

This book is a farce of international politics, and a fair amount of fun. I don’t read a lot of contemporary political satire, although political satire is certainly a factor in many of the science fiction books I’ve read and at least a minor element in some that I write. I picked up this book at the library a few days ago because the title intrigued me. After the first few pages, I could tell it could be entertaining.

I tend to like books that have a protagonist that I find admirable in some way. This book doesn’t have one. In fact, every major character in this book is some variety of nut cake. The aforementioned lobbyist, Walter ‘Bird’ McIntyre, is a shallow, opportunistic jerk. He’s moderately clever, but his wisdom score is close to zero.

In the course of accomplishing his mission for the defense contractor, he teams up with Angel Templeton. This manipulative, warmongering pundit has great legs and an overactive libido but not much by way of common humanity. She’s a bit Ann Coulter, a little Ayn Rand, and a lot crazy. Her vision of an ideal world is one perpetually at war.

When they discover that the Dalai Lama is ill, they devise a plan to blame it on China (accusing them of poisoning him), stir up public support, exaggerate the threat, and accomplish Bird’s mission to drum up the support requested. A good deal of personal, political, and corporate intrigue ensues with none of the major players really seeing beyond their own selfish interests. As I said, they’re all nut cakes.

Are they believable? Well, yes and no. I was able to believe they exist for the sake of the novel, and I can believe that there are real people who share their ideas and personality traits, but these characters are not realistic reflections of the people behind the fate of nations, or at least I hope not. They’re not supposed to be realistic in that respect, though. This isn’t that kind of book.

‘Bird’ McIntyre, the closest thing to a protagonist this book has, is transformed at the end into somewhat less of a jerk. Unfortunately, the transformation isn’t convincing. It just sort of happens, and although he’s a much better man at the end, he’s still a nut cake, just a different, less dangerous type.

I can’t say there is much depth to the characters. They are comic representations to prompt a laugh and perhaps a bit of concern in case their views are not quite as ridiculous as they seem, and that the people making major decisions do not necessarily have the public interest in mind. This actually would explain a lot. The satirically presented point is that unverified accusations, money, selfish interests, rumor, influence, partisan politics, and ideology, can have more to do with important political decisions than facts or national interest.

This is the first Christopher Buckley novel I’ve read, and I can’t say it impressed me a lot. I did enjoy it enough to consider trying some of his others, though, so in that respect I can recommend it.

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