October 18th, 2007

still more Brockmann

_Into the Night_: in which a character from The West Wing (not really) feels slightly cougarish dating the younger, hotter Mike Muldoon. This book is really kind of interesting. First, not as popular with the fans as most of the other books. I think there are a bunch of reasons for this. Joan's issues from her childhood are less about Evil Parents and more about her being kinda neglected because her brother is so messed up. This makes Joan less purely a Victim, and therefore less sympathetic. Second, Mike's issues of self-esteem are precisely the kinds of issues that are Absolutely Unacceptable in a standard romance context. In general, Brockmann's fans are better than that (they are down with the men who cry, as opposed to down ON the men who cry). However, in conjunction with Mike's I-still-feel-like-the-fat-kid thing, it's a lot to overcome. So the attraction of the primary pair is unfortunately all mixed up with the fact that Joan and Mike are a little too like us lesser mortals.

_Into the Night_ is also a transitional novel in the series, in that it is the first post-9/11 Troubleshooters novel. The bad guys are suicidal Muslims trying to make some kind of Point by Attacking the President where He Should Be Safe (on a base). Brockmann's handling of the plot is interesting, in that the Mastermind has a Muslim/Arabic name, but is a convert born in the US and not just white -- blond white. And he's not much of a convert; he's in it for the money. Racist Mary Lou (married to the ever popular Sam of the multi-novel subplot that is resolved in the book after this one; he rebounded with her and she sabotaged the birth control), neglected by her husband in part because her racism so disgusts him, is subjected to the attentions/affection of two men. One is the white Muslim terrorist. The other is a recovering alcoholic Muslim gardener.

This is all pretty cool -- it's a romantic suspense novel with the President being targeted by terrorists (but is still viewed as political, and some people like him and some people don't, rather than as Heroic by virtue of his position at the time), a strong message about the stupidity of racial profiling and racism in general, and a painfully good depiction of a recovering alcoholic trying to become less trailer trashy-y.

This is kind of a challenge for romance readers. I'm impressed at what Brockmann tried to do here. That said, Joan and Mike are a bit irritating at times.

_Gone Too Far_ continues the tale of Mary Lou, the white Muslim terrorist, Ibrahim (the Muslim gardener), and wraps up the Sam and Alyssa arc. If _Into the Night_ is a relatively restrained response to the post 9/11 world, this one is a relatively restrained response to how insane the Administration was acting. Tom Paoletti is locked up while Crowley is out of the country by the Ever Evil Tucker, who has some squirrelly idea that Paoletti was somehow involved in the terrorist attack of the previous novel. Think of this as followup on where did that gun in the trunk come from now that we know where it wound up. Lots of talk of characters being dead or almost dead (Dead: Donny, Janine; Almost Dead: too long to enumerate, but notably including Ibrahim and Kelly Ashton). Lots of interagency rivalry in trying to figure out what happened to Janine and finding Mary Lou and Haley. A little subplot involving the negotiator and the gang-raped hostage from _Out of Control_ that will continue in a future novel (_Breaking Point_ IIRC). Most significantly, however, this is the novel in which Brockmann solves a huge set of problems: her SEALs are aging, the world they occupy is increasingly one that will not permit characters to display integrity/morality/Goodness AND be plausible, and there are more and more women who should be engaging in field roles and will not ever have them in the SEALS. So a couple of her aging SEALS have career ending events. Some people start a rumor about a private organization that one of them is going to start that can employ everyone and pick what they do and how. And the rumor acquires a life of its own. The Troubleshooters become Troubleshooters, Inc.

The fire in the compound at the end of _Gone Too Far_ completely underplays the seriousness of smoke inhalation, particularly in babies. In general, Brockmann has a tendency to beat the crap out of her characters (like, that plane of people baking in the sun in K-stan that more or less got completely ignored -- fine, but why didn't anyone notice that one of those people was wearing a big coat the whole time? Hunh? And why didn't that person just die from the heat/lack of water? Whatever.). This lets her Heroes be Heroes, fine, and she occasionally shows people in hospital with IVs or doing the O-course with a brace on their knee or whatever. But she also puts side characters through hell and doesn't accurately show the consequences. I find that mildly annoying. Why can't it be Glorious when the little people suffer wholesale? It's apparently only Glorious when the Heroes are anguishing.

_Bastard of Istanbul_, Elif Shafak

This was a book group selection. I read the first 90 pages a few weeks ago, then finished it on Monday. I had thought I would not be able to make it to the book group meeting, which is why I didn't read it for a while. It's a bit of a slog getting through the first 100 pages, because there are a lot of characters and the plot is...subtle. I highly recommend that you get out a piece of paper and diagram the relationships as you are working through Banu's revelations towards the end of the book.

I _really_ liked this book. Which is pretty rare for me and a book group selection. I go so I can talk books with people, but these are not, generally, books I would have picked for myself. But wow.

First off: a varied group of characters, predominantly but not exclusively women. All powerful in their own way, all very believable. Second, carefully depicted relationships -- familial, sexual, friendship, etc. Third: an amazing political backdrop. Nothing in here about Kurds and the likely coming destabilization that will occur when Iraq fragments into three (which is looking real inevitable about now; shocking that Biden could turn out to be so right, isn't it?). But quite a lot that amounts to background for the current resolution and the October 11 conviction of Arat Dink and Serkis Seropyan.

Recommendations of entertainment should always be in the context of a particular audience (if this is the kind of thing you like, you'll really enjoy it). Except when they shouldn't be. You might or might not like this book, or the characters in this book, or any or all of the points made in this book.

But you should seriously consider reading it. It's a good book.