Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Mandibles: 2029, Chapter 12 (Agency, Reward and Sacrifice)

And then it all starts moving so very fast, and yet it's still such a tiresome, gray thing. Soon, we will come across the big time jump, launching us a full generation into the future, but for now we're trapped in this moribund hulk of a plotless universe. The author, perhaps dreaming of that future time when things will change and she'll no longer be shackled to this rotting beast, hurries forward, and yet the end is always one more page away. I can share this misery, the pain of filling out that agonizing stretch of uneven country road that runs between the thrilling start and the dramatic conclusion. Would that she given some thought to the lost souls reading these dismal passages and left some sign of life along the way.

...Sorry, I was rambling.
[Avery]...splayed the cash on the kitchen counter. "It's not the same quality of paper. The ink isn't right, either. It's brighter. Greener. Garish."
So begins six pages of old-fogey-friendly text of Avery expounding on the one dollar bill - it's design, it's symbolism. I remember a passage from The Handmaid's Tale in which the protagonist, living in a world of all electronic transactions, spoke of hard currency as totemic in nature. That was an interesting observation. This character, by contrast, just sounds very baked. Six pages - that's nearly one-sixth of this chapter. Probably around fifteen hundred words. In some of my books, that's a whole chapter.

A whole chapter on this image.

Now it's time for Lowell to whine about his life for a few thousand words. I'm so glad that Lowell is one of our POV characters, it's such a happy world inside his head.

Oh, it sounds like there's been another mini-timeskip. I think it's December now, I'm not really sure. So what happened during that little gap? Jarred showed up? That's great. Oh, we don't get to actually meet him? We just hear via Lowell what he did while he was there? So we've still never heard any dialogue from Jarred, and we don't know what he looks like, but we do know that he's making a killing in produce. I guess this means he solved that whole "held in thrall to scary farm workers" thing, huh? Will we hear how that turned out? No? Stellar.

Hey, have you been wondering what happened to the dinner party guests from Chapter 5? No? Well, too bad. They're doing fine. Tom and Belle are coasting on government money, while Ryan and Lin Yu are raking in money (that they can't actually spend because it's in bancors) through the masterful tactic of marking their book down to $0.99 on the future equivalent of KDP (And what do you know, people do still conduct electronic transactions). So that's the secret, is it?
Typically, too, Biersdorfer and his sexy Asian yes-woman spent little to no time in the US these days...
Lionel Shriver, I hate that you're doing this. You'll never understand why I feel such deep enmity over something so very small, but it's real. Perhaps one day I'll have a chance to go to Brisbane and give a whiny speech about you.

But then, an actual happening occurs. Lowell gets his back pay from the University, and goes to the supermarket, where he gets mugged at knifepoint. That's interesting, isn't it? A character getting shaken down by a pair of goons?
Perhaps their routine was sufficiently established that the duo was bored by it, for rather than focus on the business at hand, Lowell's new friends chatted between then about an all-agricultural mutual fund that was doing improbably well, then commiserated over their favorite sushi bar on Liberty Street in lower Manhattan having finally closed. Were they indeed former Wall Street financiers, the segue from one form of larceny to another could only have been graceful.
Oh, so it was just the setup for a joke? Ha ha ha. I am so wracked with laughter that I can scarcely type.

Now we're in Willing's head, trying to talk Nollie into letting the family use her books for kindling. I wonder what those books are about - you can never really tell from the titles. I guess that doesn't matter so much, much like this vignette.

Then there's another mini-timeskip, and now it's 2032. We've danced across almost half a year in just thirty-seven pages. I wonder what criteria were used to demarcate these chapters? They're not defined by time or POV or theme. This whole chapter just seems like a cluster of miscellaneous scenes that were too thin to stand on their own.

Our final scene here is Willing mugging a fifth grader for a bag of groceries. Yes, really. He uses a sock full of pennies to do it. It's not depicted anywhere, but I don't think this is his first attack because at some point during that last skip Willing must have taken Subtlety out to the countryside and beaten it stupid. This notion of poverty turning people into soulless predators eagerly devouring the weak is obviously despicable, but I'm sure it has some purchase with that same herd of literary swine who hail as "edgy" any novel with a sociopath for a protagonist.

Do you know what the final line in this chapter is? After Florence rejects the notion of getting a gun, Willing explains the need thusly:
"To protect us," Willing said, "from people like me."
The author's most famous work - earning her the full-throated and orgasmic praise of the brand-chasing pisshounds who stalk around at the edge of the literary world - concerned a homicidal moppet. That same work then generated a second wave of radiantly glorious praise from a different group of onanistic aesthetes when it was turned into a film. With that record, perhaps it was inevitable that she would try for a repeat performance. If pushing a button on this keyboard summoned praise and book deals, I'd press it a second time.

Oh, for an opportunity to push that button, even just once. But mine is only to analyze those results and wait until that $0.99 e-book to yield me a fortune like the characters in the story.

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