April 12, 2012

NSA Week: Thursday

While Reamde is more about cool observation than emotion, Stephenson does have some nice psychological moments. After Zula commits a morally iffy act, this follows:

"Once she’d sat down, she realized that she had sort of ducked past the mirror without looking at it, as if her own reflection were a deeply estranged frenemy with whom she could not possibly make eye contact."

Nice But. to be as great as it could be, the novel needed a few more emotional punches. The best one is when the terrorist Abdallah Jones makes his getaway in a private jet with Zula as his hostage. He is kicking back, awaiting a call from the minions who are supposed to join him. When his phone rings with their ID flashing, he's answers jubilantly, only to get an unwelcome surprise: the voice of one of Zula's new mobster friends, telling Jones that he's just killed his men and is coming for him. 

Maybe it's atavistic to want this kind of scene. It's the high literary equivalent of Bruce Willis yelling "Yippee-kai-yay, motherfucker!" But there's an emotional component to the pursuit of justice that's legitimate (and is another attraction of the mystery genre for fans). The ending of the novel is anticlimactic in the extreme. The novel is, right up through the last page, of one texture: that analytical tracking of strategy and counterstrategy. The occasional punctuation of emotion, especially toward the end, would have made it a better novel.

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