Tuesday, May 28, 2013
The Last Manchild
I actually read Flynn's debut novel, Term Limits, way back in the day. A gleeful little revenge fantasy full of SEALs and D-Boys knocking off corrupt politicians. It was pretty obvious that the churlish, womanizing president was supposed to be a stand-in for Clinton, but I read this in 2003 and - to Flynn's credit - could easily picture the Bush regime in the crosshairs.
Though that Flynn is long gone now. Or maybe he was never there to begin with and twenty-year-old me just wasn't that discerning yet. In either case his latest, The Last Man, isn't just badly written but kinda pathetic...
It starts with the two-dimensionally macho Mitch Rapp investigating who kidnapped some master spook in Afghanistan. That could be interesting - Flynn could've taken a trip into all the moral ambiguities and delicate alliances that have turned that place into Hell on Earth. But that sort of mature storytelling would get in the way of all the dick-waving. See, Rapp is a manly ol' badass who don't have no time for all that girly "talking" or "investigation," so every confrontation devolves into him waving his glock around and going "Phwoar!"
And because Flynn doesn't have the patience to create interesting bad guys, it works. First we meet a corrupt Afghan police chief - whom Flynn repeatedly describes as a fat conniver who dyes his beard. he really harps on how the guy is fat and dyes his beard. And when he's not fat and dying his beard, he's conniving some scheme. That right there, what I just did, is the same format as the entire second chapter. So I had to drink pretty heavily to get through the rest of the book and suspect the duel between Rapp and Zombie bin Laden atop fire-breathing dragons didn't actually happen...
Flynn tries to mix it up with twists, the crutch of all lousy writers. There's a fed looking for the Spookmaster General too, and he buts heads with Rapp, but because they're both Red-Blooded Americans who scarf apple pie and crap the Star Spangled Banner it's more like the slap-slap-kiss exchanges of a romantic comedy. Said Spookmaster also turns out to be kidnapped by swarthy locals under contract to crooked Americans who are too sissy to just bomb the shit out of everything and think Afghans should have some degree of self-determination in their own country. And then Russians show up, because conservatives are stupid enough to miss the Cold War.
The one break from the terrible characters and plot is dull technical blather. Long descriptions of bullet wounds and what make and model everyone's packing. Firearm pedantry - the worst kind, as it fetishizes the minutiae while ignoring empirical facts. Like how cover matters more than caliber or marksmanship in an actual firefight. It's a power fantasy for white male losers.
And that's why this crap sells. "#1 Internationally Bestselling Author!" declares the book cover - failing to mention it's likely only selling to balding twerps working in American embassies. Because that's the target audience of this bilge - that distinctly American failure who embraces reactionary rhetoric and might-makes-right fascism to compensate for their own sense of impotence. Waffentwerps, as Mark Ames calls them. The real silent majority still poisoning this culture, as indicated by the fact that Vince Flynn is still selling his awful books.