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A damp squib of an ending to a tedious triology
on 31 December 2012
I am a self-confessed fan of the Agenet Pendergast novels - I have no problems with some of the more ridiculous plots or plot devices employed (a Southern American monster living under the NY National History Museum - bring it on; "Mole People" living in the NY subway system - no problems!) Where I draw the line however, is the blatant rewriting of other peoples novels (Ira Levin's 'The Boys From Brazil') coming at the end of an overly long, and not particularly well done trilogy. Add in apparently psychic Nazi's, a lair of evil Blofeld would have been envious of and a man able to kill more people than Rambo singlehandedly and it goes from being merely silly to plain daft.
It would be difficult to argue, however, that the book is badly written - it isn't. It keeps up its pace, and it keeps the reader occupied. However, it does make the fundamental mistake (identified by Diana Wynne-Jones) of setting up for yet another novel, outside of the trilogy. This isn't the way novels should end - the reader is not simply a cash-cow, to be milked in the next novel they publish, which continues the themes of the last one, rather the reader is a partner with the writer(s), making the novel work.
Where I have a bigger problem, however, is the way in which this type of novel seems to perpetuate the myth of American exceptionalism and its view that it is the policeman of the world. Such a worldview allows American characters to illegally enter other countries bearing firearms, to shoot (and kill) anyone they please without response from the local authorities. Or, when the local authorities do complain, everything is smoothed over because the protagonist is an American. This type of plotting becomes rather tedious after a while, not just because it requires the reader to suspend disbelief, but because it also requires the reader to accept a gross misrepresentation of how foreign relations really work. It has to be said that Preston and Child have tried to avoid some of the more blatant ways of doing this, but they still fall into the trap of allowing Pendergast's American citizenship to be the key that opens all locks.