Chapter by Chapter features me reading one chapter of the selected book at the time and reviewing it as if I were reviewing an episode of a TV show or an issue of a comic. There will be spoilers if you haven’t read to the point I have, and if you’ve read further I ask that you don’t spoil anything further into the book. Think of it as read-along book club.
Last time Asimov added a scene to introduce the characters, or at least the staff of the CMDF. We have yet to meet our focus character, which we’ll get to this chapter. And possibly this is where the book catches up to the movie. I don’t expect Asimov got to the miniaturization reveal at this point but I wonder what additions will be made to the opening scene of the movie, where Benes comes off the plane and gets shot, setting up the events of the movie.
Chapter 2: Car
There certainly are some differences. Benes never spoke in the movie, or at least I don’t remember it. It was all silent until the opening credits. The plane in flight, it lands, the agent we would later learn is Charles Grant checks around, escorts Benes off of the plane, he gets into the limo, the cavalcade travels outside the building, a guy on a motorcycle shoots Benes. That was this whole sequence in the movie.
In the novelization we get a car crashing into the limo and a sniper shooting an already injured Benes after they help him out. I wonder if there was a budget cut between the version of the script Asimov was using and how it finally aired? Asimov’s scene is a lot more dramatic, although one could make the case of it being overkill, but I think I like the book version slightly better because it would have been a cool visual. We also see Owens meeting with Benes and confirming this is really him, while the Colonel is upset that they were so close to headquarters only for The Other Side to get their agents in place anyway.
Like I said, Benes didn’t speak, and while we don’t get a good look at his face, it’s not quite how Asimov describes him. I don’t remember him having a mustache, much less a mustache and nose like a cartoonist would draw, which is his description. I don’t even remember if the actor was credited but he didn’t do much the whole movie, which given his role (dying man) isn’t too surprising. Here we see Benes talking to Grant and how he is happy to have his freedom but Othercountryia will always be his home. I hear for Asimov’s sequel book he actually set it in Russian, naming a country, but this book doesn’t even tell what state in Ourcountry Tisofthee we are. It’s so Vague I’m not sure if this is taking place on Earth. It sounded like from last issue this car hovered over the ground instead on wheels, so it’s at least set in the future, if only slightly. That or I’m misinterpreting Asimov’s description of how the limo left HQ.
Then there’s Grant. We don’t get a lot of backstory about him in the movie, even in the conversations he had with other members of the sub. Here we learn he used to play football, possibly in college, before breaking his arm. And it sounds like he’s getting ready to retire. Character moments include noting that he doesn’t really use his first name, just going by Grant, but with this mission over he’s going to “transition” (the book’s word) into Charles, or maybe even “Good Ol’ Charlie”. I wonder if he’ll change his last name to Brown?
While the addition last time only benefited Owens since we didn’t learn anything about the others that we didn’t learn during shipboard conversations or couldn’t learn with extended conversations later, here Grant and Benes both benefit. Benes actually has some personality to him, continuing from the meeting Owens mentioned last chapter, so giving these two a history actually gives them both more than the movie’s blank slate. Grant actually has a backstory, some personality, and we’ll probably feel sorry for him later when he gets drawn into the internal surgery mission later on. This was a good chapter, but kind of short compared to the last one. And yet it padded out a scene in the movie that was basically set-up and not much else. Now that the book is finally caught up to the opening credits of the movie, we’ll see if there’s any momentum.
Next time: Headquarters