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.
It took two chapter just for the book to reach the opening credits of the movie. Now we start getting into the heart (no pun intended to those who know the story) of the movie…or at least move from the prologue to act 1. How long will it take for the readers to learn what the CMDF stands for? How long before Grant got called in? It all depends on how much Asimov adds to the event leading up to that. He’s already added a backstory for Owens, Grant, and Benes. At least in the cut of the movie I saw Grant was called back in almost immediately, but here we saw him heading home. Will we see what his early reaction was to being called back while at home being Good Ol’ Charlie? Grab your popcorn and let’s find out.
Chapter 3: Headquarters
So what do we learn this chapter? Diddly squat compared to this point in the movie. Grant’s pre-briefing was short and quick, which not only makes sense for the run time but because Benes is busy dying of a blood clot caused by the car ramming theirs. In the book he was also shot, possibly numerous times, which should mean time is even more important. And yet, Grant’s meeting with Carter is vague as possible, as if Asimov was purposely padding out to the fourth chapter and a reveal that may be more dramatic in novels. However, he does so by being frustrating.
The chapter does indeed open with Grant being awoken in the early morning to be pulled someplace he doesn’t know. He apparently has a device in his wallet that can read the special part of a special ID card. We see a larger version at the HQ he’s brought to, and this also seems to indicate a near-future scenario. I don’t know if that’s what the movie was going for, but given Asimov’s more well-known stories were set in near or far futures we shouldn’t be all that surprised. Even I-Bots, a comic he only co-developed, took place in the future. Anyway, I do like the addition, as it helps push how annoyed Grant was being forced back into active duty, and makes Carter’s actions even more frustrating.
By the point in the story the chapter ends, Grant was at least given a speech about the advantages militarily for miniaturization and what CMDF stands for. Instead the book leaves Grant and the readers in the dark. Ordinarily this works since Grant is our guide into this world. We the readers come along with him and learn as he does. The problem is we the viewers learned a bit of what’s going on by now, which makes sense because again time is of the essence. Instead Carter vaguely talks about stalemating with the Other Side, not knowing if they’ve already gotten Benes work and Benes was worried the balance of power was now shifting, bringing his secret to Our Side (and I’m sure the capitalization is important, like how the Judaeo-Christian god is spelled with a capital g and both God and Jesus are referred to with capitalized pronouns–Him, He, and so on) to keep the balance and prevent world domination by the Other Side, which remember represents the Soviet Union. The result is instead of following Grant into this “most unusual experience of your life”, as Michaels calls it (and we learn his first name is Max, possibly short for Maxwell or Maximilian–I guess we’ll find out later), we end up sharing Grant’s frustration. Of course ours isn’t nearly as bad as his, but the next chapter needs to start explaining stuff or that might change–and they better hurry before Benes dies!
Next Time: Briefing