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.
That’s right, only three chapters. Chapter 20 is eleven pages long, which means a full chapter length! I’m hoping the pattern doesn’t get broken in the wrong spot or we may end up with very short installments. Most of the chapters thus far has been short. Just look at the tally for this round.
- Chapter 17: Tuesday, 6:02 AM, Op-Center: 6 pages
- Chapter 18: Tuesday, 6:03 AM, Andrews Air Force Base: 6 pages
- Chapter 19: Tuesday, 8:19 PM, Seoul: 6 pages
Honestly I would stop at chapter 18. That would give us 12 pages, but I want to honor the full chapter next week. This is the dance I’ll have to be doing, so it’s time to set the music. Last time Gregory Donald (I have to remind myself it isn’t the other way around) came just enough out of his funk to be useful, which he desperately needs right now. Meanwhile, Paul also has to worry about his sick son, which to me feels tacked on. I’m sure it was to show that his work may pull him away from his family at the worst times but it comes off as an unnecessary subplot to me. Maybe they’ll make it work. Let’s see what happens.
Our first chapter for this round introduces Martha Mackall, the Chief Political Officer. She takes a call for Hood (who is still on his way back from the White House, but he gets there at the tail end of the call) from Gregory, who tells her about Soonji and how they think this is a frame-up. We learn that she is looking to advance her career and sees Op-Center as a chance to do so, but I’m not going to immediately assume this makes her a bad person. However, the chapter does have some unnecessary bits to the story, but does flesh out some characters so decide for yourself if this is necessary at all or not. We learn Mackall is the daughter of a famous singer, that Liz Gordon took an off-hand joke about Paul not seeing bedroom action (long story but it makes sense in context) and notes in her psych profile that sexual frustration could hamper performance (which makes me wonder about Liz’s own psych profile), and…here’s the really unnecessary part…that Paul’s Press Officer, Ann Farris, wants to be his…well, Bill Clinton would call her an intern and I’ll leave it at that. I guess she doesn’t care that he’s happily married with a family. So her I’m planning not to like much. At least Martha just wants his job.
It’s still better than Mike Rogers’ debut. You know why one of the men on the Striker team is being kept off? Because Rogers uses his position to replace him so he could get back into the field. Everybody, including Rogers himself, admits (Rogers to himself) that this is a bad idea, that Paul is going to flip (and he doesn’t even know about Soonji or Paul’s son), and that if this goes bad with the number two man actually there instead back in the Center helping Paul like he’s supposed to Op-Center could be shut down on its third assignment (or at least we learn of two, one success and one considered failure even though it’s the local cops’ fault). And yet he’s there, possibly to relive his glory days while the soldier who has worked with the group, has trained with the group, has lived with the group, and was just as anxious to see action as the rest of the group while still being as able-bodied as the group is stuck home so Rogers can get into the field again. Farris may be a potential home wrecker, Liz not able to take a joke, and Mackall looking to further her position, but Rogers is kind of a jerk. I have to really feel sorry for Paul Hood right now. I’m not sure anybody has his best interest, his son is sick, one of his friends just saw his wife die, and he may lose Op-Center barely after it’s begun, and his number two man wants to relive his war days. Maybe I’m reading too much into this or exaggerating things in my mind and for mild comedic effect, but I don’t have high hopes for victory here.
Also, the chapter likes to namedrop the fact that the commander, Lt. Colonel Squires carries a Toshiba laptop. I wonder if there’s such a thing as product placement in a novel? Really, technical writing skill aside, the only positive in this chapter is the pilot’s last name is Harryhausen, and that’s just the geek in me.
Finally we get one that makes me suspicious as to what’s going on. One theory already proposed (I think the book offers it but it’s at least one I have) is one I alluded to in a previous installment, the plot of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, only instead of Klingons and Federation its members of North and South Korea pulling a scam to block unification of Korea outside the influence of their governments. Here we meet another Kim, Kim Lee. He is very anti-unification and while thinking about the reasons some locals aren’t happy with the US base here is very much in favor. He doesn’t trust the North, his own mother was shot as a spy (the author forgets to say for which side and given his attitude it could go either way–shot by the North as a spy for the South or shot by the South as a spy for the North), and seems more than willing to blow him up some Northerners. And now he’s coming for chemical weapons because supposedly the North is digging up a few of their drums. I don’t always have the best instincts in this but I’m a mite suspicious about this guy if indeed my Undiscovered theory is right.
This chapter also has a lot of abbreviations. DMZ, HMV, IAEA, DPRK, ROK, PX, DOD–most of these names are either explains or ones you should be familiar with reading this kind of story to begin with, but it was worth noting.
So this group of chapters has me worried about our heroes, and wondering if we have another villain on our hands. The next chapter is full-length so join in next time as we have a full eleven pages to visit the Op-Center’s “Tank”. No, we aren’t going swimming or going for a ride. I’ll explain next time.