Good. Evil. Bratwurst.


Posted on by arlen

Sara Paretsky has a way.

She has a way of creating characters you enjoy being around, and a way of creating characters you want to avoid being around. She has a way of making them speak as if they were in the room with you. She has a way with plotting, and a way with pacing, that keep you interested, keep you turning pages.

But that’s not what I meant. I’ve been holding off on writing this because it’s going to link to something else; I know it. but here goes.

Sara Paretsky has a way of pulling topical happenings into her books, and making abstract things seem more real for doing it.

In Blacklist, the topicality is provided by the PATRIOT Act. The subplot is about a boy at a private school who happens to be the wrong ethnic group, and has the wrong place of worship, who attracts blame for all sorts of things for no other reason than that. And it’s about what rights the US Government has taken away from us so it can hunt down anyone it so chooses to hunt, regardless of the facts in the matter.

The story is good, but I have to admit she didn’t “palm the ace” quite as deftly as she usually does. One of the breathtaking revelations in this novel was so painfully obvious to me the moment it first appeared that I began to lose some respect for Ms Warshawski when she didn’t immediately reach the same conclusion. It seemed to me that Paretsky intentionally dumbed down our intrepid heroine in a weak attempt to sneak one by the reader. I don’t mind it when an author tries to sneak one past me, but I feel cheated when she doesn’t put her heart into the effort; almost insulted by the lack of respect she is showing for my attention.

But the major point here is the side effects of the nefarious Act, and how much it requires us to trust that our government will only do good things and only has good intentions. To one who has lived through Watergate, and all the subsequent “gates” (schemes from both parties, I’m an equal-opportunity mistruster) this indeed seems like we’ve slid through the looking glass. I’m supposed to trust people I wouldn’t buy a used car from? Oh, there are individuals in government that I feel I can trust, but just give a blank check to anyone in a uniform? Come on, get real. I’ve spent time in a uniform myself. I know the kind of heroes who wear one, and I know that villains can wear one, too. (Remind me sometime to tell you why I left the military; I met some fine people there, but I also met some real scum. And the scum was winning.)

I’m sure I’l soon launch into some more analysis on the political side of this, but suffice it to say this is a good read, if you’re sane enough to be able to stand the politics.

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July 2005
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