I can hardly believe that I am about to say this, but finally, after 23 chapters, and more than half of the book, something significant is going to happen.1 Somebody alert Chicken Little, because the sky is falling.

Our protagonists are heading off to Mexico to kill some people. John claims that he is no more familiar with early-20th-century Mexico than an astronomer would be with the surface of Venus, and that his only exposure to the time and place comes from action movies. He can’t have been a very good historian then, because at this point he has lived in the past for about a year and a half or so, maybe longer. San Francisco wouldn’t have been too different from its southern neighbor. Moreover, action movies are about as accurate as elementary schoolers playing “Cowboys and Indians”. Expect to see The Theme Park Version of Mexico, and by extension of the rest of Latin America.

Oh, and we finally learn why John and Joy felt the need to bring along a full armory with them to the past: they are worried that they might be attacked by bandits. That seems like protecting oneself from muggers by carrying an AK-47 around.

We get some more evidence that Joy is not right in the head with the following paragraph:

I looked at Joy. Really looked at her. She was bent over in the light coming from the capsule, looking for something. She was serene, as though she were humming to herself. Maybe for her it was like being an artist standing around paint, oil, and canvases, or a musician in a musical instrument shop. (page 195)

Note that at this point, Joy is looking over their weapons, deciding which ones to bring.

John, in contrast, is not comfortable with the thought of holding a gun and using it to kill. Remember this once the fight scene happens, because Rummel won’t. He talks about how Joy is like a samurai, and if he were a competent writer, would be using this to point out that Joy is little different from her opponents, but Rummel is blissfully unaware of the implications of what he has written. This lasts for the better part of a page. Can we get on with it, please?

Apparently not, because Rummel feels the need to write in another implied sex scene. Because planning to kill people is really romantic! Gags John even suggests that the lust love between him and Joy is as pure as the love God has for human beings. Gag me. With a spoon.

Somehow, having sex cures John of any hesitant feelings he may have had about his mission. He is now convinced that their weapons are being used for good, in order to defend what he loves. Because Heaven forbid there be intrapersonal conflict in this story! In this world, there are only two shades of morality: what the protagonists believe is Right, and what the protagonists oppose is Wrong, so there is nothing the protagonists can do that can make them stray from what is Right, as they are Right by definition. Every single extremist in the world follows this logic.2

Apparently Rummel wants us to know that Joy is going to use a Ruger in the upcoming fight. Yep, Product Placement for a company that did not even exist at the time of this story. When people find the shells on the ground in the aftermath, they’re going to start asking questions. In any case, this paragraph isn’t necessary, because we know that Joy is armed and we know that Rummel is taking his sweet time already.

Also, Joy will be wearing a light dress for the remainder of her mission. I’m convinced that the only way she is able to conceal her weapons in such an outfit is because she is a Sue.

And with description of Joy and John’s choices of weaponry, the chapter ends. It’s short enough that I’ll spork another.

The next chapter begins with John saying that what Joy fears can lead to her death. I’ve said this before: the only emotions Joy is capable of feeling are hatred and smugness. She is a lot like a sociopath that way.

Both she and Joy go to work armed as described in the previous chapter. Because that’s not suspicious at all!3 John gets so used to this that in time he feels naked unarmed. Joy’s mental instability is rubbing off on him.4

We then have yet another “erotic” scene for no reason whatsoever. As if to remind the readers that Joy is a woman, Rummel has her get sickeningly emotional and distraught for no adequately explained reason, even though she has faced tougher situations without breaking a sweat both before and after this scene. The characterization is so inconsistent it’s schizophrenic. Joy needs her man to comfort her, and she has a surprisingly self-unaware outburst:

“We can’t possibly do what we plan!” she cried. “We are only two people among billions. We’re up against incredibly powerful forces, armies galore with millions of soldiers. We’ll fail in Mexico, and after Mexico we’ll fail, and after that, more failure. So much depends on us, but I’m afraid I’m not up to it. I think of Mom, of Gu, of all the others in the Society, and I can’t bear the thought of failing them. I will die of shame.” (page 200)

If they were normal characters in a normal story, then this could very well happen, but John and Joy are not normal characters. They are Mary Sues, and Rummel will not allow any failure to mar their combat records. I also have to wonder who talks like that.

Even though Joy has no Japanese blood in her veins, she holds the values of the pre-modern samurai, meaning that John is worried she will commit hara-kiri if she feels that she has dishonored herself. Give me a break.5

And with even John realizing that Joy’s characterization is inconsistent, the chapter ends.

And yes, we have just passed the 200-page mark. Not a single dictator has bitten the dust.

Footnotes

1 It won’t actually happen for another two chapters, but at least it’s in sight…

2 So yes, Rummel’s protagonists have sunk to the same level as Al-Qaida. Why do John and Joy hate America so much?

3 I know that early 20th century America was extraordinarily lax when it came to gun control laws, and that the Wild West was still in living memory, but surely somebody would have noticed their inhibited movement and the fact that they didn’t show up to their offices armed before.

4 Then again, he was rather emotionally detached when his cousin died in 9/11, which was before he met Joy. Who knows.

5 Though I honestly wouldn’t mind if a Sue of her caliber bit the dust; it’s the execution I’m complaining about.

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Comment

  1. Fair on 7 February 2013, 19:41 said:

    Yay! A new chapter! I can’t tell you how exciting it is to have another of these!

  2. swenson on 7 February 2013, 19:59 said:

    something significant is going to happen.

    :D

    It won’t actually happen for another two chapters, but at least it’s in sight…

    D:

    Quit toying with my emotions here!

    Because that’s not suspicious at all!

    Doubly so if they’re using modern weapons. A Ruger, really? Was he just assuming that would fit in somehow? Because Ruger wasn’t founded until 1949. I’m not hugely familiar with guns of the early 1900s, but I doubt a Ruger would pass for any of them, at least not to anyone who actually knows about guns.

    [Joy’s breakdown]

    lolwut. It’s obvious at this point that Joy’s characteristics are based purely on what is convenient for the scene in question. And really—hara-kiri? When did her incredible obsession with honor come up before? That’s right, it didn’t, because Joy has no personality, just random traits as the scene requires.

  3. Tim on 7 February 2013, 20:14 said:

    Eh, I don’t think anyone would find a GP100 revolver all that out of place unless they were a military historian or you let them see the grip, it’s not as obviously out of place as the polymer-framed USP45 which John turns out to have (no polymer-framed handgun existed before HK’s VP70 in 1970). .357 Magnum brass would only really be caught if there was proper forensic examination, which I doubt 1908 Mexico would be doing a lot of.

    It does amuse me that the example for extraneous detail in How Not to Write a Novel includes almost the same description of a GP100 that Rummel uses. I wonder which came first.

  4. Tim on 7 February 2013, 20:19 said:

    That’s also assuming she doesn’t dump the brass into her hand and pocket it when she reloads; a revolver is a pretty sensible choice if you’re trying to avoid leaving casings on the ground. I doubt Rummel thought of that, though.

  5. swenson on 7 February 2013, 22:00 said:

    Are they using revolvers? I’ll be honest, I hear “Ruger”, I think my dad’s Mark II.

    Funnily enough, I heard on the radio just a couple of days ago a story about Glocks, the first to have polymer frames. I’m picturing John and Joy walking around with something like that and expecting it to go unnoticed…

  6. Brendan Rizzo on 7 February 2013, 22:10 said:

    Quit toying with my emotions here!

    I’m sorry! Rummel keeps faking me out, too.

    Are they using revolvers?

    I’m not sure; he doesn’t say. However, previous paragraphs implied that Joy’s weapon of choice is an assault weapon of some sort.

    To be honest, at this point whenever Rummel mentions guns I assume he is mistaken.

  7. Tim on 7 February 2013, 22:31 said:

    It is a revolver, though checking it’s an SP101, which is a little more futuristic-looking than the GP100 I thought she had.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ruger_SP-101

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ruger_GP100

    Joy began by taking a more substantial lizard grain holster purse from the capsule and putting in it a Ruger SP101 .357 Magnum 5 shot. She liked this weapon for its balance and power, and it was perfect for a woman of her finger and hand strength.

    It’s an SP101 in How Not to Write a Novel too.

    Another funny part of that sequence is John says he likes the amount of ammunition in his USP’s magazine, giving the number as ten rounds with one in the chamber. That’s not correct for any .45 USP ever made (it’s 12 for the USP standard and 8 for compact) and implies he’s using AWB-era reduced capacity magazines. So this is probably a gun Rummel either owns or has fired and he hasn’t looked up any actual information on, since I doubt a group that can build a time machine would have trouble getting an entirely legal pre-ban 12-rounder.

  8. Epke on 8 February 2013, 07:09 said:

    He talks about how Joy is like a samurai,

    So she’ll cut her own stomach and have John decapitate her when she fails? I admit, I had my doubts but this book might just redeem itself.

    “I will die of shame.”

    Oh, Joy, you big tease…

    But her little outburst there was a 180 in characterisation. Since when has she ever been insecure about something? She can dodge lasers for gods’ sake!

  9. Takugifian on 8 February 2013, 09:27 said:

    something significant is going to happen




    Okay, I’m done. Let the significant events commence!

    1 It won’t actually happen for another two chapters, but at least it’s in sight…

    wh…what?

  10. Tim on 8 February 2013, 12:00 said:

    But her little outburst there was a 180 in characterisation. Since when has she ever been insecure about something?

    Rummel needs to have her be vulnerable and emotional in order to reassure the reader that she’s actually a delicate feminine flower rather than a piranha in a dress.

    The end result just makes it look like he has a thing for bipolar women of constantly changing Asian extraction.