The next chapter opens up, yet again, with a newspaper excerpt. By this point I don’t know why these excerpts are even here; it’s as though Rummel doesn’t believe his readership capable of figuring out in which country his characters will next intervene without them. It is not as if the excerpts provide any information that is actually important.

John tells us that their intervention in China was far more difficult to pull off than their previous two interventions. This may be the case, but (spoiler alert) they still turn China into a functioning Western-style democracy with much greater ease than one would expect.

On the other hand, China did undergo a bona fide revolution in which their emperor was deposed during this time, so at least it would be possible for a set of time travelers to actually make things better this time around.

In addition to this, John tells us at the start of the chapter that he saves Joy’s life, thus negating any upcoming dramatic tension. This is bad form, Rummel.

Eventually, John exposits to Joy that the Qīng dynasty is on the brink of collapse thanks to widespread discontent and the revolutionary activities of Sun Yat-sen. Joy points out the ridiculousness of John lecturing her about China and brags about how she reads Chinese newspapers in their original language, even though this has never been mentioned before and comes off as Rummel trying to make his characters look cooler.

John’s thoughts on this are basically, “Shut up I have CREDENTIALS1 and he starts going on with his Infodump, as though deliberately attempting to annoy his partner. Better be careful, John. You wouldn’t want Joy to throw her knife at you.

Also, Joy was looking at a clothes catalogue while all this was going on.

For some reason, our so-called heroes wait for an unspecified number of months before they do anything. You’d think they would have given Sun Yat-sen some financial help or something, but they don’t. Perhaps this is just because nonviolence is not the way of Joy the Warrior™.

They finally get off their asses when John hears from a foreign contact that the Qīng dynasty is no more. Strangely enough, this happens in exactly the way it did in real life, and yet the characters are surprised by this, even though they know their history. Thus, John actually asks Joy if she knows which general carried the day in overthrowing the government, and she correctly answers that it was Yuán Shìkǎi.2

There is yet more exposition about just how this happened, even though this is not needed for the story, and John talks about a practical joke that he never gets around to playing on Joy.

More weeks pass, and Sun Yat-sen returns to China. Strangely, the characters are actually surprised by all this, even though it happened in real history, and John is allegedly a historian. In any case, Joy claims that democracy is moving forward, which is odd, for the very reason that if China had indeed become democratic then they wouldn’t be having their intervention in the first place. Did Joy suddenly gain several levels in naivety or something?

They tarry some more, and in February of 1912 (on the exact date this happened in real life, mind you—screw you, butterfly effect!) the Chinese Emperor abdicates. It should be pointed out that the emperor was six years old. John and Joy dance around a little in their office, not even caring that the year is 1912 and Joy is technically John’s subordinate.

So what was the point of all this, you ask? Find out, after this line break.

Now that Sun Yat-sen is President of China and the Republic has been established, John and Joy head over to the country. You see, Sun Yat-sen had made a lot of political enemies during his revolutionary activities, and in real life made an agreement to resign from the presidency after a while in favor of Yuán Shìkǎi, who had been promised the post if he could secure the abdication of the emperor. In hindsight, this turned out to be one of the worst things he could have done, since Yuán promptly proclaimed himself Emperor, thus causing a huge backlash which led to China being ruled by quarreling warlords for several decades.

The book does give a pretty accurate synopsis of these events. After hearing about them,3 Joy asks if that means they should assassinate Yuán and support Sun Yat-sen. John practically yells “no”, saying that Sun was not really a democrat. Considering that his Three Principles of the People4 were inspired by the democratic ideas of Europe and progressive ideas of the United States, I smell a No True Scotsman coming on. This is probably because the man’s legacy was distorted both by the Communists and Nationalists, neither of which were democratic but both of which viewed him as their forerunner. Still, as a scholar, Rummel should be able to tell the difference.

Rummel claims that Sòng Jiàorén was the “real” democrat, who would have turned China into a liberal democracy if he had not been assassinated by an agent of Yuán Shìkǎi. All the information on Sòng I managed to find suggests that he wanted to ensure the people were protected from abuses of power by their government,5 but other than that, I don’t see how he was any different from Sun Yat-sen politically.

I will give Rummel credit here, though. At least this time there is a faction for his characters to side with unconditionally, and what they do cannot possibly make things any worse than they were in real life. The warlord period was utter chaos, and likely counts as a democide in and of itself.

John says that after Sòng was assassinated, his political party, the Kuomintang, was taken over by Chiang Kai-shek, who turned it into a fascist organization. Even though she should already know this, Joy asks John if it is true that Chiang caused the deaths of ten million people. John says yes, and Joy reacts in horror. This would have been a good way to establish that Joy is one of the heroes because she opposes genuine Complete Monsters, but she acts so sociopathically in previous chapters that I just cannot believe it.

Because John is a man and he makes all the decisions, it is he who declares that they should assassinate Yuán Shìkǎi, Chiang Kai-shek, Máo Zédōng, and Zhōu Ēnlái, though the last of these was only fourteen in 1912 and probably was not yet a communist. He could wind up becoming a democrat in the new timeline for all they know. I truly hope this is a case of Writers Cannot Do Math, otherwise…

Now there is a problem, not for the book as much as for me. The four people mentioned pose a major threat to the stability of China, and in real life they pretty much ensured that the country would be authoritarian of one sort or another. As much as I oppose the heroes killing people, I doubt that anything else would stop them. They can’t exactly be prosecuted for war crimes since they had not yet committed any in 1912. Even so, Rummel is forgetting about the generals under Yuán who rebelled against him and became warlords. Would John and Joy have to kill them too? They likely would have rebelled even if Yuán never proclaimed himself Emperor. This issue would need to be solved, but the author of the story just forgets about it.

Joy then says that John will say that he does not want her to kill their targets, not for any moral reasons but because it’s too risky, and that they should get an organized crime syndicate to do their dirty work for them. John does not object to this characterization, so I assume that is what he actually has in mind.

It will be easier for me to just quote their plans for the intervention:

“As to the assassinations, we now have a large office in Peking and another in Shanghai; we have the resources. We’ll be meeting in Shanghai, where our office can set up an appointment with the secret Green Lotus Society to arrange the contracts. Then we can go together by train to Peking to meet with Sung. We should have Yüan assassinated right away, as I mentioned. Then we have to persuade Sun to keep the provisional presidency until the 1913 elections, when he should abdicate in favor of Sung.”
Then I stopped talking as I realized what I had proposed. I, Professor John Banks, was going to put out a contract on the head of one famous general who was the ruler of China, and other contracts on two still unknown future mass-murderers and leaders of China—Chiang Kai-shek, Mao Tse-tung, and Chou En-lai. Human beings, nonetheless. I shrugged it off. (pages 265-266)

You read that right. He shrugged it off. Even if the book is making the case that those people have to be killed because nothing else will stop them, the main character should at least have some misgivings, lest he be seen as a total sociopath. I would expect this behavior from Joy, not John. I should also point out that in assassinating people who would ruin their plans, they act just like Yuán Shìkǎi when he had Sòng Jiàorén killed. The irony is lost on the writer and the characters.

And so, after a line break, the two set off to enlist the services of organized crime. This is surprisingly easy to do; all we hear of it is from John, after the fact, who says that they got a secret society to kill Yuán Shìkǎi without any trouble. This is said in a single sentence. Remember kiddies, you can make a deal with criminal syndicates and you won’t get in trouble from either them or the law!

Also in one sentence, they give fifteen million dollars to Sòng Jiàorén to help with his campaign. As for Sun Yat-sen, our protagonists want him to leave politics after he resigns in favor of Sòng. I think this is a dumb idea. Sun alone was unable to stop the warlords from taking over; what makes them think that Sòng alone can do it? The two of them together would have a much better chance of keeping China democratic. This is one of the few times where I criticize the characters’ plans because of a blunder, rather than moral repugnance.

John and Joy have now done all they need to do in China. However, this part of the saga is far from over. That criminal syndicate they hired finds out about their massive riches, most likely because John promised them an absurdly large sum. Their leader is a total dumbass and gets into his head the idea that John carries millions of dollars with him on his person. The narration outright says that he knows nothing of banks or telegraphs. Because only white people understand technology, amirite?

So the unnamed leader of the syndicate has our anti-heroes kidnapped. I don’t want to say “I told you so,” but…

On the other hand, now we finally know why John and Joy are always armed enough to defeat a regiment. Something tells me that Rummel wrote this scene where his protagonists get ambushed by the mob, and decided to have them be armed to the teeth so they can beat all their attackers, and then realized he needed to explain where their weapons came from, and that’s why John and Joy are stupidly overarmed since day one.

So six thugs show up to beat them senseless. The narration says that one of them is the size of a sumo wrestler, probably for no reason than to make the protagonists Joy seem more badass when they she beats them up. All but one of them are armed with knives, and the remainder has a gun. John says that they are not like the Mexican teenagers, whom Joy killed anyway.

This time around, John says that Joy can have her fun. I’m sure that Yuán Shìkǎi had the same attitude towards killing.

A few minutes pass with neither side doing anything, as the gangsters are convinced that there is no way they will lose. Joy theatrically prepares for battle, casting off her ridiculous hat (which I have forgotten what it looks like) and shoes. For some reason, she also unbuttons her blouse and loosens her skirt. I thought she didn’t want them to rape her?

Suddenly, the first mobster makes a move. Somehow, Joy takes out her gun (a Magnum, mind you) ties a headband around herself, and throws her purse into the rickshaw that got them there, all before her assailant can reach her. John also has his weapon drawn. They are still outnumbered by a ratio of three to one.

John is literally shaking in his boots, giving “another meaning to the term knock-kneed.”6 On the other hand, his mind seems independent of his body, suggesting that some of Joy’s Mad Ninja Skillz™ have rubbed off on him.

Joy asks their assailants if they can begin. The narration tells us that the mobsters aren’t intimidated, because the reaction time of a person holding a gun is inferior to that of a melee fighter, even when there is quite the distance between the two. I am not sure what to say to this.

It’s proved wrong anyway, because Joy effortlessly shoots all who attempt to rush her. This is described in graphic detail. Heads explode, just like those of the readers. Of course, Joy never misses, unlike that loser John who doesn’t even hit all his targets. This all happens in the span of a couple of seconds. I don’t think it is physically possible to fire a gun six times in that duration.

Surprisingly, however, Joy is not unscathed. One of the attackers had thrown his knife at John, who was able to dodge it. However, Joy was right behind him (!) and so it embedded in her thigh. If she was behind John, than how come he isn’t riddled with holes right now?

Joy tells John to kill the three stragglers on the ground who are probably mortally wounded anyway, and passes out from shock. John ignores this request, picks up Joy, and runs out into the street. Dayum.

He finds a horse-drawn carriage, threatens the driver with his gun, and tells him to get to their office. Surely they had hospitals in China? This is a matter of blood loss; I’m sure that they stopped using leeches by the twentieth century.

John rushes into the office, and his staff sees him armed to the teeth and Joy covered in blood. No, they do not ask questions, not even after this is all over. John runs to the supply closet (still carrying Joy) and gets the medicine kit Tor’s groupies had prepared for them. According to their handy-dandy sphygmomanometer, Joy’s blood pressure is dangerously low and her pulse rate is dangerously high. (How does John even know how to use one?) The ensuing description of first aid reads like Rummel took a class on the subject and is parroting it by rote. Somehow their first-aid kit is as well equipped as a modern hospital, with IV bags and everything.

“Shit, she’s going to die.” (page 271)

Now, this had the potential to be a suspenseful scene. After all, the narration did mention way back at the beginning of the book that Joy would not survive their mission. However, since the beginning of the chapter states that John saves Joy’s life, the readers know from the start that this is not it.

John has one of his staff help him set up the apparatus, and the staff member’s name seems fake to me. John injects Joy with a needle that can pierce through bone. I know that such needles do exist, but how does their first-aid kit have one? However, intraosseous infusions are only done when intravenous ones are not feasible, and there is no indication of this in the book. John is taking an unnecessary risk.

Also, the name of John’s unimportant staffer is inconsistent. Is it Chan Chi or Chan Chin? Was this book ever seen by an editor?

John worries that the knife Joy was stabbed with had every kind of bacteria in China on it, but doesn’t know how to deal with possible infection. He tells us that he actually has no training in first aid and is going off the manual. Realistically, this should not end well for them. However, both main characters are Mary Sues, and Mary Sues sneer at medical science.

Before that though, things look bleak. Despite all that John does, Joy is still bleeding heavily. After John applies another compress to the site of the wound, he cannot do anything more. He has no choice but to wait for more than ten minutes. During the intervening time, Joy’s condition actually gets worse. John stays up watching her all through the night. Again, if Rummel had not said at the start of the chapter that Joy lives, one could seriously think that Joy is going to die here.

Then, suddenly, in the middle of the night, with absolutely no adequate explanation, Joy starts to get better. Her pulse rate is no longer tachycardia (even though she was never defibrillated) and her blood pressure slowly rises to a normal level. John collapses from exhaustion, and when he wakes up, Joy is conscious and can talk to him. There is a term for this phenomenon. It starts with deus and ends with ex machina.

Apparently, the Triads hear about what happened and want to meet with our realistically-should-be-dead-by-now protagonists for some reason. This is never mentioned again, and I for one have no idea why they would want to take that risk. Considering that the other criminal syndicate they hired betrayed them, how can they even be certain that their hitmen will actually kill the people they want instead of some random schmuck in the wrong place at the wrong time? Something tells me that assassins wouldn’t care who dies as long as they’re paid.

John and Joy spend another month in China while Joy recuperates, and then they sail home on the same ship, with no actual proof that those on their hit list are dead.

In 1913, Yuán Shìkǎi is assassinated. The protagonists never question why this takes so long. For some reason the remaining generals don’t try to overthrow the government themselves, and Sun Yat-sen remains president. He appoints democrats with no backlash from the presumably reactionary generals who seem to have just disappeared without mention, and when Sòng Jiàorén is elected later that year, John and Joy assume that China is stable, and move on to their next intervention.

Also, Joy now agrees with John that they should hire hitmen to do all their executions, even though this went horribly wrong when the assassins tried to kill them, and she nearly died. Why have all the important characters seem to have lost 30 IQ points? I don’t think that anyone else would need to be assassinated anyway,7 though of course the book disputes this. The main effect of the attack is that it convinces John that Murder Is The Best Solution, though I honestly don’t see how. I would think it would deter them from trying anything like that again, but then of course I live in reality whereas they live in a fantasy land. As proof that they killed the other three people our anti-heroes want dead, the Triads (who settle for ten thousand dollars each despite knowing that John and Joy are far richer than that) give them the full set of teeth for each victim. Consider that they know that John and Joy can spend millions of dollars willy-nilly. Wouldn’t they have tried to pull a fast one on them by killing three unrelated people? Their victims couldn’t be identified from their teeth, anyway. After that, the Triads leave them alone. What, they have cordial relations with gangs, now?

Then they leave China. And with John and Joy preparing to prevent World War One,8 the chapter ends.


1 Not an actual quote.

2 Though Rummel uses Wade-Giles romanization for his name, and doesn’t even spell that correctly, as he puts an umlaut in Yuán’s name for no apparent reason.

3 Though she should already be familiar with them if she truly is knowledgeable about China

4 Freedom from imperialism, democracy, and the welfare of the people

5 He must be spinning in his grave today.

6 page 268

7 No, not even Hitler. He is an unknown at this point who could be easily dealt with.

8 With only one year left to do so

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  1. Lone Wolf on 20 April 2013, 00:29 said:

    Would John and Joy have to kill them too? They likely would have rebelled even if Yuán never proclaimed himself Emperor. This issue would need to be solved, but the author of the story just forgets about it.

    What, objective conditions and societal forces? Never mind, we’ll just remove a few people and it’ll turn out okay!

    Also, lol @ teenage Zhou Enlai.

  2. Finn on 20 April 2013, 12:42 said:

    You know, it might be interesting to see them try to solve something in ways other than assassination and bribery. Of course, that’ll never happen, but I suppose it was nice to see them at least suffer a little for once.
    Although that’s just a sign of how bad the book is if the audience actually enjoys seeing the “heroes” suffer.

  3. Pryotra on 20 April 2013, 15:49 said:

    You know, this could have been an interesting moral quandary. Is it moral to kill a person who has not committed a crime yet could have been a really neat theme to explore in this kind of book. Of course it would mean that you’d have to meet the characters and consider this.

    Also, even if they did assassinate Yuán Shìkǎ, there’s no guarantee that someone else who’s worse wouldn’t eventually take his place, and now that they’ve changed history, they’d have no clue what would happen.

    And how are you EVEN going to prevent WWI? Even if you saved Archduke Ferdinand, the problem and the political parties that started the war are still there. What, is this guy going to kill Wilhelm II too?

  4. Lone Wolf on 20 April 2013, 16:32 said:

    Join Lenin and the Zimmerwald Socialists. Start throwing money at them. Insist that SPD and other soc-dems denounce the war from the start (assassinate Kautsky and other similar characters if they refuse to denounce it).

    This will cause a worldwide socialist revolution, averting the world war!!11!

    (And yeah, this was a jab at Rummel’s right-wing politics).

  5. Apep on 20 April 2013, 17:48 said:

    The further this book goes, the more Rummel shows that he did a bare minimum of research for this book (as in, read the summaries for these events on wikipedia). I’d maybe be willing to buy that Rummel believes the Great Man theory, except that that was discredited back in 1860.

    And with John and Joy preparing to prevent World War One

    As I said last time, too fucking late. Oh wait, minimum research again.

    Also, even if they did assassinate Yuán Shìkǎ, there’s no guarantee that someone else who’s worse wouldn’t eventually take his place, and now that they’ve changed history, they’d have no clue what would happen.

    This is why Hitler’s Time Travel Exemption Act exists. In fact, this whole book (possibly series) could be an argument for it.

  6. Tim on 21 April 2013, 18:45 said:

    You know, this could have been an interesting moral quandary. Is it moral to kill a person who has not committed a crime yet could have been a really neat theme to explore in this kind of book. Of course it would mean that you’d have to meet the characters and consider this.

    And in this way we discover that a book written by a professor has a less complex view of morality than, um, Terminator 2. No wonder people make fun of PoliSci degrees.

  7. Lone Wolf on 22 April 2013, 03:59 said:

    From what I’ve been able to read on the ‘Net (only from that, admittedly) about Rummel’s research methodology, it sucks.

  8. CanadaGuy on 22 April 2013, 14:14 said:

    John Rogers of Leverage fame recently wrote a very interesting tabletop RPG supplement called CrimeWorld for the Fate Core Kickstarter. It’s a really interesting look at how to build crime stories, which is basically what War and Democide is supposed to be. John and Joy have gone back in time and they have to con a bunch of people in order to avoid various wars and genocides.

    See, a good crime story is based on a good mark and the effort the criminals have to go through in order to con the mark. The problem is that John and Joy are just giving people money or assassinating them. They don’t study their marks, they don’t find their weak spots, they don’t make plans, they don’t con them, they don’t do anything. They just give them money, walk away and assume everything will work out. It’s not interesting.

    If you want to get rid of a bunch of Chinese generals, you just con them into betraying each other. They’ll kill each other just fine. It’s harder than hiring the Triads, but it’s a lot more reliable.

  9. A Real Libertarian on 21 July 2013, 10:20 said:

    Lone Wolf,
    Supporting a worldwide socialist revolution actually would work better then what Twenty Something Dirty Old Man-Man and Magical Girl Psychopath Joy are doing.