just trying to keep score.

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ruff continued

“From the White House they took a driving tour of some of the Zone’s other sights, eventually circling back to the center of the Mall, where they proceeded on foot to the base of the Washington Monument. Colonel Yunus drew Mustafa’s attention to a series of pockmarks in the obelisk’s north face. These were, he explained, the result of insurgent mortar strikes, the Monument having become a target after rumors spread that Bolous al Darir was planning to use it as the gnomon for a giant Islamic prayer clock.”

The trouble is that I wanted a lot more from this, after falling in love with Matt Ruff’s last book, Bad Monkeys, rather a lot. But The Mirage is just diverting, serviceable; it’s got a couple of good jokes, but it plays them out for too long, and its suspense plot is totally adequate until you remember that Monkeys made you scratch your head, not just slog through the kind of extended cinematic action sequence that someone like Lee Child — a novelist of modest gifts, who nonetheless knows precisely what those gifts are and what they can do for him — is able to pull off much better.

February 13, 2012, 6:24am   Comments

matt ruff, the mirage

“By North African standards Tripoli was a lush city, its parks and gardens well irrigated by one of the governor’s most successful public works projects, the Great Manmade River, which had tapped into the vast fossil aquifer beneath the Sahara Desert. These eucalypti were part of an even grander Al Gaddafi scheme to fight global warming by turning the desert into a forest. Test plots like this one had been established throughout Libya, some two hundred hectares in all: the final plan called for the planting of a billion hectares, with over a trillion trees. It was going to take a while. But then the internet hadn’t happened in a day.”

This funhouse-mirror stuff is really very well done, and actually pretty fun most of the time (although the faux-wikipedia bits that interleave each chapter start out as shortcut exposition, but pretty quickly get grating, and then start to give away plot points, which is just … unfortunate. It’s a shame when an idea that starts out cute way outlives its usefulness); it’s also grafted on top of a perfectly competent if totally unremarkable thriller. This is not necessarily a bad thing.

Harper 02.07.12

February 11, 2012, 1:44am   Comments