In an attempt to gain congressional approval for a top-secret weapons system, Washington lobbyist "Bird" McIntyre teams up with sexy, outspoken neocon Angel Templeton to pit the American public against the Chinese. When Bird fails to uncover an authentic reason to slander the nation, he and Angel put the Washington media machine to work, spreading a rumor that the Chinese secret service is working to assassinate the Dalai Lama.
Meanwhile in China, mild-mannered President Fa Mengyao and his devoted aide Gang are maneuvering desperately against sinister party hard-liners Minister Lo and General Han. Now Fa and Gang must convince the world that the People's Republic is not out to kill the Dalai Lama, while maintaining Fa's small margin of power in the increasingly militaristic environment of the party.
On the home front, Bird must contend with a high-strung wife who entertains Olympic equestrian ambition, and the qualifying competition happens to be taking place in China. As things unravel abroad, Bird and Angel's lie comes dangerously close to reality. And as their relationship rises to a new level, so do mounting tensions between the United States and China.
©2012 Christopher Buckley (P)2012 Hachette Audio
"Bulls-eye political satire" (Booklist)
"A well-built addition to Buckley's oeuvre" (Publishers Weekly)
"One of the funniest writers in the English language." (Tom Wolfe)
Book blogger at Bookwi.se
Christopher Buckley is one of my favorite authors. But this is not one of my favorite of his books.
Buckley’s books follow a similar path. Washington insiders, in a cynical, but somewhat believable way push a line that seems absurd, but much of the time you could actually see things working out in real life like they do in his books. It is satire. What makes Buckley one of my favorite authors is that he ridicules all sides of the political spectrum, he keeps his books funny and in the end his heroes usually see the error in their ways.
But this book is not as funny as most of his other books. It is satire, and you can see him poking fun at lobbyists, at the defense industry, at the media. But it is not sharp, it is not very funny and it feels phoned in.
What I am most disappointed in is that I do not really like most of the characters. In many of his others books, the characters, even when they do reprehensible things are still people that you want to root for. The reader wants these people to turn out well. In this book, I would be fine if all of these people had a big accident and disappeared. The only likable people in the book are the Chinese President, his aid and the head of the NSA. And none off them are really the main characters, so 85% of the book I am reading about people that I really don’t care about.
I like Christopher Buckley, but I would encourage you to skip this book. Instead, read Supreme Courtship, God is My Broker or Boomsday, all are worthy of your time.
This story was entertaining, and the voice actor did his best job conveying the tongue-in-cheek satire that makes a Christopher Buckley novel great. But, when held against beautiful and hilarious works like "Thank You For Smoking" and "Boomsday", it simply fell flat.
Pretty good political satire but sort of hard to follow. Maybe if I listened to it again I would rate it higher and maybe I just wasn't in the mood for off the wall political humor. Still the author was above average in the clever department just thinking up the plot line
I'm often accused of saying that conservatives aren't funny. That's not true. The trick is that good humor, especially satire, has to have some basis in fact to build upon. Even when you're writing in an absurdist vein you need to plant some of it in reality and too few "conservative" writers today know how to base their humor in reality. Christopher Buckley is a conservative who can be extremely funny, especially since he knows how to skewer everyone, not just his political opponents. This latest book shows Buckley is still in fine form and still hilarious. Robert Petkoff's voice and delivery are perfect for the tone of the book as well. This one is worth your credit.
Sometimes literature turns out to have prognostication powers. Don DeLillo’s Mao II is one of the great post 9/11 novels, yet it’s written before the event. And few books made better sense of the dreamy, detached-from-reality mood of the Reagan presidency than Jerzy Kosinski’s Being There, also written before Reagan’s ascent to office.
To a lesser degree, and with less literary merit than those others, Buckley’s novel anticipates our current moment of fake news and the alternative facts crisis. This one tells the story of a public relations flak for a defense contracting company who gets charged with trying to whip up anti-China hysteria in order to secure funding for an unknown massive new project. He begins his project by asserting – entirely without fact – that China is behind a recent health scare for the Dalai Lama.
And then the plan spirals out of control. It turns out the Dalai Lama is indeed quite ill, but it serves various conflicting interests to claim that China really did go after him. We get different factions of China’s governing council who accuse and counter-accuse in order to jostle for authority. We get CIA spooks who foment and then undermine the rumors all in the service of their different agendas.
When this book is at its best, it’s a whirlwind of almost plausible stories that conflict with one another. We’re never allowed to forget that the central claim of the competing stories is fundamentally false, but we’re also brought to see that such a truth hardly matters after a while. Once the story begins to circulate, it has a real-world gravity. It’s a lie that has traction, an alternative fact that causes things to happen in the real world.
This one is probably a notch weaker than Buckley’s Thank You For Smoking, but it shares the same sharp humor and deep-seeded concern with the nature of, for lack of a better word, bullshit in the heart of our culture. That one takes more joy in the outrageousness of the lies in play, but both deal with the fundamental observation that we’re shielded from being able to make thoughtful policy by the power of the bullshit around us.
I’m never quite sure of Buckley’s politics. Since he’s the son of 1960s and 1970s Number One Conservative William F., it’s hard to imagine him as a progressive (unless he’s living out a serious Oedipal experience). At the same time, he isn’t pushing for hardline matters either. He seems to see much military spending as wasteful, yet he also seems to have respect for good government. There’s no knee-jerk impulse to decry all government as too much government.
In the end, the message is mostly hopeful. Beneath the cynicism of his characters lies a real hope that we might someday get to a point where we can distinguish the lies of the unprincipled from the truths we ought to be weighing.
At this historical moment, that’s a progressive political claim. In the bigger picture, though, it seems a more philosophical – more politically neutral – notion. You don’t have to be a Social Democrat to believe that good government depends upon access to the truth. That insight, thoughtful and comic as we get it here, is timely today and, given that it’s more than four years old now, eerily prescient.
Harry Turtledove fan
Buckley seems to have lost his touch.
Most of his so-called surprises brought Yawns to me as i had already deduced the author's move. Muon bombs, Bird sleeping with Angel, etc.
His best work was Thank you for Smoking.
Add to that a lackluster performance...
No disappointments here, and lots of the expected Buckley fun. The women are more overdrawn than usual, but the stereotyping contributes to the story. I especially liked the Chinese characters.
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