Thursday, 6 March 2014

What I'm noticing 75 pages into Balls! is a tic I had come across before and am only now tracking - Rohmer's penchant for using these tame adjectives that read like they're straight out of company/corporate/organization PR machines to tacitly denote approval for those entities (real or fictional) he likes.  For example, "The document...was prepared by the prestigious Gas Requirements Committee"  or "...Head hunters approached him at the eminent nation-wide firm of accountants, Peat, Marwick," (oddly placed commas intact from original).  There's nothing wrong with this;  it's more like he's making sure that even though some of these people might be villains, there is something fundamentally sound about the corporate world we live in.

The problem with the book so far for me is that it seems to want to be a disaster novel more than a political thriller.  I wish he'd gone that way - his description of the plane crash and the Prime Minister Sands' ordeal was much more convincing in Exodus UK than the political machinations that were the main story.  Also - I know the plight of Buffalo is a way to focus the effects of poor corporate management and government inaction on a real location, but the stakes seem very small this time out.  The fate of countries do not hang in the balance, so it seems more like a (big) problem to solve rather than a crisis.  At least by page 75.

So once again the story begins with a character being told all about himself: George Stratton, remembering the call from President-elect Hugh Barker offering him the job as Secretary of Energy:  "How had Hugh Put it? "George, with your background as one of the most respected academics in the nation and a consultant to many of the world's largest companies in the field of hydrocarbon geology, and with your vast knowledge of business and how the multinationals operate..."  And on and on.

But wait!  What's that on page 39?  A joke about it?  A self-conscious reference to this sort of exposition as, I don't know, a shot at "the critics"  the book is dedicated to?

"As you know, there's no more gas left in storage"

"Nobody knows it better than I do." Harris, managed to hide his annoyance at being given information that Megarry knew damn well he already had."

This bit of humour - intentional or not - was so welcome I overlooked the fact that there is a useless comma after "Harris"  that makes the sentence trip over itself.

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