[Golden Key][Blue Ribbon]
Day of the Delphi
by
Jon Land
Reviewer's note: I kept a log as I read this book.

Let us consider Day of the Delphi by Jon Land, a book that reads like a bad parody of a technothriller -- except Land didn't do his research. I picked it off the rack because, since it's a Tor book, I figured it would be one of the finer current examples.

Next chilling thought -- maybe it is.


I mean, here I am on page 28 and he has his bad guys firing 7.62mm rounds from M16s. Crom! Everyone knows that M16s fire 5.56mm ammo. It's M14s and M60s that fire 7.62. Where was the copyeditor? Where was the author?


As the book progresses things don't get any better. In fact, sillier and more implausible would be a fair description. I'd been under the impression that in technothriller men's action/adventure novels you could get away with anything except messing up the nomenclature on the weapons (a comparatively easy thing to get right, if you have a public library with a copy of Jane's in the reference room). But even there, things are, dare I say it? fouled up. To say nothing of the plot, characterization, and prose. IMHO, friend Land would profit from reading and taking to heart Twain's essay on Fennimore Cooper's Literary Offenses.


My golly, I haven't had this much fun with a book since I read David Drake's Starliner, a three hundred page novel with thirty pages of plot. Before that I'd have to go all the way back to Rex Miller's Slob to find anything comparable.


Friend Land is continuing, and getting even more entertaining. His talent for picking the wrong word is interesting:

"He then rose and began using the rope looped around his waist to adhere himself to the tie line."

I wonder if he has a Thesaurus program for his word processor, and plugs in near-synonyms at random, unaware of what they mean.

His grasp of really basic terminology is shaky as well: "The red letters were all capitals, detailing the respective cities now in attendance: England, France, Germany." Gee, and I would have called those "countries," but then, whadda I know?


There's an on-line conference going on among the members of the Delphi (the bad-guy cabal).

To provide a bit more context, here're some whole paragraphs:

[Our unnamed-as-yet bad guy is sitting in the back seat of a limo somewhere on the Washington Beltway.]

The communications system resting atop it had a simple square front that looked as though it might have been part of a sophisticated telephone. There was no receiver, just the oval-shaped dot holes of a speaker. The touchtone board located beneath it had twice as many numbers as the mundane variety, along with a half-dozen additional keys marked with symbols. To the board's left, and comprising the rest of the square front, was a series of seven electronic lines equipped with LED readouts. The man leaned slightly forward and touched a small button that activated the system.

Instantly, four of the LED readouts began flashing, an indication that three others were on-line and ready for the meeting to start. The red letters were all capitals, detailing the respective cities now in attendance: England, France, Germany.

The fourth -- his -- read WASHINGTON.

...

"Communications check," began the voice altered into a computer-synthesized monotone that was identical to the six others. "England."

"Here."

"Germany."

"Present."

"Japan."

"Yes."

"France."

"Present."

"Johannesburg."

"Here."

"And Washington."

"Present," the man in the limo's rear responded.


Yes indeed, our author really doesn't know the difference between a city and a country. Which brings up the next question: what precisely is an oval-shaped dot hole? And having twice as many numbers -- were they perhaps using base twenty?


With movies, even when they reach a certain state of Bad, all I have to do is remain in my theatre seat in wonder and amaze (perchance with a subtle glance at my watch from time to time), hoping that a young lady will take a shower for reasons not related to the plot. With books, I have to sit somewhere, turn pages and actively construct pictures in my mind. When the author deliberately makes it hard-to-impossible to construct those pictures (either by withholding vital information (e.g. our heroine, Kristen Kurcell, is an aide to, and having an affair with, Senator Sam Jordan -- and it isn't until page 89 that we learn that Sam is short for Samantha, forcing us to throw out any mental images we'd constructed since we learned of the affair on page 37) or by making the scene so ridiculous that even my well-practiced and flexible imagination refuses to paint a picture that silly ), the pleasure of reading becomes a chore.


Here's another paragraph:

"Sh*t!" McCracken rasped and threw himself into a roll that saved him from a barrage originating on the second floor in front of B. Dalton.

Where patrons who had paid good money for the previous Blaine McCracken novel were gathered, apparently. Note that in this book people don't say things. They rasp them, gasp them, grit them, snarl them, smirk them, and spit them.


Wait 'til you get to the Bradleys mounting 14mm cannon and the M-1 tanks which the Delphi has been stockpiling in closed sections of parking garages in downtown Washington. (Hint for the ordnancely challenged: Bradleys carry 25mm cannon. And if the Delphi have enough power and money to close off sections of DC parking garages (and move in heavy armor without anyone noticing), then why do they need to overthrow the government? They have more power than the government already.) Assuming they can get Abrams tanks to fit in parking garages. Assuming they don't fall right through the floors if they do fit.

The C-130s with twin Vulcan cannon mounted on their wings doing strafing runs are also pretty impressive.


This book starts out with two pages of fulsome acknowledgments, starting off with "Tom Doherty, as great a man as he is a publisher." Now, I happen to agree, but really, was this necessary? Because I read the fulsome acknowledgments, I know that the "brilliant editor" was Natalie Aponte. No secrets here! Who I really want to meet is "Walt Mattison (the real Blaine McCracken)" who kept friend Land "on the straight and narrow when it comes to weapons and technologies." I want to find the Gerber M-2 that slices "through steel links like putty" (I own a Gerber Mark II (note the real name -- it's trademarked, BTW) and all I can say is he's found some very soft steel or some very tough putty), and I want to know how McCracken's SIG-Sauer on page 209 turned into an Uzi by page 225.


I choose now, at random, page 253. Here are the "said" words, in order:

Finally got one. I was hoping for a shutout. Oh, well.


As long as we're speaking of pure poetry, there's this line (from page 368) (I went on -- I had to know how bad it got. Hey, I finished Starliner and Slob, too.):

"Sh*t!" Sal Belamo bellowed, freeing his gun and starting it forward.

(Sal's fond of bellowing: just one page later he's bellowing "F*ck!" "F*ck" was the word he was rasping back on page 253, too. His momma should have washed his mouth out with soap.)


If this is typical of the techno-thriller genre, I can see how Stephen Hunter got thirteen glowing blurb-quotes for the cover of Point of Impact and how Tom Clancy made a million bucks.


The plot? You want to know the plot? An evil cabal wants to take over the world, using a scheme that Pinky and the Brain had already rejected as too farfetched and unworkable. Blaine McCraken stops them.


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