I have to admit my interest in the novel Captives by Todd Hasak-Lowy had a lot to do with a desire to see how what has become known as Bush Derangement Syndrome might get played out in a fictional work.
Let’s avoid for now, the discussion of whether BDS is an actual phenomenon or simply a creation of the fevered minds of right-wingers.Â Put aside the author’s perspective, the emotions and opinions are certainly out there and an active part of culture and politics.Â The question was: could someone take this issue/concept and make something intelligent of it.
To set the story up, and give you a sense what prompted these thoughts, here is the publishers description:
A sniper is taking down suits and politiciansâ€”in Daniel Bloomâ€™s head.
Bloom is the kind of guy who ends most social gatherings with an alternately raging and despairing conversation about The State of the World. And recently things have taken a turn for the worse. His marriage is on the rocks, his teenage son is becoming increasingly unknowable, and his sense of hopeless impotence has reached a stage of spiritual crisis that’s no longer a matter of vapid dinner-party conversation.
So he decamps to his home office to work on his fifteenth screenplay, this time about a federal agent and a nameless assassin. The assassin is a sniper who targets the power elite: corporate chiefs who defraud their employees of billions of dollars in pensions, and political flacks who’ve rigged the system in their own favor. Only the federal agent isn’t sure he wants to capture the sniper.
Soon Bloom realizes that his screenplay hits too close to home: He really does want these people dead, so much so that this revenge fantasy takes over his life, sending him in search of salvation in an outrageous mentor, a possibly dangerous foreign country, and, finally, his very own backyard.
Seemed like appropriate reading material in these election obsessed days.
So how would I answer the above question having read the book?Â Hmm, that is a tough one to call.Â Bloom’s ideas, opinions, and feelings about the state of the world are, from my perspective, overly pessimistic and yet incredibly naive while tinged with a level of unhealthy obsession and narrow mindedness – just like BDS in the real world. And the screenplay at some point becomes almost moot except as an initial plot device.
Nevertheless, Hasak-Lowy uses this concept – a movie about killing off powerful bad guys that treats this violence as a potentially good thing – as an effective hook to pull the reader in.Â The first third of the book is interesting no matter your political philosophy.Â But this promising story line and Hasak-Lowy’s at times skillful writing never quite overcome the mess that is the middle of the book.
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