Thursday, August 11, 2011

Review -- The Overton Window

The Overton Window
Glenn Beck

I had to go and look up who Glenn Beck was. I figured he was a conservative media personality because I've heard the term "blowhard" which is what my liberal friends call conservative media personalities and I knew he was on TV or radio or something. (I've never heard my conservative friends speak negatively of a liberal media personality, other than to identify a bias.)

Anyhow, if you know me, I hate politics. Can't stand it. Not a topic I care to know or learn about.

But I had heard that this book was good. I'm not sure who from. It's got 4 stars on Amazon with 560 reviews.

I wouldn't be one giving it that good a rating.

At first, I was intrigued. Beck's writing style is a pleasure to read. The words danced around in my head. But the more I read, the more disappointed I became. As good as the descriptions were, the characters were boring and the story simultaneously confusing and predictable. And worst of all, just when it seemed like it was getting to the heart of it, it kind of fizzled it out.

I've always said that you have a sense of where you are in a story because when you hold the book, you can tell how close to the end you are, even if you don't want to. But Beck pulls a fast one. He's got a rather extensive set of end notes. "Why, James, does he have end notes in a fictional book? Why?" you might be muttering to yourself right about now. Fortunately, I anticipated your question. Well, it seems that Mr. Beck wants you to know how clever he is. He's been setting up a scenario about a bloodless coup of the American government by a group of rich people who think that the average American has abdicated their right to freedom by apathy. To show that's possible, he peppers the book with stuff that's really happened.

And so I guess he's trying to be clever-within-clever. His characters describe the titular "Overton Window" as a glimpse - showing the public a small piece of the larger picture, and then nudging them towards what you want them to accept through small measures and by slowly moving the window. The stuff of good conspiracies. Want more control? Take away freedoms. But don't take them away, get the populace to surrender them willingly by, say, crashing a plane into a tower and then finding a credible scapegoat. Want to funnel a bunch of money somewhere? Start a war. Or bail out an industry and don't require strict accountability. So he's trying to Overton us at the same time.

Well, I'm not buying it. Don't be cute or clever. Write a good story.

This was neither a thriller nor a good story. And I don't recommend it. Read one of the Tom Clancy's from the Jack Ryan series. They might be dated, but they're far more tense and interesting. Except The Bore Drags On, er, I mean The Bear and the Dragon. That one was way too long.
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