"[T]ell me why the last torchbearer of the sad ideals of the American spirit, this Molly Ross, is now being contacted by a former co-conspirator who nearly spoiled all of my plans only last year, and who also happens to be the son of my right-hand man?" - The Eye Of Moloch's 132-year-old antagonist
Building on the runaway critical success of his 2010 debut novel The Overton Window ("a lurching, low-speed derailment," "an instructively bad book," "a plodding read"), Glenn Beck is back with a second installment: The Eye Of Moloch.
The one-dimensional characters, creepy libertarian sermonizing, and extended periods of dull inaction that marked The Overton Window have returned in The Eye Of Moloch, making for a read that is as baffling as it is boring. Media Matters has picked over the book and highlighted some of The Eye Of Moloch's absurd conspiracism and impossibly wide plot holes.
The plot to The Eye Of Moloch is, in many ways, the same as The Overton Window: an evil PR firm is trying to destroy America, and a scrappy Founding Fathers-obsessed resistance group called Founders' Keepers is working to foil the scheme. This time around, the villainous corporation, led by 132-year-old supervillain Aaron Doyle, is trying to pin a series of cross-country shootings on the Founders' Keepers. Those resistance fighters, led by The Overton Window's returning protagonists Noah Gardner and Molly Ross, are on the run and trying to infiltrate a super-secret archive that details every evil conspiracy perpetrated on the American people.
And there's still terrible writing. A lot of terrible writing.
The Ghost Of Ronald Redgan [sic]
For much of the story, Noah Gardner is held captive in a bizarre living facility/prison. For reasons that are never entirely clear, part of his punishment is to copyedit syndicated columns and bogus wire stories crafted by the evil PR firm to help shape public opinion and manipulate the masses.
Imprisoned with Noah is a formerly famous news anchor named Ira Gershon, who, we're told in a bit of foreshadowing, uses an old-school typewriter that's "broken" in such a way that its lowercase "d" kind of looks like an "a."
Ira struggles to get Noah to realize his great historical importance, but eventually breaks through via "a sign [that] was sent down to me." In a note to Noah, Ira explains that he had been fussing with his typewriter and rearranging the letters of Noah's last name "for whatever reason."
In a moment that's apparently supposed to be a stunning revelation, Ira reveals to Noah that, thanks to the broken "d" key, if you shuffle the letters of "Gardner," it sort of, kind of looks like "r reagan":
Deus Ex Free Airplanes
There's a point in The Eye Of Moloch in which Noah and Molly have to make it all the way from San Francisco to Pennsylvania, and they have to make it there but quick. The obstacle they face is that thanks to the evil PR firm they're both considered terrorists and obviously won't make it past airport security. A thorny problem, to be sure (though it's unclear why the pair didn't just fall back on their brilliant plan from the last book of eluding TSA scrutiny by having Molly pose as Natalie Portman). But Beck has the solution: a free private airplane from a wealthy "secret friend" that conveniently extracts the characters from the corner they'd been written into:
The jet had been fueled and waiting for them at Hayward Executive Airport, near the bay. These arrangements were made by a well-to-do secret friend of Molly's group, the CEO of a chain of hardware stores in the East, and his gift had allowed them to sidestep the heightened security that surely would have snared them instantly if they'd tried to go anywhere near San Francisco International.
Shortly after takeoff, however, a terror alert is issued and all planes -- including private jets -- are forced to the ground. And then Noah and Molly come under attack from... somebody. It's not really clear who. Whatever will our heroes do? As it turns out, they get another free airplane from Bill McCord, a kindly old airport mechanic introduced six pages earlier who just happens to be sympathetic to their cause.
"Molly," said Noah as he knelt down next to her, "we're surrounded in here. If we don't come out now they're just going to come in after us. I don't think we've got a choice."
"And I don't think they're here to take us alive, Noah."
They all let that prospect sink in as more precious seconds ticked by.
"Well, if they're not going to let you walk out," Bill McCord said, "what do you say we fly?"
Half a minute later the two women were securely buckled in and Noah was sitting in the right-hand seat up front.
That's two free airplanes from two newly introduced characters in the space of 23 pages.
I May Be Dying, But First I'm Going To Land This 70-Year-Old Airplane In The Middle Of A Giant Storm
Much like its predecessor, The Eye of Moloch features interminable stretches where nothing of note happens. But after suffering through the type of absurdity that passes for an "action" scene in this book, it's easy to find yourself yearning for another long-winded sermon about small government from a kindly farmhand.
As an example, take the aforementioned scene in which elderly airport mechanic/World War II veteran Bill McCord decides to help Noah and Molly escape in his restored WWII airplane.
Through a hail of automatic gunfire, McCord manages to get the plane aloft without the help of an actual runway. Things are complicated by the fact that our heroes are flying directly into what a meteorologist in the book dubbed "the perfect storm."
Thanks to some clever maneuvering and an assist from said "miracle" storm, McCord is able to evade several fighter jets, fly the bullet-riddled plane across the country to Pennsylvania, and eventually safely crash-land the plane on broken landing gear.
Oh, and he does all of that while sustaining a fatal heart attack.
There's An Enemy Sniper On The Loose? Let's Gather In Front Of This Giant Window
The villains of The Overton Window are equal parts evil and incompetent, having their grand plans foiled thanks to a series of bumbling oversights, such as leaving the details of their scheme in an easily-cracked PowerPoint presentation. The villains in The Eye of Moloch are similarly done in by their determined idiocy.
Early in the book, Molly is held hostage by a virulently racist white supremacist group that is trying to coerce the Founders' Keepers into an alliance. The only hitch is that the skinheads don't know the whereabouts of Molly's right-hand man, Thom Hollis, a veteran sniper who had eluded capture -- a fact that concerns them greatly.
So, knowing that Molly has a deadly accurate ex-military sharpshooter ally and knowing that he's somewhere in the area, where does the leader of the white supremacists choose to interrogate Molly? Right in front of a huge window looking out onto a vast clearing in the forest, of course.
You'll never guess what happens:
"I have an answer for you." She pulled the cap from the marker and then, by feel, drew a thick diagonal line across the paper from the bottom right to the upper left corner and then down again, upper right to lower left from the other side. Still seated, with the large X complete she unclipped the sheet and held it up high and away, facing flat to the window, and said, "Nobody move."
For several endless seconds they all seemed dumbfounded; neither George Pierce nor any of his men behind her breathed a word.
And then there were three sounds at once, each distinct but simultaneous. A clink from the window, a solid rap on the wood of the bookshelf on the opposite wall, and a sharp flutter of the paper that she held high in her hand, as though someone had flicked it with a finger.
As she turned the sheet toward the man across the desk, just before the distant echoing sound of a rifle shot had arrived, she didn't need to see it to know what was there. A clean bullet hole, precisely through the cross of the X.
As she'd ordered them, nobody moved, and no one knew better than George Lincoln Rockwell Pierce who the next round would find if anyone acted against her.
"You'd asked about Hollis earlier," Molly said.
I Want Cameras In Every Room, Except The One Where Our Most Dangerous Enemies Work
Later in the book, during their time working as copyeditors in prison, Noah and Ira bond over their shared love of limited government and dislike of the oppressive regime. One would think such openly seditious talk would be a death sentence in this Big Brother-esque prison environment. But fortunately for them, the room where they work is, for unexplained reasons, free from the type of invasive monitoring that permeates the rest of the facility:
"No, I don't believe it."
"Oh, really?" Ira came back to his place and took a seat. "And why not?"
Noah didn't answer. Instead he looked around briefly for any obvious cameras or listening devices.
"They aren't watching us in here," Ira said. "There are other indignities we have to endure" -- he patted his ankle, where his own house-arrest bracelet would be -- "but they've never bothered to spy on us in this room, not that way. Go on, you can speak freely."
In Case Of Emergency, Leave Supervillain Lair Unguarded
The climax of the novel takes place at the "Garrison Archives" an "ultrasecure facility" where "all the scheming villains in every hidden seat of power" conveniently store every scrap of information regarding their "dark designs." Though it's described as "ultrasecure," the Founders' Keepers of course have a remarkably easy time infiltrating it. The key to the plot is a "planted intern" (introduced just 35 pages from the book's end) working in the facility's mailroom (yes, even hidden lairs of evil secrets need mailroom interns).
The intern manages to place a device near a mailroom vent that burns "two ounces of Italian amaretto," releasing an almond smell similar to that of cyanide gas. After the intern pretends to have been the victim of chemical weapons, the alarm is sounded.
Everyone in this "ultrasecure facility" runs for the exits and leaves their computers unlocked, allowing the Founders' Keepers to sneak in posing as a hazardous materials emergency response team, at which point they access all the secret computer files of all the world's worst people, which, again, have all been collected at this one location.
If this sounds at all familiar, that might be because it's remarkably similar to the 1996 movie Mission: Impossible, in which Tom Cruise and his crew of rogue agents set off fire alarms at the CIA, sneak into the facility posing as firefighters, and access the secret computer files therein.
"Revenge Is Mine" And Other Evil Dialogue, Featuring A 132-Year-Old Supervillain
If The Overton Window is remembered for anything, it's the classic phrase "don't tease the panther," lovingly growled by Noah to Molly as they do their best not to have a sexual relationship. Strained and awful dialogue of this variety can be found throughout The Eye Of Moloch, with the choicest lines uttered by Aaron Doyle, the 132-year-old primary antagonist who seems to revel in ham-handed exposition and general moustache-twirling.
Doyle on how evil he is:
"Now then, before we enjoy our brunch," Aaron Doyle said, "let us discuss how we shall finally bring the brief and teetering empire of the United States of America to an unceremonious close."
Doyle on his enemies (and on the utter absurdity of the plot):
"[T]ell me why the last torchbearer of the sad ideals of the American spirit, this Molly Ross, is now being contacted by a former co-conspirator who nearly spoiled all of my plans only last year, and who also happens to be the son of my right-hand man?"
Doyle on how evil he is (again):
He walked to his study and sat down in his tall leather chair near the waiting chessboard, and then he addressed the identical but empty seat -- William Merchant's seat -- on the other side.
"I see what you've tried to do, William," Doyle said. "You're trying to use my own pieces against me. But patience was never your strength, and I'm afraid you've acted rashly now and shown your hand a bit too soon. [ed: they're apparently playing both chess and cards] Truth, and love, and virtue were always your favorite weapons in this old war of ours."
He leaned forward, and could almost see his old opponent seated in the opposite chair.
"But as you'll remember, William, revenge is mine."
Doyle on young people:
"Despite the many hurdles put in my way by William Merchant our agenda is succeeding beyond my wildest hopes. We're molding the deluded young into an army of dependent ciphers. With your help we've conditioned them from birth to happily sign away their rights and vote as they're told, staring slack-jawed into one electronic screen after another and obediently parroting our every crafted word."
Doyle on how evil he is (yet again):
"And these trailer-trash rebels you became involved with last year? We'd hoped to push them into another futile act of desperation so we could permanently put their sad little patriotic cause into the dustbin of history. But I'm told their young leader, this special friend of yours, Molly Ross, she's now dead as well. No matter; terror isn't so difficult to create, and she'll still take the blame. We'll find another way."
Continuity Gets Nuked
If you recall, and you probably don't, The Overton Window ended with a mostly harmless nuclear explosion in the Nevada desert that was blamed on Molly Ross's group, the Founders' Keepers. It was witnessed by several members of law enforcement, and the evil PR firm cranked up their media machine to make sure everyone knew about and was scared of the massive nuclear blast.
In The Eye Of Moloch, however, Beck writes that the detonation of a nuclear weapon on U.S. soil had been covered up, and only a select few people knew that there had actually been an explosion:
Much like that recent and surprising launch of a Chinese-made ballistic missile from a submarine off the coast of Southern California, the cover stories about the Nevada explosion had flown so thick and fast that the while event had passed immediately into the wacky realm of the conspiracy theorists. It was a meteorite, it was a plane crash, it was a botched underground test -- only a handful of people really knew what had happened.
On the next page one of Beck's characters says that the "nonspecific alert" about the blast (the blast they were trying to cover up) "was serious enough to delay the fall elections; they still haven't happened yet." The elections were canceled because of an alert about a (possible) meteor strike in the desert?
Also, if "only a handful of people really knew" that a nuclear explosion had occurred on U.S. soil, then why do several characters in The Eye Of Moloch talk at great length about the generally known allegation that Molly and her group had set off a nuclear explosion on U.S. soil? From page 25:
"You've officially become an enemy of the state, Miss Ross. You, and your insiders, and your dead friend Danny Bailey -- by all accounts you're all homegrown terrorists, enemy combatants, the dreaded white al-Qaeda. You plotted with a turncoat FBI man to destroy a federal building and half of Las Vegas last fall, and you nearly succeeded. Your mother was so distraught over your treason that she committed suicide."
Considering the disconcertingly impressive sales of The Overton Window, it was inevitable that the series wouldn't end with The Eye of Moloch. As such, the book all but ends with "To be continued" stamped on the last page, leaving countless dangling plot threads waiting to be mishandled in a third book.
So we've got that to look forward to.