Garnett v Parker: A Working Plot

Good lord it’s been a long time since I published anything on this blog! To make up for it I’m going to post two book reviews over the next couple of days.

photoThe first book review is Overwatch by Marc Guggenheim. Guggenheim is one of the writers for the very successful CW show Arrow. Seriously, if you haven’t watched it, go do it. Season 1 is on Netflix. It’s really good. It is this fact that drew me to this book.

The book is the story of an attorney, Alex Garnett, who works for the Office of General Council (OGC) for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Basically it’s his job to help field operatives to know just how far they can legally go. While working on a case he stumbles across a conspiracy that ends in discovering a black ops group called Overwatch. They do what the CIA can’t do, and operate with impunity because of an order given by President Truman—the White House has no idea of its existence. Overwatch’s goal is to foment a war between Israel and Iran to draw America into it.

For the most part, it is an extremely well written book. The pacing is spot on, sentence length really helps the reader feel the tension like a film will cut from angel to angel. Most of the characters are well rounded and multilayered. One character, Gerald the computer hacker, can come across as one-dimensional.

Guggenheim really shines when it comes to the lawyer-speak. Before becoming a writer for TV shows in Hollywood he was a lawyer in Boston. This personal background really helps Garnett feel like a real attorney.

My only complaint to the book is that Guggenheim seems to let personal politics come through. All the good guys seem to favor one position, especially when it comes to the Middle East in America’s recent history, and the villains hold the opposite. Even off the wall comments really show the author intruding upon his story.

As I pondered the book I couldn’t help but come back to Sony’s recent entry into the Spider-Man franchise, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (ASM2). The biggest problem with the movie, and there were a lot, was that the film had no sense of identity. The audience couldn’t figure out what type of film this movie is (Yes I know it’s a superhero film but The Dark Knight was still a detective film and Captain America: The Winter Soldier was still a political/espionage thriller).

ASM2 opens with Peter Parker’s father making a recording and then having to abandon his son to go on the run with Peter’s mother. On the plane the Parkers are desperately trying to backup some data as the copilot tries to kill them after killing the pilot. The Parkers are successful in transmitting the data but die in the plane crash that resulted from the struggle.

This signifies to the audience that the film is a conspiracy film. Peter is going to spend the film trying to figure out what was so important that his parents were killed for possessing it. But this isn’t what happens. Rather the film follows up on the thread left in the previous film about Peter’s relationship with Gwen Stacy. Peter still tries to investigate his parent’s death. But it’s no longer about the secret. It’s about his relationship with his parents, that they were good people and not the criminals they were portrayed as.

But again, that’s the problem, it looked like Peter needed to find the secret to exonerate his parents, but that’s not the film. To set that up they could have portrayed them in a more negative light at the start to help the audience identify with Peter. Rather, the typical board one sees in conspiracy films with the red tape connecting newspaper articles or internet printouts is covered up with pics of his family as he tries to decide his relationship to them.

Teenage angst is fine in a Spider-Man film but the film needed to be set up that way.

The villains don’t follow either. Electro neither furthered the relationship between Peter and Gwen nor helped with the conspiracy. Electro really didn’t have any motivation for being an antagonist. Harry Osborn is guilty of the same sins. He’s just there and given a very shallow motivation for the film that doesn’t resolve very well at all.

Overwatch doesn’t fall into this trap. The novel is a conspiracy book and all of the threads are developed through the investigation of the conspiracy. Alex Garnett’s relationship with his fiancee and his father are all resolved through the following the trail. The villains are woven into the conspiracy so that their characters are explored by the way they execute the plan and why they have the plan.

Guggenheim’s Overwatch is a really well written novel if you like to see a John Grisham lawyer have to investigate a Tom Clancy conspiracy. It’s not perfect but what book is? I just know I couldn’t put the book down.

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~ by hankimler on July 1, 2014.

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