IN THE UNITED STATES SPECIAL SUPREME OVER COURT
FOR THE FINAL SATISFACTION OF GLOBAL JURISDICTION

X

READERSHIP OF THE WORLD, et al.,  :
xxxxxxxxxxxx Plaintiffs xxxxxxxxx :
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx :
vs. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx : CASE NO: ZZ9-PLRL-Z-LPH
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx :
DAN BROWN, et al. his novels, xxx :
particularly ANGELS AND DEMONS, x :
xxxxxxxxxxxx Defendants xxxxxxxxx :

x

TRAIL TRANSCRIPT : DAY TWO, MORNING SESSION
X
BEFORE: HONORABLE HOPHGUD TAYSTE xxx
DATE x: September 6th, 2009 xxxxxxxx
Place : Courtroom No. 2, 9th Floor x
Manila Building xxxx
228 Hazelnut Avenuex
Volcano Headquarters

X

COUNSEL PRESENT:
x
CLIFF KNOETZ, DVLS ADVC
xx For - Plaintiffs
X
RAY NASGON, ESQ
IGAN CHARLES CLEARLY-NOWTHER, ESQ
WEGHAT D'VUNCK, ESQ
xx For - Defendants

X

NOU MENON, ABC, USA xxx
OFFICIAL COURT REPORTER

X

----------------------------------------------------------------------
THE COURT: Good morning everybody. Are we ready to get under way?
x
MR. NASGON: Your Honor, it's totally not fair that I not get a chance
to say my opening statement properly, and that then he gets to be all
rude about my client probably for ages before I get to do anything but
object! I object, to this.
x
THE COURT: Well, it's your own silly fault on the first issue, if you
can't avoid being tripped up by unexpected arrangements of sentences,
like your own, you shouldn't be a lawyer. You are a lawyer aren't you?
x
MR. NASGON: Yes, your Honor.
x
THE COURT: Well then. How about you, Mr. Knoetz. You a lawyer?
x
MR. KNOETZ: I'm currently representing one.
x
THE COURT: Hah, there's a joke about that, isn't there? "The lawyer...
The lawyer who has a lawyer for a client... isn't feeling himself!" Is
that it? I'm not very good at jokes. More about the gravel, you know.
x
MR. KNOETZ: That's "Gaval", your Honor.
x
THE COURT: Think nothing of it. Anyway, as for the other thing... the
Defense getting to go first. Mr. Nasgon, can you site precedence?
x
MR. NASGON: Why don't we set one? Er, "versus... Alabama".
x
THE COURT: Mmmmm... alright, off you go.
x
MR. NASGON: Your Honor, I'd like to call our first witness!
x
THE COURT: Witness? You've not even established a frame of reference!
x
MR. NASGON: Oh - he's not guilty!
X
THE COURT: Fine, whatever.
X
MR. NASGON: Defense calls its first witness.
x
[WITNESS #1 TAKES THE STAND AND IS SWORN IN]
x
MR. NASGON: Could you state your name and occupation for the record?
x
MORGAN-WITTS: Davina Morgan-Witts, owner of bookbrowse.com.
X
MR. NASGON: Davina, could you tell us your thoughts on Dan Brown, or
his 2000 novel "Angels and Demons"?
x
MORGAN-WITTS: Certainly. The novel was "AMONGST THE BEST NOVELS I HAVE
EVER READ. Angels and Demons is part thriller, part mystery, and all
action. A highly entertaining, page-turning thriller."
x
THE COURT: There's no need to shout, thank you.
x
MR. NASGON: No further questions, your Honor.
x
THE COURT: What, that's it? Fine... Mr. Knoetz?
x
MR. KNOETZ: Er, no questions, your Honor.
x
THE COURT: Fine, I suppose. You may step down, Ms. Morgan-Witts.
X
[WITNESS STEPS DOWN]
X
MR. NASGON: Defense calls its second witness!
X
THE COURT: Another one?
x
[WITNESS #2 TAKES THE STAND AND IS SWORN IN.]
X
MR. KNOETZ: You look familiar.
x
MR. NASGON: Objection, actually! Not allowed to speak before I do!
x
THE COURT: Sustained, Mr. Knoetz. Put a sock in it until, alright?
x
MR. NASGON: Name and occupation.
x
PHUIT: My name is Hal Phuit, and I'm the-
x
THE COURT: You do look familiar, actually.
x
MR. KNOETZ: Weren't you on the jury list?
x
MR. NASGON: Objection!
X
THE COURT: Yes, that's right! Oh, well done! Overruled.
x
MR. NASGON: Fine. Mr. Phuit, would you give us your opinion on "Angels
and Demons" by Dan Brown.
x
PHUIT: My pleasure. I thought it "WELL PLOTTED AND EXPLOSIVELY PACED.
Crammed with Vatican intrigue and hi-tech drama, Brown's tale is laced
with twists and shocks that keep the reader wired right up until the
final revelation. Packing the novel with sinister figures worthy of a
Medici, Brown sets an explosive pace through a Michelin-perfect Rome."
x
THE COURT: Am I talking to myself or did I not just say "no shouting"?
x
MR. NASGON: Nothing further, your Honor.
x
THE COURT: ...You may go, Mr. Phuit.
x
[WITNESS LEAVES THE STAND]
X
MR. NASGON: The Defense calls its third witne-
x
THE COURT: Stop! That's enough of that. What the hell's going on here?
x
MR. NASGON: Your Honor?
x
THE COURT: You know damn well what I mean. What's with trotting all
these people up here, having them spit out a single sentence, then
shoving them off and doing the whole thing all over again? Eh?
x
MR. NASGON: Your Honor, I - I thought I made everything clear during
the depositions. Our entire case rests solely on providing various
character witnesses, universally reiterating the fact that Dan Brown
is a writer and that his novels are in fact real and not artificial.
I - that's - that's it, your Honor. That's, er... that's everything.
x
THE COURT: Really? Wow. So, how many more have you got?
X
MR. KNOETZ: Judging by the jury list, I'd guess at least twelve.
X
MR. NASGON: How many would you like, your Hon-
x
THE COURT: Less than twelve!
X
MR. NASGON: Oh. Well, how about... eight?
x
[THE COURT SIGHS HEAVILY]
x
THE COURT: Approach the bench.
X
[COUNSELS FOR PROSECUTION AND DEFENSE APPROACH THE BENCH]
X
THE COURT: Look. If he does the lot we're going to be here all night.
I let him read in his list as Defense Evidence #1, you're not going to
kick up a fuss, are you? You're not even questioning them yourself.
x
MR. KNOETZ: I suppose not.
x
MR. NASGON: Oh, thanks! Man, you don't know what this means to me.
x
MR. KNOETZ: It means "enjoy your big speech, because everything else
you have to say from now on will be getting a one-word answer".
x
MR. NASGON: I object!
x
THE COURT: Overruled. Let's get this dealt with, gentlemen, okay?
x
[SESSION CONTINUES]
x
THE COURT: Oh, look at the time! Mr. Nasgon, your love in is going to
have to wait until this afternoon, I feel a righteous hunger coming on
and the law waits for no man.
x
[COURT IS ADJOURNED]
----------------------------------------------------------------------

X

_______________________
Nou Menon, ABC, USA 
Official Court Reporter

x

The foregoing certificalation of this transcript does not apply to any
reproduction by any means unless under the direct control and/or
supervision of the certifycating reporter.

All quotes are taken from the official Dan Brown website…

x
THE COURT: Witness? You've not even established a frame of reference!
x
MR. NASGON: Oh - he's not guilty! Defense calls Davina Morgan-Witts,

“Pitt® and Giordino track the Deep Encounter to the island base it’s been hidden on, kill the pirates with only a knife and a rocket-launcher, then rescue the ship and her crew.”

Got that? Good – because I’ve got bigger fish to fry right now than the plot. Like…

HOW MARY SUE CUSSLER HERE WOUND UP STARRING IN HER OWN NOVEL, HOW ABOUT THAT? Excuse me. Do you know what a “Mary Sue” is? asks the critic, more sweetly. There must be some way I can explain this process of evolution to you. Ah! Here, from the fourth of my Don Brawn novels…

Don Brawn sat at his computer keyboard, typing a review of a book he didn’t like .

~ from The Book that Wasn’t Written, a Don Brawn thriller, by Cliff Knoetz

Of course, I jest – there will only be three Don Brawn novels for a start, and in none of them will Don be reviewing books. I simply want to demonstrate how a less able writer than myself might use his main character as what is known as an author surrogate which, as Wikipedia conveniently defines, is when a story includes “a character who expresses the ideas, questions, personality and morality of the author”. Of course, sometimes things go further than this and enter dark and painfully embarrassing areas of non-subtlety that cause other human beings to not look you in the eye at parties.

Don was strong, handsome and “good in bed” according to what ladies say or at least think. Every word he wrote made clear the failings of the author – the author of the book he was reviewing – and, when he sent it to him, Don knew that the author would take all his advice, re-write his book accordingly and thank Don personally on the dedication page. Don Brawn was the best.

~ The Book that Wasn’t Written, a title that’s growing on me, by Cliff Knoetz

The next degree of creative failure that can occur is exemplified here, in which this falsified version of my character, Don Brawn, moments previously (but in a not true manner) presented as a surrogate for myself, Cliff Knoetz, is further shown to be potentially unrealistically perfect in various ways. This is known as a Mary Sue-ism, a term coined after Paula Smith’s landmark short story, A Trekkie’s Tale (published Menagerie #2, 1973) – a biting piece of social criticism attacking the adolescent wish-fulfilment fantasies prevalent in popular Star Trek fan fiction of the time.

Fortunately, this kind of thing doesn’t happen anymore. Now writers of fan fiction generally just expand the range of subject matter to include lesbian encounters between principle vampire-killing cast members and leave themselves out of it. No-one in these self-aware times would – well, okay. I mean, clearly Dirk Pitt® is a bit of a Mary Sue, yes. That’s all I’m trying to say. Anyway, how could you top that?

Don realised that there was a word he needed which would make this the best passage of text, the most perfect work of literary analysis, in the entire history of the written word – but in that moment, for the only time in his entire life, he couldn’t remember what it was!

Oh no, thought Don. Without this word my existence as a critic is doomed!

Just then there was a knock on the door. Who could that be? asked Don to himself, getting up. As he opened the door he couldn’t believe his eyes!

“Hi,” said the handsome, slightly less handsome than Don but only because he was older, man stood attractively on the doorstep. “I’m Cliff Knoetz.”

“Noted-social-radical-and-literary-critic Cliff Knoetz?” gasped Don gratefully.

“The very same!” laughed the man, with a glint in his heart-stoppingly hazel-green eye. “And the word you’re looking for, is PATHETIC.”

IT’S PATHETIC. PAAAAAAAAAAATHETIC.

PAAAAAAAAAATHEEEEEEETIIIIIIIIC.

Right, THAT’S what I was trying to say. Clive Cussler isn’t content with his hero being, so obviously, a MASSIVE fantasy of himself, looked up to by men, lusted after by women, modest and perfect and everything else. NO. That’s not enough for Clive. Clive has to write his hero-persona into an inescapable trap, and then write in HIMSELF, his actual self, HIM, HE, CLIVE CUSSLER, HE has to be the one who turns up in the nick of time to save himself. HIMSELF. HIIIIIIIIMMMMMSSSSSSEEEEEEELLLLLFFFFFFFFffffffffffffph.

Are you hearing me? I’ve got one word for you, Clive. Listen closely…

Onanism.

Did you catch that?

Actually, this kind of thing does go on (admittedly it’s usually for comic or satiric effect and not as some kind of smug gratuity) so there’s another phrase for this auto-inclusion of an author into his own story, a less pejorative one, well, sort of. It’s self-insertion.

In a way it’s kind of the opposite too, since onanism is more about self-extrusion.

In any case, if you want my opinion Clive’s just been caught red-handed at both. More or less. And I, for one, really wish I hadn’t walked in on him doing it.

X

X

X

Right, that’s it. You can go. I’m finished.

X

X

X

X

X

Shit, yeah. I totally forgot. When Pitt* was all but single-handedly saving everybody, a detail I’m sure he’ll be quick to deny should anyone try to reward him for it, he finds the logo CERBERUS poorly hidden on the enemy ship. I wonder if it’s important. And that brings up the end of Part One. You know what that means…

IN THE UNITED STATES SPECIAL SUPREME OVER COURT
FOR THE FINAL SATISFACTION OF GLOBAL JURISDICTION

X

READERSHIP OF THE WORLD, et al. Xx:
xxxxxxxxxxxx Plaintiffs xxxxxxxxx :
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx :
vs. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx : CASE NO: ZZ9-PLRL-Z-LPH
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx :
DAN BROWN, et al. his novels, xxx :
particularly ANGELS AND DEMONS, x :
xxxxxxxxxxxx Defendants xxxxxxxxx :

x

TRIAL TRANSCRIPT : DAY ONE, MORNING SESSION
X
BEFORE: HONORABLE HOPHGUD TAYSTE xxx
DATE x: September 3rd, 2009 xxxxxxxx
Place : Courtroom No. 2, 9th Floor x
Manila Building xxxx
228 Hazelnut Avenuex
Volcano Headquarters

X

COUNSEL PRESENT:
x
CLIFF KNOETZ, DVLS ADVC
xx For - Plaintiffs
X
RAY NASGON, ESQ
IGAN CHARLES CLEARLY-NOWTHER, ESQ
WEGHAT D'VUNCK, ESQ
xx For - Defendants

X

NOU MENON, ABC, 123 xxx
OFFICIAL COURT REPORTER

X

----------------------------------------------------------------------
THE COURT: I hope you've all got a good night's rest - let's make this
a day to remember, eh? We'll begin with opening statements. What's the
usual convention on this - Prosecution first? Defense first?
x
MR. KNOETZ: I think an accusation is usually made before someone tries
to refute it, your Honor.
x
THE COURT: There's some sound logic in that, Counsellor. Mr. Nasgun?
x
MR. NASGON: I can't help feeling that, if this is to be a name-making
case for you, your Honor, with respect you'll have to start having an
impact right from the off. Nothing screams "stamp of authority" like
bucking the trend.
x
THE COURT: Hmm. Very well, Counsellor, let's hear it for the defense.
x
MR CLEARLY-NOWTHER: Woo-hoo!
x
MR. KNOETZ: Er -
x
THE COURT: Overruled. And no cheering in court.
x
MR. KNOETZ: Your Honor, please - I was only going to draw the Court's
attention to the fact that the defendant is not present.
x
THE COURT: Oh, good Lord, you're right. Mr. Nasgun, where the hell's
your damned client?
x
MR. NASGON: If it please your Honor, Mr. Brown has requested that he
be tried in absentia.
x
THE COURT: Mr. Knoetz?
x
MR. KNOETZ: It seems only appropriate. He writes the same way.
x
MR. NASGON: Objection!
x
THE COURT: Fine, fine, get on with it.
x
MR. NASGON: Thank you, your Honor. Your Honor, if it please the Court,
my client stands accused of a crime he did not commit. Of course, that
is not to say that he didn't actually write the text in question, but-
x
THE COURT: Hang on. Did he or didn't he?
x
MR. NASGON: I - he - he did actually write it, your Honor, but-
x
THE COURT: I have to say, Mr. Nasgon, that given your reputation I
rather expected you to do a little better than that. We seem to have
skipped the entire trial and gone straight to an admission of guilt.
Er... come to think of it, did we ever actually read a plea into the
record? Or state the charges for that matter?
x
MR. KNOETZ: No, your Honor. I was going to mention it, mainly because
you didn't.
x
THE COURT: Okay, okay. Let's see. I know I've got the thing around
here somewhere. Right, right, got it. Let's have a do over, yes?
x
MR. NASGON: Yes please, your Honor.
x
THE COURT: Okay then. Dan Brown, you stand accused on four counts of
literary forgery, to wit: "the creation of a manuscript bearing the
apparent but fraudulent aspect of a novel", with the example entitled
"Angels and Demons" being held as representative; fifty-one counts of
cognospheric pollution, by means of their translation into many world
languages; and finally, of authorising filmed propaganda based upon
these forgeries, which in turn retain the same objectionable content
masquerading as plot, narrative and characterisation. Further, and
contrary to legal good manners, you are on the verge of publishing
another forged novel as we sit here in judgement upon you - which I
don't like at all. These are serious charges, sir. How do you plead?
x
MR. NASGON: My client pleads not guilty on all charges, your Honor.
x
THE COURT: He's not publishing another novel?
x
MR. NASGON: No, he is - that's - that wasn't one of the charges.
x
THE COURT: Humph, yes, you're right.
x
MR. NASGON: Further, your Honor, my client considers these charges to
be representative of a category error, that "comparative quality of
style and content" are not valid grounds for accusations of literary
fraudulence. He therefore insists that, as Plaintiffs in the case,
the world's readership pay all his legal costs for the rest of time.
x
MR. KNOETZ: That's pretty much the case already.
x
THE COURT: Settle down. Okay, Mr. Knoetz, your opening statement.
x
MR. NASGON: Hey, what about mine?
x
THE COURT: You've had your go, Mr. Nasgon - Mr, Knoetz, proceed.
x
MR KNOETZ: Thank you, your Honor. If it please the Court - Dan Brown
is responsible for more misery than the Catholic Church. I make this
startling claim in the knowledge that, while it has inflicted on the
world an unprecedented degree of suffering, not only the many readers
of books around the globe but even the Catholic Church itself have
been powerfully offended by his work. This in itself is not a crime.
However, while presenting to the world what appears to be a work of
legitimate fiction, Brown in fact is faking it. These are not books,
ladies and gentlemen of the jury, except in their superficial physical
nature. No. They are an affront to the very mind. They are forgeries,
carefully designed to fool a gullible population into believing they
have bought a novel but which, when put to use, dangerously fail any
test of their function. The Defense will have you believe they employ
a solid structure, one so solid as to form the unchanging backbone of
each and every new Dan Brown title; but they are clearly manufactured
from inadequate materials, without due consideration for the mental,
emotional and perhaps even physical safety of the eventual end user.
In the long days and weeks to come we will show, on many levels, the
depths to which Dan Brown will not hesitate to sink in his relentless
assault on Literature, that noble bedrock of all culture. Thank you.
x
THE COURT: Thank you Mr. Knoetz. Well, I can't speak for everybody,
but I'm famished. Shall we break for lunch?
x
MR. NASGON: Your Honor, I was hardly finished and-
x
THE COURT: We got the gist, Mr. Nasgon, don't you worry. Court will be
adjourned until, later... waiter?
[COURT IS ADJOURNED]
----------------------------------------------------------------------

x

_______________________
Nou Menon, Doh-Re-Me, 
Official Court Reporter

x

The foregoing certificalation of this transcript does not apply to any
reproduction by any means unless under the direct control and/or
supervision of the certifying reporter.

I’ve got a few minutes before I’m due back in court, so I thought I’d wallow in nostalgia for a while and pick up Valhalla Rising again – it feels like sweet years since I’ve even thought about it.

Change of approach to the sea monster from now on, because life is too short to go through it chapter by page. Instead, we’ll have a plot summary of a reasonable subsection of the novel, examining a particular theme or detail as we do.

Ready? Here we go!

When we left our herpes, Dirk Pitt® had just unexpectedly lubed up Al Giordino in his cabin – but this is going to be left unexplored territory for now, because there is actual unexplored territory to be, er, explored. Charged with locating the sad wreckage of Emerald Dolphin, Pitt® and Al prepare to dive to the very bottom of the sea to find her sunken bones (I’m almost shedding a happy tear to be back with all these familiar friends). How will they achieve this? First by introducing a new poorly named friend in Sea Sleuth, an “autonomous underwater vehicle” (AUV, or “a swimming camera”), with which they find the wreck on their very first try, delve inside her and discover that the reason for her so rapid sinking was due to explosives – sabotage!

This is more of a revelation to them than to us, since this has been an established fact for about 130 pages. Having their target in sight, Pitt® and Al prepare to investigate first hand in the Abyss Navigator, a clumsily named four-man submersible, to find the proof they need. First they must select someone to join them on their trip to the bottom – and to prove that one woman is worth two men they select Misty Graham.

Ah, Misty.

Misty was a petite woman, full of fire and vinegar which sounds like a yeast infection to me. Her black hair cropped short for easy maintenance on board ship, she might have looked boyish disgusting if she didn’t have well defined construction Ah: titties, good. With light brown eyes under a pert little nose and soft lips, Misty had never been married thus proving herself a failure as a female.

So, down they go – in only the most literal of manners, mind you – nosing around in the wreckage and, on their very first try (again), discovering a mystery object at the site of the fire’s outbreak that will prove to have been the cause. Not a bad day’s work – but when they get back to the surface there is no sign of the Deep Encounter… they have been abandoned at sea…

…in fact, it’s worse: Deep Encounter has been hijacked! With the only competent men playing around at the bottom of the sea, a high-speed vessel arrives, a band of armed villains trick their way on board and take everyone hostage at gunpoint. The characterisation is typically villainous –

The hijacker did not look like a pirate, no peg leg, parrot or eye patch.

– demonstrating that Cussler understands his readers are not of the under-eight age group. So – what are two men and one unmarried woman going to do while they wait for death on the high seas, in a single-room submersible ,with no food or fresh water, no emergency flares – nothing but the lithe warm bodies that god gave them?

Well, improvising sources of food and water, they do everything but the obvious (apart from die), even though they have no way to flag down the rescue plane that fails to spot them, no doubt dooming them without hope.

“Then how will they ever find us?” Misty asked, her resolve beginning to crack. After a week of eating nothing but fish and going toilet with two sailors within arm’s reach, I’m not surprised.

Pitt® gave her a comforting smile and hugged her. “The law of averages,” he said, totally misunderstanding the concept. “They’re bound to catch up.”

“Besides,” Giordino chimed in, “we’re lucky. Aren’t we pal?”

“As lucky as they come. Now ram me, you Italian stallion.

Misty wiped a glistening eye, straightened her blouse and shorts wow, she really was worried and ran a hand through her cropped hair. “Forgive me. I’m not as tough as I thought I was.”

I can see why she lives alone, panic-stricken bimbo like that, her parents should have been sterilised. However, with things looking so grim for our beloved champions, their creator, Clive Cussler, having arranged a situation for them so dire that no logical escape can possibly be conceived – rescue arrives! Hearing the sound of classical music floating across the waves one night, they wave their failing flash light and scream for help – and just as it seems the passing ship will pass like a ship in the night, it turns.

The captain of this heroic vessel is quite a striking figure – in fact, you may wonder why I didn’t mention him in my run down of such naval characters a few months ago.

He was a large man, the same height as Pitt® but fifteen pounds heavier. He was also thirty years older. His grey hair and beard gave him the appearance of an old waterfront wharf rat. His, naturally, blue-green eyes had a glint to them, and he readily smiled as he examined his catch.

He welcomes them on board, ready to give them everything they need – but the first thing Pitt® wants is to report the crisis’s to Admiral Sandecker.

The old man nodded. “Of course. Come on up to the wheelhouse. You can use the ship-to-shore radio or the satellite telephone. You can even send e-mail if you wish. The Periwinkle has the finest communications systems of any yacht on the water.” The Periwinkle, eh? Sounds like baby talk for one’s wee-wee to me. Given their skill for naming boats these two should get on like a house on fire.

Pitt® studied the old man. “We’ve met before.”

“Yes, I suspect we have.”

“My name is Dirk Pitt®.” He turned to the others. “My shipmates, Misty Graham and Al Giordino.”

The old man warmly shook hands with all. Then he turned and grinned at Pitt®.

“I’m Clive Cussler.”

X

…speechless.

IN THE UNITED STATES SPECIAL SUPREME OVER COURT
FOR THE FINAL SATISFACTION OF GLOBAL JURISDICTION

X

READERSHIP OF THE WORLD, et al.xxx:
xxxxxxxxxxxx Plaintiffs xxxxxxxxx :
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx :
vs. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx : CASE NO: ZZ9-PLRL-Z-LPH
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx :
DAN BROWN, et al. his novels, xxx :
particularly ANGELS AND DEMONS, x :
xxxxxxxxxxxx Defendants xxxxxxxxx :

x

PRE-TRAIL TRANSCRIPT : JURY SELECTION
X
BEFORE: HONORABLE HOPHGUD TAYSTE xxx
DATE x: September 1st, 2009 xxxxxxxx
Place : Courtroom No. 2, 9th Floor x
Manila Building xxxx
228 Hazelnut Avenuex
Volcano Headquarters

X

COUNSEL PRESENT:
x
CLIFF KNOETZ, DVLS ADVC
xx For - Plaintiffs
X
RAY NASGON, ESQ
IGAN CHARLES CLEARLY-NOWTHER, ESQ
WEGHAT D'VUNCK, ESQ
xx For - Defendants

X

NOU MENON, ABC, 123 xxx
OFFICIAL COURT REPORTER

X

----------------------------------------------------------------------
THE COURT: Well, it's taken us some good years to finally start this
thing so I'd like to try and get down to action as soon as possible.
I expect to make my name with a landmark ruling on this, so if we
could be finished before "The Lost Symbol" hits the shelves I'd be
one damned happy man.
x
MR. NASGON: So would we, your Honor.
x
MR. KNOETZ: Just so long as you have your black cloth with you.
x
THE COURT: Let's not try second guessing my big moment, thank you.
Besides, I don't think we even do that in this country.
x
MR. KNOETZ: Of course, your Honour. My apologies.
x
THE COURT: And by the way, Mr. Knoetz, this is America, so if you
don't want to be found in contempt before proceedings get under way
you'd better lose that English English spelling habit. It makes me
feel like you're undermining my linguistic authority.
x
MR. KNOETZ: Yes, your Honor.
x
THE COURT: That's better. Now, we're going to need twelve peers for
Mr. Brown if we're ever going to bring this to a satisfactory close.
Shall we bring out the first jury?
x
[PROSPECTIVE JURY MEMBERS ARE SEATED]
x
MR. NASGON: Your Honor, we have absolutely no objection to any of
these Jury candidates and move that they be sworn in wholesale.
x
THE COURT: Mr. Knoetz, do you have any objections?
x
MR. KNOETZ: I wouldn't mind asking a few questions first your Honor.
Provisional #1, could you state your name and occupation please?
x
Provisional #1: My name is Hal Phuit. I'm a literary reviewer for
Publishers Weekly.
x
MR. KNOETZ: I see. And have you ever read or reviewed the alleged
novel "Angels and Demons" by Dan Brown?
x
[COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANTS APPEAR TO SHAKE HEADS SURREPTITIOUSLY]
X
PROVISIONAL #1: I... er... In fact, I believe... I may have, yes.
x
THE COURT: Oh, I say. That's an unfortunate coincidence.
x
MR. KNOETZ: Isn't it. Provisional #2?
x
PROVISIONAL #2: Er...
x
MR. KNOETZ: Name and occupation, please.
x
PROVISIONAL #2: Stew Perdidd-Yott. With the San Francisco Chronicle.
x
MR. KNOETZ: Book reviews, by any chance? "Angels and Demons"?
x
PROVISIONAL #2: Er... yes.
x
MR. KNOETZ: Like it much?
x
[ENTIRE JURY APPEAR TO SHUFFLE IN THEIR SEATS UNCOMFORTABLY]
x
MR. KNOETZ: Your Honor, looking at this list it rather appears as if,
by that astonishing coincidence you mentioned yourself, every single
one of these twelve men and women are in some way connected to the
reviewing of popular literature and, further, have all written rather
glowing reports on "Angels and Demons" by Dan Brown.
x
THE COURT: Well, that's quite a turn up, don't you agree, Mr. Nasgon?
x
MR. NASGON: ...quite.
x
MR. KNOETZ: If it please the court, I'd like to move that we chose
jury members from a Shakespearean Simian Infinitude. If it would take
an infinite number of monkeys the total duration of the universe to
write the complete works of Shakespeare, twelve of them should be able
to rattle off a single Dan Brown before the end of the month.
x
THE COURT: That's some damn fine reasoning, Counsellor. Motion passed.
x
MR. NASGON: Objection!
x
THE COURT: Overruled. Jury will henceforth be selected at random from
a representative population of all monkeys from the infinite design
space - for the sake of philosophical convenience, let's say whichever
ones are currently residing in the nearest zoo - and be appropriately
prepared for trial via the provision of diapers, etc. Court will be
adjourned until... the next scheduled date, for opening statements.
x
[COURT IS ADJOURNED]
----------------------------------------------------------------------

X

_______________________
Nou Menon, ABC, 123 
Official Court Reporter

x

The foregoing certification of this transcript does not apply to any
reproduction by any means unless under the direct control and/or
supervision of the certifying reporter.
ddxxxxxxxxxxxx

I abandon my laboured song-inspired post titles, at last, because I’m also abandoning Matthew Reilly’s Seven Ancient Wonders. At least for the time being. I will now provide minor justifications for this drastic action, in case all the others weren’t reason enough.

Super-

Adding the word “super” to other words doesn’t make them super. It makes the author sound like a child. Knowing he isn’t one, it makes the author sound like a dick. When that inlet was described as having super-deep walls I wanted to slap Reilly silly. There are other examples. The final straw was his describing the armour-piercing bullets as being “super-lethal” – fuck me. Good thing he didn’t go into advertising. “Don’t settle for more – have extra-more.” This is pathetic writing on a piddling-small scale.

Interestingly, however

Throughout the book (okay, okay, the first half anyway) Reilly punctures his text with sentences starting Interestingly comma, or Curiously comma. However comma. “Fine, comma, whatever” says I. In the third chapter, several characters are sat around a table waiting for that vital meeting and one starts reading a briefing kit entitled “The Golden Capstone”. Guess which words, which phrase structures, feature. Reilly has only one narrative voiceeven a text within his narrative employs the same voice.

He – he just – he can’t – he – he. It’s. I mean.

If you asked Matthew Reilly to write a shopping list, would it read like one of his novels?

That, of course, is a rhetorical question.

The god-damned mother-fucking Italics

I didn’t mention this in the previous post, but the following truly is the reason why I’m calling a halt and moving on. I’ve made the point about Reilly’s spectacular misuse of italics already. However, comma, in The Battle Of Guantanamo Bay chapter the big stupid stealth jumbo jet makes its landing on an unusual improvised airstrip. After describing Gitmo’s wiry horrors, Reilly concludes:

It is a forbidding installation, one of the bleakest places on Earth.

And yet after all that, only 500 metres from the Camp’s outermost razor-wire fence is something you would find only in an American military base: a golf course.

It’s that golf course they land on, naturally. Now, I know what Reilly means. I know he doesn’t mean to suggest that all of Scotland is one massive US military base, even though you can’t turn left there without someone screaming Fore in the distance. He means to say not that golf-courses are only found on military bases, but that they are –

…something you would only find in an American military base…

– thus, by italicising, emphasising an essential difference between US and Non-US combat facilities. So, after littering his writing with misplaced, misinformational italics, when he actually needs to use them… he doesn’t. I would have more sympathy if, due to carpal tunnel syndrome, his little finger kept dropping on the Shift key and half the novel was in block capitals – but italics have to be used by conscious choice. Reilly goes out of his way to call his own consciousness into question.

Yes, I admit it, I’m still just having some fun at the guy’s expense, but there are proper reasons why I feel a longing for something that (comparatively) soars to the levels of quality demonstrated by Dan Brown – even, to a lesser extent, good old Clive Cussler. My feelings about both of them are well documented here, their many dire failures of characterisation, plotting and prose – but at least they demonstrate the barest bones of what it takes to be a writer. Matthew Reilly has set a benchmark for inability that would turn away even the most flexible of literary limbo dancers.

In a way I feel admiration for him. Reilly has achieved what I and many other amateurs can only dream of – he writes for a living, and what he writes is read by many. In a much greater way, though, I feel contempt. He can put words on a page and he can tell a story, but only in the most superficial of ways. This happened and this happened and this happened and this happened. Often with exclamation marks, onomatopoeia and unnecessary swearing! Twat! Shit! Boof! This happened!

A large proportion of this contempt I feel is reserved for Pan Macmillan, or Macmillan, or whatever they want to be called – how can a publisher possibly consider this worthy of release? I presume they open manuscripts before acceptance, and in what I’ve actually read of 7AW there has been only one spelling error for example – but no competent editor can have assessed this and not found it horribly wanting. The comedy exploding of this pamphlet to book proportions is the final cynical cherry on the turd trifle – take my last paragraph and hit carriage return three times before every capital letter to complete the picture. It stinks of fear, either on his part or that of Pan McDonald’s, that some of Reilly’s fans might realise they are paying too much money for too little ink.

That there is a fan base out there to worry over is dismaying in itself. Reilly’s success far outstrips his skill – and don’t mistake all this criticism for genre snobbery either. I’m all for a good thriller, I love science fiction, give me bit of horror any day of the week – but I expect some craft as well as imagination. Reilly barely has even the latter, but when it comes to craftsmanship I wouldn’t trust him to nail his thumb to a door. Unless there were zombies approaching the other side of it.

So, you know what? I can’t be bothered.

Instead I’m going to reminisce, but in my old age the dates and years grow hazy, so bear with me. When I was (let’s say) ten, I started to read a Harry Harrison novel called Star Smashers of the Galaxy Rangers. I was young and I didn’t see deeply enough into it to recognise it as a work of satire. All I saw was cliché and, for the first time in my life as a reader, I put a book down unfinished. I was glad to do so. It sat on a shelf for a long time, glanced at and passed over with disdain, until, faced with a family holiday and a minimum of six hours in the back of the car, I deliberately picked it up again – specifically so I could say I’d never left a man behind, no matter how incompetent he was.

Of course, it turned out to be great. Affectionate parody of the sf genre, positive mockery of social conventions like race, gender, sexuality, etc. etc. I read it cover to cover by the time we arrived (at a farm in Wales) and finished it with a smile on my face. I know with certainty that Seven Ancient Wonders could be read in that time, probably twice over – but I also know that my only grin at the end of it would be a rictus.

Leave no man behind.

I’m not at all sure I’ll tell the chopper pilot to turn back for Matthew Reilly – but if we do happen to swing round again, maybe I’ll take pity and unload a full clip at him.

As a mercy.

For us all.

Fuck this crap, I’m going to read Angels And Demons.

Never thought I’d say that.

I skimmed over the plot of the last chapter, which is good, because the next was so short that I can make up for the omissions and still not have to trouble anyone with heavy reading this time round.

It ended with a couple of revelations. The first was that someone in the team must be a traitor. This deduction was made due to the impossibility of the American forces finding Hamilcar’s Refuge as hot on their heels as they did. This raises the possibility that Stretch the Israeli, the latecomer to the team  – who’s mutually (and rather dodgily reillised) racist antagonism with Pooh Bear the Arab makes him the far-too-obvious culprit – may be the culprit.

If I felt even the slightest attachment to the narrative I might be interested in reading on to discover whether Reilly is clumsily setting up a double-bluff by having one of the others be doing the dirty instead (my guess would be Air Monster as he’s hardly raised his head so far), or whether he is simply painting this guy (and himself to a certain degree) as pointlessly racist so we won’t mind when West blows him away after all.

How much more I shall be reading will shortly become the subject of more attention.

The second reveal was of the team’s next move. During the escape West manages to take photographs of the vital secret messages hidden on the Capstone Pieces, so the plot can lumber on towards its next set piece. Unfortunately these messages fail to provide any workable clues when translated, so West hatches a plan to recruit the world’s leading Capstone Piece Expert. As someone says, maybe they should have done that sooner.

The big twist, which the following chapter deals with in a mere fourteen pages, is that this expert has been a prisoner at Guantanamo Bay for several years – so the team prepare to bust him out! However, what strikes me as a little odd is that this figure is no victim of injustice – he is called Mullah Mustapha Zaeed and is, apparently, a clinically insane psychotic terrorist qualified teacher of fundamentalist Islam assassin – feel free to clean up that string of words in whatever way you like.

So this means that West and Co. are not just in the business of dooming the globe to a short period of devastating climactic disasters, on the grounds that the alternative – allowing America or Europe to “rule the world” via the power of ancient Egyptian sun magic – would be worse, a proposition which would probably earn them a place in a padded cell if they mentioned it publicly; but that in order to achieve this dubious goal they are willing to liaise with terrorists. Ethical nose-dive there then.

Today’s chapter, “The Battle of Guantanamo Bay”, is pretty straightforward. The jumbo jet flies straight into Cuba, dropping off West (and Zoe, although she only seems to be involved so she can wear a “tight form-fitting bodysuit” that “brought out the best in her slender figure” revealing that she “was beautiful and fit“, so I’ll not mention her again) wearing the same little winged-backpack he used in Tunisia and lands in the base. While the Americans are distracted by it (more to follow) West blows the roof off Zaeed’s cell with Semtex, offers him a get out of jail free card, then flies his swivel-eyed prize back to the jumbo and they all escape without so much as a scratch. Tah-dah.

I have to congratulate Reilly for resisting the temptation to load Gitmo up with Ancient Cuban booby-traps, but the brevity with which “the most heavily fortified military base in the world” is penetrated and fled from rather shows what happens to his imagination when he is forced to abandon his fave subject. I’m only going to detail one thing about the big distraction scheme that allows West to do his ethically questionable thing. Just after he jumps out of the moving plane we are told that the rest of the team are ready in the Halicarnassus’ weapons turrets –

Their six-barrelled miniguns were currently loaded with super-lethal 7.62mm armour-piercing tracer rounds–but they had special instructions from West as to what to use later, when the battle got really hot.

Did I mention that stupid name of the plane before? Well it doesn’t matter, but that’s what it is. A few pages later, when they have landed and 3,000 US troops go pouring out to surround the plane –

…a withering volley of gunfire erupted from the Halicarnassus‘s four revolving gun turrets.

The volley of bullets slammed into the Recon Marines, sent them flying backwards through the air, slamming them into trees and vehicles.

But they weren’t dead.

The bullets were rubber bullets, like those West and his team had used in the quarry in Sudan.

West’s instructions to his team had been simple: you only kill someone who wants to kill you. You never ever kill men who are just doing their job.

This is pretty rich coming from West, as in the previous chapter the villain finds one of his drivers and four guards “shot to bits. Their blood covered the walls of the hold. All had got their guns out–but not a single one of them had got a round off“. All in a day’s work for Jack West Jnr. Slaughterer of men just doing their job.

As for right now, all that flying rubber is the sum total of gunfire that takes place, which seems to suggest that those armour-piercing bullets were only in the guns before they landed to give them something to hurry over after they landed. Or maybe to make it appear that the goodies were going to ruthlessly massacre thousands of wholesome American soldiers in their heroic quest to free a fundamentalist terrorist.

I can’t help thinking that Matthew reilly didn’t think too deeply about all this before he started typing. And it’s for this reason that…