Murph's Book Reviews: 2021
They just finished writing 2021, it was, an interesting year. The first thing I want to mention is the plot twist there at the end with Betty White. I think I remember them referencing it somewhere in October. There were some early rumblings about a 100th birthday, but that was more the celebratory aspect of it rather than some ominous unreachable moment. Perhaps it was a red herring. If maybe it was more closely intertwined with the rise of this mysterious Omacron variant, or if the variant was Rho instead. In the greek number system, Omacron is 70 while Rho is 100, so if Rho was coming for Betty White, we would have had an ominous pun to prepare us for what might be. I understand why the writers didn't do this, there was a lot going on, so getting to Rho might have meant speeding up the pandemic in a way that may not have been suitable for future storylines.
The year started off on a high note, in the throws of vaccine celebration. Any good story that begins with good news though has you wondering, what's behind the next door. I loved that, as a sequel, they mixed the excitement over the end of the pandemic and the terror of an insurrection, both carryover storylines. It was brilliantly done. I didn't expect them to then intertwine the two into a common theme of anti-vaccination and claims of a stolen election, both ridiculous ideas. It's a measure of good character building when the two main plot points are handled the same way by the antagonists. On the flip side, I still don't love their decision to have 7 billion protagonists. I can handle things like Spider Man with 3 different Peter Parkers, but that's a much more contained storyline. Do we need so many crazy conspiracy theorists, child abusers, and tyranical national leaders? I can't even tell you how many Kroger employees I ran into this year, and they each have their own name , I can't remember all of you. You can kill two birds with one stone by giving all "essential workers" the same face and name. They're already being treated as expendable and worthless. Combine the subplot of corporations vs workers rights with the reduction of characters names that I have to remember for better comprehension and good world-bilding.
The three acts were underwhelming. New president, president faces challenges, and we want a new president. We've seen it before. The main issue was the inclusion of the Afghanistan plot. I think they wanted that to be from the previous book, but the writers got too immersed in the Covid story and forgot they needed to wrap up that storyline so they just dumped it in middle thinking they could somehow usurp the end of covid and have something completely different take up the second act. Their issue was when after a month we all forgot about it. It felt sloppy and rushed, especially after 20 years, makes me think that David Benioff and D.B. Weiss were part of the writing staff. Then it was just a slow bleed into act three. I'm not sure where the line was drawn, the infrastructure bill, foreign elections, William Shatner going to space. Nobody was really sure how to one up the climax from last year, so they pulled a Virginia Wolfe and traded action for some sort of cerebral, personal hardship flip, meaning that it was the relationships that drove the storyline for much of the last few chapters. The relationship between Russia and the west, the relationship between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated, and the relationship between Joe Manchin and the coal lobbyists who paid for his boat. I must say, that one storyline is setting up for something big down the line, and then to be echoed so loudly in "Don't look up" which might not win movie of the year, but certainly should be nominated for movie of the decade, it was a good callback, reminding us what will be important in successive sequels.
Some other points. Atlanta winning the world series, was a good echo of Biden's win in Georgia, though it took me a while to find the symmetry between cries of a stolen election, and the Huston Astros steeling signs. It's a good mark of subtle mirroring, not taking things too far that drag you out of the story.
I didn't understand all the legal subplots going on, between Rittenhouse and the guys who killed Ahmaud Arbery, and somehow Cosby got released from prison then R. Kelly got convicted a few months later. It might be a nod to the uncertainties of our time, or preconceived notions of events. It kind of has some reminiscences to fake news, but that story was kind of wrapped up with Trump leaving office.
The setup for a fight over abortion is kind of too on the nose for my taste. It may be some sort of fake out, which if so, interesting. There are hints that can go either way. On one hand Mexico and Ireland loosened abortion rules, but plenty of other countries did very much the opposite. I wonder if when they wrote 1973 they were planning this far ahead, or if the era of upheaval in American politics just took them back to that time in search of other plots to recycle.
Most people, myself included, spent yesterday in a haze, so we're going to have to wait a few days to see how the story of 2022 begins. I don't expect anything too crazy or out of the ordinary. The fact that 2021 ended the same way as always, with the bang of fireworks means that I think the writers are planning to get back to a more disciplined, historically minded form of storytelling, though let's be honest, there hasn't been a plotter in a few thousand years. It's going to be seat of your pants storytelling for a while now, better hold on.