"The World on Fire" Book Review
Written by Karin Crighton
Published by James Ward Kirk Fiction
Written by Sheldon Woodbury
2015, 200 pages, Fiction
Released on August 6th, 2014
Louis Sedah has broken out of maximum-security prison, freeing with him eight dangerously psychotic men to aid in his plan to set the world ablaze. FBI Agent Locke Wright must battle the clock and his own demons to stop him, but can he reach Louis and save kidnapped tabloid journalist David Milton in time?
If this synopsis reads like a two-liner for a brainless action movie, you're right. This book was born to be made into the terrible, soulless violence you've seen over and over again on screen. In fact, the writer is an adjunct NYU Professor, teaching Developing the Screenplay, which is why I'm comfortable giving this a 0 star review. He should know better. (And to be fair, he emailed me as someone who "enjoyed reading your reviews".)
I don't even know where to start with this fucking book. How about the blatant misogyny? Here are some direct quotes:
- "The young woman had blazing red hair down to her waist, wasn't wearing much else, just a 36DD peek-a-boo bra, a ripped short skirt, black basketball sneakers."
- "He was in his seventies, with tangled wisps of bone white hair...Two girls in their teens, wearing only their underwear, appeared at his sides, with the same strange faces."
- "She stumbled up to her feet, stood for a moment in the swirls of smoke, still dressed in her drab schoolteacher clothes. She started swaying back and forth, shaking her hair, and her drab outer clothes began to come off."
- "A slutty looking waitress in a leather mini-skirt and black bra put a glass with green liquid on the table in front of him." (She is called a "slutty looking waitress" no less than four times.)
- "She looked like a Playboy centerfold, but without the cheery girl next-door quality, unless you lived next door to a strip club."
If you don't think reducing nearly all the women to sex-crazed or sexually abused groupies is misogyny, you need to look up the word in a dictionary. I say nearly all the women, because Woodbury saves the "smart" ones for another purpose: subservience. When Wright's wife attempts to comfort him during the final phases of Sedah's plan, she is not an equal but a child:
"Locke, I'm scared. Everybody is so scared." Her voice was small, like a little girl. "I try not to ask you about your work, because I know that's what you want..."
Described as a brilliant Harvard graduate, Agent Akane Himura is nonetheless infantilized by her superior Wright:
"Agent Himura, what's important about what he just said?"
She thought for a few seconds, going over the scant information in her head. "Fire, he's going to start burning things again."
She's not a student – she's an agent. While she may be green, she's not a moron. He treats her as a lesser while she follows him around like a goddamn dog he needs to housebreak. As often as the author writes she's incredibly beautiful, he points out it doesn't matter because she's exceptional and wants to be the best. Then he mentions her looks again. "...the beautiful Asian girl who for some crazy reason wanted to be an FBI agent." I quote that in the context of her thinking people reduce her, coincidental since her creator has already done that.
The men don't fare much better, but that's probably because they have no personalities. The backstories of each criminal are allotted one chapter and then they become automatons following Sedah. The stories aren't closed; there's plenty of room to use them for character growth, but Woodbury can't be bothered. Sedah himself develops very, very, very little. His acts of violence grow more bizarre but his internal monologue is repetitive and uninspired. Reporter David whines and worries about his daughter and wife but tries to escape just once. The rest of the time he follows Sedah around happily lapping up the clichéd bourbon. It's lazy.
Speaking of lazy, this book could have been researched with Wikipedia. He mentions "midday traffic on I-95", but I lived in Baltimore and regularly commuted to DC and Virginia and have no idea what he is talking about. Is there construction? A diplomatic procession? Why is there midday traffic? David's daughter Jess has a "rare blood disease", which is never named or explained. Could the author not be bothered to watch one afternoon of Discovery Channel? Mystery Diagnosis is pretty good.
It's no wonder American movies are getting worse, it's because this mindless, violent, misogynistic writing is so easily published when it belongs in the fucking garbage.