Plugged. Eoin Colfer.

Colfer, Eoin. Plugged. Overlook, New York 2011. F; 9/13

The enthusiastic and usually astute ladies at the Sechelt bookstore took their eye off the ball on this one. In fairness it was a salesperson I’d never met before and I guess when you take somebody’s advice you have to live with the consequences. I’m glad I didn’t ask about future interest rates or where to go on holiday.

Rough and ready big boy Daniel McEvoy is your military-trained and therefore invincible superhero who’s just one of the guys rolling along as a casino bouncer until he stumbles into murder, organized crime, corrupt police, arrogant sleazy lawyers, and a variety of girlfriends. The excitement is always a verbal version of Schwarzenegger or comparable somersaulting his way out of one impossible situation after another. Danny boy wisecracks with charming false humility through scene after scene, gesturing to what we are expected to take as an inner life by references to a hard-drinking and golf-buddy psychiatrist he’s seen, and subconscious comments by an old hair-transplant doctor friend who functions like one of those angels on the shoulder of Goofy or Donald Duck.  And unbelievably unlikely though it all seems with the mess of trouble he gets into, Dan finally solves the mystery, saves the lives of everybody still around, and in place of anything that might rescue us from embarrassment we get the kind of happy ending that used to satisfy 8-to-11-year-olds at the Saturday movies.

Our Irish cartoon Superman reminded me of the kind of hero Michael Thomas created in Man Gone Down, except poor Thomas was being serious. This author is laughing at his character, who is in turn laughing at himself.  And that could have been interesting, except that there’s nothing to the plot and character but thriller violence, below-average intrigue, and phoney introspection so the self-parody just boomerangs and amounts to a dead end.

Yes, I did finish the thing for the same reason I have stayed awake to the end of innumerable bad movies: to find out what happens. It’s like, for a pathetic suspender of disbelief like me (there I go, being ironically self-deprecating just like big Dan), having invested the time and realizing 10-20% of the way in I’m on the back of a garbage truck, I can’t get myself into a mood to cut my losses and jump off to go clean the garage or answer e-mails.

Evcn if we grant one level of depth to this derivative nonsense, in the end it’s just emotional cheap garbage masquerading as artistic cheap garbage. I think I’ll pass on Screwed, his other bestseller. 2.5/4.3.

About John Sloan

John Sloan is a senior academic physician in the Department of Family Practice at the University of British Columbia, and has spent most of his 30 years' practice caring for the frail elderly in Vancouver. He is the author of "A Bitter Pill: How the Medical System is Failing the Elderly", published in 2009 by Greystone Books. His innovative primary care practice for the frail elderly has been adopted by Vancouver Coastal Health and is expanding. Dr. Sloan lectures throughout North America on care of the elderly.
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