Technothriller Games

The role of video games in the decline of the technothriller cannot be discounted. Beyond this, looking at just how closely they matched is fascinating to me.

The first (Splinter Cell) is very unsurprising. The plots of the first few Splinter Cell games match the themes and formats of contemporary technothrillers almost exactly. What else would you expect from a game bearing the “Tom Clancy’s” name?

The second (Metal Gear) is a little trickier, thanks to Kojima’s er, “eccentricity”. The technothriller influence is still definitely there, and at least the original, more grounded Metal Gear Solid is still not that much worse, if at all, than some of the more out-there entries in the genre (which definitely exist).

Review Cravings

My latest Fuldapocalypse “craving” was thrillers written in the 2000s. As it was not a good decade for that genre (for reasons I’ve explained before and might explain again), why did I go there? It didn’t feel like I wanted a change of pace, as they were stylistically similar in large part to what I’d been reading before and after.

My review craving for low-list 2000s thrillers was probably because I wanted to see “were any worthwhile?” and “if they were bad, how were they bad?” And the answer can be seen in the reviews themselves.

Boom Boom Goes The Tank: Plotnukes

In my latest Sea Lion Press column, I finally have the opportunity to talk about one of my favorite technothriller pet peeves-“Plotnukes”.

Plotnukes are a kind of “I know it when I see it” term for the use of nuclear weapons in a highly contrived way. The Birmingham-for-Minsk “trade” in Hackett’s The Third World War and similar events in imitators is what I consider the poster child of such a thing.

The Changing Face of the Cheap Thriller

I had the joy of reading Bradley Mengel’s Serial Vigilantes of Paperback Fiction. This was an annotated chronology of the type of mass-produced Mack Bolan follow-on novels. Like “progressive rock”, the style of book, which has been called everything from ‘men’s adventure’ to just ‘action-adventure’, is very hard to define. Mengel calls them “serial vigilantes” and leaves out a few edge cases while including some I’d think were oddballs. Literature does not neatly fall into categories.

Still, I could see two clear phases. “Phase 1” was kicked off by War Against The Mafia and the Executioner, spawned countless “The ________” vigilantes, and spanned across the 1970s. “Phase 2” was in the 1980s and, like its technothriller cousin, declined quickly and sharply after the USSR’s fall. There was surprisingly little overlap between the two outside of the big-ticket franchises. Of course (at least before the independent boom), Mengel shows that kind of book reduced to a few sputtering, short-lived series formed after 1991.

But really, the cheap thriller itself, as opposed to that specific kind, was not failing. I know this myself-the Dirk Pitt (Clive Cussler) and Jack Reacher (Lee Child) books I found even as a youth speak to that. These were/are cheap thrillers with premises and action that range from “ridiculous” to “really, really ridiculous”. They were in the bigger supermarkets and they were right in the prominent bookstore shelves, while the surviving mass-produced Gold Eagle novels sat in awkward corners.

Serial Vigilantes itself, though dry, is a very interesting book and I recommend it to anyone interested in such fiction.