Fiction: “Boomsday” by Christopher Buckley

“Can’t tonight. Gotta go back and blog.”

“‘Gotta go back and blog.'” Terry shook his head. “I’m offering martinis and mentoring. But if you want to go home and blog …” He looked at Cass with his “kind uncle” expression. “Excuse me for asking, but do you by any chance have a life?” [7]

It’s like Terry is talking to me.

Boomsday takes place in a currently-fictionalized-but-could-become-true version of the United States in a modern-day time frame. In this alternate universe, Social Security is due to run out oh, about now. Cassandra Devine (the aforementioned Cass) is a publicist-cum-blogger who is really pissed off at the idea that the Boomer Generation which is currently running the country is passing the Social Security responsibility onto her generation, Generation Whatever. So she blogs, and in a fit of pique, she comes up with an idea: grant tax cuts to Boomers who kill themselves at the age of 70, thereby saving their Social Security benefits and making the program financially solvent. She calls it “Voluntary Transitioning.” She is good friends with a Senator from Massachusetts and he takes it to the Hill where it becomes a bill and then it becomes a talking point for the President and there’s some whole big family drama between Cass and her estranged father and look, it’s BORING.

Maybe it was the plot (which sounded a lot better on the backflap), or maybe it’s the fact that I bought a Nintendo DS three days ago and I became completely addicted within two hours, but it took me way too long to finish this book. And more than that, I became disillusioned with the book. Like, it was promising to be this riveting tome about something that somewhat concerns me – the debts associated with our country and the fact that much of the debt the country is currently sitting on will become our responsibility (“our” meaning, not to quote Pete Townsend, “my generation”), but somewhere along the way the plot got away from Voluntary Transitioning and turned into How Someone Runs for the Presidency, with a side-jaunt into Oh Those Wacky Priests, Ordering from a Russian Escort Service.

I think I was so disappointed because it had the promise to be so much better. And don’t get me started on the ending – for all of its faults, and considering how long it took me to get through it, the ending felt rushed, flat, and cheap.

Not only that, but — well, here’s an example. I was reading on my lunch break at work, and I apparently skipped a page. The only reason I found out that I had skipped a page was because I flipped backwards, thinking I had forgotten something that was mentioned. If I hadn’t forgotten about that (minor) plot point, I would never have read pps. 202-203, and it wouldn’t have mattered, because skipping those two pages did not diminish the cohesion and coherency of the plot.

Not to say there wasn’t anything amusing about this book. Unfortunately, the humor only served to remind me of other things:

“This boy is done with suffering! This boy is going to party down and howl at the moon and get laid! I am going to know women! I’m going to know them every which way from Sunday!” [216]

This reminded me of the clip from Arrested Development‘s episode “Beef Consomme” where Buster decided he wanted to become a man. (skip ahead to the 5:00 mark.):

I mean, there is so much in life that I have not experienced! And now that I’m away from Mom, I feel like this is my chance to live. I want to dance! I want to make love to a woman! I want to get a checking account! I want to know what it feels like to get my face socked in! [Buster, “Beef Consomme,” Arrested Development]

The Senator who supports Voluntary Transitioning and ends up running for president also happens to be an amputee:

[The Senator], Cass, and Terry had a heated discussion about whether it was “presidential” to wave artificial limbs over one’s head during speeches. Cass and Terry finally said they’d resign if he did. Randy backed down. After he left the room, Terry said to Cass, “I’m going to Super Glue that thing to his stump for the duration of this campaign.” [263-264]

This rings completely true:

What a country, America. A lunatic asylum, without enough attendants or tranquilizers. [269]

And finally, something that is only funny to me (I’m sure), from a third Presidential candidate:

“That is normally when they hold the presidential debates [in the fall], is it not? Though I imagine we’ll be bumping into each other in New Hampshire and Iowa before then. I imagine it’s very cold in New Hampshire in February. Not my favorite climate. No, no. I am a creature of the South … I suppose I will need one of those puffy parka things from that Yankee store — what’s it called — L.L. Bean? Good day to you again, sir.” [263]

*sniff* Yankee store. Y’know, that kind of offends me like the entire Nancy Whatever plotline from 30 Rock last year. Julianne Moore’s Nancy character was so horrible that it turned me off of 30 Rock almost completely. As if the bad Boston accent wasn’t enough, just painting Boston as completely Irish Catholic and Red Sox-oriented pissed me off.

So, yeah, I didn’t like it. Guess who else didn’t like it?

“So what you’re saying is, you’ve been playing Ratify the Bill with your boy-toy pedagogue who tried to Chappaquiddick you in a minefield, and now you’re miffed because he’s not taking your grand idea seriously enough? Darling, you should concern yourself more with your follow-through and conviction and less with how to curb his premature exposition. Now if you’ll excuse me; my scarf and I have important political matters to attend to.”

Grade for Boomsday: 1 star