Thursday, May 17, 2012
Reading List: Soft Target
- Hunter, Stephen. Soft Target. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2011. ISBN 978-1-4391-3870-0.
This has to be among the worst nightmares of those few functionaries
tasked with the “anti-terrorist” mission in the West who
are not complacent seat-warmers counting the days until their retirement
or figuring out how to advance their careers or gain additional power
over the citizens whose taxes fund their generous salaries and benefits.
On the Friday after Thanksgiving, a group of Somali militants infiltrate
and stage a hostage-taking raid on “America, the Mall” in a
suburb of Minneapolis (having nothing to do, of course, with another
mega-mall in the
vicinity). Implausibly, given the apparent provenance of the
perpetrators, they manage to penetrate the mall's
system and impose a full lock-down, preventing escape and diverting
surveillance cameras for their own use.
This happens on the watch of Douglas Obobo, commandant of the
Minnesota State Police, the son of a Kenyan graduate student and
a U.S. anthropologist who, after graduating from Harvard Law
School, had artfully played the affirmative action card and traded
upon his glibness to hop from job to job, rising in the
hierarchy without ever actually accomplishing anything. Obobo
views this as a once in a lifetime opportunity to demonstrate how
his brand of conciliation and leading from behind can defuse a
high-profile confrontation, and thwarts efforts of those under
his command to even prepare backup plans should negotiations with
the hostage takers fail.
Meanwhile, the FBI tries to glean evidence of how the mall's security
systems were bypassed and how the attackers were armed and infiltrated,
and comes across clues which suggest a very different spin on
the motivation of the attack—one which senior law enforcement
personnel may have to seek the assistance of their grandchildren to
explain. Marine veteran Ray Cruz finds himself the man on the
style, and must rely upon his own resources to take down the
perpetrator of the atrocities.
I have a few quibbles. These are minor, and constitute only marginal
spoilers, but I'll put them behind the curtain to avoid peeving
the easily irritated.
Spoilers end here. (Hide Spoilers)
- On p. 97, FBI sniper Dave McElroy fires at Ray Cruz, who he takes to be one of the terrorists. Firing down from the roof into the mall, he fails to correct for the angle of the shot (which requires one to hold low compared to a horizontal shot, since the distance over which the acceleration of gravity acts is reduced as the cosine of the angle of the shot). I find it very difficult to believe that a trained FBI sniper would make such an error, even under the pressure of combat. Hunters in mountain country routinely make this correction.
- On p. 116 the garbage bag containing Reed Hobart's head is said to weigh four pounds. The mass of an average adult human head is around 5 kg, or around 11 pounds. Since Hobart has been described as a well-fed person with a “big head” (p. 112), he is unlikely to be a four pound pinhead. I'd put this down to the ever-green problem of converting between republican and imperial units.
- Nikki Swagger's television call sign switches back and forth between WUFF and WUSS throughout the book. I really like the idea of a WUSS-TV, especially in Minneapolis.
- On p. 251, as the lawyers are handing out business cards to escapees from the mall, the telephone area code on the cards is 309, which is in Illinois. Although I grant that it's more likely such bipedal intestinal parasites would inhabit that state than nice Minnesota, is it plausible they could have gotten to the scene in time?
Posted at May 17, 2012 22:53