In an attempt to gain congressional approval for a top-secret weapons system, Washington lobbyist "Bird" McIntyre teams up with sexy, outspoken neocon Angel Templeton to pit the American public against the Chinese. When Bird fails to uncover an authentic reason to slander the nation, he and Angel put the Washington media machine to work, spreading a rumor that the Chinese secret service is working to assassinate the Dalai Lama.
Meanwhile in China, mild-mannered President Fa Mengyao and his devoted aide Gang are maneuvering desperately against sinister party hard-liners Minister Lo and General Han. Now Fa and Gang must convince the world that the People's Republic is not out to kill the Dalai Lama, while maintaining Fa's small margin of power in the increasingly militaristic environment of the party.
On the home front, Bird must contend with a high-strung wife who entertains Olympic equestrian ambition, and the qualifying competition happens to be taking place in China. As things unravel abroad, Bird and Angel's lie comes dangerously close to reality. And as their relationship rises to a new level, so do mounting tensions between the United States and China.
Buckley takes on another hot-button political issue in his latest satire. Returning somewhat to the Thank You For Smoking model, he presents "Bird" McIntyre, PR functionary for another unappealing lobby: arms manufacturers. His employers, Groepping-Sprunt, have a solution without a problem: a secret defense system, related to a near-future China, that is threatening in its ascendance authoritarianism, and ownership of American debt, if not actively dangerous. The company hopes that Bird's fomenting of anti-China sentiment will mean appropriations. His attentions soon turn to an ailing Dalai Lama, and a complex game of manipulation involving the upper echelons of the Chinese and American governments is afoot. Buckley has a smart grasp of the issues and plots a convincingly byzantine series of machinations, maintaining a light tone while discussing topics like state-sponsored assassination and drones. He's at his funniest when describing Bird's efforts to complete his hackneyed quartet of political thrillers, a self-aware move that revels in thriller clich s like the irresistible "blond, buff miniskirted" co-conspirator. There are a few sags and predictable twists, but overall this is a well-built addition to Buckley's oeuvre.
A good read
Perfect for a plane ride.
The writer gave me plenty of "vocabularic" gems, but the story seemed not to have a consistent tone. It seemed pieced together and not as fluid a tale as it could've been (some things are not always as perfect as they are).
It was not a bad read, I wouldn't say not to read it, but I wouldn't enthusiastically encourage either.