Test of a good thriller

The test of a good thriller is suspension of disbelief: am I having such a good time that I don't hear the voice of common sense in my head? You know the moment, when a James Bond type gets a break between being shot at and blown up and dropped from a great height. Instead of doing the obvious, he persists in trying to save the world single-handed.

The voice of reason used to say, 'No, no, you idiot, call the police!' (That was in the days of Agatha Christie, when we could assume that fictional police were mainly goodies.) Then for a few decades the voice of reason said, 'No no, call the media!' One fax to Reuters or even the local paper, I'd think. And now the voice of reason says, 'Put it on a blog. ' The whole world will know, and villains lose the incentive to demolish you.

The Windsor Conspiracy had me thinking blog thoughts even though the premise had potential: that the British royal family had a secret, shonky finance company, and frequently used a double for Prince Charles. Author Mike Ponder had fun with the idea, and many characters got shot.

The Eagle's Throne by Carlos Fuentes won't allow any character to out the villains on a blog. The plot begins with the total collapse of Mexico's communication system. In an attempt at instant globalisation, Mexico entrusted management of television, radio, telephony, wireless communications and the Internet to a US company. Oops, the company was a slave to the Pentagon, and meltdown ensued when Mexico offended big brother.

Our modern communications system has suffered a grave paradox. On the one hand, we have strived to become part of the largest global communications network in existence. On the other hand, we have wanted to monopolise access to information for our government's benefit.

That's right: you can't have it both ways, although China is giving it a try. I'm only up to page 48 of The Eagle's Throne, but if I get into hot water, as I will do (vicariously through the Machiavellian heroine Maria del Rosario Galvan), I already know that I can't escape by telling toxic secrets on a blog.

Thriller writers don't want their fun spoiled by technology. Cellphones are a threat to plausible plotting, but fortunately they are easily lost. Blogs are powerful players, but Fuentes has gone to extremes to rule that out. What's not credible is that the main characters revert to writing letters. But hey, it's a great read so far.


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