IF THE WOMEN'S romances reviewed above suggest
that current woman's fantasies include the desire to get power and manipulate it, these two male adventure stories suggest that modern men feel manipulated and threatened by forces beyond their control.
Giri and The Shattered Eye both seem to descend from Trevanian's number-one best seller, Shibumi, which was the subject of an interesting New Yorker piece, and described the confrontation of Eastern metaphysical philosophy and martial arts with Western computerized technology. In Shibumi, a huge computer secretly controlled most of the world. The hero was pitted against it and those who followed its commands. His skills were those of the oriental fighter/philospher. At the end of Trevanian's book, the hero had conquered the computer, but knew that his conquest was only temporary. Technological society would get him in the end. Much of the book was not concerned with plot, but rather with a discussion of values: a meaningful life involved personal integrity, which by its very nature meant extinction by technology. Giri and The Shattered Eye each take up different segments of the Trevanian book, and attempt to carry them to their limit. (This is not meant to imply that the books are clones. Ultimately, one can find a source for any book. The point is that the issues raised in Shibumi are still very much alive.)
Which book is the most enjoyable depends completely on the interests of the particular reader. Giri has more blood and guts, while The Shattered Eye is more concerned with global issues. Giri is a straightforward, simple tale: High Noon at the world's most important karate match. Manny Decter, a New York City policeman, served in Vietnam and becathere is firme interested in oriental martial arts. He fell in love with a "mysterious oriental woman" and became an aficionado of Eastern culture and warfare. Manny uses his skills for good, but his double, Robbie, has become involved with the underworld-- which in current novels stands for a sort of Mafia/government combination. Inevitably, Robbie is called upon to kill Manny's love. He does, and rapes her as well. Thus, the confrontation is set up: the two men will inevitably meet in a showdown at the O.K. Corral. They do, in a well-written karate match, which is described with skill and keeps the reader on the edge of the chair. Along the trail leading to the final confrontation, we learn a good deal of oriental philosophy, and it is to Marc Olden's credit that these discussions never get in the way of his fast-moving plot.
The Shattered Eye, written by the author of The November Man, hinges on the unreliability of the computer spy networks built by both the Western bloc and the Eastern to monitor each other. "Tinkertoy," the United States' ultimate spy machine, is producing contradictory information. We learn later that the Russians' comparable machine is doing the same. Are the computers malfunctioning? Are they inevitably going to bring on a world war? Can a mere human being diagnose and resolve these problems? Well, not an ordinary one. Many bodies are buried before the American intelligence community has the foresight to turn to Devereaux, the November Man, and send him out on his own as an unlicensed agent, to resolve the problems. If the November Man seems a little mechanical and machine- like himself, perhaps this is just what is needed in today's society to take on a computer. The plot moves fast, the writing is good. But I kept asking myself: Why doesn't someone, perhaps the president, just pick up the hotline and say something like "Boris, we've got a little problem with our spy computer. How's your's running? Should we exchange electricians?"
The new women's romances suggest that women are striving for power as much as love. These men's action adventure stories imply that this goal has become irrelevant.