Book Review: Big Apple Takedown
A friend of mine gave me a WaldenBooks gift certificate for my birthday, and while that's an awesome thing to give a guy who likes to read a lot, let's be honest: We all knew I was just going to spend it on the literary equivalent of cheap liquor and whores.
That was the plan, anyway, until I found myself in my local bookstore looking at what is undoubtedly the single greatest work of fiction ever produced in the English language.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you...
You're probably going to want to buy this immediately, because this book will not only change your life, but once we all embrace it, it will serve as a written guide to a new golden age, the likes of which have never been seen. And how do I know this?
Allow me to explain with the ad copy from the book's back cover (with my emphasis added, naturally):
Vince McMahon steps out of a snowy night into a diner in upstate New York for a meeting with old friend Phil Thomson, now a highly placed government official. Thomson has a strange proposition: creating a new covert black-ops group using the Superstars of World Wrestling Entertainment
The description goes on, but I'm going to go ahead and stop there because that is literally everything you need to know about this book. And as of this writing, "Pro wrestlers as undercover NSA agents battling drug dealers funded by vaguely European terrorists" has officially joined "rocketed to earth from a doomed planet" and "gorilla with a jetpack" as one of the greatest high concepts of all time.
As the jacket text points out, professional wrestlers are naturally suited towards work that requires a lot of travel, as their work takes them all across the country, and "no one would find it unusual to find them in a town one day and gone the next," although I've got to say: If you want any spying done on Monday, Tuesday, or one Sunday out of the month, you're pretty much out of luck. Still, though, it's a solid plan.
Except for that whole thing where these are undercover agents who are on television every week and known primarily for their distinguishing physical characteristics. I mean, if it were the Brooklyn Brawler, sure, but half these guys have been in movies. Fortunately, writer Rudy Josephs addresses this right up front: When he poses as an underworld security expert to infiltrate Dietrich Masterson's sinister methamphetamine operation, Triple H manages to avoid having his cover blown by slicking back his hair and putting on a pair of glasses.
Aside from infiltration expert/Cerebral Assassin Triple H, our ersatz A-Team is also made up of: Vince McMahon, who--in what may be the most thinly-stretched metaphor I've ever written--functions as the Charlie Townsend for our group of Sports-Entertainment Angels; John Cena, who goes so far as to drop his "You can't see me" tagline before choking a generic mercenary out with his legs, like Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon; Chavo Guerrero, whose computer hacking skills are hilariously employed throughout; Torrie Wilson, who is hot; and Batista, who not only thwarts a terrorist plot, but overcomes his own fears in the single best use of claustrophobia since Storm stopped freaking out every time she went inside.
That scene, incidentally, wherein Chavo and Batista have to sneak under the terrorists' recondition Brooklyn Warehouse via the sewer, provides me with my second-favorite line in the entire book, which comes right after five long pages of Batista forcing himself to climb down a ten-foot ladder:
"For not the first time in his life Batista cursed his size, wishing he had more of a cruiserweight build like Chavo."
I can't explain why, but it cracks me up every time.
My actual favorite line in the book? Easy:
"'I totally understand,' Torrie said, as if she totally did.'"
Sadly, with all this boundless perfection, there was bound to be a drawback somewhere, and while I was prepared for the unfiltered pandering to the audience by establishing the villains early and almost unbearably often as pretentious loudmouths (as opposed, of course, to honest, hardworking salt-of-the-earth wrestling fans), I wasn't ready for--and I can't believe I'm about to type this--a thoroughly dismal lack of violence.
Seriously: You have a book where pro wrestlers are fighting drug dealers. There should be, at a bare minimum, a Figure-Four Leglock applied no fewer than once every three chapters. There's some brawling towards the end, of course, but even that lacks the obvious embellishment of having the wreslters dispose of the enemies of our country using their signature finishing moves! I mean really: If Wesley Snipes can suplex a vampire in Blade II, then Triple H ought to be able to drop a Pedigree on somebody over the course of 277 pages.
But instead, Rudy Josephs only works in a Torrie Wilson dropkick to an assailant in an alley, Batista applying the Sleeper Hold to a meth dealer, and a couple instances of the tag-team classic, The Meeting of the Minds, which anyone who has ever seen the Three Stooges should be passingly familiar with. That's it. Three moves. You'd think Hulk Hogan was writing it.
Anyway, despite the lack of a single chairshot, the Superstars end up, as you might expect, saving the day and riding a commandeered train full of smuggled AK-47s to their gig at Monday Night Raw, and everything works out okay. It's a bold finish, and it not only caps off one of--if not the--most inspirational books I've ever read, but it also sends a strong message to the vaguely-European, meth-dealing enemies of America: If you attack us, we will pretend to fight you.
If neccessary, we will pretend to fight you to the last man.
If you didn't take your opportunity to follow the above link, you're not only missing out on your chance to buy Big Apple Takedown, but you're also missing out on some of the best user reviews that site has ever produced. Personally, I'm partial to these two.
First, "MikeSC," of my own home state of South Carolina, offers this:
In my life as an English Professor, I have had the joy of reading any of a lare selection of classic books, brilliant treatises on the human condition, and some of the most brilliantly revolutionary prose that hallmarked the great movements in human history. I feel, though, that my faith in literature has been increased to a level I truly did not feel possible after reading this book.
It is truly rare when a book changes your life in a fundamental way. For some, the Bible was their path to a new and better life. Others feel that Paine's Common Sense is a truly great piece of political propaganda that tries to raise humanity to a higher level. Others, on the other hand, are partial to Karl Marx's Communist Manifesto.
I say "A pox on ALL of these houses".
Like a very special episode of "Walker, Texas Ranger", WWE's "Big Apple Takedown" manages to simultaneously make one weep at the emotionally taut imagery, laugh at the rapier-sharp wit, and contemplate the deep, inner discussions of the soul that are the hallmark of sweaty guys with questionable drug habits.
And, honestly, the book is a little infuriating. Why IS the government wasting its money paying for a military with many nuclear missiles when ALL that is needed to save the world from evil and chaos are the occasional errant chair shot, a knee to the groinal region, followed by an overly elaborate finishing sequence?
The decision to use WWE superstars --- "wrestlers" does not remotely do legends like HHH justice, let's be frank --- to sniff out a drug cartel is the kind of inspired genius that makes lesser authors like Poe weep in their beer. You didn't see George Orwell use imagery as subtle as a glistening body of pure, pent-up, moderately eroticized squashing drug kingpins in 1984, did you?
I tell you, next to this book, Madame Bovary has as much plot as a 3rd grader's book of Mad Libs.
I, personally, enjoyed the discrete reference to another classic of American literature --- "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind", with a plot that, bluntly, ripped off this book's plot in the most diabolical and sinical of manners.
Kudos to you, WWE. You have clearly demonstrated that the dramatic masterpiece that is the average episode of RAW is not an accident. This is the book that makes one appreciate the subtlety of a good fart joke or an unexpected "puppies" reference. I can only hope they keep Mr. Josephs on the payroll to produce storyline that can even approach this level of inspiration.
...which is immediately followed by this review, courtesy of "MATT":
I HAVENT FINISHED READING THIS BOOK YET BUT I AM CLOSE TO FINISHING IT. THIS BOOK IS ABOUT 6 WWE WRESTLERS(BATISTA,CHAVO GURREO,TORRE WILLSON,JOHN CENA,HHH,AND THE OWNER OF THE WWE VINCE MCMHAON) JOIN A SECRET AGENCY CALLED THE NSA. THERE MISSION IS TO TAKE DOWN A BIG DRUG RING AND THEY ALL GO UNDER COVER TO GET ENOUGH EVIDENCE TO ARREST THE PEOPLE IN THE DRUG RING AND THE PERSON IN CHARGE OF THE DRUG RING. THE BOOK IS GREAT AND IT HAS LOADS OF SUPENSE. AND I HEARD THE ENDING WILL SUPRISE YOU. IF YOUR A WWE FAN(LIKE ME) BUY IT. OR IF YOU ARE NOT A WWE FAN YOU SHOUD STILL BUY BECAUSE YOU WILL LOVE IT.
Both, of course, offer up a rating of five stars.