If anything needs to have the mickey taken out of it, it’s America’s violent fear of being attacked and its love of new weaponry. Thankfully, Christopher Buckley stepped up to the task. I haven’t read anyone else who has the ability to be cutting and still make stupid jokes to make his readers laugh hysterically. They Eat Puppies, Don’t They? starts with a Congressional committee shooting down funding for a new kind of bomb. To try and get funding for a new project, the company charges their public relations person–Bird McIntyre–with whipping up anti-Chinese sentiment (apparently because people don’t seem to get exercised about the Middle East anymore).
Bird teams up with an Anne Coulter-esque pundit named Angel Templeton (a truly terrifying character) to complete his task. They latch on to the Dalai Lama’s health scare to try and make people think that the Chines government is trying to poison him. It doesn’t go well, but when it turns out the Dalai Lama is actually dying of a rare form of cancer things actually escalate into a tense stand off between the Chinese government, Buddhists, and the American government. I love seeing when people’s intractable position and beliefs end up getting them into sticky situations that just point out their hypocrisy. And I have to admire Buckley’s chutzpah in actually using the current Dalai Lama as a character in his book.
No one comes out smelling very rosy in this book except, weirdly, the Chinese President. Fa Mengyao (not actually the Chinese President but entirely fictional) wants to move China forward socially, and maybe patch things up in Tibet. Years ago when he governed Tibet, he started to realize that repression was cruel and ineffective and, more importantly, wrong. Everyone else in the book is kind of a caricature to serve the purpose of the story.
I really enjoyed this book–so much so that I read it in a day. I was a little unsure when I realized that Buckley was really using the real Dalai Lama. I think everyone can agree that there are few men they have ever been as good as Tenzin Gyatso. I wondered what he would think of this book if he read it, and I think he would be all right with it–especially once he got to the rather amazing ending. I’ve heard he has a great sense of humor.