First World Problems in an Age of Terrorism and Ennui
Think about sitting within the confines of a room with no windows, no wall decorations and one laptop computer as your main source of entertainment and company. Imagine this airless room with no way to escape. Life brings us many difficult situations and all too often we feel stifled, alone, dejected and look for ways to be noticed. But, what happens when one young man named Tyler, decides to shake it up just a bit but not in a conventional manner. What happens when someone works at a dead end job that holds no real challenges or future, where the boss refuses to present him with more work or any real responsibilities and your co-workers dish out some piece work or grunt work to you just to keep you busy and away from them. Tyler is the main character in First World Problems who decides to great a blog that would help terrorists in their quest to take down whatever country, city or state they so desire. Hoping to build and establish a community for radicals on a website he calls Choas, Tyler’s approach to life and the system is quite unique.
Getting to know Tyler we begin to understand that much of what he does is to verify that he even exists. At work he is just someone that takes up space but rarely gets anything done. Within his relationship with his girlfriend Ann, he is just there but does not seem as an active partner. Speaking about their days he injects what he does, some sarcasm involved and although she is a corporate lawyer, her life seems bland and her description of her day lacking emotion. Trying to find meaning in his life, even trying to take on some new challenges Tyler’s energy is misplaced as he becomes consumed with this blog that would help anyone that wants to become full fledged terrorist succeed. The setting is Washington, D.C Torn between working and making a difference of just riding his girlfriend’s coattails, Tyler’s battle within himself has yet to reveal a winner.
Each chapter begins with his blog, his idea to create some type of terroristic event that would definitely do more than shake things up. At the beginning of one chapter he even asks those interested in pairing up with others in the same field that want to blow up, destroy or create some terrorist plot if they want to meet others or need assistance to join the site and add his/her email. He will match the subscriber up with another one interested in the same things. Almost like terrorist.com. or match/terrorist.com. Scary, to say the least.
As we learn more about Tyler and his friend Jason we hear their conversations with they go to bars, have dinner or just meet. Each one seems to want to outplay the other. Tyler seems to just want to be noticed and gets angry when women ignore him or he does not score any attention. Ann, his girlfriend seems to have him under her thumb as he waits for her nightly call to pick her up at work, needs her permission to go out and have fun, yet if Tyler gave himself half a chance he just might be surprised.
From cancer scares, to bombs, throwing nails in the middle of the road to prevent the military from sending help, to all sorts of ways to create Choas including some type of bio-warfare, Tyler’s creative mind if found out by the wrong people, just might send him into hiding. In one chapter, which I found hilarious, he explains how you can become anonymous to some degree by not giving out your first or last name but by calling yourself FNU LNU. To find out what that means you have to read it for yourself to appreciate what he’s saying the humor behind it. The author really brings to light many issues in this novel. Tyler has low or poor self-esteem. Tyler seems to be an underachiever in many respects because he’s become too complacent and does not or care to be challenged. Creating this website seems to be his passion and way to get noticed. But, what will happen if he is noticed and those that notice him believe what he’s writing? Many of the arguments presented by the author are in Tyler’s imagination. He fantasizes situations where he attends protests, quits his job, they try and convince him to stay and imagines perspective employers at interviews asking him the right questions to make sure he is right for the job. Most times he does not focus on work but on his “passive, morose behavior,” he is a defeatist in many respects and never feels that things will succeed. Preparing for the WTO protest he decides what to wear, what he will do and hopefully will be in the middle of a riot. When things don’t pan out Jason, his friend does not seem too upset where Tyler becomes enraged.
Taking his blog quite seriously, Tyler refers to CHOAS HQ as if it were a real place and the organization set to help you, the reader of the blog, prepare yourself in case you are about to run a revolutionary government. He even questions your commitment as you hear both Tyler and Ann discuss this in depth in Chapter 15. Now, for those readers that never realized it, Tyler does relate in detail how to take down America’s Infrastructure in the beginning of Chapter 16. Some of these little prologues are quite frightening to say the least and the author’s research or experiences in working in bioterrorism and as a policy analyst for the U.S. government I imagine his job and his expertise helped him when writing this book.
Tyler meets a young girl in a coffee house named Molly and decides to try his hand at doing more than just flirting with her he actually practices, drafts and then sends her an email thinking she would never respond. Thinking she did not care, well not that much anyway, he created his own version of what she did when receiving the email and her entire day. He wanted to think he set a trap for her or anyone else to come to him. The end result after all of his fantasies and Molly doing the same trying to figure out what he said and how to respond, the email she sent on page 119. You figure it out!
Chapter 17 will tell you the reader how to be a self-reliant revolutionary as his next lesson to help you in your quest to become a revolutionary. He even describes within that chapter being with Ann that does not sound very challenging, exciting or even meaningful. At times you might think he’s just going through the motions of living. The next blog focuses on Hard Currency Shortage and I should add that beneath each lesson or heading he allows readers or prospective revolutionaries to know how many people he will need to complete the task, the danger level, arrest level and even the equipment needed to pull each event off.
Car bombs, Ricin, the terrorist’s best friend, going to Molly’s apartment, their interaction, their odd conversations and Tyler worrying about Ann and thinking she might be wondering where he was, not relating anything to Molly about Ann, what will the final outcome be? We hear Tyler’s innermost thoughts in paragraph three on page 159 where he is with Molly and wishing that Anne tried harder with him. Tyler at that moment felt trapped. The rest of the paragraph is quite enlightening. The discussion about terrorists completes the chapter as he and Molly get into many different discussions that he and Ann never would even telling her about his terrorist group: CHOAS.
Things begin to fall apart in his mind and Tyler decides to go to Mexico thinking that people there would pay more attention to him, he could get meds to make him feel better. Tyler, in his own mind thinks that he is an expert on most things and that in Mexico meds are easy to get and prescriptions written for whatever you want. Pharmacies described, trying to work up the nerve to ask for Prozac the end result you have to read for yourself.
When all of the interactions are completed and even Ann and Molly meet the author presents the viewpoints of each character. We get to know Jason first as he describes what happens on Sept. 11, 2001 at the Pentagon. Then, we learn about the Towers, the smoke, and the news his reaction to the collapse of both towers. Jason knew what happened but wanted to see it first hand. Lines were dead in DC. Taking a camera with him to the scene, lots of people on the streets and everyone on cell phones. What he describes will remain in everyone’s mind forever. Next, we get to meet Ann and hear her story that never realized anything happened until the Internet went out. We hear her thoughts, her feelings and harsh realizations to what happened on Sept. 11th. Telling readers what she was supposed to do that day, trying to call Tyler from work, remembering she and Tyler were supposed to go to NY for the weekend. Molly’s story is next followed by Tyler’s as he realizes that things might not go so well if someone reads his blog, thinks he might have something to do with what happened that day and he plans to leave. Will they tie him to the plot? The reactions of the characters are quite different and Tyler’s out of the box. Deciding to visit his childhood hometown, Tyler remembers his past and just might begin to understand what is important. Will he be able to reconstruct his life? He is just lost?
Ann, Jason, Molly and many others care about Tyler but does he care about himself? Fleeing, panics, and thinking that no one in the terrorist organization would pay attention to him he decides to go home. How does this all end and what happens to Tyler? Find out when you read First World Problems in an Age of Terrorism and Ennui by Dominic Peloso. You won’t be disappointed. Individually and vividly depicted characters each blending with Tyler in their own unique way this book present and brings up many issues when one young man is bored with life, disgruntled, unhappy, poor self-esteem and just wants to be noticed. What do you think of how he goes about it? Quite interesting!
Fran Lewis: reviewer