Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Chameleon: The Wrath of Garde

The Chameleon: The Wrath of Garde
Jerry LaPlante
1979 Zebra Books

"Like you, he's mad as hell and not gonna take it anymore!
"He's the Vigilante of Toady!  The Bond of the 80s!  And the Hulk of Tomorrow"
He's Vance Garde, the mild-mannered, scientific engineering genius, who as a child hero-worshiping the infamous 007 and Incredible Hulk. Now, over twenty years later, aroused to a fury by the slightest injustice, he changes into the ruthless, deadly vindicators know as the Chameleon.
A rude remark, an annoying glare, it does not take much to set him off. To suddenly transform him from his usual non-committed self into a one man army hell-bent on revenge! His schemes are outrageous. His equipment is unique. To his colleagues he is a dedicated innovator. To the ladies he is the original Macho Man. And to his enemies he is an attack force to be eliminated, or avoided at all costs!
If you're ready for change!"
I don't know where they get the Hulk business from, aside from getting mad a couple of times.  Tony Stark is closer to the mark, as Garde is a womanizing industrialist.  At no point does he act or is called the Chameleon.

In college, his father was murdered, the suspects never caught.  That's a thread presumably left to be picked up in later volumes.

His young half-sister OD's on drugs and Garde uses his fortune and company of gadget making scientists to track down the South American drug lord that supplied her.

Wrath sits uncomfortably between men's adventure and the Ted Mark style James Bond sex farce that it never quite becomes, despite having characters named Handjob, Peter Bent, and Ball You Anus.

He's joined by a feminist scientist, the aforementioned Ballou Annis.  As this is a 1979 men's adventure novel, feminist means loud-mouthed and sexually nondiscriminating, and in Anus' case, borderline sociopathic.  While written as a free spirit, it comes across as juvenile lashing out against the minor inconveniences of life, like a snooty restaurant that dares to act snooty, or a rude customer service rep.  Garde employs her juvenile revenge tactics in his campaign, though mainly he just does it with her.  Because nothing says Women's Lib like banging your boss.

There's a lot of sex in Chameleon, but even as a male fantasy it falls a bit flat, in that the "original Macho Man" only manages to bed women who are paid for it: two of his employees and a prostitute.

More sex than action, and in the action Garde emulates a Bond villain, creating sadistic death traps.  It drags desperately during the climax.  You know you're in trouble when the raid on the underground base is the most boring part of the novel.  Did I mention there was rock climbing?  Rock climbing.

The book is annoyingly in first person, which showed its limitations every time I started to get used to it.  Case in point: after a martial arts fight is described, Garde has to explain how it was told to him later, and by a third party translating at that.  Even the denouement was glossed over because Garde wasn't there to see it.

I appreciate that it's something different in the genre, but it was neither conventionally good, nor unconventionally weird enough.

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