They Eat Puppies, Don’t They?

Christopher Buckley’s latest irreverent satire tackles US-China relations. As a master humorist and satirist Buckley weaves various convoluted plot threads into a fast-paced story. However, They Eat Puppies, Don’t They? lacks the literally laugh-out-loud moments I’ve grown accustomed to from reading his previous works.

Protagonist “Bird” McIntyre is charged with fomenting anti-Chinese feelings in America by his boss in order to prepare the country for the unveiling of their super top-secret project Taurus. To help him, Bird enlists Angel Templeton, a stunning woman and the intimidating “directrix” for the Institute for Continuing Conflict. Their close proximity while plotting media manipulation—and Dalai Lama assassination—leads to a steamy extramarital affair. With his marriage and his job on the line, Bird must learn how to balance all these elements in his life that have slowly begun to grow awry.

The perspective jumps around to other key players like the leaders of China (who have purposefully confusing monosyllabic names—Fa, Lo, Han) and NSC director Rogers P Fancock. The sheer number of characters at times feels more congested than a Dickens novel—and the names are equally absurd—but there is a flow to the storytelling that makes it all bearable and interesting.

This is definitely one of Buckley’s weaker novels; but, even at his weakest, he’s still a more superb writer and humorist than so many other authors. His excessively astute vocabulary makes even the drollest of characters seem ironically intelligent, and the best part is that he manages to make it work well. If you’re looking to jump into the Buckley oeuvre then start with some of his sharper books—Thank You For Smoking, No Way to Treat a First Lady, Florence of Arabia—before tackling this book; but if Buckley is old hat for you, then this Asian outing will be a nice reminder of Buckley’s skills.

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