Wednesday, June 14, 2006

"Recruited"- Book Club Review

Ok, so let me just start off by saying that I was very happy to get back into the early life of our favorite heroine. It was so much fun to learn more about Sydney's college life and how she and Francie met. However, I may be alone, but I was a little dismayed in the beginning to see Sydney as such a wishy-washy floundering person. But then I realized that this was the Sydney we never knew, the Sydney before she found her purpose and her drive in life as a spy trying to save the world one bad guy at a time.

Interesting that the book starts off with Francie saying the words, "You are not normal" to Syd regarding her unusual course schedule and how many difficult classes she is taking. She most certainly is you normal, typical college student, but she does not know why yet. Here we already see in the first paragraph that Sydney is a good student and a hard worker, good insight into Sydney to those who never watched the show (are there any)? We learn a lot about Sydney and Francie in this book that we never learned from the show. Sydney is very shy and put off by her encounters with the opposite sex, and actually gets laughed at and embarrased by Dean, her classmate who she secretly has a crush on. Can you see the Sydney we know from the show actually standing around while she is being made a laughing stock of by a man? Not without being followed by one of Girlscout's favorite Chuck Norris round-house kicks, and a great one liner!

We see the young Sydney floundering, lost and stuggling with who she is and who she is supposed to be. She tries to get a job with Francie in a restraunt as a waitress, but that goes south the first day, when after not even completing a full shift she throws coffee on an obnoxious customer after he makes unwanted advances toward her. Those moves are not ones that just come to the normal person, but they are the first signs of her possibility and promise in the CIA. I thought it was odd that she wasn't taken back by the fact that she even knew how to do those moves, but I digress.

And then the moment we all have seen in the opening credits of the show for so many years, and is later recreated in the finale. Sydney is approached by a Mr. Wilson, a recruiter for the CIA. He has been watching her and has taken notice of her athleticism, study habits and lack of boyfriend and friends (and therefore distractions), a perfect match for the CIA. He gives her a card which she tries over the course of the next several days to dismiss and even throw away, but cannot stop thinking about. She slowly starts to realize that she may not want to be a teacher as much as she thought, but maybe just has a connection to the mother she never knew. She knows that teaching is just not exciting her and isn't giving her that fulfillment she knows it should. So after hearing the promising story of her good friend Todd and how he pursued his dreams, finally getting the break he had been waiting for, Sydney decides that she should at least consider calling Mr. Wilson about the job. We again see her athletic prowess after she nearly escapes being tossed into the back of a garbage truck when she decides to rescue the card from the dumpster, after Francie unknowingly takes out the garbage. Once again, she uses moves that a veteran CIA agent would use to get out of a life-or-death situation! Sydney calls the phone number on the card and is told to come to the Credit Dauphine office, the name of which still gives me the shivers. There she finds a file with everything anyone has ever wanted to know about her, and she realizes that maybe this isn't all just a mistake, they have been watching and studying her for a long time. She is taken through the world of SD-6 and of course accepts the job. After working for Credit Dauphine for a little while, Francie states that she sees a big difference in Sydney, more confident and postive. She seems happier and more sure of what she's doing, we, however, know this is because she was trained and molded from childhood for this job.

Enter Jack (Jonathan Bristow). Sydney calls her father to tell her about her job and maybe even hoping for a pat on the back from her father, something it sounds like she never really got from him. He of course, being the Jack Bristow we know and love, wants her to get straight to the point and asks her if she just wants money. After getting her feelings hurt by her father again, she decides that she doesn't need his approval and tells him to keep his money. At SD-6 Sdyney starts to realize that she is getting the things she never got in life and always wanted, acceptance, approval, and a feeling of purpose. People are listening to what she has to say and appreciate her insight and thoughts. She moves up fast in the organization and impresses all of her superiors. And then she meets Arvin Sloane. She is told by Sloane and Wilson that SD-6 is a black ops division of the CIA, and is immediatley given an assignment to take pictures of a concert with a bracelet with a camera in it (one of Mashall's designs no doubt). She is then whisked away by Raul Sandoval's henchmen backstage and told, not asked, that he wants her to attend his private party at a hotel. This was not in the plans, and she begins to wonder how much trouble she has gotten herself into? Has the danger of this job already caught up with Sydney?

So that's it, the first half of the prequal. What did you all think of the book? Does it fit in with the overall theme of the show? What were some of the similarities and differences in Sydney and the other characters from the book and the show? What do you think about the glimpse we got into the life of Sydney before the new chapter in her life began in SD-6? And what about Sloane? Okay, go, let's hash this out! Tell me what you all thought.


Tammy said...

Great job Jenn! So far my only comment is this:

I totally agree with you about being dismayed by Syd's lack of confidence, etc. at the beginnings. It is hard to separate the kick-butt, take charge Syd we know from this younger version. Pre-SD-6, she was very quiet, mousy, and not at all self-confident.

I can relate though - as I was very quiet, and lacking confidence in my late teens/early 20s. Now, with lots of work, I am much more confident and definitely not quiet! (I can't kick butt like Syd...)

One question - when did Sydney meet Will? He hasn't shown up so far. I can't remember! Francie is the only presence that really seems familiar (aside from Spy daddy of course!)

jenn256 said...

I'm glad you agree about the Sydney we first meet, I was first thinking that this was not going to be anything like the show and I was going to be disappointed in the book, but then I realized that we never got to know Sydney before SD-6, except for brief flashbacks. SO I guess she was unsure of herself and what her purpose was, and I think we can all say that maybe we've been there. I remember in high school feelig like that, all of my friends knew what they were going to college for, and I had NO IDEA! So it's funny that they made her so accessable. and yes, and I was wondering about Will and Danny also. We know from the finale that she meets Danny through Fracie's boyfriend Charlie, so I guess that comes later. And then I suppose Will comes after that, but I'm not sure of the exact chronological order of who she meets first. Does anyone remember that? I was wondering how closely they would stick to the storyline, and I can totally picture Merrin Dungey in my head whenever the book refers to Francie- good Francie of course, and not evil Allison Dorin!

Robetron said...

I haven't read the book, so maybe I shouldn't comment, but there does seem to be an inconsistancy. In the finale, there is a scene when Syd reveals that she has started work with Credit Dauphine and Jack has a fit. It appeared to me like she was trying to pay him back for money she had received during college, which seemed to me to be a graciously given gift, not a point of contention between them. Am I misunderstanding the scene you describe?

RE: Syd's mousy-ness. It fits with her profile, if you have watched the show from beginning to end. She has grown in maturity over the years, just on the show, not to mention the seven year prior. Its a natural progression. We also see Rachel going through this same process in S5. She started out completely self-conscious, but we saw how "Empire Strikes Back - cool" she was when she handled that guard that was going to kill her and Marshal. The last we hear of her she is in a deep-cover op somewhere, and Dixion didn't want to pull her out.

I hope you all don't mind me commenting.

jenn256 said...

I'm glad you commented Robotron. And regarding your comment about her conversation with Jack, in the book she calls him late one night because she is proud of herself and for getting a job, and despritely wants her father do be proud of her. She never mentions Credit Dauphine at that time, just that it's for a bank, but never gets to go any farther with the conversation because Jack cuts her off by saying that it's late and he has to be up early for a meeting, etc. And at this point she has only had the job for a very short period of time when the phone call takes place, so I don't think she would have had time to save up that much money. So that confrontation about Credit Dauphine must take place at a later time.

As far as her mousy-ness, I understand that it fits into her profile in the show. What I was saying was that it was an odd thing to see, it has been a very long time since we saw her so vulnerable and unsure of herself, so it was nice that they went back to the beginning before she became so confident. It was almost like she had no backbone in the beginning of the book, and while at first I didn't like seeingher that way, it was really more that I wasn't used to it and forgot that she wasn't born with such confidence and self-assurance, especially since her parents weren't there to help her with this.

Kiki said...

I agree Robby- Sydney, even towards the end, still had a shyness or modesty when it came to Vaughn and her relationship with him. Sometimes she acted like a little girl with Jack- when he would make a joke and smile at her-she would give a girly smile or giggle. Her life was never private, it was always open book, because of her job, yet her feeling were always compartmentalized. We never fully knew how something affected her. I suppose that is why I loved the episode in season 4 when she was infected with that weird disease. It made her hear things- things she thought others might be thinking. It was a true look at what scares her and what she fears.

srg-alias said...

I don't have any of the books but I enjoyed reading your overview Jenn, sounds interesting to get a peek at Syd from the beginning. :)

Robetron said...

Thank you for explaining it to me Jenn. That does make a little more sense to me, but I'm still not sure I understand how money became a bone of contention between them in the earlier years, especially considering how much money Jack had stashed away in the storage facilities.

GS - I totally agree aboout the episode 'Nocturne' When I think of one episode that shows the depth of character within Sydney, thats the one, and while a lot of people complained about that ep. I thought it was one of the best.

Shannon said...

Great overview. I read that book a few years ago and have always wondered why they made it seem like she had never met Arvin before. If he and Jack were old friends and Arvin took her in after Irina died and Jack was arrested, why doesn't she remember him. Same question about her telling Jack and the money, etc. My only assumption is that the writers didn't consult the books.

The books are great though I think they stopped putting them out. I think I have them all. I will have to check. Does anyone have the complete list? I loved the books centered around Vaughn. Can't wait to get to those.

jenn256 said...

I likes "Nocturne", but the bug thing creeped me out. That eppie JG really got to delve into acting like she never really had before!

As far as the money, I don't know where that came from either, I don't know why she thought she ever had to pay jack back, he didn't seem like it was ever a loan. Maybe she was just trying to show a more adult side, and show that she was trying to be responsible for herself and not rely on daddy's "airplane parts" money!!!! :)

Shannon said...

I just looked on Amazon and found some new books I don't have. But on a similar topic, did you guys know that Kevin Weisman aka "Marshall J. Flinkman" wrote a book about Alias???!!! It is called Alias Assumed: Sex, Lies, and SD-6. I kid you not! I found it on! Just wanted to share! =)

Kiki said...

Good old Nocturne. Loved it. That and the season 4 opener- awesome eppies. I think Alias had better luck with episodes that start with a cliffhanger and then works backwards to tell the story-hence Sydney on the train hanging off the bridge- to her running through Shanghi and why she was "fired." Same as the Superbowl eppie and the eppy of Dixon threatening to blow everyone up. I think that is why the books are good, it's a glimpse back to better understand what we already know.

jenn256 said...

shannon- GS and I found that book on amazon, I think it sounds fun. We may have to include that in the book club at the end.

GS- I agree about the eppies that go back to tell the story, seems so much more interesting for some reason. I also like when they show syd's version, then when they go back again they show Dixon or Jacks version and why she did the things she did. Like the S4 opener when they were talking in her ear and we didn't know it at the time, then later we saw that she acted a certain way because Dixon or Vaughn told her something at the time about the guy she was with, they told her to stall or something like that.

Anonymous said...

I have this image in my mind from "Truth Be Told", where Syd is marching toward the CIA building, on her way to becoming a "walk-in". Flaming red hair, blood stained mouth, purposeful stride, strong shoulders, Sinead O'Connor soundtrack, almost but not quite brushing elbows with ordinary sweaty civilians in the street, a quiet hero about to pull the pin on the grenade that would eventually bring down SD-6.

It's hard to picture that Sydney Bristow being shy and insecure and unsure of herself and her purpose in life. What a transformation!

God, I wonder if Credit Dauphine is hiring.

Tammy said...

I have the book Alias Assumed: Sex, Lies, and SD-6. Kevin Weissman didn't write it, but he does have an intro for it. It is a compilation of essays about Alias. I haven't read it all, but what I did read is VERY interesting!! Well worth the $ and the time!