Shadowed: Chapter 23: This Is It, Part Deux

Lest you think we’ve heard the last of the horror that is Doctor Assface deliberately withholding medical care from atheists so they’ll heal slower, another underground Christian has thought of a way to make the whole thing even more terrible.

Straight wants some advice from Abraham, the head of the Heartland underground.  (It just kills me that I can remember that it’s Heartland, while Jenkins persists in calling it “Michigan/Ohio.”)

A few interesting points:

-Abraham still operates under his code name, while knowing everything about Straight and his life.

-He is also the first person in this series to refer to Straight as “Dr. Rathe.”  But there is so little description of how the characters are speaking that I don’t know if this is supposed to be a respectful acknowledgement of Straight’s Ph.D. in history, or an ironic reference to the simple fact that Straight volunteers at a hospital.

But I’m stalling.  Based solely on Straight’s retelling of the conversation, Abraham concludes that Doctor Slow-the-Atheists “sounds credible,” but that the relationship between he and Straight should be more “reciprocal.”

“And what do I want from him?” [asked Straight]

Abraham offered a weary smile.  “Think, man.  What do we most need?”

“Brother, I haven’t thought clearly for days.  Forgive me and tell me.”

Abraham sighed.  “You say this doctor assured you he doesn’t do any real harm to these patients, which would violate his oath. …”

I see we’re still going along with this fiction that slowing a patient’s recovery by days, perhaps weeks, is not doing any “real harm.”  You guys just keep telling yourselves that, I guess.

“…But surely a percentage of his cases are terminal nonetheless.  It would seem a small thing for him to let you know who those are early enough that you can take advantage of the information.”

“And appropriate their IDs.”

Good, Straight.  Don’t use the word “steal.”  Because stealing is wrong and stuff.

Abraham clapped a hand on Straight’s knee.  “See, you’re not so tired that it has completely clouded your judgment.”

It will never stop blowing my mind that Jenkins doesn’t see how monstrous this all is.  These are supposed to be the GOOD GUYS.  The GOOD ones.

***

Meanwhile, a far less monstrous man, Ranold, has been named “interim head of NPO USSA.”  So he heads to the White House (or rather, just to the West Wing, since the rest of the place was destroyed during WWIII and Atheistopia was too busy curing cancer to rebuild).

Jenkins once again manages to confuse himself a bit here—the governor of the Columbia Region (hey, at least he didn’t call it “Washington, D.C, Maryland, and Virginia”!) was the last vice president of the United States, yet his duties are “largely ceremonial,” yet it was his decision to name Ranold as the head of the entire CIA/FBI…

I’ll admit I don’t get it.

Anyway, Ranold likes the guy much more than Ball Dangler.  And despite Ranold getting a bit too big for his britches and interrupting the guy (“Haywood Hale,” if you please), he manages to save himself, and it is strongly implied that Ranold and Haywood are, at the very least, more simpatico than Ranold and Dangler.

***

Meanwhile meanwhile, Pudgy Jack is having a meeting of “the elders” of the underground, complete with flipchart, with Bible verses allegedly greenlighting his brilliant flood-the-entire-planet-except-L.A.” plan.

So in one chapter, we have two different sets of Christians plotting how best to destroy the people who survived the first massacre, who still have the temerity not to side with those who prayed for the deaths of their loved ones.

Shockingly enough, after all that’s happened and all he prayed for, Paul thinks this is a step too far.  Or, at the very least, that Jack is starting to sound mildly unhinged.

Though Paul thinks this mostly because they have “more pressing business“—they have to get out of their underground bunker before the NOP raids them…in ten days.

Ten days.

I can’t even begin to imagine what would take them ten days to get ready.  Just go get ’em, yanno?

Both sides in this conflict just suck.

 

 

Shadowed: Chapter 22: Now an Agnostic

Felicia and Cletus read the newspaper to each other over dinner.  This seems a tad odd as Felicia clearly has purchased an actual paper newspaper, when in the first book, Soon, a character expresses surprise that a younger man would even know what a book is.  Hell, nowadays, plenty of big cities have reduced their print editions to a couple of days of the week, the rest available via online subscription.

Anywho, the scene has nothing to do with Felicia and Cletus and how they’re coping.  It just has to do with how Trudy was right and the world is coming to see that it is best to capitulate to terrorists.  As several of you pointed out last time, that’s exactly what happened after 9/11, right?

Jenkins, surprisingly, gives credit where it’s due to the atheists-no-more:

“I was an atheist who is now an agnostic.  But that sounds foolish even to me when the promise of a curse, a plague, has been carried out before my eyes.  Hear me: I will not worship this vengeful God.  But neither will I ever again pretend He doesn’t exist and has not the power to squash me like a bug.”

Well, on second thought: this guy does confirm that atheists are only pretending not to believe in God.

Jenkins also makes sure to point out that Christians are “the new minority, the new oppressed.”

When I have the power to call down death from the skies, I’m sure I will feel, if nothing else, really oppressed.

Also, I wonder how these now-agnostics would react if they knew that even as they spoke of conciliation,the Christians were brainstorming even more ways to slaughter them all.

Still, Felicia feels bad for the poor widdle RTCs, because the atheists’ reactions are focused only on God’s wrath, not his love and mercy.

Go figure.

***

Meanwhile, Ranold is a bit of his own oppressed minority: one of the few people who actually wants to get some shit done, even if it is the apocalypse and all.  And he’s ready to head to Switzerland to see the leader of the free world in person, to either “talk sense to the man or muscle him out of the way.”  And when it becomes clear that Ball Dangler has only one issue on his mind (talking to Paul), it’s kinda hard to blame Ranold.

***

Meanwhile meanwhile, Paul has been noodling (GORRAM, I hate when the word “noodle” is used as a verb) the idea of contacting Bia Balaam.  After extensive praying about it, he…decides to play games with her.  He decides to “leave the burden on her,” which translates to her calling him again and again and again, and he never actually answering.  So finally, she reveals that she knows exactly where the underground is and who all is there, and that an attack is planned.

Well, hell, I’m glad someone besides poor Ranold is interested in taking some actual action beyond writing letters to the editor.

But that’s not the most exciting part.  Felicia is so upset that the atheists didn’t see God’s infinite compassion when he killed every firstborn son on the planet, that she enlists Hector Hernandez to send Paul’s instructions on how to switch teams receive Christ as their savior to every computer on the planet.  And I dunno, didn’t a bunch of Atheistopians just say that they had no intention of ever worshipping such a god?

Weird chick since she converted, Felicia is.

Shadowed: Chapter 20, Part 3 and Chapter 21

One little subplot tacked onto the end of Chapter 20 and then, inexplicably, broken up and continued in Chapter 21, has to do with our favorite new RTC, Felicia.  She has hunted down one of the IT guys who is trying to hack into the underground’s network.

OR IS HE???

In fact, he is, of course, not trying.  Or perhaps he is “slowing” progress.  Either way, he vaguely hinted to Felicia that he had sympathies with Paul.  So when Felicia accidentally startles him in his cubicle and he spills his coffee, he…draws a fishie in the spill.

Weird dude.

And because Felicia is so well-versed in Christian symbology…

…she immediately gets the reference.

They’ve barely begun a conversation when a female security guard named Trudy shows up…but she’s a secret believer, too!

Fun!  And all the secret believers at the Chicago NPO bureau have a monthly secret meeting—at a seafood restaurant!

HA!

(By the way, this doesn’t exactly speak well of them, of Paul, or especially of Straight.  Paul could have had an entire network of support, from basically every department at his workplace, over the whole course of the last two books, and NOBODY KNEW WHO WAS ACTUALLY A SECRET CHRISTIAN.)

Worst spygames ever.

Trudy mentions that the newspapers have been full of:

“Editorials, opinions, letters to the editor—everybody’s ready to cut the underground some slack.

…even unbelievers are getting on the bandwagon.  Nobody wants a repeat of what just happened.”

Well, I can think of one or two people who do want a repeat of what just happened…though even worse.

Aside from that, although I can imagine some people being so blinded by fear that they want to cut some slack to the worshippers of this murdering god, I can imagine many more people who would be so angry about that little matter of husbands and fathers and sons dying that they would never consider such a thing.

***

Speaking of Pudgy Jack, he’s still obsessed with this plan, and wants to set out on a little crusade to the other underground RTC locations, “to encourage them, tie them together, and rally them to pray for one more dramatic act of God.”

Because, after all, it has been nearly one whole week since the deaths of millions upon millions of innocents.

Paul was fighting him, agreeing with Greenie that if the slaying of firstborn sons around the world had not reached the hard hearts of the people, nothing would.

Well, yeah, that’s Jack’s whole point, Paul.  They’ve got hard hearts (just because they were raised atheist and then a god murdered their loved ones), so they deserve to drown or die of thirst.  That’s Jack’s kind of logic.

And lest we think too well of Paul, he’s against this plan mostly because he doesn’t want to leave Jae.  This is a much bigger reason for him than preventing the deaths of billions of people.

Just as Pudgy Jack is outlining his latest idiotic scheme to Paul (I’m actually not sure how much sympathy Jenkins wants us to have for Pudgy Jack and his world-destroying scheme), Paul gets a skullphone call (left on his skullphone voicemail) from Bia Balaam.

And bizarrely, Jenkins immediately attempts to retcon Paul’s opinion of Bia:

…Bia was everything the former Paul Stepola would have admired in an NPO chief: ruthless, cold, cruel, ambitious, condescending, sarcastic.

Except that Paul hated Bia Balaam at first “sight” (since he was blind at the time).

Why the retcon?  Well, that’s an interesting question.  I’m willing to bet that a big part of the answer is that Bia has been brought low.  And if here’s one thing Paul likes, it’s when a woman is made to feel pain.  Here is part of her message:

“I am going to betray the NPO, betray my government, and go against everything I ever knew, was ever taught.  …  I’m conceding.  You win.  Your people and your God have proven themselves, at least to me.  I have lost my son, my everything, and I have nothing more to lose, nothing more to offer.  No way I’ll risk my daughter’s life for a cause I no longer believe in.”

I have lost everything…except my daughter.  I have nothing more to lose…except my daughter.

Meh, what’s a daughter when you have a son, amirite?

Also, chalk up yet another person who doesn’t want to follow their beloved child to Hell.

Oh Bia.  Bia, Bia, Bia.

Shadowed: Chapter 20, Part 2: This Is It

So it’s come to this: me, sitting here, enjoying my usual post-Easter 75% off chocolate cross.

I suppose, if I wanted to attempt some sort of death, I could muse about the similarities: I don’t understand why anyone who holds a cross sacred would eat it when rendered in chocolate, and I don’t understand why the chacaters in these books are heroes of the faith.

Especially this particluar character: the Operating Room Man.

I mentioned that this was the one bit that stuck out to me.  In a series of books full of horrific, sociopathic assholes that might, once in awhile, make even Rayford Steele blush, this guy.

This Guy…

My mouth dropped open when I first heard what this guy was doing.  It was the audio version, and I was in my car, and I had parked and was listening for a good stopping place before I got out.  Surely, I thought, surely this character was meant to be wrong.  Surely Straight would be appalled, would set him straight (har) that this was not the way of a Real True Christian.

But it is.  It is.

And they just jump right into it!  (Well, they jump into after their stupid game of skullphone tag, and after they’re sitting down in the hospital cafeteria.)

“We need to trust each other,” [Dr. Gregory Graybill, The Operating Room Man] said.
“Do we?” Straight said.  “Why is that?”
“Because I know you are a believer.”
“You know nothing of the sort,” Straight said.  “You risk your freedom and your life by even talking like this, so I urge you to tread carefully.”

Is it just me, or is this a real departure from Straight’s usual speaking patterns?  Hell, he suddenly sounds like he’s got a bit part on Game of Thrones.

“The time is long past for that,” Dr. Graybill said.  “If it makes you feel more secure, I’ll declare myself first.  I am a believer.  I work with like-minded physicians to determine who’s with us and who isn’t.  When the enemy is under our care, we slow them a bit.”

At this point, one might think, he’s not saying what I think he’s saying, is he?

He is.

“You slow them?”
“We do not violate the Hippocratic oath, but let’s say it takes these people longer to get back to work than some others.”

This doctor, this DOCTOR makes sure his patients are atheists, and then doesn’t treat them properly so that they are slow to get back to their lives.  And he’s a friggin’ SURGEON.  Can you even imagine how much people must think he sucks, with the vast, vast majority of his patients being “slowed.”

This just freaks me out to no end.  We all have our horrors that are truly, personally horrifying, and for me, it’s malicious doctors.  I’m sure a psychologist could have a field day with that, but I’m betting it might have something to do with the fact that I’ve had one or two significant encounters with life-threatening injuries in my life, and had nothing but excellent doctors.  But the idea of my orthopedic surgeon “slowing” me for the crime of being an atheist, making my mobility maybe 10% or 20% less than it is…

I was also under the care of an “operating room man” as a week-old infant…and the only daughter of an atheist.

I’m sure, under the tender ministrations of Dr. Gregory Graybill, such a baby would be fine, though.  Just fine.

Straight shuddered.

And at that moment, when I was listening to this for the first time, I was sure I knew what was coming: Straight was realizing that this Graybill asshole was No True Christian, because a True Christian would never withhold medical care for the crime of being an atheist in a world where religion has been outlawed.

Is this what The Incident had accomplished?  It made the underground reckless?

That is what concerns Straight.  Not that a whole group of doctors has been denying proper medical care to 99% of their patients, but that now one of these doctors was actually fessing up to being a believer.

And to top it all off, not only does Dr. Murderous Graybill want to continue his campaign of “slowing” the helpless men, women, and children on his operating table, he wants to let Straight in on the fun!

“You know before we do whom we’re dealing with.”

As a former hospital volunteer myself, I highly doubt that, but whatever.

“I’m guessing you have a better handle on who’s who, whom we should target for, shall we say, more deliberate care.”

Target for more deliberate care.  He is a monster.

I mean, I really hate to Godwin up a post, but Dr. Gregory Graybill’s “deliberate care” would fit in just fine here.

And lest we think Straight is some kind of paragon of humanity…he jumps right in.  With the caveat that he is still quite interested in saving his own skin, and doesn’t quite yet entirely trust The Operating Room Man:

“If you get news about an incoming patient or two, you can breathe easier and act accordingly.  If, instead, you are arrested, you’ll know how grievously you have misread me.”

Won’t it be wonderful when the Christians win this war? Then they can show the atheists what true love and compassion are.

Chapter 20, Part 1: Terribly Sorry

Back at Felicia’s house, she and Cletus head to bed.  And despite waking every hour to make sure Cletus hasn’t committed suicide or something else inconvenient like that, Felicia feels “rested” the next morning.  As you do when you’re a Christian and your kid is roasting in Hell forever:

“My heart aches.  I’m scared.  And yet I have a deep peace.  I can’t explain it.”

Nor can I, other than to simply conclude that Felicia is a monster who doesn’t give a fig about her own kid.

Cletus is still alive the next morning, which is apparently all she expects.  Oh, and he thinks she’s crazy for feeling peaceful at a time like this, so we can see that Cletus is definitely the rational person in this marriage.  For the time being, at least, since I can only assume Cletus will turn, too.  (I honestly don’t remember and haven’t peeked ahead to see.)

Bizarrely, Felicia heads right back into work in the morning.  Even more bizarrely…

She had talked Cletus into calling in sick, trying to get some rest, and planning to get back to his teaching and coaching within a week.  Felicia had sensed in him a flicker of life.  All she wanted was that he somehow distract himself from his loss.

Huh?  Okay, logistics out of the way first: we are told that it is Thursday morning now, and that the slaughter took place Tuesday evening.  So either Jenkins counted one too many nights, or I counted one too many, because I was convinced that it was Friday at least.

Also, why haven’t all the schools been closed, at least for the remainder of the week?  You’d think with so many students, parents, teachers, and staff dead, and almost everyone else in mourning for probably multiple people, it would only make sense to close.

But if the schools are open, why would Felicia think the most productive thing would be for Cletus to stay home?  Cletus teaches middle school students.  Vulnerable, sensitive, right-on-the-cusp-of-puberty students who are in the throes of massive grief.  If anything could help “distract him from his loss,” you’d think it would be helping out kids.

When Felicia gets to work, she finds that Harriet Johns has been appointed to replace the murdered Bob Koontz.  Harriet left L.A. and went to San Francisco after the dessication, and just now got posted to Chicago.

Harriet came off alright back in Soon, notwithstanding that she’s a hellbound atheist.  Here, though, Jenkins just can’t help himself: the female of the species in a position of power is inevitably a heartless shrew.

“I might have thought you would be on time every day,” Ms. Johns began, “this soon after The Incident.”

Felicia had just hung up her coat and was fewer than twenty minutes behind schedule.

“Forgive me,” she said.  “My husband and I lost a son.”

“You have my sympathies, but of course you know that we in positions of trust must separate our personal and professional lives, and that you are hardly alone in your grief.”

Well, what else can you expect from a professional atheist lady, amirite?

(Although it’s kinda funny that Jenkins wants us to dislike Harriet for wanting people to be at work, when Felicia has been voluntarily working late the past two days since her son died.)

Anyway, Harriet goes on to question Felicia about how much she knows about Paul and his whereabouts.  Good little insta-RTC that she is, Felicia is now an expert in the Jenkinsian art of fudging answers to direct questions:

“You remain loyal to Agent Stepola?” [Harriet asked]

“I remain an employee of the National Peace Organization.” [Felicia “answered”]

“And if you hear from Agent Stepola?”

“I will do the right thing.”

“Very good.  And have you heard from him?”

“If I had, I would have done the right thing.”

“Excellent.”

Of course, with decades of service in the NPO, Harriet isn’t suspicious of such evasive answers at all.

***

Meanwhile, in another stupid conversation not far away, Ball Dangler has contacted Ranold.  Ranold assumes he is in line for a promotion, and I have to say, it’s not an unnatural assumption, given the thinning of the atheist ranks around the world, but Dangler, of course, is only interested in the most important person in the entire whole world: Paul Stepola.

Ranold offers to just give Dangler Paul’s skull phone number, but far be it from a Jenkins character to take the simple and efficient route to anything:

“General, please.  I think we both know he is not likely to accept a call originating from Bern.”

Well, maybe.  Except for Jenkins forgetting that in previous scenes, he established skull phones don’t have any kind of caller ID…

Ranold tells Dangler this, and though I’m sure Jenkins means it to be a lie, it has enough of the truth in it for me to think it simply how Ranold is rationalizing things in his own mind:

“You know he brainwashed my daughter into murdering my wife.”

“Terribly sorry to hear that.”

That just sounds like the lamest response ever, I’m sorry.  Especially since Ranold jumps right in with condolences for Dangler’s own son.

Changing the subject back from dead family members to much more important matters (Paul), Dangler has the balls (or the idiocy, whichever) to say that Paul tried to warn him about the coming slaughter.

Speaking of balls, it takes a lot of them to retcon your own story like that, since Paul did the crappiest “warning” job in the history of mankind.

Needless to say, Ranold is pissed.  And who can blame him?  He is still trying to fight against this horrific mass murderer, and everyone around him is throwing in the towel.  Has to be upsetting.

Still, it is terribly important to remember that Ranold is the bad guy.  Because he’s an atheist who doesn’t like Paul and stuff.

Next time, back to Straight and “the operating room man.”

Shadowed: Chapter 19: Ranold Sucks

Okay, I don’t think Ranold sucks, obviously.  I think Ranold is basically the hero of the story, being the only person so far who has a rational reaction to finding out there is a vicious, mass-murdering god up there: resolve to fight him no matter what.  But Jerry Jenkins for sure thinks Ranold sucks, and his entire purpose in Chapter 19 is to tell us that.  He especially feels the need to remind us of Ranold’s suckitude, since we haven’t even seen him since Chapter 5, when he was dealing with the few moments right after both his son and wife died.

Oh, and for those who are keeping an eye out for references to Ranold’s shocking weight (which honestly sounds to me like he’s just a strapping guy with a big build), we have this:

…he shaved and showered and dressed in a suit tailored for his massive frame.

I’m pretty sure that Ranold’s weight and/or eating habits are referenced every single time he makes an appearance.  But we’ll see as we go along.

And references to Ranold’s weight always make me spare a thought for poor Charlotte, currently having her chubby ass roasted for all eternity in Hell for the crime of being raised in Atheistopia.

But the real point of this chapter isn’t Ranold’s humongous girth, but his heartless attitude towards his loved ones.  He takes care of Berlitz and Margaret’s bodies, and considers it not a tragedy if they don’t get buried in the near future, seeing as how millions upon millions have died in the past three days.

And he looks back on Margaret and Berlitz with realism: he thinks Margaret was “boring.”

This is, of course, completely in contrast to Our Hero, Paul, who…okay, he also thought Margaret was boring.

So you can see how much more awful Ranold is than Paul.

And Ranold considers Berlitz a “loser,” what with his multiple marriages and non-military career, while Paul…okay, he didn’t specifically use the word “loser,” but he certainly seemed to think little enough of the brother-in-law…little enough that it didn’t even occur to him to warn said BIL about the coming slaughter.

Jenkins also drops in, rather out of nowhere, that Ranold had repeatedly cheated on Margaret.

Just like Paul, except for how Paul had a change of heart and abjectly apologized and begged Jae to take him back—

Oh wait.  Paul never did apologize to Jae for his decade of affairs.

I know I keep asking this question, but why do people like this even get married in Atheistopia?  Jenkins could have had so much fun showing the evil atheists and their evil ways, like the lives of never-married, serially-monogamous.  In fact, wouldn’t it have reinforced the point that evil atheists don’t give a crap about “traditional” marriage, and are just in pursuit of our own ever-changing desires?

Hell, Ranold himself admits that he “could pay for the services [Margaret] rendered, in the home and in the bedroom.”  So why would such a man as this even bother to get married?  (I’m sure Jenkins would never watch the work of such a nonbeliever, but Joss Whedon of course explored the idea of a world in which someone wealthy and powerful like Ranold could, legally and without shame, hire the services of a respected prostitute.)

All that to say, as usual: I don’t get Jenkins worldbuilding.

And the hits just keep on coming: after several days of basically humoring Aryana in her grief, he blows her off entirely, even telling her to her face (well, over the phone, skull or otherwise) that he never bothered caring about her, since she was Berlitz’s third wife and he figured she’d go the way of the other two.

This actually is in contrast to Jae, who liked Aryana and thought her Berl’s best choice for a wife.  Though Jae made that assessment and built that relationship back when she was an atheist, and hasn’t spared a single sympathetic thought for her grieving sister-in-law since coming to Jesus all the way.

It’s funny to consider that Berlitz and Aryana, people whom everyone else saw as silly at best, had the happiest and healthiest marriage of just about anyone we’ve seen in this entire series.  (With the possible exception of Enzo and Maura Fabrizio in the last book, though I have to deduct points because he is a murderer, and she badgered him into faith.)  But Berlitz and Aryana, unlike Ranold and Margaret or Paul and Jae, seemed genuinely love each other and (gasp! choke!) enjoy each other’s company.

Talk about you “traditional” marriages.

Anyway, Ranold continues his reign of awfulness by being rude to his driver, insisting that the man carry his bag from house to car and not just sit in the car and honk for Ranold to come.  Which, honestly, I rather prefer, it being a more direct approach, to Christian Paul’s smug condescension and lecturing to those he perceives as “under” him.

And…that’s it.  A chapter to remind us that Jenkins doesn’t care for his designated bad guy.

Oh well.  I guess it’s only fair, since we’ve spent three books cataloguing how much his designated good guys sucks.

Shadowed: Chapter 17, Part 2 and Chapter 18: I’m Here

As Straight is playing the stupidest spy games ever with Surgeon Sneakypants, Felicia is still sitting in her car, waiting for an answer from God.

I’m here.

Seriously, that’s what God says to Felicia.  ‘Scuse me, that’s what God “communicated directly to her heart, to her inner being.”

Funny how God didn’t see fit to communicate that little idea to her inner being before the slaughter of the firstborns.  Hell, it would’ve been convenient if God had communicated directly to the hearts of the firstborns themselves.

Felicia then has basically the same thoughts that Jae had back in Silenced

Sure, sure, Felicia gives some half-assed protestations over that little matter of murdering her son:

“You love me?  And You show me this how?  By taking my son?  By turning my boss and friend into a fugitive and leaving me on my own?  By wounding my husband until he is not the same man he once was?”

Notice the order there.  Her son, then Paul, then her husband.  Paul really, truly is the most important person on the planet, and it is only the natural mammalian maternal bond, present even in evil atheists, that causes Felicia to name her own son first.

Hell, it’s not like that son’s presence in Hell prevented his mother from working overtime these past few days.

Anyway, in response to the whole “murdering my son” thing, God has this to communicate to Felicia’s heart:

I lost a Son too.

Oh cry my a river, God.  To hear you tell it, that was the only option open to your omnipotent self to “save” the world, and you knew it would happen always, and you lost him for three whole days, and now he’s ruling the universe with your forevermore.  So forgive me if I don’t consider your “loss” as even in the same universe as Felicia’s, and Ranold’s, and Aryanna’s, and Bia’s, and every other parent and child and sibling and spouse on the planet.

Felicia actually has several similar questions to mine, which God answers directly to her heart with:

Had I prevented His death, there would have been no payment for sin.

And again.  So much for being omnipotent, if there’s only that one very specific option available to you.

But of course, Felicia is so awed by the presence of God that she feels “filthy” even when he is speaking directly to her.  Poor Felicia.  We all knew this was coming, but it makes it no less disgusting and painful to watch yet another innocent character become a mindless drone.

So she apologizes to God, because it is all Felicia’s fault because she is a filthy sinner that God struck down her son where he stood and now he is in Hell.

Properly chastened by her totally loving God, Felicia heads home to Cletus, who has been dealing with his grief in what actually seems to me to be a relatively healthy way—by throwing beer bottles against the wall.

Felicia, to give her (momentary) credit, joins in by throwing one herself.  It all ends with the couple laughing and sobbing together, and is actually one of the more real moments Jenkins has ever written.

So we know it can’t last…Felicia tries to convert her husband.  Cletus has the natural question: how can you worship the being who would do this?

“We were all warned.  You can’t legislate God out of life and then wonder where He is when everything goes wrong.”

Then again, when God is the one who makes everything go wrong in the first place…

“He offers forgiveness and life, but we—all of us—pushed Him away, made Him illegal, denied he even existed.  It’s a wonder He didn’t wipe all of us out.”

Right?  Because that would be such a forgiving, life-giving thing to do.  Just like when he murdered your son.

And on that note, there is a bizarre chapter break which I am going to ignore.

Not able to convince him via the “legislated him away” and “wasn’t it nice of him not to kill us, too?” tactics, Felicia moves on to describe how God spoke directly to her inner self and stuff.  She tells Cletus about how God reminded her that he had lost a son, too.

What could Cletus say?  That it wasn’t fair because God was God and had the power to bring His own Son back to life?  That it wasn’t fair because Danny would not be returning to them?

YES!!!  YES, THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT HE SHOULD SAY!

And on and on Felicia goes, scolding herself and Cletus for doing crazy, God-hating things like “satisfy[ing] our wants and needs.”

Well, since God doesn’t…

Cletus again makes a solid argument, asking why God “overreacted”:

“Wasn’t there some other step in there, between drought in L.A. and slaughtering a billion men and boys and babies?”

And, just like every time a non-Christian asks a valid question, the Christian in the group is at a loss:

“I don’t know.  And I don’t guess I’ll know till I see Him face-to-face.”

“Not that I’ll ever see my son face-to-face again, since God murdered him and sent him to Hell.  Still, seeing God will be even better, won’t it?  Won’t it???”

I guess it will, since Felicia seems to have all but forgotten about said son.  Like Paul, who never spares a thought for his mother (who loved him and raised him all by herself) who is in hell, and Jae, who hasn’t spared a thought about Berlitz burning in Hell, Felicia simply concludes that “He did what he had to do.”

Yeah, I guess that’s the natural conclusion when someone murders someone you love.

So long, Felicia.  Another one bites the dust.

Shadowed: Chapter 17, Part 1: Back with Straight!

Unlike Ball Dangler, Straight gets an exclamation point.  Because I’ve almost kinda…missed Straight.  We are 17 chapters in and he’s only been name-checked so far as Paul tries to skull-phone-call him.

And if there’s one thing Straight can always be relied upon to do, it’s bring the crazy.  Rude space-invading guy that he is.

Sadly, there’s not much to say here.

But that won’t stop me!

Straight has been volunteering at the hospital quite a bit, “visiting the injured of all ages.”  I’m really not sure how much his “visiting” can possibly be helping in this situation.  It’s portrayed in Soon as Straight trying to stave off the boredom of long-term patients, like Paul after his supernatural-light-column-blinding.  I would think the last thing people would be feeling, 48 hours after the genocide, would be boredom.  Would they really be so anxious to listen to the sax right now?  Or do many of them need secret letters written to potential future mistresses?

It doesn’t really matter, because, as usual, the main point of seeing Straight is certainly not to see him help out others in a very Christian manner.  Instead, he’s being pulled into a clandestine meeting with a doctor:

[Straight had seen the man in surgical greens and booties, so he was an operating-room man.

An operating-room man????

Um, Straight…honey…where I come from, we call such people surgeons.  Though, come to think of it, the guy could just as easily be a surgical nurse.  Then again, probably not as easily, because he is a man, and I’m sure Jenkins would never make a man a nurse, like some…lady or something.

Dr. Gregory Graybill (*snerk*) sneaks Straight a business card with a “secure” number written on the back (Are these meant to be secret skull phone numbers, or secret old-school corded phones like Ranold has in his house?  We are never told.)

Straight is instructed to call the “operating-room man” at the secure number “at 2 a.m. within the next three days.”

Ooooo, spy stuff!!!

***

Cut to a long scene of Felicia and her husband grieving.  We’ll hit that next time, because I want to hit the rest of Straight’s story first.

***

It was all Straight could do to stay awake, and he knew he should not have stretched out on the bed.

Um, set an alarm?  Why are LaJenkinsian heroes so frequently befuddled by the basics of everyday living?

But Straight manages to startle himself awake just in time for the appointed super-sekrit squirrel call.

In which the doctor instructs Straight to meet him at the hospital to talk.

YOU BOTH WERE JUST AT THE HOSPITAL WHY WAS IT EVEN NECESSARY TO CALL EACH OTHER IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT TO PLAN TO MEET AT THE HOSPITAL AGAIN???

As we have previously discussed, Christians (well, of course the doctor is a secret Christian) are the worst at spy games.

The worst.

“Where?”

And…cut to the next part of the Felicia-and-Cletus stuff.

Yep, Jenkins randomly cuts off Straight’s conversation without telling us the extremely shocking and secret information of where this hospital volunteer and surgeon will met.  We will not find out the answer until Chapter 20.

But because I love you guys, I’ll reveal the shocking twist right now…

They’re going to meet and have lunch in the hospital cafeteria.

BWAH???

Yep, I can totally see why this plan was worth a clandestine meeting at the hospital to exchange phone numbers, followed by a clandestine phone call in the middle of the night to set the meeting.

At the hospital cafeteria.

That is all much less suspicious than just asking Straight if he would like to have lunch in the cafeteria sometime.

They SUCK at being spies.  So bad.

Shadowed: Chapter 16: Back to Ball Dangler

Time to check in the with the leader of the entire planet!

You all may remember Chancellor Baldwin Dengler (known affectionately ’round these parts as Ball Dangler), but just in case you don’t, Jenkins takes the opportunity to remind us that he is tall and graying.  Strangely, Jenkins does not remind us of Dangler’s “exceptionally long fingers.”  Though he gives us a new detail: “press reports that his stride was half again longer than a normal man’s his height.”  Okay, then.

I guess the press has nothing better to do than measure and compare the stride length of men of a specific height.  I also tend to get bored with the endless articles about decades of peace, cancer-curing, homelessness-ending, and environmental improvement.

As was ominously foreshadowed in the last book, Dangler has sons but no daughters.  So God, in his infinite wisdom and love and long-suffering, deigned to murder Dangler’s eldest son, himself a husband and father.

I have often found it odd that Jenkins, who infamously believes that atheist marriages are less likely to be happy than RTC marriages, all evidence to the contrary aside, makes marriage just as normal and expected in Atheistopia as it is in our present world.  Additionally, there is never the slightest hint that Dangler’s long marriage, or the marriages of any of his sons, are anything less than excellent.

Indeed, so grief-stricken is Dangler that he goes for a walk on the Aare, ignoring the protestations of his aides, and half-hopes he’ll fall through the ice.  Oh, and turns out that more than one nameless grandson has died, too. Poor guy.  And he still has to lead the free world.

Jenkins makes a point of telling us that Dangler now sees life as “worthless, hopeless, pointless.”  HA, just like ALL atheists do, amirite?  What with their not believing in God and all!  I just knew that if God murdered half a man’s family, he would feel bad about life!

But Dangler powers through his grief, because, apparently, he is just that awesome a leader.  And his thoughts turn to the most important hero is the history of ever, Jerry Jenk—er, Paul Stepola.  

Dangler, like Felicia, is absurdly, almost hilariously (in a cry-until-you-laugh way) forgiving of Paul.  Granted, Dangler doesn’t know it was Paul himself who authored the manifesto praying for the genocide, but he does know that this guy spent hours in his company, eating giant sammiches and talking philosophy, and never even sailed close to the area of even hinting that there might be a God who was ready to kill millions of babies and little boys and grown men. 

Nope.  It is implied that Dangler was angry at Paul for about an hour or two, but now, with his son and grandsons two days dead, Dangler can admit that Paul was right…um, even though Paul never actually told the chancellor what he was really thinking.

God had needed to act in this dramatic fashion to get his attention.  It had been his own fault.

God needed to kill my innocent son and my little grandsons!  It all makes sense now!

Another one bites the dust.

The punishment for the crime of not believing shall be the deaths of children.  The atheists have created a world with no cancer, homelessness, or pollution, but since they have partaken in a thought crime that never hurt anyone anywhere, their children are sacrificed where they stand.  The sins of the fathers really are visited on the children.

Thinking about this just never stops being hideous.

Having this Stockholm-Syndrome-like epiphany, Dangler has only one thing to do…

GET ME PAUL STEPOLA!

Oh yeah.  He’s in hiding.  And Dangler knows that.  Whatever.  

I’d like to think that Dangler just wants to get his hands on Paul so he can slowly strangle him, but we now know that won’t happen.  Wouldn’t want anyone to have a normal reaction to this event for more than a minute, would we?

Next Movie?

Well.  We are barely a third of the way through Shadowed, and already it is more horrific than I imagined.  And if memory serves, it only gets crazier from here.

So for a change of pace, I got a Christian movie from the library.  One set, unlike every other piece of entertainment ever critiqued here, exclusively in Bible-Type Times.

Apostle Peter and the Last Supper.

And an odd thing happened.

I kinda…enjoyed it.

No joke.  I liked this movie.  As in, would rate it above a five out of ten.  It’s not a great movie, it’s far from perfect, and it suffers from so many of the same problems as so much of our other fare.  And yet, I liked it.

It’s another movie from the folks over at Pure Flix, who also brought us the joy and delight of Christmas with a Capital C.

This is a rather different animal, though…

What do you think of a critique of this being our intermission at the halfway point of Shadowed?

Let me know what you think.  Because I’d like some second opinions!

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