TEoD: Chapter 10: Diner Dive

Murphy heads off to the diner to see Pastor Bob, just like he went off to the diner to see Pastor Bob in the previous books.  And once again, we learn again that the diner is old-fashioned and features a fat waitress named Rosanne.  (HA!  It’s funny because she’s fat!)  (At least according to LaHaye and Phillips.)

And she waddles.  Because of course she does.

And good to know that Pastor Bob hasn’t changed a bit, either.  Paunch, slacks and polo shirt, golf.  Gotcha.  And the men order what they order each and every time.  Because new experiences are scary for the world-traveling archaeologist, I guess.

Anyway, Bob, the PASTOR OF THE CHURCH, has contacted Murphy, one of his parishioners, for advice on a spiritual matter.  Yep, that’s how wise and spiritual Murphy is—his own pastor needs his advice.

On faith healing, of all things.  See, there’s a new faith healer in town, a tent evangelist by the name of J.B. Sonstad.  Bob finds the man “disturbing,” because he does the ole “Yes, Lord?  There’s a lady named Gloria in row B who suffers from irritable bowel syndrome. Be HEAL-AHD, Gloria!”

“I don’t think that is how God works.  Do you have any thoughts?”

This is the PASTOR.  Fishing for assistance with a rival preacher from one of his parishioners.

Murphy thinks this whole faith healing thing is “some kind of put-up job.”

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What now?

And he opines that ole J.B. might be some sorta end-times false prophet, like my woobie, Leon Fortunato.

So they decide to go to one of the ten revivals in person to check it out.

Also, Bob is concerned because he’s heard rumors that “some of the young people might be experimenting with the occult.  You know, things like using a Ouija board and table tipping.”

Table tipping, really?  That’s still a thing?  I mean, wasn’t that the hot thing with the young folks back in the days of Harry Houdini?

I guess it’s still a thing, though, because Murphy “witnessed” it in college.  (Or course he only witnessed it, and didn’t participate.  I can just picture a 20-year-old Murphy, sipping a lemonade and giving the stinkeye to giggling friends doing magic tricks.)

Murphy found it “eerie,” and at the time, dismissed it all as “crazy” and “some type of trick.”  Now older and wiser and with “a lot more experience with ancient gods and pagan worship,” he thinks that “some of the things are fake and some of them may be real.”

Hmmm…could it be…

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Yes, that’s right: with age and experience has come the realization that there are evil spirits out there, tipping tables and releasing ghosts with Ouija boards.

Bob expresses a desire to “nip this in the bud,” since “people are beginning to ask questions” (HORRORS!!) and as a pastor, he never thought he’d be called upon to answer people’s questions about spiritual matters.  That’s what random parishioners are for!  Good thing Murphy, the true expert on God, is around to handle such things.

Granted, neither man has the slightest idea how to “nip this in the bud,” so they just cut the scene with a joke about Roseanne and table tipping—she wants a 20% tip.

HA!

TEoD: Chapter 9: Back to School

Murphy hurries to his class, and thinks…

If there was one thing he hated, it was being late for anything.  He didn’t like it when other people were late for meetings with him, and he was fanatical about promptness himself.

Huh.  A few things:

  1. Wow, hates it when people are late to meet him!  How unusual!  What a unique character trait!
  2. If you hate lateness so much, Murphy, maybe don’t call your pseudo-lover for the first time in weeks mere minutes before you’re supposed to be in class.

Murphy “had traced this idiosyncrasy” back to fifth grade.

(Yeah, a dislike of tardiness.  That’s an idiosyncrasy.  Except not really.  It just makes you a Judger.  Like over half of all humans.)

See, back in fifth grade, Murphy’s class was going to take a field trip to the Hershey factory.  And Murphy “loved chocolate and was excited about going.”  (Wow.  Murphy is so unique and unpredictable it hurts.)  But he was late and missed the bus.

So I guess Murphy grew up near enough to Hershey, PA, to get there by bus for a school trip.  So, hey, we learned something new about him!

And Murph gets to the classroom with three whole minutes to spare!  Whew, that was a close one, Murph.

The most hilarious part of class is that “class clown” Clayton Anderson is still in it.  Remember, this guy was the class clown not only in The Europa Conspiracy (which took place, presumably, only a few weeks ago), but also in Ararat, which took place last year.

Anyway, Clayton saunters in late and slams his books down, then gives the patented “who me” gesture…

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This sends the class into uproarious laughter, so we get a little peek into the intelligence level of your average Preston University student.  And there’s more to come!

Murphy starts his lecture, which is about pagan gods.  He immediately jumps into the issue of child sacrifice, because pagan gods were eeeevil, don’tcha know, unlike his god, who only fakes you out with child sacrifice.

Look, I’m sorry, but brief digression here.  Murphy presents all these awful child sacrifices, and doesn’t even touch on his own god (in his biblical archaeology class, mind).  Now, this god demanded that Abraham sacrifice his long-awaited son FOR NO REASON.  Seriously, God offers nothing in the way of justification for slaughtering your own child, and in fact, when the fake-out is complete, God makes an innocent ram appear, just so Abraham can sacrifice the ram instead.  So God is out for blood no matter how your slice it or dice it.

Anyway, as Murphy is blathering on, a pretty lady enters the classroom.

Whoever she was, she certainly looked like a professional model.

Hey, just like Isis!  Nothing but the best for our Murph.

So instead of asking this stranger what she’s doing walking into the middle of his lecture, Murphy just keeps going.  How much do you wanna bet that Murphy would have stopped the lecture if a Moar Arab had entered his classroom?

Back to Clayton: he makes reference to a pagan god he thinks is like a merman, and when he cracks wise about what kind of bait to use, Murphy responds:

“Well, personally, Clayton, I’d use wisecracking Preston University students.”

Everyone laughed and went “Oooooh.”

“He got you, dude!” said one of the students.  Murphy gestured for quiet.

Yeah, he really brought the house down with that one, that Murph.  Missed his career as a comedian.

Then again, I’m starting to think that Clayton might in fact be the greatest troll ever.  He signs up for every class Michael Murphy teaches, apparently, and tells the same stupid kinds of jokes, and manages to distract the eminent professor every time.

Back to the “striking blonde“: she has vacated by the time Murphy ends the lecture.  Can’t say as I blame her.

Murphy was still thinking about the blonde when he entered his office.

Well, isn’t that loyalty for ya?  He’s spent the whole last two books pining for Isis, and admitting his love for Isis, but the minute one pretty blonde enters his field of vision, all bets are off.  Quite a guy, that Murph.

But he is re-distracted when Shari informs him that Levi Abrams called.

“Levi!  That’s great!  After he was shot, I got him to the hospital and then he just disappeared.  That was months ago.”

Okay, now I think Bob Phillips is just trolling us.  Did he really not stop and think about that dialogue after he wrote it?  Yeah, when my best friends are shot and then “just disappear, I too wait months before trying to get in touch with them.  I just let them take the lead, in such places.

Also, it’s been months since the George Washington Bridge incident?  Because that would make it seem like we were in the middle of summer and graduation has already happened and Shari would have to go out and start her life, but we obviously know that is not the case.

Also also, the horrific bureaucracy that is the FBI finally got back with the college professor about the mysterious fingerprint that has nothing to do with anything…and there is no match.  So now that Murphy has so patiently waited for Levi to get back in touch with him following the shooting and disappearing, maybe Levi can help with the fingerprint.

‘Cause that’s what shot friends are for.

 

TEoD: Chapter 8: Return of the Ice Maiden

Whew, sorry, guys!  I had vacation and then something wonderful happened.

Anyway, thanks for sticking with me.  Back to Preston University…

Michael gives Isis a call.  In the previous book, Isis was a tad annoyed that he had waited so long to contact her.  And in the book previous to that, even more annoyed.  This time, she barely bats an eye when the man who kissed her and said he wanted her in his life…ONCE AGAIN only contacts her when he wants something.  So I guess she’s getting used to Michael Murphy’s own particular brand of affection.

As he dials, he reminisces about Isis:

At first he thought that she might be an ice maiden.  She seemed preoccupied much of the time, interested only in her work.

THAT BITCH

After her father’s death, she had lived her life in hiding.  Perhaps in an effort to avoid dealing with her loss, she holed up in her office at the Parchments of Freedom Foundation in Washington, D.C.

Yep, because when a woman has a successful career, it can only be because she is hiding some deep inner pain and failing to deal with it in a healthy manner.  Can’t just be because she’s had a lifelong passion for the work, as established in Babylon Rising (written by a different author, natch).

Also, Phillips is not only retconning Greg Dinallo’s establishment of Isis’s character, but his own.  Because in the previous book, Phillips himself made mention of Isis dating other men in her life.  So, much as Murphy would no doubt prefer that she just sit by her phone, awaiting his calls while he does whatever he wants, it appears she has a life beyond being an ice maiden.

Sigh.  Anyway, to add insult to injury, Murphy remembers “his rescue of Isis from the bandits” on Ararat, but not that time Isis rescued his ass in the sewers in Babylon Rising. Figures.  And once he talks to her, although he says he’s missed her, he gets right down to business—he’ll be in Washington in a few weeks, and in the meantime, would like Isis to look into this “King Yamani” guy.  Then the “class bell” rings (because I guess Murphy teaches middle school now), and they have to hang up.

Now off the phone, Murphy gets an update on the possible fingerprint of Meth’s that he lifted in the last book.  You’d think such an assignment would be far outside her job description, but she nonetheless is keeping an ear open for a call from the FBI.  Being an ultra-conservative RTC, Murphy makes a snide remark about government bureaucracy (because doubtless the FBI has nothing better to do than examine a fingerprint on a Band-Aid submitted by a rogue archaeology professor) and departs for class.

Oh, wait.  That “five minutes” Isis was worried about?  No big thing to Murphy.  First, catch up on the FBI.  Then, set a lunch date with Pastor Bob Wagoner.  Shari took a call from him, and he needs Murphy’s advice.  Because who doesn’t.

So, ready for another of Murphy’s classes?  Well, too bad, because it’s coming up next!

TEoD: Chapter 7: Sparkling Eyes

So, while Murphy was busy getting his ass handed to him by ninjas and, umm…big guys, Shari was working until 2 a.m. grading “all the book reports and test papers.”

I continue to be astonished that book reports are even a thing in a supposedly-advanced archaeology class.  Did Phillips and LaHaye not remember college at all?

(Well, LaHaye went to Bob Jones University, so maybe book reports were a thing, after all…)

Anyway, for her hard work, Murphy gives Shari a hearty “thanks,” and Shari’s eyes twinkle.  Ew.

Murphy then regales Shari with an account of the abandoned underground amusement park with ninjas (and yes, when I actually type it out like that, it does sound a bit silly, doesn’t it?) and his theory of what Meth wants him to find.

Murphy blathers on about the ark of the covenant, getting Shari’s hopes up:

“You don’t think he’s found the Ark, do you?” Shari’s eyes were wide with excitement.  “That would be one of the greatest archaeological finds ever!”

Well, I guess so, Shari.  And I know you don’t own a TV and all, but are you sure you want to find this thing?

But no.  Apparently conceding that he shot his wad with the whole Noah’s Ark thing (an ark which, as we saw, remains lost), it is declared that Meth wants Murphy to re-find two of the three things which were apparently in the Ark (and then, I guess, lost somehow): Aaron’s Rod and a gold jar that held manna.

But Murphy is still at a loss about the whole “King Yamani” thing.  So Shari suggests that he enlist Isis’s help.  Or, as she puts it:

“I’ll give you a clue.  Stunningly beautiful.  Red hair.  Sparkling green eyes.”

Okay, first of all, Shari, that’s three clues.  Second of all, it’s just kinda odd that you characterize Isis as “stunningly beautiful” and her eyes as “sparkling.”

Except that Phillips is apparently contractually obligated to always refer to Isis’s eyes as “sparkling.”  Have I missed something all my life?  I know people with beautiful eyes, but none of them sparkle.  Or twinkle, like Shari’s.  Maybe Phillips is just really into sparkling vampires.

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TEoD: Chapter 6: Introducing Caiaphas

Looks like the flashback to Bible times this book will be a look back at Caiaphas, and the trial of Jesus.

I’ll admit, I’m not as up on Caiaphas as I am on some other Bible characters and stories.  Still, I look forward to learning more.  Especially as the whole thing seems like a delightful entry into the old the-Jews-killed-Jesus trope, and given the fact that Murphy’s best buddy is Jewish, this might be amusing.

So Caiaphas hires “two swarthy men.” (Of course they’re swarthy.  Apparently they also stink and have bad breath.  Because all bad guys do.)  The swarthy guys are to spy on Jesus and report back to Caiaphas.

Bizarrely, the two stinky guys manage to follow Jesus and the disciples out of Jerusalem and all the way up the Mount of Olives (a 30-minute climb, we are helpfully informed) without being detected.  It’s important that Jesus took the guys all the way up there…because he needs to tell them about things they will never see or experience!

“Can we tell when the end of the world will come?” asked Peter.

“Others will come in my name, claiming to be the Messiah.  They will lead many astray.  Wars will break out near and far, but don’t panic.”

Yeah, don’t panic, Peter—BECAUSE YOU WON’T BE ALIVE TO SEE IT.

Seriously, Jesus goes on and on and ON about all this (“It sounds as if it will be a terrible time of tribulation,” Peter helpfully exposits) but never once points out to the apostles that all this will happen in a series of books published in the 1990s and 2000s.

Seriously, none of the apostles will see this, according to LaHaye.  And Jesus knows that they won’t see it.  So why waste their precious time together (and Jesus knows just how precious and short this time is) by informing them of this but not that it will happen far, far in the future?

Just seems cruel, is all I’m saying.

TEoD: Chapter Five: Skinny

Murphy’s next adorable trial in this never-ending “fun” house is the maze of mirrors.  Murphy, a grown man, takes time out of his busy schedule of staying alive in the face of ninjas and…well, big guys, I guess…to admire the differences in all the mirrors.

Dozens of Murphys were reflected back at him

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What a nightmare.

One of them was curved and made him look fat.  Another made him look skinny—he really liked that one.

He did?  Okay, I’m sorry, but that sentence just stopped me dead in my tracks.  Murphy is a straight, mid-forties (probably), athletic guy, and he wants to look skinny?  I have never in my life heard a man say he wants to look skinny.  Women, sure, but “skinny” is generally not considered to be a positive term when it comes to men.  And it’s not like Murphy has struggled with his weight all his life and thus might like the idea of being skinny.  Because we are constantly told that he is (and always has been) super-athletic.

It’s just very weird that a man wrote that sentence.

Anywho, Murphy starts to mark his trail with a granola bar.  Oh so very proud of himself, he thinks,

Hansel and Gretel have got nothing on me.

Or, yanno, you could put one hand out, touch the wall, and just follow it to the end.  That always works.  Might take awhile, but you would be assured of victory.

Murphy sees a video camera monitoring him (so Meth had the time to completely wire this place for surveillance), and just as he gets close to it, he falls through “a hole in the floor.”  Huh.  Too bad Indiana Murphy wasn’t watching where he was going.

The precious granola bar is lost forever, and Murphy manages, action hero that he is, to grab the edge of the “hole” and then pull himself back up again (we are told this is all over an “abyss” with a giant pool of water below.  Nothing but the highest safety standards for the underground fun house!

Finally, Murphy makes it out of the stupid maze.

He was growing weary of this game…

And he isn’t the only one…

And he finds the beginning of the book—the roller coaster car he’s supposed to ride.  And Phillips played a bit of a trick on us here.  Because this is actually a tunnel of love ride, not a roller coaster.  It’s just that roller coaster-type cars are used in the ride, instead of the more usual boats.

So it’s not nearly so dramatic when Murphy has to jump out of the ride.  Because he’s going, like, two miles per hour.

He does the ride, and there are spooky things, and Murphy is feeling all superior, because silly spooky rides don’t scare him, no, sirree.

Yet something made him apprehensive.  Call it instinct, intuition, or just plain street smarts…

Or the fact that he’s on an old, decrepit ride that would be a death trap even if it wasn’t being operated by a mysterious billionaire who likes to torment him?

So Murphy makes the smart decision and hops off the car, riding the bumper.  And it’s a good thing he does, since “two eighty-pound blocks of cement smashed into the seat where he had just been sitting.”

Okay, that just seems plain unsporting of Meth.  How was anyone supposed to see that coming?  Oh yeah, Murphy’s “street smarts.”  What mean streets would those be, Phillips?  College Lane at his private college?

So the ride ends and Murphy hops off and the car crashes (slowly, I assume, though Phillips tries to make it seem tense).  Anyway, Murphy’s bag is still aboard the car, and everything is destroyed, included Muphy’s bow, which he was skilled with when Greg Dinallo was writing him, but Phillips forgot about for the past two books, only to bring it back up right now so that the bow can be destroyed.  But it’s okay…

Knew I should’ve insured the darn thing.

…because Murphy isn’t exactly broken up about this.

And, FINALLY FINALLY, the frakking clue:

Thirty degrees northeast of the altar…press the king’s head.

Well.  That was certainly worth four full chapters.

TEoD: Chapter Four: Yet More Fun House

I really can’t believe it’s Chapter Four and we’re still on Murphy’s initial In Media Res.

The Asians defeated, Murphy spots a sign:

Having fun yet?

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How about a game of roulette?

Heh, I doubt it.  Murphy is probably of the RTC strain that thinks playing penny poker is a sin.

So this room contains one of those dangerous, old-school spinning wheels that threw people off it (basically, I think it’s a bigger, more deadly version of a roundabout).  At the center of the wheel is the next clue on an index card.

But he doesn’t just have to deal with a dangerous ride of yore.  Nope, Meth has invested in yet another on-call thug: this time, a six-foot-six, three hundred pound bodybuilder.

Murphy tries his new, patented trick of throwing his bag at the guy, but no go.  The guy knocks Murphy down, Murphy sweeps the leg…

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…but the wrestler quickly gets the best of him.  Murphy tries to get to his precious bag, but the bag beats him to it, unleashing its contents one by one as the bag is whipped around by the roundabout (no, I don’t get the physics of that, either).  In fact, entirely by accident, Murphy’s hatchet flies from his bag and hits the wrestler in the leg.  Murph uses this to his advantage and gets the guy in a chokehold and, for good measure “put his foot on the hatchet and pushed it in deeper, as blood splattered everywhere.”

OUCH!  How Christian and loving of you, Mikey boy.

Finally, he gets his hand on the clue.  Here it is, in all its glory:

In the town
Of King Yamani
A Great Mystery
Has Been Solved
I Kings 8:9

Murphy frowned.  Who in the world is King Yamani?

Why are you asking me, Murphy?  You’re the archeologist and globe-trotter, remember?

(I don’t remember this plot point from the first time I read this book a few years ago.  So, from a quick Googling, I’m guessing Meth is referring to this guy, who is from Mecca and who played a big role in the 1973 oil embargo, which might make him of interest to Murphy.  Maybe?

The other side of the card continues the “clue”:

Ride Your Fears to the End

Man, hopefully this will bring us back to the first chapter, where Murphy flung himself off a roller coaster.  Because I am sick of this stupid, boring “fun house.”

Phillips decides Murphy hasn’t been gross enough yet, so he yanks the hatchet from the unconscious man’s leg.

The blood ran freely from the gaping wound and Murphy’s stomach turned.

And they say professional wrestling is fake.

That sensitive internal quip done, Murphy lovingly leads the man to bleed, and wanders off.

By the way, I’ll just point out that having part of your story take play at a creepy, abandoned amusement park is a cool idea.  Too bad it doesn’t work here.

But check out this or this:

TEoD: Chapter Three: The Seven Logic Puzzle

We cut away from the MORE THAN TWO CHAPTERS LONG MICHAEL MURPHY “ACTION” SEQUENCE to get back with The Seven (they’ll stop at nothing!) who are once against twirling their collective mustache and plotting in an exotic locale—this time, Cape Town, South Africa.  This is actually Talon’s hometown, which none of The Seven mention, even though they do discuss Talon, and even though you’d think they’d know this tidbit of information.

However, Phillips is very interested in dropping more tidbits of information about The Seven themselves into our laps.  It’s nothing we don’t already know, or could have guessed, and it really makes no difference to the story.  It’s also peppered into the prose rather blunt-force trauma: “said Sir William Merton, the oldest member of the Seven.”

Who cares?

Inserted into their exposition like this, it makes this whole chapter read like a logic puzzle.  If Ganesh Shesha and General Li both have black hair and Viorica Enesco is from Romania, what color was Jakoba Werner’s shirt?

Speaking of appearances, Phillips goes ever farther down the RTC rabbit hole of judging others by their appearance.

[Sir William Merton] was physically repulsive but quite brilliant.

Of course he is.  Because evil and/or unsaved people are always less than beautiful.  Looks at how Isis graduated from pretty-but-frumpy in Babylon Rising to model-beautiful (to the point that nearly everyone comments on it) in the subsequent three books.  Jenkins and Phillips always make sure that the villains have bad looks to go along with their bad intentions.  Heck, it even goes for characters whom we are only meant to pity then dismiss, like Alvena Smidt and Charlotte Ian, both of whom are (gasp! choke!) overweight.  Guys, watch that, okay?  Evil people don’t always look evil.

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Okay, sometimes they do.

Anyway, The Seven (TSAN!) observe Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned, and blather on about the events of the last book, including the George Washington Bridge attempted-destruction, and about how they have two “loose cannons”  they have to deal with: Michael Murphy and Methuselah.

Huh, so The Seven consider Meth an enemy, too.  That’s actually…kinda cool.  Now, it makes sense that The Seven haven’t been able to kill Meth, since a) Meth is incredibly wealthy and can afford fortified mansions and the best security money can buy and b) I don’t think they know who he actually is.

Murphy is, as always, a different matter, and it still boggles my mind that The Seven haven’t managed to kill one college professor, who lives in the same house he’s lived in for years, drives the same car on the same route to work every day, takes no security measures with his home, office, or self that we ever see, and is hardly ever armed.  The only way this would make sense would be if The Seven thought Murphy was of more use to them alive than dead, but they don’t say that, and in fact they state that Murphy is now even more dangerous than he was before (since he “knows too much about the Bible” and all), because now he’s talked to Dr. Anderson and knows at least something about “The Boy” (the AntiChrist).

The puzzle of the unkillable Murphy dispensed with, talk turns to Shane Barrington.  They want to call him in to make him promote something or someone (I don’t care) on his news network.  Señor Mendez brings up the tiny inconvenience that they just offed Stephanie Kovacs, his “live-in lover.”

Man, Phillips and LaHaye just can’t help themselves, can they?  The have to use shaming language even in the mouths of the supposed villains who, being godless hedonists, would no doubt find nothing wrong with such a relationship.  Such a relationship being, point of fact, a monogamous one.

Anyway, they decide it’ll all be cool with Shane, since he loves money way more than people.  Good thing too, Sir William points out, as “if he turned on us, he would be a powerful enemy.”

(Actually, my first exposure to this awesome turn of phrase was in the movie Father Goose, when Goody Two-Shoes takes away the Filthy Beast’s booze.  It was Cary Grant’s penultimate film, and a fun romp.  Recommended.)

Finally, they bring up Talon, because he needs to get back to the Black Sea so he can get that crap from Noah’s Ark that he dropped, so The Seven can “know more about Potassium 40.”

And I still don’t know why they all had to be together physically to discuss all this.  (It’s not for pleasure, as Bartholomew points out that “This is not a vacation.“)  So, what, they’ve never heard of video conferencing?  Man, the evil cabal is right out of the Stone Age.  (Which, probably, Phillips doesn’t even believe in.)

The Edge of Darkness: Foreward and Chapter 1 and Chapter 2

Well, I know a consensus when I see it: Michael Murphy it is!

As many of you know, The Edge of Darkness is the fourth book in the Babylon Rising series.  It’s also the last book in the series, but, as you’ll see, it doesn’t really feel like the last book.  It feels like the penultimate book: only one or two subplots are even partially tied up, and new characters are introduced, who don’t seem to have an immediate purpose.

Tim LaHaye starts us off with this lovely dedication:

Dedicated to those who realize this world is in an irreversible mess and want to believe there is hope for a better world tomorrow.

This book came out in 2006.  And LaHaye died in July of 2016.  So he didn’t even see such a thing as a Trump presidency.  Dude, you don’t know from irreversible mess.

He then spends the forward whining about North Korea and earthquakes and “Asian flu” as evidence that “we are indeed approaching THE EDGE OF DARKNESS.”

Dude, you don’t know from edge of…yeah, I did that already.  LaHaye ends by once again praising his hero and engaging in a little self-back-patting because “this book could not be more timely.”  Oh, I beg to differ, asshat.

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Oh, Hulk, where are you when we need you?

Annnnnywho, Chapter One starts off just as all Chapters One start in Babylon Rising books: with Murphy In Media Res: this time, jumping off a moving roller coaster.  And, just as in our previous book, The Europa Conspiracy, we cut back and forth between the action and Murphy’s pleasant day at “work” at Preston University.  He rhapsodizes about the beauty of the school and the South, but in this book, is actually greeted by a horrifying sight: a stack of tests and “book reports” (in advanced college classes, really?).  If there’s one thing Murphy hates in life besides uppity women and scientists, it’s doing the actual work of a teacher.  So…

I think I’ll delegate those to Shari.  She’ll hate me, but isn’t that what assistants are for?  Doing all the jobs you don’t like? [he thinks]

What a colossal asshat.  Not to mention a lazy prick.  I love how he seems kinda surprised that there are a pile of tests in his office from the class he designed.

But he doesn’t get the chance to pawn off his work, as Shari gives him yet another package from Methuselah.  And, because we can’t have any originality no matter what, there is an incredibly stupid poem inside.

Here it is in its entirety, so never say I don’t do anything for you:

Row, row, row your boat gently around the lake
Walk and talk and have a piece of cake

Ride, ride, ride the trolley
Be sure to stop and visit Molly

Dance, dance, dance the choo-choo
Visit the zoo and casino too

Round, round, round you go
Don’t be depressed by the big tornado

Search, search, search and find
Be sure not to lose your mind

Seek, seek, seek, like a mouse
You may even find a fun house

[Inconsistencies and unscannabilities are the author’s not mine.]

Shockingly, though Murphy is up on Colorado prisons, he is not nearly as familiar with amusement parks, and has to actually use the interwebs to find the answer to this nigh-unsolvable riddle.

Except when he starts to blather on about trolleys and the history of electricity, Shari asks him how he knows all this (just like she did in the last book).  Except she just saw him Googling, so WTF?  Seeing his opening, Murphy claims that he learned all this from his grandmother, who used to visit the Lakewood Amusement Park with a roller coaster called Molly’s Madness when she was a girl.

(Hilariously, the Lakewood Amusement Park was a real thing.  Emphasis on WAS.  This fascinating website chronicles the history of that particular plot of land.  The amusement park, a great success in its day, closed in 1932 and the buildings were torn down.  Eventually, a shopping center was built there.  Scroll down and you’ll see a cool picture of the modern stores with the probable locations of the amusements labelled over them.)

But Phillips REALLY wanted to set his action scene at an old amusement park, so he spins this yarn about a supposed underground fun house that the owners wanted to build.  (???)  So Murphy heads to the Charlotte Hall of Records and library, “mostly working his way through endless red tape and the frustration of government bureaucracy.”

Poor baby.  Is the eeeevil librul gubmint out to get you again, Murph?

In this alternate universe, warehouses are now on the old site instead of stores, and Murphy heads over there and fumbles around amongst surrounding trees to finally find a hatch down a winding staircase to an underground fun park.

This may be one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard of.  And just think about all we’ve seen in all the various works of entertainment on this blog.  I’m almost numb to it at this point, so I’ll just state it outright: an archeology professor has followed the clues left by a deranged billionaire he has never met, leading him to an underground fun house built in the 1930s.  This will somehow result in an expedition to find a piece of Bible history.

This makes Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom look positively realistic.

Anyway, the diabolical tricks of Meth start immediately, as Murphy is forced to traverse one of those old rolling-barrel type rides from Ye Olden Dayes.

And that’s when things get weird.

Really, really weird.

As Murphy reached the center barrel, an Asian figure in a black ninja outfit entered the third barrel.  He resembled a young Bruce Lee…

Of course he did.

…and moved toward Murphy with the agility of a cat.  He did not look too friendly.

A quick glance behind Murphy revealed another Asian, dressed in a dark brown outfit  He had entered the first barrel after Murphy and was quickly gaining ground.

Another Asian?  Are the Asians in this book going to be like the Moar Arabs in the last one?  Does this one look like Bruce Lee, too?  Or more like Jackie Chan or Jet Li?  Or is Bruce Lee the only Asian action star Phillips knows of?

And, of course, turns out Meth is hiding somewhere, watching all this and laughing, just like last time.

And he brought his ninjas with him.  As you would.

The two Asians looked like professionals.

Professional what?  Ninjas?  Is that a thing?

Maybe.  But I’m against the ninja.

So is Murphy, since he quickly dispenses with Ninja 1 by just running up the side of the barrel and dropping down on him.  Heh, some ninja.

Now that there is a conscious Asian and an unconscious Asian, Phillips feels free to refer to each as “the Asian” in turn.  I’m almost tempted to consider this progress, of a sort.  I mean, villains aren’t just Arabs.  Sometimes they’re Asians, too!  I can only imagine that had there been a fifth book, the villains would be The Hispanics.

The Other Moar Asian gets in two good kicks, even though “Murphy knew that he could hold his own if he could ever catch his breath and get his feet under him.”

Of course you could, pumpkin.  Those mean ole The Asians just don’t fight fair, do they?

But Murphy finally triumphs.  Now, you might think that with all Murphy’s karate training and punch-each-other-in-the-stomach training with Levi, his martial arts skills would win the day.  But no, Murphy just flings his bag at the ninja, then when that floors him, drives his elbow into the guy’s head.  Though we’ve already seen that the ninja can hold his own when he has his breath and his feet are under him.

But fighting dirty is okay when Murphy does it.

Gorram, folks, we’re already two chapters down.  This underground fun park thing is already WAY too long.

And Murphy hasn’t thrown even one reverse punch yet.  That makes me sad.

Next Book: A Poll

This will be a quickie poll: just two options!  (I only have Christmas romances, so I might do a Christmas-in-July bit.)

But for now:

Edge of Darkness, by Tim LaHaye and Bob Phillips, the fourth and final part of the Michael Murphy saga.

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OR

I, Saul, by Jerry Jenkins with help from James MacDonald

(If you ever listen to Christian radio, you’ve probably heard MacDonald and his super-catchy theme song…WALK WALK IN THE WORK WALK IN THE WORD WALK WALK IN THE WORD THIS IS THE WAAAAAYYYYYY!!!)

 

Since we only have two options, just leave a comment with your vote!

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