Babylon Rising, Chapter 10

I didn’t think I would be glad to get back to Michael Murphy and his harem, but geez, the serial killer and media mogul are so boring.

Murphy is about to unroll the now-hydrated papyrus scroll from the tube from the necklace of the lion.  Murphy didn’t wait around for his wife before the taking the first step in the process, but apparently he’s waiting for her now.

Laura Murphy is an archeologist too, but left archeology to be the student counselor at the university.  She saves the archeology stuff for living vicariously through her husband’s adventures, and writing a book on the weekends.

Laura muses about her work for a few minutes, simultaneously congratulating herself for being sympathetic, and coming across as incredibly condescending:

…while today’s young men and women seemed to find it harder than her generation had adjusting to the big, bad world, she didn’t judge them harshly.

Nor, apparently, does she judge her husband harshly, despite her self-described role as “unpaid diplomat in his frequent brushes with authority.”

You know, Laura?  After awhile it’s less about being the cool lone wolf rebel who thumbs his nose at The Man, and more about being an arrogant asshat who thinks that the rules should apply to everyone except him.

Laura is described as “the university’s student counselor.”  Thus, apparently, the only one.  Yet she has no background in psychology, counseling, diagnostics, or social work.  The woman’s an archeologist.  I confess I don’t get it.  Especially when…

…a formerly suicidal English major she had helped was able to get a book of her poetry published and then start her own creative writing seminars, helping others channel their inner emotional turmoil into something positive.

An archeologist.  Was counseling.  A young woman.  Who was contemplating suicide.


And all that would be more than enough, but there is an undercurrent of something else here.  An assumption that this career change is the correct and only thing for Laura to do.  Not because she wanted to change careers and considered counseling her true calling or anything like that, but because it is best for a married woman to let her husband take the spotlight in their mutual field, for her to bow out and be his helpmeet and his “diplomat” and oh, if she must work, to work in a “helping” profession.  The authors themselves seem somewhat torn between admiring Laura’s work, and agreeing with Laura’s father that all she’s doing is “listen[ing] to some acned teenagers ‘whining about their grades.’”

Finally over at Murphy’s lab,  Laura “knocked smartly,” and walked in.

She gave his hand a squeeze, said hello to Shari, and turned her attention to the hyperbaric chamber.

Good thing Laura knocked smartly, or Shari wouldn’t have had the chance to jump off Murphy’s lap.

But I kid Murphy’s harem.

And we’re about to add to the harem…

Murphy unrolls the scroll, and is able to figure out that it’s written in Chaldean, and refers somehow to the Brazen Serpent.

Here’s the Wiki article on the Brazen Serpent.  To make a medium-length story short, God was a jerk and sent snakes to bite the Israelites, because they had the audacity to complain that they had no food or water.  So Moses complained to God, and God told Moses to make a bronze snake, and looking at the snake cured the snakebites.


But when Murphy cannot quite get the rest of the scroll’s message, he knows someone who can:

“I know someone who practically speaks Chaldean in her sleep.”


Laura folded her arms and gave him a stern look.


“Not,” he added quickly, “that I know from personal experience.  In fact, I’ve never even met her.”


“Relax, Murphy, I know you love only me—and anything that’s been lying in the ground for two thousand years.”

First, eww.

Second, I wouldn’t feel so secure if I were you, Laura.

And third, the woman’s name is Isis Proserpina McDonald.

In the next chapter, we will meet Isis.  And frankly, you might just be surprised.  I know I was.


Posted on February 18, 2010, in Babylon Rising, Books. Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. Isis Proserpina McDonald???
    Nothing about anyone named like this can surprise me.

  2. “listen[ing] to some acned teenagers ‘whining about their grades.’”

    Ah, ridicule of the suicidal and depressed, why am I not all that surprised?

    So Moses complained to God, and God told Moses to make a bronze snake, and looking at the snake cured the snakebites.

    I can remember being taught in Sunday school that the nigh-universal symbol of one or two snakes twined ’round a pole came from this story.

    It wasn’t until a few years ago that I learnt that the symbol is, in fact, Greek in origin and is known as the rod of Ascelpius.

    …Though Wikipedia does say that there’s some debate about which of them is the true inspiration, it’s known that Hipocrates was a follower of Ascelpius and used the symbol, so its connection with medicine almost certainly is from the Greek origin, not Judaic.

    “Relax, Murphy, I know you love only me—and anything that’s been lying in the ground for two thousand years.”

    Well, yeah. I mean, some of the artifacts and paintings in those ancient temples of fertility…


    I find “Two thousand” to be an interesting word choice. Why not say “thousands of”, or “over a thousand”, or “at least two thousand”? Does he only study ruins from precisely BCE 5 (or whatever year the books were written minus 2 000). It may seem to be a minor nitpick, but it seems to me to be another way to bind his work to that of Christianity.

    The fact that most of the interesting-to-Christians ruins and artifacts are from at least a few hundred years before CE 0 is presumably irrelevant.

    And one wonders what happens when he finds ruins that are older than the age of the Earth, as determined by various countings of the word “begat”.

  3. Isis? (and she speaks Chaldean in her sleep?) Proserpina? MacDonald?
    It’s got “Viv Ivins” beat by miles.

    It’s a small thing, but I keep wondering about that re-hydrating business. Our hero archeologist is also an expert conservator, with a full-scale conservation facility in his university classroom lab? And he knows, just by a quick glance, exactly how to treat this mysterious papyrus of unknown age and provenance– just stick it in a tube of water and go out to lunch?

    Oh no– I see he put it into “the hyperbaric chamber.” And here I thought that’s what they use to treat decompression sickness. Silly me.

    • >>>It’s got “Viv Ivins” beat by miles.

      “McDonald” is a real surname. “Ivinisova” isn’t. So in ridiculous names’ contest LB-Russia wins.
      …unless Mcdonald, like Ivins, is a surname of choise, and the real one is something much more eyeroll-inducing.

    • Hyperbaric chambers are used for most things where you want a controlled change in pressure, aren’t they?

      Not that that helps, since I rather doubt that the papyrus was stored at 2000 atmospheres or something, but at least they’re vaguely close to having something approaching genuine science, so I’m tempted to give them a pass. 😛

  4. “Isis Proserpina MacDonald” sounds an awful lot like “Perdita X. Nitt” to me.

  5. Isis… Prosperina… MacDonald….

    Good heavens. And I thought *I* came up with bad names in my high school kitschy-writing days.

    • Well, the idea WAS that her father regarded her as a figurative goddess. But…Proserpina? Granted that Pluto and her were actually pretty fair-minded, but…I’d sooner expect Minerva than Proserpina…

  1. Pingback: Babylon Rising, Chapter 46 « Heathen Critique

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