Babylon Rising, Chapter 58

We cut forward a minute or two, and know that Murphy and Isis have a plan.  We don’t know what that plan is, but they have it.

Murphy grips Isis by the shoulders, “almost shaking her,” to make sure she is ready.  He’s a Manly Man, that Murph.

Isis stays put at the entrance while Murphy crawls into the room.

He blamed himself for leaving his competition bow back at the hotel.  Who knew he’d find himself interrupting a human sacrifice in a medieval sewer, but by now he should have learned to expect the unexpected.

Okay, I hate to belabor this point, but there’s not too much chance that a competition bow would help one guy win against three guys with long knives.  Especially since it has been established that Murphy is a target-shooter, and rarely even hunts.  I also question whether Murphy would be able to shoot anyone with his bow, given the moral/psychological implications.  Heck, I played a contact sport, too, but I have no illusions that my training would enable me to kill someone.  Even in a medieval sewer.

Moreover, Murph was in the Army.  Shouldn’t he be wishing for a gun, not a bow?

To Murphy’s credit (at least for the moment) the thought of the girl gives him the courage to keep going.  Of course, he then negates that by wondering if Isis would be able to follow through. … having been catapulted out of her academic cocoon, he was afraid she was on the edge of a total emotional collapse.

Murphy pauses to ruminate upon the plan (we still don’t really know what it is), and just as he seems to be considering moving the timetable forward without telling Isis, Isis has her Awesome Moment of Awesomeness:

Framed in the hole in the tunnel wall where he had last seen Isis, a ghastly apparition now appeared, as if the heathen chanting had summoned up a demoness.  Lit from below by the flashlight, her corpse-white face seemed to be emitting an unnatural glow of its own as it floated unsupported in the darkness.

As he’d hoped, the three men were now on their feet, gesturing toward Isis in horrified silence.  They didn’t seem to notice as he stumbled past them and toward the pole and the glowing Serpent, but who knew how long they’d buy Isis’s circus act?

Okay, so Murphy gets points deducted for thinking of the Serpent before the girl, but the points are reinstated when he attends to the girl first…sorta.

He shakes the little girl awake (she is not restrained, just unconscious), then immediately turns his attention to the Serpent.  He just leaves her there.  I guess rousing her was enough, eh, Murph?

He reached up and with trembling fingers began untying the hemp cords securing the bronze segment to the pole.  Murphy held it in his hands and marveled at the weight of it, which seemed to perfectly match the feel of the tail.

Um, Murph?  Little girl lying on the slab there?  Human sacrifice?  Oh, and your colleague acting as a distraction?  WAKE UP, ASSHAT!

Fortunately, the girl’s self-preservation instincts are stronger than Murphy’s empathy or common sense.  The kid makes a break for it, distracting the men from Isis, but then their attention is re-distracted by Murphy holding the Serpent.

Well, that’s what you get, Murph.

They advanced on Murphy, grunting with rage, knife blades raised…

Murphy was out of ideas.

So, what do we do if the knife-wielding Serpent-worshippers see you?

I dunno.


So, Murph stands there like a doofus, preparing himself to see Laura again, hoping Isis will run away, and then…

And then…


Yeah, you knew it was bound to happen:

He was shaken out of his reverie as the chanting started again.  But it was different now.  Higher-pitched.  A woman’s voice.  He looked over the shoulders of his attackers and realized it was Isis.  She was pointing an imperious hand in his direction and pouring out a stream of gibberish in a strangely commanding voice.  At least it souded like gibberish to him.  The three men had stopped in their tracks and were looking back in her direction, mouths gaping, as if they couldn’t believe what they were hearing.

Murph tries to run away, but doesn’t give himself enough space and is stabbed in his side.  So Isis saves his ass again, revving it up now, barking furiously and waving her thin arms in wide circles.

The men have fallen to the ground in fear, and Murphy and Isis make their getaway.

Okay, this is the coolest thing ever.  Check it out: Isis figured out the language the men were chanting, “A dialect of Terammasic.  Dead for a thousand years supposedly.” 

Isis learned the language at university.  For fun.  She thought someone ought to keep it alive.

You know, there is no second-place for the prize of Best Character Ever in a LaHaye Novel.  There is only Isis Proserpina McDonald.

Oh, and Isis made the men leave Murphy alone by informing them that she was their creation goddess, and that he was her “familiar dog-spirit.”

Oh, Isis.  You are just too good for him.

As they leave the sewers, Isis brings up the little girl.  (Oh yeah!  Her!)

Murph doesn’t really give a crap: “It looks like she made it out.  This is a bit of the dress she was wearing that was caught on a jagged edge of the handholds.”

Meh, yanno, the child is probably safe.

Okay, so the little girl, not older than ten, navigated the sewers and climbed up the one hundred foot hole by herself, after being kidnapped as a sacrifice.  That is fortunate for Murphy, I guess.  Glad he made it all the way out without sparing a single thought for the well-being of the kidnapped child.

But then Murphy faints from his wound.

This we should care about.  Not the innocent little girl who pretty much saved her own ass from being a human sacrifice.

Gee, I really wonder if Murphy will be okay.  I do.

Posted on August 24, 2010, in Actually Not That Bad, Babylon Rising, Books. Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.

  1. Isis, please, get the hell out of those books before you get OOCed beyond any recognition!

  2. Also, aren’t competition bows kinda long and unwieldy for use in a dungeon, I mean sewer? Next they’ll be carrying ten-foot poles.

    Long live Meta-Isis!

  3. by now he should have learned to expect the unexpected.

    My writing teacher always said “Avoid cliche’s like the plague!”

    He reached up and with trembling fingers began untying the hemp cords securing the bronze segment to the pole.

    Not only does Murph not expect the unexpected, but when traipsing around in ancient sewers, he doesn’t even bring a pocketknife. Meanwhile Isis fools cultists and speaks ancient, dead languages. Who’s the sidekick here?

    Murphy held it in his hands and marveled at the weight of it, which seemed to perfectly match the feel of the tail.

    This is good material to use in a writing class. Here we have a sentence whose alleged purpose is descriptive, regarding an object. It’s actually a pretty good example of why Mary-Sues are so toxic to good writing. Instead of knowing how heavy the object is, or how it feels to the touch, all we really know is how the Mary-Sue reacts to it. I’d actually use this as a practice exercise: re-write the sentence without mentioning Murphy at all.

  4. Well, I’m mostly not disappointed by Murphy’s reaction. The girl was just a random Middle-Eastern Muslim, after all. Murphy’s a jerkass.

    ISIS, however…! <3!

    This is a character that is pleading with us — no, I take it back. Isis (forgive me for messing up her name before, I was tired!) INSISTS that she be escorted out of these stories and into more amenable (if lower-rent, but more homey and lived-in and tasteful) fiction, so that she may thrive and grow. I mean, if Murphy is supposed to be the RTC Indiana Jones, Isis goes it better and sounds like the perfect foil — equal-standing, thank you, not just a damsel in distress — for Indy.

    Murphy's lack of astonishment at her linguistic ability just makes him more of a jerkass. What a useless human being! I still dislike him less than Joshua Jordan, but that's because Joshy strikes too close to home; Mike Murphy* is just a punk. If someone wrote a character like that and said that I was the inspiration for it (as LaHaye apparently did with his son-in-law) I'd be bloody well insulted.

    * – What's with the alliterative names here? Is LaHaye trying to harken to Stan Lee or something? EXCELSIOR!

    • Let me clarify: I expected nothing more from Murphy, so I wasn’t disappointed. Sorry for any confusion. 😦

    • LaHaye says in the intro that he named the character after his son-in-law. Although, now that you mention it, I don’t know if that means his SIL is Michael Murphy, or just Michael.

      And yeah, I find Murphy insufferable, but less toxic than Josh Jordan. Largely because Murph has no children to torture as Josh does.

      Which is a point that still makes me stop and wonder. Surely Laura, being as she was The Perfect Christian Wife, would have “given Murphy” Perfect, Christian Children.

      I mean, sure, LaHaye knew Laura would die young, but Laura and Michael didn’t know that. And yet, they never even mention children. Neither even thinks of children. Odd.

      • Maybe every time they tried to get together, Laura lifted off the bed and started gargling “The Power of Plot Compels You”?

        (So what is the RTC attitude to a couple who turn out to be infertile? Let me guess, “you should give more money to the church”.)

      • @Firedrake: I would imagine that there are a couple of routes.

        If they’ve been married for a long time without success at raising children, they will probably (at some point, and if they can afford it) start fertility treatments and will LOUDLY proclaim to their friends and relatives (and anyone within earshot at MEGAchurch) that they’re doing this. Then it either does not work (see below) or it works far too well and you get repeats of that Mormon mother who had quintuplets. Doctors strongly suggested for her health and the health of at least one or two of the fetuses that she … it was a much more polite term than ‘abort,’ but I can’t remember it. They suggested that, and the family adamantly refused. Three of the fetuses miscarried, and the remaining two, last I heard, were in critical condition and not expected to live. I will spare y’all the rage this elicited from me.

        I imagine the other option, if they are not rich enough or fertility treatments didn’t work, is to keep… trying, ask the pastor of the MEGAchurch to publically say prayers for them, LOUDLY tell their friends and relatives (and anyone within earshot at MEGAchurch) that they’re still trying, probably tread the thin line between prayer and magic and have a visiting pastor pray over them both, maybe apply to a charity for funding for fertility treatments.

        Now, some few will indeed adopt. But somehow I don’t think the great majority of them do that. I would be pleased to be wrong.

        @Rubytea: You make a fascinating point! I really wonder why Murphy never had kids. It’s possible that LaHaye never wanted to try to portray kids experiencing the death of a parent and then having to adjust to a new mommy. Which would be, you know, dramatic and emotional and not-easy storytelling and yet so worthwhile to read if done right and so very, VERY not LaHaye’s thing. In a way we should be fortunate that this was not done.

        It could also be that he wants us to focus on how awesome Mike Murphy is, and kids would get in the way of that.

        It could also be that Mike Murphy is sterile. (Nothing to poke fun at someone about that, it happens now and then. It could also be that Laura was sterile. In which case when Isis gets Stepfordized and marries Murphy their kids OH GOD I DON’T WANT TO THINK OF THAT! *cries*

      • @MInk: fascinating material on how fertility drugs become the scientific backbone on a lot of ooga-booga surrounding when RTC parents want to have kids.

        On more general topics:


        2. Murphy vs Jordan: It’s my personal fanon that Josh is self-centered enough to believe his children are an extension of himself and doesn’t understand the appropriateness of leaving them to run their own lives. Murphy, though, seems too self-absorbed to care what his kids get up to. It might be that even LaHaye was aware of this somehow, and directed that Murphy should have no children.

      • One topic that I’ve been fascinated with is the apparently rather blurry line between ‘prayer’ and ‘magic’ for RTCs. Throughout most history, magic and religion have been very tightly entwined, and it’s not at all easy to separate the two from an anthropological standpoint. This is something that’s actually explored in Babylon Rising, and probably not so much in Edge of Apocalypse (which is more techno-thriller*.)

        But this is a subculture that has some members who promote imprecatory prayers (“May his children be orphans, may his wife be a widow….” And anyone remember the prayer that was made to have something bad happen to the Democratic national convention?) and that makes the line between ‘prayer’ and ‘magic’ blurry. Many believe that prayer can change things, can have an effect on the world, in essence change God’s mind. This is not at all different from magic. (And is amazing hubris, besides.) So it’s fascinating to see how that line is skirted and ever-so-delicately stepped over now and then, not only with imprecatory prayers but also more mundane things, like “I prayed to God to save me,” or “We prayed so hard for a baby!” Many evangelicals believe in some sort of supernatural infliuence in the world, and it’s increasingly interesting — and increasingly worrisome — to see how they relate to that perception.

        (I think the relationship between children and RTCs is one that strikes a chord with me, not only with the narcissistic husband and wife mentioned above. (Though to be fair, that is a ridiculously hard choice to make, and I can see how it would emotionally break someone, so I should lighten up a bit on them about that.) The Quiverful movement is likewise odious. To relate this back to EoA, the “father is the lord of the family’ thing also tweaks my whisket)

        Besides, magic is the only way I can explain Isis getting Stepforded. 😦

        * – Every time I read ‘techno-thriller,’ I think of Michael Jackson in a red coat, dancing with glow sticks and an UNTZ UNTZ UNTZ beat overwhelming all the music….>/I>

      • Mink, I think you have put your finger on it–LaHaye just didn’t want to deal with the difficult, emotional writing that would come with Murphy having children, and having to explain to them why Mommy isn’t coming back.

        Especially because most people would put their Biblical archeology and globe-trotting on hold if they had kids they needed to comfort. Kid-free, Murphy can say, “this is what Laura would have wanted me to do,” and head off to Saudi Arabia with lovely Isis.

        And I think Pius is right on the money with his Jordan/Murphy analysis–Murph is way too self-involved to want kids. To make yet another Indiana Jones parallel, Murph would be like Henry Jones, Sr.–so involved in his work that he doesn’t even realize his son is being chased by men with guns. Only even more so, because Henry, despite his faults, really does care (deep down) about his child’s welfare and education.

      • Actually, that triggers an interesting thought, rubytea. Before Laura was talon’d, did she and Murphy ever, at all, make any mention of, possibly, someday, having children? If not, it strikes a really dissonant note with every other book LaHaye’s infected. I mean, one of the first things Chloe and Buck discuss — and follow through with, in the middle of the FRICKIN’ TRIBULATION moreover! — is procreation, reproduction, having children.

        I wonder what his reasoning was to have Murphy not have that one aspect to his life? I mean.. sorry, not ‘reasoning.’ ‘Excuse.’ We know his meta-reasons — not wanting to subject them to the pain of loosing a mother, wanting Murphy to be free to gallivant about the world (how unusually Blue Family of him! ^_^ ) — but what was Murphy’s excuse for not having kids? As self-absorbed as he is, would he even care about kids? “Daddy’s got to go Giza, sweetie. Again….”

        And for the obligatory snark: If I were LaHaye’s daughter married to Mike, and reading this story… I’d be seriously wondering what kind of messages my dad was sending, and which of the two Murphy Wives — Laura or Stepfordized Isis — he was likening me to. You open all sorts of cans of wormholes when you say that you’ve based or even just *named* a character on someone.

      • @Mink–

        Never once in the book do Murphy or Laura mention children, in any context. Heck, Levi Abrams makes two mentions of his kids (his teenage son and his murdered daughter), and even these conversations do not cause Murphy to reference his own lack of children. I must admit that I was half-expecting one of two responses after Laura’s death: “If only we had a child, so I wouldn’t be so alone,” or “At least we didn’t have a child, who would now be suffering the loss of hir mother.” But no, nothing.

        Which, again, might not be so very odd, except that this is a RTC novel, and RTC rhetoric is big on the duty of Good Christian Wives to bear and raise Good Christian Children.

  5. I love, I love with all my being, the fact that Isis kept Murphy from becoming the sacrificial understudy by literally declaring him to be her bitch.

    She is the creation goddess of all that is kickass.

  6. So these child-sacrificing cultists are such buffoons that they can easily be cowed by an obviously-21st century woman speaking a dead language.


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