Babylon Rising, Chapter 59

In order to drag out the suspense (like we’re really wondering if Murphy is really MORTALLY WOUNDED), we switch gears and cut to Shane Barrington’s office, at night, where he is putting the moves on ace reporter Stephanie Kovacs.

The authors take pains to let us know that although Stephanie is still beautiful and confident, her eyes were now the eyes of someone who’d sold her soul, and she looked like someone who’s already lost the most important thing she has.

This makes no sense.  Sure, Shane sent her on a mission to uncover nefarious dealings of evangelical Christians, but why should this bother her more than any of the other assignments she’s gone on for the nefarious Barrington Communications in her career?  She’s not a Christian, and, more importantly, she has no reason to think that there is some vast global conspiracy behind it all (even though, of course, there is). 

All she says is that she’s sorry the church bombing story didn’t pan out, because the FBI has gone “all cautious.”

You know what would be a cooler story?  If Stephanie was a Christian, perhaps even one “in name only,” who had lapsed but still believed, deep down.  She takes the assignment from Shane, both because she must, for the sake of her job, and because she is trying to prove to herself that she can be unbiased, even when it comes to her Christian roots.  Maybe she also becomes romantically involved with Shane (as she does here), but comes to soul-search and eventually regret her decision over the course of the series…

Anyway.

Shane brings out the champagne, toasts the future with Stephanie, and offers her real power.”  She accepts, and actually does it in a pretty cool way:

She walked over to him and together they looked down over the city.  After a while an image from her recent bout of Bible study came into her mind.  Satan and Jesus on the mountaintop.  Hadn’t he offered Him the kingdoms of the world if He would just bow down and worship him?

She leaned her head on Barrington’s shoulder.  Well, she was smarter than that.  Mr. Barrington…Shane…wouldn’t even have to ask her twice.

Now, I would kinda like to see this scene from Shane’s point of view, because Shane the Interesting Character (as opposed to Shane the Cardboard Cutout Villain) keeps trying to poke his head out.

Hmm…meta-Steph and meta-Shane, anyone?

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Posted on August 31, 2010, in Babylon Rising, Books. Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. Huh. I have to assume that Steph’s mental progress here is some sort of macro or dogwhistle which makes perfect sense if you’re already an RTC – ‘cos it makes none at all to me. After all, all non-RTCs are basically Bad Guys, right? That’s the point of faith-over-works – nice Mr Moishewitz is just as damned as J. Random Non-Christian Baby-Raper. So what’s all this sudden soul-selling and most-important-thing-she-has-losing?

  2. After a while an image from her recent bout of Bible study came into her mind. Satan and Jesus on the mountaintop. Hadn’t he offered Him the kingdoms of the world if He would just bow down and worship him?

    Really? I mean, really? An editor let this pass why and how? The second sentence is an ugly fragment that should never have been separated from the first. The third sentence would be completely incoherent without the reverent use of caplitalization; I’m not normally a fan of passive voice, but in this case it cuts our subjects from two (him versus Him) to one, and would make it a little easier to read. (“Hadn’t He been offered bla bla bla if He would just bow and worship evil?”)

    And did Steph just say she was smarter than Jesus? I mean, really?

  3. This makes for an interesting characterization of her, though it might be too extreme for her to automatically liken Shane to the devil. Perhaps Faust and Mephistophiles might be better; it would certainly parse better, I think. Still, I think the authors were going for Shock Appeal here, to show that OMG THEY’RE BOTH EVIL! by using some choice blasphemy to underline what they’re doing.

    But yes, I too would like to know what Shane is thinking through this. Is he wondering how deeper is he going to go? Is he thinking that maybe he should warn her about Talon? Or is he thinking that he needs to get cat food on the way home?

    • Ah, I found what I was looking for! This is taken from Domus Publica, a collection of essays and short stories set in Star Wars. (Hey, it’s relevant! Honest!)

      To say that Palpatine regarded Mothma’s crumpled form with the same lack of interest with which he might have regarded a broken chair would be untrue. Palpatine found chairs useful. As it was, he felt nothing at all, registering only the factual information that Mothma had suddenly collapsed without warning. He saw nothing terribly interesting or alarming about it; the information was filed along with his observation that morning that Dangor sometimes chewed on his pen, the observation a few minutes earlier that Isard was wearing a new chronometer, and the observation he would make in a few hours that the Lady Tagge’s hair looked better when she wore it up. Three seconds after Mothma passed out, Palpatine made a mental note to buy more cat food, and then summoned the paramedics.

      From: http://www.domuspublica.net/the_presidents_war_room.html

      Anyway, thought I would pass that on. Part of me wonders if that’s how LaHaye WANTS Shane to be, but meta-Shane is probably having a lot more thoughts, a lot more concerns, a lot more emotional interaction with the world around him.

      But that would mean LaHaye would need to have that same emotional investment in the world around him. And he doesn’t.

  4. Referencing the Temptation is kinda cool, but the way they go about it makes Stephanie look like an idiot. Not like she read the Bible and decided it was wrong but like she read the Bible and completely missed the point.

    • That reminds me of one of the aspects of Chick Tracts that have been commented on before: the whole ‘You mean Jesus died for our sins? Why did nobody tell me?’ aspect.

      Fred made a comment on it back in his Left Behind reviews, in particular the whole section of Buck’s wondering why the Jews were bothering studying scripture to see who the Messiah was, when the answer was so obvious. The hardcore evangelicals like LaHaye and Chick have so internalized their worldview that it is all ‘obvious’ to them, and they can’t believe it isn’t as obvious to everybody else. Therefore, anybody who doesn’t believe the same way they do is either uninformed or refusing out of spite. The idea that somebody could go over the evidence and come to a different conclusion than them just does not fit into their worldview.

      Obviously, then, Steph falls into the ‘devil-tainted/refusing out of spite’ category.

      • In addition, sacrifice for sins (violation of a god’s commandments) has not been a part of almost any culture for so long, LaHaye et al have forgotten what the term ‘He died for our sins’ means. It’s just another phrase (magic words) that they utter without thinking.

        This being said, I do think that the temptation scene was interesting; there just needed to be more done with it.

      • It is an interesting scene, but yeah, underused. If I were writing it, especially if I were writing it as an evangelical Christian trying to evangelize, I would go one of two ways:

        1. Stephanie thinks she can control Shane, or at least control the situation. She thinks she can use his power for good—maybe she even thinks she can use it against him. Of course, as with all tragedies, the narrative meat comes in demonstrating how the situation becomes one she cannot control and cannot escape.

        2. Stephanie knows what’s going on. She knows what this is, she recognizes the Shane as the Devil and his offer as the Temptation, and she can’t say no. Because, that’s the thing. The Temptation is, y’know, tempting. So tempting that it would take a saint—no, greater than a saint, it would take the Lord descended Jesus himself to refuse. The trick here is to build Stephanie’s character up to this scene, so it seems perfectly natural that she would take the offer—indeed, so that every reader themselves feels that, in her place, they would say yes.

        Both options, of course, leave open the way for grace. Perhaps even for impossible grace—grace that comes even after the reader believes she could not possibly be saved.

        On the downside, this is a LaHaye novel, and both options also require work and skill.

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