Monthly Archives: October 2010

Best New Search

The top contender for “best search terms that have ever led someone to this blog” WAS…

“movie review unconscious kidnap”

That, however, has now been replaced by…

“why do laura have to die i dont like isi”

It’s hard to argue with logic like that.

Babylon Rising, Chapter 66

Happy Halloween!

Next month celebrates the one year anniversary of Heathen Critique, so we are actually right on schedule, so that glorious month can bring forth the beginning of the critique of Soon.

But for now, fittingly for Satan’s Birthday, we shall see what horrors Chapter 66…um, 6…brings us in Babylon Rising.

I will say right away that the next chapter brings true horror to our favorite character (after the falcons, of course), so let’s celebrate Isis McDonald while we can…

“The Hanging Gardens of Babylon,” Isis said dreamily, stirring her iced tea.  “I can’t think of five more mysterious and seductive words.”

Preach it, Isis!

Seductive?  I seriously think that Dinallo is just toying with LaHaye now, while he still can. 

Jassim and Murphy speculate on where the gigantic golden head might be at a site that has apparently been explored (and looted) quite a bit.

“So that is where the temple of Marduk is located?  In the Hanging Gardens?” [Jassim asked]

“Or above them.  We won’t really know until we get there,” Murphy said.

“You make it sound so simple.  Surely it is not possible to turn up at the site and just start digging.  So many of Iraq’s antiquities have already been looted.”

Yeah, and it’s time for some more looting, Mr. I Have To Call In Every Favor I’m Owed To Get Anywhere In This Book Michael Murphy!

“That’s the point, Jassim.  The best place for Iraq’s ancient treasures right now is a museum someplace far away.  When law and order have been restored, and Iraq’s own museums are up and running again, then everything can be returned and the Iraqi people can appreciate their ancient heritage without worrying that soome hoodlum is going to take it and put it on the open market.”

Or, you know, stash them at the Parchments of Freedom Foundation or your university so that you can give talks about them at your church.  Whatever it takes to let you sleep at night, I guess, Murph.  Tell me again about how legal and above-board your little jaunt into Iraq is, Professor.

To top off the superiority complex, Murphy opines that Dakkuri (the fictional high priest who carved the messages on the pieces of the Serpent in the first place) “managed to hide a Biblical artifact so no one would find it until…the time was right.”

Yeah, God was working with this evil high priest so that for thousands of years, no one would find any pieces of the Serpent.  They were just waiting for the right time, when the Great Michael Murphy would come along to steal them so that a fifth-rate supervillain could steal them right back. 

So then Jassim tries to bow out of the treasure hunt, because he’s a scaredy-cat.  Murph says he doesn’t think they’ll see Talon again, because Talon didn’t get to see the pictures of the Serpent, and thus doesn’t know where the Golden Head is.  Oh, and also, Murphy has called in the UNITED STATES MARINES to secure the entire site.  Yeah, because the Marines surely have nothing better to do in Iraq in 2003 than to secure Murphy’s vaguely-almost-sorta legal Biblical archeology two-person expedition, to find something that they don’t really know where it is.

With the promise of the Marines to shoot any suspicious falcons on sight, Jassim is back on the expedition.  So it’s a three-person semi-legal Biblical archeology expedition.

Babylon Rising, Chapter 65

Murphy climbs back up through the shaft.

Let’s see, he failed to get the head of the Serpent, failed to shoot the murderer, and lost his wife’s cross. 

So, we’re right on schedule.

…Murphy imagined Isis and Jassim being butchered by the killer he had had in his sights.  … I could have stopped him.  I could have stopped him.

YEAH, YOU COULD HAVE STOPPED HIM, YOU STUPID, STUPID MAN!

But Murphy gets back outside to find Isis and Jassim just fine, and unaware that anyone else is in the general vicinity of the pyramid.  I guess Talon made it out of the pyramid and was spirited away in Wonder Woman’s invisible jet.

Murphy whines about how he thought it was God’s will that he get the Serpent, and then is a real ass to Isis, who opines that maybe what God really wanted was for Murphy to be able to read the inscriptions on the pieces of the Serpent:

Murphy pounded his fist against the window.  “I lost the head of the Serpent.  It’s at the bottom of the pyramid by now.  No one will ever find it there.”

As others have pointed out, WHY CAN’T HE?  You’re an archeologist, but “bottoms” of pyramids are off-limits?  WTF?

Also, why am I not surprised that Murphy is the kind of guy who is violent when frustrated?

“Maybe that’s for the best,” Isis said.  “I think the Serpent–every bit of it–was nothing but evil.  If God had a task for you, perhaps it was just to find the inscription.  Dakkuri’s final message.”

“Well, guess what, that’s at the bottom of the pyramid, too, in case you hadn’t figured it out.”

Isis ignored his sarcastic tone.  “Not necessarily.”

Yeah, Isis ignored him.  Meta-Isis smacked him. 

And Isis saves the day yet again, by pointing out that the Robot Vacuum’s camera got many pictures of the head of the Serpent when it was hovering in midair, and they could enhance the images and read the inscription.

OMG, guys, guys, guys!

Do you think the Robot Vacuum got pictures of Talon?  ‘Cause I bet the authorities would be interested in enhanced photos of a multiple murderer and bomber! 

Eh, never mind.  Nobody in the story cares about that.

So, not giving a flying crap about the villain who is making his getaway even as they speak, they head back to the University to play with Jassim’s magical technical equipment.  On the drive, Murphy muses about his bow, concluding that shooting the bird and not Talon was a divinely-inspired event.  So that Murphy wouldn’t have the blood of a murderer on his hands, I guess.

And, once again, no one said you had to kill him, Murphy!  You could have just wounded him!

IDIOT!

Oh, and considering how many people Talon kills in the remaining books in this series, I have to question God’s judgment on this one if the action was, indeed, divinely inspired.

(I believe I will start a count when we get to those books, but as we are coming up on the end of Babylon Rising, I am getting really psyched about digging deep into the insanity that is Soon.)

Back at the University, Jassim uses his bitchin’ equipment to magnify the inscription on the head, and Isis translates it right then and there.  And all it says is that if the “wrong people” get their hands on the Golden Head of the statue of Nebuchanezzar (currently hidden in “Marduk’s temple”),  the evil power of Babylon will rise again.

Oh, hey, just like when the Antichrist sets up his seat of power in “New Babylon” in Tim LaHaye’s other series of books, that is supposed to take place after this series!

Wow. 

Oh, and turns out that unlike the fictional Pyramid of the Winds in the last few chapters, the temple of Marduk is a real place:

And so, after Jassim’s Robot Vacuum found the head of the Serpent, and his computers enhanced the photos that the Robot Vacuum took, and after Isis translated the inscription (again), Murphy shows why he is truly useful to this mission–he can call in favors!

“For this one, I’m going to have to call in everybody: the Parchments of Freedom Foundation, the American University, and my friend Levi, to pull every string in the region.  We’ve got to get into Iraq.”

Babylon Rising, Chapter 64

Well, here’s where it just gets stupid.

Er.

Standing on opposite sides of the air shaft in the center of the pyramid, in which the head of the Brazen serpent is hovering (and I can heardly believe I just wrote that), Talon reveals The Terrible Truth:

“My name is Talon.  I told it to your wife, but I guess she never got to share it with you.”

Ooo, cold.  Here is Murphy’s response:

“You monster.  So, I was right.  You are the same man who is responsible for all of the horrors of the recent weeks.”

Okay, first of all, I am trying to think of a more cold and detached way to describe the murders of about ten different people (several of whom, Murphy counted as “friends”) than “all of the horrors of the recent weeks,” but I’m failing.

Second, it is so very Michael Murphy to say, “So, I was right,” as the first response to the man who killed his wife.

Also…bwa?  Right about what, Murphy?  Right that the guy that killed Laura is the same guy that set the bomb in your church?  Because I think everyone pretty much knew that already.

Right that the guy who bombed the church and killed Laura is the same guy who stole the other part of the Serpent?  Well, sorta, but I gotta call insufficient evidence on this one, Murph, as for all you know, Talon is part of a gang of criminals.  (As, indeed, he is.)

Anyway.

Talon monologues, as supervillains are wont to do, that he intends to get the hovering head of the Serpent then double-back to the University and swipe the middle part. 

Murphy, who is really obsessing about who’s right and who’s wrong (not the hot issue, I would think), sneers that all of Talon’s “modern” power can’t compete with ancient minds.  To which Talon promptly goes,

And Talon sics his pet falcon on the head of the Serpent.

I’m sure he has already calculated the airspeed of a laden falcon.  Because he’s that kind of supervillain.

A bird, he [Murphy] thought.  Of course

Damn, that man is obsessed with being right.  Of course he has a bird.  Because there is no other possible way to retrieve the head…like, say, a net or something.

Speaking of, did Murphy have a plan for retrieving the head?  Doesn’t seem like it.

Okay, now it’s time for the standoff moment.  Murphy takes out his trusty bow, which he had strapped to his back as he crawled on his tummy through the tiny tunnel…

…and aims the arrow first at the bird, then at Talon. 

Ah, what a moral conundrum.  On the one hand, you could shoot the bird, making it, and the head of the Brazen Serpent, fall into the abyss, never to be seen again.  Or, you could shoot the guy who just admitted to killing 6-10 people, including your very own wife, and thus increase your chances not only of retrieving the piece of the Serpent, but of bringing the bomber and murderer to justice.

And, hell, nothing in the world says you have to shoot to kill.  If you’re having moral qualms about killing, just shoot him in the leg or shoulder or something, if you’re such a great shot, Murph.

(And you know what, I’m not even going to bring up the stupidity of bringing a gigantic bow and arrows, but not bringing a gun, Mr. Army Guy!

Yeah, I’ll give you one guess what happens.

He shoots the bird.

The bird, and the head of the Brazen Serpent, fall into the abyss.  Yup, Murphy had the perfect opportunity to shoot the guy who killed his wife and his “friends” and a couple of innocent security guards, and HE DECIDED NOT TO TAKE THE SHOT.

And Talon takes advantage of Murphy staring woefully at the descending Serpent head (poor birdie…it was just trying to do its job…) and gets away

And no, Jassim and Isis do not notice anyone driving away from the “other side” of the pyramid in a car.

Oh oh oh!!  And get this!

Talon’s second falcon somehow gets behind Murphy (a good trick, as Murph is standing on a little ledge), and dive-bombs him just hard enough to snatch Laura’s wooden root cross from around Murph’s neck!

A.  No, I am not making that up.

B.  I didn’t even know Murphy was wearing the thing.  I guess I figured he had it stored in a box or something.  Yanno, that he was keeping it safe.

C.  How do you even train a falcon to do that?  Forget Biblical artifacts, Murphy need to be studying these hyper-intelligent birds.

In short, holy crap.

Babylon Rising, Chapter 63

Ruby’s Casting Call proudly presents:

Chapter 63 of Babylon Rising!

Starring:

 Nicolas Cage as Michael Murphy

  Megan Follows as Dr. Isis Proserpina McDonald

 

  Martini as Jassim

  Will Arnett as Talon

and…

Robot Vacuum as The Pyramid Crawler

(As usual, quotes from the book are in bold.)

AT THE FICTIONAL PYRAMID OF THE WINDS…

  Dammit, why is Isis acting all calm and happy?  I’M the one who should be receiving encouraging messages from God telling me I’m doing the right thing!

  La la la…

  I will now send my trusty Pyramid Crawler into the fictional pyramid to see…whatever we will see.  Go, fetch.

  Vrooooooom…

  AH HA!!!  There’s…absolutely nothing in here I can see.

  Awesome.  I’m going in.  All by myself.  And I’m taking my trusty utility belt.  And my bow.

  WTF?  What on earth do you need that for?  Especially when you will be crawling on your belly through a tiny tunnel.

  ‘Cause I’m a manly man and the hero and we’re in the last few chapters of the book, so there’s probably a climactic action scene coming up.

  Be careful.  As the woman, I can’t come in and help you for the finale, even though I saved your ass a few days ago.  I’ll just stand here and be a girl.

  *crawls through the tunnel and reaches the main wind shaft thing in the center, where the head of the Brazen Serpent is hovering in midair because of the weird wind…stuff*

    MWOO-HA-HA!!!  I have beaten you here, Michael Murphy!!  I’m not sure how, but I managed to figure out which country and which pyramid you were going to, then beat you out into the desert without leaving any signs outside the pyramid!

  TALON!!!  YOU SHALL PAY FOR MURDERING MY WIFE!!!

  Wait.  You don’t know my name or find out that I’m the killer until the next chapter.

  Oh.

Babylon Rising, Chapter 62, Part 2

The second part of this chapter is Michael Murphy’s conversation with his buddy Jassim, he of the Pyramid Crawler that will investigate the tomb where the head of the Brazen Serpent is supposed to be.

It’s pretty boring, but for two things:

1.  Isis, mirroring her predecessor, excuses herself from the Man Talk.  Now, when Laura did this, she said straight up that it was because of the sheikh’s outdated views on women.  We don’t know why Isis excused herself, though it may be because she was “distracted.”

2.  The drinking.  Murphy, a RTC, does not drink.  Jassim, a Muslim, does.  The following fascinating exchange on alcohol takes place:

He [Jassim] sipped appreciatively from his martini glass.

“You’re sure you won’t?” [Jassim asked]

“Are you kidding?  I know what you put in that stuff.  The alcohol is the least of it.” [said Murphy]

Jassim laughed his rich, mellifluous laugh.  “Same old Murphy.”

“Same old Jassim.”  Murphy raised his glass of lemonade.

“Yes, sadly, I am a very bad Muslim.”

Okay, so Murphy doesn’t drink.  (The feeble “I know what you put into it” bit has Dinallo’s hands all over it, as though he was trying to find a “real” reason to justify LaHaye’s edict that Christian Heroes do not drink.)

Murphy, a “very good Christian,” even according to his arch-nemisi, The Seven, does not drink.

Jassim, a “very bad Muslim,” does drink.

I find this fascinating.  Jassim drinks, thus making him a bad Muslim, and thus that much closer to being a Christian (as we know, Murphy prays for the conversion of everyone he knows).  Murphy doesn’t drink, because he is such a good Christian.  So, does Murphy refrain from drinking because it is a bad thing to do, or because it makes him a Very Good Christian?  If Jassim were to convert, would Murphy want him to stop drinking?

It’s a very complicated mental puzzle with which to be confronted every time you are offered a martini.

Babylon Rising, Chapter 62, Part 1

As though fearing they gave Isis too much of her own way in the last few chapters, what with her saving Murphy’s ass and doing all the work and all, Arrogant Murphy is back with a vengeance in this chapter, with Isis relegated to Cute Convert Prospect:

She’d caught a little bit of sun since they’d been in the Middle East, and it suited her.  She looked more confident, less like a creature of the dark ready to scurry back into her hole at the foundation at the slightest sign the outside world was getting too close.  But he wasn’t sure he wanted to deal with her new assertiveness just then. 

Okay, a few things:

1.  So, tan=confident and assertive?

2.  Isis is Scottish.  As a fellow pale woman of Scottish descent, I find it highly unlikely that Isis got any sun while in the Middle East (for one thing, she’s spent most of her time either in the sewers or in her hotal room, and for another, if she is as smart as advertised, she would be covered with SPF 476 sunblock and wearing a huge hat whenever she went out).  And even if she did get any sun, it would likely manifest as an unbecoming sunburn, not a sexy (and confident and assertive) tan.  Not that I am bitter.

3.  Silly Isis!  Thinking she can be confident and assertive around a man!  Murphy doesn’t want to deal, dammit!  (And all she did, as far as being “confident and assertive” was ask Murphy what his plan was once he got the third piece of the Serpent, since he can no longer put the whole thing together.)

Murphy does manage to respond to Assertive Isis, though, saying that it will still prove the Bible true.  (“I can’t think of anything more important.”)  He segues into prophecy talk:

“If we can show they were writing at the time they claimed, then that proves they really could see history in advance.”

“And why is that so important?” [Isis asks, apparently playing dumb, because even Heathen I can see how that would be important to Murphy.]

“Because of the predictions that haven’t come true yet.  So people can be sure they will happen.”

This section is so clunkily inserted into the story, as is the part following, in which Isis brings up (for reasons best known to herself) the Book of Daniel.  Honestly, none of this crap exists for any other reason than to remind the reader about the Coming Judgment of God, lest we were distracted by stories of kickass female philologists thwarting ritual murders.

Murphy craps on and on, telling us stuff we already know about the big statue of King Neb.  The only new info we get is that the ten toes of the statue “represent an unstable form of government that will take over from today’s nation-states in the near future.  Probably ten kings or rulers of some kind, paving the way for the Antichrist.”

Hey, wanna hear a wacky coincidence?  In Tim LaHaye’s best-selling Left Behind series, Antichrist Nicolae Carpathia’s Global Community is governed by the ten subpotentates of the ten new kingdoms of the world.

So now we know Murphy’s interpretation is correct!

Blah, blah, blah, as Murphy talks about how the Antichrist is going to take over and things are going to suck and oh yeah…Murphy notices Isis is no longer wearing her amulet.

I don’t think I mentioned Isis’s amulet in the past, so I will now: Isis wears an amulet with the head of Ishtar around her neck.  “It was a gift from her father, and it was a constant comfort in times of stress.” (Chapter 55)

This little aside about her taking it off reads as though Isis is leaving her ancient goddesses behind for the truth of the Bible, but it just feels to me like she is tossing aside a precious gift from her loving father.  Sad.

Here is Ishtar: