Soon: Prologue: Idiots and Phones and the Mark of the Beast

Well, that’ll teach me to use the words “calendar” and “porn” in a post title.  Someone found my blog by searching for “porn calendars.”

Hey, whatever works!

Jerry Jenkins does indeed get started on the phone porn right away–the paragraph I quoted a few days ago was the second in the book.

The first just introduces us to the fact that Delta Force Command Sergeant Andrew Pass drives a Chevy Electrolumina.

In case you are interested, his pursuers are in a Suburban Hydro.

Cars apparently powered by sun, electricity, and hydrogen?  Like I said before, This World Rocks.

So, Andy tells Jack that he is being followed, that he is unarmed, and asks that he “get hold of Angela in case I can’t.”

Then, Andy hangs up.  (Well, he touches his thumb and pinkie together, which is hanging up.)

This all raises some intersting questions:

1.  What do people who use sign language do in this world?  Seems like they would be constantly calling Australia.

2.  Same question for people who work with their hands.

3.  How can anyone ever be assured of privacy in this world?  When the Marvelous Phone (praise its holy name) can be activated by tapping your fingers, can’t anyone’s life be put on speaker phone at any time?

4.  And based on that question: WHY THE HELL DID ANDY HANG UP?  Why doesn’t he want Jack and anyone who can hear him to know what happens?  Seriously, WTF?


Boring scene short, Andy is caught.  Good job, Command Sergeant.

A rawboned, thin-lipped woman with a shock of silver hair stepped forward.  “Andrew Pass?”

He would not respond.

Oooo, Andy, you’re such a tough guy.

And remember folks, unattractive women are always evil.

Another uniform, a young man, patted him down.  The vapor rushing from his mouth told Andy the kid was excited.

Yeah, only a young, fresh kid would be excited under such circumstances.  Sure, Andy was just chased through the snow and captured by nefarious and vague evildoers, but it’s all pretty mundane.

“Unarmed.”  He cuffed Andy’s hands behind his back, the steel cold on his wrists.  “I’ll wand him.”

Oh no.

He ran a detector over Andy’s limbs, stopping when a high tone signalled the ID biochip beneath the skin of his right forearm.  The young man studied an LED readout.  “It’s Pass, all right.”

Wow, Andy really is dumb.  If everyone has the Mark of the Beast, just like in Left Behind ID biochips, then a) what’s with the tough guy, I’m-not-telling-you-my-name-and-you-can’t-make-me game?  And b) why is he surprised when the bad guys scan his biochip?  Wouldn’t the whole point of having biochips be so you could scan them?


The bad guys toss Andy into a truck and drive off.

Would his family or his compatriots have a clue what became of him?

Hmmm, I dunno.  Sure would be cool if you had a phone implanted in your skull that you activated by tapping your fingers or just speaking, wouldn’t it?


Posted on December 4, 2010, in Books, Google-fu, Soon. Bookmark the permalink. 27 Comments.

  1. The totally petroleum-free cars are very rockin’. The less well-thought-out telephone things, less so.

    And wait, vapor leaving the mouth indicates sexual arousal?

    I think all the synapses in my mind just exploded.

  2. I think the “phone in the skull” is one of those things that the authors never really thought completely through. Sort of like transporters in Star Trek, if you stop and consider them, they cause all kinds of logical problems.

    On the other hand, a cell phone implanted in your skull might be powered by your own mental activity. Since this is a Jerry Jenkins protagonist, it might take a few days to build up enough charge to make a short outgoing call…

    • Redwood Rhiadra

      Ooh, snap! 🙂

    • Inquisitive Raven

      One thing that isn’t clear to me is how the phone is supposed to work. I mean how does it know what gestures the user is making, much less what they mean. That implies inputs from outside the skull, so is it a neural interface? If so, why the hell, does it need the gestures? Just thinking about making the call should suffice, and you don’t need voice recognition either. Is is reading the muscles? If so, then all of the OP’s questions apply. I mean how does it know that a particular gesture is meant to activate the phone and not do something else? Does Jenkins even consider these questions?

      Also, if the blasted thing has voice recognition, why the heck does he need to recite the number? When this thing was published in 2004, phones with voice recognition could be told, “call Jack” and dial a number stored in memory that it associated with the phrase. If one knew more than one Jack, one could distinguish them, e.g. “brother Jack” for a sibling, vs “work Jack” for a coworker.

      Getting away from the phone for a moment, uh, this embedded ID chip. Why is it apparently necessary to wave the scanner over every extremity? Aren’t they implanted in a standard location like vet chips are implanted between an animal’s should blades? When I mentioned to a tech at new vet’s office that my cats are chipped, she got a scanner and checked the id numbers. There was no waving the thing over the entire animal, because she knew where the chips were supposed to be.

      • I’m going to guess that the hero has little chips in his fingertips, all of which are RFID or similar (can broadcast but don’t need a power source), so with three receivers on his head his phone can track the location of each finger tip, allowing for basic gesture recognition (telling the difference between an “OK” sign and a fist would probably be tricky with this system, since it can only track finger tips. It’d work better with a transmitter at each knuckle.)

        Of course, that’s a rather complex way of doing it. A keypad on a wristband would be roughly as convenient, wouldn’t require surgery, and could be easily replaced/fixed if it broke.

        Or, heck, have sunglasses that track eye movements. These exist right now (mind you, the microchip example is all possible with modern tech, if not currently built) and allow you to do basic inputs and allow a HUD to be projected onto one/both of the lenses.

        Or make it sensitive to vibrations in one’s skull (since it’s there anyways) and have you tap your teeth in sequence to activate it.

        …There are many ways to do this that work substantially better.

        Still, I half-hope that it is a full neurological implant, ’cause I want this to go as cyberpunk as it can, just so that I can mock it all the more. Plus, with any luck we’ll get L’s view on how free will works if a computer virus can take over your memory. I doubt he’ll actually deal with that, despite it being standard cyberpunk fare, ’cause I doubt he has the empathy or imagination to even think of the issue, never mind address it in any way.

      • @GDwarf: Oh maaan, a virus in your brain? Creeeeepy. :O

        Actually, for a good example of the kind of crazy stuff head implants can do? If you can still stand Elizabeth Moon read her Vatta’s War books.

        Additionally, read Kingsbury’s Psychohistorical Crisis. Great stuff.

  3. Someone found my blog by searching for “porn calendars.”

    I don’t envy the people in this person’s Secret Santa group. Or do I?

  4. I don’t think it can be a neural interface, or all the gesture stuff would become irrelevant. This sounds more like something we could easily achieve today: GDwarf’s position tags on the fingers combined with an implanted throat mike and earpiece and the phone’s computing hardware stored wherever it would be convenient (in the case of a JJ protagonist, probably in the space where the frontal lobes would have been).

    Obviously being “raw-boned” and having silver hair is unattractive to everyone. Well, if your standard of attractiveness is Church Ladies, maybe. I’m surprised her hair isn’t “short-cropped” as well.

    Have to say, though, that hydrogen-burning cars do present some difficulties. The energy density per mass isn’t too bad, but the energy density per volume is pretty poor at any practical pressure. So you just can’t carry enough to go very far or very fast. Take a fuel cell, throw in the amount of energy you need to burn on compressors and initial electrolysis, and you’re looking at something like 25% of grid power delivered to the car’s motors, compared with 85-ish% for an electric car even with our current not-very-impressive batteries. Burning the hydrogen is even less efficient. And when they get into a crash..

    • Eh, hydrogen flames go pretty much straight UP and the explosion itself would dissipate much faster since H2 is a gas and loves to float around in the atmosphere.

      The problem of compactly storing H2 is the biggest stumbling block, but I tell ya, I’d love a rocket powered H2 vehicle for the sheer lulz factor.

      That, and Mazda actually developed a proof of concept H2 internal combustion engine.

      • I’m going to go out on a limb and say that these cars are NOT packing their fuel as metastable metallic hydrogen.

        But the BANG would be most impressive if they did!

  5. @apocalypsereview

    Heh, for brain viruses, the Ghost in the Shell series covers them pretty frequently (both the manga, movies, and TV series) and they highlight some of the creepy stuff that can be done if your brain is stored on a computer and your anti-virus isn’t up to date.

    Probably the most chilling example is a garbage truck driver who goes around hacking into government databases from pay phones. See, he thinks that his wife has divorced him and stolen custody of his child, but this guy he knows gave him this program he can run so that he can collect info on her to prove that she shouldn’t have custody and he should.

    Turns out the man has no wife, no child. Never did. A hacker gave him false memories of both, then gave him the program to run from random phone terminals so that he’d give the hacker access to these databases without being an actual link to him.

    The scene where the guy realizes that possibly everything he remembers about his entire life is a lie, and that the child he loves so very, very much never existed is just heartbreaking.

    • The whole embedded-phone thing reminds me a bit of the YA novel Feed, by M.T. Anderson. Almost everyone in the world has a sort of constant internet access installed in their brains, so they are pretty much surfing, e-mailing, and texting 24/7. It’s a good, not great book, IMHO, but it does acknowledge that such a device throws person privacy, even of our own thoughts, right out the window. For example, in one scene a father shows his family pictures from his business trip. But because they can only see what he saw, and what he…um, focused on, they see that he spent a few moments ogling a pretty coworker.

      The problem here is that Jenkins never explores even these basic issues. Why does Andy hang up, when his constant voice-activated phone could be used to help others mount a rescue, or at the very least, alert them to who these people are and what they know (and don’t know). But no, it’s just presented as something that makes it so much easier than carrying around a tiny electronic device that you have to periodically charge.

  6. When I read the bit about the phone, my first thought was of Transmetropolitan, another setting with a (somewhat) awesome future. In that story, it’s nanotechnology pills that ‘grow’ or suppress growth of internal structures for a short period of time. So Spider Jerusalem can take “phone trait” and have an internal cell phone, but only for a few hours.

  7. Like many things in these books, this plothole could have been easily resolved if the writers had taken two second to put in two sentences. Just say the Bad Guys were jamming his brainphone signal and Andy only had time to get that short phone message out before they cut him off.

    But nope. We can’t have creativity here.

    • You know, that’s … logical. I’m just dumbfounded that Jenkins didn’t even bother to think that through.

      Who wants to bet this book was another one of those “I blasted it out in two weeks” deals?

      • I watch/read a lot of “science” fiction, I’m used to bullshit technobabble excuses for things to stop working at convenient moments. And we already have devices that block cell phone signals, I’m sure brainphones would get something similar for hospitals and airplanes.

        I doubt these guys even know who Kirk is.

      • Jenkins is proud of how quickly he writes books. (A bit like Piers Anthony.)

        I tend to assume that head-phones would use the same network infrastructure as other mobile devices, so the cops could simply kill the local cell or ban that IMEI ID from connecting… and presumably red patches of skin over the antenna would become a fashion statement.

  8. Good heavens, you weren’t kidding about the phone porn!

    So he got all nervous when they scanned him for his chip? Didn’t he even think that they would do that?

    I do have to admit, the world sounds fairly rockin’. So what do we have to do to get it? I’m pretty sure that just banning religion — which I wouldn’t be for anyway — is the only way we’ll get our brainphones and gasless cars. Probably do without the biochip stuff, too.

    Still, Jenkins already seems like he’s capable of sucking out all the interesting details of a world. Out of curiosity, what made you want to review Soon? =)

    • Well, I tried to find the original slacktivist post where someone mentioned Soon, but I can’t. I know someone mentioned it there and then I found the book-on-tape and listened to it on a long car trip and then…wowsers. O_O

  1. Pingback: Soon: Chapter 13: Awards and Women « Heathen Critique

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