Soon: Chapter 1: …and World War III

It’s always a risky business to portray the causes of war.  Jenkins has put himself into an awkward position, too—he portrays atheists as “incorrectly” attributing all wars to religion.  Yet, he must make World War III about religion.  It would be a very odd thing, indeed, for a world war to be “caused” by money or power or land, and then for atheists, the world’s most despised minority, to be able to rise up and convince the entire planet that religion must be outlawed. 

In other words, it’s a bit weird for Jenkins to simultaneously say that atheists are wrong and overreacting and only looking at the worst of religion, and also that…they are entirely correct, in this world that he has created, that religion did indeed almost kill everyone.

[Paul’s] religious studies program was a virtual military history course, especially when it came to World War III.  It had been sparked by the Muslim holy war against Jews and the West, which began with the American World Trade Center attacks in 2001.  The U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 led to an escalation of the Israel-versus-Palestine conflict, prompting devastating terrorist attacks in the nations that tried to quell it—in both North America and Europe—in 2008.  Meanwhile, Catholics and Protestants continued to war in Northern Ireland, culminating in the destruction of major landmarks in London; the Balkans exploded with the mutual persecutions of the Catholics, Muslims, and Orthodox Serbs; Hindus and Muslims battled over Kashmir; and various Asian religious factions skirmished.

So, all religious “skirmishes” around the world are conflated into one gigantic conflict.

Also, the American World Trade Center?  Um, isn’t it just The World Trade Center?  Is Jenkins really that concerned that his readership, primarily American Christians, will be confused about which World Trade Center he means?

But the part that made me giggle, the first time I heard this, was this part…

…various Asian religious factions skirmished.

Not because there is anything inherently amusing in the skirmishes of Asian religious factions, but because I would challenge Jenkins to name even one “Asian religious faction.”  I get the feeling that Jenkins quickly named off the “skirmishes” he knew off the top of his head (Iraq, Northern Ireland), then Wikipedia’d a few others (Balkans, Kashmir), then realized that the world is not made up of just Western Europe, the Middle East, and the United States of America (USA!  USA!  Woooo!).  So he quickly included a few “Asian religious factions” to cover the globe. 

Of course, there’s also the matter of Africa and South America, but I suppose it’s asking a bit much that Jenkins remember them, too.

Narrator: The South American group includes Brazil and Argentina.

Mike: And a few other countries not worth mentioning.

-MST3K, Santa Claus

Jenkins gets back to the Asian religious factions when he begins to detail a few bits of WWIII.

Ranold had been commander of the U.S. Pacific Army during the war.  He was on his way back from Washington to his headquarters at Fort Shafter, north of Honolulu, when disaster struck. 

Feel free to check me on this, because my military knowledge is not what it might be, but wouldn’t it have made more sense for Ranold to be in the Navy, if he was headquartered in Hawaii? 

Conflict between Asian religious factions in the South China Sea resulted in the launching of two nuclear warheads.  A colossal chunk of southern China, including Kowloon, was literally separated from the rest of the continent.  Besides the devastation of the bombs themselves, which snuffed out tens of millions of lives, the violence to the topography caused a tsunami of such magnitude that it engulfed all of Hong Kong Island, swamped Taiwan with hundreds of feet of water, raced to the Philippine Sea and the East China Sea, obliterated Japan and Indonesia, swept into the Northwest Pacific Basin and the Japan Trench, finally reaching the North Pacific Current.

This is the Soon equivalent of travel porn, isn’t it? 

Oh, and if you think there will be long-term worldwide repercussions to the setting off of two nuclear bombs, then think again.  Radiation, cancer, pollution?  Nah.

It was upon the whole of the Hawaiian Islands, swallowing the entire state before any evacuation could take place.  Not one person in all of Hawaii survived.  The great tidal wave eventually reached Southern California and Baja California, reaching farther inland than expected and killing thousands more who believed they had fled far enough.  It changed the landscape and the history of millions of acres from the Pacific Rim to what was then known as North America.  The global map would never look the same, and decades later the grief at the human toll still lingered.

Is it just me, or is Jenkins trying to make the deaths of thousands in California sound much worse than the deaths of tens of millions in China?  There’s just something about the term “snuffed out” that lends a certain air of disrespect that the Californians don’t receive.

Paul and Jae have the following scintillating conversation about Hawaii:

“We all have painful areas, Jae.”

“Of course we do.”  Jae steered the children toward their beds and tucked them in.  “But, Paul, he did lose his entire army and the population of a whole state.  Hawaii was a state then, you know.”

Paul bent to embrace Connor, who turned away, appearing upset by the tone of the conversation.  “There were a lot of states then, Jae.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

They closed the kids’ door and stepped into the hall.  “Just that it’s not like losing a whole region would be now.”

Paul seems awfully casual about the war that robbed him of his father.  But hey, we need as much evidence as we can get that Paul Is An Ass, right?

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Posted on December 29, 2010, in Books, Soon. Bookmark the permalink. 27 Comments.

  1. Separated…from the continent…

    What did they do, send the missiles into a fault line?!

    Never mind that I’d expect Bangladesh, Burma, eastern India, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives to have been desolated as well.

    The thing of it is that other than the Islam contingent in Indonesia and Malaysia, the major religions of Southeastern Asia–Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism–are actually apatheistic (well, that’s debatable with Confucianism, but that deities aren’t exactly its focus is the important part). Unless India and Sri Lanka are regarded as part of SE Asia, that is, in which case you have the very theistic Hinduism. But it sounds like Jenkins was counting India as part of the Kashmir problem (which, if I remember the situation correctly, is more about land jurisdiction than religion. How come nobody’s trying for Kashmir as an independent nation, anyway?! Guelph/Ghibelline conflict Mk. II…). So, not likely.

    Anyway, the point is that you’re not likely to have a lot of strictly religion-inspired conflicts in most of southeastern Asia, barring a sudden spike in Aum Shinrikyo-like cults or would-be reincarnations of Gung Ye.

  2. >>>Is it just me, or is Jenkins trying to make the deaths of thousands in California sound much worse than the deaths of tens of millions in China?

    Of course! I thought everybody knows by now that people with sun-streaked blond hair, eyes the colour of Pacific Ocean and perfect size 6 figures are always more important!

    (Yeah, I acquired a new snarkdom resently. There’s even a secondary character who looks like young Robert Redford!)

  3. Wow. That’s two big, chunky warheads. And somebody’s been reading some basic oceanography. That’s probably more research than went into all of Left Behind, right there.

    Fort Shafter is indeed where the US Army’s Pacific Command (not the “Pacific Army”) has its headquarters.

    But yes, of course all religious conflicts are just one big conflict: it’s between Us and Them.

    • “Fort Shafter is indeed where the US Army’s Pacific Command (not the “Pacific Army”) has its headquarters.”

      I stand corrected, thanks! (And apparently, so does Jenkins. :P)

    • Inquisitive Raven

      Okay, I can believe that sufficiently large nuclear warheads detonated in the right place could set off a tsunami (i.e. underground, on a fault line, near or in the ocean) but as big as described? Hawaii’s been hit by tsunamis before and not notably affected. I once stayed at a motel in Hilo that had markers set up showing how far some tsunamis had gotten. Hilo is a coastal town and the tsunamis hadn’t gone all the way through it. Mind you, this was before the Boxing Day Tsunami, but still.

      While we’re at it, someone may have read some basic oceanography, but they sure didn’t read their nuclear history. The biggest bomb on record was nicknamed Big Ivan and known in the West as the Tsar Bomba, and no one’s built one on that scale since. I don’t think two even of that one would cause that kind of devastation even if optimally placed. I’d expect China to have megaton bombs, but North Korea’s known nuclear tests were in the few kiloton range, and I’d expect that to be more typical of SE Asian powers, assuming that they have nukes in the first place.

      As noted above, I think you’d need to detonate the device underground to set off a tsunami at all, and actual deployment is likely to involve air bursts in order to a) maximize the damage from the shockwave and minimize the amount of fallout which is created when irradiated material is thrown into the air. Tests are conducted underground in order to keep irradiated material contained, and underground testing only became the standard when the hazards of above ground testing were understood.

      • Absolutely – you’re looking at specially-designed bombs, placed on a fault line (I don’t know whether there are any in the right place), and when your most plausible global devastation scenario comes from Superman it’s not looking good. (Of course, if you aren’t allowed to believe in climate change that takes out the more realistic alternatives.)

  4. Meanwhile, Catholics and Protestants continued to war in Northern Ireland, culminating in the destruction of major landmarks in London;
    The last IRA bombings in mainland Britain were in the mid-90s sometime. Since then there’s been a long-standing peace deal, with an ex-IRA commander (Martin McGuiness) sharing power with Protestant leaders he was once trying to kill. Those remnants of the old IRA and protestant forces who didn’t give up their weapons have turned into criminal gangs fighting over drugs and territory. In any case, the NI conflict was never actually about religion, but about discrimination and inequality.
    And two nukes setting off a continental rift and sending a giant killer tsunami all the way across the Pacific? Jenkins has clearly been getting his geological information from the same source as his history information.
    Also, what have they got against Hawaii? (Need I ask…?)

    • Damm – thought I’d closed the blockquote.

    • Jenkins is clearly a man ahead of his time…he should have penned 2012. 😀

    • “The last IRA bombings in mainland Britain were in the mid-90s sometime. Since then there’s been a long-standing peace deal…”

      Not to mention “culminating in the destruction of major landmarks in London.” This gave me a rolleyes because 1) it sounds yet again like Jenkins hasn’t heard of any cities in the United Kingdom bar the capital (even in a context where one might, for instance, recall the Birmingham Six or Omagh), and 2) like he’s expecting his audience to be more impressed by the destruction of physical property than actual loss of human life. Never mind if a hypothetical bomb killed/maimed a few hundred people– the *important* thing is that American tourists can’t visit Tower Bridge anymore.

  5. “Also, what have they got against Hawaii? (Need I ask…?)”

    I think the fact that Hawaii is gone and there were major reprisal attacks in the US and Europe starting in _gasp!_ 2008 speaks for itself. Turns out, the little Bush kid really was all that was standing between us and the terrorists!

    As for religious factions in Asia? Hmmm….Well, personally I consider Communism to be a religion (especially the North Korean variant) but I’m fairly sure that’s not what JJ’s thinking about. Perhaps all the Chinese Christians launched a 21st Century version of the Tai Ping Rebellion? Uyghurs in western China got the bomb? Fallun Gong turned militant?
    The only semi-plausible answer I can think of is if militant Islamic faction came to power in Indonesia, leading to the establishment of some kind of Taliban-type state. Although I can’t see what kind of threat they could pose to Communist China, at least then you could conceivably get a religiously motivated war in the South Pacific/South China Sea. But then that leads to another question: Who launched the nukes? I can’t see either North Korea or China nuking each other, and if the US did it, then I’d expect them to make more of a big deal about being the authors of their own (as well as everyone else’s) misfortune.

  6. …Two nuclear weapons are launched, and are sufficient to bisect China?

    No. No no no no no no no no no. No. N. O.

    I can’t even try to do the math on this one because I don’t know how to find the figures for the force needed to shatter, then displace, a tectonic plate.

    But perhaps he didn’t mean that “literally”, perhaps the craters were simply sufficient to let the ocean flood the gap. That’s still explosions bigger than the one that wiped out the dinosaurs. That just gave us the Chicxulub crater which, while massive, isn’t big enough to do what was needed here (and nuclear explosions kick up far more dust than asteroid hits.)

    Even if I did know the math, well over half the force of any nuclear explosion is directed upwards, not down, and a lot of it is EM radiation, not concussive force, unlike a meteor strike. It’d be like trying to move a disco ball with the beam from a flashlight. A strong enough light could, in theory, do it, but it’d be so ludicrously powerful that I doubt it could ever exist.

    I’m gonna guess that you’d need at least a multi-gigaton warhead in each missile, if not higher, and the most powerful nuclear weapon ever built was “only” 5% of a gigaton (50 megatons). Apparently in this alternate world E=mc^100.

  7. Every single passage you quote from this dreck seems to indicate the writers have absolutely no idea how non-RTCs function. If anything wars caused by religion would cause people to cling more tightly to their personal factions, citing the Other as causing the problem. People usually become more spiritual during disasters, not less so…really, I think their problem is assuming people will actually react by trying to get rid of the cause of the war rather than doing what humans do every other time there’s a war.

    Also note that nowhere do Good American Christians get mentioned, because it’s really just all the other religions (like the ‘various Asian religious factions’) at fault and Good American Christians only go to war for virtuous reasons. Just in case anyone thought there was even the slightest good reason to dislike RTCity.

    The worst part about this is that no matter how nice the world gets you know it’s just there to get broken in the most sickening of ways. Aside from a lack of Christ, is there really anything wrong with this world?

    • Well, there is the persecution of Christians, which Jenkins makes sure to underline at every possible opportunity. (While mysteriously leaving out persecutions of Jews or Wiccans or Hindus, etc.).

      But aside from that little detail (heh), his dystopia has quite a bit to recommend it. So far, we have environmentally-sound cars and instant snow-removal services in Washington, D.C. And things will get even better in the coming chapters, just wait and see!

  8. Way late to the party, but I agree with all the above comments. I’m continually (not continuously, since it is not a constant state of being) amazed at how RTCs seem to think nobody but them has any exposure to the basic tenets (not TENANTS) of their religioius faith.

    Le sigh.

    • nobody but them has any exposure to the basic tenets (not TENANTS)

      What?

      Sorry, couldn’t resist. ^_^

      Some time ago I read a forum-post story that basically described the last days of mankind in the solar system. Humanity had spread out to Neptune, there were colonies and space stations all over the place. But what reminded me of that story was that the US had suffered a horrible religious war. There were hundreds of thousands of deaths, nuclear weapons were used, the devastation was incalcuable. It had been started by the Dominionists.

      In real life, history is written by the victors. In good fiction, history is written by the author who thinks through sociopolitical consequences based on existing or projected trends. In bad fiction, history is written the author with an axe to grind so unsubtle it cleaves worlds in twain. Or at least, in this case, continents.

      (And what gets me is that he ends up making an argument for a secular humanist world government anyway.)

    • nobody but them has any exposure to the basic tenets (not TENANTS)

      What?

      Sorry, couldn’t resist. ^_^

      Some time ago I read a forum-post story that basically described the last days of mankind in the solar system. Humanity had spread out to Neptune, there were colonies and space stations all over the place. But what reminded me of that story was that the US had suffered a horrible religious war. There were hundreds of thousands of deaths, nuclear weapons were used, the devastation was incalculable. It had been started by the Dominionists.

      In real life, history is written by the victors. In good fiction, history is written by the author who thinks through sociopolitical consequences based on existing or projected trends. In bad fiction, history is written the author with an axe to grind so unsubtle it cleaves worlds in twain. Or at least, in this case, continents.

      (And what gets me is that he ends up making an argument for a secular humanist world government anyway.)

    • Say. is there a map of this new version of Earth anywhere in the book? I wouldn’t be surprised if Jenkins later commits a huge error of geography because he failed to really visualize the remade planet.

      • There is not, more’s the pity. There is, however, a description of how the seven “regions” of the now USSA are situated…um, sorta, which, crapitall, is in Chapter 1.

        Umm, new post in a few… 😀

  9. Also, the American World Trade Center? Um, isn’t it just The World Trade Center?

    Although I’m way behind in joining in, there are in fact dozens of World Trade Centers all over the globe. There are several in the United States alone; so the real problem with Jenkins feeling he needs to specify the “American” WTC is that he’s not being specific enough.

    (I’ll give Jenkins credit for this detail — perhaps undeservedly — by fanwanking that a lot of World Trade Centers were probably destroyed in WWIII, and that by the time of the novel 9/11 has probably shrunken in significance next to the bigger disasters which followed, such that someone in that world may indeed be required to specify which WTC tragedy they’re referring to. They’d still probably say the “New York WTC” instead of the “American” one, though.)

  10. Choir of Shades

    I’m late enough to the party that even the bottles someone stashed under the couch have been picked up, but no one else mentioned this: In these massive tsunamis caused by nigh instantaneous continental displacement in Southeast Asia (not just Southern China, but also likely Vietnam, Cambodia, etc.) Why didn’t Australia get touched at all? If this tsunami was hundreds of feet high, a height implied great enough to smash California to the Sierra Nevadas (take THAT West Coast liberals!), it would have swept over Indonesia like it was nothing and devastated Northern Australia at the very least.

    Oh wait.
    Australia is a Western country. And not only that, much of the country is, well, COUNTRY, with RTM and RTW (Real True Men TM and Real True Women TM). So we can’t possibly have anything happen to them!

    The sad irony in his talking about the destruction of California is that he obsesses about the destruction of Southern California. I know SoCal has this reputation, but the thing is, anything south of L.A. is actually pretty Bible Belt conservative. Jerry Jenkins is very popular as an author in that region. If I thought better of him as a person and as an author, I’d think he might say this was proof that he wasn’t solely motivated by proving a religious point, except I just know he was going the the SoCal stereotype of liberal, elitist, anti-establishment (aka hippies) types.

  11. People hate atheists even more than transgender people? They’re like finding them out in the bathroom, and then beating them down and recording it and posting it all to YouTube? Holy crap D:

    • You have a point, in that if you somehow add up the total amount of hatred, transgendered people might come up higher than atheists, because some of those that hate them REALLY hate them. But if you ask people a ‘Do you hate them: Yes/No’ question, a higher percentage may still list atheists than transgendered people. And I suspect the people who do such beatings have a high degree of people who believe any and all transgenders are atheists by definition, so that muddles it up a bit too.

      Plus, they’re less likely to spot an atheist in the bathroom.

      • The point wasn’t to compare how much different minority groups are hated. The point was to show the hubris of doing so, especially when transgendered people are being subject to high-profile acts of violence in greater numbers than atheists are.

        Your comment is an example of what doing so does: You’re discussing tragedies analytically and dispassionately, trying to weigh them as if on a scale, instead of expressing sympathy for both groups of people and talking about how to help them.

      • I’m sorry if my comment sounded dismissive of people’s suffering. My ‘analytical’ list was a commentary to your short reply, which I’m sorry to say I failed to interpet as a clear demonstration of the ‘hubris’ of Ruby naming atheists as the most despised minority in a reference to religious groups. All your comment sounded like was “Hey, this other non-religious minority (by which I mean not that transgendered aren’t religious, but that it’s membership isn’t defined by religious views or lack thereof) is totally more hated!”

        In short, if I understand your second post correctly, your original post and my first response both failed to convey the sarcasm intended, and ended up rubbing the other the wrong way. If this is correct, I hope it is now clear that neither of us is interested in a “Who suffers the most” olympic match. (Which I should note I’d personally lose, as I am a straight atheist living in Amsterdam, probably one of the cities where I am the least likely to be bothered in any way for being an atheist. So yeah, I have quite a bit of privillege.)

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