Monthly Archives: January 2011
First, thank you to Skyknight. Turns out I had been misspelling “Decenti” all this time. I think I’ve corrected all of the mistakes. *blushes*
Sooner or later, almost every LaJenkins character has Daddy Issues.
As the Slacktivist has explored, Buck and his daddy play the good old working class father vs. college-educated son game. Rayford Steele loses Raymie in the Rapture, but not before concluding that his 12-year-old son is a mama’s boy. In the prequels, it is revealed that Rayford himself had Daddy Issues: his blue collar father wanted Rayford to join the family business, but Rayford wanted to be a pilot.
Over at Apocalypse Review, Pius has pointed out the toxic relationship between Josh Jordan and his artsy son, Cal.
In Babylon Rising, the only “shown” father-son relationship was also toxic, between media mogul Shane Barrington and…his artsy son, Arthur. The “told” relationship, between Paul and his (now dead) father, is about Paul…not wanting to join the family business.
Michael Murphy seems to be the only major LaHaye or Jenkins character unaffected. In a later book in the series, he remembers a boyhood vacation with his dad, who was “loving and supportive,” but Murphy Sr. must be dead now, because he plays no part in the events of Babylon Rising, including the funeral of his daughter-in-law.
Now, that’s not to say that Daddy Issues can’t be done well, can’t be done very well, in the hands of good writers.
But I think we all know where this is going.
Back in Chicago, Paul is almost halfway decent to Jae as he goes to clear out his dead mother’s house, and Jae and the kids go ice skating. I’m sure they’re delighted to see the back of him.
Paul arrives at his mom’s house, and we get another glimpse of the awesomeness of this atheistic post-apocalyptic world that Jenkins thinks is so terrible. You see, Paul’s mother died of brain cancer…
Though most cancer was now curable, certain strains defied the best efforts of modern science. A century of study had yet to unravel the intricate mechanisms of the brain. (Emphasis mine)
They’ve cured cancer. The evil godless hordes cured cancer.
This World Rocks.
Okay, does Jenkins have any idea how awesome he is making this world? Yanno, I admit that I may be taking this personally, but it takes a lot of moxie to create a world in which atheists cure cancer, and then to say that those atheists are evil and deserve eternal torture.
Paul is busily rooting around in his mother’s papers, when he finds…
…a heavy, cream-colored vellum envelope with the remains of a flattened blob of a dark red wax on its flap–a broken seal, Paul supposed.
Oh gee, genius, ya think?
On the front was the inscription, in strong black letters: “For My Son on His Twelfth Birthday.” Paul remembered that one of his schoolmates had gotten such a letter, written by his parents on the day of his birth and expressing their hopes for his future. He had asked his mother about it, but she professed ignorance of the tradition.
I also profess ignorance of this tradition. However, given what we will now discover and what Paul’s mother was (evil atheist) and what I am (evil atheist), maybe it’s not too surprising. 😛
Here is the first part of Paul’s father’s letter to Paul:
My beloved son,
Your birth today was a miracle, filling me with a joy greater than I have ever known or thought possible.
Can I just say, it’s really nice of Paul Sr. to take time out from being with his wife, who just gave birth, to write this letter?
Holding you for the first time, I felt blessed with the ultimate earthly gift. One day you will hold your own child and understand the profound depth and breadth of a father’s love.
Yeah, I can’t imagine many twelve-year-old boys who would react to talk of their own future babies with anything other than, “Ewwwww!!!”
Interesting, too, that Paul Sr. wrote this letter without his wife. Paul Jr. mentions the letter to his schoolmate, and that was from both parents. Nice little dig on Mrs. Paul Sr., but hey, if he co-wrote the letter, he wouldn’t have the chance to proselytize, what with being unequally yoked and all:
The day you read this letter you will turn twelve. On the threshold of manhood, you will be old enough to understand another kind of love–the love of God. It is a much maligned love at the time I write. There have been persecutions and terrorist acts around the globe–supposedly undertaken in the name of God, as different groups construe Him–which have drawn us into world war.
Note to Myself: Things Not to Mention in Birth Letters to My Future Son:
1. Terrorist acts
2. The No True Scotsman Fallacy
Many, your mother among them, have turned away from a God they see as the root of the world’s misery. But you must not turn away, Son.
Always nice to turn your son against his mother in a Birth Letter.
First, God’s love transcends all earthly gifts, even the gift of your birth for me.
Nice. Bet that would make a 12-year-old child feel just great.
God so loved the world that He sacrificed His perfect, only Son, who died on the cross to save us. Accepting that love has been the most important and fulfilling decision of my own life.
More Things Not to Mention in Birth Letters to My Future Son:
3. Boilerplate evangelism
The second reason is that God’s Son has promised to return in glory to gather up those who believe in Him. The Bible tells us “He will lead them to the springs of life-giving water. And God will wipe away all their tears.”
But those who have rejected God will face a very different fate: punishment and suffering beyond anything we can imagine or have ever managed to inflict upon each other.
“Guess what, son? Mommy’s gonna fry in Hell! Happy Birthday!”
The end of the Bible, the book of Revelation, describes in vivid and terrifying detail what will befall those who incur God’s wrath.
“So, Junior, if you ever decide to get a Ph.D. in religion when you grow up, be sure to read Revelation. Just in case.”
I can’t even begin to reproduce the final two paragraphs. Just imagine the lamest boilerplate Rapture fear-mongering you can, and you’ll be right there.
This was the most important thing, the one thing Paul Sr. wanted to leave his son. Boilerplate evangelism.
I frankly don’t blame Paul Jr. a bit for being aghast at the discovery of such a letter.
But more on Paul’s reaction next time.
Jenkins’ characters have the oddest ways of expressing themselves. They often do not communicate in a straight-ahead kind of way.
Now, admittedly, making veiled threats could be seen as something of an art form, verbal or written. Perhaps something not to be attempted unless one knows what one is doing.
Now that’s he’s done spitting in cemeteries, Paul is back at the Decenti residence to get his despised family to the airport on time. And Ranold has a few last-minute words for his son-in-law:
“You may not have done the best for yourself, attending that funeral.”
“Paul, the agency is focusing more and more on homegrown subversives. If it comes out–the truth about Pass, I mean–and it’s known that you went to his funeral, that you were old friends–”
“I didn’t go as an old friend.”
Huh? Then what did you go as, Paul? An iguana?
Maybe Paul means he went as a “like a son” to The Dork Too Stupid. Which I guess makes him a son who doesn’t know he has a sister.
Hmm, I think I just officially creeped myself out re: Paul’s attraction to Angela.
“Whatever made you go, it was imprudent.”
“You’re saying it could hurt me inside the agency?”
My brother, Angus, was visiting this past weekend. I showed him this passage, and he laughed at this part, wondering why Paul couldn’t just say that he had known the guy for years, and went to the funeral to pay his respects, oh yeah, just like all the other guys from the Army who were there.
And, failing that, he added, why couldn’t Paul just lie and say he secretly suspected The Dork of being subversive, and wanted to do some recon of his own?
“That would require my knowing the truth before I went, now wouldn’t it?”
Ranold pressed his lips together. “You did know. I told you.”
“Then I would be in trouble only if anyone in the agency knew that you had told me. Am I right? Surely I can count on you to sit on that…Dad.”
Ooo, Paul, you’re such a clever macho-man, the way you turned that right around on that mean old Ranold!
And the original objections still stand. Even if Paul was improperly informed, he could still say 1) he didn’t believe it, or 2) he did believe it, and was spying.
Oh, and one more note. Angus’ reaction to this entire passage was, “Geez, this Ranold guy makes it sound like atheists would never go to funerals. Yeah, because we would never care about other people or want to pay respects and say goodbye.”
Welcome to JenkinsLand, Angus.
This is the first of a couple of different things…
The funeral for The Dork Too Stupid is over. Paul wanders around Arlington Regional Cemetery (um, didn’t you have a plane to catch, Paul?).
Yes, yes he does. But first, Jenkins needs to make a few points.
Paul moved into a section where all the headstones were cross-shaped.
Now, it’s been a few years since I visited Arlington, but I know for a fact that there are other religious symbols besides the cross. A quick Googling will turn up Stars of David and many others. In fact, atheists can have an atom with an “A” at the center on their headstones.
This will become quite the pattern with Jenkins as he paints his “atheistic” world–whenever something tragic happens, the victims are Christians. But when religion has done something bad, it is never American Christians who are the perpetrators.
A plaque read: Religious symbols were common before World War III, when it was the custom for every enlisting soldier to declare his denominational preference.
Paul spat in disgust.
As he walked on amid the tombstones, his outrage mounted. Life had been torn from all these young men and women–so many barely out of their teens–and for what?
Wow. So far, so…Actually Not That Bad. I have a feeling that Paul spitting and being outraged is supposed to be a sign of his awful not-yet-savedness, but (and I can’t even believe I am typing this)…it rings true. His feeling–of the futility of religion, his anger that people lost their lives for religion–it makes sense. And so, it is a first. The first time in this book that Jenkins comes anywhere close to imagining what an atheist in an atheist world might think about religion. It’s not what all, or most atheists think now (and I really hope Jenkins is not trying to say that atheists are in the habit of spitting at Arlington, or any cemetery). But it actually seems like he’s trying a bit here.
And I’m also a bit impressed that Jenkins mentions female soldiers. I realize this is giving him credit for simply doing something right, but it is unexpected, so…point.
Because fanatical Muslims waged holy war on the West? Because religious groups in Bosnia jockeyed for primacy? On and on it went, back to the dawn of history, people persecuting each other over abstract ideas. That their tombstones symbolized the ideas they died for seemed the cruelest of ironies.
Yep, here we go. When people are persecuted and killed for their faith, they are American Christians. When they persecute and kill, they are Others, other faiths and/or other nationalities. Hell, at least LaHaye and Dinallo had the guts to bring up (even though they immediately dismissed) American abortion clinic bombers and murderers.
I hope it gave them some comfort. And yet here they lie.
That is another first. The very first time in the book, by my count, that Paul has spared a thought for anyone other than himself. (Of course, he is grieving the death of The Dork, but he certainly hasn’t given a thought to anyone else who is grieving. Not even The Dork’s hot daughter.)
Two firsts. They’re not great, but they are also Actually Not That Bad.
I did not think I would be able to write those words for this book.
Just to assuage the fears of the worst sorts of ickiness, Angela isn’t actually 17 years old. (Her eulogy was just that vague and uninteresting.) She’s around Paul’s own age, maybe a few years younger. So, fair game!
Paul meets Angela face-to-face as he walks past the bier and greets the family:
Her dignity and warmth had been evident when she spoke, but up close her beauty was disarming. And she smelled of lavender. Despite his anger at her father and the gravity of the occasion, Paul’s attraction to Angela was immediate, intense, and visceral.
True love at the funeral! I can’t even get over that–he’s a few steps away from the coffin (presumably closed) of his former commander, the man who was “like a father to him,” and all Paul can think about is getting it on with the grieving daughter.
“Daddy spoke so highly of you,” [Angela said]…
“Oh, surely not,” [Paul] managed. “Your dad had so many trainees and subordinates over the years–“
Nice false modesty from the guy who, mere seconds ago, was congratulating himself for being The Dork’s “favorite.”
“I’m totally serious,” she said. “You must have epitomized what he was looking for in Delta Force.”
Ohmygawd, I am like, sooo totally serious!
“Your remarks were perfect,” Angela said. “It was obvious you really knew him.”
Okay, we went over Paul’s little speech in the last post. I just gotta say, it is awfully squicky the way Angela regards as “perfect” the comments that her dad was a tortuous ass, yet somehow, simultaneously, the only “human” among the superior officers.
Then Angela wants to introduce Paul…to her sons! Gasp! Shock!
“Certainly,” Paul said, sobering. So she was married. Well, so was he.
1. Why is Paul still married? He can’t stand his wife, he is an amoral atheist in this world Jenkins has created–by Jenkins’ own viewpoint, why would such a man stay married when he is unhappy? Shouldn’t he be hedonistically single?
2. And on the same note, why does Paul assume Angela is married? (Spoiler: she’s a widow. Of course.) Again, godless amoral world–would a person in this world really automatically assume that anyone with kids must be married?
Oh, and I find it a bit hard to believe, what with the way Paul has been dating/date-raping so many female employees of the NPO for at least the past six years, that this is the first married woman in whom he has been interested.
Paul’s last question to his buddies, before the funeral begins, is:
And he [The Dork Too Stupid] had kids too, right?”
So his Army buddies have greater knowledge of The Dork Too Stupid than Paul. The Dork was Paul’s mentor, Paul loved him, he was “like a father” to Paul…and Paul wasn’t sure if he had kids. What a guy, that Paul.
The funeral starts with an elderly man in full dress blues “call[ing] the service to order.” Um, is that really how that should be put? “Calling the service to order”? Makes the funeral sound like a kindergarten class.
Anyway, the elderly man starts by basically reciting The Dork’s resume. I’m not kidding, he just lists The Dork’s military accomplishments…
…He later joined the Reserve Officer Training Corps…
…graduated with honors from the United States Military Academy at West Point…
…excelled as a second lieutenant…
…reached the level of command sergeant major…
I’m trying to think of a colder and more clinical way to tell the story of a man’s life at his funeral…
Then they all sing “America the Beautiful.” The evil atheists have, of course, changed the lyrics, so that “God shed his grace on thee,” has become “We pledge ourselves to thee.” I’m not seeing this as anything horrific, but then, I am an evil atheist.
Andrew Pass’s “beautiful” daughter, Angela, delivers the eulogy. We need to know she’s beautiful because, as evidenced by the Left Behind series, that is all that matters in a woman.
Of course, a daughter will no doubt be able to provide us with deep and heartbreaking glimpses into the life and mind of this man, struck down before his time…
Did you find him tough and demanding? We did too. Did you ever find him unfair or harsh? Neither did we. Did he challenge you to look within and yet beyond yourself for resources you never knew you had?
Wow, it’s like I really knew him! It’s so great that Angela gave the eulogy, so that we could hear the sad and funny and loving stories of a family member…
Honestly, could she have been more generic? And what’s with the fluffy, psycho-babbly “look within and yet beyond yourself”?
Her whole eulogy is three short paragraphs, and in the third one, she mentions that The Dork “was a man of deep, deep belief and conviction, and it was borne out in his life.” Paul’s ears perk up at the mention of “belief,” since he is on the lookout for any indication that Andy was indeed an underground believer. However, the line is so generic and useless as a descriptor that Paul is forced to admit that it could merely “be taken more than one way.”
Paranoid ass Paul is sure that someone at the funeral is “the snake who had bitten Andy“…forcing him to succomb to “the lure of make-believe.”
It’s good that Jenkins makes sure to use several different dog-whistles per chapter.
Then they basically have an open forum where anyone can speak about The Dork Too Stupid.
A line was forming to the left of the podium. Paul felt the eyes of his army buddies on him. I was Andy’s favorite.
Wow, Paul just can’t get over himself even for a second, even at someone else’s funeral, can he?
I just want to dissect Paul’s speech line by line:
“The two years I served and trained under Major Andrew Pass remain the most pivotal of my life.”
Even above your marriage and the births of your children. You’re a gem, Paul.
“Andy Pass represented everything the army had to offer, and he was the one we had to impress to remain among the select.”
Why am I not surprised that for Paul, it all comes down to “who I had to impress”?
“But beneath his drill-sergeant style was a kernal of humanity that I, for one, never detected in other superior officers.”
Nice that Paul is using a man’s funeral as an opportunity to take a swipe at people.
“When he recognized that I not only obeyed but also enjoyed every torturous task he dished out…”
So, Paul’s into torture. Color me shocked.
“…he rewarded me–as he did so many others–with respect and friendship.”
“Why, we were such good friends that I haven’t spoken to him in almost a decade, and I sorta almost remembered that he might possibly have children!”
“I just want to say that he changed my life. He made me want to excel and to treat others the way he treated me.”
“Therefore, I honor Andy’s memory by torturing my wife every chance I get by serially cheating on her and treating her like dirt. Hey, it’s what Andy would have wanted me to do!”
Oh, and speaking of the serial cheating, just wait until Paul gets to meet Angela face to face.
Jae is an odd one. She realizes immediately how upset Paul is over the “accidental” death of the Dork Too Stupid, yet is shocked that he wants to attend the funeral. (Which of course will be in D.C., while the Stepolas live in Chicago.)
Jae wants to go to the funeral, but Paul forbids her:
“I’m going by myself,” he said. “I’ll be back in time [for the flight back to Chicago].”
“Why can’t I come?” she said.
I just love that he forbids her, and she takes it. (She asks why he has issued the order, but not if he can change it.) These two are going to make a fabulous RTC couple.
Then Jae makes the mistake of insinuating that Paul doesn’t want her to come because he wants the opportunity to chase skirts. Oh, silly, silly Jae: your husband doesn’t want you away from him on one of the worst days of his life so he can play the field; he wants you away because he can’t stand the sight of you.
Women are so foolish like that.
So, off Paul goes to the funeral, without the volunteered support of his loving, supportive, cold, shrewish wife. His trip to the funeral takes him by the “Pentagon Memorial Crater,” only so that Jenkins can tell us that it is the Pentagon Memorial Crater (the word “crater” seems awfully disrespectful to me…whether that is accidental or purposeful I’m sure I don’t know), because it was “virtually vaporized” in WWIII by “a North Korean submarine-launched ballistic missile shot low enough to evade radar.” Oddly, though the structure was “virtually vaporized,” Arlington Regional Cemetery is still completely intact.
Before the funeral begins, Paul finds a group of his old Army buddies. Oddly, he is the only married one of the group, though they are all in their mid-30’s. Paul proudly shows off his wedding ring, then, almost as proudly, admits that he is still “the babe magnet” with “the same old tricks.”
He’s a class act all the way, our Paul.
Okay, so I know I said that the last post was the end of Chapter 1, but I just now realized that I left out the geography of the United Seven States of America (Evil).
Atlantica in the Northeast encompassed ten former states, with New York City as its capital. Columbia encompassed nine southeastern states, with Washington, D.C. as its capital. … Gulfland took in Texas and five nearby states, with Houston as its capital. Sunterra was comprised of Southern California, Arizona, and New Mexico, Los Angeles becoming its capital. Rockland was made up of seven states, and Las Vegas became its capital. Pacifica, with its capital in San Francisco, encompassed Northern California and four northwestern states, as well as Alaska. And Chicago became the capital of Heartland, which took in ten Midwestern states.
I have a question:
Why would a world war cause the country to dissolve the states and create new ones? Did Jenkins think for even a moment about the logistics of this? I mean, just off the top of my head, the things that would have to be completely reorganized and, in many cases, recreated, would be: police and courts and state services, highways, taxes, professional organizations, schools, and oh yeah, THE LAW, which is different in every state.
What reason is there for reorganizing the country? Well, Jenkins says…
The United States was redrawn to consist of seven regions…
Nice use of the passive voice there, Jenkins. Redrawn by whom, may I ask?
The names just slay me. Sunterra, really? Heartland? That’s where the Care Bears live, right?
Oh, and though I’m sure Jenkins made Las Vegas a capital city to demonstrate how depraved and sinful the Godless Seven States are, my first thought was, awesome!
Which, I suppose, just goes to show my own godlessness and sinfulness. 😀
Okay, we are finishing off Chapter 1 already!
As we saw in the Prologue, retired Delta Force Command Sergeant Major Andrew Pass was killed in a burning barrel of napalm, because he was, as commenter Inquisitive Raven put it, a “dork too stupid to call for help/send a warning.”
I like this, and have decided that I shall be calling Andy “The Dork Too Stupid” when I remember to do it.
Paul is watching the news alone on Wintermas Eve, and sees the news that The Dork Too Stupid has been killed, though of course it is presented as
…a tragic accident….
Yes, the news reports finding the charred body of a retired Delta Force commander in an abandoned warehouse in the middle of winter.
No, Paul sees nothing unusual about these circumstances.
I’m serious–he’s sad, but not even slightly suspicious. It doesn’t strike our hero as the least bit odd that a retired military hero would be found burned up by napalm in an abandoned warehouse.
I hate the movie Dumb and Dumber, but Paul’s reaction to The Dork Too Stupid’s death reminds me of nothing so much as this scene:
It is left to Ranold to set Paul straight, as he happens upon his son-in-law downing four fingers of Scotch as a tribute to The Dork Too Stupid, who was
…like a father to me…
Remember that in light of what we will learn about their relationship.
Anyway, it’s good to see that at least one character around here is in touch with reality:
“Paul, don’t believe everything you hear.” [said Ranold to his dumb son-in-law]
“What are you saying?”
“Just that it’s debatable which came first: his being caught or the warehouse burning.”
“Caught be whom?”
“When was the last time you heard from Pass?”
“I don’t know–seven, eight years ago.”
Yeah, when people are like family to me, I stay out of touch with them for almost a decade, too.
Anyway, Ranold knows a helluva lot more about The Dork Too Stupid than Paul does, and smacks Paul with the clue bat: Andy Pass was the leader of an underground Christian cell, and his death was an example. Ranold is quite happy that a blow has been struck to the subversives, and Paul wanders off to bed not knowing what to think: is Ranold right or is Andy the same “rock solid” guy he used to know? And since there doesn’t seem to be enough room in Paul’s mind for more than one tiny thought at a time, it is not surprising that he can’t figure it out.