Soon: Chapter 8: Roughnecks

Speaking of polluting the natural environment, the three men sit in the air-conditioned stretch limo for a solid hour, eating and looking at wells that are not actually on fire…

…eating box lunches of spicy gazpacho soup and thick slabs of roast beef and ham on sourdough bread.

That’s more description, right there, than we’ve had of Jae.

Also, this is not the first glowing description of food, especially sandwiches, that we’ll see in this series.  I get the feeling that Jenkins wrote a lot of the Underground Zealot series just before lunchtime.

The guys finally head to the camp, where we find the roughnecks who had been working at the Miracle Whip Well have been…

“…isolated in the new building,” Tick said.  “It blew on the third day of their work cycle so no one’s expecting them home yet.  Easier to keep them here for questioning before going through the formality–” he winked at Paul–“of detaining them in town.”

Tick smiled.  “Their rooms have been searched–company property, you know–their phones have been confiscated and their implants disabled.  Everyone will be incommunicado until we get to the bottom of this.”

Ummm…if everyone has skull phones in Atheistopia, why does anyone need a handheld phone?

And didn’t we just learn that news of the Miracle Well has already gone viral?  And if you knew your husband or boyfriend or son (no mention of the possibility of female roughnecks in Atheistopia, despite the existence of female SWAT officers) was working the Miracle Well…a column of toxic fire, would it actually set your mind at ease when the men working there didn’t send or receive calls for two days?  Me, if that was my boyfriend out there, that would scare me.  Maybe enough to go out there for myself to make sure he was okay.  And maybe enough to find a lawyer for my man once I found out that he was physically okay, but “detained.”

At this point, Tick expresses doubt that religion or the religious are involved with the pillar of fire.  We, the readers, know he’s wrong, but that Paul is also wrong, since this is all an innocent and environmentally-disastrous Miracle Straight from God, not sabotage by Christian extremists.  (Or Mexicans or “A-rabs” either.  I’m looking at you, Donny.)

Still, this is another time that Tick adopts the…dare I say it?…pacifist viewpoint.  He gently tried to talk Donny down from “beating the brains out” of the perpetrators, and now he appears to be advocating for a natural explanation for the Miracle Well, as opposed to Bad Guys sabotaging it.  And I’m honestly not sure if Jenkins is trying to make Tick seem reasonable, or just a wussy pacifist.  After all, the guy is under six feet tall!  And height is important!  Really important!  Otherwise, why would Jenkins be telling us the height and weight and build of every single man we meet in this book, when we don’t even know what color Jae’s hair is?

Paul and Tick drop off Donny, and replace him with Dirk Jefferson, another NPO dude.  Other than having a Manly Man name, Jefferson is a nonentity, and has almost nothing whatsoever to do with the rest of the story.  Certainly, he has no lines that couldn’t just as easily be spoken by Tick.  If this was a movie, I’d think that Dirk Jefferson was an excuse for the director to give his brother-in-law a part.

Then Tick makes the following astonishing statement:

“We’re using the rooms at the far end of each hall for questioning.  There was some Internet buzz, but we clamped down fast and tight enough to keep the press off it.”


This just defies all logic, it really does.  A pillar of white-hot fire, hundreds of feet high and spewing toxic fumes into the air, is getting “some Internet buzz,” everyone in the area has been rendered incommunicado, and the press and general public have not picked up on this at all?



Finally, from down the hall, we get some action.  Even if it is off-screen.  Turns out a guard was picking on one of “the Mexicans” (the Mexicans are never individually named) and a big guy named Stephen Lloyd tried to stop the bullying.

Tick, to his credit, says that anyone else, including guards, who step out of line will be prosecuted. 

And they haul off Stephen Lloyd, to begin his….mwoo-ha-ha-HA…”questioning.”


Posted on April 2, 2011, in Books, Soon. Bookmark the permalink. 17 Comments.

  1. Between those sandwiches and the Second Glance film, I guess ham must be a very atheist thing. (Even athier, maybe?) I guess I must have been misinformed about the existence of atheistic Jews; obviously such a thing just can’t be.

  2. Inquisitive Raven

    Y’know, “A pillar of white-hot fire, hundreds of feet high” does not sound like an oil well fire. Okay, hundreds of feet high maybe, but most of those photos show a yellow orange flame and they’re shaped more like inverted cones blown over at an angle by the prevailing wind. If this fire is going straight up despite prevailing winds, that’s a big clue that Something Weird Is Going On. Also, 18″ across (What? Atheistopia hasn’t gone metric?)? [Peers at photos]. Seems awfully narrow compared to the actual well fires (and I’m talking the base of the inverted cone here.) Hmm. Shouldn’t these guys be talking about how it doesn’t look like any oil well fire they’ve ever seen? Also, wouldn’t the “miracle” be more impressive if they’d tried using standard tactics to put out the fire and failed. Oil well fires are common enough even outside Middle Eastern war zones that standard methods of fighting them have been developed, after all.

    If we were talking about a normal oil well fire, the toxic part would be so predictable that I’m surprised that the Atheistopian equivalent of the EPA isn’t there trying to mitigate it. Speaking of which… Are they assuming that the thing’s toxic because of the smoke, or have they actually run tests?

    As for the whole Internet thing, I’m thinking that in 36 years, Google Earth would be updating its images in realtime. People would be able to see the smoke, if not the actual flames online in satellite imagery. You could not keep it quiet.

    • Yeah, Donny comments (almost in passing) that he “can’t explain this,” and they can’t put it out with the conventional means they’ve tried. From there, they seem largely incurious and just settle on sabotage, without wondering HOW the saboteurs did it.

      As for testing, the “techies” “took samples” but the results aren’t back yet. And you need hazmat suits to be anywhere near it.

  3. I imagine that someone like Jenkins must have a preffy conflicted view of the media. On the one hand, fearless crusaders for truth – on the other, tools of the establishment. Here we’re in box B: someone made a phone call, and the story got suppressed, because that’s what evil governments do. Even if they’re claiming to encourage freethinking at the same time.

    Inquisitive Raven, yeah – I think this may be another example of “didn’t do the research”. Jenkins has shown a stunning lack of curiosity about some things; consider the business with the plane in LB, where he evidently wanted something one better than a 747 and settled on a “757” without learning that that was actually a smaller and less capable aircraft. So similarly here: oil wells catch fire, one known miracle is a pillar of fire, let’s put the pillar in an oilfield.

  4. “Jenkins has shown a stunning lack of curiosity about some things; consider the business with the plane in LB, where he evidently wanted something one better than a 747 and settled on a “757″ without learning that that was actually a smaller and less capable aircraft.”

    I’m not sure that “less capable” is the term that I’d use here. Remember: the 747 is a heavy, four-engined, wide-body, long-haul aircraft. The 757 is a mid-sized. twin-engined, narrow-body, short/medium-range aircraft. If, for example, you wanted to fly from, say, Los Angeles to Tokyo non-stop; then the 747 is definitely your plane. But if you were flying, say, a possibly half-full red-eye from New York City, or Boston, or Chicago to Washington D.C.; wouldn’t it be more cost-efficient to use a smaller twin-engined plane to fly those relatively short distances rather than using a fuel hungry four-engined aircraft that would probably lose money on such a run no matter how many passengers you tried to stuff aboard?

    I think that a more proper term might be (to use Afterschool Special parlance) “differently abled” — which, of course, only serves to emphasize LaH&J’s massive research and narrative Fail in both books. Morons…

    • Can’t go as far, or as fast, or with as much payload; that’s “less capable” in my book. Sure, there are jobs for which a less capable aircraft is a better choice. But do you really think that L&J felt the President of the USofgoddamnA would choose such a plane?

      • True, the 757 is less capable than the 747: there are several things the 747 can do that the 757 cannot. Raw ‘capability’ often assumes no budget or fuel limitations.

        Of course, for most of the things that the 757 IS capable of doing, it is also BETTER at doing than the 747.

        Not so much ‘differently abled’ as differently optimized. Capability sacrificed for efficiency.

        Yes, I’m being pedantic, I’ll be quiet now.

    • But would a fully-loaded 757 be manly enough for Rayford? 😛

      (Sorry, really late to the party and all…)

  5. Tick, meet Dirk. Dirk, this is Tick. Tick, Dirk. Dirk, Tick. Tick and Dirk, say hello to Buck Williams! Buck, Tick, Dirk. Tick, Dirk, Buck.

    At this point, Tick expresses doubt that religion or the religious are involved with the pillar of fire.

    This is another problematic miracle, like the earthquake from earlier, where God is sending content-free “signs” and “messages” to people who lack both the inclination and the societal context to recognize them as such.

    Say what you will about the God of Left Behind, but that entity is at least making some noise — mass disappearances, nuke shields, fire-breathing preachers — and it’s ignored only through the monumental author-imposed stupidity of the people of that world. Soon‘s deity doesn’t have that excuse. A mysterious pillar of fire, that’s pretty miraculous. A pillar of fire right over an oil well — that’s just begging people to disregard it. What’s the point of doing it that way? Plausible deniability? How is that helpful?

    This is a disturbingly passive-aggressive God we’ve got here. Perhaps he was raised in a “guess culture” household.

    • Let’s face it, an honest God would put letters of fire in the sky saying “Tim LaHaye was right, sorry ’bout that”. Or do nothing at all. This sort of could-be-a-miracle, could-be-not feels like someone trying to justify throwing everyone into Hell by saying “well, I did send you the signs”…

    • Soon’s God strikes me as very dull. He could make amazing, impossible miracles but instead chooses to put them in places where those events could be plausibly caused by mundane events. Supposedly these are miracles, but really, they’re not proof to believe in him. They’re just weird.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy

      Tick, meet Dirk. Dirk, this is Tick. Tick, Dirk. Dirk, Tick.


  6. Inquisitive Raven

    Frankly, I could come up with a better miracle even putting the pillar of fire in an oil field. I’ve already mentioned a couple of possibilities here like a pillar of uniform thickness going straight up despite the prevailing wind. Apparently, it actually can’t be put out by standard means, so that’s something. The thing is, since a mundane oil well fire would dump tons of toxic crap into the atmosphere, it would have to be considered miraculous if it weren’t doing that, but Jenkins doesn’t seem to have considered that option.

    People keep comment on the lack of curiosity of the characters in this book. It’s an observation that’s been made about LB too. My personal suspicion is that this incuriosity is a mark of an authoritarian mindset. One doesn’t need to ask questions when the authority (which need not be religious) provides the answers. Furthermore, curiosity is bad if it leads to questioning the authority.

  7. So, wait. Let me get this straight. The men working on the well were Mexicans… and the grease digger there is ranting about how those evil Mexicans come here to sabotage Our Oil! Apparently he doesn’t mind them so much he wouldn’t hire them, for substandard wages I presume. Yeah, definately meant to be a character for the audience to sympathise with.

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