Soon: Chapter 17: Accolades and Hatred

Damn, almost three weeks without a new post?  I suck.

I’ve had a bunch of things happen to me, one after the other, these past couple of weeks, so that’s my only excuse.  Also, as you can see from the title up there, this is not the result of my Epic Quest.  I want that to be deep and scholarly, and tonight I just feel like talking about how much I hate Straight.

So it’s now the middle of June, and Paul is back at work.  Remember, he’s a secret believer at this point, but still on the fence about whether or not he wants to be a double agent for the (sigh) Watchmen.

Real Watchmen

(Picture from Watchmen Wiki)

A big Welcome Back banner hung over his desk, and his coworkers high-fived and backslapped him as if he were a conquering hero.  Paul was warmed by the reception, despite the stab in his gut.

Paul pasted on a smile and held up both hands to stem his coworkers’ applause.  How he might have enjoyed this just a few weeks before.

This is just weird.  Nobody but Koontz visited Paul, called him, or even sent him a get-well card, for the months he was out.  And now they’re applauding his presence?  I’m not buying it.  I’m thinking Koontz told them how it was going to be, and they’re just doing it to please the boss.

Also, this is a leitmotif of Jerry Jenkins’–the hero being applauded for merely showing up to work.  Buck Williams got a round of applause for showing up at the offices of Global Weekly following the Rapture in Left Behind.  Now, granted, the world was coming to an end, but no one else from the office got a standing ovation just for getting to work.  I wonder how many times Jerry Jenkins was applauded for going to work, that he uses the scene so often?

But Koontz, despite having breakfast catered for Paul and the whole office (WTF?), seems eager to be rid of him.  (And who can blame him?)  He’s sending Paul off to New York, to check out a big financial firm complaining of being cursed.  This will prove to be even stupider than it sounds, and easily the most boring portion of Soon

When Paul gets home from his party work, he calls Straight and tells him all about his sensitive government assignment.  Straight rushes right over, bringing Paul a little gift: leaves from an ailanthus tree.

Check out this Wikipedia article on the ailanthus altissima.  Despite being know as the “tree of heaven,” it is actually characterized as a “noxious weed,” difficult and time-consuming to eradicate. 

So, pretty much the perfect plant to represent your common or garden variety RTC.

Interestingly, Paul describes the scent of the leaves as “peanut butter,” while the Wiki article says that the plant smells like rotting peanuts. 

Straight explains the significance of the plant:

“The Christians in Atlantica [where New York now is] use [the leaves] as an identification symbol.  There are a lot of references in the Bible to the tree of heaven.  ‘Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gate into the city.’  That’s heaven.  ‘In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month.  The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.'”

Paul vaguely remembered that from his discs.  “A tree in heaven,” he said.

“And just for us.  Listen up now: ‘To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.  You can’t beat that, Paul.”

The scene ends on that line.  “You can’t beat that, Paul.” 

Holy crap.


First of all, how frakking insecure do you have to be in you faith to derive joy from the fact that while billions of souls are being TORTURED FOREVER for not believing like you do, you are enjoying the sweet, savory goodness of peanut butter leaves.  That is simultaneously really sad and kinda infuriating.

“And just for us.”  Ha-HA, nonbelievers, you just try getting your hands on our ailanthus leaves.  We’ll be nomming them while you’re roasting in hell!

No leaves for you!

Oh, and I just have a minor pet peeve: people telling me to “listen up” when we’re already having a one-on-one conversation.  What, did Straight not think Paul was paying close enough attention to his little Bible lesson, even though Paul just responded?

You know, our introduction to Straight wasn’t exactly promising, what with the disrespectful touching and all, but it’s only gone downhill from there.


Posted on August 3, 2011, in Books, Soon. Bookmark the permalink. 21 Comments.

  1. inquisitiveraven

    And we have another smile pastede on, yay.

  2. I’ll probably make dozens, maybe hundreds, of Watchmen jokes as we continue through the book. I don’t want to run dry on the first day, though. Just be assured that I’m saving up.

    So, pretty much the perfect plant to represent your common or garden variety RTC.

    Wikipedia adds that Ailanthus altissima “is also sometimes counter-nicknamed ‘tree from hell’ due to its prolific invasiveness and the difficulty in eradicating it,” and “enthusiasm soon waned after gardeners became familiar with its suckering habits.” The symbolism is so on the nose, you’d almost think Jenkins was doing this on purpose.

    Either way, Christians, thanks for choosing a stinky piece of regional flora as your calling card, so that it’s easy for the Atheistapo CSI teams to track you.

  3. You’re back! I’ve been worrying…

    So now instead of produce we get steaming piles of fresh ailanthus, drenched in peanut butter?

  4. Hmm, which Watchmen is Paul? First instinct is the Comedian because, hey, amoral mysogynistic douchbag. But perhaps Rorschach is better. Also hates women (well, Paul used to like women as objects, but hated his wife. But I get the impression that now he will be revolted by other women’s attention, except maybe Angela, while it’s been announced he still treats his wife like crap. So it fits), and his anti-social behavior and complete and unjustified confidence in his own moral high ground fit like a charm.

    Paul is probably worse though since Rorschach didn’t change his viewpoint to communism halfway through with dubious arguments and still felt he was so obviously in the right that he hated on his former allies with the same intensity as he used to hate his new friends, without realizing that, y’know, if HE got it wrong all this time (with his unique and vast PhD. knowledge and all. Sigh).

    That’s another leitmotif BTW: Ex-non believers who are immediately repulsed by the stupidity and willfull ignorance of their former friends, ignoring that they only reached the ‘correct’ conclusion a few days ago, and usually only after witnessing several explicit miracles and ‘help’ from RTCs (Irene, Rayford, Straight) that his friends didn’t get. And as bonus, the new RTCs will now often say to themselves that they all unbelievers are actively denying what they feel is true. Not true in the real world of course, but since Jenkins writes his own universe and introduces us to the characters before they convert, he has a fantastic chance to demonstrate that denial. But he never does. Rayford was shown to be uninterested in his wife’s claims, but he didn’t seem to believe it. Buck had stopped at being a bit more ‘spiritually attuned’, but he never monologues that this is because he’s scared of the idea of accepting Jesus. He just didn’t see enough evidence to take it further. And Paul, well, Ruby talked about his biggest lie. He even finds out his two father figures were believers, but seems to reject it utterly untill his conversion, not because he’s afraid of converting but because he thinks it’s foolish.

    I really don’t understand that. Paul is shown murdering RTCs pre-conversion so it can’t just be that Jenkins is worried his RTC readers won’t like his characters enough to stick around. And yet we don’t get this behavior, but do get snippits like Rayford explicitly saying that people would believe that The Event is not the Rapture to ease their conscience. I know for a fact the ‘unbelievers are in denial’ is bullshit, since I think my atheistic theories are correct, but I could easily write an atheist strawman who hears something Jesus said, and feels it resonate and is then terrified when he realizes he must accept that he’s unworthy and dedicate his whole life to Jesus. Even easier if he must accept that any number of dead loved ones are now burning in hell. It’s not hard to write someone denying ‘the truth’ because it would mean accepting that part. But that’s not how Jenkins rolls. Unbelievers burning in hell is only proper. Just because you liked them in life, or they raised you (looking at you LB:The kids) is no reason to feel bad about them being tormented forever by God.

    • An excellent point, Ivan. My theory is that, since these authors have never had a civil conversation with an unbeliever, they’re trying to make them up without experience – like a nice suburban author trying to write a gritty novel about bike gangs.

      So there are two sorts of non-RTC they invent. One is the sort they hear about in The World: someone who isn’t an RTC and isn’t going to become one. That person is “wilfully blind” and all the rest of it, because that’s the only way anyone could possibly not want to become an RTC.

      The other is the person who is going to become an RTC. The problem here is that they do think that they have examples, from the personal testimonies at church… but as Fred and others have demonstrated, many of those testimonies (particularly the ones about having been Real Bad before discovering God) are simply lies. But an RTC convert knows that he wasn’t being wilfully blind before he found God, so that’s not what a newly-RTC-hero was doing either.

      That these two sorts of people shouldn’t actually be disjoint sets is a problem that the authors don’t seem to have attempted to resolve.

  5. Visiting him in hospital would have been crossing work and home life, maybe? The employee exists only in the office, so you can only meet him in the office?

    But what I’m really going to harp on here is that “catering”. The people who did the actual cooking and transportation and serving of breakfast are the people who did the catering; Koontz just paid for it. But this linguistic perversion makes paying for a skilled job just the same thing as doing that job.

    Do Paul’s bosses have any reason to suspect him at this point? Well, if they were keeping an eye on his hospital visitors they know he’s made a new friend… I’m just thinking that when you’re betraying the secret police you ought to employ just a little bit of tradecraft.

    • Oops! The catering bit was my bad–the book does actually say (credit where it’s due) “Koontz had breakfast catered.”

      I’ll fixxor that. *blush*

    • Oh, and as far as his superiors suspecting him, you are way ahead of the game! Right into Book 2, Silenced, in fact.

      Our favorite weirdly-named father-in-law, Ranold, starts to become very, very suspicious of Paul in Silenced. And one reason is his friendship with Straight. If I can manage to find my copy tonight, I’ll check out the exact passage.

  6. Oh, and since my previous video contribution was appreciated, I thought I’d bring this one up. It’s like one of Ruby’s movie reviews, in video form, by Brad Jones, a.k.a. The Cinema Snob (though he’s not using that persona in this review).

    Or here’s a link to the entire video.

  7. Totally agree with Firedrake. I guess Jenkins just gets too much of a tingle in his pants when he writes about phones to consider that using it by a double agent to call a secret cell seconds after receiving his orders might be unsafe.

    It’s like when Guy Too Stupid in the prologue seemed to call the underground supersecret compound WHILE HE WAS BEING CHASED. By people who were looking for him by name. And have full government backing. So who might, y’know, trace his implanted phone. That doesn’t sound like something you can just swap an annoymously bought SIM-card into. (Do we ever learn how they found him out BTW? It probably isn’t through phone taps, but it should be.)

  8. Shouldn’t Paul feel the slightest bit bad about the clapping and catering? I mean, he’s going to betray these very same people, even if he believes that it is right to betray them, it seems at best selfish to glory in the applause and eat the catered breakfast.

    • Of course Paul shouldn’t feel bad! They are heathens that hunt down RTCs, and deserving of the hellfire that awaits them! It’s not betrayal to purge the world of such people through whatever means necessary, including lying to them before stabbing them in the back. They’re the Unsaved; they do not matter whatsoever. Now, if they were RTC, and therefore real people, that would be different. He’d try to save them so they can delight in purging nonRTCs together.

      It’s a long ongoing trend in these LaHaye/Jenkins novels: Not a Real True Christian? Not a person. Just a thing to dehumanize and vilify before roasting them for all eternity.

    • Betrayal muffins are the tastiest muffins.

    • Why? It’s not like he cared for them before. Or anyone else, for that matter.

  9. I checked that Wikipedia entry for the tree BTW. I like that it’s the Chinese who called that particular species the tree of heaven. Now Straight is acting like this is something that Jesus personally handed to his followers 2000 years ago. Though admittedly the ‘noxious and hard to get rid of’ metaphore is even better. And yeah, considering the phone-trail they leave, why not add some very well scented identification papers to the mix. Y’know, if even one of them is caught with that leaf, even the incompetent Atheistapo will probably bring in some sniffer dogs and roll the entire operation up in a matter of minutes.

    And Paul ‘vaguely remembers’ some notion about the tree of heaven. Who passed this moron during his PhD defense? If he got it years ago, surely the old experienced scholars that passed him would’ve been alive well before Atheistopia was founded. Yet they still didn’t recognize he was winging it the entire time?

    Despite Ruby’s warnings I can’t help but be intrigued by this ‘cursed’ buisness. Isn’t calling the Atheistapo and saying your building is cursed equivalent to admitting to them you’re not an atheist, since you believe in curses? “Yes, it’s very good you called us sir. Very good indeed. We’ll need to speak with everyone who believes he has witnessed these supernatural events. Can you give us a complete list of names and adresses please? (Pst guys, frigging motherload overhere. Get a kill-squad ready now and we can meet our quota by this evening and take the rest of the week off)”

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