Monthly Archives: January 2012

Soon: Chapter 30: The (Black) Infiltrator

As you may remember, Harriet Johns, L.A. NPO chief, mentioned a little while back that there were infiltrators in the L.A. underground.

That sounded pretty awesome at the time, given Paul’s (and the Detroit underground’s) arrogant presumption that he must be the only person with the smarts and the knowledge to be a double agent, but…he’s not.

Turns out that one Tyrone Perkins was the inside man at the “holocaust” masterminded by Bia and Ranold, and got caught in the crossfire because Bia and Ranold aren’t big on keeping Harriet in the loop.

The first thing we learn about Tyrone, before we even learn he was the Guy On The Inside, is that he is black.  Which I think makes him the third instance of a person of color in this story.  The first was MLK Day Felicia, the second was the nameless, faceless mass of Catholic Mexicans, and the third is Tyrone.

Tyrone is in the ICU, and reassures us readers that the deaths of the five Christians really was a “holocaust,” because:

“What happened, Tyrone?  Those people armed?” [asked Paul]

“Not a piece.”

That was kinda dumb of them, Tyrone.  Just sayin’.

“No weapons cache anywhere?”

“No.  I’m dying, man, and those dead people are on me.  Good people.  Killed ’em…”

“I didn’t want to see them killed either, Tyrone.”  The young man’s chest heaved, and Paul noticed on the monitor that his pulse was dangerously irregular.  “I’d better get someone for you.”

“No, man!” he gasped.  “I deserve to die.”

I guess Paul agrees, because he doesn’t call anyone and just moves on to the next question, and it looks like ICU units in Atheistopia don’t automatically call medical personnel when things start going south. 

Meh, who cares anyway, amirite?  After all, Tyrone is just some Atheistopian dude who was in it “for the money.” 

Man.

“Tyrone, did you know of other groups?”

“Can’t tell…not now.”  His breathing was raspy.

Paul touched his bandaged hand.  “If I convinced you I was one of them, could you tell me so I could warn them?’

[blah blah blah banter with dying man…]

“Didn’t tell nobody the phrase…”

“You didn’t need to tell me.  I know it.”

“Say it.”

“My purpose is to give life…”

Tyrone’s eyes looked huge.  “…in all its fullness,” he whispered.  Paul had to bend close to hear him.  “The port…Fishers of Men…”

“Thank you,” Paul whispered.  “Bless you.”

Tyrone’s machines started beeping and staff came running.

Oh, so now they take some notice in the INTENSIVE CARE UNIT.

So much for the marvels of Atheistopian medicine.

So, Felicia the Martin Luther King secretary, the nameless, faceless Catholic Mexicans, and Tyrone, the guilt-stricken, in-it-for-the-money infiltrator who is now (presumably) dead and in Hell.

HAW HAW HAW

 

 

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Soon: Chapter 30: Anger and Inhumanity

We’ve been noticing all the way along that Paul has little to no introspection regarding his activities while an evil Christian-killing atheist.  Although passing mention was made back in Chapter 17 of Paul’s “futile” prayers “about his remaining sense of guilt over killing people he knew were now his brothers and sisters in Christ.”

Not only does such phrasing imply that it is more wrong to kill Christians than it is to kill anyone else, but this is yet another case of Tell, Don’t Show.  We are told that Paul has guilt over his murders (four fleeing civilians), but we never see any real effect this has on his life and thoughts.

Now that Ranold and Bia have executed their “holocaust,” consisting of exactly one more victim than Paul alone killed, he is having some…well, not deep thoughts.  But some thoughts:

He felt sickened by what he’d witnessed that afternoon.  Was I ever that bad?  He feared he had been. 

PROGRESS!!!

It had been a thrill to pull the trigger in San Francisco; he had felt justified executing Christians.  He had entrapped Stephen Lloyd, then stood by without lifting a finger as Donny Johnson beat him to death.  Even that agent, Jefferson, was offended.

Wow, more progress.  Even an admission that an evil atheist, Jefferson, was not as bad.

I was acting in anger, not from inhumanity.  At least I hope I was.

Um, okay.  Not so much with the progress, here. 

This whole anger vs. inhumanity thing is a strange little conundrum with which Paul presents himself.  I suppose one could argue that anger is a very human emotion, and that it is wrong to do bad things without emotion, i.e. in an inhuman way. 

Then again, how is it so much less wrong to act in anger?  Paul thinks about Ranold and Bia and how much he hates what they are doing, but it is made very clear that Ranold, at least, is acting almost entirely out of anger.  We got the scoop on that way back in Chapter 1, when it is revealed that during WWIII, Ranold was the commander of the U.S. Army of the Pacific (just go with it), and lost everyone under his command when Hawaii was destroyed by a tsunami (again, just go with it).

This was during a devastating war that was, mind you, caused entirely by religion.  So Ranold could be argued to have more reason than most to be FRAKKING PISSED. 

Not that Paul gives a thought, during his thirty seconds of navel-gazing, to how alike he and Ranold really are.

As for Bia, she bears the brunt of Jenkins’/Paul’s contempt.  (I know, shocking, right?)  If Paul is desperate to see himself as not inhuman, Bia is the one who is inhuman.  Only one chapter ago, “she looked nearly inhuman.”  She is objectified as much as possible with her eyes like pools of mercury, “psycho eyes,” as The Dork Too Stupid called them way back in the Prologue.  She has been portrayed from the beginning as either a psychopath or an “I was only following orders” type.  And Paul seems to see this as infinitely worse than Ranold, who is alternately portrayed as either a buffoon, or a bloodthirsty monster.

Paul’s navel-gazing continues.  Now that his nanosecond of reflection on his own bad acts is over, he can focus on his newfound morality and how hard it will be to keep said morality a secret around the others.

*cue world’s smallest violin*

Paul prayed he could keep cool enough to make some positive impact on what appeared to be a hopeless situation.  And his father-in-law–Ranold was merciless, Paul knew, but how could he endure Ranold’s bloodthirsty glee the whole time he would be stuck at Tiny’s?

Paul:  Man, and here I thought being a double-agent would be so EASY!

If Paul couldn’t contain his disgust, what suspicions might that arouse?

Bit late to be thinking about that now, Mr. Holocaust.

Even so, Paul could never keep quiet about the killings.  I’ll have to maintain the courage of my convictions–stay steadfast in my faith–and take my chances.

Yeah, that’ll work so well for you, Paul.  If your goal is to GET CAUGHT.

Honestly, in all your years at the NPO, did nobody ever teach you how to keep your emotions in check?

Look into it.

Try a little think called ACTING!

Silenced and The Secret on Ararat: I’m on the Fence–Help Me!!!

Soon is drawing to it’s exciting, Holywood climax. 

And I am in a bit of a conundrum.

Y’see, I’ve reviewed the first book in the Babylon Rising series, and I’m almost done with the first book in the Underground Zealot series. 

BUT WHAT TO DO NEXT?????

As I mentioned recently, dealing with the utter asshattishness and despicable emotional abuse of Paul Apostle almost makes me miss Michael Murphy.

And I admit there is a great appeal to dealing with LaHaye’s takes on creationism and Noah’s Ark.

And yet…and yet…

Soon, as you shall soon see, ends on something of a cliffhanger.  And Silenced features Paul Apostle gallivanting all over Europe, utterly failing at being a double agent, as opposed to Paul gallivanting all over the United Seven States of America, utterly failing at being a double agent.

***

In Silenced:

Paul goes to Europe.

Jae reads the Book of Acts.

Ranold and Bia monitor Paul.

Paul lectures underground Christians about Jesus.

***

In The Secret on Ararat:

Michael goes to Turkey.

Paul Wallach reads Richard Dawkins.

Shane and Stephanie monitor Michael.

Michael lectures everyone about Jesus.

***

Thoughts?  Opinions?  Unearthed Dead Sea Scrolls?

WHAT SHALL I CRITIQUE NEXT???

 

Soon: Chapter 30: Specs and Jealousy

With the billboards dark and Specs not answering his Skull Phone, Paul speeds back to the postproduction row.  There, he finds that “a team of commandos” has just raided Specs’ place, and shot him dead, leaving as quickly as they came.

As we have seen, Atheistopia does some things marvellously well.  They have cured cancer and homelessness, halved all travel times, made interactive movies, stopped polluting the planet, improved laser eye surgery such that 99.9% of people have perfect unaided vision…

But they just can’t get their act together when it comes to evil dystopias.

Let’s be clear: these billboard and sign pranks weren’t successful in any way that mattered.  They weren’t converting anyone; in fact, they were pissing off the general population (more on that in a bit). 

So the “projectionist,” though no one knew who he was, was one of the most hated men around.

Why didn’t they grab this guy in the most public, orderly fashion possible?  Drag him out, professionally, in front of a crowd.  Make a big show of flipping a switch in his workroom that restores the signs.  Give him a nice, public trial in a kangaroo court, and then have him publicly executed for seditious acts against the state.  Make him the enemy, not the victim.

“Is that guy all right, the guy with the glasses?” [asked a bystander]

See???  SEE, ATHEISTOPIA, THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS

Paul had just met Quinn, yet he felt as if he had lost a dear brother.  What a waste.  What a tragic loss.

Okay, this is why I do not take RTCs seriously when they say they love everyone.  That is not love.  It’s certainly not love for a brother.  Because I have a brother (a real one, not just some guy who shares my religious beliefs), and I can pretty much guarantee that my first thoughts if he died would not be “what a waste, what a tragic loss.”

Something else occurs to me: Atheistopia is going to have Specs’ body now.  Do you think it’s possible that they could know what calls Specs received on the last day of his life?

Just wondering.

But that’s not what is on Paul’s mind right now.  He does get that somebody JUST MIGHT BE TRACKING HIM (oh, geez, Paul, YOU FRAKKIN’ THINK SO, EH???), but he doesn’t think it’s Ranold, wise to the fact that Paul is a secret Christian.

Nope, he thinks it’s Bia Balaam, and that she’s just some jealous mannish wimmens or something:

…an aggressive Washington agent who would trust no one, especially the competition.  Paul was a twice-injured operative viewed as a hero in the agency and even more threatening as the son-in-law of Ranold Decenti.  No, Bia Balaam would never give Paul a chance to show her up…

Gotta watch out for those aggressive wimmins!  Never know what nefarious doings they’ll be up to if you don’t keep them safe in the kitchen!

Also, I think Paul is overestimating the clout he has as Ranold’s in-law.  Ranold doesn’t seem the type to keep his feelings of contempt and animosity for Paulie a big secret.

But Paul is concerned enough to FINALLY check his NPO-issue car, and finds a tracking device. 

WOW I WOULD NEVER HAVE GUESSED.

He attaches it to another car, a ploy that I am sure will work for ten, maybe even fifteen minutes.

And off he goes in his now-nontracked car.

Me, if I was part of the Atheistapo, I’d track Paul via his Skull Phone, but hey, what do I know?

Harriet Johns, the L.A. NPO lady, calls him and tells him to check out the Hollywood sign:

It now read “Hurray for Hollywood.”  Drivers honked and waved as they passed.

OH YOU SEE, ATHEISTOPIA.  SEE HOW MUCH THE POPULACE IS ON YOUR SIDE???  WHY DON’T YOU TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THIS MY GAWD THIS ISN’T EVEN HARD I HAVE NEVER BEEN AN EVIL ATHEISTAPO AGENT AND I KNOW THIS.

Bah.  Headdesk, Atheistopia.  Headdesk for you, this time.

Atheistopia’s Death Count: 30

Soon: Body Counts

Reader carovee asked an excellent question:

…God killed everyone but Paul, right? Which begs the question, Ruby, whose body count is higher right now, God or Atheistopia?

So I’m going to count!  (This’ll be fun, because I’ve missed doing my Official Bruce Barnes Death Countdown.)

***

Atheistopia:

  •  Andy Pass, the Dork Too Stupid
  • Approximately 20 Christians in the San Francisco raid
  • St. Stephen in Texas (I am very reluctant to include him here, because he was killed by Donny Johnson, who was not working for the government, and Tick Harrelson tried to stop it.  However, I will err on the side on inclusion since no one seems to much care that St. Stephen was killed.)
  • Snake-bite victim, masterminded by Bia Balaam
  • Coin-press victim, same
  • Five Christians, killed in Ranold’s “holocaust” in L.A.

Atheistopia’s Death Count: 29

***

God:

  • 14 SWAT team members in San Francisco, killed in earthquake
  • Donny Johnson from the smoke of the God-created plume of fire
  • Ephesus Demetrius, silver-blasted to death

God’s Death Count: 16

***

I’m actually rather surprised that Atheistopia has almost double the death count of God as of now.  God is clearly slacking compared to his work in the Left Behind series.

Both counts are current through Chapter 29, and I will update as needed.

Next up: an addition to Atheistopia’s death count…

Soon: Chapter 29: Reign of Not Enough Terror

Paul obeys Ranold’s instructions to get his ass over to South Central L.A.  There, he finds:

…his father-in-law amidst a knot of military men in combat gear, congratulating each other on the success of a shoot-out that had killed five Christians, wounded six, and seen a dozen captured.

Well, it’s ABOUT DAMN TIME.

I don’t mean it’s a good thing that Christians were killed.  I mean that for an eeevil anti-religion dictatorship, it has been half a year since any violence against the religious masses.  It was January back when the Bible study group in San Francisco was taken down, and it is now well into June.

In between, we have only had isolated incidents: Paul uncovering St. Stephen, and Donny Johnson beating him to death (an action violently opposed by the actual NPO bureau chief at the scene), and mention of Bia’s “campaign of terror,” which has so far consisted of three guys dying–Angela’s father, the snake-bite victim, and the pressed-in-coin-press victim.

Sorry, but as Evil Reigns of Terror go, that’s…not a lot.

Especially since only the San Francisco group was revealed to be a religious group at all.  The other deaths were reported as Weird, Tragic Accidents.

That just doesn’t seem in keeping with the image that your common or garden Evil Oppressive Regime wants to project.

Anyway, Paul has officially Had Enough.  (After all, another group of Christians was killed SIX MONTHS AGO…never mind.)

“Ranold, how did we get from suspecting a small cell here to this holocaust?”

His father-in-law flushed, leaning close to Paul’s ear and hissing, “Listen to me, Cub Scout.  Don’t ever challenge me in front of my subordinates?  And you ought to be proud to be part of this.  What’s the matter with you?”

“Why, it’s almost as though you felt sympathy for these practitioners of religion, and were really on their side instead of ours…WAIT A MINUTE!”

Perhaps not the smartest move a double agent has ever made, but I guess it’s fine, since Ranold lets it drop.

A tall, rangy figure in fatigues detached from the group and sidled over.  It took Paul a moment to register that it was a woman.  Got to be Balaam.  When he was introduced to her in the Rose Garden, he had been blind.

Sure makes life simpler when unattractive, “mannish” women are always evil.  Makes them easier to spot.

But wait, there’s more!

Her eyes mesmerized [Paul].  Like her hair, they were silver and seemed to pulse and shift like pools of mercury.

Wait, her hair seems to pulse and shift like a pool of mercury?

Also, I can’t really tell if Paul is repulsed by her or attracted to her.  The word “mesmerized” is oddly used here.

 They also seemed to rob his head of thoughts.

Not that that’s hard to do.  Ba-dum-DUM.

She looked nearly inhuman.

As Crow T. Robot once said, “It’s just proof that slightly unattractive people ARE evil!”

Paul escapes as soon as he can and Skull Phone calls Straight from his car.  Which seems like another dumb move, given Paul’s now-apparent sympathy for the zealots and the high likelihood that Atheistopia has his Skull Phone bugged.

“I just heard,” Straight said.

“Wait, Straight, how did you just hear?  I just heard!  Geez, if you know this much this quickly, why didn’t you, I dunno…WARN THEM???”

“Those people weren’t armed and had no munitions.” [Straight said]

So, once again, it’s tell don’t show.  Just like in Frisco, we are told the Christians were unarmed, instead of showing us an exciting scene of soldiers bursting in on a bunch of unarmed, peaceable Christians, and taking them in for the horrible crime of practicing religion.

Nah, it’s okay.  It’s much more exciting to hear about it after the fact.

As Paul drives back, he notices the billboards have gone dark.  He doesn’t know if this is becaise something has happened to Specs, or whether this is Specs’ attempt at a memorial.  Regardless, he tries to Skull Phone call him…but gets no answer.

Dun-dun-DUN…

Soon: Chapter 29: Four-Eyes

Paul goes to Spec’s place–an office “located [in] a row of single-story brick buildings housing movie postproduction facilities.”

Paul gets himself in by playing his NPO card, but why he bothered, I don’t know, since Specs is just enormously up-front about the billboard hacking.  Seriously, is this the way an innocent man talks?

“You’re suspected of being the projectionist who’s vandalized billboards and the Hollywood sign.” [Paul said]

Holywood, you mean?” Specs said, smiling.

Paul nodded.  “How do you do it?”

“Whoever’s doing it, it would all be a matter of hacking.  I love the term projectionist, though it is, of course, archaic and inaccurate.  These high-tech visuals are all run off computers, so if a person did want to mess with them, he would have to understand the inner workings of the machines…”

And on and on he rambles, incriminating himself to anyone with half a brain.  Fortunately, Paul doesn’t need half a brain–he’s an Underground Zealot!

Paul intertwined his fingers behind his head.  “So with you unwilling to admit it’s you, and with us unable to find evidence on your equipment, it’s a stalemate?”

“Given those variables.”

I gotta say that it’s quite cruel of Paul to make Specs think he has actually been found out.  He did the same thing with St. Stephen, but he meant to both be cruel and make him reveal himself.  In this case, no one is watching, Paul already knows it’s Specs, and…well, I guess Paul just liked to drag things out to make it as painful as possible for everyone.

Finally, Paul gets down to things:

“How about another variable?  What if I were to tell you that I am your brother in Christ and that the only reason I don’t have my penny to prove it is that I have not made contact with the local underground leadership?”

Specs cocked his head and folded his arms.  “Now there is a conundrum.”

“How so?”

“If I were who you think I am, I would want this to be true so badly that I would declare myself.  But if you are not who you say you are, my words could convict me.”

Yeah, because your words have been so innocent so far.

Paul leaned forward, elbows on his knees.

Gotta love these posture changes–from casually negligent to aggressive in a heartbeat.  But yeah, he has all kinds of sympathy for poor Specs, his “brother.”

[Paul said] “I am who I say I am, and you can believe it because I say it in the name of the risen Christ, who said, ‘My purpose is to give life–‘”

“‘–in all its fullness,'” Specs shook his head.  

(This is the Christian code phrase for the L.A. Underground.)

“So you’re that guy?  You’re really that guy?”

Specs has been successfully hacking the Hollywood signs and billboards for weeks, staying out of sight the whole time, but what’s really impressive is some dude in the NPO who’s getting all his information from some other dude in Chicago who has been a Christian for years. 

Specs (who, of course, looks the part of the stereotypical hacker: short, balding, pale) starts crying at this revelation, and I can’t help but think that it is also because Paul has been toying with him for ten minutes, too.

And here it is, THE LINE that I mentioned last time:

“It’s an honor to meet you, sir,” Paul said.  Then, imitating John Malkovich in Con Air, “Love your work.”

That made Specs laugh.

WHAT THE FRAKKING FRAK IS GOING ON???

Con Air was made in 1997.  I remember it as being a fun film, but does Jerry Jenkins really think that of all the films in all the world, the ones that will survive World War III and remain well-known, such that random lines are quaotable and recognizable even to people born decades after the films were made, are Casablanca, True Grit, and CON AIR???

Hell, I liked Con Air.  And I mentioned this Soon scene to Angus, and he immediately recognized the line.  This is not terribly surprising, since Angus was a teenage guy when it came out.

Honestly, if Jenkins wanted to use this movie in his Atheistopian novel, why not have Ranold reference it?  He is the one who would remember it firsthand.

Angus also reminded me of something wonderful about this line.  He remembered that it was spoken by John Malkovich’s character (a criminal), complimenting Steve Buscemi’s character, another criminal.  Although “criminal” is a rather mild term, since the “work” that is so “loved” happens to be SERIAL KILLING.

So Paul’s admiration of Specs’ billboard vandalism is compared to an admiration of SERIAL KILLING.

Did Jenkins think about this at all?  AT ALL???

I guess not, because now that the ice is broken with a Con Air reference, Paul starts telling Specs all about the NPO’s mission to track down him and the L.A. underground in general.  He is doing this when he gets a Skull Phone call from Ranold, telling him to get to South Central L.A.

Turns out Ranold and Bia have made good on their promise to Quash ‘n Dismantle the underground.

More on that next time.  😀

Soon: Chapters 28-29: Pennies and Celluloid

Straight has given Paul his first contact in the L.A. underground–a guy nicknamed “Specs,” because he is one of the few people who has not had his bad vision completely corrected by laser eye surgery.

WHAT IS THIS, # 3,697 ON THE LIST OF AWESOME THINGS ABOUT ATHEISTOPIA THEY HAVE ALMOST COMPLETELY CURED IMPERFECT VISION IT JUST NEVER ENDS

Straight also tells Paul more fun tidbits about the L.A. Christians:

They use pennies for their little identification symbols (just like that one group used ailanthus leaves and that one other group used medallions with books on them).  Straight explains the symbol’s Deep Significance:

“Lincoln was known as Honest Abe, of course, a virtue we want to be known by.”

Yeah-huh.  Hey, Straight, maybe you should have thought of that before you lied to Paul for months about what you believed.  And maybe Paul should be thinking about it to, what with his not telling Angela for months about his marriage, and not telling Jae for months about his new religion.

“And the [“In God We Trust”] line on there is one thing that took the penny out of circulation.”

Wow.  I’m…kinda shocked.  Jenkins has hit on something that atheists might actually do if we could–get rid of the stupid “In God We Trust” line on the money that we use just like everyone else.  Though I doubt we would have to take anything out of circulation–couldn’t we just take the line off the penny mold for future pennies?

“But because of the color, the penny also represents gold.”

Wait, copper-colored = gold?  WHY???

“The line the penny relates to is, ‘I advise you to buy gold from me–gold that has been purified by fire.'”

Um…’kay?  HOARD GOLD!!!!

“So Los Angeles is Laodicea.  But I’m still not sure why.” [said Paul]

“Laodicea had to bring in its water by aqueduct, for one thing, as L.A. does.  And remember what else that passage tells you to buy: ‘ointment for your eyes so you will be able to see.’  Laodicea was a big maker of eye salve for the ancient world.” [said Straight]

“L.A.’s movies could be considered eye products today.” [said Paul]

Well, I guess.  But they certainly aren’t the first things that pop to my mind as “eye products,” especially since movies are now completely interactive. 

“You got it–not to mention what they used to call ‘eye candy’–the beautiful people.” [said Straight]

“Incredible.” [said Paul]

Not really. Bit of a stretch, to be honest.

And before Paul goes to find Specs, he meets for a few minutes with the L.A. NPO chief, “a sixtyish no-nonsense woman named Harriet Johns.” 

Hey!  HARRIET!  Like Hattie Durham! 

Harriet is pissed because Bia Balaam is being a jerk to her, just as you would expect a very tall, silver-haired woman with a full-time job to be.  Harriet also mentions the fact that they actually have infiltrators already in the L.A. underground, which makes Harriet awesomely good at her job, and which will, of course, have Grave Consequences later.

Next up: Specs, and one of the funniest lines in the book!

 

Soon: Chapter 28: Teh Movies!!!

Studio chief Tiny Allendo is not the most unlikeable character I’ve come across in Soon.  In fact, he seems pretty darned reasonable.

Poolside, Ranold explains the general plan: he and Bia Balaam will “crush the efforts of these zealots to destroy the movie industry.”

Frankly, I think “destroy the movie industry” is a pretty strong way to put the minor and pointless acts of petty vandalism that the underground has engaged in so far, but I don’t blame Tiny for his reaction, seeing as how he’s the head of the only studio in the whole country:

“That’s a relief,” Tiny said.  “This is more than a nuisance, you know.  These people are trying to overthrow us.  And regardless what they think about our product, is it just me, or are these people breaking the law simply by practicing religion?”

“Of course they are,” Ranold said.  “That’s why it is imperative that the uprising be quashed and the underground dismantled as quickly as possible.  We have marshaled a formidable army contingent.  By this evening it will have encircled not just Hollywood but also the entire city of Los Angeles.”

Sounds like a plan!

Paul’s plan is to go out and case L.A.  Before he leaves, Tiny corners him and offers him some “evening companionship“:

“After-hours drinks, conversation, that kind of thing.  Merely mention your pleasure to your valet.”

Paul declines, natch, and I’m sure we’re supposed to see this as evidence of Tiny’s atheistic depravity, but this is a world with legalized prostitution, remember.  Hell, maybe it’s a sign of my atheistic depravity, but I consider Tiny’s offer rather generous.  Tiny, after all, has no reason to suspect Paul is separated married.

POPULATION ALERT!!!

Wartime floods had once swallowed up L.A.’s coastal communities, but now the gleaming city of five million looked prosperous.  New technology allowed skyscrapers to withstand frequent tremors, even the most severe.

JUST WHEN I START TO THINK ATHEISTOPIA CAN’T KICK ANY MORE ASS

The current population of L.A. is around 3.8 million.  This Atheistopian population estimate makes even less sense than any of the others.  Out of all the cities Paul has visited, L.A. is the one most affected by World War III.  A frakking TSUNAMI hit the coast thirty years ago, killing thousands and flooding vast stretches.  And yet the population has experienced moderate growth, rather what one would expect under normal circumstances, not the circumstances of a devastating war. 

Paul gets a tourist map and drives around the city while also praying, which doesn’t seem like safe driving to me.  When he gets back to Tiny’s house, the boys head out to Grauman’s Chinese Theater, which I guess survived the war and the flooding because it is now a bitchin’ nightclub called The Studio (oooo, original), where you can perform in an interactive movie and then purchase a copy of the scenes you were in.

Which sounds SWEET.

Okay, you guys, this is why I asked about the movies last time.  Because this is just ODD.

As has been pointed out, Jenkins often appears to forget that he is writing about the FUTURE.  Ranold wants to be Rooster Cogburn in True Grit.  Now, we can either be frightened at Jenkins’ ability to see into the future from 2003 and know that True Grit would be remade in 2010, or we can realize that Ranold specifically says he wants to be JOHN WAYNE and just marvel at this weird choice in and of itself.

Honestly, this is pretty easy stuff.  Is John Wayne really the idolized hero for someone born in the late 1970s or early 1980s?  It isn’t for this person of Ranold’s generation. 

I consulted my brother Angus on this one, too.  Like Ranold and me, he is a child of those years.  He immediately (and I do mean immediately) chose an Indiana Jones movie for his interactive role.  Makes a ton of sense.  For those of us from that era, Indiana Jones was one of our first heroes. 

For the record, I chose the original Star Wars movies.

It never crossed Angus’s mind for a moment to pick a John Wayne movie.  When I told him about this scene, he said, “That sounds like the choice Grandpa would have made.”

Kinda says it all, doesn’t it? 

Jenkins needs to get with the future-times, man. 

Or at least ask some 30-somethings about their favorite movies.

But this lack of future-thought pales in comparison to Paul’s choice.

He wants to be in Casablanca.

Specifically:

Paul wondered what it would be like to stand next to Humphrey Bogart while he interacted with Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca.

Notice anything about that?  Paul doesn’t want to be Rick Blaine.  He wants to stand next to Rick Blaine.  In fact, when it’s Paul’s turn, he chooses to be, of all people in all movies ever…the PIANO PLAYER in Casablanca.

Paul, you UNBELIEVABLE DUMBASS, WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU???  You can pilot the Millenium Falcon, find the Ark of the Covenant.  You can be James Bond or Superman, you can be in Jurassic Park or Lord of the Rings.  If you want to go classic, you can be Robin Hood or Zorro.

Ranold gets points from me because at least he wants to be Rooster Cogburn, not stand next to Rooster Cogburn.

It’s like Paul seeks out ways to make a situation as unamusing and lifeless as he possibly can.

 

 

Soon: Chapter 28: HOLYwood Wealth

Hey, guess what???

THERE IS ANOTHER WAY IN WHICH ATHEISTOPIA KICKS ASS

And Ranold, the only tolerable character in this part of the story, points it out:

“You should have seen this city before you were born, Paul.  Smog so thick you wouldn’t have been able to see the houses.  Thank technology–primarily electric-powered cars and trucks–for cleaning that up.”

Let’s just add it to the list of things cured in Atheistopia: cancer, homelessness, pollution…

Oh, Atheistopia, will you ever stop being awesome?  *swoon*

A recurrent theme rears its ugly head once again, here in L.A.: Paul’s all-c0nsuming jealousy of anyone who has more than he does.

It’s pretty fascinating to compare other works on the LaHaye and Jenkins booklist.  As we see over at the excellent Apocalypse Review, LaHaye hero Joshua Jordan just can’t live without his creature comforts.  And when I say “comfort,” I really mean it: two homes (one a Manhattan penthouse and one a mansion in the Rockies), a private jet, and a luxury hotel triplex even when he is hiding from federal agents.

Paul Stepola isn’t so lucky.  He’s a middle-class guy pulling down a government salary.  He’s plenty comfortable–owns a house and his wife can afford to stay home with the kids, and his job involves some awesome travelling all over the world, but for Paul, it’s always about what he doesn’t have.  Arthur Demetrius has a huge office.  Donny Johnson has a limo and wears custom-made suits.  And those are nothing compared with Paul’s downright obsessive jealousy of studio chief Tiny Allendo and all he has. 

It’s almost enough to make Michael Murphy seem likeable.  Sure, he’s a pompous blowhard, but I can somehow imagine Mikey being quite comfortable on an old Barcalounger, drinking cheap beer and eating chip dip with a spoon.

Here are only a few of the reasons why Paul should be jealous of Tiny: Tiny is five inches taller than Paul.  He dresses in the latest style, owns a hugemongous mansion, has a staff of dozens.

The marble-and-stucco home was the most lavish Paul had ever seen.  Everything was sleek and ultramodern…

Hey!  Just like New York City!

…and custom-made, from the furniture to the draperies and linens.

Seriously?  Paul knows enough about draperies and linens to know if they’re custom-made?  I feel like he would consider that “girl stuff.”

Paul’s private bath was as large as his living room at home.

Paul, it’s not always all about you

Tiny also has a pool, natch, and there are always hot chicks frolicking in it.  And Paul’s big first decision of this mission is whether to wear casual clothes or businesswear to the poolside lunch.

But the worst thing, the thing that really drives Paul up a wall, is the gold fountain outside Tiny’s house, that sprays water one hundred feet into the air.

More on that fountain is coming up.

And next time, what movie would you like to “interact with” in Atheistopia?