Monthly Archives: March 2012
Looks like we have to ease away from Soon before we get to a movie palate-cleanser and then to the Adventured of Michael Murphy.
FIRST ORDER OF BUSINESS
I put up two polls to find the worst, nastiest, most horriblest statement of Paul Stepola to his long-suffering wife, Jae. For both the first and second half of the book, two statements clobbered the competition to emerge as victors. So now, I leave it to you, my loyal readers to determine THE VERY WORST THING PAUL SAYS TO HIS WIFE.
This should be interesting, because the statements occur at two very different points in Paul’s life. The first is shortly after Paul is blinded by the miraculous fire pillar of God. He’s laid up in the hospital, and poor Jae is just trying to help him put together a “disc player” so he can listen to the Bible (as part of his “research”). Paul’s an atheist at this point, and thus, by definition, a horrible human being who is incapable of love.
The second statement takes place after Jae reveals that she found the letter from Angela to Paul. It is unsurprising that she takes it as evidence that Paul is preparing to cheat on her, seeing as how he has been fooling around with a string of DOZENS of women for eight of the ten years he has been married. Of course, this is the one time when a letter from a woman is not quite what it appears, as Paul has just found the love of Jesus in his heart, and knows that the only moral thing to do in his life is stay in a desperately unhappy marriage where he and his wife can barely stand the sight of each other.
Here you go:
SECOND ORDER OF BUSINESS
Is being religious officially a capital offense, or for that matter even a crime? I can’t remember either being stated exactly, and it seems jarring how much effort Bia goes through to do her earlier executions in secret, and Bia, Ranold, the army and even Paul pre-conversion go through a lot of effort to link the zealots to terrorism and pretend they resisted arrest and had to be killed, or making Barton’s death look like an accident. If they could be legally executed for being a believer, why are they bothering with all this? I’d be equally stupid, but before adding it I’d like to know if all law enforcers decide on their own that they want to kill Christians even if they are too young to have ever met one, or if it is official government policy to kill Christians which makes their efforts to make the deaths look like accidents or self-defense superfluous.
Well…it’s difficult to say for sure. Largely because Jenkins doesn’t say for sure. I would have loved to see the actual statutes outlawing religion (I’m a nerd that way), but the best I can do is tell you what the characters say…
According to my boyfriend Larry Coker, the Bible is “contraband,” and excuse enough for SWAT to raid a house.
A Bible study group is “a crime.”
Being a Christian is an arrestable offense, but apparently not punishable by death, in and of itself, given Paul’s statements at the oil fires.
Proselytizing is “a crime.”
Specs messing with the movie billboards in L.A. is a “federal felony,” because the movie industry is run by the government.
The penalty for distributing tracts is prison. The penalty for creating them is death.
And…that’s it for hard facts on crime and punishment.
THIRD ORDER OF BUSINESS
I hope to start The Secret on Ararat the week after next, after Easter (Springmas in Atheistopia, perhaps?). For those of you who may be new or newish ’round these Atheistopian parts, my critique of Babylon Rising is here, and the TV Tropes page for the series is here.
Wow. So many comments and ideas about the last few pages of Soon.
I guess God dessicating an entire city forever will do that.
So my plan was to hop into a palate cleanser or two, like Escape from Hell, then right into The Secret on Ararat.
Then I got to thinking…
Everyone is so curious about the long-term effects of the dessication of Los Angeles, but Jerry Jenkins has left it as a cliffhanger.
So you know what?
Frak THAT noise.
I’m going to let you guys in on the total revelation of the effects of the dessication, in the first chapter of Silenced.
I’m not going to do the whole book, mind you. (I think I’m nearly overdosed on one Paul Stepola *gag*) But I am going to tell The Rest of the Story of the “miracle” of drying up a vibrant city filled with innocent people.
First of all, the death counts of Atheistopia and God are out the window. Jenkins informs us that thousands die.
That this is not surprising makes it no less horrifying.
And remember, according to the dictates of a LaJenkinsian RTC God, those thousands go straight to Hell.
And I’m sure we can all imagine who most of these thousands would be.
First, the sick and injured. Those who depend immediately on water and water-based medications to survive the next few minutes.
Next, the very young and the very old, the weak, the infirm, and most of all, the poor. The people least likely to have the ability to buy their way out of the city.
As the foliage withered and services—particularly medical—shut down for lack of water in any form, eventually everyone reluctantly pulled out.
“Eventually” makes it sound like a matter of weeks. I’m sorry, but with no water in any form, the pulling out would take place in a matter of hours. Forty-eight at the most.
And here is the kicker: L.A. is dessicated permanently…
Except for people of faith. The underground became the sparse populace that had the run of the place. The endless miles of frewway pavement, once the crippled cars of the judged were moved aside, became a playground for the formerly oppressed. They had running water. Their bottles were full. Their machines had fluids and lubrication. And when they assumed control of the dead vehicle of a banished victim, it sprang back to life.
Well, once they shoved aside the corpse that had once been a parent desperate to get water for their baby. A young person trying to get medication for a dying parent. A doctor trying to get TO the hospital to see what he can do.
Oh, and just in case you’re wondering: No, we don’t get to find out how Paul, Jae, Ranold, and Bia get out of L.A. (and they do), let alone how Paul disguised the fact that he had the Water-Midas Touch.
I would imagine that L.A. being a “playground” would get old after about ten minutes, what with the thousands of corpses, the piles of waste, the dead foliage.
Yeah, sounds like fun. On the upside, you can drive down the highway at 200 mph with no atheist cop to stop you WOOOOOOOOOOOO
As for the effects outside L.A., the believers get a bit gutsier (or stupider, depending on your interpretation), some getting cross tattoos, some trying to recruit more openly for their groups. But the Atheistopian government stays its hand and doesn’t pursue things, at least for the moment. Instead, they use the sort of rhetoric Firedrake invoked, reminding everyone of the harm caused by religion.
But somehow, it’s still not enough for the believers:
In all the USSA’s regions, underground factions seemed to take heart from what had transpired in L.A. It was as if God had had enough of the carnage, the persecution. Secret believers came to hope that He would not abandon them, that they might grow bolder and be able to count on his protection, even his vengeance against their pursuers.
“Yeah, God, thanks for dessicating an entire city and causing thousands to die horrible deaths. Think you could do that EVERY week? Kthanx amen.”
So, that’s it. The effects of the great “miracle” of Soon.
Oh, but we get one more word on the final state of mind of the world in general before we move on to the plot proper of Silenced:
Human goodness and intellect were revered; religion was an ugly stepsister of the past.
Religion seems more like the wicked queen of the past, but more to the point…
Human goodness and intellect??? Those evil atheists MUST BE STOPPED.
Preferably by murdering them by thirst and lack of medicine.
Or is it…just the beginning???
DUN DUN DUNNNN
Lovely Juliet Peters arrives “shyly“:
She was a curvaceous blonde in a white strapless gown, her trademark platinum mane reaching to her impossibly tiny waist.
Curvaceous but with an impossibly tiny waist? Jenkins really doesn’t know anything AT ALL about women’s body types, does he?
Juliet turns out to be less shy than indicated earlier in the same page of this book. By the time dessert is served, she is making jokes about “the coming judgment of God,” and everyone is laughing about it. Everyone but Paul and Jae, of course, because Paul really needs to redouble his crap-so-far efforts to act happy with the NPO.
Paul slurps down his sorbet, thinking that the inhuman Bia Balaam is possibly able to read his thoughts. (Pro tip, Paul: Your thoughts are not that difficult to discern.)
AND JUST AT THAT MOMENT THE JUDGMENT OF GOD HAPPENS ARE YOU READY?????
BOOM GOES GOD
And out of freaking nowhere, the water is gone.
Someone cried out, and Paul looked up just in time to see one of the women in the pool plunge down a slide and slam into the dry bottom with a sickening thud.
But hey, why would Paul be concerned with the grievous injuries of another human being when there are so many interesting things to look at?
Paul studied the table. Even the liquid in the food had evaporated. The fruit tart had shriveled. The sorbet was colored powder. The wineglasses held a gooey residue.
Atheistopia has become such a sad, sad place.
(Picture from Ben’s Wine Reviews)
WHY IS THE WINE GONE???
This is actually a pretty effective miracle. All of the water is gone: not just the “regular” water in glasses and pools, but all moisture in anything.
Paul looked at the grass on the beautiful sprawling lawn under the lights. It was withering. By tomorrow it would be brown.
Um…girl…pool…massive injuries, Paul? Did you want to help her, or not, or…
Ranold is kinda having a mild panic attack, shaking, “lips trembling.”
And Bia is being awesome. Despite the fact that she is “tottering” in her heels (hey, you try wearing high heels, Jenkins!), she is running to her car, presumably to call for help. Hell, she’s DOING SOMETHING, which is more than I can say for Paul, sitting there with his stupid face.
The mighty Lord and Creator of the universe had withdrawn every drop of water in the wicked city. The word would spread throughout the land, and underground believers would rise up with confidence and strength, boldly proclaiming the message of faith. The powers that be would stop killing the people of God, or they would all wither like the grass and die.
Oh, THAT’S NICE.
Can I add that this is NOT what was the
Bold Manifesto threat said:
If the army does not immediately withdraw and leave us to worship in peace, we believe [God drying up the water supply to the city] will come to pass. When it happens—and it will happen—you will know God has acted. To prevent it, we call on all affected citizens to rise up and force the powers that be to change their cruel and unjust laws against people of faith.
Okay. This threat was written yesterday, Friday. It went viral today, Saturday, probably around noon at the earliest (while Paul and Jae were at the mall). It is now Saturday night. The party was in full swing by six, and since they are eating dessert when the miracle hits, it is probably nine at the latest.
So, the atheists have had nine hours, tops, from the time they knew of the threat to the carrying out of the threat, to force the army to withdraw and to rise up and force the government to change laws that have been in place for over thirty years.
NINE HOURS OR LESS TO BEGIN, EXECUTE, AND WIN A NATIONAL REVOLUTION
Nice entrapment, God. Well played.
I don’t think this is the most dickish the RTC God has ever been. After all, there was that one time he ruined a man’s life and killed his children ON A BET, and that other time he flooded the entire planet (but more on that in the next book I dissect). But this is still pretty frakking awful—his minions threaten humanity, giving them a timetable about the length of the average workday, then he dessicates an entire city when its inhabitants cannot live up to his sudden and outrageous demands.
And that’s it.
That’s the end of Soon. The only reactions to this miracle we see are panic from Ranold and Tiny, Bia being awesome, and Paul sitting on his ass and probably contemplating what a smooth move he made defecting to the enemy mere weeks before this crap was unleashed.
Somehow, I think Michael Murphy will be a breath of fresh air.
OMG YOU GUISE I ALMOST FORGOT
I polled you about Paul’s nastiest statement to Jae in the first part of Soon. But now, we are near the end of the book, and we haven’t had an official update on Paul’s dickishness!
So, here it is. This poll may be complicated by the fact that Paul is a Christian for much of the second half of the book, and thus is less likely to say horrible things to his wife’s face. Instead, he just thinks them or says them to a friend. I have included such statements, but if you feel these answers shouldn’t count…well, pick a direct-to-Jae statement, I guess!
It’s been a couple of hours since the Bold Manifesto hit the airwaves, and Paul and Jae are back at Tiny’s for the big prestrike blowout.
After all that shopping, we never do get a description of Jae’s dress or how sexy she looks in it.
But we get a description of Bia Balaam’s dress:
Bia Balaam arrived preening in another silver gown—this one satin and skintight, clinging awkwardly to her angular body—with matching stiletto heels. Jae nudged Paul. “You’d think she overheard Tiny’s ideas for Juliet Peters. I can’t believe that woman is NPO.”
I am just really sad that Jae came crawling back to her slimy husband, and she is lowering herself to muttering catty comments with him. Like this is what is holding their relationship together—being nasty to another woman.
Also HAW HAW HAW unattractive woman tries to look attractive IT’S FUNNY
Then we get this strange bit:
Tiny didn’t seem to sweat, while Paul felt as if he were swimming. The governor’s entourage arrived at ten to six, when Ranold also made his appearance for pictures and handshakes. He proudly introduced Jae to all the dignitaries.
That makes it sound like Ranold is the one proudly introducing Jae. But shouldn’t Paul be the one introducing her? Sounds like Ranold is really laying the snub down on Paul, introducing Jae in his stead, and I feel this is an important point, but we do not see Paul’s reaction to this.
Maybe he doesn’t care.
Paul was gratified that Jae had evidently taken an instant dislike to [Bia].
That’s nice. Woo-hoo, something my wife and I can “invest in our relationship”—our hatred of Bia Balaam!
Though again, WHY Jae should immediately dislike Bia (or think she is unqualified to be NPO) is a mystery.
But that’s not all we get from Jae:
Jae whispered, “There’s sure a lot of laughter for what should be a sober day. You’d think they were planning a surprise party.”
“Peculiar, considering people might die,” Paul said.
Ah, good job with keeping up your pretense of being a loyal NPO agent, Paul. It’s especially important now that you know that Ranold and Bia are keeping an eye on you.
The governor’s wife agreed. “I know we’re targeting terrorists, but I find it hard to approve of jocularity at a time like this.”
Sounds like some of these people are ripe for some good information about how he believers should just be left alone to worship in peace, and some info on their actual lack of real terrorism.
Too bad the Christians have resorted to sending out Bold Manifestos threatening entire cities with the power of their vengeful thug of a god.
And stay tuned: the next post will be the LAST Soon post, and we see if the Christians prayers for
terrorism retribution against an entire city pay off.
LAST CHAPTER ALERT
It’s Saturday morning, so presumably Paul had about three hours of sleep after his fountain romp before breakfast.
I wonder how he explained his soaked skivvies to Jae.
(This is assuming, of course, that they are sharing a bedroom. Which, if you remember, they haven’t done for well over a month.)
Tiny is planning a big party for that night. The raid on the Stinky Fish Christians is planned for the next day, so Tiny is calling it his “elegant prestrike dinner,” which I admit, made me laugh.
He has invited Juliet Peters, the movie star, which sounds an awful lot like Julia Roberts, but whatever. Tiny has been inspired by both Juliet and having all these NPO guys and gals as his guests, and is starting to plan a movie:
“I’m thinking of casting [Juliet Peters] as Chief Balaam in the movie. You know, beautiful blonde fights her way up the ranks of the NPO, finally gets her big break leading a crack strike force. I’m not sure about the love angle yet—maybe the handsome leader of the zealots, whom she takes prisoner. Maybe a jail-cell seduction…she comes in wearing a gold cat-suit and stiletto-heel boots to show she’s all woman doing a man’s job…”
Yeah, because it’s 1972. A GOLD CAT-SUIT, REALLY???
Okay, I admit I’m intrugued, Tiny. Go on.
“…but it’s a triangle. The real Mr. Right is the wise old agency chairman. He’s thirty-five years her senior, but he’s a tiger—a silver fox. Seasoned. Tough. Rich as King Midas.
“At the end the zealot turns out to be a brute. The silver fox saves the blonde, and she sees he’s so much stronger and better than the cute young muscle man.”
Yeah, I’m not feelin’ that, Tiny. But hey, this is why we brainstorm, to get rid of the bad ideas and on to the good…
“Or maybe it’s the other way around, and it’s really the old guy who’s evil.”
Ah, that’s more like it. And check it out, Bia could totally deconvert the Christian zealot! Propaganda and entertainment all in one tasty package?
Paul could barely hide his revulsion.
“I am so sickened by other people talking about their work! Potboiler action flicks make me want to VOMIT.”
Tiny is really sweet to Jae, and offers the couple (I use that term loosely) the use of a car and chauffeur to take them shopping for a slinky dress for Jae to wear to the party.
SHOCKINGLY, the idea of his wife trying on hot dresses does not interest Paul in the slightest.
Zoe: Too much foofaraw. If I’m gonna wear a dress I want something with some slink.
Wash: You want a slinky dress? I can buy you a slinky dress. Captain, can I have money for a slinky dress?
Good couple, bad couple.
They go to Rodeo Drive, which was presumably destroyed in the tsunami, because in Atheistopia it is “a ten-story mall of exclusive stores for those who enjoyed actual shopping more than on-line virtual try-ons.”
Virtual try-ons??? That sounds AWESOME. Even in the last chapter, Jenkins cannot stop telling us about the greatness of this world.
Paul hasn’t seen his wife for weeks. You would think, New Christian Man that he is, that he would want to get right to work on “investing” in the relationship, as Straight said he should.
“Paul, I know how much you hate shopping…” [Jae said]
“I was hoping you’d say that.”
“So why don’t you have the chauffeur take you somewhere? This is my one big chance at Rodeo Drive, and I don’t want to worry that you’re miserable.”
By which Jae means, of course, “I don’t want you to make me miserable.”
Paul was a hairsbreadth away from taking her up on it, desperate to see what was going on at the port, when it struck him: This is a test. Maybe Jae was in cahoots with Ranold and maybe she wasn’t. But Ranold had arranged for the limo and driver right after stripping Paul of his agency car.
Huh? ONE PAGE AGO, Jenkins said it was Tiny who offered the limo.
If the man behind the wheel wasn’t an operative assigned to check on him, Paul would be shocked.
Unless it was Jae checking on him. Or Ranold. Or Jae and Ranold. Or…
Again, paranoia = good. But not when he has always hated Jae and been suspicious of her every move and every word, despite her history of loyalty and truth-telling. (Unlike a certain Paul I could name…)
So, Paul sticks with Jae. This is another expression I am using very loosely, as Paul ditches her in the very first store to go and call Straight.
Straight led off with the good news. Someone in the salt mines knew Carl and Lois because of their letterpress-printed tracts and had been able to warn them away from Sapiens.
Yeah, again, not the most efficient communication system ever devised.
Paul learns of upcoming raid on L.A. Christians from Ranold -> Paul calls Straight in Chicago -> Straight contacts Detroit underground -> Christians in Detroit know Christians in L.A. -> Detroit Christians warn L.A. Christians
You know what might work better?
Paul learns of upcoming raid from Ranold -> Paul warns L.A. Christians
“Nothing is hopeless,” Straight said. “Last I heard, God was still on His throne.”
Tell that to Grace Dean, you smug ass.
But there’s good news on the Stinky Fish front—Carl and Lois have apparentl been using their downtime away from the docks to disseminate The Bold Manifesto to other Christians and to news outlets. Straight gives Paul the scoop, seeing as how Paul, the double agent, has no other direct access to other Christians:
“…the word is being spread. San Francisco and Washington are hopping, eager for God to avenge their martyrs.”
Okay. Not quite sure how dissicating L.A. will avenge murders across the country, but I guess it’s good to know that all of the other Christians are as bloodthirsty as Paul, Straight, and the Stinky Fish Christians.
Paul and Jae even see the manifesto on TV as they are shopping. It is largely perceived as a hoax or a big joke. Jae’s reaction seems typical:
“What in the world…?”
This should be even more evidence (as if we needed it) that the demand that the citizens of Atheistopia “rise up and force the powers that be to change their cruel and unjust laws” is patently ridiculous.
Oh, and pay attention to the timing here, my friends. It is Saturday, probably around the middle of the day.
Remember that. 😉
That was a close one.
To recap: Ranold knows all about Paul’s contact with the Stinky Fish Christians, but believes (or, in my fantasy, doesn’t believe but just said) that Paul must have been trying to make some sort of heroic lone-wolf sekrit-squirrel spy raid.
And how does Paul react to Ranold’s almost-revelation?
He spends half a page thinking about how Jae could be spying on him, or how she could be spying on him with Ranold.
That would almost seem the natural reaction of a man driven to paranoia by the atheistopian evil all around him…had Paul not had these same suspicions before his discussion with Ranold.
He’s just looking for excuses to hate on Jae and make her beg some more, isn’t he?
Paul decides he needs to call Straight to warn the Stinky Fishers, because I guess Karl and Lois and Barton never gave Paul their direct-dial skull phone numbers. This makes communication cumbersome and complicated and nonsensical, since it’s Paul who has access to the insiders, not Straight.
Now, it strikes me as fairly dumb that Atheistopia hasn’t bugged Paul’s skull phone yet. Hell, I would be satisfied if they came up with some technobabble handwave explanation as to why skull phones can’t be bugged, but they don’t even do that.
So Paul is faced with the following strange conundrum:
He might be under surveillance, but he had to call Straight.
How are you under surveillance, Paul? Obviously your skull phone isn’t bugged, so…?
But no matter how he might be bugged, Paul has a cunning plan. A plan so cunning you could scrub your floors with it. I hope you were all paying attention when we talked about Tiny’s Big Giant Fountain, because Paul is about to use it to his advantage.
Paul positioned himself as close to [the huge gold fountain] as possible. He’d get soaked by the spray [remember, the fountain sprays one hundred feet into the air], but the burbling and splashing would cover the sound of the call.
Look, Paul, if they can’t hear Straight because of the fountain, probably you can’t hear Straight because of the fountain.
This is kinda like when babies think that when they cover eyes, they can’t be seen, isn’t it?
Then things get a little weird.
To avoid rousing suspicion by going back indoors dripping wet, he slipped off his shirt and pants and tossed them to safety where they’d stay dry.
It’s going on four in the morning, and in order NOT to look suspicious, Paul is stripping down to his tighty whities and hopping into the huge gold fountain.
The fact that this made perfect sense to Paul inside his own head is what really gets me.
The only, I repeat…ONLY way this scene would work, would be if it was presented as a consequence of Paul being exhausted, both physically and emotionally. Maybe a couple of Tiny’s army of servants would see Paul, and write it off as the uptight jerkwad agent finally cutting loose, getting drunk or high.
And the cherry on the sundae of stupidity is that Straight doesn’t have direct connections to the L.A. underground, either.
Even Jesus is disappointed in the idiocy of the Christian Underground.
“The big problem is how to reach any of these people,” Paul said.
“If only we all had phones attached directly to our skulls so we could call each other in case of an emergency…WAIT A MINUTE!!!”
“And here I am, totally out of commission—certainly being watched by Ranold and possibly by Jae.”
Paul, if Ranold is “certainly” watching you, I’m not sure that standing in a fountain in your skivvies, FIVE MINUTES AFTER YOU SPOKE TO HIM, is the best idea you’ve ever had.
“She didn’t plant a bug on you, did she?” [Straight asked]
“I didn’t even think of that with all this madness.”
What? Paul, you JUST SAID that you hopped into the fountain to muffle the sound of your call, AFTER obsessing about Jae’s loyalty. What do you mean you didn’t think of…
“Luckily—” Paul burst out laughing— “even if she did, I’m standing here in my shorts, sopping wet, with my head stuck in a fountain.”
“I wondered what that sound was,” Straight said.
I realize that sometimes people laugh to cover the pain, but it’s only been five minutes since Paul learned of the torture and murder of Grace.
Also, this may be the first and only time Paul has laughed so far in this book (I will go and check), which would make this even more inappropriate.
HA! Torture and murder of some “stocky” single woman.
TW: violent death, torture, fake suicide
Jae, having crawled over enough broken glass for Paul, at least for one night, heads off to unpack. And Paul goes to talk to Ranold.
Ranold is doing his best Sherlock Holmes bit, wearing a “burgundy smoking jacket,” because he rocks.
You see, while Paul was eating Cheesy Gorditas and writing Bold Manifestos with the zealots, Ranold and Bia were tracking Grace Dean, the hydrologist. When Grace was called by Lois to come in and talk about the water system, Grace then called a few of her friends to go with her.
One of them was a NPO informant.
“Our plant was heading out for a business meeting. Grace said not to worry and got someone else. Of course, our informant called us. But by the time we got someone to Grace’s office to follow her, she was gone.”
What kind of crappy operation is L.A. running here, that a “business meeting” of an informant would take precedence over a Christian terrorism plot like this???
DAMMIT HARRIET JOHNS, LEARN TO TRAIN UP YOUR INFORMANTS GODDAMN
So when they find that Grace has left, the NPO, including Bia and Ranold, just camp at her home until she gets back.
Making Bia and Ranold much better spies than Paul or this stupid L.A. informant are.
And then they do what should have been happening to Christians throughout this entire book: they torture Grace for information and then pull the Obviously Fake Suicide trick.
In the interests of not being too depressing, I will skip the gory details. Suffice to say that they make it look like Grace slit her wrists in the bathtub.
Paul fought to stay impassive. Monsters!
Oh, YOU’RE a one to talk, Mr. Let’s-Dessicate-the-Entire-City. Monsters, indeed.
Please note: I am not saying that Bia and Ranold aren’t monsters. Indeed, this kind of barbarism (and keep reading) is just what I would expect to see from an atheist dictatorship created in the mind of a RTC.
I’m just saying that Paul is a big, fat hypocrite. Also, in addition, as well.
“Here’s where you come in, Paul. Before opening her veins, Grace was repeatedly submerged to, shall we say, aid her memory.”
That is so horrible.
And again, exactly what I would expect from a Jenkinsian-atheistopian secret spy ring.
WHY HAS THIS NOT HAPPENED UNTIL CHAPTER 35 OUT OF 36???
“Balaam blindfolded her with a silk scarf—a nice touch.”
Um, why is it a nice touch? If it had been a linen scarf, it wouldn’t have been as atheistopian? I don’t get it.
“Each time Grace came up she gave us a little more about the cell near the port. She only had first names, but she had a good description of the ringleader, the one who had all the questions for her about the water. Seems he was from Chicago—an outside agitator. Get this. He called himself Paul and told her he had been blinded but that God had restored his sight. She even saw his navy blue sedan.”
THIS IS IT
RANOLD IS ON TO PAUL—HE KNOWS EVERYTHING
“Paul, do you deny being that man?”
HERE IT COMES
“No,” Paul said. He stood with fists clenched, trying to keep from erupting.
AND JAE IS HERE SO WHEN PAUL KILLS RANOLD TO ESCAPE HE’LL HAVE TO TAKE HER WITH HIM AND SHE DOESN’T EVEN KNOW HIS SECRET YET
“No, you’re not? Or no, you don’t deny it?”
OMG AND THE STINKY FISH CHRISTIANS MAY ALREADY BE DEAD AND PAUL HAS TO WARN THEM BUT WHAT IF IT’S TOO LATE
“Hi, Daddy!” Jae said. She rushed to her father, flung an arm around his neck, and kissed him on the cheek.
“Jae! Honey, I—”
“You both seem so serious. What’s going on?”
“Oh, just arresting your soon-to-be-ex-husband for conspiracy to commit terrorism, aiding the enemy, and being a practicing religionist.”
“Just business. What are you doing here?”
“I missed my husband.”
Yeah, I’ll just bet Ranold buys that. But Jae tells him that she and Paul are “totally patched,” and then she wanders off.
Wow. Jerry Jnekins almost had to write a tense action scene there.
That was close.
With a pat on the head and a glass of warm milk, Jae wanders off to bed like a good little girl.
Leaving Ranold to “explain” what his theory really is:
He thinks Paul was infiltrating the enemy all by himself. That is, without orders from either him or from Harriet Johns:
“Paul, you have humiliated me—and even more, yourself—with your arrogance. What made you go off half-cocked like that on your own? Did you think you could compete with me? With Balaam?”
Sigh. I just don’t even. As usual, veteran agent Ranold is only half-right. Yes, Paul is insanely jealous of Bia.
BUT HE IS ALSO A NOT-SO-SECRET CHRISTIAN DAMMIT RANOLD
“So you just thought you could make a big score all by yourself? You thought you had to go an extra hundred miles because you failed in San Francisco and Gulfland? I can understand that, Paul. But we all have missions that go belly-up. A real soldier accepts it and moves on. Or was it your bleeding heart? You disapproved of our tactics and thought you’d bring in these renegades in cuffs instead of coffins. Well, that’s not how it works with terrorists.”
Little does Ranold know that he’s talking to the biggest terrorist of them all.
Except maybe for God.
Ranold then reveals that the NPO raided the Stinky Fish Building and no one was there, which makes no freaking sense. So, these dozens of believers just go there every day after work, drawing no suspicion at all from the actual fishermen and dock workers?
Yeah, sure. Fine.
So, the NPO will be raiding the port on Sunday, “these people’s big meeting day.” Har.
And what does Ranold have in store for Paul after his
treason and terrorism “meddling“?
He’s going to report him to his boss in Chicago!
Paul is relieved (as well he might be) and heads off to do more super sekrit squirrel spying.
Because he’s so good at it.
I’m sorry, I just am so disappointed in Ranold.
This is a short one, because we haven’t had quite enough yet of Jae taking the blame for the destruction of her marriage.
It’s three in the morning when Paul and Jae get back to Tiny’s:
Once inside, Jae said, “Paul, I’m so sorry for my part in all this. I hope you can forgive me.”
WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO APOLOGIZE FOR, JAE??? JUST WHAT? WHAT SHOULD YOUR SELF-ABSORBED, SERIALLY-CHEATING HUSBAND FORGIVE YOU FOR???
Oh, how I wish that this was Jae buttering up Paul so that she could entrap him.
Sadly (spoiler alert!), this is not the case.
“I was wrong too. I haven’t been a model husband for years.” [said Paul]
Okay, okay, this is good…so far as it goes. Notice, however, that Paul does not ask Jae for her forgiveness.
And he never will.
Not that it seems to matter to Jae—her Stockholm Syndrome is too powerful:
“I wasn’t a model wife, either. I was obsessed with your fidelity—or lack of it.”
Yeah, he’s been cheating on you with dozens of women for eight years. Can’t imagine why you would be worried about that.
“I didn’t consider the effect of my blindness or my anger on you and the kids.”
Notice how Paul neatly avoids the issue of his serial infidelity. Cool how he acts as though all the problems in the marriage arose because he couldn’t handle a traumatic injury with quite enough sensitivity. And who among us could handle sudden blindness perfectly, right? No one!
So he’s blameless!
Then Paul comes as close as he will in this book to revealing his faith to Jae:
“There’s a huge change I want—need—to explain to you. But I’m not sure I can find the words right now with all that’s going on. It’s a battle zone here.”
This is a pretty funny way of putting it, because from the NPO perspective, things are going damn swimmingly right now. This should really make Jae curious…but it doesn’t:
“As long as it’s not a change in your love for me, Paul, I can wait.”
Oh, don’t worry, Jae. Paul didn’t love you before, and he still doesn’t love you now.
“Trust me, it’s a change that makes me value you more than ever. I promise you that.”
See? He values Jae. Jae is the mother of his children. She is his wife. She is his investment, as Straight so sensitively pointed out back in Chapter 20:
“…you have the same job: to honor her and serve her. Keep it up, and you’ll be amazed at the change you’ll see in her. It’s an investment. You do this because it’s the right thing, not for what you get in return. But you will get what you give.”
Ah, Straight’s words have truly come to pass. After all, he has invested…
He hasn’t invested ANYTHING.
He gallivanted off on his merry way, and Jae came crawling back to him, apologizing and begging forgiveness.
I just don’t even.
Nice to be a RTC man, I guess. Half the work and twice the reward.
Even after all this, Paul is still suspicious of his damn nagging wife.
I know I end many segments like this, but it just keeps being relevant:
He is an asshat.
Carl’s manifesto is a marvel of idiocy and threats, the flailing of a desperate, wounded animal.
I am SO ticked that this horrible plan is going to work.
This thing…it’s just…
Okay, here we go:
Paul read Carl’s daring manifesto over Barton’s shoulder. It boldly stated that the Christian men and women of greater Los Angeles were praying that God would dry up the water supply…
I’ve asked this before: is it really all that daring and/or bold to ask God to be your thug?
Here’s the BOLD manifesto itself:
We know that the fervent prayer of the righteous avails much, and if the killing of the innocents does not immediately cease, we’re trusting God to answer this prayer and send this judgment on our tormentors.
Well, on our tormentors and on everyone else, since we are praying that the water will go away from everyone, not just the army and the NPO.
If the army does not immediately withdraw and leave us to worship in peace, we believe this will come to pass.
What, EXACTLY, does Carl expect the average atheist on the street to do about this threat? I don’t know about you guys, but I don’t really have the power to stop the army from doing jack shit.
When it happens—and it will happen—you will know God has acted.
Can’t really imagine any atheist in Atheistopia NOT laughing at this part. At this point, Carl has all the emotional maturity of a five-year-old.
“Oh, it’ll happen. MY DAD SAID SO.”
To prevent it, we call on all affected citizens to rise up and force the powers that be to change their cruel and unjust laws against people of faith.
“Okay, atheists, you hereby have twelve hours to force world-altering social and legal change on a global scale, or we’ll kill you all. Good luck—we know you’ll all accept this as the fair bargain it is.”
“This is great,” Barton said. “I wouldn’t change a word. Get this onto the Internet to all the groups we know and urge them to pass it on to everyone they can. We’ll be laughed at and ridiculed, but God will act; then the laughing—and the killing—will stop.”
“Or, God won’t do it and the laughing will continue. Or God will do it, and it’ll just piss off the atheists even more and the killing will continue. So, I suppose there are several possible scenarios…”
Also, does it seem to anyone else that Barton is more concerned about the laughing than the killing? I mean, sure, HE had an angel hanging out there, just waiting to save his life, but Specs wasn’t so lucky…
So, off they go to post the manifesto on their blogs or something. Paul, worried that Ranold will be “annoyed,” heads back to Tiny’s.
(I keep typing “Tony” and having to correct myself…)
On the drive back, Paul prays:
“And thank You too for giving me the idea of how You can show Yourself to the people of Sunterra.”
“Thank you, God, for once again making it all about me.”
(Also, capitalizing all the Ys makes that sentence look really weird, but I’m just going with Jenkins, here.)
SUDDENLY OMG JAE CALLS PAUL ON HIS SKULL PHONE
Jae! You remember her? Paul’s estranged wife, who left his sorry, lying ass when he cheated on her for the eighty-seventh consecutive time, except that it was the one time he hadn’t TECHNICALLY cheated, so it was all her fault???
Anyway, she left the kids in the care of their grandma, and flew out to L.A.. and now she wants Paul to come and get her.
DAMMIT, WOMAN, CAN YOU NOT JUST GIVE PAUL A MOMENT’S PEACE?
Honestly, it is just one thing after another with Jae. Oooo, pick me up at the airport, spend time with your children, don’t cheat on me for eight straight years.
Typical nagging, demanding woman.
She held him fiercely and kissed him deeply. “I don’t ever want to be apart from you again, Paul.”
…ten minutes later…
What about my father’s letter? Did you take it? Paul strained to detect anything unusual in Jae’s tone. What is this visit about?
I kinda love Paul’s suspicion. It’s almost as though he’s acknowledging that there is absolutely no reason on Earth for Jae to tolerate his presence even for a moment.
She took both his hands in hers. “Paul, I am so sorry. I didn’t trust you. I was convinced you were cheating on me.”
Liar. You had every damn intention of sleeping with Angela from the moment you met her, and you still consider working it out with Jae to be a chore, so don’t give me that crap, Paul. You ass.
“I was tormented by that letter from Angela. I couldn’t believe it was innocent–not after the last time.”
“And the time before that. And the time before that. And then the one before that. And the other sixty-eight times before that…”
“FINE, Jae. Get back to the apologizing to me.”
“Still, I didn’t really want to leave you. If I had, I would have filed for divorce, not just moved to D.C.”
“That’s what I kept telling myself.”
Stockholm Syndrome. Always tragic.
“I knew Angela Pass Barger had to be Andy Pass’s daughter. … I knew the NPO had taken pictures at the funeral, so I begged Daddy to get me one.”
“And he did? That’s way out of line.”
Oh, so now it’s RANOLD’S fault you wanted to bang Angela? Stay classy, Paul.
“When I saw how young and beautiful and vivacious she was, I thought our marriage was over.”
What, so did Jae keep track on all the dozens of other woman Paul’s slept with, and turns out they were all old, ugly, and dull?
“And then she was with you on TV after that Las Vegas bust.”
“This is all circumstantial, Jae.”
“Even though I was plotting and planning to bed her for months, this is all just silliness in your silly woman head, Jae.”
So get this. Jae flew to Las Vegas to confront Angela. (I guess because it was all her fault, because we certainly know it wasn’t Paul’s fault, right?) She didn’t find Angela, but she did find some woman who told her that Angela was working with prostitutes.
Then it just gets damn confusing:
“I figured you met her at the funeral and realized she could be a great source. Even if she wasn’t a zealot herself, she might know her father’s associates.”
Um, okay. FINE. I guess…
“For the sake of the kids, can we put the past six months behind us? Can we try to make each other happy again?”
Isn’t that more asking to put the past EIGHT YEARS behind them? Just sayin’.
“Jae, that would mean the world to me.”
But Paul couldn’t shake the feeling that this was a little too tidy.
“I’m just…just not used to my wife not justifiably hating me. Does…not…compute…”
I just want to smack Paul several times, and then quote Penny from The Big Bang Theory:
“All right, Howard Wolowitz, listen up! You sign anything she puts in front of you. Because you are the luckiest man alive. If you let her go there is no way you can find anyone else. Speaking on behalf of all women, it’s not going to happen—we had a meeting.”
-“The Vacation Solution,” The Big Bang Theory
And that’s being kind to Paul. Because Howard, despite his faults and foibles and quirks, is actually a good man who loves his wife.
Paul could take a page or twenty from Howard’s book.