The Secret on Ararat: Changes and Stuff
As I mentioned several times during my critique of Soon, I have been feeling more kindly disposed towards both Babylon Rising and its protagonist, Michael Murphy. Sure, Michael Murphy is a pompous blowhard in the best LaJenkinsian tradition, but at least he doesn’t serial-cheat on his wife, lead on single women who fall for him, then gaslight his wife about those women. Sure, Babylon Rising has some pretty dumb things to say about…well, lots of things: religion, the United Nations, university policies and politics, international travel, and others. And sure, Murphy didn’t take a shot at contract killer Talon when he had the perfect opportunity. But hey, Michael also didn’t shoot at unarmed civilians, or lead “prayer warriors” in a quest to dessicate the city of Los Angeles and kill thousands of innocents.
So, there’s that.
And Babylon Rising itself had a few good points. It was a standard adventure-thriller, trying to implement the usual tools that such a book does: international intrigue, shadowy conspiraces, a quest for a special prize.
Most important, Babylon Rising had a highly intelligent, quirky, interesting, independent heroine in one Isis Proserpina McDonald, world-renowned philologist.
But that, sadly was then. This is now.
And there is a BIG DAMN CHANGE that takes place between Babylon Rising and The Secret on Ararat.
A change of authorship.
Tim LaHaye worked with Greg Dinallo for Babylon Rising. Dinallo is a veteran of television writing including THE ORIGINAL KNIGHT RIDER FRACK YEAH
But there’s a new guy on staff: Bob Phillips.
And the upshot of that is that Babylon Rising vs. The Secret on Ararat is KNIGHT RIDER VS. EXTREMELY CLEAN JOKE BOOKS.
That Amazon link calls Phillips “a master quotation collector.”
Leonardo Da Vinci: I happen to be great with maps.
Mike: How great can you really be at maps?
Crow: That’s like being good at eating cereal.
—MST3K, Quest of the Delta Knights
So we have some changes coming at us.
Keep your eyes open for the following:
1. Speechifying. Lots and LOTS of speechifying: Now, granted, Michael Murphy was an arrogant, self-absorbed blowhard in Babylon Rising. But, by and large, he kept to his specialities: biblical archeology and biblical prophecies. From The Secret on Ararat on out, Mikey becomes an expert…well, a walking Wikipedia…in pretty much everything: history, geography, geology, cave-diving, mountain-climbing. *takes deep breath* Marital counseling, parenting, martial arts, historic landmarks and architecture, codes and code-breaking, diseases and epidemiology, politics, sociology…it never ends.
And the beauty part is, people just ASK HIM TO TALK AT THEM. “So, what do you think, Dr. Murphy?” they will ask, because listening to some asshat pontificate on ANYTHING THAT CROSSES HIS MIND is just fascinating. I’m not talking about Mikey lecturing in his classes—obviously, he will do that, and it is no problem. But he hardly ever just converses with someone. He lectures. He admonishes. He scolds. He goes on and on and FRAKKING ON about things that people should already know—in many cases, things that the other person knows more about than Murphy.
I may keep a speech count.
2. The Stepfordization of our own Isis McDonald: Almost every instance of Actually Not That Bad in Babylon Rising involved Isis being awesome: saving Murphy’s ass, winning an argument with him via the power of logic (and not girly tears), and even kicking ass at curry.
But now that Bob Phillips is on board, Isis is reduced to the role of Probable Love Interest for Michael Murphy. I may also start an “Isis is beautiful” count, because of the incredible number of time we are told how hot she is. (A striking contrast to Babylon Rising, btw, where she is referred to as beautiful maybe once (underneath her shapeless clothes), and the rest of the time her looks are referenced primarily via Murphy giving her backhanded compliments in his head: “Huh, Isis got a bit of a tan. She looks less like a corpse now.”
Isis also barely gets a chance to demonstrate her linguistic skills, makes stupid decisions in order to be closer to Murphy, and her thoughts all revolve around him.
“That’s what I’ve become? That’s my defining characteristic: the guy married to a Cylon?”
–Helo, Battlestar Galactica, The Woman King
Look, I like romance. I like it a lot. I always thought Helo and Sharon’s relationship on BSG, and Wash and Zoe’s relationship on Firefly, were some of the best things about the shows. But that is largely because, even though their relationships are a big part of their lives, they also have careers and interests and ideas and feelings: none of them are just The Person in Love with That Other Person.
I mean, seriously, Isis, you are on a mission to find Noah’s Ark. PLEASE FOCUS.
I’m going to miss our old Isis so much…
3. The Seven Are Even Stupider: I’m surprised they don’t twirl their mustaches as they talk about their evil plans for world domination. And they talk about those plans IN THE MOST OBVIOUS WAY POSSIBLE: “Colonel Mexican Guy, see to eet zat vee move to a von-vorld currency, ja?” “Si, Frau German Chick.”
So, those are three things to watch for. I’m certain we will see more as we dive into The Secret on Ararat.