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.

TEAM ISIS!!!!!

funny gifs

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.”

Um.

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.

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Posted on May 5, 2012, in Babylon Rising, Books, Soon, The Secret on Ararat. Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. Perhaps for added hilarity, you could, once we get to them, illustrate a few of the dumb new Isis quotes on topics similar to those in book one by placing her lines or actions from book one and two back to back.

    I shudder to think how the Seven could go further down the road of moronic For The Evulz villains. You’d that that with “Our greatest enemies: Born again Bible believing Christians”, you’ve reached rock bottom, but it seems someone decided to hire a professional deep mining crew and a drill.

  2. More importantly to explain the shift, Dinallo WASN’T AN RTC. He went into it with a sense of extrapolation (his analogy was “The Six Million Dollar Man”; you could still write for it, even if you weren’t a cyborg yourself). Apparently, not enough for LaHaye, or the intended market; Dinallo had intended to use mild (read: perdition-related) swearing to mark the villains. Still too much for the charted market. Go figure. (How DOES the intended market manage to sell their constitution so short? I know I have no use for coarse language, but that doesn’t mean I always run away from books that have swearing in them. Well, when it seems like every thirtieth word is coarse, maybe. Non-coarse language has better accuracy and precision, anyway.)

    • Headless Unicorn Guy

      Nothing that could possibly offend any possible Church Lady, remember.

      That’s one of the reasons why Christianese fiction has such totally LAME villains. They have to be TOTALLY EEEEEVIL (because they’re Heathen), yet you cannot ever show them being evil, acting evil, or doing any evil things — can’t offend the Church Ladies.

      So you end up with that Romanian Robert Redford, i.e. The Antichrist, alleged personification of all mortal evil, as a lame bombast who laughs with a cackle, has a mind-whammy like an Obama speech during the 2008 campaign, and speaks in twelve-syllable words but actually does NOTHING worse than — or even approaching — RL historical figures.

      • I was thinking in terms of HOW do the Church Ladies sell their constitution short, not how LaHaye et al. must adhere to their (alleged) frailty. The Church Ladies know full well that glancing at a single perdition-related swear isn’t going to be on par with seeing Ghatanothoa or the Colour Out of Space, or reading or watching The King in Yellow, don’t they? Well, they obviously aren’t very likely to be able to use anything from the Yog-Sothoth Mythos as a reference, but I trust you understand my point. I just can’t follow the Church Ladies’ line of reasoning…

        • Headless Unicorn Guy

          Aslan is not a tame lion. Aslan is Good, not Nice or Safe.

          Yet the Church Ladies want Him as their little lapcat — castrated, declawed, and purring on their lap, nice and safe and comforting and harmless.

          Which is gonna really help a lot when (not if) Tash kicks in their door.

  3. I expect to have much lulz at how stupidly incompetent the villains are in this book series. It seems to be a truism that in all LaHaye-sponsored books, the villains must be hapless bumbling idiots who couldn’t threaten a paper bag, let along threaten their way out of one.

    (Classic example: Nicolae, for all his alleged fearsomeness, doesn’t manage to match God’s body count until fairly late in the series, and along the way gets trolled by Buck and Rayford in fairly obvious and frankly childish ways)

    (Also: Much love for the BSG and Firefly mention! 😀 )

    • Headless Unicorn Guy

      When you cannot show any evil actions, evil language, evil deeds, or RL evil in any way for fear of offending the Church Lady target audience, yet the bad guy has to be EEEEEEVIL (because he’s a Heathen, never mind the Antichrist Personification of All Evil), that’s what you end up with.

    • Indeed! The Seven (They’ll Stop At Nothing!) are the classic Evil Council of Evil in an Abbot and Costello film. Humorously incompetent and yet still somehow a threat.

      At least the Guild of Calamitous Intent has David Bowie at the helm.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy

      And in doing so, they castrate and cripple the story. And the heroes.

      Because the villain is what makes or breaks this kind of story.

      A strong villain requires strong heroes. They become more heroic in contrast and opposition.

  4. Grammar Police

    Alas, poor original-Isis, we hardly knew ye. She will be greatly missed. 😦

    This may sound weird, but I’m sort of looking forward to Murph’s ramblings. I’ve just got this feeling that they will be horrifically funny, like his classroom conversations in the first book. (Asking students what they think, then yelling at them for answering; mocking the dean for his button paper that actually has scholarly merit; and attempts at proselytizing instead of lecturing while in class — oh, Murph. Do the world a favor and stop teaching. Five minutes ago.)

  5. Meta-Isis lives!

    (Hmm, perhaps Isis has gone off into a better book and been replaced by her stupider sister Nephthys, who after all needs someone to look after her. It’s not as if MICHAEL MURPHY RAH RAH RAH would notice the difference.)

  6. Headless Unicorn Guy

    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 wonder if this is a LaHaye Author Self-Insert thing. (Or the latest ghostwriter for The Great One knowing who signs his paycheck — as Disraeli said, with a ruler you can lay on the flattery with a trowel.)

    If so, it does give the Self-Insert the soapbox to preach his sermons directly to the audience.

    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.”

    And don’t forget the chorus of “Ve must destroy our greatest enemy, Born-Again Bible-Believing Evangelical Christians!” (Especially this Rayford Steele LaHaye?)

    Seriously, this isn’t even pulp villainy. It’s comic-opera Snidely Whiplash. And what are these guys using for an Evil Overlord Guide? Late Great Planet Earth? It’s LaHaye-written equivalent? The same End Time Prophecy checklist as Jerry “Buck” Jenkins? Left Behind, volumes 1-11 and its Antichrist’s Baby Pictures prequels?

  7. I’m going to miss Isis. 😦

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