The Secret on Ararat: Chapter 1: PUPPIES!!!

Bob Phillips sticks close to the format Greg Parshall established in Babylon Rising: Michael Murphy’s story, interspersed with occasional chapters about the origins of the Biblical artifact in question.  In Babylon Rising, we saw the origin of the bronze serpent (sorta).  In The Secret on Ararat, we learn about the construction of Noah’s Ark.  (And catch up with Jesus, too, not that that’s relevant in any way.)

Also, Babylon Rising opened with Michael Murphy facing one of the Methuselah’s “death traps,” wherein the mysterious old man gives Murphy some sort of challenge, at the end of which Murphy gets a little Biblical toy prize.

As you may remember, Babylon Rising began with Murphy falling through the roof of a deserted warehouse, then doing battle with a lion so he could retrieve a piece of parchment around the lion’s neck.

The Secret on Ararat opens with Murphy being trapped in a cave filling with water.  He has to simultaneously rescue himself, and rescue two puppies Methuselah has stashed down there.



So, we see that Methuselah likes to use animals in his challenges.  Other than that, things are different.  In Babylon, Methuselah tossed a rock with a paper wrapped around it through Murphy’s office window.  I guess he got lazier in Secret, because this time, he just uses Fed Ex.


And it gets weirder, because Murphy is directed to a (fictional) cave in the Great Smoky Mountains.  Once again, he falls through a trapdoor (he really needs to learn to keep an eye out for those), and ends up in a cavern with the puppies.  Then the cavern fills with water.

I just…I dunno.  Look, Methuselah’s trap kinda made sense in the first book.  He is rich and powerful, and managed to find some people who could scout out an abandoned warehouse, make a trapdoor on the roof, put a giant net below it, AND find a lion with which Murphy could do battle.  Methuselah at all points maintained a vast amount of control over the entire situation.  After all, it has been established that Meth wants Murphy to succeed, and so it is in Meth’s interest to make the traps fair and escapable, perhaps even with contingencies at the ready if things start to go south.  (For example, given the awesomeness of Meth’s staff, I’m sure a sniper with a dart gun could have been hiding, ready to take out the lion if Murphy proved unequal to the task.)

But how can Meth maintain any control over a cave?  This is in the Great Smoky Mountains, in an area frequented by hikers and cavers, and Meth has found a cave where he can set up shop, make a trapdoor, and put some puppies in a cavern that he can then FILL WITH WATER AT WILL.

Um…what if Murphy bonks his head on something, Meth?  What if he drowns?  Did you think this through AT ALL???

To his credit, Murphy places a very high priority on getting the puppies out safely, and I am frankly astonished that the puppies survive, what with the water nearly drowning Murphy, culminating in the three of them rinsing through a fissure in the wall into a much drier room (HOW DID METHUSELAH SET THIS SHIT UP???), and then Murphy finds a piece of wood on top of pillar of rock.

Murph is suspicious that this is “a worthless piece of flotsam,” though I don’t know why he would think this, seeing as how every single other thing Meth has ever given him has been old and priceless and the last one led him to a GOLDEN HEAD.

Man, and I had so much respect for Methuselah up until now, but he just seems to be off his game now…

Posted on May 20, 2012, in Babylon Rising, Books, The Secret on Ararat. Bookmark the permalink. 26 Comments.

  1. I may have missed it last time around, but who is Methuselah and why does he keep setting death traps like he’s the fucking Riddler or something?

  2. Man, and I had so much respect for Methuselah up until now, but he just seems to be off his game now…

    Well, there is an explanation where he’s still perfectly villainous. Yes, there’s a cave with puppies that will fill with water after the trapdoor is triggered, and yes, this is an area frequented by hikers & cavers. Which just means that Methuselah went through a few dozen puppies and had to cover up a half-dozen or more murders before Michael Murphy could be bothered to show up.

    “Seriously, do you know how many dead hikers and drowned puppies I’ve gone through waiting for you? That FedEx on-line tracker told me the moment you had the clue; why did you wait three weeks to come up here?!”

  3. Jackie Paulson

    awe, so cute…the video made my day.

  4. Grammar Police

    Perhaps the cave was actually constructed by henchmen and blends in perfectly with the rest of the mountains? Maybe? OK, yeah, I’m reaching here. But what kills me is the puppies. Is Methuselah just trying to show what an eeevil villain he is, putting cute fluffy baby animals in danger? I just . . . I don’t . . . gah!

    off topic:

    Ruby, you deserve far more props and kudos than we have given you thus far. I actually checked out SECRET from the library. I had to read in 5 min increments because I just couldn’t take that much stupid at one time. I gave up after Murph tells Sherri that her “logic” is sound after she explains precisely why she thinks evolution is wrong, despite the fact that Sherri obviously knows zilch about evolution. And when I say “gave up,” I mean I screamed at the book, launched it across the room, and couldn’t bring myself to touch it for a week, not even to return it to the library.

    I flatten myself at your feet in awe of your perserverene.

  5. Methuselah is really… weird. I’d forgotten about him too, but I looked it up now. I think he’s listed on TVTropes on Nice Job Fixing It Villain, for his continuing in handing Biblical artifacts to Murphy, although he pretends not to believe in it. If he’s curious if the Bible may be ‘true’, why doesn’t he go look for those artifact himself? He certainly has the resources for it. And it’s not like Murphy brought all that much to the table in the first book. If Methuselah had just phoned Isis, he could have done all the adventuring with her and gotten the artifact even faster, while his legion of henchmen would have gunned down Talon the second he tried to get into the pyramid. And best of all, Isis could’ve remained awesome as she dated Methuselah, who as an unsaved heathen doesn’t have to let his wife get murdered just so he can shack up with Isis.

    • Now that sounds like an awesome book.

    • Now, this is probably a hypothesis that’s a bit too outre for LeHaye, but, let’s try this: Let’s say Methuselah is an Amoral Rich Atheist. But he’s more of an Amoral Rich Agnostic with questions about the divine. He’s Rich enough to be able to find many of these artifacts, but SCIENCE! will just prove that they’re sitting on his desk. If there’s any mojo to them, he thinks, they would have to be handled by someone with True Faith *cue angels singing*. Since Crank doesn’t have True Faith *angels sing!* he needs someone with the skill to find the artifacts and the faith to make them work.

      Except… the serpent was kind of an evil artifact, wasn’t it? Murphy refused to use it to save his wife, if I recall? Or did he? *starts to blog-spelunk; hopes to find puppies, too!*

  6. At least tell me the puppies have been infected with rabies or something. Talk about bathos…

  7. Okay, so I re-read your post about Methuselah’s Trap in Babylon Rising, and the whole “fighting the lion” theme was because the clue was about something written in the Book Of Daniel — (“lions, Daniel, get it???”). Yeah. But what do puppies have to do with Noah’s Ark?

    Oh, wait!!! Two puppies!!! And rescuing them from drowning!!! Are the puppies “one male and one female, by chance?????

    HEE, it’s so CLEVAR!!!

    Um. Yeah. :/

    • Well, admittedly, I didn’t get the reference until you said it. =)

      But now I’m thinking of Eddie Izzard’s Noah’s Ark sketch as done by Eddie Izzard as Sean Connery as Noah….

      “Puppesh? Along the shide, long ears, they really like thot. Be great photoos for the Bible.”

    • I was wondering the same thing myself. Unfortunately, while the Daniel-themed challenge was actually kinda cool, the Noah-themed challenge is just… absurd.

      I can’t wait to see how Methuselah turns the handwriting on the wall into a challenge. Maybe it’ll be like an anagram puzzle – attached to a deathtrap, of course.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy

      Oh, wait!!! Two puppies!!! And rescuing them from drowning!!! Are the puppies “one male and one female, by chance?????

      HEE, it’s so CLEVAR!!!

      This is the sort of writing I’d expect from a drooling fanboy trying to convince everyone How Clever I Am. (And I HAVE had that inflicted on me by drooling fanboys at various cons. Including one whose “Great Masterpieces of SF literature” ended near every paragraph with “Little did he know (dot dot dot)”. End a paragraph with an ellipsis and to this day I’m liable to freak out.

  8. Having beaten the tutorial, Murphy earns the achievement “Noah’s Bark!” and adds the puppies to his inventory. Later, they will be instrumental to a locked-door puzzle when combined with the piece of wood, a hunk of camel jerky, a silver whistle, and a screwdriver.

    Chapter 14 is nothing but Murphy saying “I can’t use these two things together” over and over again.

    • And it probably has the same annoying trick that Call of Duty MW 2 had, where you’re in the presence of clearly evil guys who you’re not allowed to shoot, even though it’s painfully obvious everyone is gonna get screwed over by this, which explains why he doesn’t just shoot Talon. (Didn’t actually play the game, but I’m pretty sure the infamous No Russian level operates like that)

    • You are in a maze of twisty misquoted Scripture passages, all different. You are likely to be eaten by a lehaye.

    • Grammar Police

      *dies of laughter*

  9. I’ll just admire the puppies because the extra-concentrated self-important Stupid that is Michael Murphy is too much to take.

    Nitpick: “Greg Parshall” — Craig Parshall wrote EoA. Greg Dinallo wrote the other book. 🙂

  10. Isis-sama (Not the one in the book)

    To those wondering why puppies were used in the trap:

    Clearly it had to be something like puppies. If it were two people or something like that, Michael Murphy would waste too much time wondering if the individuals in question were RTC or instead unsaved heathens, and whether it was God’s will for him to save them or let them drown like the savages they are depending on their beliefs, and by the time he made up his mind the water would have filled up the cave and all three of them would have drowned.

    It took Michael Murphy long enough to decide what to do about Talon in the first book, Methusaleh knows that our hero can’t handle anything but the very simplest moral “dilemmas.”

    • Isis-sama (NTOITB): presumably children under the age of twelve would also have been valid plot tokens?

    • True, but there’s a 50/50 chance that he’s going to waste time proselytizing to them about the importance of accepting Jesus soon before rescuing them. Hey, he inappropriately takes the time out during the classes he’s supposed to teach, why not now.

      Alternatively, Methusaleh is just to cool a guy for child kidnapping and endangerment. Killing children just to make a point about theology to any adults nearby is god’s domain, a heathen has no business in there.

  11. Hihi! *wave* Long time no blogread.

    Bob Phillips sticks close to the format Greg Parshall established in Babylon Rising

    Psst! Dinallo. 😛

    Second of all? This Methuselah? Somehow I’m irresistibly reminded of what “Mr. Flint” in Requiem for Methuselah would have been if he’d been a trolling dbag dropped into a story for no real reason.

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