Monthly Archives: January 2015

Shadowed: Chapter 9: Felicia Again

A few chapters ago, Pudgy Jack told Paul “how limited our resources are, especially space.”  It now appears that Pudgy Jack is a big fat liar, because the Apostle family is immediately given “a den of two rooms with a bathroom down the hall.”  It has “privacy, ample bedding, and seating.”  Because Hell forbid that our hero reside in anything even mildly uncomfortable for a even a little while.

(Honestly, does Jenkins even keep track of what he’s written?  I spent most vacations of my childhood in much smaller hotel rooms than this, four people on two double beds in one small room, and now the Apostles have a small apartment while the parents have death sentences hanging over them.  Pfft.)

Jae dozes off, praying here and there, “even” for Ranold and Aryanna.

Remind me, what did Aryanna ever do to her, except be really kind to her and her children?

And as for Ranold, aren’t Christians supposed to pray for their enemies?

***

We’ve been talking lately in the comments about Jenkins’ tin ear for names in specific generations, but it’s important to note that he also screws up common turns of phrase: Jack, another person born in the early 2000s, has this to say:

“I was never military or law enforcement, Paul.  Education was my game.”

“X was my game,” is a phrase whose unironic use I only associate with Baby Boomers like…oh, say…Jerry Jenkins.  Wanting to be sure of this, I even asked my own parents, also Boomers.  My father said it’s a phrase he’s rarely heard even among people his own age, and even then, usually referring to actual games.  (“Tennis is my game.”  “Poker is my game.”)

Oh, and Paul tells Pudgy Jack that if Wipers squeals to the NPO, “They’ll be on you like Elvis on felt.”

This from a man who would be an elementary-school-aged child right about now.

All this discussion of generational phraseology just to avoid the sadness of Paul’s next conversation with Felicia.

Oh, but first!  (I’m avoiding this for as long as I can.)

Jack has an exciting teaser for Paul about the underground’s plans in the wake of this global slaughter:

“Wait till you see what we’re doing with cars and dead people’s clothes.”

We won’t find out for a couple of chapters yet what this is, but trust me: just when you think these people can’t get any more monstrous, they manage it.  In fact, this book has a passage (much later) that is the only time in the whole series that my mouth actually dropped open in shock and horror.

Sigh.  Okay, enough stalling.  On to Felicia.

Paul calls her, and she’s working despite the fact that her son has been dead for only a few hours.  I can’t decide if this makes her really dedicated, really being deep in denial, or if Jenkins just forgot what he did to her again.

“I mean, c’mon, Paul, widespread death is pretty hard to argue with.”

“Well, if there’s no God, who killed all the men?”

That’s Felicia talking.  She never references her son as an individual, we don’t even know his name, and she refers to his death only as one of the “widespread” ones.  Her boy was one of “all the men.”

I’m going with Jenkins forgetting.

Under the circumstances, Felicia is astonishingly forgiving of Paul never saying a word to her about God or the fact that he was a double agent.  She excuses everything Paul ever didn’t say to her, even concluding “we still love each other in spite of it all.”

I don’t think Paul is capable of loving anyone, Felicia.  Just sayin’.

Oh, and if you think that Paul is calling his good friend and coworker to commiserate or apologize or express sympathy, you probably haven’t been reading these critiques for very long.  Paul just wants Felicia’s help.  Because he hasn’t done enough for her yet, what with praying for the death of her kid and all.

All he wants right now is for this griefstricken mother to access a file on our pal, Roscoe Wipers.  Felicia is pretty okay with this, and says straight up that it’s because she’s scared of God and thinks she’ll be “in trouble” with him if she doesn’t help Paul.

Paul, sensitive as always, has this to say:

“I’m not sure that’s the best motive, Felicia, but I do need your help and have to trust you.”

Yeah, Felicia, how dare you not have “the best motive” when you’ve just discovered that you live in a world with God who will slaughter innocents on the whim of his followers!

Man, almost-RTCs are so dumb sometimes!

Shadowed: Chapter 8: Lunch

As the Apostle family heads through the tunnels to the yet-more-underground (the children must be terrified, since they are given basically zero explanation of anything that’s happening), Jae is thinking not of said children, but of the inevitable meeting with Angela Barger, Andy Pass’s daughter and Pudgy Jack’s niece, a woman she has only seen in pictures and read of through flirtatious correspondence.  I see that now that she’s a genuine RTC, Jae has also become expert at keeping her mind on the most important issues at hand.

(Although it seems that Jae has not become magically aware that being RTC makes you magically immune to cheating.  Perhaps this is because, even when Jae was an evil atheist, she never did cheat on Paul.)

It turns out that the “underground” is the underground of an abandoned industrial park, where the water and electricity and stuff used to be controlled.  Paul is dismayed that it is not as awesome as being in a salt mine, so I’m sure he’ll write a scathing review on Atheistopian Yelp about how such accommodations are beneath his standards.

And here’s Angela!  Paul notes only that she looks tired and not overjoyed:

And only the most twisted person would take any joy or find any satisfaction in the “victory” God had wrought, especially when it brought such tragedy.

Too little, too late, Jenkins.  You’re the one who told us Paul was “celebrating” the dessication of L.A., so I see no reason why such a sociopath wouldn’t be celebrating the deaths of even more people.

And, by the way (and part of me hates having to keep harping on this point), but good, decent people try to prevent tragedy.  They don’t beg for it, then pretend to be a tad remorseful when what they asked for actually happens.

Turns out that Jae’s worries were all for naught, as Anglaa is way more interested in the kids than in Paul.  Because this educated woman, formerly employed by the Library of Congress, now teaches little kids about Jesus.  Because that is the most important thing someone with her training can do, I guess.

And Angela wants to show the kids a movie: “The Boy Who Gave His Lunch to Jesus.”

Presumably, this is a kids movie about Jesus feeding the five thousand (or four thousand, depending on which version you read) with five loaves and two fishes (or seven loaves, depending on which version you read).  It’s a story that seems to enjoy popularity (if Google is any indication) as a way to teach kids what a miracle is, though I amuse myself by noting that in none of the four accounts is it stated in so many words that the boy gave his lunch to Jesus.  Instead, Jesus just takes the food and multiplies it.

By the way, this all should prove a dandy lesson to Brie and Connor…

Angela: *switches off the video*  So, class that’s what a miracle is.  And Jesus still does miracles to this day.  Can anyone name a recent one?

Brie:  *raises hand* Killing my uncle in cold blood?

Angela:  Very good, little heathen!

Jae, still strangely vaccillating between wanting to control her kids’ religious education and being too ashamed of her own ignorance to do it, whispers to Angela that, “The kids have had zero exposure.”

Yeah, I guess we wouldn’t want the other believing kids to make fun of them for being atheists or anything.  Because certainly RTC kids would never sneer at nonbelievers!

Heh.

So, the kids go off to watch the movie and Jae goes off with “another woman” to do womany things like see their quarters and unpack, and Paul is left to go with Pudgy Jack and see the alleged atheist.

Pudgy Jack is quick to point out that they feed the prisoner just like everyone else, and they “don’t treat him bad, don’t torture him.”  The way he says it makes it sound like it’s been days, but the curse only happened a couple of hours ago, tops.

Paul actually does something useful for once in his life and identifies the man as a Gulfland NPO agent.

Roscoe Wipers.

These names…

Wipers is actually the kind of guy Paul feared through all of Soon—a fellow agent who has infiltrated the underground but isn’t a traitor like Paul is, and who could inform the NPO of little details like that Paul penned the manifesto about killing firstborn sons.

But it all seems very simple: Wipers checks in with Bia Balaam at 0200 every day, and agrees with Paul to lie to her tonight and tell her everyone has left for a new location that they didn’t tell him.

Yeah, makes total sense.

All that said, Wipers certainly doesn’t behave like a man in the throes of grief after losing his son (presumably because he’s an evil atheist, and we all know they don’t really love their kids), and Paul and Pudgy Jack certainly have zero sympathy for anyone who lost his kid.

And I’m sure they find no satisfaction in this situation.  None at all.

 

Shadowed: Chapter 7: Our Whole Lives

At Paul’s request order, the driver takes the Apostle family back to Ranold’s “appropriated” car.

“Our whole lives are in that car,” Paul said.  “Let’s risk it.”

Let’s risk Jae’s and your and my lives, dude!  And losing our kids!

Honestly, what could possibly be in that car that is worth risking your lives for?  All you have is whatever you packed to go to Europe in Silenced.  And what Jae and the kids packed to spend an extended vacation at Grandma and Grandpa’s.  What precious cargo is in those suitcases besides easily-replaceable clothes and toiletries?  I mean, presumably, Paul has been carrying his wallet and Jae has been carrying her purse all this time.

And if there was something so incredibly important that you couldn’t live without it, why didn’t you take it with you when you ditched the car to collect Jae and get picked up by the underground?

Paul is just the worst covert agent ever.

Guess I’m wrong, though, because it’s all just fine.  And back in the underground’s car, Paul and Jae have the following whispered conversation:

“Any reason the kids have to know about your mother?”

She shook her head.  “We’re going to have to tell them about Berl.  They deserve that.”

But they don’t deserve to know their beloved grandmother is dead?  I don’t get it.

And it’s not like this is something they’ll be able to fudge over forever.  This is already on the news and will always be findable.  What are Brie and Connor going to think when they grow up a bit and realize their newly-minted RTC parents lied to them about the death of one of the few people in their lives to show them genuine affection?

Again, though, I guess we’re supposed to assume that it’s fine.

Anyway, they arrive at the underground, which is apparently literally underground, just like the Midwest one.

Bizarrely, given the crazy entering and exiting procedures in Italy, the D.C. underground has twelve entrances, each guarded.  Which seems terribly conspicuous, but then, I’m not a super-spy like Paul.

As they travel down to the “complex,” Jae reflects on her children’s lack of religious education:

Jae wasn’t sure either Brie or Connor even had a concept of God.  How she would have loved to begin their education about Him with the story of God’s sending His only Son to Earth.

Jae certainly has specific and strong opinions for someone who has read a tiny fraction of the Bible.

How could they be expected to understand Him when it was likely that within a day or two of finding out their parents were God followers, they would learn of His fearsome power to kill?

And to kill their beloved uncle in particular.

She also thinks about how, in Atheistopian schools, “God was simply never mentioned, never acknowledged.”  Which seems a bit odd for a world that has outlawed religion entirely because of how religion almost destroyed the planet and all.  But it does sound rather like America’s public schools today (or at least, how America’s public schools should be).  So I kinda wonder if Jenkins is trying to make a dig at our evil, secular schools, though this seems more subtle than what we generally see from him.

Oh, and don’t worry—in the next chapter, we will see exactly how religious instruction for children is handled in the underground.

Finally, the Apostles meet up with Jack Pass.

Paul hadn’t known what to expect, but certainly not a fortyish man, pudgy and balding.  He saw zero resemblance to Jack’s late older brother, under whom he had served in the Special Forces years before.  Andrew Pass had been a military cliché: crew cut, trim, ramrod straight, all that.

And, as we all know, no former serviceman could ever lose his hair or gain weight!

I’m sure we are supposed to be most taken aback by Jack’s dreaded weight, but the only thing that even mildly surprises me is that Jack is as young as he is.  Because Andy Pass had a thirty-something daughter and had been a father figure to Paul, so there’s apparently a larger-than-average age difference between the brothers.

But who cares about that kind of detail.  I mean, the man is pudgy.

Good thing Paul is here to take over.  Otherwise, a non-skinny person might have been left in charge!

Shadowed: Chapter 6: Finding Accomodations

Paul finally gets in touch with Jack Pass, Andy Pass’s brother, last seen (or rather, heard) speaking to Mr. Napalm-Barrel himself via skull phone.  He’s in charge of the D.C. underground, and is initially less than eager for Paul and the kids to show up, at least until Paul drops the name of Arthur Demetrius, who will, of course, be more than willing to send cash to the underground at his earliest convenience.

It pays to know the right people!

Then, Jerry Jenkins dos something that I find rather remarkable: he reveals an Unfortunate Implication of the curse:

It reveals false believers.

See, one of the “trusted elders” of the D.C. underground had an eldest son die at the stroke of the curse.  The guy swears it was all a coincidence, but the rest of the underground has locked him up.  Yanno, for safety and stuff.

I suppose it could be worse.  They might have simply executed him, as underground zealots are wont to do.

But instead, they are planning on cutting and running, given that the guy is no doubt a horrible atheist who has reported on their location already.

***

Jae, meanwhile, manages to hail a cab—

—and makes her way to the stupid rendezvous point, which happens to be in front of an electronics store, where she sees on the news that Ranold has already reported Margaret as murdered and his car stolen.

Ha!  You go, Ranold, my secret hero of these books, you!

***

Oh, and Felicia, who apparently has exactly nothing better to do, what with her son and brother-in-law being dead and all, calls Paul to double-check on this whole murdering-Margaret story.

Paul, as usual, zooms in on the most important issues:

“I appropriated [Ranold’s car], yes.  I’m still NPO, too, last I heard.”

Oh, so now he wants to be part of the NPO.  Trust Paul always to have his priorities straight.

***

More strange phone nonsense from an author who can’t keep track of his futuretech, as we learn that, in addition to her skullphone, she has a cell phone—a physical p[hone on her person, on which she receives text messages.

I just don’t get it.

Paul ditches the car and, most likely out of some evolutionary instinct, actually remembers to take the kids with him as he runs to get Jae.

And then, likely salivating at the thought of both money and the blood of fake believers, a driver from the underground picks up the Apostle family.

Damn.  Being on the run like this should be a thrill a minute…and this chapter is the most boring so far.

Shadowed: Chapter 5: Big, Bad Ranold

Ranold’s home!

He was a beefy, jowly, red-faced man…

Yeah.  And here we are introduced to one of the leitmotifs of Shadowed: Ranold’s weight.

‘Scuse me…his beefiness.

As you may recall from previous Jenkins works, our beloved author has…perhaps a bit of an issue with weight.  Jenkins has been quite open about his own struggles with his weight, but that has never stopped him from displacing that hatred onto others.

Exhibit A: Poor, doomed Charlotte.  Who’s dead, but that’s okay, since she was both an atheist and plump.

Then there’s my favorite woobie, Leon Fortunato, another guy we know is big and beefy…since Jenkins constantly tells us so.

Then there are the characters we’re supposed to think are attractive: like 115-pound Hattie Durham and five-foot-seven, 125-pound Chloe Steele Williams (almost underweight, even by BMI standards).

So, watch for references to Ranold and his eating habits.  Trust me, they’re coming!

In the meantime, Jae is the worst double agent ever.

“Paul took the kids out.  They were getting squirrelly.”

Really, Jae?  REALLY???

Yup, that’s the best she can do.  Remind me again why she remained behind, instead of throwing her mother into the backseat and just going.

Ranold, bless his heart, buys this not at all…though for about ten seconds, he thinks it’s just Paul who flipped, not Jae.

But Jae soon proves herself with some crazy capitalization:

“You want to take arms against a Force that could wipe out over a billion men?”

“Are you going to tell me that the Person you’ve never believed in wins a battle, as you call it, of this magnitude, and you’re not ready to concede He exists?”

But Ranold is not one to be taken in by mere capital letters:

“I concede nothing.  I never give in, never give up.”

You go, Ranold!

I’m serious: Ranold is having the reaction we’ve always said is logical when faced with this genocidal maniac of a god: FIGHT HIS ASS.

Well, and fight Paul.  In which goal I am also behind Ranold 100%.

But Margaret is not.  And when Ranold threatens to turn in Jae, too, things quickly devolved into a screaming match.

At least until Margaret collapses.  Again.

“You killed her!” Jae screeched.  “Look what you’ve done!”

Sure, Jae, I’m sure this second collapse is entirely Ranold’s fault, and has nothing to do with Margaret’s son being dead less than two hours.

(Of course, Margaret has shown that she cares about Berlitz about as much as she cares about a dog she doesn’t like, so who knows…)

Her father’s face had frozen.  He rushed to his wife, whining, “Margaret, don’t!  We’ll talk this through!”

Whining.  His son is dead and his daughter is a traitor and his wife has just collapsed and Ranold is just so whiny, isn’t he?

Margaret has no pulse and so Ranold immediately begins CPR…which Jae is against.

“Daddy, don’t,” Jae said.  “Don’t.  She’s gone.”

Um, says who, Jae?  Your God?  Is this some kind of screwed up, can’t-accept-medical-assistance-because-it’s-against-God’s-will or something?

Or has there not been enough death tonight for you yet?

Hell, I give up.  On Jae and on understanding her.  She is every bit as sociopathic as her husband and her mother.

Ranold, in the throes of grief, plays the get-out-before-I-do-something-we’ll-both-regret card.  So, leaving her mother dead and her father sobbing, Jae heads out alone into the night.

Need I point out that all this could have been prevented had Paul and Jae just run off together and taken Margaret with them before Ranold got home?

Since Paul is trying to get through to the D.C. underground, Jae has to leave a message on his skull phone.

Yeah, these two are gonna be pros at being on the run.

Shadowed: Chapter 4: Getting to Know You

Alone at last, Jae and Margaret can have some good ole girl time together, now that Jae’s two small children are being taken off…well, who knows where?  Surely not Jae or the children’s fugitive father.

Both women wept, commiserating over the loss of brother and son.

Yeah, too little, too late, Jenkins.  Five minutes ago, Margaret was rolling her eyes at her silly husband and his silly ways.

Jae had never felt the presence of God so clearly, and it terrified her.  She had loved getting to know Him through the New Testament discs…

Um, she had?  Because that’s not how I remember it:

If these discs were going to make her feel bad about herself, even guilty, maybe they weren’t worth listening to after all.

But sadly, Jae has officially drunk the Flavor-Aid:

Strangely, though, while she had predicted that she wouldn’t understand Him or like Him much if the curse was enacted, she found only the former true.

Well, naturally.  Disliking the being that killed your brother would be just plain weird.  Especially the brother you loved, your friend and confidante.  I’m close to my brother, too, and I can’t even begin to wrap my head around what a normal person would feel in this situation.  But Jae, like all good little RTCs, has become so thoroughly sociopathic that she can’t even bring herself to not like her brother’s murderer.

And she knows that Berlitz, who probably never even saw a Bible in the whole course of his life, is now roasting in A Place Called Hell.  Forever.  For the crime of not believing.

Oh well.  Them’s the breaks, eh?

It wasn’t that she was happy about what had occurred.  Who could be?

Oh, I don’t know…your husband, for one?  Given his celebration over the thousands of deaths at God’s hand in Los Angeles, I can only imagine that he’s that much happier now.  It’s only the fact that he actually has to watch over his own children that’s keeping him from a big ole party.

But that it was so specific, so definite, so crystal clear, made her fear God with such profound respect and awe that any doubt escaped her.

Oh yeah, Jae?  Yanno who else did specific, definite, crystal clear things, huh?

HITLER.

Yeah, I went there.

Aside from that, I know Jenkins bangs these books out at the speed of shit, but does that really excuse this?

It wasn’t that she was happy…[but] any doubt escaped her.

These…are not even close to the same thing, Jenkins.  Holy crap.

Yeah, God has proved himself to her.  And proved that he is an unimaginably evil, murdering monster.  He may be a god, but really, the only response to such a being is to fight him.  Or, hell, I’ll even give you flight.  Why not?

But worship?  That is a bridge too far.

This goes on and on, and the upshot is that Jae thinks like Paul now, with perhaps a smidge less bloodlust.

But the important thing that transpires here is that Jenkins engages in a rather subtle (I know, I’m shocked, too) retcon.  He refers to the “New Testament” that Jae had listened to, “all the recorded Scripture” she had heard.

It’s a bit tricksy of him, but it leaves the impression that Jae knows much more of the Bible than she actually does.  Remember, in Silenced, Jae started with Acts, barely making it into Romans.  Even being generous and assuming that this vague reference means she made it all the way to Hebrews during her time in Washington, that still means that she has read less than 10% of the Bible.  If we assume she only made it into Romans (the last direct Bible quote we get), that drops to 4%.

So we’re not exactly talking about a Bible expert, here.

Here is Jae’s Big Prayer, while she sits comforting her mother on the loss of Berlitz:

Lord, I have had my mind and heart thoroughly changed.  I believe in You with all that is in me.  Thank you for Jesus.  Forgive me for rejecting You for so long.

Oh, and that whole killing-my-brother thing?  No worries.  It’s all good.

***

As Jae is officially making the transaction, Paul is busy coming to terms with the death of one of the few people to ever be able to stand his presence for even a few minutes: Bob Koontz.

Oh, and Tick Harrelson is dead, too.  Paul literally does not even react to this news, but it makes me sad.  Tick was a good guy.

Oh, and Felicia?  She lost her son and her brother-in-law.

Paul felt for Felicia.  What could he say?

Yeah, I guess it’s hard to say “sorry” for calling down the wrath of God on innocent men and boys and babies and consigning them to Hell forever.  There’s not a good Hallmark card for that, either.

But Paul tries:

“I was hoping it wouldn’t have to happen.”

Liar.

“I’m so sorry, Felicia.  I really am.”

Heh, yeah.  I’ll bet.

“Yeah?  Are you?  Well, so am I.  What am I supposed to do now?”

That’s a damned good question, and one Paul decides he really doesn’t feel like answering.

A tone sounded from one of Paul’s molars.  “I’ve got another call, Felicia.”

“How convenient.”

Yeah, no shit.  And Paul wanted to be so helpful, too.  Stand-up guy that he is, and all.

The call is from Straight.  Paul wants Straight to get his ass into the Columbia underground.  (Oh, and probably those kids in the backseat, too—Whoever and What’s-His-Face.)

But Straight deems Paul too “hot” for the underground to let him in just like that…

…so they just kinda figure that maybe the wanted fugitive and his two tiny children should stay “on the move.”

Once again, Paul,

Not a great plan

Shadowed: Chapter 3: Not Laid Plans

If Paul was trying, I doubt he could waste more time than he does in these first crucial minutes after the slaughter.  Ranold has confirmed Berlitz is dead—he knows what’s going on, knows Paul is a believer, and has the whole force of the NPO at his disposal to capture and kill his son-in-law.

You’d think man’s man, military veteran, Ph.D., prodigiously intellected Paul would have a plan.  He’s the one who penned the manifesto, he’s had a few days to work this all out in his head.  After all, he blames atheists for not coming to belief within 40 hours, so why shouldn’t he have an airtight plan ready in the same amount of time?

But he doesn’t.  He messes about with suitcases and whose car is whose*, when you’d think his primary concern would be getting his hands on money and one or more weapons.  He lets Margaret and Jae fuss back and forth like the silly women they are about who is going and who is staying, when he should have just loaded everyone into a car and gone, knowing exactly where they were going.

But no.  Your average 19-year-old has a better plan for when the zombie apocalypse comes than Paul does for when God’s wrath, that he begged for, descends.

*Cars—Ranold, either accidentally or on purpose, took “Paul’s rental” to get to Berlitz and Aryanna.  Which makes the “only car left” being Ranold’s company car.  Unless, of course, you remember that Jae has a car, with which she transported herself and the kids to Washington, D.C., in the first place.  Jenkins does not remember that Jae has a car.

Everyone’s finally in Ranold’s car (wouldn’t Paul fear that such a car would have bugs/tracking devices so the NPO would always know where it is?) and Margaret’s in the kitchen, like a woman should be.  Jae begs Paul to go back to talk to her, and see if they maybe should take her with them.  Yanno, because they have tons of time to decide these things and weigh all the various options and—

JUST GO ALREADY!!!

The funny thing about this is that I am on the side of just-do-what-Dad-says, not let’s-talk-out-all-options-and-discuss-our-feelings.  Which makes me seem much more RTC right now, I suppose.  But, c’mon, this is an actual emergency we’re dealing with!  Christ!

Margaret, who lost her only son mere moments before, wants to talk about exactly what you would expect: Paul.

“I saw the letter from your father, you know,” she said.  “The one he sent you to open on your twelfth birthday.  Jae showed it to Ranold and he showed it to me.  He thought it would infuriate me, make everything clear to me.  I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind.”

“Why, even the death of my own son hasn’t distracted me from it!”

“It had the most profound effect on me.  Your father was devout.  He truly believed.  And oh, how he loved you.”

“He did.”

Too bad he didn’t love other people enough to believe they didn’t deserve an eternity of torture for not thinking the same way as him.  Oh well.

Margaret agrees with Ranold…

“That Connor is alive proves you are a believer.”

“Actually, it doesn’t, Mom, in spite of what Ranold thinks.  By ‘firstborn male,’ we think the Scripture refers to a child that is both male and born first, not simply the first male born in the family.”

Wait, what?

WHY DIDN’T YOU POINT THIS OUT IN THE FIRST PLACE, YOU STUPID MAN???

Also, there is even more significant risk to everyone now that this little tidbit has been revealed.  (Well, it’s been sorta-revealed, since how are we to know that Paul’s interpretation of this phrase is the correct one?)

If Paul or other believers don’t set the populace straight on this point, a lot of atheists with second-born-children-who-happen-to-be-boys are going to find themselves in a heap of trouble, being suspected of being Christians and all.

Also, this still doesn’t explain why Ranold, apparently the firstborn son of atheists, is alive.  And it doesn’t explain why Paul is alive, though I suspect it’s because God doesn’t give a damn that his evil atheist mother was an evil atheist.  Because moms don’t count.

Anyway, Margaret looks upon all this with typically RTC selflessness:

“I don’t know what it’s all leading up to, but I want to be on the right side of it when it happens.  I’ve already lost my son.  I don’t want to lose my soul.”

Your son is in Hell right now, Margaret.  I’m pretty sure my own evil atheist mother would happily travel to Hell to get me back.  But hey, who gives a good gorram about Berlitz, anyway?

But Margaret is in good company, only thinking of herself and all…

Part of Paul wanted to just stay and have it out with Ranold, to challenge him, dare him to take his grandchildren’s father out of the picture.

I…wouldn’t “dare” that if I was you, Paul.  Ranold just saw his only son dead before his eyes.  He’s hated you for years.  And to top it all off, for half his life, he’s blamed Christians for causing the deaths of “his entire army.”  This is not the tiger you want to tease, Paul.  Just sayin’.

Also, Paul says “have it out” like it’s a typical sort of family dispute, not a case of one family member praying that another family member be struck down by God…who then complies.  Ranold might be more inclined to shoot than to “have it out.”

But it all comes to nothing, because Jae bursts in (leaving the kids in the car, alone) to tell Paul and Margaret that she is staying.

The primary caregiver of the nine-year-old and the six-year-old is staying behind while the abusive father is taking those kids on the run.

WHAT???

Worst parenting ever, this bunch.

Oh, and it gets better.  Jae actually says:

“Paul, I know you have some plan…”

“…so take the kids and put it into action.”

Has Paul ever been alone with his kids before in his life?  I wonder.

“Send for me or I will come to you, whatever you concoct.”

Great idea.  What could possibly go wrong?

“Just go, Paul.  This is your life.  You’ll make it work.”

“Screw our kids!”

So Paul goes.  He just goes with his kids.

What a freaking idiot.

Connor is all but catatonic in the backseat, but Brie is alert enough to notice the carnage.

“What happened, Daddy?” Brie called out.

“Lots of accidents, huh?” he said.

Yeah, how ’bout that.  Go figure, eh?

“Yeah, but why?”

“Remember, you’re going to find out later.  Daddy has to be on the phone for a while, so you be patient, okay?”

“Just stare at the mangled corpses and people keening in the streets, princess!  Don’t distract Daddy, now.”

Paul is, indeed, doing some important stuff on his skull phone: “trying to connect with Straight, his faith mentor.”

He wouldn’t have to worry about this, I must point out yet again, if he had had a plan in the first place.

But with no plan, he can’t get in touch with Straight (even by skull phone!).  But someone gets in touch with Paul: “tall, black, and direct” secretary Felicia.

She’s calling Paul to let him know that Bob Koontz, their boss, is a firstborn son, and is dead.

Kinda sad, since Bob was in charge of the Cone of Silence and all.

Meh, enjoy Hell, I guess, Bob.

Shadowed: Chapter 2: Run Like Heck

Because nice RTCs don’t use the word “Hell” in such a context.

Speaking of: a phrase I’ve noticed recently on Christian talk radio is “a place called Hell.”  As in, “Anyone who doesn’t believe in Jesus Christ will be separated from God and tormented forever, in a place called Hell.”

Why not just say “Hell.”  Do they think saying “a place called Hell” softens the blow or something?  I don’t get it.

Anyway, we cut to Jae in the kitchen.  The kids are understandably freaked out, and I really have to wonder why Jae is making them “help” with their semi-conscious grandmother.  Why not banish them to the family room with the good old electronic babysitter, to spare them from as much trauma as possible?  Put in a “disc” and let parentified Brie keep an eye on little Connor.

Margaret comes (a little more) to and asks if her son is dead.  This, naturally enough, freaks out the kids even more, and Jae solves this by…ordering them to go upstairs and pack.

Yeah, that’ll help.  Way to be a conscientious and protective mother, Jae.

Jae calls Paul into the room, and something interesting happens:

Mrs. Decenti, usually docile and tentative, reached for Paul and pulled him close while barking at Jae.

I find that fascinating.  That is her daughter she is “barking” at.  Her daughter and now, her only living child.  The child who was just taking care of her while both her husband and her son-in-law found better things to do.  (Since Ranold ran off to help Berlitz and Aryanna, he gets more of a pass from me than Paul.)  Yet it is this son-in-law, previously engrossed in the television and his own self-absorbed thoughts, that Margaret “pulls close” while she “barks” at her loving and attentive daughter, who was also, let’s not forget, trying to wrangle two small children.

So, you guys are awesome: you accurately anticipated Ranold’s response to this crisis!

Margaret tells Paul that she and Ranold had been talking about the threat from Paul and the underground Christians (though Margaret, of course, does not know that Paul is the one who actually wrote the threat).  She tells him that Ranold had said, probably only half-kidding, that if the slaughter happened, “it would make it easy to know who the enemy was.  They would be the dogs whose firstborn sons remained.

As we’ve observed in the past, Ranold ain’t no dummy.

Now, as I’ve already discussed, there is a fairly bizarre set of rules around who qualifies as a firstborn son and who does not.  I still can’t quite swallow the idea that Connor, the younger child of the family, is a firstborn son, but I guess that’s just one more reason I’m not RTC.

So anyway, Margaret tells Paul to run, with Jae and the kids.

But who could measure the depth of Ranold’s rage, his determination, his vengeance?

Good point.  And honestly, who could blame Ranold for feeling these things, given what has happened?  He’s grown to trust his son-in-law, who betrayed him in the deepest possible way—not giving him a personal warning that he knew for a fact that his son would be dead within days.  And now Berlitz is dead.

Hell, this is origin story stuff—the kind of tragedy that could lead a man to become a superhero.  Aquaman, even.

And yeah, I have always had a soft spot for Ranold, no matter how much the books want me to scorn and scoff at him.

And just then, Ranold calls.  On the stupid landline instead of a skullphone.

The phone rang and Margaret picked up.  “What’s happening, dear?” she said, rolling her eyes at Paul.

What?

WHAT???

Oh, hardy-har, that Ranold, amirite?  So eyeroll-worthy, such a silly blowhard…you are talking to your husband, lady, who is at this very moment staring at the corpse of your only son.

And she’s rolling her eyes.

Friggin’ sociopaths in these books, every damn time.

Ranold talks to Paul, and tries to play him, even asking to pray with him (heh), but Paul doesn’t buy it.  And as they pack, Jae begs her mother to come with them.  For reasons best known to herself, Margaret opts not to.  Because I guess it doesn’t bother her that after tonight, she’ll probably never see either of her two children alive again.

Great parenting is just all over these books.

Shadowed: Chapter 1: Heroism=Watching TV

It’s been awhile since I’ve read or listened to Shadowed, and I forgot the amazingly exciting opening:

Paul stood before the television…

Because this whole chapter is Paul’s response to watching the immediate aftermath of the slaughter of the firstborns on television.

Riveting action, I know.

He had long trusted his instincts and had proven that his prodigious intellect could sort through myriad possibilities even under pressure…

Yeah, the intense pressure of watching TV.

Oh, btw…inspired by a few comments in a previous post, I ran Paul Stepola through The Universal Mary Sue Litmus Test.  I really tried to be fair…and he still came out with a score of 116.  Must be that “prodigious intellect” he’s so proud of.

Speaking of Paul’s “prodigious intellect,” I am reminded of Rayford Steele’s humble reflection that he has spent his entire life being “better than most and the best in most circles.”

It’s interesting to note that in these first crucial, emergency moments after the slaughter, Paul of the “prodigious intellect” has been given this all-important task: to watch TV.  This isn’t even his idea—it’s Jae’s.  In light of the news of Berlitz’s death behind the wheel of his car, Ranold has headed off to help his son and his daughter-in-law, and Margaret has fainted.  Jae’s response??

Jae helped her mother into a chair and fanned her.  “You kids help me with Grandma.  Now! Get me a glass of water.  Paul, you’d better check the news.”

So the six-year-old, the eight-year-old, and the woman who just received the news that her only brother is dead…they are the ones taking action and helping people.  Evil atheist Ranold, the guy we’re supposed to hate, has gone out into the horrific mess of the world to try to get to his son.

Paul is watching TV.

Oh, and he’s thinking, too.  Here are the things he thinks about, in the exact order he thinks about them:

On one hand, Paul envisioned a mass turning to faith…

On the other, the carnage was unimaginable.  …  And what would this mean to the economy, to service industries, to law enforcement, to the military?

So, he first thinks about how many notches can be put on Jesus’ belt…then about the effect on the economy of the sudden and inexplicable deaths of millions of people.

Surely millions would use the chaos and mourning to justify their hatred…

Yes, because that’s what evil atheists do when we are confronted by chaos, when we mourn.

We use it.

We use it to hate.

Oh, I’ll admit straight up that I am quite capable of hatred.  My hatred towards one Paul Stepola, for example, knows no bounds.

So, evil atheists use their mourning of loved ones…

…to justify their hatred toward such a seemingly vengeful and spiteful God.

Seemingly vengeful and spiteful?

SEEMINGLY???

At Paul’s request, God just struck down millions upon millions of innocents.  This includes many millions of people who have never once been exposed to the Bible, because they were born after WWIII.  They’re roasting in Hell right now.  God killed little children at Paul’s request.

And this God is seemingly vengeful and spiteful?

…most [people], [Paul] was sure, would have preferred to have been convinced there was a God who was about only love and peace and harmony, not also about justice and righteousness and judgment.

I want Paul to tell me what was just and righteous about killing Berlitz Decenti, a good-hearted guy who loves kids and took care of his little sister.  Who was raised in an atheist household in Atheistopia and never heard anything about Jesus, probably never even saw a Bible in his life.

And gee, how shocking, in a more general sense, that people would prefer a God of love to a God of hate.

Sheesh, people, amirite?

Paul then ruminates about TV news in general:

History had provided occasions when events overwhelmed even the most professional newsperson.  The assassination of U.S. president John F. Kennedy, nearly eighty-five years prior, had caused reporters to pale and a celebrated anchor to succumb to emotion.

Geez, Paul, sorry everyone can’t be as professional as you are, watching your TV while your brother-in-law lies dead in the street.

Sorry all professionals can’t be as awesome as these fine folks, Jerry Jenkins.

Now, obviously, Paul is referring to this:

…though it seems such a judgmental way to characterize the extremely professional actions of a man processing shock and grief.  I mean, Cronkite gave the report.  He reported the news.  He was feeling strong emotions, but kept them in check and did his job.

What have you ever done, Paul, except be an asshat?

Oh, and Paul realizes that this is a rather different situation, since many newsrooms happened to employ firstborn sons, meaning that reporters and writers and cameramen and many other people who make the newsroom work are now lying dead in those very newsrooms.

But Paul has other things on his mind than the feelings one would feel on seeing multiple coworkers drop dead without explanation:

Paul couldn’t imagine the demand for funeral services.

Paul’s deepest concern: reserved for the economy.  Go figure.

It has, at this point, been less than five minutes since the slaughter.

And finally, FINALLY…

Atop all this, of course, would be the devastating toll of human grief.

Oh gee, Paul, YA THINK?

I guess, trying really hard to give some credit, that it’s a baby step that Paul thinks atheists actually experience grief.  I mean, we use it for our evil, hateful ends and all, but at least he admits that we feel it, too.

Paul, let’s remember, has never had any friend in his life except for Straight (who is, of course, immune from the slaughter).  So he most likely can’t think of anyone whose death will cause him personal sorrow.  (He doesn’t give a shit about Berlitz, that’s obvious.)  And being a self-obsessed narcissistic sociopath, this is the closest he can come to empathy:

How does a family, a clan, a people, a nation, a world mourn a loss so all-encompassing?

A clan?

Nothing would ever be the same, Paul knew.  Not for the USSA.  Not for the world.  And certainly not for him.

Glad to see that Paul has his priorities straight.  As usual.

 

Shadowed: Getting Ready

Okay, you guys, I can take a hint!

As of this writing, the poll is as follows:

Shadowed: 51.2%

The Love Dare:  26.83%

The Europa Conspiracy:  17.07%

I, Saul:  4.88%

Day-um.  Shadowed just had a runaway lead that I did not anticipate.  I figured it would be a toss-up between The Love Dare and The Europa Conspiracy.

Then again, I can understand wanting to tie up Paul Stepola and throw him in a river.

Or tie up the Underground Zealot series and put a bow on these critiques.  Whichever.  😉

As you no doubt recall, Silenced ended with God instituting his holy reign of terror, silencing (har) millions upon millions of firstborn sons by slaughtering them.

Because Paul Stepola asked him to do it.

In the extremely helpful What Has Gone Before opening section, Jenkins gives us a recap of the world he has built and the characters who inhabit it.  As a quick reminder to everyone, it is now late January, 38 P.3., which is 2048.

Paul, Jae, and Straight have certainly made an impression on the loyal readers ’round these parts, but just in case anyone has forgotten who is who, Jenkins lays it out, in a style reminiscent of middle school social studies textbooks:

When he completed his graduate studies in religion, Dr. Paul Stepola‘s wife, Jae, urged him to pursue work with the National Peace Organization.  Her father, retired army general Ranold B. Decenti, had helped build the NPO from the ashes of the FBI and the CIA.

Like that.

Terribly proud of this part, the entire letter to Chancellor Ball Dangler is reproduced.  Just so we can remember what an evil, threatening dick Paul is.

Then the second half of the last chapter is reproduced in (almost) full.

Just so we can remember what an evil being Paul’s God is.

So, gird your loins, ladies and gentlemen!  Once more unto the breach of the USSA and Paul Apostle!