Monthly Archives: September 2015
Okay, so during Ranold’s crappy conversation with C.C., C.C. reveals that Roscoe Wipers is probably not dead. How he would know this, I don’t know, unless we’re to assume that C.C. is sympathetic to the zealots, and thus knows they would never kill anyone. (Unless they did it through their thug-god, or unless they were European and had captured a cop, but I don’t think we’re supposed to worry about those contingencies.)
(Also also, did Jenkins forget that Paul really, really wanted to murder Wipers?)
Anyway, Ranold concludes from this little tidbit that Bia lied to him about Wipers. Honestly, this is a bit confusing to me: the zealots fake-executed Wipers before they knew Bia was on the road to being a believer. Hell, Paul wasn’t called by Bia until ten chapters after the fake execution.
But suddenly, this little piece of information has become a big deal. I’ve skimmed back through the book, and I freely admit I may be missing something, but I don’t think there was a single conversation about Roscoe Wipers between Bia and Paul, or between Bia and Ranold.
But suddenly, it’s important to Ranold that Bia lied to him. And given the amount of space Jenkins now devotes to the issue, it’s important to Jenkins as well. Ranold calls Bia, awakening her from her Jesus-induced slumber, and asks her about Wipers. She pulls the old “chchchchch…sorry…shshshsackack…bad connec—chchchchch—” trick, thus buying her time to call Paul for guidance on this moral quandary:
“[Ranold’s] going to push me to the wall,” she said. “Do I just flat out lie to him?”
“Why not?” Paul said, hoping her answer would tell him more than he asked.
What an unbelievable prick Paul is. I mean, we all know this already, but still. Bia could be imprisoned. She could be killed, and all Paul is concerned about is giving her a Christianese test.
“Because I’m one of you now. I’m not supposed to do that, right?”
“That’s the question of the ages, Bia. But let me be the first to welcome you to the family.”
“Seeing as how I was also the first to bar you from the house, after all.”
Bia claims that she knows how to “dodge, to bob and weave.”
(Probably how to dip and duck, too. Har.)
But Paul takes a page of dialogue to sorta nudge her in the RTC-ian direction that Jerry Jenkins loves so much, where you fudge direct questions but not quite telling the whole truth.
Oh, and on top of it all, Paul concludes this whole exchange (which, again, is life and death for Bia) by bringing it back to himself. Again.
“I’m trying to draw the man out, Bia. I want a face-to-face.”
Okay, Paul has officially snapped. He is the one who is hiding, literally underground. And Ranold, as interim head of the NPO, could not be more out if he tried. Hell, he’s sleeping in his own bed, in his own house, every single night, Paul. Go ahead and get you some, if you think you can.
This is why I don’t allow crying in the break room: it erodes morale. There’s a place to do that, like your apartment.
-Joan Holloway, Mad Men
Jerry Jenkins actually does something pretty cute here: Bia Balaam, for the first time in her life, is looking for a place to be alone and take a break at work. So she asks her secretary. And the secretary rather shame-facedly says she goes to her car, the implication being that she has had to flee there more than once from the unfeminine workaholism of Bia.
Kinda weird that the most realistic exchange in this book is that one.
Anyway, Bia heads to her car to have her Come to Jesus moment. Based on Paul’s notes and the skullphone tag he cruelly played with her when she was at her lowest and most vulnerable, of course.
Paul made a lot of sense.
Okay, Bia is obviously still reeling from the tragedy.
Bia talks to God, and makes a very good case for why killing the firstborns was a rotten thing to do: she, like most people in Atheistopia, genuinely thought that Bible stories were “fairy tale[s]” and that the dessication of L.A. was terrorism at the hands of the zealots (which it was, but she thought it was the zealots’ own scientific expertise, not their prayers to their
Don’t get me wrong—I’m not saying Jenkins ever intended to make a good case for the atheists. But Bia is about to Make the Transaction, so we know she’s telling the truth as she sees it, and her truth is that she never believed…genuinely never believed. Not reveling in her hedonism and pretending God didn’t exist or any of the other lies RTCs tell about why atheists are atheists—she really and truly and simply did not believe.
So it once again raises the question: why would a just and loving god rain down death and hell on millions of people who were nothing more than mistaken?
Bia says to God:
“You’re the one who took [my son], so am I supposed to ask You to make it better, to give him back, or to promise me he somehow made it to heaven?”
Ha! An atheist making it to heaven, even if he was raised by an atheist in Atheistopia, with no access to a Bible? Not with this god, Bia.
“…it seems I should have been able to recognize You long before something this awful had to happen. But I know myself, and I doubt anything short of that would have gotten my attention.”
Well, except you’re talking to an omniscient, omnipotent god, who knows exactly, and better than you do, exactly what it would have taken to make you believe. But instead of projecting himself into your mind or writing in the sky everything that would happen to you in the day ahead, or something, he chose to murder millions. Nice god. Nice, omniscient god.
Bia starts crying. Not because she misses her son, mind you, but because she feels unworthy in the sight of God. And then God lets her fall asleep peacefully, there in her car.
What sweet mercy this represented!
Yeah, it totally makes up for the murder of your son.
So we’re back with the Three Zealoteers.
I wonder if any of the other zealots who have been living underground longer than two out of three of these guys, ever wonder why they spend so much time alone together. It’s been fifteen days since the massacre, and Paul has talked to his wife like, twice. And I’m not even including his kids, because I’m pretty sure he’s always had trouble remembering their names.
Greenie points out that they’re less than 72 hours from “D-day,” which seems a bizarre way to refer to things when they’re the ones who are going to be attacked, and Paul still wants to delay telling anybody else. Why? I’m not sure. He mentions the possibility of causing “panic,” though seems to me there would be much less panic if you had given everyone ten days to process the news and prepare, instead of three days.
I’m guessing he just doesn’t trust anybody except himself. Which is nothing new, though still a strange mindset when you consider how often his religion tells everyone not to be afraid.
Paul says of Ranold:
“I believe he sees himself as the last defender of the atheistic regime.”
Well, he kinda is. As we’ve seen. But Greenie thinks there are others, “angry pockets here and there.”
Geepers, I can’t begin to imagine why people might be angry. It has, after all, been two whole weeks since you ordered the mass murder of their fathers and sons and husbands and brother.
Turns out that the salt mines are all set, and “we have transportation in place.” Huh? I mean, I would hope so, after a week to get ready. But if you’re good to go, why all this waffling for days and days?
They can’t do a mass exodus because it would be too conspicuous (finally, a bit of sense), and it is decided that people will leave in order of seniority. That is, last hired, first fired.
Er, last in, first out. I’m pretty surprised there isn’t a “women and children first” policy instead, or a plan to form diversified groups with fighters, medics, etc., but now I’m thinking like a role player, wanting one healer and one tank with each party. And, as we all know, Jesus hates D&D.
Paul actually expresses mild reluctance to get himself and his family out first, which I guess makes sense for him, given how blasé he is about the fact that Ranold is poised to rain down fiery death on his small children. But he concludes that the policy is “fair” and goes along with it. Stand up guy, that Paul. Our hero.
Okay, so we’ve settled now that Ranold B. Decenti IS Tony Stark.
Thing is, much as we envisioned Ranold laying it out to God like Tony did to Loki, we need to back up a bit. Because I’m really starting to believe that, unbeknownst to himself, what Jerry Jenkins has created here is not the third part of the saga of Paul Stepola, Changed Man for God, but the origin story of Ranold Decenti, “Dece” (his old Army nickname), Warrior AGAINST the Forces of Evil.
As in all origin stories, Ranold can’t start out too heroic. In fact, there can only be the smallest hints that he is destined for greatness. While our apparent hero, Paul, watches TV, Ranold ventures out into the darkness and chaos, to get to the dead son he didn’t love as much as he should have. Slowly, it becomes apparent that Ranold is Different, one of only a few to stand up against the powerful, murderous new enemy, when everyone around him is capitulating.
And now comes that moment in the origin story, when Ranold realizes he is truly alone.
Ranold is going to see his old friend from the Army (and now General of the whole thing), Chester “C.C.” Crieghton. C.C. was one of the few people to even think of Ranold’s feelings back then, when he lost everyone under his command, and told him it wasn’t his fault.
That hadn’t made Decenti feel any better, but he never forgot the effort.
Aww. That is so sweet. Seriously.
Like any good hero in the midst of his origin story, Ranold is not yet the person he will be.
He has weaknesses and foibles…like not being as fit as he would like to be.
Well, that’s the interpretation I’m going with. I mean, I’m sure that’s the reason Jenkins spends half a page talking about Ranold trying to squeeze into his old army uniform, but not being able to cover his “expanded derriere.” It has to be that, right? Can’t just be Jenkins’ self-hatred manifesting as the worst traits of his designated villain.
C.C. cuts right to the chase, asking if Ranold wants to raid the underground as revenge. Ranold denies it. Interestingly, Jenkins states that the thought of revenge “had not even crossed Ranold’s mind,” but then C.C. self-righteously asserts that Ranold is lying. Kinda odd, when we’re clearly supposed to be siding with C.C. here and feel good about the fact that Ranold is being questioned.
Speaking of questioning, C.C. goes on to talk about the mysterious circumstances of Margaret’s death. He clearly doesn’t believe it went down as Ranold said, but neither does he seem to believe Ranold at fault. (And, everyone (including Jenkins) should remember, he wasn’t at fault. In fact, he tried to save Margaret’s life, despite Jae’s best efforts.)
C.C. switches gears, and argues against attacking “a nonmilitary site,” especially one with children living at it. And he’s right! And yet…these are the people who just requested their own personal weapon of mass death to strike down millions…and it did. So the argument about the kids is definitely legit, but I could just as easily argue that any organized gathering of RTCs has now become a “military site,” complete with direct line to a power capable of wiping out everything at a moment’s notice.
I mean, hell, Paul is the one who keeps saying “we’re at war.”
It’s actually an interesting debate, whether an organized group of people with an omnipotent thug ready to massacre on request constitutes a military or war situation. And if they keep their children onsite with them, to what extent should that change the other side’s tactical plan?
Or at least the debate would be interesting, if Jenkins wasn’t so firmly on C.C.’s side. Jenkins/C.C. takes this opportunity to engage in a rambling, unfocused Reasons You Suck speech, calling Ranold crazy, asking him if he assassinated Dengler (Ranold denies it, and C.C. doesn’t seem to care enough to pursue it), and pointing out that Ranold doesn’t have the Support of the People for the attack:
“You have no public support, Dece.”
“You’ll be the most hated man in America.”
“[The underground zealots may be the enemy], but who knows if or when that might change, based on public opinion.”
C.C. even argues that the zealots are “likely unarmed,” which, again, seems an odd thing to say about a group of people with the ultimate weapon of mass death at their beck and call.
Hell, I could get behind C.C.’s idea to simply surround the zealots and ask them to surrender without a fight, except a) his rambling, pointless talking makes me doubt his law enforcement know-how, and b) I don’t think the zealots would do it.
C.C. tops it all off by declaring that Ranold is “suggesting…a holy war.” Though I think Ranold’s “suggestion” is more a statement of fact—they’re in a holy war. Paul has been saying so for three books now. The zealots have asked their thug to turn the Reflecting Pool to blood, rot the cherry trees, dessicate Los Angeles, and just weeks ago, massacre millions of men, boys, and babies. Sounds to me like they’re at war. So it’s hard for me to call Ranold completely wrong when he calls C.C. “yellow.” Yep, it’s a dumb thing to say to the General of the Army and anyone would have genuine reason to fear this horrible god, but…Ranold’s not wrong. At least not entirely.
But right or wrong, he knows now that he’s all alone. Only he has the spine to stand up to the forces that massacred millions.
So it’s time for Ranold to get to work, yo.
I was just thinking today about how much I’m going to enjoy searching for my yearly Wintermas romance! Can’t wait.
It’s so hot and muggy here.
Anyway…sigh…time for Bia to have her dark night of the soul. It is exactly two weeks since the mass murder, so for those of you keeping track, it is Tuesday, February 5, 2047.
Bia thinks about her sadness and “where she now stood on the subject of God and, yes, her own salvation.” It strikes me that her grief is all but indistinguishable from Felicia’s grief. Granted, the both lost twenty-something sons in the biggest mass murder in the world. (Well, second-biggest in their world, Noah’s flood being the first.) But it still seems to me that they would process grief differently, because they are such different people. But they both think of their own feelings in a rather…generic sort of way.
When does the sharp pain of grief give way to the dull ache of mourning? [Bia thinks]
I dunno, but I do notice that neither Bia nor Felicia seem to think personally about their losses. That is, they don’t think about the loss of Danny or Taj, but about Loss. Speaking from experience here (not the experience of losing a child, but of losing a beloved person who was quite young), sure, you think about your own loss, but you also think about the losses of the dead person: the things he will never experience, the events in life that he will never see.
I wonder if it’s because Jenkins doesn’t think about grief in that way, or because he doesn’t want to Go There—doesn’t want to acknowledge the true horror of what his loving god has done. Danny and Taj, both lifetime atheists, are now roasting in Hell. Their mothers, both on their way to becoming RTCs, don’t even think about that. I’ve heard radio preachers give out the platitude that death isn’t really a final goodbye, because you’ll see the loved one in Heaven. But that doesn’t apply if the dead person is a nonbeliever. It all comes back to what I’ve said in the past: I don’t know how Christians function, how they even get out of bed every morning, if they think even one person they’ve ever cared about is being tortured forever even as we speak.
Jenkins being Jenkins, he has to give a nod to Bia’s lack of womanliness by observing that she hasn’t cried yet. That she hasn’t cried “since elementary school,” in fact.
GEE I WONDER IF BIA WILL CRY WHEN SHE MAKES THE “TRANSACTION” AND BECOMES A REAL TRUE CHRISTIAN???
Oh, and Bia, in the throes of grief for Taj, spares not a single thought for Taj’s big sister, her own daughter, Leya, the professor. I think Jenkins actually did forget that he created her. How could you not cling to your daughter at such a time? And, in almost-believer Bia’s particular case, how could you not discuss the God Question with her?
But nope, all she contemplates is her own sin and fear and feeling of being pursued, presumably by the Hound of Heaven. Poor Bia. And poor Leya. We hardly knew ye.
The Stepolas have determined that Straight should get in touch with Felicia to help her out (since they bizarrely have decided that she shouldn’t come with them to the
Michigan Heartland salt mines), and so Straight gives Felicia a call:
In yet another bizarre decision, Paul tells Straight to call Felicia, but doesn’t tell Felicia to expect a call from a fellow believer. So she’s understandably taken aback when a strange man calls her with the usual RTC “He is risen” conversation-starter. She has to call Paul for confirmation that Straight is legit. You’d think Paul might want to avoid confusing and scaring the shit out this (very) recently-bereaved and vulnerable woman, but no.
Straight asks Felicia to meet him at Ray Radigan’s, a supper club in Kenosha, WI. (‘Scuse me, still Heartland.) Although Felicia characterizes the place as “just up the road,” it’s a 90-minute drive (probably 45 minutes in Atheistopian travel times), so either way, it seems a long way to make someone go when they both live in the same city in the first place.
(It also exemplifies the danger of using specific places in stories that are set in the future—they might not be there in the real future. Shadowed was published in 2005. Radigan’s closed this year.)
Straight inserts the following clunky line into their conversation:
“Let’s just say both of us will be easy to recognize.”
And yes, dear readers…that is Jenkins’ way of saying that both Straight and Felicia are black!
As he had hinted, they were the only African-Americans in the place.
That strikes me as a tad bizarre. I’m not as familiar with Chicago as Jenkins, but I do know a bit about Wisconsin. And Kenosha is actually more diverse than the state as a whole. I’m just surprised that Straight can so absolutely assume that they would be the only black people in the entire restaurant, in the liberal paradise that is Atheistopia.
Anyway, not much of great notes actually happens at this super-secret meeting of black believers—Straight basically just tells Felicia to get back to work at the NPO and stay in contact with the other believers there. Not sure why he dragged her out to Kenosha to tell her that when they could have gone to the friggin’ awesome Frontera Grill instead, but whatevs.
Back to Bia and Ranold, and it’s kinda adorable how Jenkins takes the broadest brush available to paint Ranold as the bad guy, utterly oblivious to the fact that everything said about Ranold could far better be applied to Paul:
His ego knew no bounds…
…he had enough self-love to go around.
[thinking of Jae as] apparently a dim bulb under all that pretty hair.
Could he really arrange [an attack] that would annihilate this place and all these people?
Life and death were the price of war.
Yep, Ranold is actually having some qualms, before the fact, about raiding the underground. And, like Paul in the previous two books, Ranold justifies the carnage (which will be many orders of magnitude less than the dessication of L.A. and slaughter of the firstborn men, boys, and babies) because This Is War.
In fact, Ranold finally admits to himself that there is a god, and that he is at war with him. And I’m sure Jenkins means that to be the height of hubris and idiocy for mere man to fight against his benevolent, murderous God, but I just can’t help but admire Ranold’s moxie. Hell, he’s got more guts than Paul could hope to have in ten lifetimes. Ranold is going up against the all-powerful creator of the universe, armed with little more than his wits, to protect a world that has demolished homelessness and cancer. Paul contracted an omnipotent bully to murder children where they stood.
So, Designated Hero or not, I know which man is really the courageous underdog.