Monthly Archives: November 2015
I’ll admit right up front that I’m no expert on Walker, Texas Ranger. Sure, I’m well familiar with the whole Chuck Norris meme…
and I’ve even been to the Barrens.
Recently, however, I’ve had occasion to actually watch some actual episodes of the actual show. It’s about what I expected, based on rumors: corniness and cheesiness abound, and absolutely everything is played completely straight, sappiness notwithstanding: cherubic orphans find homes, kids learn to stay off drugs and out of street gangs, and petty criminals think the best solution to any problem is to try to punch the Ranger trying to arrest them.
For more info, I would advise folks to check out TV Tropes, of course!
And for the purposes of a Heathen Wintermas celebration, Christian themes play a big role in WTR episodes. Those cherubic orphans who found a home, they prayed for it, and thanked God when they found it. Walker and his good buddy Hulk Hogan thank God for keeping kids out of gangs in this episode, etc.
For an amusing spectrum of opinion on the Christianity of WTR, you can check out Christian Answers.
Speaking of orphans, in our Wintermas episode, Walker and the gang are hosting a Christmas party for the local orphanage. As we open, they’re handing out presents to the kids.
By the way, the kids just sit there for the entire episode/story with their presents in their laps. (Indeed, the kids hold the presents pretty carefully, almost as though they know they’re wrapped empty boxes that need to stay nice so they can be used on the set of Touched by an Angel after this shoot.) I would submit that children that age being able to wait that long to open presents that are in their hands is the most unbelievable aspect of this whole tale. (Almost, but not quite, as unbelievable as a college professor sitting around her office on Black Friday during a blizzard just in case a student dropped by for guidance.)
Anyway, the kids beg a story off Walker “like last year.” Only one boy objects (oh yeah, it’s always the gingers spoiling everything, isn’t it?) on the grounds that “Christmas ain’t real.” This seems a slightly unusual way of phrasing a Christmas objection (it’s not “Santa Claus isn’t real,” or a 34th-Street objection like that). Instead, it’s more a Charlie Brown complaint: “it’s just a bunch of hype for selling toys and making money and stuff like that.”
But this idea gets conflated into “Is the Christmas spirit real?” for purposes of this story. Kinda weird.
Anyway, Trivet has one of his few lines in this episode, sarcastically muttering that a Christmas story for kids will be really exciting. Dude, you’re the one who volunteered to host a Christmas party for kids, so deal with it. Whiner.
Alex tells him not to be “a bah-humbug.”
So Walker starts to tell the tale of an Old West Texas Ranger named Hayes Cooper. The saga of Hayes Cooper was told through several different episodes of WTR…and I’ve actually seen one of them! It was the origin story of Cooper: he was a bounty hunter who was persuaded to become a Ranger after outlaws murdered a ranching family, and at the end of the origin story, Cooper realized that being a Ranger meant he couldn’t marry the woman he loved.
In other words: yeah, it made absolutely no sense.
Oh, and the Hayes Cooper stories are told in flashback…and Hayes Cooper is played by Chuck Norris in a bad wig.
So this story takes place after Cooper becomes a Ranger. He has to escort a guy named Will Stanton to prison. Stanton was local farmer and the apparent patsy to a bank robbery: he held the banker at gunpoint until the other robbers could get away, then turned himself in and didn’t say a word in his own defense at trial.
He’s played by William Sanderson, and most people probably remember him best as:
But I thought he was marvelous in Deadwood as the always-slimy E.B. Farnum:
He’s sorta-kinda our Bob Cratchit stand-in, for reasons which will become clear. On the long trail to the prison, Stanton engages Cooper in Christmas-talk, mostly so he (Stanton) can whine about how he won’t be spending Christmas with his kids, and begin the preaching process with Cooper, Christmas being “a true celebration of our Lord’s birthday.”
And on top of all the God-talk, there’s a Comanche named Red Bear tracking them, because he’s “made a sacred promise to take the Ranger’s scalp.”
After the commercial break, we cut back to the party. Retired Ranger C.D. Parker clues us in on how spellbound we should be, just in case we aren’t into the story enough yet:
“A prisoner to escort and a wild Comanche on your tail.”
Yup, that’s our story so far. Christmas!
Oh, and every time we cut between the Hayes Cooper story and the kids at the party, we fade out from the Wild West with this old-timey artsy look:
That’s the wild Comanche.
How fitting that this crazy, abysmal series of books should end right on the sixth anniversary of Heathen Critique!
AND PAUL’S BEEN SHOT!!!
So Paul wakes up surrounded by Straight and Pudgy Jack and Greenie, and Jae and Brie and Connor. Not Angela, though, even though Greenie has a thing for her and even though she was with all the kids until they were rescued. I have a sneaking suspicion that Jenkins would like us to forget she ever existed.
Paul’s in Bethesda Naval Hospital.
WAIT HOW COME HE’S NOT IN JAIL AND/OR SURROUNDED BY COPS???
Because the cops arrested Ranold, that’s why.
Yeah, that…actually doesn’t make sense at all.
And the more we learn, the crazier it gets: the group watches the TV news in Paul’s hospital room, and the anchorwoman explains that after shooting Paul, Ranold was “subdued by two unidentified men, then taken into custody by his own backup squadron.”
Who apparently had no desire to uncover the identities of these two men, men couldn’t possibly have escaped very quickly, since one is disabled and the other had heavy equipment to wrangle and a TV uplink to handle.
So the squadron, en masse, decided to violate their orders and take down their own boss, based on what they heard him say to a known traitor who masterminded the massacre of millions of their sons and brothers and fathers and friends.
And all this seems to be largely because Ranold “confessed” to the murder of Bia. Chancellor Ball Dangler is barely mentioned, just “Commander Bia Balaam, who was found ritualistically murdered in her car at the NPO garage earlier.”
Ritualistically? Somebody sat in the backseat and waited for her, then shot her in the head. Is that really ritualistic?
The last we see of Ranold, he’s being arrested…
…his face red, spittle flying. “I said what I had to say to take down a fugitive! I–“
I KNOW, RIGHT??? This is just what I said last chapter: how can he be judged, especially in the moment like that, for saying what he had to say. Especially when what he said was nothing very much.
But it’s the end of the book and we have to dispense with Ranold:
His own men shoved him into a Hummer.
*sniffle* Bye, Ranold.
YOU ROCK AND I WILL MISS YOU
Anyway, the news then moves to the press conference being given by Hoshi Tamika, who is pulling a global mea culpa on the whole outlawing-religion thing:
“Peace-loving people of faith have been forced underground and treated like second-class citizens. They have not enjoyed the privileges and rights of the free in this world.”
Except for the freedom to ask their thug to do anything they desire, which desire he kindly obliged by slaughtering millions of innocents who had nothing to do with treating anybody like a second-class citizen.
To a world in mourning, in which not one family has not had at least one member snuffed out by this all-powerful, thug-god, Tamika has this to say:
“Ironically, this has resulted in yet another holy war, this time necessitated by oppressed, disenfranchised, devout people who share our commitment to peace.”
“They share it so much that they prayed for the massacre of our children. It was necessitated, I tell you! NECESSITATED!!!”
And they have such a commitment to peace that they massacred our sons and fathers and brothers…a mere six months after they dessicated Los Angeles. Becase they love peace so very, very much.
“It has been foolhardy to suggest that a Supreme Being does not exist since The Incident, when as many firstborn males died as we had casualties from World War III.”
And that’s the most important thing: that the atheists acknowledge that the RTCs were Right All Along.
Less important: that this Supreme Being takes sides and is all-powerful and will wipe out people on a whim.
Yet the only person who has the sense to want to fight this: Ranold. And Jenkins still doesn’t get, after three books, that the one person with the courage to stand up to the genocidal maniac is the HERO.
“I myself lost a loved one, as did countless of you.”
Yeah, I can tell she’s really broken up about it, too.
She brings up the legalities: religion is no longer illegal, but everyone is still free to be an atheist. (Gee, how big of you.) But anyone who was found guilty of violating the no-religion law is no free.
“Be assured, there are technicalities and conditions relating to this edict, some yet to be worked out. These apply to those who broke other laws in the course of practicing their religion.”
Like, say, murder? Or treason, which Paul is guilty of by a factor of three trillion?
And this brings up an interesting tangential point: if God is real—absolutely, undeniably real, and is willing and able and very happy to mete out whatever horrors his followers ask for…then would it, in fact, be a crime in this Brave New World to ask God to commit a horrrific act? After all, if Greenie hired Paul to kill Harriet, then Greenie is guilty of something pretty damned major, too, even if he didn’t personally pull the trigger? Would praying for a massacre become basically the same thing as ordering a massacre? ‘Cause God’s gonna do it, apparently!
Apparently, nobody will ever be called to justice for the murders of all these innocents, including babies and children.
Given the acknowledgment by the interim chancellor that this has been a war, wouldn’t the slaughter of millions of innocents be a war crime?
Oh, well. Celebration breaks out in Paul’s hospital room, complete with high-fives. As well they might cheer, given that they’re quite literally getting away with murder.
“Guess I don’t have to pray down the flood of justice,” Jack Pass said.
That’s the last we hear from Pudgy Jack. Psycho to the end. I love how he seems disappointed.
But for Paul, nothing is ever enough. As everyone else celebrates, he gazes at the TV, and is shocked and horrified to see that not every single person on the planet is happy with the fact that the people who called down the murder of their families are all going to get away with it:
Some [TV footage] showed underground believers pouring into the streets, singing, dancing, and raising their hands toward heaven. But others showed angry people of all walks of life, rioting, snarling, and shaking their fists at the sky.
Yeah, you know those filthy atheists, right? Like animals. Snarling. Just because their families were slaughtered and there will be no chance of justice, ever.
Honestly, what was Paul expecting when he called for the dessication of L.A. and then the massacre of the firstborn? Widespread joy and happiness? If so, what a dumbass.
The last words of the series:
He found himself suddenly overcome with emotion, but despite tears of joy, Paul had to wonder how long the reprieve would last. How long before the world once again fell under the shadow of persecution?
I guess however long it takes for Pudgy Jack to become annoyed, and call down a flood on the atheists.
So maybe twenty minutes.
And that’s it. Religion is back to being legal, atheists have been shown to be Wrong All Along, and Paul is the same as he ever was: out for himself, barely sparing a thought for anyone else around him, except for how they might persecute him in the future.
What a guy.
Well, at least it’s Thanksgiving!
And you know what that means:
Coming this weekend. Stay tuned:
This is it, you guys! What we’ve been building to for three books. A final confrontation between our hero, the lone man standing in this world that is against him, fighting for what is right against all odds, with only his wits, his logic, and the memory of his fallen comrades to spur him on, and our villain, a wife-abusing, child-neglecting sociopath with a sadistic thug at his command, who has already wiped out millions, including part of the hero’s own family, at a mere request from our villain.
Was this what Jenkins was going for, I wonder?
Paul inexplicably promises to drop Roscoe “somewhere warm,” but as they pull up to the cathedral, he asks Roscoe to be so kind as to stay in the car with the motor running.
Wouldn’t the most logical thing for Roscoe to do be to make a run for it as soon as Paul enters the building?
Back at the actual life-and-death situation, Jae breaks through to the children. Good job, wimmins.
Paul checks in with Straight (via skull phone, I guess), and confirms that Scooter is “in place.” He also checks to see if Straight is armed, which seems a strange thing to ask of a man he has never known to be armed, and who was on an emergency flight to get to the city miraculously fast. Straight confirms that he is not armed, and Paul contradicts himself yet again, telling Straight that he is “trying to talk myself out of putting two between Ranold’s eyes.”
This is such a great example of Jenkinsian hypocrisy: Paul won’t shoot a man who just bombed civilians and ordered the murders of his friends, but he will request that his god slaughter little boys.
By the way, this will become important when we get to the Epilogue, next time.
So in the cathedral, Paul and Ranold play the typical cat-and-mouse game, to no real suspense. Paul tries to guilt-trip Ranold about bombing the underground, while Ranold does not lower himself to Paul’s level by bringing up the many millions that Paul successfully prayed to be actually killed. (Because, remember, nobody ended up dying in the bombing.)
“Where’re we going, Paul?” [says Ranold, as they listen to each others’ voices in the dark and kinda follow each other]
“Just staying out of your line of fire, Dad.”
“You don’t trust me.”
Paul snorted. “You must be a trained observer.”
You tell him, Ranold!
Also, yeah. Both Jenkins and Paul keep forgetting that Ranold was wise to Paul almost from the moment he converted.
Now, I promised you all an Engineered Public Confession last time, and I’m going to show you the whole of what Ranold says, just to see if I’m the crazy one here:
“I know why you killed Commander Balaam, Dad.”
Silence. Then, “I killed her? I did not such thing.”
“Had her killed then. She was the one who could connect you with the murder of the chancellor.”
Another pause. “Murder is such a civilian term, Paul. Assassination has a better ring to it, don’t you think? We are at war. Something had to be done. Just like now. I’m in the same room with a traitor, and I’m on duty. I aim to take him in.”
Okay, it’s not totally innocent, but neither is this entirely incriminating. A, Ranold never actually admits to anything in so many words. And second, even if one was going to take the “something had to be done part,” Ranold could always argue that he was just keeping the traitorous perp talking, in order to locate him and, well…take him in.
Again, Leverage, this ain’t.
“You finished trying to wipe out the underground, Dad?”
Ranold hissed as if the moniker pierced him. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“C’mon! I thought you’d be proud of yourself.”
“I am proud of myself. At least I’m not a turncoat. My career speaks for itself. And if I am the only stalwart left, so be it. We can do without the Denglers and the Hales and the Tamikas.”
“The populace seems to be standing against you now, Dad. Deal with it.”
Yeah, Dad, the populace is inexplicably standing against you, ever since I and my comrades called down the slaughter of your loved ones. Go figure.
This is even more a case of not-an-actual-confession. And hell, Ranold’s mostly right. He isn’t a turncoat and his career does speak for itself and he probably is just about the only stalwart left.
Tell me again why Paul is our hero? I mean, seriously, we’ve got six pages left to get to the bottom of this.
So Ranold shoots Paul.
And Straight tackles Ranold.
And Paul faints.
Annnnnnd next time:
The Epilogue, the end of this trilogy. And then it’s on to Wintermas!
As Paul farts around doing…whatever manly things he does, Jae and other real parents continue trying to rescue their kids. There is an odd mention of people getting sick off the “propane exhaust of the loader” that is now helping with the digging. So I guess in addition to skull phones and Bia’s daughter, Jenkins forgot he made all vehicles powered by sun, electricity, or hydrogen.
It’s kinda sad that he keeps forgetting these things. Because we’re now in the last TWENTY PAGES of this epic saga. And the yet the world remains…well, perhaps not unbuilt. But built poorly and with lots of foundation missing from buildings.
Anyway, the manly stuff Paul is doing is ditching the bombed out compound with Roscoe Wipers, to go meet Ranold.
And getting a gun:
[Pudgy Jack] gave Paul an ancient Uzi. “Fully loaded and like new,” Jack said.
I bet it is. Probably one of hundreds from your private collection. Sicko.
As they head out in a nice, heated car, Paul spares yet another fleeting thought for his wife and kids (“Belle and Cory? Beth and Colin? Bob and Carrie? Damn, it’s something like that!”) But he soon focuses in on the most important issue:
There’s a lot of it, you see, so Paul immediately does the second most manly thing a Jenkins hero can do after phone logistics:
As they crept past the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Paul got an idea. He could shoot southwest and then west on Military Road to Nebraska Avenue, then head southwest across Connecticut to Massachusetts. The cathedral would then be just southeast of him at Wisconsin Avenue and Woodley Road.
I can’t believe I just typed all that out. WHO CARES? Was Jenkins huddled over a map for this section? I mean, I’m not going to check him on this, but anyone familiar with the Washington, D.C. roads is welcome to, of course.
But even while being a Manly Man of Traffic Prowess, Paul still has time to be a smug, superior prick:
“You’re a believer, okay, fine. But that doesn’t explain why you came for me.” [says Roscoe Wipers]
“What kind of person would I be if I hadn’t?”
“You’d be like me, that’s what.”
“And you said it yourself, Roscoe, you’re not a believer. Believers do the right thing. At least we’re supposed to.”
It was right to call down the dessication of L.A.! It was right to pray for the deaths of millions upon millions of innocents! It was right to abandon my wife and kids in a collapsed underground lair!
Also, I’m not sure that “rescuing” Roscoe, only to drag him to the showdown between himself and Ranold, when both parties involved are feeling pretty murdery, is the most right thing Paul has ever done, either.
Roscoe, bless his heart, isn’t one to shut up in the face of Paul’s condescending smarminess:
“That’s what you’re doing right now? Looking for your father-in-law so you can give him a hug?”
Heh. I like Roscoe.
Paul admits that he would like to lay down some good old-fashioned street justice on Ranold’s fat ass…
“But I don’t plan to shoot him.”
“Then you’re crazy, Doc. Really.”
Yeah, and if you don’t plan to shoot him, what’s with the Uzi, Paul?
Anyway, Paul points out that “people” know where he’s going, but since those people are all underground believers who just got bombed, I’m not sure what Paul thinks they can do about it. But Roscoe agrees with this minor point, because he has a bigger point to make:
“So he gets caught! You get dead. What are you thinking? You want your family left without you if they do survive?”
Roscoe is laying down so much truth on Paul right now, I can’t even. Twenty pages to go, and Jenkins is still making the nonbelievers the smart and logical ones. I’m not sure that was his intention, going in.
The truth-telling must come to an end though, because there is HOT PHONE ACTION to be had: Straight and Scooter have implausibly beat Paul and Ranold to the cathedral, and Paul tells Scooter to “set up” so he has a view of the “main narthex.” So Scooter’s going to film everything that goes on. Now, this is a classic con, but it sure depended on a lot of luck: Scooter just so happening to be in an accident and just so happening to be under the care of Dr. Nazi, who just so happens to be a friend of Straight who can magically engineer the fastest flight in history and fight a massive traffic jam to get Scooter to the confession site on time.
Just sayin’. Leverage, this ain’t.
(And now I want to watch the Leverage Christmas episode!)
Meanwhile, Ranold is also heading for the cathedral. Jenkins makes a big point out of the fact that Ranold is carrying a nine millimeter, but since Paul has an Uzi, it’s not like I blame Ranold. Our Hero also receives a call from Haywood Hale, who’s in Bern pounding out some policy with other world leaders.
This is policy, mind you, about how to negotiate with the followers of the all-powerful thug god who just slaughtered their loved ones. So it has the potential to be really interesting.
So, no, we don’t get to see it.
Then there’s a second missile that hits the underground compound.
It’s exactly as effective as the first.
Sure, kids are trapped behind a wall of concrete, but Paul has something more important on his mind: he wants to punch Ranold.
(Isn’t it funny to think that Paul doesn’t have 1/1,000,000th the bitchin’ awesomeness that Zoe does?)
After all, punching Ranold is way more important than getting to his children. Maybe Paul forgot their names again and that’s why he turned tail and abandoned his wife to dig to the kids.
Instead, Paul does some manly PHONE STUFF, in the best Jenkinsian tradition: he has Straight get Scooter the Cameraman and charter a speedy flight from Chicago to D.C., to meet him at the location where he’s set up to meet Ranold.
HOT PHONE PORN ACTION
And it continues: Straight gets off the phone with Paul, but soon Abraham calls, to try to talk Paul out of “making this personal,” because “vengeance is the Lord’s.”
Wow, for once a RTC is counseling staying one’s hand. Abraham doesn’t even advise Paul to pray down a plague on Ranold or anything.
Paul’s main argument for punching Ranold? Well, there is the whole bombing-his-grandchildren (Whoever and What’s-Her-Name), but the really important point is…
“The man is my father-in-law, and he cares for no one but himself.”
Paul, complaining about someone else’s selfishness.
We cut to Ranold, and find out that he hired “the head of a militia group he had once attempted to prosecute” to bomb the underground. I think this is supposed to be some horrible revelation, but Ranold isn’t the one who masterminded a massacre of millions upon millions of people who were just minding their own business or anything.
Pudgy Jack and Paul stand around and discuss the situation, like the manly leaders they are. Pudgy Jack, to the surprise of absolutely nobody, is actually just fine and dandy with Paul killing Ranold. I guess it’ll sate his bloodlust just a tad, though it’s not as cool as drowning every non-RTC left on the planet.
Bizarrely, they both decide that Paul should take Roscoe Wipers with him.
So Paul SPRINTS for Wipers, sparing one brief thought for his kids, from whom he sprinted AWAY not too long ago.
Such a strong Christian head of his household!
And through all this, Jae has been digging through concrete.
With her bare hands.
Since Paul’s been hiding for this entire book like a little scared bunny, it’s almost refreshing to get a bit more of his particular brand of self-absorbed, lying craziness. Almost.
Paul and Straight have a (skull?) phone conversation. Paul reveals Bia’s death to Straight…
“I’m convinced she was a believer, Straight, but it’s just…I can’t—”
“I know, Paul. This is no game. This is real life-and-death stuff.”
THIS IS NO GAME??? Paul and Straight are figuring this out now, not when they orchestrated the deaths of millions upon millions of innocents?
And Paul also informs Straight of the deaths of the believers in the restaurant. Straight is relatively unfazed, except regarding Felicia specifically.
Is it worth noting at this point that neither of these women would be dead right now had not these two men each encouraged not to go into hiding? Paul literally turned away Bia at the door to the underground, and Straight convinced Felicia to go back to work immediately after her husband’s suicide and make contact with the other believers. They could both have been safe and secure in the shelter now, or on their way to
Somehow, I doubt that was what Jae had in mind when she told Paul to “Get your mind off yourself and onto these women.”
Speaking of Jae, Paul then informs her that, simply, “This is all your dad’s work.”
There’s just something about the way he phrases that, that makes it sound like Jae is guilty by association. This is your dad’s work, wifey. Not like my dad, who only thought people, like his own wife, should burn in hell for all eternity.
What a dumb broad, having a father like that.
Pudgy Jack and Greenie show up at the little Stepola “apartment,” and are skeptical when Paul tells them they can speak freely with Jae there. Then Jae, good little Christian wifey that she is, offers to bugger off from her own home so the MEN can talk, but they graciously allow her to stay.
Pudgy Jack and Greenie inform Paul and Jae that there is “outrage” and “backlash” at the deaths of the believers in Joliet. This sounds, shall we say, highly improbable, given that it has been only a couple of weeks since these believers called down the massacre on the planet’s husbands and fathers and sons and brothers. But Pudgy Jack once again brings up his idea of asking their thug-god to flood the whole world. And for once, Paul almost agrees, since he’s so pissed about Bi and Felecia.
If I thought we were supposed to see this as the kind of mindset that war produces, an example of the violence-begets-violence that happens in the world, I might be a bit impressed. Hell, you could almost go for a Hatfields-and-McCoys idea, where the two parties become so entrenched in the feud itself that they forget what the fight was about in the first place. But here, I’m quite sure we’re meant to see this as a Good Christian Man being driven to the brink by the fact that his eeeeevil father-in-law ordered the murders of his friends.
Because that Good Christian Man called down his all-powerful god to murder the father-in-laws son and millions and millions of other innocents.
Anyway, Jae cuts into the Manly conversation about who wants to flood the globe. Not because she thinks the idea is barbaric or anything (in fact, she says, “Call down rain. Call down fire, whatever.“), but because she wants the focus to be on getting all the children out of the underground complex.
Greenie heads off to see Angela (who is taking care of the kids). This is for no real reason other than to split the party (never split the party!). I mean, there was some vague talk about 35 chapters ago about Greenie having a little bit of a thing for Angela, but this has never once been explored, and we don’t even know if Angela knows about it.
THEN AN EXPLOSION ROCKS THE COMPLEX!!!
And Jae is the only one of the three knocked over.
BECAUSE SHE’S A WOMAN
The threesome leave the apartment, and Paul and Jae head toward the room where the kids were all gathered to watch a movie with Angela, and Jack heads the other way, for reasons best known to himself.
[Paul] grabbed Jae’s arm and turned to Jack. “Keep in touch with me by cell.”
Just think…we’re almost done with this series, and then we’ll never have to worry about Jerry Jenkins forgetting about skullphones ever again!
Speaking of them, Jae gets in touch with Angela on them, and the whole corridor to the kids is blocked in with a concrete avalanche.
Paul sees it and immediately says:
“This is hopeless, babe.”
What a hero!
Jae, however, harnesses The Power of Mom and begins digging through the rubble with her hands.
I wonder if Jenkins realizes what a wuss Paul looks like right now?
Said Paul heads off, in a terribly manly way, to find some equipment to dig with or something. Leaving Jae to continue digging out her children with her hands.
Paul meets up with Jack, and gets in contact with Jae by phone, since she is still digging to the kids with her hands. Gawd forbid Paul literally get his hands dirty, I guess.
Greenie, remember, was heading off to meet with Angela. Jae finds him in the course of her digging, and he is okay, of course:
“No way he should be alive, but he is.” [Jae said] “His head should have been crushed. If I ever wondered whether God was real and cared…”
“…then that notion was quickly dispelled when he murdered my innocent brother!”
HA. Just kidding, of course. Jae just trails off like that, because Greenie surviving is such a wondrous miracle!
Boy, I was sure worried for a minute, though. That Greenie was such a nuanced and interesting character, I would have been heartbroken had he bought it!
And so, you can see the action picking up as we trudge towards the conclusion.
This book has been nearly devoid of action, hasn’t it? I mean, Paul entered the underground in Chapter 7 and hasn’t emerged since. Now, there would be nothing wrong with a thriller without a lot of gun battles or globetrotting or other types of action. Some of the most tense scenes I can think of happen in small places, with people planning something or discovering something.
But Paul doesn’t do anything in the underground except not plan for the evacuation and fuck with Bia’s head for fun.
It doesn’t help matters that even though they’re in this little underground facility, and even though neither of them really has anything to do, Paul and Jae spend basically no time together. Which is bizarre since Jenkins tells us how much they love each other, now that they’re both believers, and how much the kids need their father.
Now, I don’t necessarily blame Jenkins for basically forgetting about this relationship (considering how many other things he’s forgotten in these books—he’s just a forgetful guy, I think). Then again, he’s talked before about how amazing his own marriage is and how atheists’ marriages, “especially,” deteriorate so you’d think he’d jump at this chance to show a loving relationship with a newly-Christian couple.
Then again again, I spent some time today thinking about how many movies and TV shows feature (as main characters or part of a large ensemble cast) a long-married, happily-married couple, who aren’t constantly kept apart or kept questioning their relationship, and who spend at least some time together over the course of the story. Based on the very scientific method of looking through the app with all the DVDs I own, here is my very short list:
Karl and Sharon Agathon, Battlestar Galactica
Wash and Zoe Washburne, Firefly
Jeff and Jane Blue, Undercover Blues
Angelo and Sofia Provolone, Oscar
Albert and Elizabeth, Duke and Duchess of York, The King’s Speech
Martin and Ellen Brody, Jaws
Roger and Trish Murtagh, the Lethal Weapon movies
Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl, The Incredibles
(I hate to admit it, but…) Dan and Kristin Reed, Christmas with a Capital C
That list doesn’t seem so short, I suppose, until you take into account that I own over 220 movies and TV shows (for purposes of counting, I counted each show only once, not by season or anything.
All that to say that I suppose Jenkins has lots of company in not particularly wanting to (or, perhaps, not being able to) write a happily married couple interacting with each other.
Wow, I am full of rants lately. Good thing Wintermas is coming!
SNEAK PREVIEW TRAILER!!!
Yeah, I’m going there. And I haven’t even seen the gorram movie yet!
Back at it: Straight goes to the hospital to meet Scooter, donning his “adult clown” uniform to do so. It’s actually just “an ancient zoot suit,” but apparently this means “adult clown.”
Have I ever mentioned that I hate clowns?
Gorram Creepy Clown Christian…
So with not one thought to spare for the horror he is inflicting on all around him, Straight talks to a nurse about Scooter (thus “learning” his nickname, even though he already knew it), then heads to Scooter’s room.
And he FRAKKING SINGS:
“Nobody knows the trouble I seen. Got me a first name that’s not too keen. Name’s Stephenson but I go by Scooter…”
Yeah. That’s the whole song.
I hate Straight so much.
Straight barely says two words to Scooter before yanking the sheet off his feet and checking between his toes.
Because, as you all may recall, STRAIGHT IS A COMPLETE DICKWEED AND HAS NO CONCERNS ABOUT PRIVACY OR PERSONAL SPACE WHATSOEVER.
Just like with Paul, I actually feel a bit sorry for Scooter here. Even though he was probably on his knees three weeks ago, praying for the massacre of millions.
But one simple “he-is-risen-he-is-risen-indeed” and the two are best buds.
And finally, FINALLY, some action.
The NPO actually kills some Christians.
And no, not at the actual underground.
Having driven from downtown Chicago to Joliet, Felicia finds the fish restaurant and meets up with Hector and the other believers in the back room.
“Does everybody always look this petrified at these things?” she said.
Well, they should. Because it is the stupidest event ever. A bowling league involving members of a government organization, that meets in secret an hour’s drive from their workplace and is never open to new members.
And that you talk about all but openly at work, speaking in very obvious “code” phrases.
Hell, the group that Paul and hottie Larry Coker staked out in Soon had more cred: at least they could have claimed to be a book club or something.
Instead, the NPO believers close the door to the back room, and start their charade by reading off a list of high bowling scores…with fake names attached.
So they never even try to maintain cover. They never even go bowling. They just read fake scores in a restaurant.
So why don’t they, yanno, just go bowling? They could talk and pray or whatever in the bowling alley, where it’s noisy and probably nobody would notice.
So they eat fish and talk and pray…and then they’re made! Harriet Johns just walks right in and reveals to them that the office is bugged (well, duh), and Trudy’s little fish joke and the planning for this dinner was overheard.
WHY IS ANYONE SURPRISED THAT THIS HAS HAPPENED?
So Harriet wanders out again, her point made, I guess. For a second, everyone assumes that the food is poisoned, but instead, they’re gassed. And if they try to leave, they’re shot.
I kinda wish I could feel something at this point, but considering that these people didn’t really give a damn that millions upon millions of people were just massacred a few weeks ago (Felicia, and remember that her own son was included in the slaughter) or actually prayed for it to happen (everybody else in the room), I just can’t muster up much of a damn to give.
Because the score sheet looks like this:
God, at the request of his followers: millions upon millions, perhaps one billion
NPO: probably around twenty
Who are the villains again?
So it’s still the same evening, and things are kinda all happening at once: the zealots are evacuating, Felicia is having her first dinner party with believers, Straight is conferring with Dr. Nazi about some random other zealot, and…Bia is dead and Ranold is waiting for word on that.
Yeah, so when it happened, I totally assumed he did it personally. My bad.
Instead, he’s sitting in his office, scarfing down takeout Chinese, like a good leader should be. A good leader who’s FAT, amirite? Ha!
Anyway, he gets a call from a security guy:
“Commander Bia Balaam works for you, does she not?”
Um, yes. And so do you, dude. And so does everyone in the USSA NPO. What’s your point?
The point, of course, is that he is calling to tell Ranold that Bia is dead. Ranold affects sorrow and, in one of the most shocking turns in this entire book, mentions that Bia’s daughter will have to be informed.
Jenkins remembered that he created a daughter for Bia!!!
I’m not kidding when I say that this may well be the most shocking thing about this whole novel.
But also, Ranold is pissed, because he had expected to hear from his assassin before security.
Harriet Johns calls Ranold, apparently only moments later. Seems she used “local muscle” to off Bia. She was the assassination middleman. Middlewoman.
So this brings me to a big question I have, which I should have brought up when Bia died, but I forgot:
WHY WASN’T BIA PUBLICLY EXECUTED???
Seriously, there cannot possibly be a better-evidenced case of treason than Bia’s: she confessed right to the face of the head of the USSA NPO that she has been in near-constant secretive contact with the mastermind of the recent massacre of millions. And as if we needed more than that, said mastermind of the massacre then confirmed the whole thing!
Ranold should have hauled her ass to a three-minute show trial (if that), then had her executed. Publicly. Preferably with TV cameras watching, so the whole world could see what happens to those who align themselves with the evil god and his evil followers who prayed for, then carried out, the massacre of your sons and brothers and husbands.
WHY THE HELL IS RANOLD ACTING LIKE HE’S DOING SOMETHING WRONG???
Because he is. (Acting like he’s doing something wrong.) Except he isn’t. (Doing anything wrong.) Ranold is head of the NPO, the combo FBI and CIA of Atheistopia. And when faced, to his very face, with a traitor, he has her quietly offed in a parking garage in the middle of the night, as though he has something to be ashamed of.
This just makes no fracking sense, and the more I think about it, the more it pisses me off.
See, Ranold is one of the founders of the NPO. He built it from the ground up after the devastation of World War III. He’s no fool. And he must know how much support he needs right now. The whole planet is choosing sides, and Ranold has seen that even the leader of the free world, and his own closest friends, aren’t going to stand with him and fight this malevolent being and its minions. So showing that people are being corrupted, that people are collaborating with the enemy, just might help sway a bit of public opinion to his side. Hey, not only did this being kill millions of men and little boys and babies, but some of the most powerful people in the nation are on its side!!!
(And it’s not like Jenkins doesn’t have the stomach to write a scene of a public execution: he did it in the Left Behind series, after all.)
I’m ashamed to admit it, but for one brief second, I actually wondered if Jenkins was trying to make a thematic bridge between Bia’s first action in this series (offing Andy Pass privately in the dead of night for being a traitor and believer), and her last (being offed privately in the dead of night for being a traitor and believer).
But I don’t think for more than that second that Jenkins has sufficient wit to do that.
It does bring up another point, though, and that is that we know no more now about the NPO than we did after Andy Pass was offed, three books ago.
The NPO doesn’t make sense. They kill people but nobody ever seems to know why, and different people at different levels know or don’t know, based on nothing more than plot convenience. When Pass was killed, the story was put out (by the very “propaganda” sources that so scared Straight), that he was killed in a tragic accident. Yet, like Bia, he was an obvious traitor and there seemed no reason to hide that fact from the world.
Other than Jenkinsian logic: atheists are evil people who do evil things. Killing a believer in the dead of night is an evil thing, like an atheist would do. But lying about a killing is also an evil thing, like an atheist would do. Even when covering up the killing makes no sense. Especially when nobody in the NPO seems to know the whole story at any point.
Oh, well. Ranold is an atheist, so he is an evil guy who does an evil thing: orders the death of Bia. And evil people also cover up their killings, so Ranold has some “local muscle” kill her, even though he has no reason not to do it in the light of day and with everyone in the world watching.
Because he’s evil and that’s the kind of thing an evil atheist would do.
And you know what the really funny thing is? At no point has Paul ever considered that the same thing might happen to him. He always thinks of being caught in terms of prison, not being secretly offed in a warehouse or a parking garage. You’d think he’d be familiar with the nonsensical-yet-evil way that the NPO works.
I mean, we’ve been over this before, but Jenkins has had three whole books to build this damn world, and he still doesn’t have anything up his sleeve other than atheists are evil people who form evil organizations that kill people and lie about it internally and to the rest of the world. Because
their actions don’t make sense they’re evil.
And they cure cancer.