The Europa Conspiracy: Chapter 1, Part 2: Cut the Cable

So having been told by the utterly pointless character Tyler Scott to go to a specific spot in the canyon and “look for the cables,” Murphy does so.  He finds a section of the gorge about 150 feet wide, with “two cables spanning the void attached to large trees on either side,” one higher than the other.  We’re also told that the cables are one thousand feet above the river.  So it’s very clear that LaHaye and Phillips have seen Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom multiple times.

A manila envelope is attached to the upper cable, halfway out.

So Murphy does the sensible thing: he detaches one of the top cables and retrieves the envelope.

HA!  Almost had you there for a minute, didn’t I?  Nope, Murphy just heads right on out over the pit of doom that Methuselah has set up, feet on lower cable, hands on upper cable, wincing and sliding and stepping out right to the middle, a thousand feet off the ground.  This process takes him fifteen minutes.

Murph doesn’t really think these things through, does he?  Knowing that he was going on an “adventure” to the Royal Gorge, it apparently did not occur to Murphy to bring along any mountaineering gear, even gloves (his hands must be ripped to shreds on that cable, which is basically holding up his whole weight!), or a harness to save him just in case he slipped

And knowing there would be cables involved, he didn’t think to bring anything to work with cables like, oh, say, SOMETHING TO CUT THEM WITH.

(Hilariously, there is a Home Depot only fifteen miles from the Royal Gorge.  I think it would be cool if Murphy gazed at the death trap for a moment, hopped in his car, went and bought some cable cutters, and simply disabled the trap.)

But no.

So when he actually gets there and stuffs the envelope down his shirt and starts on his long trek back (damn, but he’s stupid), Meth calls out to him from some unseen vantage point, “almost causing Murphy to lose his balance.”

Reason #72 why you don’t head out there, hanging by your own two hands from a cable, without some kind of safety gear.  Reason #87 why you should have gotten cable cutters in the first place.

And hell, this is stupid on Meth’s part, too.  It’s been established in the previous two books that Meth actually intend for Murphy to succeed in these little tests.  He just wants to make his little puppet dance a bit first.  So when he sees that Murphy has taken the stupidest and deadliest path to the prize, why startle him and potentially get him killed, when you don’t want him dead???

But I guess now Meth does want him dead, because he cuts the foot cable.  Murphy sensibly  swings his legs onto the top cable, so now he’s hanging onto that one by both hand and foot, but then Meth cuts the top cable, too.

And Murphy immediately slides right off the cable and plummets to his ignoble death.

HA!  Yeah, right.  Murphy is an action hero, so he hangs on to a cable as he falls 75 feet and doesn’t let go or slide off.

Damn, LaPhillips, I thought you guys watched Temple of Doom.  At least there they wrapped their arms multiple times before falling.  I mean, it was still ridiculous, but that made it slightly less so.

Also, Indiana Jones has way more cred than Murphy.

Murphy has “moments” before he hits the wall of the canyon.  (Really?)  And he is “able to hold on.”  (Of course.)  But then he slips about 20 feet down the cable, and “his hands were shredded.”  (I told you so, Murph!  Wishing you had brought those gloves now, aren’t ya?)

He climbs the cable up the canyon wall, then finds a little ledge where he has some water and a power bar, then has a nap.

This ledge is five feet by four feet.  And it’s a thousand-foot drop.


I thought you weren’t supposed to fall asleep in a sky cell.  Bad things can happen.  (Pic from Game of Thrones Wiki)

Then a page is spent telling us how Murphy makes prussic knots out of his belt and knapsack, and uses them to scale the rest of the wall to the tippy-top.  So sounds like his shredded hands healed right up.  This passage is clearly meant to make Murphy seem resourceful, but it again just makes him look stupid for not coming prepared.

At the top, Murphy finds that Meth has left a scale that I don’t care about, and a note that says, “BABYLON–375 METERS DIRECTLY NORTHEAST OF THE HEAD.”

And he finally remembers the envelope, which contains crushed plaster.

And I’ve officially given up on understanding Meth.  I mean, the lion in the warehouse, I got.  He had some measure of control there.  But the cave?  Much less control.  And here?  Well, Murphy’s own stupidity obviously contributed, but unless Meth strung up an invisible net we don’t know about, he seems to have been just fine with Murphy dying whenever.

Guys, I just don’t get Meth anymore.


Posted on January 16, 2016, in The Europa Conspiracy. Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.

  1. We don’t get Meth either. I thought these little trials were supposed to invoke Biblical moments. Did Methuselah run out of cute Bible-themed trials to subject Murphy to and resorted to trials without a theme?

    Now I want to write a similar novel with an archeologist being jerked around by someone rich for leads to amazing artifacts, just to show I can do it better.

    • Just wait. I bet once he gets home with the plaster and scale (or whatever the ‘actual’ clue is), Murphy’s gonna find some way to tie the crazy shit Methuselah put him through to the Bible. Specifically the Biblical story of the writing on the wall in Belshazzar’s Court (Daniel 5), since from what little I know of the plot prior to this review I think that’s what he’s after for some insane reason.

      • That’s what happens all right, but usually the trap itself had a Biblical theme to go with a Biblical artifact or clue. Meth just seems lazy here, unless Murphy somehow ties the cliff to the plaster samples as part of the clue he needs (it’s been years since I read this and it’s so forgettable that the books all blend together at this point).

        • Oh, I never said there would actually be any kind of logical connection between the clues and the story, just that Murphy would find one. More likely, he’ll say something like “Walls are made of plaster, and walking the cables was like hovering in the air… and I had to hold on with my hands… and he mentioned Babylon in that note… Methuselah must mean to direct me to the floating hand that wrote the prophecy of Belshazzar’s fall! It makes perfect sense!”

          I mean, come on. The lion thing made sense, but he was already stretching it with the whole ‘save two puppies in a flooding cave = Noah’s Ark’ bull.

  2. I don’t get these books, never mind Meth. I feel like I’m reading a walkthrough for a bad adventure game, where even if this stuff was in context it would still be incomprehensible. Like it feels like Murphy’s going through stupid puzzles that are only there for the sake of having stupid puzzles because it’s An Adventure Game, despite none of it making a damn lick of sense nor even being funny (which is the worse crime for adventure games). And there’s plenty of inventory filler for random puzzles an hour down the line – I mean really a random scale, a cryptic note, and an envelope full of crushed plaster? I can already see the bizarre puzzles forming themselves up in my head.

    Are we certain that LaHaye’s co-typist here didn’t spend the 90s with his mail full of rejection letters from LucasArts and Sierra?

    Also, as I was reading about Murphy dangling from cables over a precipitous drop, I kept hoping that the Seven would have gotten an early start on their evil plot and had an actually competent assassin observing Murphy, taking this opportunity to pop him with a rifle while he hung there unable to move more than an inch at a time.


    You can’t reach the envelope.

    There is a pair of Acme EverSharp™ cable cutters here.

    > EAST

    You move out onto the cable.

    The bridge swings a little.

    > EAST

    The bridge is swinging a lot more now.

    There is an envelope here.


    You have the envelope.

    The bridge is swinging a lot more now.


  4. No, this isn’t Indiana Jones anymore. This more like some death-trap version of the Amazing Race.

    Detour – Prison Poetry or Proper Preparation
    In this task teams must choose between two activities in Cañon City, Colorado. Either solve a bad puzzle poem that will lead them to the local prison, or visit a hardware store to stock up on equipment that might save their life.

    Murphy: “I choose to do the prison one. It will give me an opportunity to feel superior to other people.”

    Roadblock – Who’s ready to hang around the gorge?

    Murphy: “I guess I am”

    Make your way to the middle of the gorge using the two cables to receive your next clue. Warning, the last team to arrive may be dropped to near certain death.

    Yes, I realize that the fact Murphy was dropped to near certain death means he must have been the last team to arrive. I guess this was a non-elimination leg and Murphy is still in the race. Sadly. But not to worry, I’m sure there will be plenty of Speed Bumps for him to complete in the next leg. Or maybe he’ll forget to bring the Travelocity Roaming Scale with him to the next Pit Stop and can’t be checked in until he goes back to get it.

  5. I forgot to mention in the body of the critique, but apparently Phillips forgot, too–Murphy is an expert archer! Now, Hawkeye wouldn’t need to move one step onto that cable to retrieve the envelope–he would just take out a special arrow, shoot it, snag the envelope, and pull it back. Easy, peasey.

  6. inquisitiveraven

    In fairness to Murphy, if he cut the cable, he’d then have to get to the other side of the gorge to retrieve the envelope, and while there are bridges (or at least a bridge) across it, there’s not exactly lots of them. Depending on where Meth was watching from, if he decided Murphy was cheating, he might be able to get there ahead of Our Hero, and remove the envelope.

    There’s no excuse for the lack of safety gear though, except maybe a belaying line, because you need a partner you can trust working that.

    • I guess it also depends on how the envelope is attached to the cable. If the attachement is like a ring around the cable, secured from falling but free to move left and right, cutting the cable will mean the envelop falls down into the gorge.

  1. Pingback: Deconstruction Roundup for January 22nd, 2016 | The Slacktiverse

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