Monthly Archives: March 2016

TEC: Chapter 18: Shane and the Same

Happy post-Easter, everyone!  And you all know what that means: the chocolate crosses go on clearance!

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It strikes me as odd (though hilarious) for an atheist to eat a chocolate cross, but when you think about it, isn’t it odder (and more hilarious) for a Christian to eat a chocolate cross?

 

Anyway, Zombie Jesus Day yummies aside, Shane is heading back to the Seven yet again.  Shane’s driver, Eugene, makes it to Shane’s private jet just in time, reflecting that Shane only allows an employee one small mistake before firing him.  Which seems a rather impulsively stupid way to run a business, but…

Whoa.  Deja vu.

Oh well.  At least this time, the employee doesn’t plug the Left Behind series.

This chapter tells us exactly nothing we don’t already know: the Seven are spooky and have a spooky, tongue-free driver.  And they give essentially the same scolding to Shane that they just gave to Talon in Chapter 10.  (The writing here is so lazy: Shane thinks of himself being “in the hot seat” twice in one page.)  The Seven whine to Shane about Talon not being able to kill both Murphy and Anderson, which seems an odd thing to complain to Shane about, since killing Murphy is certainly not his responsibility.  And Shane tells them what they already know, which is that he has both Stephanie and Paul keeping tabs on Murphy’s classes.  (“Yeah, he made some PowerPoint slides about the Bible and tried to convert the whole class.  Riveting.”)

In a goofy twist (though I doubt it was meant that way), Shane whines internally about flying all the way to Switzerland for a ten-minute conversation that could be had on the phone.  So, in a way, Phillips finds this chapter just as pointless as I do.

Oh, and speaking of riveting PowerPoints, next up: another class of Murphy’s!  Yep, he does still occasionally teach!

TEC: Chapter 17: Levi Grins

Instead of going to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter like I told him to, Murphy gives Levi Abrams a call following the 50%-successful hit-and-run.

Phillips insists that Levi is “a complicated man,” but I’ve never found him to be so.  Sure, he’s either an ex- or current Mossad agent, but that doesn’t automatically make him interesting.  Mostly, Levi has just always struck me as an asshole.

“How are you, Michael?  I heard about your wrestling match with an SUV,” Abrams said as soon as he got on the line.

Well, that’s sensitive, Levi.  A man died, you know.

“How did you know about that?”

“You’d be surprised what I know, Michael…”

Yeah, I guess so.  I mean, there was absolutely no reason whatsoever for the Mossad in general or Levi in particular to keep tabs on Murphy’s visits to his pseudo-girlfriend or ranting retirees.  This just makes Levi seem like he’s weirdly stalking Murphy.

“…But if I told you, you know I’d have to kill you.”  Abrams’s grin could be heard in his voice.

Hahahahaha—A MAN DIED, LEVI!!!  GEEZ!

Murphy laughed.

Oh.  Then haha, after all.  It’s good that we can joke about a man dying in my arms from his massive internal injuries at the hands (and wheel) of a contract killer.

They keep disgustingly bantering and chuckling back and forth and Murphy doesn’t even mention Dr. Anderson’s death that happened that morning, and I don’t think it’s because he’s so stricken with grief and shock that he can’t talk about it.

Nope.  His goldfish brain has gone to the next shiny object.  Or, rather, the last one—he tells Levi about Meth’s latest clue (what, the Mossad wasn’t keeping tabs on Murphy when he went to Colorado?) and begs a favor:

“I need you to pull some strings and help me get back into Iraq.  I have to go to Babylon, and you have all the connections.”

Again, Murphy doesn’t so much have friends as he does a list of people from whom he calls in favors.  First Isis, now Levi.  I’m sure he’d call in Vern, too, were it not for the fact that Vern has only just been shipped home from Turkey, where he was grievously injured the last time he volunteered his skills.

Also, isn’t Murphy a world-famous archeologist?  That’s what we keep being told.  And he doesn’t have enough connections on his own to go dig where he wants without calling in favors from the Mossad?  (What authority would the Mossad have to get him into Iraq, anyway?)

Abrams is not 100% okay with the idea, mostly because Iraq is dangerous.  Bizarrely, Murphy mentions that the Parchments of Freedom Foundation will probably finance the trip, just like they financed the Ararat expedition.  So I guess the Foundation had no problem with more than half the expedition being murdered, with no evidence of the ark whatsoever to show for the time and trouble and money and heartache.  Sure, finance Murphy’s next scheme!  What could possibly go wrong with a guy with his track record?

But even the promise of financing doesn’t convince Levi, who insists they talk about it face to face.  And despite the fact that they live in the same town, they decide instead to meet and talk in New York City.  Murphy’s planning to meet Isis there, and it’s certainly not for any fun sexy times.  It’s so they can open Anderson’s safe deposit box together.  And Levi is going to New York because…

“Some friends have asked me to attend to certain matters there. … let’s just say they need some information to make effective business decisions.”

Okay, I know we’re supposed to “get” that Levi is talking about Mossad stuff…but he makes his “friends” sound like the Mafia.

TEC: Chapter 16: Death Not by Falcon

So even though he knows that Talon is in Orlando and killing people, Murphy heads right back to the nursing home the next day, and takes Dr. Anderson out into the open for coffee and chatting.

But that’s okay.  Talon has no intention of using a falcon to kill Dr. Anderson.  For reasons best known to himself, Talon has chosen a far less awesome method of murder.

A hint: he’s sitting in a black SUV, reading Edgar Allen Poe.

And no, sadly the hint is not that Talon has some elaborate and literary method of murder in mind.  He’s just reading Poe because I guess that is what evil people read.

So they go to a nearby park and Anderson reveals that that very morning, he had gone down to “the office” of the nursing home, where he signed over power of attorney to Murphy so he (Murphy) could access his (Anderson’s) safe deposit box with his super-secret papers.

Hot damn.

I wonder how that went down.  I mean, is this just the most incompetent nursing home in the history of the world, to let a patient with Alzheimer’s give power of attorney to a complete stranger he met yesterday?  And this is a guy Murphy is sure is “as rational as Murphy himself.”  A guy who gives his life’s work, that he has been threatened over, to a complete stranger who says he is on the side of the good and the holy.

I just…

I take it the nursing home has never heard of financial elder abuse.  I had a grandparent in hospice, and I know how incredibly careful and strict such places are (or, in this case, should be) about people just showing up and ingratiating themselves to the residents.

And no, Murphy doesn’t even say thank you.

But he does head into the coffee shop by himself to treat Anderson to coffee and cinnamon rolls.  As he’s coming out, Talon tries to run him down with the SUV.  Despite “Murphy’s martial arts training instantly kick[ing] into gear,” he doesn’t even notice the car until he sees the look of fright on Anderson’s face.  Yeah, Murph, you’re aware of your surroundings like a frickin’ ninja, you are.

Murphy tries to leap forward and grab Anderson, then “jump to the side and pull Dr. Anderson with him” (yeah, it’s not the world’s best-written action sequence), but although Talon was originally aiming for Murphy, he hits Anderson instead.  And Talon sucks so bad at hit and runs that he thinks he’s hit and killed both of them, so he just speeds away.

Isn’t this guy supposed to be the greatest contract killer in the world?  Why does he suck so bad at this?  I mean, at the very least, why didn’t he reverse the murder methods?  That is, hit-and-run the cop and then sic his falcons on Murphy and Anderson.  I mean, I suppose it doesn’t matter since Talon’s previous murder barely registered with Murphy and didn’t change his behavior a bit, but still.

So Anderson dies in Murphy’s arms, but not before presenting him with the key to the safe deposit box containing the Antichrist-IVF papers, and saying that he wants to “be like the thief…on the cross,” a story Murphy told him yesterday.  Which I suppose means Anderson went to heaven, though this seems a very loose version of saying the magic words.

So now that he has the key and Anderson is dead, Murphy probably has just enough time to hit up The Wizarding World of Harry Potter before catching his plane back to North Carolina.  Sure, it’s evil, but it’s also SO GORRAM AMAZING!!!1!11!!

I wish I got paid for plugs like that.  😀

TEC: Chapter 15: On to Florida!

Now that Murphy has flown from North Carolina to Washngton, D.C. to have one meal with Isis, he immediately hops back on a plane and flies to Orlando.

I mean, I assume that’s what he does.  In the last chapter, he was rolling his eyes at security, because Murphy is SO ACTIVE and HATES TO WAIT IN LINE (he’s special like that) and then having dinner with Isis, who lives in Washington, and now he’s in Orlando, where the old man raving about the End Times lives.

Yanno, much has been made of LaHaye and Jenkins’ love of travel minutiae, but this is the one time I wish they included just a sentence to let us know what Murphy’s doing.  ‘Cause that’s an awful lot of plane trips for a guy on a professor’s salary on a weekend jaunt.  He’s not Tony Stark, after all–hopping a plane for one date like a boss.

Anyway, Orlando only makes me think of one thing, Disney World, so I amused myself for a few minutes by reading about how Frozen is for teh gayness and bestiality, and the Disney movies and parks promote EVIL MAGIC!!1!!11!!

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Anyway, Murphy visits the guy at his nursing home, and he “didn’t look like someone who was out of his mind and not in touch with reality.”

Murphy thinks this because he sees the guy (one Dr. Harley Anderson) sitting and reading.  Which is enough to make an accurate diagnosis, I suppose.

Oh, and the very first thing Anderson says to Murphy is that he doesn’t have the best memory.

Going on nothing more than Murphy’s declaration that he is a professor of biblical archeology, Anderson unburdens himself on our Murph.  He reveals that he was an embryologist and in vitro fertilizer in Transylvania.

FROM THIS, Murphy immediately concludes that “Anderson was not suffering from Alzheimer’s or another brain disorder.”

This despite the fact that Anderson brags that he and his colleague beat the first real in vitro baby by 12 years.  (Hilariously, Wiki-Murphy pulls the names of the two doctors right out of the air.)

Anderson goes on, and I swear I am just reporting here what is written in the book: this American doctor working in Transylvania artificially inseminated a young Gypsy girl at the behest of the Friends of the New World Order.  Despite being hired by  group called the FRIENDS OF THE NEW WORLD ORDER and being provided with the sperm and egg from them, the two doctors proceeded as normal, and a baby boy was born.  Then, the other doctor was killed “in a mysterious automobile accident,” and Anderson threatened to tell what he knew unless the Friends of the New World Order spared him and his family.  So they did, because they’re nice like that.  And now that his family is all dead, Anderson is walking the streets, raving about the end of the world, because he has become convinced that the baby boy (now in his thirties, of course) will become the AntiChrist.

Murphy was riveted.

I bet he was.  By the way, obviously Murphy has hit the jackpot with this crazy old man who was raving about the End Times, but how many wild goose chases has he gone on before now?  I mean, he flew all the way down here solely based on a time news clipping that mentioned nothing about evil babies and new world orders.  And he has a “collection” of such clippings.  I guess it’s just more evidence that despite being a terribly busy and important professor and having classes and stuff, Murphy also has unlimited free time and money.

Anyway, just as Murphy is getting around to telling Anderson about Jesus, and how he forgives anyone, “no matter how wicked or selfish they have been” (which seems an odd thing to say, as Anderson’s story makes him out to be more stupid and clueless than wicked and selfish), visiting hours end.

That night in his hotel room, Murphy sees a news report that the police officer who took care of Anderson when he was raving in the streets was killed by a falcon.

That has to be Talon’s work!

Yes, thank you for that, Murphy, because the readers would never be able to figure that out on their own.  By the way, of all the people to kill, why the poor cop who booked the raving old guy?  He didn’t know anything, and even if he did hear Anderson say anything remotely significant, he would write it off as…well, the ravings of a delusional old man.

But hey, it sure warns Murphy to Talon’s presence!  What a great stealth killer Talon is.

 

TEC: Chapter 14: Our Humble Hero

So we just saw a bunch of teenagers, recently orphaned, force-marched across the land to become eunuchs.

And now we catch up with Michael Murphy…waiting in a security line at the airport.

It had taken him almost an hour to get through the security check.

Oh boy.  Now I get to wait for another hour and forty-five minutes before the flight.

That’s “Oh great,” Murphy.  Pay attention.

Also, I get that it sucks to be in a security theatre line, but seriously, Phillips, you just finished with a chapter about force-marched eunuchized orphans.  Ever hear of first world problems?

Also, now that he’s through the line, he can just hang out until the flight.  So what’s to whine about? Get a coffee and read a damn book or play a game on your iPad or something, Murphy.

Okay, okay, I admit that one of my pet peeves is people whining about being “bored.”  Feeling bored just indicates a lack of imagination.  There is always something to do.

But I guess Murphy is just too special to wait in lines with the commoners:

Patience was not one of his virtues.  He didn’t like to wait in lines or sit around the airport.

Gorram, Murphy, you have a Ph.D.!!!  How are you unfamiliar with the concept of sitting and reading?

And oh yeah, he hates to wait in lines.  Because everyone else in the world loves that.

Not to mention, but that first bit about patience not being one of his virtues, reminds me of the Slacktivist’s observation about heroic “flaws” and how they parallel certain preachers he’s heard:

“I lose my patience in traffic,” the preacher says, as though confessing his worst sin. The unwillingness to admit to anything more meaningful — or the inability to recognize anything more meaningful — undermines the whole attempt to display humility. “Sometimes I’m ill-tempered,” he says,  as though this sets him apart. And then, you realize that what he’s really suggesting is that he’s more extravagantly remorseful that everyone else — that his guilt over such minor failings sets him apart from, and above, others.

NRA: Pulpit “humility”

And Phillips even goes out of his way to explain that Murphy isn’t like a normal, sinful impatient person—he has reasons to dislike lines and waiting:

It bothered him not to be active, doing something productive.

Again, this is an academic.  How is sitting and reading or writing not productive?  Hey, Professor, how about grading a few papers from that class you’re supposed to teaching while you’re traveling around the country in the middle of the semester again?

Now, you might think some kind of world-shattering event is going on to warrant Murphy’s very Christian impatience, but no, this less than three-page chapter (yep, it’s less than three pages, despite my bitching) is just about Murphy standing in line at the airport and then having dinner with Isis.

She looked like a supermodel who had just stepped off a fashion runway.

Sure, nothing less than a supermodel for Our Hero.

Who would have thought she was an academic?

Um, everybody, according to the first book.  But Phillips isn’t into things with even a hint of subtlety, like an academic who dresses frumpily in oversized sweaters but is super-pretty.  Nope, she has to look just like a model.

And he’s not there to date the supermodel or anything.  Perish the thought.  Just like in the last book, Murphy only contacts Isis when he wants something from her.  This time, he wants her to come along so she can verify the writing on the wall.

Isis doesn’t call him on this fact quite as well as she did last time.  In fact, she barely does at all, only sounding “a little irritated.”

But never fear, Murphy knows how to manipulate Isis.  Er, make it right with her, I mean.  Make it right:

He leaned forward, stretched out a hand toward her, and said soberly, “Isis, I want you to go with me.  Even if we don’t find anything, I want you by my side.”

“Right up until the moment we get back, at which point we’ll each go back to our lives as though nothing happened…at least until the next time I need something from you.”

Ugh, this is giving me flashbacks to my last relationship.  Dammit, I knew there was a reason I disliked Murphy!  😀

 

TEC: Chapter 13: Vacation to Babylon

Back to another Daniel chapter.  And I know I’ve complained about them in the past, but this one is by far the most entertaining of them all (though certainly not in the way Phillips intended!) and even contains one of the greatest lines in all of the LaJenkinsian oeuvre, if I may be so bold.

But I’m getting ahead of things.  We’ve seen Daniel in the lions’ den, and now, still there, he flashes back to when he was a young man.  His town has been ransacked by Nebuchadnezzar’s army, and the teenage boys have been enslaved and are being marched back to Babylon to be slaves.

On the trip, Daniel meets three other teenage prisoners, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.  Less than one day ago, their families were brutally slain right in front of them.  But their first topic of conversation is the fact that they’re almost certainly going to become eunuchs.

I suppose you can’t blame the boys for thinking about this immediately, though something else overtakes their thoughts before too long…

BABYLON

Now that Michael Murphy has rattled off some ideas about Babylon, it’s time we find out that he is, of course, 100% correct, as the boys exclaim in awe and wonderment at all they see.

YOUR PARENTS WERE JUST MURDERED

“Can you believe these streets?” Daniel asked.  “They’re paved with three-foot-square stone slabs.  It must have taken many slaves to lift them into place.”

Azariah pointed.  “Look at the beautiful houses and walls made of sun-dried bricks.  Th mortar looks like black bitumen.  And look!  All of the bricks have the names and titles of Nebuchadnezzar imprinted on them.”

Oh hey.  Yeah.  Bricks.  And pavers.  And walls.  And more bricks.  Wow.

YOUR ENTIRE FAMILY HAS BEEN SLAUGHTERED

“How did they ever figure out the irrigation system?” Mishael asked in wonder.

Yeah, how about that.  Really makes you think, eh?

YOUR CITY WAS DESTROYED AND YOU WILL NEVER GO HOME AGAIN

I mean, just.  Holy crap.

Yanno, there’s being in shock and grief…and then there’s moving right past all the stages of grief, right into Acceptance.  Sheesh.

But the boys can’t be distracted by bricks forever…

As the days passed, the changes in the boys’ lives seemed incredible.  Now they were eunuchs.

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They had their balls removed.  That is sorta incredible, when you think about it.

Also, there’s just something about the line:

Now they were eunuchs.

…that just makes me snicker every time.  Im not sure if I just have the mind of an adolescent or what, but it’s just one of those crazy lines that reminds me of one of the best lines in modern film:

 

There are certain lines in books and movies that are just too good to be true.

And the hits just keep on coming, as the eunuch drill sergeant announces he wants to change the boys’ names.

Oh great, thought Daniel.

You can really tell that Bob Phillips immersed himself in researching the language and speech patterns of peoples of the ancient world.

The head (sorry) guy renames newly-eunuchnized Daniel as Belteshazzar, and renames the other kids as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, someday to become famous for having their balls roasted off—

Okay, sorry.  It’s late and apparently I am immature.

—having everything but their balls almost roasted off in a giant furnace.

But first, all four boys refuse to eat rich food and drink wine, because I guess they don’t like awesome things.

And…fast-forward three years, and the boys are healthy and also smart ‘n stuff, so they’re put on the king’s official shortlist for magicians and astrologers.

Oh great.