Monthly Archives: July 2016

TEC: Chapter 35: Discovering Something New

So, a note before we start: as was pointed out in the comments of the last installment, one of our authors, Tim LaHaye, has died.

Not Raptured, mind you.  Just died.  Like a normal person.

I feel bad for his family and friends, as I always do when someone dies, but part of me is not sure why I should feel bad, since 1) if his family and friends share his beliefs, they are presumably thinking that the best thing that could ever happen to someone has happened, and 2) this is a guy who, if someone dies and didn’t believe exactly what he did, thinks they get to be tortured for all eternity.

When Jesus comes back in Glorious Appearing, Rayford Steele tells his Raptured wife that she gets “one cosmic told I-told-you-so.”  And that’s the annoying thing about being an atheist: we don’t get that.  Because there is no cosmic afterlife for anyone.

Still, though, I’ll take a worldly told-you-so: there’s no Rapture.  Jesus isn’t coming back to get anyone before they die.

Sorry not sorry.

***

Anyway!  Back to our regularly-scheduled heathen critiquing:

Isis and Murphy are on the third floor by the stairs.  The Two Moar Arabs just got to the third floor and headed down an aisle away from them; Talon and the Other Arab are still on the elevator.

So what are Murphy and Isis to do?

Why, they dash up to the FOURTH floor, of course!

And then, a moment later, the Moar Arabs head to the fourth floor, too!

Gee, never saw that one coming.

But Murphy has a plan!

“Come back here where the two directions of bookshelves converge.”

Phillips…doesn’t have much experience writing action scenes, does he?  WHO TALKS LIKE THAT???

The Two Moar Arabs split up when they reach the fourth floor, I guess so they can increase their chances of being overpowered.

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Fadil turned down an aisle and started toward Murphy and Isis.

Murphy whispered, “When he gets near, step into the aisle and say something to him in Arabic.”  Then Murphy disappeared.

Hey, neat trick!

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What a surprise that, once again, Murphy abandons Isis to do all the actual work.  Also, gotta love that our brave and resourceful heroine isn’t even allowed to come up with her own plan.

Fadil was caught completely off guard as he approached the end of the aisle.  All of a sudden a beautiful woman with red hair stepped in front of him, took a sexy pose, and smiled.

“My, but you are handsome,” she murmured.  “I’ll bet all of the women want to go out with you.”

So our heroine, who once saved a little girl by pretending to be an ancient goddess…is reduced to striking sexy poses.

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We are told that Fadil, of course, isn’t actually a trained terrorist.  (Um, so why then did Talon bring him along?)  So the sight of this white woman completely flummoxes him, to the point that Murphy can get the jump on him and “fire a reverse punch.”

REVERSE PUNCH!!!

Having knocked him out, Murphy wastes precious time posing Fadil as though he had fallen asleep at a table.  Inexplicably, all this ruckus has attracted no attention.

So then, instead of making a break for it down the stairs and out the door (it’s insulting!), Murphy leads Isis to a ladder that leads to the roof.  Then, instead of just using the fire escape (“I’ve got a better idea.“), they use the roof to get to the elevator shaft (?????), so they can hop onto the top of the elevator so they can get back into the building and ride the elevator to the first floor.

Hey, idiots, there are STAIRS RIGHT THERE!!!

And the funny part is that Talon doesn’t buy that they definitely went to the roof.  Team Talon once again splits up so they can cover both the roof and the interior.  Jeepers, seems Murphy didn’t think of that!  And I will once again point out that they could have dashed down the stairs and been completely gone by now.

But then we wouldn’t have the HILARIOUS scene where Murphy and Isis hop onto the top of the elevator, then into the elevator, startling a grandmother and her two grandchildren.  Because Phillips could not care less about women over the age of forty who don’t look like supermodels, the grandmother isn’t even given a line.  And Murphy swears the children to secrecy because they’re being chased by “evil men.”

I’m kinda surprised that he didn’t say “evil Arabs.”

Also, no matter how much you swear little kids to secrecy, I’m willing they would have spilled the beans if the Evil Men were suddenly looming over them.  In other words, Murphy just really endangered this little family.  And it was totally unnecessary, because again, THEY COULD HAVE BEEN GONE TEN MINUTES AGO RIGHT OUT THE FRONT DOOR.

And it actually winds up being the SAME THING, because one of the terrorists, Rashad, sees them as they get to the front door.  So the whole go-upstairs-go-to-the-roof-drop-onto-the-elevator plan was completely pointless.

And as they run out of the library, we are told that Murphy grabs Isis’s hand as they run.  Sure, jerk, just drag her everywhere.  Women love that.

This all leads to an alley fight, where Murphy conveniently knocks the gun away from Rashad so they can fight hand-to-hand and Murphy can once again demonstrate that he is an expert in karate-do.

He flashed to the face of Terence Li, a young Cantonese archaeology student who had taught Murphy the secret of drunken-man fighting.

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So Phillips has seen Drunken Master, so I guess that’s cool.  But the fight is over in one-third of a page, so not so cool.

Then Murphy and Isis wander off, but not far, because they idiotically left all their books and papers back in the library, when they could very easily have taken them along.  Nope, they are forced to hang in a coffee shop for THREE HOURS until they can assume the coast is clear, then they head back to the library, where, in a COMPLETELY SHOCKING TWIST, Talon has taken all the papers!

But friendly librarian Alvena Smidt fills our heroes in on Talon: that he is from South Africa and speaks Afrikaans.  Murphy is pleased at this information, because it “may give us a way to track down more information about him.”

Except that Murphy has already interacted with Talon twice, so this should not come as a surprise.  I mean, isn’t Murphy supposed to a cosmopolitan world-traveler, like another, better archaeologist?

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So why wouldn’t he recognize a South African accent when he heard one?  Hell, Ive only been to two countries besides my own, and I know a South African accent when I hear one.

But this is just time that we’re driving home that Phillips decided Talon is South African, when he clearly was no such thing in the first book.

Poor Greg Dinallo.

 

 

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TEC: Chapter 34: Heroic…for a Girl

Well, now that Paul is free of the horrific Shari, we can resume our intriguing espionage action, right?

Back in the library, Isis has emerged from the potty and is now looking for Blavatsky’s book.  Almost against his will, it would seem, Phillips gets inside Isis’s head for a moment, sharing her moment of discovery and excitement upon reading a new book.  For a moment, he seems to forget that she’s just Murphy’s Like a Supermodel arm candy.

Pausing for a moment to savor her surroundings, she spots Talon and the Moar Arab he is with as they get into the elevator.  But they don’t see her.  Isis also sees two random men ascending the stairs (why, if there are four men, doesn’t Talon leave at least one of them to keep an eye on the door?).

They too looked like Arabs.

Based solely on this “fact,” Isis assumes the two men are evil and with Talon, because we all know how those Moar Arabs are.

Please note that Phillips didn’t even have to do this.  Because literally ten seconds after she spots them, she hears them talking, and of course understands them, and confirms they’re with Talon.  But once again, we all know how those Moar Arabs are.  Isis was only being logical racist.

And now she needs to get a message to Murphy before the Moar Arabs see him back at their table…

So remember back in Babylon Rising, how Isis saved the day when that little girl was kidnapped and was going to be sacrificed?  Despite BR being a silly RTC novel, Greg Dinallo managed to do something pretty much perfect with Isis.  It showed her saving the day by using her special skill set that Murphy didn’t share.  In one brief moment, she showed that she wasn’t “just” the intellectual spinster, but was brave and imaginative and resourceful…pretty much everything Murphy (and probably most RTC readers) figured she was not.

If you didn’t realize what a shitty hack job The Europa Conspiracy is, and how it has absolutely no purpose other than being the third book in a series that is meant to have four books, you might think this scene was once again setting up Isis to do hero stuff.  The bad guys are closing in, and Isis and Murphy have been separated (because she had to potty, but whatever), and Isis sees the danger before Murphy.

So, drawing on her incredible knowledge base and her genius IQ, Isis…

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Get ready…

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Makes a paper airplane.

She writes TALON on the blank first page of the book (though it would have been way funnier if she had written MORE ARABS), and makes a paper airplane and tosses it at Murphy.  So he grabs his notes (but none of the other papers and journals they’ve been reading), and comes over to Isis.

Wait, if he could get to her, why couldn’t she get to him?

Probably because she’s A Girl.

And, like the Girl she is, she “fell into his arms, shaking.”

Sure is a far cry from pretending to be an ancient goddess…

Oh, and by the way, I can’t help but feel that Isis might have been better prepared for this crisis had Murphy only told her that it was a possibility.

But no, it was Man Talk and not fit for her delicate, feminine, Supermodel-y ears.

TEC: Chapter 33: I Want Money So I Can Buy Things

Hey, guys, remember Paul and Shari?  With all this conspiracy talk and moar Arabs, I bet you forgot they were part of this story.

And yanno, they aren’t really part of this story.  But they’re very minor characters that are still around, and it’s time for them to break up.

Which leads to my main question on this topic: WHY ARE THEY STILL TOGETHER IN THE FIRST PLACE????

Paul and Shari have been together for about two years.  That’s about one year and ten months longer than they should have been together, considering how little Shari thinks of or cares about Paul, and how much Paul has gone through for this “relationship.”

To review: Shari and Paul had a Meet Cute way back in Babylon Rising.  And even at that first meeting, Shari had a snide comment to make about Paul’s lack of faith.  But being a Good Christian Girl, Shari immediately invited him to church so that she could get Conversion Points.  And there, Paul was seriously injured, through no fault of his own, by two villains: Talon…and Shari’s own brother.

Despite all this, Shari and Paul stayed together, Shari punching him in his injuries that were caused by her brother.  And throughout the next book, Paul continued to stay with Shari, because he apparently has so little self-esteem that he thinks it’s normal to be with someone who doesn’t care about you at all, and is only interested in your conversion.

But Shari always has to have things her way, and now she has decided it’s time for them to break up.  After all, two years is a long enough time to devote to any conversion prospect, and it’s clear that Paul enjoys the writings of Richard Dawkins far too much to ever become a really real RTC.

Now, I’ve talked before about how these books really want us to see Shari as innocent and sweet and kind, but she once again proves herself in this scene to be anything but.  Instead of letting Paul (who, let’s remember, has done exactly nothing wrong) down easy, she basically recites him a Reasons You Suck Speech.  One that goes on, and on, and on.

Poor Paul.

But we’re certainly not supposed to be thinking “Poor Paul.”  In fact, Phillips does a very strange thing here: he starts referring to Paul as “Wallach,” even though he has always been Paul.  And Shari is still “Shari,” not “Nelson.”  Just one more way to distance the reader from Paul as Shari dumps his sorry ass in the most painful way possible.

Shari does a nice little bit of misdirection to begin the breakup–she questions him about religion for one second, then switches gears to the fact that he has a scholarship from Barrington, and wants to work for him after he graduates (which I assume is this year).

Shari brings up her same old concerns about Barrington, principally that “Barrington’s company produces a lot of sleazy programs on television and radio.  They go against the moral fabric of society.  How can you be a part of that?

(Phillips apparently forgot that Shari doesn’t watch TV at all, so Paul isn’t allowed to point out that Shari has no firsthand knowledge of any of this.)

Phillips makes sure that no matter what Shari says, Paul is the one in the wrong.  For example:

“Paul, you know that I’ve always been honest with you and with my feelings.  I think that you’re being used.”

Wallach bristled and began to get defensive.  “No one is using me!” he exclaimed.

Geez, I can’t imagine why Paul is getting defensive…just because Shari invited him to coffee for the sole purpose of attacking and then dumping him.

“You’re just angry because I sometimes challenge your precious Dr. Murphy in class.  Not everyone believes in creation, you know,” Wallach said angrily.

“It’s not that at all, Paul.”

Liar, liar, Shari.  Stop bearing false witness.

Caught in a truth that probably hits just a bit too close to home, Shari shifts into sanctimonious lecture mode:

“I’m concerned with your values in life.  God doesn’t seem to be high on your list.  Money, power, and pride seem to be your focus.  Those things can be very attractive at first, but in the long run they destroy a person.”

Right, Shari.  That’s why God has never once rewarded his favorite followers with worldly possessions.

“I just want to get out of school and start earning some money.”

“Why, Paul?”

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Paul, who has way more patience than I do, actually responds seriously to this asinine question:

“I want money so I can buy things.”

“Things?”

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“Yeah.  Like a car, a house, a boat, or a plasma television…things!”

Yeah, so this is supposed to be the trap so that Shari can catch Paul in his own materialism, yet I find no fault with his goal of home or car ownership.  I mean, can you imagine Shari’s response if Paul had said he had no plans to ever get a job or buy a house?  Basically, there’s just no way Paul can win here.

 

“Well, after you buy all the things…”

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Sorry.  I’m pretty sure this is a mistake, and Shari was meant to say “buy all these things,” but this way is way funnier, so it all worked out.

“…then what are you going to do?”

“Have fun!”

Sounds like a plan.  I’m there, dude.

“Let me see if I understand,” Shari said slowly.

…in order to make him feel as small as possible.

“A job earns you money, so you can buy things, so you can have some fun.  Right?”

“Right.”

It is just so bizarre that Shari is treating Paul’s very normal goal of getting a job and earning some money as though he just told her his life goal was to kick as many puppies as possible.

“Paul, things don’t bring lasting happiness.  A car can wear out.  A house can burn down.  A boat can sink.  And a plasma television can break.  When that happens, where will your fun be?”

I guess it’ll be in the new car you get when you trade in the “worn out” one, and in the new house, boat, or TV you buy after the insurance payout.

“Everyone has to earn money to live!”

Ah, but Paul’s sensible response has no place in Shari’s little world.  (And damn, this is a long, annoying dumping.  And I was once dumped in a heartless way myself, so my bar is set pretty high.)

“I don’t disagree with working to provide for one’s family.”

Really?  Cause…it kinda sounds like you do.  At least when it’s Paul who’s doing the providing.

“But in all of our conversations, you haven’t talked about family, or service to the community, or contributing to the nation, or raising children with values that you can pass on.”

Yeah, he’s just been working his ass off to keep his scholarship and planning to find a job as soon as he graduates.  What a monster.

“Most of your conversations have been self-centered and me-focused.”

Remember, everyone, Shari is supposed to be the nice, sweet, sensitive person here.  As she dumps this poor, hapless guy with the world’s longest Reasons You Suck Speech.

She then quotes the Bible at the atheist, because that always works:

“Do not try to work together as equals with unbelievers, for it cannot be done.  How can right and wrong be partners?  How can light and darkness live together?”

Paul takes understandable offense at being told he is unequal to Shari and living in darkness.  Shari, bless her sensitive little heart, doesn’t deny for a second that she meant what she said, but goes on to “explain” the quote as meaning that they are “walking down separate roads.”  Which is a much nicer way of breaking up with someone and what she should have said in the first place, instead of telling Paul that he is a shallow, materialistic, selfish, evil idiot.

Who wants to get a job and was once knocked into a coma when he went to church at her behest.

Yanno, sometimes the way you are dumped says more about the character of the dumper than months of dating can.  There are nice ways to break things off with another person, and mean ways of doing so.  And even though I’m sure Paul is hurting right now, hopefully he’ll quickly realize that someone who would be so nasty is not someone he needs by his side as he performs the evil deeds of graduating college and beginning a career.

I’m just sorry for him that he wasted two years of his life on this Mean Girl.

But Phillips sure wants us to dislike Paul (oops, I mean “Wallach”) and side with Shari.  Because we are told that Shari starts crying as she finishes stomping on Paul’s heart.  Aww.  Poor widdle Mean Girl.

We aren’t told what Paul’s reaction to all this is.  What a surprise.  He’s just an atheist in darkness, after all.

TEC: Chapter 32: Maybe there were EVEN MOAR Arabs

Well, after that little detour into Crazy Conspiracy County, it’s nice to be back in the world of improbable partnerships between Islamic terrorists and white South African guns-for-hire.

Hey, it could happen!

Oh, and remember when Murphy went to Florida and Talon couldn’t take him out alone, even though he had a CAR and Murphy is kinda a dumbass?  Well, now that Isis is along, Talon has recruited THREE Arab terrorists to search ONE library for the pair.  So, go Isis, I guess.

The Arabs (hey, why bother to learn their names, right?) pretend to be interested in silly things like books, while Talon chats up the librarian.

Oh, and ALSO remember that time Paul Stepola cited Con Air in Soon, even though the movie came out years before he was born and might perhaps not be the kind of film to be considered a must-see classic by subsequent generations?  Well, Tim LaHaye and Bob Phillips share Jenkins’ love for 90s action films, as the interaction between Talon and the librarian mirrors the interaction between the villain and the bank worker in In the Line of Fire.  More on this as the scenes between them progress.

Or…maybe I’ve just seen too many 90s action films.

Anyway, Alvena Smidt is a typical librarian (at least in the minds of LaHaye and Phillips, I guess)–plump, nerdy, bespectacled, with a liking for obscure words, classical music, and polka-dot dresses.  Naturally, she is also a lonely spinster, and is immediately attracted to Talon, especially because she’s South African, and recognizes his accent.  (Which I don’t even think he had in the first book, but I don’t care enough right now to go back and check.)  Talon couldn’t care less about her, since he’s a sociopath she’s a plump librarian, and just asks about Murphy and Isis.

“Oh, yes.  Who could miss that beautiful woman with the red hair.  She looked like a model.”

Isis’s newfound looks-like-a-model status: Confirmed again.

Said looks-like-a-model needs a potty break, so she ambles off, but because she’s a woman, she doesn’t notice Talon or The Arabs.  (The name of my new band!)  As she leaves, Murphy speculates as follows:

Whoever the Friends of the New World Order are, it’s certain that they are powerful and have an evil plan.  They succeeded in killing Dr. Anderson.  Will we be next?

Okay, I have no idea why Murphy thinks that killing Anderson was the work of the Friends of the New World Order.  Talon was behind the wheel of that SUV, and Murphy doesn’t even know that.  For all he knows, in fact, it could just be a random hit-and-run by a crazy driver.  And if the FotNWO wanted Anderson dead…well, Anderson was sitting in that nursing home for years, and they could have killed him in any number of ways, any time they wanted to.

And downstairs in the library, the TENSION MOUNTS, as Talon schools The Arabs on how not to just start shooting at two people in a library, since this will reduce their chances to mount a successful terror operation later.  Is it really so difficult to quietly dispatch two unarmed people in a large and not-very-busy building with tons of places to hide, and why are these guys taking orders from Talon?

Questions for the ages!