Monthly Archives: November 2016
It wouldn’t be the end of a Babylon book without a smug-in with the Seven!
Because they’ll stop at nothing!
They’ve met up this time in Monaco, just in time for the Grand Prix. Phillips’ Wikipedia skills have served him well this time, since this is appropriate, timing-wise: the Grand Prix is held at the end of May.
One odd thing I noticed, and I’ll see if this is a recurring thing when we get to Book 4: the men of the Seven address each other formally (Señor Mendez, General Li) but address the women by their first names (Jakoba and Viorica). Though, of course, Isis tends to be Isis to most people, while Michael is Dr. Murphy. I should start a count so we can have a drinking game.
The Seven are disappointed that the Bridge wasn’t blown up, but pleased enough at the resulting panic and decision to get the U.N. to Babylon.
Then they start doing what they always do, brag about random events happening around the world. Jakoba is proud that “we have even convinced the Arabs to raise oil prices.” That took convincing, did it?
They go on to talk about Swiss bank accounts and making direct threats upon the lives of bankers’ families, which sounds rather more mob-like than like mysterious puppet masters who conduct everything in secret.
But they seemed pleased enough. In fact, Bartholomew claims that “Soon we’ll be in control of everything that is happening in the world,” which seems ambitious even for the Seven.
Talk turns to Murphy, as it always does for everyone that is living in the world, and even Levi is name-checked as a fellow “thorn in our flesh,” which is actually a pretty witty Bible reference.
(Isis, of course, is not a thorn in the flesh, what with being A Girl and all.)
The Seven note that even with Talon “working diligently,” they have not yet been able to achieve their goal of eliminating Murphy, despite their near-completion of controlling everything that is happening in the world. Man, if only it was easier to kill a college professor who lives alone in a normal house with no security, who takes the same routes to work and church every day and every week, and who employs no measures of self-protection whatsoever. It’s a challenge, for sure.
They also mention the need to eliminate Methuselah, and we learn that the Seven killed Meth’s whole family. Now Meth, at least, I could see as a challenge for the Seven, since he is “wealthy and powerful.” Two things that Murphy is not, I hasten to remind everyone. Hell, Meth can presumably afford as entire security force, while Murphy’s big outing each month is the local diner. Just sayin’, it really shouldn’t be so hard to kill this guy.
Then the Seven confirm the worst fever dreams of LaHaye and his ilk: that “the 1960s were successful in convincing everyone that God was dead” and that in the 70s, “the concept of the occult began to grow aided by all the Saturday cartoon shows about demons, witches, ghosts, wizards, and supernatural heroes.”
Um…do they mean Scooby-Doo? Granted, I was a kid in the 80s, not the 70s, but I honestly can’t think of any other occult-related cartoons. (And hell, the villains in Scooby were never really witches or ghosts, but just Old Man Whithers in disguise!)
(Now, granted, the 70s saw a great many occult-related movies for grownups, like The Exorcist and The Witching and Rosemary’s Baby and The Omen and, of course, The Touch of Satan.)
But that’s not what the Seven said—they said cartoons. Any ideas, anyone?
Honestly, I’m surprised the Seven didn’t pull a Jack Chick and bring up
Dark Dungeons Dungeons & Dragons.
As their final piece of evidence that “Europa is rising,” they do another callback to the most evil thing in the whole entire world:
“We need to continue to promote tolerance and more laws about hate speech.”
Yep, because we all know that inclusivity and decency towards others will lead to only one thing: the AntiChrist.
And on that note, on to Wintermas!
Phillips tries to inject some last-minute suspense in these last three chapters. So he takes us through Murphy and Levi’s breakfast convo, then the showdown with Talon—but then cuts off to spend some time with the Seven before cutting back to the showdown.
But I am on to his wily games, and will just deal with the whole showdown right now.
The next day at breakfast, Murphy and Levi get to chatting, having heard nothing about the falcon-related deaths. In fact, the first thing they talk about is Lehman:
“You know, Michael, I had a hard time going to sleep last night. I kept thinking about Dr. Lehman’s discovery. It could easily become the catalyst for sparking war against Israel.”
“Funny you should mention that. I had the same worry.”
“Yeah, funny you should mention THE ONLY THING WE TALKED ABOUT ALL DAY YESTERDAY.”
Murphy sensitively segues the conversation immediately into anti-Semitism. He tells Levi about articles he’s read about anti-Semitism. Not because he cares about Levi’s safety and comfort, mind you, but because a rise in anti-Semitism is yet another sign to Murphy that “we are moving toward God’s final Judgement Day.”
Levi says that he sees lots of anti-Semitism in the U.S., and Murphy is off to the races:
“I think [the anti-Semitism] revolves around four concepts.”
Yeah, Murphy proceeds to Christiansplain anti-Semitism to an Israeli Jewish man.
Murphy brings up the old Jewish-control-of-everything canard, the Israel-Palestine situation, anti-Americanism/anti-globalism (huh?), and simple “dislike for Jews as a race,” which would kinda seem to cover several of the previous concepts, but Levi nonetheless praises Murphy for his deep insights.
Murphy has no answers (big surprise there), but he’s “just glad we’re friends.”
Oddly, Murphy fails to consider that the belief that Jews are hellhound might explain at least a bit of anti-Semitism.
Their conversation is cut short by Levi’s phone ringing. Unlike with Murphy, we learn what Levi’s ringtone is: the theme from Exodus.
Now, this just so happens to be a gorgeous piece of music…and Murphy laughs at it. Whether this is because a majestic classical theme is ill-suited to a tinny ringtone, or because the choice of music is just so on-the-nose for our one Jewish character, I do not know. But the call is to invite Levi and Murphy to “our final showdown with Talon and his crew.” (No, really, that’s how Levi puts it.)
The other Mossad agents have “followed the man with the mustache to an old warehouse section of Et Taiyiba.” Curiously, they don’t mention where they followed Talon from, because nobody yet seems to know about the massacre at the oil field.
So they get there, and Levi has one of the agents hand off an extra gun to the archeologist who has tagged along. Man, remember when this story included the character detail of Murphy being an expert archer who never went anywhere without his bow? Phillips sure forgot about that in a hurry.
Levi picks a lock to the building they think Talon is in, and Murphy reacts like an impressed nine-year-old:
“Pretty cool,” Murphy exclaimed.
Dude, you found Noah’s Ark. How are you impressed by basic lock-picking skills?
Then, as they split up…
…and Murphy is promptly startled by a kitty cat.
Well, that’s one more reason to hate cats. You either love them or hate them…there’s no neutral ground.
Does Phillips try to come up with the most banal statements ever for Murphy, or does it just come naturally?
Alerted to their position by Murphy’s cat problem, a firefight with Talon and his goons ensues. Meanwhile, other goons outside the building fire in a few rocket-propelled grenades, setting the building ablaze.
The three Mossad agents outside hold their positions and don’t rush in to help, because “No one is to escape.”
Yeah, and they promptly fail in that whole prevent-escape thing. Because Talon busts out, driving a Land Rover holding four of his goons. One of the Mossad agents (Isaac, if you care), manages to kill one, and gets a bullet in his own leg for his trouble.
And yes, everyone else escapes. Which is significantly more than “no one.”
And the building is destroyed.
(And Phillips has effectively failed to convey any sense of drama or urgency or suspense with this splitting-the-chapters ploy, because we know Murphy and Levi are in the building, and we know Phillips won’t be killing them. They’re obviously going to make it out, so why not just do the whole scene at once?)
So we cut back to the last chapter of the book, now inside the building. The Mossad agent we only just met has of course been killed, and Levi has been injured and knocked unconscious. So it’s up to Our Hero to get them both out of the burning building!
Murphy also realizes that Talon and his crew have left, and has one last stunning insight for us:
Then he finds a small tunnel that “must have been an emergency exit for the terrorists.” So he drags Levi through it, and gets stuck, and gets sorta unstuck, and then realizes that he doesn’t know if the tunnel actually leads anywhere, or has been caved in by the RPGs/fire, and…
The book ends. Murphy ponders all this, and ponders Isis, and Cliffhanger Ending.
So Murphy and Levi head out to an oil field to meet with Dr. Lehman, who is important because…Talon might have seen him at some point.
Lehman and Murphy blather on about oil for almost three pages, but the upshot is that the earthquake, which was so massive that it disrupted exactly nobody’s travel plans, nonetheless caused oil from Iraq to seep away into Israeli land.
Levi advises Lehman to keep this info to himself for the time being, since it could “lay the groundwork for war.” Lehman assures Levi that the only people he told were the Mossad agent, and that nice South African gentleman who just happened to be passing by.
Levi hangs around and lectures Lehman for awhile about war and other fun things, then he and Murphy both peace out.
They don’t however, think to actually warn Lehman about the dangers of said South African fellow, so that when he shows back up (at the Israeli oil site in the middle of nowhere, remember), Lehman greets Talon like an old friend.
Talon breaks Lehman’s neck. (Gorammit, Talon, what kind of serial killer with a trademark kill are you? No talon finger and no falcons?)
But no, Talon saves the falcon kill for one of the workers. The other worker (and only other person there) actually manages to take down both falcons himself before Talon shoots him.
Damn, son, why isn’t this guy our hero?
His name was Zahid. And he did more than Murphy ever has—brought down Talon’s falcons.
Oh, yeah, wait’ll you see this, guys.
But first, a quick note on Wintermas: due to being so close to the end of The Europa Conspiracy, I’m going to push through the last few chapters, before beginning my usual Wintermas romance, hopefully on December 1st.
Can’t wait. You shall see a common theme emerging.
So, Murphy flies to Israel. Despite the “devastation” of the earthquake (and no, we don’t know yet where the epicenter was), Murphy has no trouble getting his rental car and traveling off on “the coastal highway north out of Tel Aviv.” He touches base with Levi, who suggests they have dinner in Nazareth. Considering what happened the last time Murphy went out to dinner in an unfamiliar city, he is surprisingly unconcerned about this.
Meanwhile, Talon trains some falcons.
Cut to Murphy and Levi at the restaurant:
“It’s been a rough few days,” Murphy said. “I still haven’t gotten over the loss of Bingman—he was a really nice man.”
Did Phillips seriously just forget that he let Bingbert miraculously escape???
“His death brought to mind Laura’s death and the church bombing, and all the people who died while we were looking for the ark. It’s hard to lose friends.”
Yep. Yep, he did.
And by the way, I get that Murphy has that traumatic past and all, but can’t he be upset about Bingman’s not-death just because of that, not because it brings up memories of other peoples’ deaths?
Oh, and it doesn’t stop there:
“It’s also discouraging to have the ark covered with an avalanche and an earthquake buying the Handwriting on the Wall and all of the treasures of Belshazzar’s temple.”
Plus, yanno, a man died, leaving behind a wife and three kids. There’s that.
Also, come to think of it, it’s kinda silly for the story for Bingman to survive, at least with the camera. Sorta takes the zing out of the whole an-earthquake-buried-the-evidence problem. Because Bingman rescued the camera and survived, so now they have some evidence. Not absolute proof, mind you, but more evidence than they have for the ark.
But now Bington mysteriously didn’t make it, so we’re okay again, I guess.
Levi certainly seems to think so:
“But, Michael, you are alive, and Isis is alive,” Abrams said encouragingly. “The living must go on.”
Yeah, it’s been 24 whole hours, man! Suck it up!
(Oh, and Jassim survived too. But who cares about him, right?)
And we need a quick reminder that Levi is still hellhound:
“I wish I could be a man of faith like you. I’m just not there yet.” [said Levi]
“Yeah, I’m no man of faith. Just a dumb ole Jew.”
“Well, keep an open mind, Levi. If you seek to find truth, it will end up finding you. God has a way of pursuing like a hound dog. He’s even been called the Hound of Heaven. I think He may be on your trail.”
“I hope so, Michael. I hope so.”
“Yeah, sure hope I don’t go to hell because of my silly Jewish beliefs. If only Jesus could magic the real religion into my heart.”
“I hope he does, Levi. If you were to die without converting, I would feel really bad for a day or so, imagining your eternal torment. Then again, the living must go on, right?”
Death and religion out of the way, the men move on to discussing Talon. Levi believes he may be in Israel right now, which…why?
Oh well, the plan is to “take them” (Talon’s personal terror cell) “the next time they get together,” which makes it sound like the terrorists meet to go wine tasting or something. Murphy wants to be part of the operation, and Levi is all for that, because then Murphy “can make the ID,” except Levi just said they already have two Mossad agents monitoring the cell anyway, so again the question is…why?
“We have a score to settle. He’s the one who killed Laura and tried to kill Isis and many others.” [said Murphy]
Well, yeah, and he succeeded in killing many others, including Shari’s brother and Shane’s son. So how come Murphy gets first dibs? How about giving Alvena Smidt’s family a shot?
Oh, and one more new character (since Phillips may or may not have killed off Bingby): Dr. Brian Lehman, an earthquake expert, is around, and a Mossad agent saw Talon (but we can’t identify him!) watching the guy. So Murph and Levi are going to meet Earthquake Guy.
Back at the Marine base, Murphy learns that the earthquake was a 9.5 on the Richter scale, with an aftershock of 8.2. Which Murphy immediately declares is “as big as the great quake in Chile,” though this is only maybe true. But hey, Murphy really likes to use the Wikipedia of his mind and, more importantly, rank stuff.
Astonishingly, Murphy volunteers his (and, by implication, Isis’s and Bingby’s) services (Jassim is injured, remember) for earthquake relief. And, after a long day of helping people who were completely devastated by this quake, Isis breaks down and cries in Murphy’s arms. Being a frail female, this is only natural. Murphy and Bingbing have no such reaction.
In fact, Murphy tells her to suck it up. Biblically, speaking, of course:
“In times like these there are no easy answers. A passage in Romans, Chapter Eight, talks a little a out this.” He reached for the pocket-size New Testament he carried. “Let me read you what it says.”
He recites this to her. Because there’s nothing that cures the tears of a distraught lady-person like telling her that “what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory He will give us later.” Especially when the lady-person is not someone who will experience that glory, nor are the people she spent all day helping.
Hilariously, we don’t even get to see Isis’s reaction to this incredibly condescending and insensitive display, because Murphy gets a call from Levi (speaking of people who won’t see Murphy’s glory). Levi reveals that the GW Bridge terror team had been recruited from Hamas. Meaning Talon recruited form Hamas, which is just making this all even more implausible. Levi invites Murphy to Et Taiyiba, where some of the terrorists were traced to, since Murph has “quite a bit of information on this Talon fellow.” More than the Mossad and the FBI put together? That’s just sad. Especially since this information can be summed up in one sentence: Talon is a male from South Africa with a razor finger and an interest in falconry. There, done.
Murphy, of course, immediately says yes, because Bingbert needs to get back to his family (he has, after all, been gone for two whole days), Jassim needs to go home to Egypt to heal his broken leg, and Isis…”well, Isis is worn down.” Being a lady-person and all. No stamina, those wimmins.
At the airport (which, since everyone can immediately leave on three different flights, seems surprisingly unaffected by the 9.5 earthquake), Isis expresses concern for Murphy going to Israel. Frankly, I’m surprised he even told her that much.
So he kisses her.
EWWWW NO STOP POOR ISIS
Meanwhile, back in the C Plot, Shane Barrington is officially in No Fucks Left To Give mode, now that Stephanie is dead.
He fired two top-level managers who questioned one of his decisions. Even though they were right, he didn’t like to be challenged in any way. He was a walking time bomb.
Though actually, this isn’t exactly a big change for Shane. Twice in these last two books, Phillips went out of his way to create near-identical scenes in which Shane fires an innocent employee.
Stephanie’s death had hurt him more than he realized. His hurt had turned to anger, and his anger had turned to hatred.
The Phantom Menace released: 1999
The Europa Conspiracy published: 2005
Anyway, right now might not be the best time ever for it, but Paul Wallach has called Shane’s office five times to request a meeting. Paul, seriously, chill.
Shane agrees and Paul comes in (to the office in New York? from North Carolina? okay). But little does he know that he’s entered the Truth Zone.
“Number one: There’ll be no starting date. Number two: You won’t get a salary. Number three: You won’t have any responsibilities. Number four: Your writing stinks. Number five: I only used you to get information on Murphy. I didn’t care about your writing style. Number six: Your scholarship is discontinued. And number seven: You’re a fool.”
Okay, let’s break this down. Obviously, this sucks for Paul, who “had thought of Barrington as a father figure.” Though Paul’s experience with father figures has not been uniformly positive, given his actual father.
As far as the job goes, that sucks for Paul, too. But in all fairness to Shane, he never promised Paul anything. Yes, he certainly implied that a job was waiting for him when he graduated, but Shane certainly had no obligation to provide one. Paul’s going to graduate in a matter of weeks, so he’s really not in a worse position than he was before.
Which brings us to the very odd assertion by Shane that the scholarship is discontinued. You mean the scholarship that has presumably already been paid to Preston University to cover Paul’s last semester? The scholarship that won’t matter in a few weeks? That scholarship?
Really, Paul is still coming out of this a winner, financially, at least. He’s had at least a year, I’m thinking more like three semesters, paid for by Shane Barrington. He’ll be graduating with no debt, albeit without an immediate job offer. And honestly, if the scholarship money even becomes an issue (and I can’t see how it really would be), I can only imagine the response if Paul were to take his problem to the dean of students.
Paul: So then he said my scholarship was revoked.
Dean: What?? Why would he do that?
Paul: Well, he said the whole scholarships thing was just so I could unwittingly provide inside information about the school’s most famous and headline-making professor.
Dean: Oh, really???
But, of course, the most important thing about this whole exchange is that it makes Paul realize that Shari was Right All Along.
He remembered Shari’s reaction to Barrington: Shari hadn’t trusted him from the very start.
Well, yeah. Because he wasn’t a RTC (like Paul), and Shari has a big problem trusting anyone who doesn’t attend her particular church.
Now he realized that his life was hollow and empty, and he was alone.
Yeah, because his mean “girlfriend” dumped him, and his corrupt “mentor” also dumped him. I just think that says more about them than about Paul. You’ll be okay, buddy! Just enjoy your graduation!
Disappointing Bingston, who feels “like a kid in a candy shop,” Murphy moves the team on from the Chamber of Wonders…
…back to the hallway of secret heavy doors. In fact, after a few minutes, they do find yet another secret door. In a bizarre scene, it takes the three men FORTY MINUTES to shove it open.
(By the way, I know Isis is A Girl and all, but didn’t Phillips spend a lot of time in Ararat telling us how fit and athletic Isis is? But no, A Girl can’t help. I picture her sitting back and filing her nails as the wussy men heave and sweat.)
(Also also, you guys had some cool ideas about Meth and how he found everything the team is now re-re-discovering. And no, Meth is not a secret angel. Which makes it all the more bizarre that he has apparently been here before, ALONE, getting through doors that it now takes three young men forty minutes to open…then closing them again as he leaves.)
The doors opens into a dining room with long tables, which Murphy immediately intuits was Belshazzar’s banquet hall.
“I have a feeling that we’re going to discover the Handwriting on the Wall very soon.”
Well, you’re not technically discovering shit, Murph, since Meth was here doing the discovering not too long ago.
Bingster finds the throne, and Murphy snidely corrects Isis on a very minor point about who say in which chairs. Then he Scooby-Doos that the writing must be on the opposite wall from the throne, where Bel could see it. So they all walk over to the wall, and Murphy goes for the drama:
“Let’s do this together,” Murphy advised. “Let’s all raise our lights at the same time and see what we might discover.”
Or, yanno, you could all just look however you like. But Murphy has apparently decided they’re in a movie. Either that, or if they all shine the lights at the same time, nobody will ever be able to claim they found the Handwriting before Murphy.
Yeah, I’m going with the latter option here.
And, of course, they immediately see the writing. Though Jassim sees it first.
Isis, expert that she is, explains it all:
“It says ‘ene, Tekel, Uphars–‘ This is it! The first Mene is missing along with the first letter of the second Mene. The Tekel is quite clear, and two letters are missing off the back end of Upharsin.”
Wow, thanks, Isis. It’s a damn good thing you’re here, as we could not have figured that out without you.
Jassim takes a zillion pictures while Murphy mopes.
“What’s wrong, Michael? Aren’t you happy?” Isis asked. “You’ve found the Handwriting on the Wall!”
“Well, Methuselah found it and dragged you to it by your nose, and the Marines did all the work, but still…you shined a flashlight! That’s something!”
“But I’m wondering what will happen when we share this news with the world. Will people believe it? Will this discovery really change anyone’s behavior? Will people understand the importance and significance of God’s coming judgment? I feel like I’ve been standing outside a building thats on fire. I yell for the people to come out and be saved from the flames, yet they ignore the warnings of smoke, heat, and my pleas.”
Well, I never thought I’d say this, but I get what Murphy means. I now know exactly what it feels like to see horror coming, yell warnings, yet know that many people will dance happily to our collective doom.
The difference being, of course, that Donald is a real person in the real world, soon to be exercising real power. As opposed to Murphy’s God.
And, of course, Murphy’s God certainly has no interest in preserving this thing after Murphy’s seen it, much like he had no interest in keeping the Ark out in the open after Murphy had found it.
Because JUST AT THAT MOMENT, an earthquake hits.
Everyone hits the deck (Murphy, because he’s the designated hero, gets to shove Girl Isis out of the way of falling debris). Jassim gets his leg broken and Bingber helps him out of the tunnel, but silly Muslim Jassim is so pained by his little ole broken leg that he drops the camera, so heroic Christian Bingwold runs back to get it.
And just as he gets so far in that they can’t go in after him..an aftershock!
There was absolutely no hope that Will could have survived.
If you say so, man.
Murphy and the reader can mourn poor Bingbell’s death for half a sentence before…
[Murphy] felt a tap on his shoulder. He spun round and there was Bangham—his clothes torn and dusty—with a huge grin on his face. In his hand he held the camera, battered but intact.
“Looking for this, Murphy?” he asked.
HE’S A DEMON!!! OR POSSIBLY A ZOMBIE!!! RUUUUNNNNNNNN
Bob Phillips: not exactly the master of suspense.