Monthly Archives: April 2017
Looks like the flashback to Bible times this book will be a look back at Caiaphas, and the trial of Jesus.
I’ll admit, I’m not as up on Caiaphas as I am on some other Bible characters and stories. Still, I look forward to learning more. Especially as the whole thing seems like a delightful entry into the old the-Jews-killed-Jesus trope, and given the fact that Murphy’s best buddy is Jewish, this might be amusing.
So Caiaphas hires “two swarthy men.” (Of course they’re swarthy. Apparently they also stink and have bad breath. Because all bad guys do.) The swarthy guys are to spy on Jesus and report back to Caiaphas.
Bizarrely, the two stinky guys manage to follow Jesus and the disciples out of Jerusalem and all the way up the Mount of Olives (a 30-minute climb, we are helpfully informed) without being detected. It’s important that Jesus took the guys all the way up there…because he needs to tell them about things they will never see or experience!
“Can we tell when the end of the world will come?” asked Peter.
“Others will come in my name, claiming to be the Messiah. They will lead many astray. Wars will break out near and far, but don’t panic.”
Yeah, don’t panic, Peter—BECAUSE YOU WON’T BE ALIVE TO SEE IT.
Seriously, Jesus goes on and on and ON about all this (“It sounds as if it will be a terrible time of tribulation,” Peter helpfully exposits) but never once points out to the apostles that all this will happen in a series of books published in the 1990s and 2000s.
Seriously, none of the apostles will see this, according to LaHaye. And Jesus knows that they won’t see it. So why waste their precious time together (and Jesus knows just how precious and short this time is) by informing them of this but not that it will happen far, far in the future?
Just seems cruel, is all I’m saying.
Murphy’s next adorable trial in this never-ending “fun” house is the maze of mirrors. Murphy, a grown man, takes time out of his busy schedule of staying alive in the face of ninjas and…well, big guys, I guess…to admire the differences in all the mirrors.
Dozens of Murphys were reflected back at him
What a nightmare.
One of them was curved and made him look fat. Another made him look skinny—he really liked that one.
He did? Okay, I’m sorry, but that sentence just stopped me dead in my tracks. Murphy is a straight, mid-forties (probably), athletic guy, and he wants to look skinny? I have never in my life heard a man say he wants to look skinny. Women, sure, but “skinny” is generally not considered to be a positive term when it comes to men. And it’s not like Murphy has struggled with his weight all his life and thus might like the idea of being skinny. Because we are constantly told that he is (and always has been) super-athletic.
It’s just very weird that a man wrote that sentence.
Anywho, Murphy starts to mark his trail with a granola bar. Oh so very proud of himself, he thinks,
Hansel and Gretel have got nothing on me.
Or, yanno, you could put one hand out, touch the wall, and just follow it to the end. That always works. Might take awhile, but you would be assured of victory.
Murphy sees a video camera monitoring him (so Meth had the time to completely wire this place for surveillance), and just as he gets close to it, he falls through “a hole in the floor.” Huh. Too bad Indiana Murphy wasn’t watching where he was going.
The precious granola bar is lost forever, and Murphy manages, action hero that he is, to grab the edge of the “hole” and then pull himself back up again (we are told this is all over an “abyss” with a giant pool of water below. Nothing but the highest safety standards for the underground fun house!
Finally, Murphy makes it out of the stupid maze.
He was growing weary of this game…
And he isn’t the only one…
And he finds the beginning of the book—the roller coaster car he’s supposed to ride. And Phillips played a bit of a trick on us here. Because this is actually a tunnel of love ride, not a roller coaster. It’s just that roller coaster-type cars are used in the ride, instead of the more usual boats.
So it’s not nearly so dramatic when Murphy has to jump out of the ride. Because he’s going, like, two miles per hour.
He does the ride, and there are spooky things, and Murphy is feeling all superior, because silly spooky rides don’t scare him, no, sirree.
Yet something made him apprehensive. Call it instinct, intuition, or just plain street smarts…
Or the fact that he’s on an old, decrepit ride that would be a death trap even if it wasn’t being operated by a mysterious billionaire who likes to torment him?
So Murphy makes the smart decision and hops off the car, riding the bumper. And it’s a good thing he does, since “two eighty-pound blocks of cement smashed into the seat where he had just been sitting.”
Okay, that just seems plain unsporting of Meth. How was anyone supposed to see that coming? Oh yeah, Murphy’s “street smarts.” What mean streets would those be, Phillips? College Lane at his private college?
So the ride ends and Murphy hops off and the car crashes (slowly, I assume, though Phillips tries to make it seem tense). Anyway, Murphy’s bag is still aboard the car, and everything is destroyed, included Muphy’s bow, which he was skilled with when Greg Dinallo was writing him, but Phillips forgot about for the past two books, only to bring it back up right now so that the bow can be destroyed. But it’s okay…
Knew I should’ve insured the darn thing.
…because Murphy isn’t exactly broken up about this.
And, FINALLY FINALLY, the frakking clue:
Thirty degrees northeast of the altar…press the king’s head.
Well. That was certainly worth four full chapters.
I really can’t believe it’s Chapter Four and we’re still on Murphy’s initial In Media Res.
The Asians defeated, Murphy spots a sign:
Having fun yet?
How about a game of roulette?
Heh, I doubt it. Murphy is probably of the RTC strain that thinks playing penny poker is a sin.
So this room contains one of those dangerous, old-school spinning wheels that threw people off it (basically, I think it’s a bigger, more deadly version of a roundabout). At the center of the wheel is the next clue on an index card.
But he doesn’t just have to deal with a dangerous ride of yore. Nope, Meth has invested in yet another on-call thug: this time, a six-foot-six, three hundred pound bodybuilder.
Murphy tries his new, patented trick of throwing his bag at the guy, but no go. The guy knocks Murphy down, Murphy sweeps the leg…
…but the wrestler quickly gets the best of him. Murphy tries to get to his precious bag, but the bag beats him to it, unleashing its contents one by one as the bag is whipped around by the roundabout (no, I don’t get the physics of that, either). In fact, entirely by accident, Murphy’s hatchet flies from his bag and hits the wrestler in the leg. Murph uses this to his advantage and gets the guy in a chokehold and, for good measure “put his foot on the hatchet and pushed it in deeper, as blood splattered everywhere.”
OUCH! How Christian and loving of you, Mikey boy.
Finally, he gets his hand on the clue. Here it is, in all its glory:
In the town
Of King Yamani
A Great Mystery
Has Been Solved
I Kings 8:9
Murphy frowned. Who in the world is King Yamani?
Why are you asking me, Murphy? You’re the archeologist and globe-trotter, remember?
(I don’t remember this plot point from the first time I read this book a few years ago. So, from a quick Googling, I’m guessing Meth is referring to this guy, who is from Mecca and who played a big role in the 1973 oil embargo, which might make him of interest to Murphy. Maybe?
The other side of the card continues the “clue”:
Ride Your Fears to the End
Man, hopefully this will bring us back to the first chapter, where Murphy flung himself off a roller coaster. Because I am sick of this stupid, boring “fun house.”
Phillips decides Murphy hasn’t been gross enough yet, so he yanks the hatchet from the unconscious man’s leg.
The blood ran freely from the gaping wound and Murphy’s stomach turned.
And they say professional wrestling is fake.
That sensitive internal quip done, Murphy lovingly leads the man to bleed, and wanders off.
By the way, I’ll just point out that having part of your story take play at a creepy, abandoned amusement park is a cool idea. Too bad it doesn’t work here.
But check out this or this:
We cut away from the MORE THAN TWO CHAPTERS LONG MICHAEL MURPHY “ACTION” SEQUENCE to get back with The Seven (they’ll stop at nothing!) who are once against twirling their collective mustache and plotting in an exotic locale—this time, Cape Town, South Africa. This is actually Talon’s hometown, which none of The Seven mention, even though they do discuss Talon, and even though you’d think they’d know this tidbit of information.
However, Phillips is very interested in dropping more tidbits of information about The Seven themselves into our laps. It’s nothing we don’t already know, or could have guessed, and it really makes no difference to the story. It’s also peppered into the prose rather blunt-force trauma: “said Sir William Merton, the oldest member of the Seven.”
Inserted into their exposition like this, it makes this whole chapter read like a logic puzzle. If Ganesh Shesha and General Li both have black hair and Viorica Enesco is from Romania, what color was Jakoba Werner’s shirt?
Speaking of appearances, Phillips goes ever farther down the RTC rabbit hole of judging others by their appearance.
[Sir William Merton] was physically repulsive but quite brilliant.
Of course he is. Because evil and/or unsaved people are always less than beautiful. Looks at how Isis graduated from pretty-but-frumpy in Babylon Rising to model-beautiful (to the point that nearly everyone comments on it) in the subsequent three books. Jenkins and Phillips always make sure that the villains have bad looks to go along with their bad intentions. Heck, it even goes for characters whom we are only meant to pity then dismiss, like Alvena Smidt and Charlotte Ian, both of whom are (gasp! choke!) overweight. Guys, watch that, okay? Evil people don’t always look evil.
Anyway, The Seven (TSAN!) observe Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned, and blather on about the events of the last book, including the George Washington Bridge attempted-destruction, and about how they have two “loose cannons” they have to deal with: Michael Murphy and Methuselah.
Huh, so The Seven consider Meth an enemy, too. That’s actually…kinda cool. Now, it makes sense that The Seven haven’t been able to kill Meth, since a) Meth is incredibly wealthy and can afford fortified mansions and the best security money can buy and b) I don’t think they know who he actually is.
Murphy is, as always, a different matter, and it still boggles my mind that The Seven haven’t managed to kill one college professor, who lives in the same house he’s lived in for years, drives the same car on the same route to work every day, takes no security measures with his home, office, or self that we ever see, and is hardly ever armed. The only way this would make sense would be if The Seven thought Murphy was of more use to them alive than dead, but they don’t say that, and in fact they state that Murphy is now even more dangerous than he was before (since he “knows too much about the Bible” and all), because now he’s talked to Dr. Anderson and knows at least something about “The Boy” (the AntiChrist).
The puzzle of the unkillable Murphy dispensed with, talk turns to Shane Barrington. They want to call him in to make him promote something or someone (I don’t care) on his news network. Señor Mendez brings up the tiny inconvenience that they just offed Stephanie Kovacs, his “live-in lover.”
Man, Phillips and LaHaye just can’t help themselves, can they? The have to use shaming language even in the mouths of the supposed villains who, being godless hedonists, would no doubt find nothing wrong with such a relationship. Such a relationship being, point of fact, a monogamous one.
Anyway, they decide it’ll all be cool with Shane, since he loves money way more than people. Good thing too, Sir William points out, as “if he turned on us, he would be a powerful enemy.”
(Actually, my first exposure to this awesome turn of phrase was in the movie Father Goose, when Goody Two-Shoes takes away the Filthy Beast’s booze. It was Cary Grant’s penultimate film, and a fun romp. Recommended.)
Finally, they bring up Talon, because he needs to get back to the Black Sea so he can get that crap from Noah’s Ark that he dropped, so The Seven can “know more about Potassium 40.”
And I still don’t know why they all had to be together physically to discuss all this. (It’s not for pleasure, as Bartholomew points out that “This is not a vacation.“) So, what, they’ve never heard of video conferencing? Man, the evil cabal is right out of the Stone Age. (Which, probably, Phillips doesn’t even believe in.)
Well, I know a consensus when I see it: Michael Murphy it is!
As many of you know, The Edge of Darkness is the fourth book in the Babylon Rising series. It’s also the last book in the series, but, as you’ll see, it doesn’t really feel like the last book. It feels like the penultimate book: only one or two subplots are even partially tied up, and new characters are introduced, who don’t seem to have an immediate purpose.
Tim LaHaye starts us off with this lovely dedication:
Dedicated to those who realize this world is in an irreversible mess and want to believe there is hope for a better world tomorrow.
This book came out in 2006. And LaHaye died in July of 2016. So he didn’t even see such a thing as a Trump presidency. Dude, you don’t know from irreversible mess.
He then spends the forward whining about North Korea and earthquakes and “Asian flu” as evidence that “we are indeed approaching THE EDGE OF DARKNESS.”
Dude, you don’t know from edge of…yeah, I did that already. LaHaye ends by once again praising his hero and engaging in a little self-back-patting because “this book could not be more timely.” Oh, I beg to differ, asshat.
Oh, Hulk, where are you when we need you?
Annnnnywho, Chapter One starts off just as all Chapters One start in Babylon Rising books: with Murphy In Media Res: this time, jumping off a moving roller coaster. And, just as in our previous book, The Europa Conspiracy, we cut back and forth between the action and Murphy’s pleasant day at “work” at Preston University. He rhapsodizes about the beauty of the school and the South, but in this book, is actually greeted by a horrifying sight: a stack of tests and “book reports” (in advanced college classes, really?). If there’s one thing Murphy hates in life besides uppity women and scientists, it’s doing the actual work of a teacher. So…
I think I’ll delegate those to Shari. She’ll hate me, but isn’t that what assistants are for? Doing all the jobs you don’t like? [he thinks]
What a colossal asshat. Not to mention a lazy prick. I love how he seems kinda surprised that there are a pile of tests in his office from the class he designed.
But he doesn’t get the chance to pawn off his work, as Shari gives him yet another package from Methuselah. And, because we can’t have any originality no matter what, there is an incredibly stupid poem inside.
Here it is in its entirety, so never say I don’t do anything for you:
Row, row, row your boat gently around the lake
Walk and talk and have a piece of cake
Ride, ride, ride the trolley
Be sure to stop and visit Molly
Dance, dance, dance the choo-choo
Visit the zoo and casino too
Round, round, round you go
Don’t be depressed by the big tornado
Search, search, search and find
Be sure not to lose your mind
Seek, seek, seek, like a mouse
You may even find a fun house
[Inconsistencies and unscannabilities are the author’s not mine.]
Shockingly, though Murphy is up on Colorado prisons, he is not nearly as familiar with amusement parks, and has to actually use the interwebs to find the answer to this nigh-unsolvable riddle.
Except when he starts to blather on about trolleys and the history of electricity, Shari asks him how he knows all this (just like she did in the last book). Except she just saw him Googling, so WTF? Seeing his opening, Murphy claims that he learned all this from his grandmother, who used to visit the Lakewood Amusement Park with a roller coaster called Molly’s Madness when she was a girl.
(Hilariously, the Lakewood Amusement Park was a real thing. Emphasis on WAS. This fascinating website chronicles the history of that particular plot of land. The amusement park, a great success in its day, closed in 1932 and the buildings were torn down. Eventually, a shopping center was built there. Scroll down and you’ll see a cool picture of the modern stores with the probable locations of the amusements labelled over them.)
But Phillips REALLY wanted to set his action scene at an old amusement park, so he spins this yarn about a supposed underground fun house that the owners wanted to build. (???) So Murphy heads to the Charlotte Hall of Records and library, “mostly working his way through endless red tape and the frustration of government bureaucracy.”
Poor baby. Is the eeeevil librul gubmint out to get you again, Murph?
In this alternate universe, warehouses are now on the old site instead of stores, and Murphy heads over there and fumbles around amongst surrounding trees to finally find a hatch down a winding staircase to an underground fun park.
This may be one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard of. And just think about all we’ve seen in all the various works of entertainment on this blog. I’m almost numb to it at this point, so I’ll just state it outright: an archeology professor has followed the clues left by a deranged billionaire he has never met, leading him to an underground fun house built in the 1930s. This will somehow result in an expedition to find a piece of Bible history.
This makes Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom look positively realistic.
Anyway, the diabolical tricks of Meth start immediately, as Murphy is forced to traverse one of those old rolling-barrel type rides from Ye Olden Dayes.
And that’s when things get weird.
Really, really weird.
As Murphy reached the center barrel, an Asian figure in a black ninja outfit entered the third barrel. He resembled a young Bruce Lee…
Of course he did.
…and moved toward Murphy with the agility of a cat. He did not look too friendly.
A quick glance behind Murphy revealed another Asian, dressed in a dark brown outfit He had entered the first barrel after Murphy and was quickly gaining ground.
Another Asian? Are the Asians in this book going to be like the Moar Arabs in the last one? Does this one look like Bruce Lee, too? Or more like Jackie Chan or Jet Li? Or is Bruce Lee the only Asian action star Phillips knows of?
And, of course, turns out Meth is hiding somewhere, watching all this and laughing, just like last time.
And he brought his ninjas with him. As you would.
The two Asians looked like professionals.
Professional what? Ninjas? Is that a thing?
Maybe. But I’m against the ninja.
So is Murphy, since he quickly dispenses with Ninja 1 by just running up the side of the barrel and dropping down on him. Heh, some ninja.
Now that there is a conscious Asian and an unconscious Asian, Phillips feels free to refer to each as “the Asian” in turn. I’m almost tempted to consider this progress, of a sort. I mean, villains aren’t just Arabs. Sometimes they’re Asians, too! I can only imagine that had there been a fifth book, the villains would be The Hispanics.
The Other Moar Asian gets in two good kicks, even though “Murphy knew that he could hold his own if he could ever catch his breath and get his feet under him.”
Of course you could, pumpkin. Those mean ole The Asians just don’t fight fair, do they?
But Murphy finally triumphs. Now, you might think that with all Murphy’s karate training and punch-each-other-in-the-stomach training with Levi, his martial arts skills would win the day. But no, Murphy just flings his bag at the ninja, then when that floors him, drives his elbow into the guy’s head. Though we’ve already seen that the ninja can hold his own when he has his breath and his feet are under him.
But fighting dirty is okay when Murphy does it.
Gorram, folks, we’re already two chapters down. This underground fun park thing is already WAY too long.
And Murphy hasn’t thrown even one reverse punch yet. That makes me sad.