The Edge of Darkness: Foreward and Chapter 1 and Chapter 2

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.

Posted on April 8, 2017, in The Edge of Darkness. Bookmark the permalink. 47 Comments.

  1. Well, the plot already seems pretty silly. Of all the places Meth sends Murphy, it’s the ruins of an old amusement park, where he’s attacked by random asians. I’m really curious how much weirder this book can get.

  2. God that poem was stupid. And God that bit with the Moar Asians was racist. Oh yeah, of course they look like the only Asian the authors ever heard of. And of course they’re dressed like ninjas.

    Only, wait… The traditional Hollywood ninja has a face covering black mask, so how can Murphy tell he looks like a young Robert Redfo-, I mean Bruce Lee?

    I mean, even on the off chance that the authors know that the all-black outfit almost certainly wasn’t a real ninja outfit, they wouldn’t assume their audience knew. They’d have Murphy think through the entire wiki page on ninjas to show of his cleverness.

    So I think we must assume the Asians (do we need to bring up that ninjas are Japanese and Bruce Lee wasn’t?) are wearing some sort of non-western clothings suitable for fighting, and Murphy/Phillips just calls it a ninja garb. If they wielded katanas, they’d probably be called ninja swords too.

  3. Scansion, dawg. It’s a thing.

    The frustration of government bureaucracies… that have this information and let you get access to it without paying. Because when there are no government agencies, nobody bothers to keep the records at all…

    The thing about warehouses, unlike shops, is that they have a high floor loading. So chances are something would have broken through into this mysterious underground space by now.

    Bruce Lee died at 32. Nobody looks like an old Bruce Lee.

    Ivan, I’m assuming a basic keikogi (“gi”), though I’m surprised this writer didn’t simply call it “black pyjamas”. I suppose “a black ninja outfit” sounds cooler, if you’re impressed by that sort of thing.

    • The County Recorder’s Office probably would charge a fee to search their records for the information Murphy wants, so the “endless red tape and frustration” was probably Murphy arguing with a clerk about writing a $10 check.

  4. Michele Sharik

    It’s Foul Play in Funland!

  5. isn’t that what assistants are for? Doing all the jobs you don’t like?

    This is a look into the working relationship of Bob Phillips and Tim LaHaye, I imagine.

  6. Frankly, I’d rather have Shari grading my work. Professor Murphy would probably fail me if my conclusions didn’t match his, whether or not I knew that.

  7. I wonder how long those Asians were waiting around in that warehouse for Murphy to show up. Or why they were there in the first place.

  8. I wonder that too, Sue. Have they been there for years and years, ekeing out an existence in an abandoned underground fair attraction? Frankly after years of that, I’d be ready to attack the next person I saw. Though I suppose having the song be “Kung Fu Fighting” would be culturally insensitive, since Kung Fu is Chinese and ninjas are Japanese. Though Bruce Lee was also Chinese, so maybe my offense isn’t as bad as I thought.

    At first, I was like why was Michael so worked up over a lousy kids’ rhyme, because unless the box sent with it, had Gwyneth Paltrow’s head in it, I saw no reason to care. Just toss it. But it turned out to not be anonymous after all.

    • I can only assume that Meth has been keeping tabs on Murphy, AND kept the ninjas on call, so that when Murphy set out for the park, he was able to beat him there…with the ninjas riding in the backseat, I guess. Then again, maybe I am giving Phillips too much credit.

      • Random lurker

        This makes me wonder just what the retainer fee is to keep a few professional ninja around, ready to go at a moment’s notice. On one hand, it’d be a very specialized set of skills, combat pay, etc. On the other hand, that labor market must be all of 3 employers, all supervillains. Do good guys even hire ninjas?

  9. <blockquote<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?
    Is that an actual direct quote from the book? Because holy crap if it is.

    As for that poem, it hurts my brain unrelentingly. Why, why would you start a poem with a riff of a song and then on the very next line abandon the song’s rhythm and rhyme scheme?! It’s just not right!

    Also, the inclusion of ninjas sounds like something a guy desperate to appeal to the 1990s youth culture would think of.

    • To be far, military strategy is something Tim LaHaye has proven again and again that he sucks at it. As the snarker of LB: the Kids, I’m thinking about the final few books where Nicky’s forces are on the attack. The book mentions him firing missiles, but a few sentences later, mentions that some of his guys are using a battering ram to try to knock down the door. Even though with missiles being fired, congratulations, you incinerated the guys at the door. Missiles are supposed to be something you use to soften a target before sending your guys in. Knowing Nicky, the battering ram is probably the old-fashioned trunk of a really big tree, as opposed to anything modern.

      Nicky also has freaking horses to go with all this modern tech, even though laser weapons are actually a thing in this universe. We’ll ignore the obvious hazards of using horses in modern warfare to talk about another thing where I was like, “Seriously?!”

      At some point, they talk about Nicky’s riders leaping over the wall of the city and I’m like, “Uh, either the city is surrounded by a super-short wall or Nicky’s horses are actually pegasi, because horses do not work that way!”

      So ninjas are the least of Tim LaHaye’s screw-ups. Someone has already pointed out the “Ninjas didn’t dress all in black” bit, so I guess I’ll do a long, drawn-out rant about how Ninjas were really more about hit-and-run attacks than long-drawn out fights.

      Like with medieval knights of yore, for all this talk about chivalry and bushido, often the samurai were a lot closer to the guy who beats people up in gym class and takes their lunch money than the noble hero. There were very few checks on their power. About the only thing that might keep them from killing every peasant they wanted, was because you need to keep a few around to harvest the crops. There’s a reason the Japanese language has the word “Tsujigiri” which basically means when a samurai straight-up slashes you with his sword, because again, there was very little stopping him from flat-out killing you if he wanted to.

      The ninja served to protect the working class from psycho samurai. Since they were simple folk, they didn’t have the katanas or fancy armor and they knew they would last too long in a one-on-one fight with a samurai; hence why they operated under the hit-and-run strategy. Because that’s generally what you do. If the other guy has you vastly outnumbered or has better weapons or training, you would be a damn idiot to take ’em on in a head-on fight.

  10. InquisitiveRaven

    When I read about an underground amusement park, I expect the characters to run into a red headed sociopath in a white suit. He’d be a hell of a lot more entertaining than these numbnuts.

  11. I won’t lie: when I hit your disclaimer at the end of the poem, for a split second I thought that was actually part of the poem due to the formatting. And that Methuselah (and by extension LaHaye/Phillips) got so lazy with this riddle that he straight up stole the poem from someone else.

    Quite frankly, it wouldn’t have surprised me too much if that was actually the case. Though if Murphy was as harsh about plagiarism as my college professors were (hahahahahahahaha), it might have sent this story in a completely different direction.

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