Category Archives: Babylon Rising

400th Post: Palate Cleanser News and a Poll!

Hey, so this is the 400th post of Heathen Critique!

300

Close enough.

(Seriously, I have no idea why I didn’t care about 100 or 200 or 300.  Anyway.)

So, thought I’d share my decision about the palate cleanser for after Silenced, since we almost three-quarters done.

It is yet another movie that I caught on local Christian television, and GORRAMITALL but I am psyched to do this one:

I’ll just say one thing that strikes me right away: that is a pretty cute “beast.”

This movie promises to be interesting on another level, too: it was a Mormon movie first.

Yup.  See, it was originally called Beauty and the Beast: A Latter-Day Tale.  Apparently, a few explicitly Mormon lines were cut and the movie was repackaged as Belle and the Beast: A Christian Romance.  I haven’t seen the Mormon version yet, but I will, so I can better speak to the changes.

And I come into this as an expert on Mormon entertainment, yo.  I have seen all five seasons of Big Love AND The Book of Mormon.

IT IS SO GOOD WATCH THIS SHOW

(It would be cool to be paid for plugs like this.)

***

And I will leave the final decision of what to do next in the hands of you, my lovely readers.

The options:

1.  Shadowed, the third and final book of the Underground Zealot series.  More adventures in Atheistopia with Paul and Jae Stepola/Apostle and Ranold B. Decenti/Benedict Arnold.

2.  The Europa Conspiracy, the third out of the four books in the Babylon Rising series.  Michael Murphy sets out to find the Handwriting on the Wall.  Yes, really.

3.  Something completely (okay, partially) different: It seems that out old pal Jerry Jenkins has found a new co-writer/pastor to work with—James MacDonald.

For those unfamiliar with him, you can see a ton of his sermons on YouTube.  I won’t link you an hour-long talk, but here is a tiny sampling of him:

I listen to James MacDonald many mornings on my way to work, and what strikes me most is his tendency to play the incredibly extraverted, repeat-after-me game, which ends up sounding like this:

MacDonald: Jesus is perfect.  Turn to your neighbor and say, “Jesus is perfect.”

Unmicced audience: Eee-uh ert.

MacDonald: Again! Because this is exciting!  Jesus is perfect!

Unmicced audience:  EEE-UH ERT!!!

It would drive me CRAZY if I had to do this every week.

It is so cool that I don’t go to church.  😉

This book is brand-spanking new, but I already have a used copy, and there is a BOOK TRAILER, guys!

Kinda sounds Michael Murphy-ish, though I see by skimming the first few pages that the hero is a professor at a theological seminary, not a small Southern university.  Anyway, that bit of skimming aside, I think I would critique this book blind, just like the Christmas novels.

4.  Another something partially different: a focus on movies instead of books for awhile.  I’ve got a little stack of Christian movies here, and could just do a few in a row.  Some examples:

One of the ones that Started It All for me:

More from the Teenage series, including Teenage Conflict (creationism) and Teenage Code (cheating).

Or…

So, whaddaya think???  It’s up to you guys!

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TSoA: Chapter 24: Second Choice

Having been rudely rebuffed by Good Christian Murphy, Shane Barrington seeks out Paul Wallach.  Paul, you may remember, was injured in the church bombing in Babylon Rising.  Not, mind you, that Shari (who invited him to church in the first place!) or Murphy ever seemed to give a damn.  Indeed, Shari took a page from Levi Abrams’ book, literally punching Paul where she knew it would hurt him most.

Paul is entirely alone in the world.  His mother abandoned him, his jerk of a father is dead, and he has no brothers or sisters, and apparently, no other relatives or friends.  So it did seem like a real miracle to him when Shane Barrington swooped down and offered him a scholarship from Barrington Communications, allegedly because Shane wanted to help a kid who reminded him of his recently-murdered son, but really so he could worm his way ever closer to Michael Murphy.

And now Shane is going to double-down on Paul, since he failed at his mission to get Murphy to come and work for him.  He finds Paul in the library, strikes up a friendly “just checking up” conversation, and offers him a job at Barrington Communications when he graduates.  But there’s a condition: Shane wants to monitor Paul’s writing skills, so asks Paul to do weekly write-ups on what he learns in Murphy’s class.  (He’ll even pay Paul for his time, in addition to the money he is getting from the scholarship!)

This is a pretty shrewd move on Shane’s part, and will probably go a ways in making The Seven (They’ll stop at nothing!  Not even offering people incredibly lucrative jobs!) a bit less angry about the whole Murphy thing.

Still, I doubt Paul’s class notes will be particularly enlightening:

JESUS WILL COME BACK AND KILL ALL OUR ASSES

CREATIONISM RULES

SHARI IS LOOKING REALLY CUTE TODAY.  TOO BAD THAT HOLDING HANDS IS AGAINST HER RELIGION

GOD WILL SMITE US

DNA IS A SATANIC CONSPIRACY

Shane closes by telling Paul that he thinks of him “as a son,” and even inviting to fly him up to New York so they can go to The Phantom of the Opera together.

Awesome!

Well, except for the part about Shari, who has been watching from afar and, when Shane heads off, badgers Paul about stuff that is none of her gorram business:

“What did he want?  Did he come here just to see you?”

Paul had intended to steer the conversation in another direction, but Shari’s tone was getting under his skin.

Gee, I can’t imagine why.

“Why shouldn’t he?  He takes an interest in my work, that’s all.”

“Why should the head of Barrington Communications be interested in your work?  You’re a student, Paul, not a world-famous professor.”

Wow.  Now there’s an interesting topic-change, Shari.  Jesus, why don’t you just marry the guy?  Murph’s single now, yanno.

Paul felt himself going red.  “Oh, that’s right.  I don’t have crazy ideas about proving that fairy stories in the Bible really happened.  Not like world-famous Professor Murphy.”

Paul, you magnificent bastard!

(I’ll add that I have my own doubts about Murphy being world-famous.  A few cable specials do not necessarily qualify someone as world-famous.  And yeah, there was that whole golden head thing from the first book, but Murphy found it under very dubious circumstances, and it hasn’t even been mentioned once since.)

Of course, Shari is offended by the “fairy stories” remark, but immediately switches gears back Shane.  (Maybe she realizes that bringing up Murphy was a bad move, one just a leeetle too close to home.)  Instead, she brings up Murphy’s point about Shane’s network’s shows being “trash.”

“You don’t even watch TV,” Paul countered.  “Maybe if you took your nose out of your Bible once in a while, you’d get a different perspective on things.”

Paul, you ROCK.

Also, WHY ARE THESE TWO EVEN TOGETHER???  (And I use “together” in a very loose sense, since we know that their dates only involve Shari’s attempts to convert Paul.  So, we know why she’s “with” him, but not why he’s with her.)

And due to the Phantom invitation, Paul bows out of their Bible study group “date” (OMG hawt!).

Okay, Paul is my new hero.  Too bad he’s currently hellbound.

Way more fun than a Bible study group.

TSoA: Chapter 23: Shane’s Proposal

No, he’s not proposing to Stephanie!  (Although that would be awesome.  I do love me some Evil and Evilly in Love Couples, my personal favorite being the dynamic duo of Craig and Nancy Wesley on Days of Our Lives.)

But all that is beside the point!  Murphy has noticed Some Dude standing in the back of his lecture hall.  After class, he introduced himself to Murphy as Shane Barrington.  Murphy immediately congratulates himself on almost-kinda knowing who he was:

I knew the face was familiar, thought Murphy.

Murphy must get tired, what with patting himself on the back all day.

Shane, as we learned in the first book, is the pawn of The Seven (they’ll stop at nothing!).  Having carroted him by giving him tons of money and sticked him by murdering his Ambiguously Gay son, The Seven have now tasked him with offering Murphy a job at Barrington Communications.  We know from earlier in this book that The Seven want to keep the enemy closer.

“The search for Noah’s Ark, eh?  Interesting topic.  Have you been researching it long?” [said Shane]

“This is my third class on the subject,” said Murphy guardedly.

Thus both avoiding the question and being totally unashamed that he has been off-syllabus for three classes in a row.

Shane quickly lays the groundwork with an actual point of interest:  Shane knows, though Murphy does not, that both Ambiguously Gay Arthur and Good Christian Wife Laura were murdered by Talon.  But Shane keeps this point to himself, saying only that both he and Murphy have lost loved ones to violence.

OR DID THEY???

But the truth was, [Shane] hadn’t loved Arthur at all, just as his own father hadn’t loved him.  He really didn’t have anything in common with Murphy.

This strikes me as at least a partial retcon of Babylon Rising, in which Shane’s feelings about Arthur are presented as, at the very least, complicated.

Also, that bit about Shane’s father is dumped in there like an afterthought: Shane’s father didn’t love him.  On one hand, Shane is yet another LaJenkinsian character with Daddy Issues, but on the other hand, I would like this detail if anything was ever made of it.  Shane, we already know, grew up poor in Detroit, and yanked himself up by his bootstraps.  So, in a way, Shane doesn’t have a whole lot in common with Murphy—he had to fight for everything he has and has never known love…from anyone.

Again, I would admire this presentation of a complicated, even sympathetic villain, but the point is dropped as soon as it is raised.

Shane tells Murphy that his passion, what he is fighting for, is a world with less violence, and that he’s trying to use Barrington Communications to do that.  So, he asks Murphy what he fights for:

“I try to prove the truth of the Bible,” Murphy said simply.

“And why is that so important?”

“For a number of reasons,” Murphy replied.  “But let me give you just one example.  If we can prove that Noah’s Ark really existed, then we know for sure that God really did punish the evildoers in Noah’s time.”

Oh, and the children and babies and all the other animals but the two Ark-designees, Murphy!  Don’t forget about their last terrified gasps for air!

Shane gets right down to it, and offers Murphy a job at Barrington—a way to “spread the word.”  His job would be to produce documentaries—Murphy would pick the topics, the crews, everything.  Free reign, no holds barred, yadda yadda yadda.

For a brief moment, Murphy is almost tempted by this minion of Satan, almost seduced by the idea of:

…talking to millions of people, all around the world.  And instead of battling with Dean Fallworth on a daily basis over the content of his lectures, he’d have a free hand to go in any direction he wanted.

Poor Dean Fallworth.  He tries to hard, only trying to do the right and professional thing, but just can’t shake the cloak of the cackling, ivory-tower villain.  😦

BUT BEHOLD!!!

Through the power of Jesus, Murphy snaps out of this dream of wealth and power, refuses the offer, and when Shane askes why, Murphy gives him a talking-to:

“Because I don’t want to be a part of your sleazy organization.  Your late-night shows are nothing but pornography.  Your prime-time shows are filled with sexual innuendos, distasteful language, and as assualt on morality.  Your comedy shows make fun of everything that is decent in America.  Your reality shows don’t even touch reality.  And you support political leaders who are corrupt.  If I’ve left anything out, I apologize.  To quote a verse from the Psalms, I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in tents of wickedness.”

Okay, I know Shane asked and all, but this still strikes me as unspeakably rude.  Would a simple, “I’m happy where I am” not have sufficed, Murph?  I mean, I know we know that Shane is working for the Seven, but Murphy doesn’t know that.  Why be such a dick about it, Murphy?  U mad, bro?

There is lots of talk of Shane’s suppresed rage now, but the upshot of it is that he acts like a gentleman, just standing and offering a handshake, WHICH MURPHY REFUSES BECAUSE HE IS A BIG JERK.

And just as Shane is leaving the shot, Murphy gets a call from his helicopter-flying “friend,” Vern.  He’s discussed the trip to Ararat with his wife, and they have reluctantly decided that it is in the best financial interest of their family that he go.  They are reluctant because “Turkey is not the safest place for Americans right now.”

I imagine they would be even more reluctant if they knew about the murderers and thieves who shadow Murphy’s every move, but they don’t know about that because MURPHY HASN’T TOLD THEM.

What a moral guy.  So much better than Shane Barrington or Dean Archer Fallworth.

Here’s how moral Murphy is—here’s the line that ends the chapter:

And if [the trip to Ararat resulted in Vern’s death], how would Murphy feel about that?

Ah.  I’m sure he would feel very bad on the inside.

And that would make it all okay.

TSoA: Chapter 17: Old Friends (Sorta)

In preparation for his magical, mystical trip to Mount Ararat, Murphy heads to Virginia, to talk to his old pal, Vern Peterson.  Vern is a helicopter pilot, and lives with his wife, Julie, and their three-year-old son, Kevin, in Norfolk.

(btw, I’m a bit surprised that a guy in his (probably) late thirties is named VERN.  That’s a name that hasn’t broken the top thousand most popular boy names in over forty years.  I knew a Verna growing up, but she was an elderly lady.)

Despite the unusual name, Murphy is buddies with Vern: Vern and Julie were the best man and maid of honor at Murphy and Laura’s wedding.  Guess that makes them all pretty good and longstanding friends, though there is no mention of Vern and Julie in Babylon Rising, attending Laura’s funeral and giving their support to Michael.

Funny, that.

In greeting the family, Murphy is a charmer who knows the best way to a woman’s heart:

“Julie, you seem to be the only person round here who hasn’t gotten any bigger since I saw you.”

Julie, you are, like, SO THIN.  Good thing, too, as a woman’s worth can be measured by how well she conforms to conventional beauty standards.  Too bad your husband got so FAT.  But, hey, it’s not like that matters.  Vern’s worth is only measured by his ability to bring home the bacon.

But first, a shout-out to RTCs never drinking: Julie serves homemade apple cider with dinner, not wine or beer, since she’s a good little RTC homemaker.

Also, probably, because she just found out that she’s pregnant again.

So it has become extra-important that Vern bring home even more bacon:

“The baby coming means we need every cent I can lay my hands on.  I could even build that extension Julie’s always talking about.  Anyway, Ararat’s a pretty rough place to fly a chopper, but it’s not like Kuwait.  I mean, there won’t be anyone shooting at us, right?”

“I hope not,” Murphy said.  “I hope not.”

One would hope that, as a fellow RTC, Vern w0uld see this as the weaselly not-an-answer-but-not-a-lie that it is, and run like hell from this whole plan.  Murphy knows damn well that this trip could be deadly, yet he’s inviting his buddy, a married man with one small child and another on the way, without fully apprising him of the (very large) potential risks.

What a great guy, our RTC hero.

TSoA: Chapter 15: Blast Him

Time for another exciting phone call between Murphy and Isis!

Murphy calls Isis at her sister’s, where she is hiding out.  Isis’s sister is Hecate (GET IT?) and I remain astonished that Isis has a sister at all.

But Murphy isn’t so much astonished as he is “a little hurt” that Isis “had kept her sister’s existence a secret.”

Yes, Murphy, because when someone doesn’t immediately give you her entire biography within one minute of meeting you, it is because she is Keeping Secrets.

This, btw, from the same man who didn’t call Isis for SIX MONTHS after their adventure in the last novel, during which Isis SAVED HIS LIFE.

Asshat.

Isis talks about the night she was attacked:

“Still a bit shaken up.  I feel so bad about the guards.  The police said that I shouldn’t go to the funerals—it’s too dangerous—so I can’t show support for the families.  They must be devastated.  And I feel somehow it’s wrong I survived.  It’s my fault they’re dead.”

“That’s crazy, Isis.  Of course it isn’t.  I got you into this.  If it’s anyone’s fault, it’s mine.”

“That’s crazy.”  Stay sensitive, Murph!

Murphy wants Isis to admit to the existence of evil, which he considers a step in Isis “accepting Christ into her life.”

…no one could go through what she had without asking themselves the big questions.

He just hoped she came up with the right answers.

Because it’s just silly to imagine that a grown woman, well into her thirties and educated and successful, would have asked herself “the big questions” before now!

The upshot of the conversation is that the Parchments of Freedom Foundation just received a big-ass check from some anonymous donor (spoiler alert: it’s Methuselah), to be used to fund an ark-finding expedition, with Michael Murphy as the lead.  The PFF apparently saw NOTHING SUSPICIOUS ABOUT THIS WHASOEVER, so immediately gave the project a green light.

As would be expected.

Murphy also sees nothing suspicious about any of this, because he jumps at the chance and invites Isis to go along.  (He tells himself it is so he can “protect” her, because being in another state with a constant police guard isn’t nearly as much protection as being by the side of Michael Murphy.)

Then the author tries to get into Isis’s head, with disastrous results:

For the first time she was beginning to think he actually cared about her.

And now he was inviting her to go on an expedition to one of the world’s most inhospitable if not downright dangerous places.  All for the sake of a biblical artifact.  Which, of course, made perfect sense.  Because biblical artifacts were all he really cared about.

Isis didn’t need any more time to think about it.  She’d show Michael Murphy that she wasn’t some softhearted female at the beck and call of her emotions.  Blast him!

HAHAHAHA!!!  It’s funny, see, because Isis is a silly little girl at the mercy of her own emotions!

It’s so funny when a girl tries to do something!

-Crow T. Robot, Riding with Death, MST3K

Isis snappishly responds that she’d just love to go find the ark, and that she’ll be just fine on the moutain, thank you very much, because…

“My father and I used to spend every vacation in the Highlands, I’ll have you know.”

Hmmm, no mention of her sister.  Interesting.  It’s almost like the sister was a last-minute addition to the story and the authors forgot about her…

Murphy is grinning when he hangs up the phone after this very awkward conversation.  Yanno, having a man be out of his depth when it comes to relationships can be done quite well, but not when the man is also supposed to be The Manliest RTC Man Evah and when he’s a pompous jerk.

He’s grinning as Isis is stewing.  Asshat.

TSoA: Chapter 14: Strawman Intellectual

I think I’ve figured out why The Secret on Ararat is so much worse than Babylon Rising.

Aside from the ridiculousness of a real Noah’s ark and apart from the abysmal dialogue, I mean.

Babylon Rising, whatever its faults (and there were plenty) was trying to tell a story.  It was a story with a repellant theology and a Gary Stu hero, but it was a story nonetheless.

The Secret on Ararat is a manual.  Every chapter presents a situation that Tim LaHaye imagines a Real True Christian might encounter, and Michael Murphy shows the reader how to respond to that situation.  Have a friend with a rebellious teenager?  Just read Murphy’s response to Agent Baines.  Has some evil atheist or liberal “Christian” scoffed at the idea of a literal ark?  Please refer to the list of Really Fer Real ark stories in Murphy’s lectures.

And now Murphy has a run-in with Dean Archer Fallworth, Strawman and object lesson in how to answer those annoying libruls with their librul notions of tolerance and teaching what you said you were going to teach.

We are quickly reminded of how inferior a man the academic, liberal Fallworth is, with his “wispy blonde hair” and “whitewashed face.”  Surely he is no match for Michael Murphy, Man’s Man and expert in “Karate-do.”

…Michael could feel a hand grabbing his shoulder and gripping hard.

It was a foolish and possibly dangerous thing to grab someone like Murphy from behind like that.  Hundreds of hours of martial-arts practice had honed his reactions to a razor’s edge, and the whole point of the exercise was that your body would counter a threat instinctively, before your conscious mind even knew the threat was there.

I imagine it would also be a “foolish and possibly dangerous thing” to roundhouse kick the dean of your department in the head.  But sadly, Murphy decides not to completely ruin his own life…

“You can be a hard man to track down, you know.  And I have better things to do than chase around the campus after one of my professors because he can’t stick to a timetable.” [said Fallworth]

Murphy smiled.  “Then why don’t you go do them?”

“Oh, and Fallworth, I’m rubber and you’re glue, so everything you say bounces off me and sticks on you, so NYAH!” added Murphy.

Fallworth’s pallor paled even further.  “Watch what you say, Murphy.  I think I’ve had just about enough of your disrespect.”

“But you just keep coming back for more, don’t you?” Murphy teased, almost beginning to enjoy himself.

Then Murphy grabbed Fallworth and gave him a wet willy and an Indian burn.  ‘Cause Fallworth was being a big dumb doodyhead.

Fallworth realized he was losing control of the situation.

FALLWORTH was losing control???  Yeah, because Fallworth is being so immature and unprofessional!

Our own awesome Dean Fallworth (he of the button article, which I still want to read) points out an agreement that he and Murphy apparently have, which is that Murphy will teach actual, yanno, history in his class, and present his beliefs only as beliefs.

Murphy makes the ridiculous claim that “many reputable scientists believe Noah’s Ark is on Mount Ararat.”  But even more intriguingly, he says that since Fallworth was not in class, he can have no idea of what went on.

Which just so happens to be true.  Which in turn tells me that some of Murphy’s students may not be so happy with this easy-A course as Murphy might think.  Remember, Murphy cancelled a lecture on how to map out a dig site so that he could wax on about the ark.  Then he lectured about the ark for a second class period, presumably displacing another topic that was actually on the syllabus.  Frankly, I’m not too surprised that a few students went to the dean.

Fallworth says nothing about this, presumably because he’s a professional and chooses to act like one.  Instead, he inexplicably brings up the separation of church and state, which has little to do with the subject at hand, but it’s what Tim LaHaye wants to teach his readers about today.

Murphy points out (correctly) that the phrase “separation of church and state” does not actually appear in the Constitution.  Fallworth points out (correctly) that Thomas Jefferson said it.

Murphy then points out (again, correctly) that Jefferson wrote it in a letter to the Danbury Baptist Association.  Being a good little RTC, Murphy naturally interprets the wall of separation as only working one way: it should only keep government out of religion, not religion out of government.

“Most of our founding fathers were deeply religious men.”

Well, Murphy, some of them were.  But Thomas Jefferson certainly wasn’t one of them.  We are talking about a man who denied the divinity of Jesus.  Jefferson took a pen to his Bible and struck out all miraculous acts supposedly performed by Jesus, leaving only his words and teachings.

I’m pretty sure that by Murphy’s religious lights, anyone who denies the divinity of Jesus is not truly saved and cannot go to Heaven.  Hear that, Murph?  Your beloved founding father is currently roasting in Hell!

Oh, and here’s another founding father who’s keeping Jefferson company down there.

Some books against Deism fell into my hands; they were said to be the substance of sermons preached at Boyle’s lectures. It happened that they wrought an effect on me quite contrary to what was intended by them; for the arguments of the Deists, which were quoted to be refuted, appeared to me much stronger than the refutations; in short, I soon became a thorough Deist.

Benjamin Franklin, Autobiography

Anyway, it all comes to nothing (as might be expected).  We are told that Fallworth is “Beaten back by Murphy’s command of detail,” but it’s really not Fallworth’s fault that he’s being puppeted around by Tim LaHaye, who’s much more interested in instructing his flock than in creating interesting and believable characters.  And Fallworth doesn’t actually call a meeting or do anything formal to make Murphy teach the subject he is supposed to be teaching, because…Murphy’s the hero and Fallworth is just a pale ole academic who probably doesn’t know Karate-do.

Dumb ole atheist loser.

TSoA: Chapter 13: The First Noah Chapter

Just as in Babylon Rising, The Secret on Ararat contains multiple chapters written all in italics, as we venture back to the time of whatever archeological treasure Michael Murphy is pursuing. These chapters assure us that Murphy is completely right in every hypothesis, lest we doubt his all-knowingness.

This first Noah chapter takes place pre-ark, as we learn that Noah was quite the bad-ass soldier in his day. Sure, he’s several centuries old, but that doesn’t mean he can’t command a bitchin’ army against some dude named Zattu. Zattu and his army are trying to invade…wherever Noah and his family are living now. And because it just wouldn’t do for Noah to be Just Some Soldier, he is in charge of everyone, especially his sons (Ham, Shem, and Japheth), who are basically his lieutenants. They pour scalding water onto the invaders from atop the walls of The City, and Zattu and his men retreat.

(Now, damned if I can find anything about Noah being some tough-as-nails warrior in the Bible. Not seeing anything on his Wiki page, either. So, is LaHaye just blowing smoke here, or is there something I’m not seeing?)

Anyway, Noah finds his wife, Naamah, who is the sister of Tubal-cain, who is the “only hope” for Noah and his city.

Turns out this is no joke, because as supplies are running low and they’re getting ready to arm the children against Zattu’s next attack, Tubal-cain and his army arrive Just in the Nick of Time, kicking ass and taking names with “singing swords” which apparently cannot break.

PAY ATTENTION BECAUSE THIS WILL BE IMPORTANT LATER

This all takes waaaaay too long and I’m getting bored, so the upshot is that Zattu’s ass is kicked again, and Tubal-cain convinces Noah to Bravely Run Away to the forest of Azer.

Now, Noah and Tubal-cain don’t know this, but all those trees will certainly come in handy when Noah needs to build a Big Giant Boat.

Blah blah blah God talks to Noah and tells him to build his big boat WE ALREADY KNOW THIS PART

God also tells Noah that everyone but his family will be killed in a flood, and despite this, Noah seems quite blasé about Tubal-cain just wishing him well and then riding off into the sunset. I guess it’s okay that Tubal-cain will horribly drown, because he gives Noah a Singing Sword and a box of stuff that will help him build the ark.

So long, Tubal-cain. You were enjoyed. Sorry about the whole drowning thing.

TSoA: Chapter 12: Levi Helps

This chapter, we spend some time with Murphy and his bestest (well, only) pal, Levi Abrams, the former (or IS he???) Mossad agent.

As we learned in Babylon Rising, Murphy and Levi have a somewhat unusual friendship based on near-constant tests of manliness, by which I mean that they take turns punching each other in the gut, and whoever pukes first has to buy lunch.

I guess it’s a guy thing.

Levi catches Murphy after class, and we all know that Tim LaHaye never misses an opportunity to take a shot at those awful people who devote their lives to knowledge and education:

Levi sat down in one of the empty chairs in the lecture hall and watched as a handful of eager students plied Murphy with questions.  He was amazed at the patience of the man.  Most academics regarded the teaching of students as an annoying interruption of their own studies, but Murphy clearly cared about his students as much as he cared about archaeology.

Yep, he cares about them so much that he blows off classes for weeks at a time to go gallivanting off around the world looking for the bronze serpent or Noah’s ark.

They head off to the gym, and Bob Phillips lets us in on Murphy’s workout routine, so pay attention, everyone!

At the gym, Levi and Murphy warmed up with stretching exercises to ensure no pulled muscles.

Okay, I’ll admit I’m no gym rat, but I was a competitive athlete in college, and I was always told not to stretch cold muscles, that it was much more important to stretch after the workout than before.

Then they both dropped into a “horse stance” and held that position while throwing five hundred right and left reverse punches.

Ah yes…the reverse punch.

This is Bob Phillips favorite move.  Reverse punches make no appearance in Babylon Rising, but they are over the other three books in this series.  Murphy uses them, Talon uses them, THEY HAPPEN ALL THE TIME.

I am honestly not sure why a reverse punch is so much more awesome than a regular punch, but I am willing to be enlightened.

Then Levi teaches Murphy “a kata that has twenty-seven moves to it.  It is called Heian Yodan.  It was taught by Gichin Funakoshi, the master at Karate-do.”

Okay, I have no idea what that means, but Murphy seems excited, so they do that for awhile.

Then, having proven they are MEN by getting sweaty and half-naked with each other, Levi decides to talk about feelings:

“I got a call from Bob Wagoner last week.  He was concerned about how you were dealing with the loss of Laura.”

You know, I would say that it’s weird of Pastor Bob to call Levi Abrams to get him to talk to Murphy, especially since Jewish Levi is unlikely to tell Murphy to turn to Jesus for help, but then I realized that it fits Bob’s usual pattern of pawning off his duties on others so he has more time to golf.

Murphy talks about his grief and attempts to move on for exactly twelve seconds (I timed myself reading it), but it all comes back to Talon.  And Levi, because of his super sekrit squirrel connections, knows all about the break-in at the Foundation.

“Don’t worry,” said Levi.  “I believe Talon got what he was looking for.  He won’t be coming back.”

Oh yeah, that makes total sense, Levi.  You know when else everyone probably thought that?  THE LAST TIME TALON BROKE INTO THE FOUNDATION USING BIRDS AND STOLE A SECRET ARTIFACT.

But this all leads to the really REAL reason why Murphy is psyched to see Levi: he wants Levi’s help to organize his expedition to Mount Ararat to find the ark during the school year.  Because Murphy cares about his students so very much.

“We would need you (Levi) to train us for all the kinds of problems we might encounter [on Mount Ararat].”

Yes, because the first call I make before I go mountaineering is always to the Mossad.

Murphy’s next step is to head to CIA headquarters.  He figures they have information about the ark that they’re just waiting to hand over to someone just like him.

“I don’t mind rattling a few cages in the government.”

Oh Murphy, you bad-ass rebel, you!

“If we can find the ark, it would be the greatest blow that could be struck against the theory of evolution.”

I mean EVIL-ution.

Levi lets this go by without comment, because he wants to warn Murphy about another danger he may encounter in his rebellious adventures:

Spooks.

NO, NOT THAT KIND!

TSoA: Chapter 11: Important Things

Last time, I left you with this teaser:

Next up: Murphy’s very sensitive reaction to Isis’s near-death experience.

Turns out that Ivan has this book down:

My money is on that [Murphy] continues his trend from the first book and after Isis tells him she was nearly killed by Talon, he makes it all about him and how he will get Talon for what he did to his wife.

Murphy’s reaction to the news of the near-murder of Isis:

“We know what happened, Isis.  We know who did this—who killed the guards, attacked you.”

“You know, I don’t think I could endure a second loss.”

Ivan wins at The Secret on Ararat forever!

Image

Oh, and I think it is very kind of Murphy not to mention to Isis that had she actually been killed, her soul would be slow-roasted in Hell for all eternity, because she’s not a Christian.

But this chapter has more to it than Michael Murphy being a self-absorbed ass, and Michael Murphy not being quite so much of a self-righteous prick as he might have been.

For example, did you know that Isis McDonald has a sister?

I DIDN’T.

“The police asked me to go to my sister’s in Bridgeport, Connecticut.”

I’m being dead serious when I tell you that when I first heard this on the audiobook, IT BLEW MY MIND.  Babylon Rising has no hint that Isis had any siblings, and the entire tone of our introduction to Isis painted the picture of an only child with a doting single father.

So Isis is calling Murphy from her SISTER’S house in the middle of the night after the attack, and Murphy reacts to Isis’s almost-murder with the sensitivity we have all come to expect from him:

“The fragment of wood—is it still in the lab?”

image

Really, Murphy?

REALLY???

Isis was just nearly murdered BY THE SAME MAN WHO MURDERED YOUR WIFE, and you’re concerned about the piece of wood.

You selfish punk.

Luckily (and shockingly), Isis agrees with me:

Isis laughed through another sob.  “I thought for a moment you were just concerned about me.”

“I am, Isis,” he protested.

“But there are other, more important things to worry about, aren’t there?  Don’t worry, Michael, I understand.  But the answer to your question is no.  The wood is gone.”

Good thing the wood is gone, because at the rate he’s going, Murphy will be getting no action from Isis.  EVER.

Also, I kinda can’t believe that Isis stood up for herself like that.  It’s almost like Greg Dinallo took over the writing for a few seconds.

It doesn’t even particularly matter that the wood was stolen, because the Foundation scientists already ran a bunch of tests on the wood, and found that it had almost no potassium 40 in it.  Murphy figures that this means that there wasn’t much potassium 40 around before the impossible worldwide flood, which is why people lived for hundreds and hundreds of years and potassium 40 comes from the sun I guess but the giant impossible water canopy kept the sun from damaging things to much and I just don’t care and I doubt Isis does either since she was JUST ALMOST STRANGLED A FEW HOURS AGO.

Yeah, like that.  Would you care to shut up now, Murphy?

“I don’t have to tell you how important this all could be, Isis.  But right now none of it matters.  The only important is that you’re alive and safe.  You know, I don’t think I could endure a second loss.”

Nice attempt at backpedaling, Murph, but we’ll have to deduct points for the self-centered whine on the dismount.

Jerk.

TSoA: Chapter 11: Second Verse, Same as the First

Okay, can it, everyone—plot’s back.

-Joel Robinson, Catalina Caper, MST3K

As you might recall, Babylon Rising featured the murder-by-falcon of two security guards at the Parchments of Freedom Foundation, where Isis McDonald works.  It was okay, though, because one was a not-spiritual guy who had a fat, ugly, nagging wife.  The other…well, he made the fatal mistake of trying to stop Talon, who was there to steal a piece of the Brazen Serpent, and whose specialty is death by falcon.  Also death by razor-finger.

You might think, after the brutal, yet mysterious deaths of two of their guards, the Foundation directors might choose to upgrade their security precautions.

You would be wrong.

But first, this very strange opening:

The full moon was making [the guard’s] job as a night watchman a breeze.  From the top of the roof of the Smithsonian, he could see anyone entering the parking lot that flanked the back two sides of the building.  As he moved diagonally across the roof to the other corner, he could see 5th Street, which ran north and south, and Milford Boulevard, which ran east and west.  The traffic was light for a Friday night.

Um.

Two things:

1.  Am I missing something, or is there no Milford Blvd. anywhere around the Smithsonian?

There’s 5th Street, running north to south, but…the east and west streets are letter streets: E, F, G, etc.  Did Bob Phillips just make up a street in Washington?  If so, why?  Why give the Foundation an exact location at all?  Why can’t it just be The Parchments of Freedom Foundation, Washington, D.C.?

2.  AND MORE IMPORTANTLY, THE PARCHMENTS OF FREEDOM FOUNDATION IS PART OF THE SMITHSONIAN THE HELL???

I mean just WUT??  This was not mentioned in the first book at all.  And now the Foundation is part of the frakking awesome Smithsonian???

MY MIND HAS JUST BEEN BLOWN BY THIS INFORMATION.

*pant pant*

Oh yeah, the deaths of the new guards.

The above paragraph, by the way, comprises the totality of the shiny new security measures of the Foundation.  Two guards were killed by a murderous thief, so the solution is to hire new guards, and place one ON THE ROOF.

Which is a great place to be when the murderous thief, WHO WAS NEVER CAUGHT, uses BIRDS to kill people.

Oh, and also: one of the guards is, in his own words, “an old guy,” and another suspects that he is slowly losing his hearing.  And NO, he hasn’t seen a doctor OR informed his employers of this fear.

Talon once again uses a bird to kill, but it’s different this time.

This time, Talon is wrangling a STARLING.

I have no idea WHY Talon would want to use a starling, but it’s…different.

Here is how he uses it: Talon pulls his car into the parking lot of the SMITHSONIAN, fully intending for the guard to see him.

Suddenly [Talon] raised his hand, held it in midair for a few moments, then snapped it down against his thigh.  Instantly Thielman [the guard] heard an earsplitting shriek behind him and swiveled to see a dark shape arrowing down toward his face.  Fumbling at his belt, he instinctively took a step backward and tripped over a taut monofilament line stretched between two steel air outlets.  Turning awkwardly, he managed to break his fall by gripping the guardrail surrounding the roof.

And then the rail snapped in two like a stale breadstick and he was plummeting through space…

And.  He.  Died.

And it was a stupid starling that was to blame.

Wanted for murder

(Picture from Wikipedia.)

So, instead of just having a falcon rip out someone’s throat like last time, Talon goes to all the trouble of sneaking onto the roof of the Smithisonian, setting up this wire for the guard to trip over, waiting until that night, showing up to catch the guards attention, then setting the starling loose and trusting the guard to fall in exactly the right way so that he will fall to his death.

That seems unnecessarily complicated.

Talon sneaks into the Foundation like he’s a one-man Leverage team or something.  (Which is beyond stupid: he is an assassin for hire, not a cat burglar.

He comes across another guard and simply slashes him with his Razor Finger of Doom.

Talon heads on down to Isis’s office, after the piece of the ark for The Seven.  Isis has fallen asleep at her desk because she is pulling an all-nighter.  But Talon wakes her up and she goes for the gun in her desk.

That’s right: after her “adventure” in the last novel, Isis has taken to keeping “a .32 automatic—as yet unfired—nestled in a drawer amid a clutter of stationery.”

Okay, I am no expert in guns, but shouldn’t she have fired it previously?  I mean, if she wants to use this for self-defense, wouldn’t she have taken a course and done some shooting at a range?  It seems unlike Isis not to have made herself proficient.

Not that it matters, because Talon grabs her before she can grab the gun.  And Isis is about to go the way of Laura Murphy, until the third guard comes upon them.  Proving his versatility once again, Talon dispatches him with a throwing knife to the throat, then has to beat cheeks without killing Isis, because Guard #3 has started the alarm and the cops are coming.

I am sad that Isis could not hold Talon off by herself.

😦

Next up: Murphy’s very sensitive reaction to Isis’s near-death experience.