Category Archives: Soon

Shadowed: Chapter 23: This Is It, Part Deux

Lest you think we’ve heard the last of the horror that is Doctor Assface deliberately withholding medical care from atheists so they’ll heal slower, another underground Christian has thought of a way to make the whole thing even more terrible.

Straight wants some advice from Abraham, the head of the Heartland underground.  (It just kills me that I can remember that it’s Heartland, while Jenkins persists in calling it “Michigan/Ohio.”)

A few interesting points:

-Abraham still operates under his code name, while knowing everything about Straight and his life.

-He is also the first person in this series to refer to Straight as “Dr. Rathe.”  But there is so little description of how the characters are speaking that I don’t know if this is supposed to be a respectful acknowledgement of Straight’s Ph.D. in history, or an ironic reference to the simple fact that Straight volunteers at a hospital.

But I’m stalling.  Based solely on Straight’s retelling of the conversation, Abraham concludes that Doctor Slow-the-Atheists “sounds credible,” but that the relationship between he and Straight should be more “reciprocal.”

“And what do I want from him?” [asked Straight]

Abraham offered a weary smile.  “Think, man.  What do we most need?”

“Brother, I haven’t thought clearly for days.  Forgive me and tell me.”

Abraham sighed.  “You say this doctor assured you he doesn’t do any real harm to these patients, which would violate his oath. …”

I see we’re still going along with this fiction that slowing a patient’s recovery by days, perhaps weeks, is not doing any “real harm.”  You guys just keep telling yourselves that, I guess.

“…But surely a percentage of his cases are terminal nonetheless.  It would seem a small thing for him to let you know who those are early enough that you can take advantage of the information.”

“And appropriate their IDs.”

Good, Straight.  Don’t use the word “steal.”  Because stealing is wrong and stuff.

Abraham clapped a hand on Straight’s knee.  “See, you’re not so tired that it has completely clouded your judgment.”

It will never stop blowing my mind that Jenkins doesn’t see how monstrous this all is.  These are supposed to be the GOOD GUYS.  The GOOD ones.

***

Meanwhile, a far less monstrous man, Ranold, has been named “interim head of NPO USSA.”  So he heads to the White House (or rather, just to the West Wing, since the rest of the place was destroyed during WWIII and Atheistopia was too busy curing cancer to rebuild).

Jenkins once again manages to confuse himself a bit here—the governor of the Columbia Region (hey, at least he didn’t call it “Washington, D.C, Maryland, and Virginia”!) was the last vice president of the United States, yet his duties are “largely ceremonial,” yet it was his decision to name Ranold as the head of the entire CIA/FBI…

I’ll admit I don’t get it.

Anyway, Ranold likes the guy much more than Ball Dangler.  And despite Ranold getting a bit too big for his britches and interrupting the guy (“Haywood Hale,” if you please), he manages to save himself, and it is strongly implied that Ranold and Haywood are, at the very least, more simpatico than Ranold and Dangler.

***

Meanwhile meanwhile, Pudgy Jack is having a meeting of “the elders” of the underground, complete with flipchart, with Bible verses allegedly greenlighting his brilliant flood-the-entire-planet-except-L.A.” plan.

So in one chapter, we have two different sets of Christians plotting how best to destroy the people who survived the first massacre, who still have the temerity not to side with those who prayed for the deaths of their loved ones.

Shockingly enough, after all that’s happened and all he prayed for, Paul thinks this is a step too far.  Or, at the very least, that Jack is starting to sound mildly unhinged.

Though Paul thinks this mostly because they have “more pressing business“—they have to get out of their underground bunker before the NOP raids them…in ten days.

Ten days.

I can’t even begin to imagine what would take them ten days to get ready.  Just go get ’em, yanno?

Both sides in this conflict just suck.

 

 

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Shadowed: Chapter 22: Now an Agnostic

Felicia and Cletus read the newspaper to each other over dinner.  This seems a tad odd as Felicia clearly has purchased an actual paper newspaper, when in the first book, Soon, a character expresses surprise that a younger man would even know what a book is.  Hell, nowadays, plenty of big cities have reduced their print editions to a couple of days of the week, the rest available via online subscription.

Anywho, the scene has nothing to do with Felicia and Cletus and how they’re coping.  It just has to do with how Trudy was right and the world is coming to see that it is best to capitulate to terrorists.  As several of you pointed out last time, that’s exactly what happened after 9/11, right?

Jenkins, surprisingly, gives credit where it’s due to the atheists-no-more:

“I was an atheist who is now an agnostic.  But that sounds foolish even to me when the promise of a curse, a plague, has been carried out before my eyes.  Hear me: I will not worship this vengeful God.  But neither will I ever again pretend He doesn’t exist and has not the power to squash me like a bug.”

Well, on second thought: this guy does confirm that atheists are only pretending not to believe in God.

Jenkins also makes sure to point out that Christians are “the new minority, the new oppressed.”

When I have the power to call down death from the skies, I’m sure I will feel, if nothing else, really oppressed.

Also, I wonder how these now-agnostics would react if they knew that even as they spoke of conciliation,the Christians were brainstorming even more ways to slaughter them all.

Still, Felicia feels bad for the poor widdle RTCs, because the atheists’ reactions are focused only on God’s wrath, not his love and mercy.

Go figure.

***

Meanwhile, Ranold is a bit of his own oppressed minority: one of the few people who actually wants to get some shit done, even if it is the apocalypse and all.  And he’s ready to head to Switzerland to see the leader of the free world in person, to either “talk sense to the man or muscle him out of the way.”  And when it becomes clear that Ball Dangler has only one issue on his mind (talking to Paul), it’s kinda hard to blame Ranold.

***

Meanwhile meanwhile, Paul has been noodling (GORRAM, I hate when the word “noodle” is used as a verb) the idea of contacting Bia Balaam.  After extensive praying about it, he…decides to play games with her.  He decides to “leave the burden on her,” which translates to her calling him again and again and again, and he never actually answering.  So finally, she reveals that she knows exactly where the underground is and who all is there, and that an attack is planned.

Well, hell, I’m glad someone besides poor Ranold is interested in taking some actual action beyond writing letters to the editor.

But that’s not the most exciting part.  Felicia is so upset that the atheists didn’t see God’s infinite compassion when he killed every firstborn son on the planet, that she enlists Hector Hernandez to send Paul’s instructions on how to switch teams receive Christ as their savior to every computer on the planet.  And I dunno, didn’t a bunch of Atheistopians just say that they had no intention of ever worshipping such a god?

Weird chick since she converted, Felicia is.

Shadowed: Chapter 17, Part 1: Back with Straight!

Unlike Ball Dangler, Straight gets an exclamation point.  Because I’ve almost kinda…missed Straight.  We are 17 chapters in and he’s only been name-checked so far as Paul tries to skull-phone-call him.

And if there’s one thing Straight can always be relied upon to do, it’s bring the crazy.  Rude space-invading guy that he is.

Sadly, there’s not much to say here.

But that won’t stop me!

Straight has been volunteering at the hospital quite a bit, “visiting the injured of all ages.”  I’m really not sure how much his “visiting” can possibly be helping in this situation.  It’s portrayed in Soon as Straight trying to stave off the boredom of long-term patients, like Paul after his supernatural-light-column-blinding.  I would think the last thing people would be feeling, 48 hours after the genocide, would be boredom.  Would they really be so anxious to listen to the sax right now?  Or do many of them need secret letters written to potential future mistresses?

It doesn’t really matter, because, as usual, the main point of seeing Straight is certainly not to see him help out others in a very Christian manner.  Instead, he’s being pulled into a clandestine meeting with a doctor:

[Straight had seen the man in surgical greens and booties, so he was an operating-room man.

An operating-room man????

Um, Straight…honey…where I come from, we call such people surgeons.  Though, come to think of it, the guy could just as easily be a surgical nurse.  Then again, probably not as easily, because he is a man, and I’m sure Jenkins would never make a man a nurse, like some…lady or something.

Dr. Gregory Graybill (*snerk*) sneaks Straight a business card with a “secure” number written on the back (Are these meant to be secret skull phone numbers, or secret old-school corded phones like Ranold has in his house?  We are never told.)

Straight is instructed to call the “operating-room man” at the secure number “at 2 a.m. within the next three days.”

Ooooo, spy stuff!!!

***

Cut to a long scene of Felicia and her husband grieving.  We’ll hit that next time, because I want to hit the rest of Straight’s story first.

***

It was all Straight could do to stay awake, and he knew he should not have stretched out on the bed.

Um, set an alarm?  Why are LaJenkinsian heroes so frequently befuddled by the basics of everyday living?

But Straight manages to startle himself awake just in time for the appointed super-sekrit squirrel call.

In which the doctor instructs Straight to meet him at the hospital to talk.

YOU BOTH WERE JUST AT THE HOSPITAL WHY WAS IT EVEN NECESSARY TO CALL EACH OTHER IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT TO PLAN TO MEET AT THE HOSPITAL AGAIN???

As we have previously discussed, Christians (well, of course the doctor is a secret Christian) are the worst at spy games.

The worst.

“Where?”

And…cut to the next part of the Felicia-and-Cletus stuff.

Yep, Jenkins randomly cuts off Straight’s conversation without telling us the extremely shocking and secret information of where this hospital volunteer and surgeon will met.  We will not find out the answer until Chapter 20.

But because I love you guys, I’ll reveal the shocking twist right now…

They’re going to meet and have lunch in the hospital cafeteria.

BWAH???

Yep, I can totally see why this plan was worth a clandestine meeting at the hospital to exchange phone numbers, followed by a clandestine phone call in the middle of the night to set the meeting.

At the hospital cafeteria.

That is all much less suspicious than just asking Straight if he would like to have lunch in the cafeteria sometime.

They SUCK at being spies.  So bad.

Silenced: Chapter 5, Part 1: In the End, We Win

“In the end, we win,” is stated by Tsion Ben Judah at least once in his “messages” to the poor, beleaguered, skyscraper-dwelling believers in the Left Behind series.  Coincidentally (or not), it was also a theme I heard at least twice on Christian radio last week.  (Yes, I listen to Christian radio in the car sometimes.  It is fascinating, Captain.)

In the world of Left Behind, it almost makes sense.  There is an alleged global and spiritual war going on, and maybe the “troops” (har) need some encouragement.  Now, granted, the lives of the Tribbers of Left Behind is not exactly one of the hardship and horror you might expect, but we can pretend.

In today’s world, it makes even less sense.  Christians are the single most privileged religious grouping in North America.  Yet some feel the need to think of themselves as under constant fire, even as they cheer on the lack of equality and respect afforded others.

And then there is the world of Soon.  A world in which war, cancer, and homelessness have been eradicated, but where people are not free to practice their religion.  I can accept that this is not cool, even if we don’t ever get a clear picture of what the atheistopic government is really up to: is it a worldwide conspiracy to wipe out all religious people?  Are the murders the work of a few rogue agents like Bia?  We never do quite get to see.  And I’m not sure that confusion is meant to be purposefully ominous…

All this to say that this portion of the book is where Jenkins “proves” a few of the supposed worst traits of atheists…by making the atheist leader of the world say them.

But first, we get to see Paul at his asshattish finest.  Ball Dangler tells Paul of all the NPO has done so far, which Paul thinks is “much ado about little.”  There’s the Paul Apostle wit we all know and love!

“We are on the same page as far as the disposition of this madman, I assume.” [said Dangler]

Paul chose to flash his powers of recall.  “No recourse, no appeal, no grace period, no severance.”

Dengler raised his eyebrows and smiled.  “Well done,” he said.

Wow, Paul, it is so amazing that you can repeat a line that has no doubt be rerun hundreds of times since the disasters!

Also, what does Dangler care what Paul thinks should be done with the terrorist?  Paul is just a consultant on religious matters; he certainly shouldn’t have anything to do with the sentencing part of the process.

After the huge and disgusting sammiches they ate, Dangler naturally wants to smoke a cigar and discuss philosophy.

“Sir, again, I am here at your disposal.  There is nothing I’d rather do—short of being home with my family—than whatever you wish.”

“That sounds marvelous, Paul.  Here, why don’t you try this Naughty Nurse costume on for size…”

Just kidding.  Atheistopia may be open to all manner of everything between consenting adults (those bastards!), but Dangler himself has a traditional family: wife and three sons.

Three sons, guys.  Just like Ranold mysteriously has a son that he did not have in Soon.

It’s kinda funny that Dangler is a family man and proud of it.  I mean, I’m sure we’re supposed to know that his supposedly happy marriage cannot possibly be as happy and fulfilling and moral as RTC marriages, given Jenkins’ views on the matter:

Q: Once again with Paul Stepola in SOON we have a man whose marriage has deteriorated, much like Rafe’s in Left Behind. Is there a reason why you chose this theme again?

A: Such tragedy occurs daily, especially among people without faith. Of course, bad marriages are so pervasive that they have invaded the faith community too. Broken relationships are a source of heavy heartbreak that seem to affect every family. That I have enjoyed an idyllic marriage for nearly 33 years also makes the other side of that an interesting topic to explore.

-from an interview with Jerry Jenkins at Reading Group Guides

The smug is strong in this one.

Jenkins appears to be unfamiliar with actual divorce rates, including those of “people without faith.”  (Not that there is anything automatically wrong with divorce, I hasten to add.)  For example, this survey was available in 1999, before Jenkins started researching (heh) Soon.

Also, as long as we’re having a smug-off, I shall put out my parents as Exhibit A: both nonbelievers, happily married for over 40 years.  HA!  Atheists WIN!

But Paul has no time to dwell on how much he wants to head back to Chicago and ignore his kids and exchange pleasantries about the weather with his wife; it’s time to discuss international affairs!

“Frankly, Mr. Chancellor, I’ve always thought it ironic that the best-known army knife in world history comes from a country that has been militarily neutral for centuries.”

Dengler howled.

Really?  Because it wasn’t that funny, Mr. Ball Dangler.

No matter—on to religion!

“It may surprise you to know, Doctor, that I am sympathetic to the yearning of the human soul for something beyond itself.”

“That does surprise me.” [said Paul]

Me too!  In a skeptical, science-based, atheistic world, I’m kinda surprised that anyone would cop to believing in a soul that exists separate from the body.

But let’s let Dangler explain:

“We have shown that the eradication of religion results in true peace.  We have proven, at least in my mind and in the minds of right-thinking people, that the true source of honor and goodness is found within oneself.  My religion?  Humanity.  Worship the human mind and heart and soul and potential.”

“You do believe in a living soul then?”

“Oh, certainly.  It is the conscience, the inner person.”

“So the conscience, in effect, worships itself.”

“Yes!  Very good!  There is nowhere else to look, and rightfully so.”

HA!  So atheists DO worship themselves!  I knew it!  I knew there couldn’t really be such a thing as a person who doesn’t worship anything!  I mean, how ridiculous would that be???

Dangler continues:

“Men and women are, at their core, loving, giving, caring, achieving people.”

Not all of them, Dangler.  Not by a long shot.

Paul agrees with me!

Paul wanted to play devil’s advocate, to ask about people who follow their base natures and commit crimes and put themselves above others.  But he couldn’t risk it.  The discussion would lead back to Styr Magnor and be blamed on evil in the name of God again.

And we all know that God has other kinds of evil in mind.  As do other men and women.  In fact, though Paul and I agree in principle that some people put themselves above others, I was thinking of an example a little closer to home.  Say, just for the sake of argument, a man who came up with the marvelous idea to ask his God to dessicate an entire city, and then (quite easily) talked a bunch of like-minded people into also asking for that very thing.

Then, when the dessication happened and thousands died, celebrating.

Yanno, that kind of base nature and putting oneself above others.

Silenced: Chapter 4, Part 1: Subordinates

Paul arrives in Bern, and gets into a snide little conversation with his driver.  Unusually for the Underground Zealot series, it is the other person who instigates things, not Paul:

“So this is Doctor Stepola.  The expert.” [Emphasis Jenkins]

Paul decides to play nice by playing dumb, with expected results:

“Hey, maybe you can tell me something.  How did Bern get to be the international capital?  I mean, Switzerland makes sense, but why not Zurich?”

“Bern is the capital of Switz–” the driver said.

“Sure, but–”

“Have you been here before?”

“To Zurich, but never to Bern.”

“Then why would you say it shouldn’t be the world capital?”

“I didn’t.  I was just wondering–”

“The minute you set foot in our city, you disparage it?  Zurich is bigger, so Zurich is better?”

You were wondering, Professor?  Try reading a book.  The driver may be a jerk, but Paul is being a condescending ass.  The driver is not his tour guide.

Anyway, I’m bored of this scene, so let’s pop over to Jae, who’s bored, too.  Jae is just not cut out to be a stay-at-home mom.  This was alluded to in Soon, and driven home here.  She just cannot find anything to occupy her time while the kids are at school.  I know this makes Jae a very bad future-RTC wife, but I can understand.  After all, Jae has spent the last ten years in a relationship with emotional abuser Paul, who has probably managed to keep Jae from forming any lasting friendships.  At least twice in this book, Jae alludes to having friends, but we never meet them or learn anything about any of them.  I have a feeling that she’s so lonely that she is imagining her acquaintances (probably her kids’ friends’ parents) to be her friends.  Paul has also spent eight years telling her that she’s stupid and incapable, so she probably hasn’t cultivated many hobbies or outside interests.  Very typical of emotional abusers: keep them from being focused on anything but the abuser, make them feel useless alone.  It’s apparently worked.

Jae also has a graduate degree in economics, and says that she misses the adult interactions of an office setting.  Again, not something a good RTC wife should feel, which I guess proves that Jae needs to accept Jesus into her heart so all those nasty feelings of discontent can be repressed, as they should be.

Jae calls Ranold to vent, which I guess shows just how lonely and friendless she really is.  Ranold is full of praise for Paul and tells Jae that he may be in Europe for many weeks.  She is made even more upset by this realization, but then Ranold makes Jae an offer she probably could refuse, if she wanted to: come to Washington, D.C. for a month or two, with the kids, and be a temporary “numbers person” at the NPO.

WILL Jae take the job?  WILL Paul get along with the leader of the world?  Stay tuned!

Silenced: Chapter 3, Part 2: Jae and the Letter

The great mystery of Soon has been solved!

DID Jae read the letter from Paul Stepola Sr. to Paul Stepola Jr.?  The one full of boilerplate Christian apologia?

Yes.  Yes, she did.

Huzzah.

Jae’s emotions are understandably mixed at the discovery of the letter (which happened some months ago, in Soon), but her main concern is to keep it from her own kids.

But now she reads over the letter again, and finds it to be,,,not so bad.

Jae, you poor sap.

And somehow, this read-through of the letter was different.  Jae was not so uptight.

As we all know, most times when women have a problem with something, it is because they are too uptight.  Probably the first time Jae read the letter, it was That Time of the Month.

This read-through of the boilerplate evangelism leads Jae to…well, it seems a rather odd conclusion to me:

Wrong.  Misguided.  Delusional, surely.  But how he loved his son!

You can read above my initial reaction to the letter in Soon.  I somehow cannot find a lot of WOW-he-loved-his-son-SO-MUCH in a letter that mainly contains very run-of-the-mill evangelism, coupled with talk of Hell, including that Beloved Son’s own mother will be going there someday.  (And, we know, she is roasting there even as Jae reads the letter again.)

And yet he reached her—even though she was not the object of the letter—with his love for his child.  She knew what it was to love a child.  And she knew what it was to love his child.  She loved Paul with all her heart, in spite of everything.

Jae, you poor, poor sap.

Jae is guilty of something we all do on occasion: assuming that everyone else in the world shares our attitudes.  She loves her kids and assumes that Paul Sr. has that same kind of love for Paul Jr.  She wipes away all this stuff:

But those who have rejected God will face a very different fate: punishment and suffering beyond anything we can imagine or have ever managed to inflict upon each other.

That’s you, Jae, that he’s talking about.  You and your parents and your brother and, as far as you know, your husband.  He may love his son (as long as he becomes a Christian, mind!), but he thinks millions upon millions of other people deserve Hell for all eternity.

Hell, even Ranold doesn’t think that.

But Jae has other ideas:

…she had forced herself to compare [Ranold] with a man she had never met.  And her father had been found wanting.

Yes, Ranold is no great father, especially to his son.  But Jae apparently can’t accept that both men were/are wanting as parents.  And she’s definitely not capable of the kind of introspection that might reveal that her own unaffectionate, self-involved, and judgmental father might well have been a factor in her own marriage to an unaffectionate, self-involved, and judgmental man.

Poor Jae.  She really has nowhere to turn.

In other words, she is ripe for RTC conversion!

Silenced: Chapter 3, Part 1: Straight Talk

Paul is woken up in the pre-dawn hours with the news of the Eiffel Tower disaster.  It means, of course, that he will have to go to Europe.  Jae wakes up, and is upset–partially that Paul will be leaving (because who could bear to lose such a treasure?) and partially because of, yanno, the loss of life.

[Paul] looked at Jae sadly.  “Half a mile of iron and steel fell into the Champ-de-Mars.”

“And this in the name of God.”

“So Magnor says,” Paul said.  He hoped and prayed that Christians weren’t really behind this.  Who could justify that?

I dunno, Paul.  The same people who justify the deaths of thousands because Christians prayed that God would remove all H2O from Los Angeles?

“My flight to Bern leaves in four hours.”

“You going to try to get more sleep?”

“No.  I’ve got meetings first.”

Note: this is a lie from Good Christian Paul.  By no means his first or his last to poor Jae, who wants nothing more than to repair their trainwreck of a marriage.  Paul makes it sound like he’s going to NPO meetings…but he’s just going to chat with Straight.

I hope you all have the fond memories of Stuart “Straight” Rathe that I do.  He was a hospital volunteer when Paul was blinded in Soon.  And by “hospital volunteer” I mean “stealth Christian who tries to convert specially-selected patients like Paul.”  He is Paul’s friend (his only friend) and his marriage counselor (that is, the only person who will listen when serial cheater and emotional abuser Paul whines about how haaaard it is to love his wife), and his Magical Negro.

This is the first time we’ve been to Straight’s apartment, and the slash potential we noticed in Soon continues apace.  Jenkins even gives us a two-fer when he makes sure we also know that Paul is not a racist, because he admires Straight’s “magnificent skin.”

We also learn that Straight is a fan of vinyl and linoleum (no, really) before getting down to business.  By which I mean, Paul starts whining:

“Any idea how lonely this is?”

Well, Paul, maybe if you hadn’t spent the last eight years destroying your own marriage, you might have a friend and ally in your wife, and wouldn’t be so lonely.  Too bad, so sad.

And, with the bodies of the Paris victims still warm, Paul and Straight obsess over the drama of the letter from Paul’s father, whether Jae has it, what Jae thinks about it, what Jae thinks about Paul, and really, Straight should just pass Jae a note in study hall:

“Jae, Paul told me to tell you that he finds you marginally less repulsive and stupid than he did six months ago.  Also, do you think he’s a Christian?  Please check one.”

And they pray.  Not about the victims of the hour-old horrific tragedy, mind you, but about Paul being able to find Christians in Europe.  Also about Paul getting a “protective hedge of fire around him.”

Cool superpower, bro.

Finally, Straight gives Paul some actual useful information: the names of the head of the whole French underground (Chappell Raison (“Goes by Chapp.“)) and some guy in Rome (whether he is the head of the Italian underground or just Rome is not mentioned), Enzo Fabrizio.

And more bitchin’ travel times in Atheistopia: it only takes two hours to fly from Chicago to Bern.  Atheistopia just improves itself constantly–in Soon, most travel times were about half what they are today.  But this flight is less than a quarter of the estimated time today.

Atheistopia, you’ve still got it.

Silenced: Chapter 1, Part 1: Wintermas, Part Deux

Keeping up the tradition of Soon, Silenced begins the story proper during the Stepola/Decenti celebration of Wintermas.  Last year at this time, Paul was an emotionally abusive, lying asshole who also happened to be an atheist.  This year, everything has changed, because Paul has “undergone the greatest transformation a man could“: he is now an emotionally abusive, lying asshole who happens to be a born-again Christian.

…there were days when he wondered how long he could go on.  That wasn’t like him.  He had been military, a man’s man…

Heh, therein lies much of the problem, methinks.  Atheist or Christian, Paul has never been a good fit for a world in which women are the equals of men.

…he could think of nothing he would rather do than tell his wife and children and include them in his new life.  But he could not.  Without knowing in advance Jae’s reaction, or whether she would tell her father, Paul could not risk it.

Yet Paul is, of course, insufficiently self-aware to realize that had he only treated his wife like a human being over the ten years of their marriage, they might have a trusting enough relationship that he could tell her anything and feel safe.

But Paul is too busy patting himself on the back for being a New Man:

For all Jae knew, their reconciliation and renewed attempts to repair the marriage were her ideas.  He was finally ready and even equipped to make the changes, but she had to wonder why.  If only he could tell her.

Like last year, the Stepolas are spending Wintermas at Jae’s parents’ home in Washington, D.C.

Oh, and Jae’s brother and his wife are there, too.

What, didn’t you know that Jae had a brother?  Well, neither did I, because he is not so much as mentioned in the first book, even during the Wintermas celebration.

He’s Jae’s older brother.

Now, I may have mentioned this before, but I am usually not that great at figuring out the endings of stories.  I rarely guess the killer’s identity, for example.  Yet the character of Berlitz Decenti is so clunkily inserted, his age so ham-fistedly emphasized, that I called exactly what would happen in the final chapter.

And it did.

Okay, I’ve given you all the clues.  Any guesses?

Back to the fraught Wintermas celebration: Paul is all butthurt because he can’t celebrate what he wants to celebrate:

…he wished he could sing what was in his heart, that he could pray aloud, that he could celebrate the birth of Christ rather than “the bounty of the season.”

All the while he was privately celebrating the events in Los Angeles, but of course that could never come out.

Well, yeah, I guess.  I mean, Paul would seem pretty awful, celebrating the deaths of thousands, if not millions, of innocent men, women, and children.

And bear in mind that it has been months since the dessication.  And Paul is still celebrating the death and destruction.

What a nice guy.  What a New Man.

And how suspicious of his wife, who has found it in her heart to forgive him for his serial cheating and years of emotional abuse:

For Jae’s part, she seemed genuinely appreciative of the new Paul.  She commented more than once about his getting along with the difficult personalities and his attentiveness to her and the kids.

“It’s not me,” Paul wanted to say.  But all he could do was smile.  How could he know if she was genuine?  Was she onto him, looking for ways to trip him up?

Huh, it’s almost as if Paul has given Jae no reason to trust him, ever.  But again, Paul doesn’t make any connection between his past treatment of Jae, and his distrust of her now.  He simply puts Jae into the same box as everyone else in his life—someone who might be “onto him.”

Paul spends the evening in the den with Ranold and Berlitz, and we see that Berlitz is not to be trusted, what with being short and “spiky-haired.”  But even if Ranold and Jerry Jenkins are no fans of his, I kinda like him: he is good at his job (salesman), and seems to have a decent relationship with his third wife, Margene Aryana.  He’s also witty and unafraid to stand up to Ranold (much less afraid than Paul, that’s for sure).

Ranold seemed embarrassed when his son was gone [to bed].  “Don’t let Connor grow up to be like that,” he said.

Paul couldn’t imagine it.

I bet he couldn’t.  I imagine Paul “shooting a double take.”

“Connor?  Oh, Connor.  My son.  Sure.  Of course.  Him.”

Suspecting Ranold of also being Onto Him, Paul heads off to the comfort of his despised wife’s bed.

But more on that next time.

Welcome back, Paul Stepola.  I think you were actually kinda missed.

Silenced: Getting Ready

My first post on Silenced will go up in a few days, but it’s not really my first.

You seen, Soon, the first book in Jerry Jenkins’ Underground Zealot series, ended with a sorta-cliffhanger: the city of Los Angeles had just been stripped of all water by a loving God, at the behest of his loving followers.  The book ended only a moment after the dessication occurred, so readers (either of the books themselves, or this blog) would have to wait for Silenced to learn what happened in the wake (har) of the lack of water.

And I didn’t want my loyal readers to have to wait!

So, I covered most of the Prologue of Silenced here.

Also, if anyone is new around here or would like a refresher on one Paul Apostle Stepola, you can check out my entire critique of Soon here.  For an even quicker refresher, the series has a TV Tropes page!

See you…soon.

TSoA: Chapter 52: The. End.

Okay, everyone, time to put The Secret on Ararat to bed.

Are you on the edge of your collective seat?  I know I am.

We last left the Seven skiing talking about how Talon did such a great job killing Murphy and everybody else on the “discovery team” except for Isis, who is a girl who doesn’t count.  (Hell, at least Talon gives Isis some respect—he thinks she died of exposure on the mountain.)

But no, Murphy, Isis, Vern the Vietnam (heh) pilot, and Evil Larry the Photo Guy have all survived, and Murphy has made a lame deal with the Turkish Sopranos, under which he gets first dibs on Talon, but must kill him.

We’ll see how well that turns out.

Murphy and Isis have tracked down (or been tracked down by) another member of the Turkish Sopranos.  We don’t know who this guy is or what he does, but we do know one important piece of information about him: he’s FAT.

We know this because he only appears for one and one-half pages of this novel, but is referred to as “the fat man” SIX TIMES.

Six.

So I guess he’s really fat.  Really really.  That is his one defining characteristic.

Fatty McFattypants reveals that Talon and some other guy (no doubt Evil Larry the Photo Guy) were seen in Istanbul, and that they bought tickets to sail to Romania on a “pleasure cruise.”  And if you think it’s odd that Talon would sail rather than take a plane, so does Isis.  But Murphy sets her straight:

“Why doesn’t he just get on a plane?” [Isis asked]

“Because that’s what we’d expect him to do,” Murphy said.

Um, Murph?  Talon thinks you both are dead.  YOU KNOW THIS.  The world does not revolve around your expectations, you narcissistic prick.

Portly Chubberston seems pretty blasé about not being able to kill Talon himself, which seems strange, what with him (Gutly Bigassingworth) being part of the Turkish Sopranos and all, but he is actually incredibly accommodating.

Literally.  He already has tickets for Murphy and Isis to board the same ship.

HOW CONVENIENT

And off they go.  At the docks, Isis is scared that Talon will recognize them, and has them both wear disguises, by which she means…hats.

Murphy, however, has remembered this time that Talon thinks they’re dead, and is nonplussed by the whole thing.

Which is a totally natural reaction when you’re about to go up against the guy who murdered your wife.

Once inside [their cabin] [Isis] bolted the door, then stacked a chair against it, just in case.

Murphy sat on the other bed and put his hands behind his head.  She had an awful feeling he was preparing to take a nap.

Yep, because when your friend is “slightly hysterical” with fear, the best and most sensitive option is to pretend that nothing’s wrong.

After all, Isis is just being a silly girl about the whole thing.  It’s not like Talon tried to kill her three times or anything.

Later that night, they go hunting for the hunter.

Well, Murphy goes hunting for the hunter.  Isis clings to him and trembles like the stereotypical Girl in an old monster movie.

A sudden laugh made Isis clutch Murphy’s arm.

…Isis starting at every little sound.

Her heart beating furiously…

…her eyes wide with fear.

She closed her eyes, trying to make herself invisible, not daring to move a muscle…

She couldn’t think.

Oh, how the mighty have been Stepfordized.  Hey, remember when Isis defeated those evil kidnappers?

Because it’s clear that Bob Phillips doesn’t.

I guess just so he can look awesome, Talon is “perched on the very top of the ship’s superstructure.”  Murphy spots him first, natch, and heads off…somewhere, leaving Isis all alone.

Sadly, Murphy didn’t learn from their little escapade of kidnapper-defeating that Isis is more than capable of holding her own.  Maybe they should have made a plan together to defeat Talon.

Then again, this is a Phillips book, not a Dinallo book, so Isis can’t kick ass any longer.

Murphy stealths away from her, and Isis stands there trembling.  I’m sure that if she could move, she’d break a heel.  Then Talon stealths to her side.  Now, an uncharitable critiquer might be tempted to interpret this as Murphy forcing Isis to act as bait.

So, yeah, Murphy basically forces Isis to act as bait.

With Talon at her side, Isis has no idea what to do.  After all, Murphy didn’t let her in on his little plan, and she has lost all ability to act independently, so she’s basically screwed.

She does manage to ask after Larry the Photo Guy, and, of course, Talon has already killed him by tossing him over the side of the ship.  Which sounds pretty exciting and no doubt required some ingenuity, inasmuch as they were aboard a pleasure cruise at the time, but we get nothing.

Time for action!

“What about the bronze plates?” [asked Isis, trembling]

[Talon] gestured behind him with his thumbs.  “Up there.  Safe in my rucksack.”

“Think again!”

Talon shoved Isis out of the way as he rushed to the guardrail and looked down.  Murphy was sitting on the rail at the stern, holding on with one hand as he dangled a rucksack over the churning wake.

Now, you may be thinking the same thing I was thinking: Oh, that clever Murphster.  He has no doubt removed the bronze plates from the rucksack, and is tricking Talon into thinking he is going to toss them!

[Murphy] shook the rucksack, and Talon could hear the bronze plates scraping together.

Or not.  Remember, kids, Good Christians don’t lie.  Ever.  Even when it comes to preserving the secret to unlimited energy for the entire world.

As you might imagine, Murphy makes as though to toss the rucksack, Talon makes a flying leap for them, and is dragged over the side by the heaviness of the plates.

Bye-bye.

Isis scrambled down a ladder and buried herself in Murphy’s arms, sobbing uncontrollably.

Of course.

So, with Talon and the bronze plates in the drink, we end on Murphy and Isis huggling each other in the pretty dawn light.

Wait, so they waited until FIVE A.M. to track down Talon???

Weird.  Especially because there were drunken couples carousing nearby just before this all went down.

Whatever.

And so, this concludes The Secret on Ararat.  Which secret will continue to be a secret, since it is now buried forever, and its treasures are at the bottom of the sea.  Except for whatever the team spirited away from the site.  Which we never hear about again.

SO!!!

Up next is my first ever GUEST CRITIQUE!!!

Followed by one or two more movie reviews by yours truly, before we get into the Good Christian Marriage and international espionage (heh) of Silenced, the next book in the Underground Zealot series.  If anyone would like a refresher, my full critique of Soon can be found here.

silenced