Edge of Apocalypse: pages 200-202 (Chapter Thirty-Five)
(I should warn that there will be discussion of the concept of dubious consent in relationships in this writeup)
We’re back with Josh, Abigail and Deborah; they’ve just finished up with Pastor Campbell’s sermon and now we move to Abigail’s goal of getting “mission-specific” Josh to become an RTC. This is the beginning of that process.
The crowds were spilling out of Eternity Church now that the evening service had ended. Deborah Jordan was busy chattering with some friends in the vestibule, making use of her time off from West Point and quickly catching up before she had to return the next day. At the front of the sanctuary by the pulpit, Abigail was holding one of Joshua’s hands with both of hers as they approached the pastor, but she let go so her husband could shake hands with Paul Campbell.
You know, I’m curious. Who would Deborah know at that church? Some commenters here have remarked upon the way in which this book seems to be aimed at a military readership; could Deborah chatting with friends be regarded, perhaps, as her friends seeing her membership in a RTC type church as being indicative of the military’s tacit acceptance of a religious membership which endorses potentially apocalyptic thinking?
Could that, then, be LaHaye and Parshall trying to reach out to a military audience already primed to believe their version of how events might play out in the Book of Revelation?
This possibly worrisome phenomenon is not without foundation. Operation Enduring Freedom was at one point termed “Infinite Justice” before someone realized it could be insensitive to Muslims. At least one Army General has explicitly cast the wars the USA is currently prosecuting in religious-warfare terms.
I’ve touched on this theme before, and I feel this will probably come up again, of the way in which this book seems to endorse the primacy of the military. It’s proven worthy to keep in mind as we keep reading.
Moving on, we have some quick introductions:
“Pastor Campbell, this is my husband, Joshua. I think you’ve met before…”
“Yes, once or twice awhile back,” Campbell said with a relaxed grin. “It’s a pleasure. And a privilege. I consider you an American hero.”
Joshua always flinched a little with that one. Not that he was embarrassed. But he could never see himself that way. He was a mission-and-duty guy. How could he accept the “hero” label for just doing his best at what had to be done?
Oh, bullshit, Joshua. You’re such an overweening prima donna showboat this false modesty doesn’t do you any credit whatsodamneever. Also LOL MISSION AND DUTY GUY. Nice callback to “mission specific” there, Parshall.
Paul Campbell, however, seems to have a sharp eye for who he wants to proselytize to, personally, one -on-one:
Then Campbell looked over at Joshua and studied him for a minute. “This may be a shot in the dark. But here goes. Are you a golfer by any chance?”
Now, what’s been discussed before is that this book tries, in a very obvious and unsubtle way, to make Joshua and Abigail both very special people, who’re super-competent (when LaHaye and Parshall allow them to be, anyway – considering they hamstring Abigail to some extent to fit her into their idea of gender roles), wonderful, deserving… the whole schmeer.
[Abigail] couldn’t hold back any longer and blurted out, “He’s understating it, pastor. He’s practically a pro. You ought to see his handicap.”
“Oh,” Campbell said with a chuckle. “Maybe I’d better rethink my invitation then. You’re liable to humiliate the rest of us…”
PARSHALL, YOUR LICENCE TO USE ELLIPSES WAS REVOKED. YOU HEAR ME? REVOKED.
I hope to blazes he doesn’t do this as badly in the sequel because my god, what a crap narrative tool his abuse of ellipses is.
Now, notice that Josh isn’t just any golfer – oh, no. He’s numero uno, a veritable Tiger Woods! (As if LaHaye and Parshall would make him a bumbling weenie on the links, anyway.)
“Well, tomorrow is my day off. It’s a dark secret among the clergy. We really do like to go out and play rather than work all the time. Anyway, we had a foursome scheduled for eighteen holes tomorrow. But one of our group had to bail out. So we need a fourth. Would you be interested?”
For an instant Joshua knew exactly what his answer was going to be. He had a ton of work waiting for him at the office. He had financial reports from his multiple companies that needed review. He had an R&D meeting with his engineers on refinements for the RTS system. And he also planned to have an extended phone call with his lawyer, Harry Smythe, to find out what else he knew about his congressional situation.
You know, I can sympathize with Josh (stopped clocks! Horrors!) – being stuck in the middle of a Congressional inquiry and an in-depth post-mortem over how well RTS-RGS worked has got to take priority over a golf game that could end up taking several hours of his time.
Somehow, and I’m not sure what LaHaye and Parshall were aiming for here, Abigail’s mere presence makes him change his mind:
Then Joshua caught his wife out of the corner of his eye. She was looking right at him, straight as an arrow, with a glowing smile on her face.
Wow, he thought, there is a beauty about her right now that I can’t really describe. Different. He was caught off guard for a second.
(italics in the original text)
I wasn’t aware that Parshall was trying for a romance-novel subtext to this action-adventure thriller, but hey, if he can pull it off, great. Thing is, it’s just oddly placed. It really is. If Parshall were writing this in their bedroom as a prelude to Josh and Abby funtiemz, okay, it would work.
Anyway, Josh agrees to meet the Pastor at the golf club the next day for tee-off.
As Joshua was driving home through the New York City traffic, he noticed that Abigail wasn’t talking, but she had her head back against the headrest and a smile on her face. There was a special aura of peace about her.
“You’re noticeably quiet.”
“Contented, that’s all.”
Joshua almost chuckled at that. During the sermon that night he had felt like he had a freeway rush-hour running through his brain. Contentment?
That analogy seems a bit odd, since rush-hour traffic is usually anything but. If he meant that his thoughts had become cluttered with the onslaught of material Paul Campbell introduced in his sermon, then the analogy works a little better.
Parshall avails himself of gender-essentialist button-pushing in the audience while abusing ellipses again:
[Deborah said,] “Okay, Mom, share your secret of contentment with Dad…”
Abigail threw her daughter a look that without any words seemed to contain all the wisdom and experience of womanhood in it.
Deborah got the silent message and muttered, “Fine.” She quit talking and sat back in her seat.
I can’t help but get a little bit weirded out at the notion that Abby’s basically telegraphing the message, “Do what your husband wants”. LaHaye and Parshall seem to love shoving skeevy subtext into the relationships of the characters who are nominally the “good guys”. We’ve got Strong Rice’s “interesting” relationship with Darlene, and now we have Unfortunate Implications in Abby possibly implying that she accepts the idea of wifely subservience to her husband.
I mentioned “dubious consent” in my warning note above, and this is where those Unfortunate Implications come in. It is possible to create conditions where consent is apparently given to sex, but in actual fact one party isn’t really consenting because they 100% want to, but out of a sense of duty or obligation. Given Josh’s tendency to want to dominate and be in control of situations, it’s possible – though I couldn’t tell you with any certainty if this actually happened, given the limited back story available to this point – that he’s badgered Abigail into sex when she was wavering instead of enthusiastic.
We still have a good chunk of the book to get through; I will fully admit that the analysis of the problematic aspects of this book could easily be an entire writeup in and of itself, and I encourage discussion on this point, while asking that commenters please adhere to basics of courtesy regarding trigger warnings, and where necessary, using the ROT13 text-encrypter to allow readers to decide for themselves if they wish to read spoilers and/or potentially disturbing discussion.
For this reason I’ll stop here, and take up the remainder of the chapter another time.