EoA: Gallagher’s Trail

Edge of Apocalypse: pages 233-234 (Chapter Forty)

Hot on the trail of Atta Zimler is our FBI G-Man, John Gallagher.

The FBI agent was still stuck in Philadelphia before returning for New York. He had one more stop to make. But it was a crucial one. He knew he had to face Miles Zadernack at FBI headquarters. But hours before he was due at the airport, he had received a call from the Philly police detectives. Surprisingly, the lead detective was good to his word and was calling him with some additional information about their investigation into the murder of Roger French.

Turns out there’s some surveillance video from the lobby of the building where Roger French worked, and with any chance at all, Gallagher might be able to ID Zimler off the tape. Our G-Man’s mood improves, and off he goes before he’s gotta meet his boss.

Very short bookend to the Zimler-buying-explosives thing, and the above para is really the nugget you need to figure out what’s going down. 🙂

A note about Zimler’s name, since it came up in the comments: I remind people that one of the 9/11 terrorists was named Mohamed Atta and he grew up in Germany. This is probably how Parshall picked out the name he did for the “subcontract killer” of Edge of Apocalypse.

His naming tends to fall kind of flat though, given that he’s made some real boo-boos like picking “Hanz” for a German name. That said, it’s not quite as bad as Jenkins’s habit, as TVTropes notes, of using a “first name of a famous foreigner, then a notable location in their country as a last name”, which yielded the scintillatingly wonderful Nicolae Carpathia.

One hopes Parshall will at least pick out a better name for the Antichrist in this End Series.

Next chapter we’ll see some derring-do with Joshua Jordan and that subpoena.

EoA: Zimler’s Next Move

Edge of Apocalypse: pages 232-233 (Chapter Forty)

This’ll be s quick write-up, but it allows us to drop in on Atta Zimler, “sub”-contract killer, very messy kinda guy when it comes to this kind of stuff and not at all the kind of loose cannon Caesar Demas wants working for him long-term. His go-between, Feditzch, isn’t comfortable dealing with the guy, having had to deal with loose cannons before.

I don’t want to spoil anything, so I’ll confine myself to broad speculation and discussion. Time for some lit-crit, so pull up a mouse and follow along. 😀

Parshall has introduced this man as a way to eventually create a conflict with Joshua Jordan – the typical Good Person vs Evil Person that’s a staple of many a spy novel. Think of Robert Ludlum’s books, for example – The Janson Directive, The Ambler Warning. They involve characters who have to find out who the shadowy Bad Guy (or occasionally Bad Girl) is and defeat them. The tension is enhanced by the use of a limited first-person perspective, so we only ever see the main character’s thoughts and emotions. This allows for the big reveal at the end of it all, and is a rather satisfying way to end the story and resolve the tension.

However, in Edge of Apocalypse, Parshall’s approach is more in line with Jerry Jenkins. But unlike Jenkins, who uses people like Rayford Steele and Buck Williams almost exclusively as ways to relay to us, the audience, what’s going on in the world of Left Behind, Parshall actually has his characters doing and saying things which are of their own volition, and whose ultimate objective may not immediately be obvious. This avoids some rather tortuous plot points that strain the suspension of disbelief one necessarily carries into a fictional series about a world based on religious doctrine one may or may not believe in. For example, it is necessary, as Fred Clark points out, for Buck Wiliams – of all people! – to be entrusted with the US President’s last-ditch attempt to beat back the Antichrist.

Buck Williams is thus perforce obligated by the plot to do and say nothing about the President’s intention to start a nuclear war he cannot win, except to go with Chloe and buy a fully-loaded 747 Range Rover in the most transparently traceable way possible. As I noted in my “Christ Clone vs Left Behind” post, this kind of childish chortling he does completely slides past the fact that in law, such a thing is called “unlawful conversion”, or in common talk, “theft”. What more stupid way to raise red flags all over the place than driving off with a vehicle that isn’t yours to keep, and has a traceable car phone?

Thankfully, this sort of self-indulgent behavior isn’t quite as evident in Edge of Apocalypse, but we have other egregious examples of misbehavior being excused on the basis that the character committing such acts is a RTC or an incipient RTC: Abigail Jordan bullying her son into compliance by the use of love-bombing stands out the most. Probably second-most is Josh disobeying the lawful orders of the government which has granted his company quite a bit of money to invent fanciful defensive and offensive weapons technologies.

To wrap this up before I quickly zip through the chapter, I note that the Good vs Evil conflict in this book is set up in a way that taps into existing prejudices about Middle Eastern peoples: Atta Zimler’s name was clearly chosen for the stock “Arab terrorist” trope, while Josh Jordan is set up as the “all-American patriot”, and secondarily, John Gallagher as the ne’er-do-wrong loner. As such, it is virtually ordained that the Good shall win; it’s just a question of how soon or late the Bad gets defeated. So, vicariously, the audience gets to defeat the shadowy terrorist threat without having to put themselves in danger to do so.

With that, let’s follow Zimler as he pit stops in West Virginia to buy some stuff.

“Which mining operation did you say you are working at?”

“Wyler Coal,” Atta Zimler said, concocting the name instantly and doing a good imitation of a slow drawl. “It’s a small mine. It’s family owned. Just opened up.”

“Okay,” the hardware man said. “So anyway, these are the solid-pack Bridgewater-type blasting caps. They detonate from an electric spark…”

Standard stuff. Won’t blow up from cell phone signals or static electricity; needs the blasting caps and a signal down a wire.

Zimler grinned. He had no intention of telling him the truth. His primary was military grade plastic explosives he had already obtained on the black market for a pretty penny at a drop spot outside of Pittsburgh. All he needed now was a detonator. Blasting caps set off by an electric charge would be perfect. He had already purchased the remote switches from an electronics shop. Rigging those up with cell phones to send the charge would be child’s play for him.

Zimler pays cash, but is momentarily flummoxed when told he has to sign for the blasting caps. I don’t know what the regulations are about sales of explosives, but it seems reasonable to me for the government to require keeping track of who buys what.

Before the store owner handed over the box of blasting caps, however, he grabbed a clipboard and slapped it on the counter. “We’re supposed to get this from everyone who wants explosives. Got to put your John Hancock right here…”

Zimler smiled and acted like he understood the phrase. But he hesitated for just an instant.

He looked at the clipboard and noticed the signatures on it.

“You want me to sign here?”

“That’s the general idea.”

Zimler signed a fake name. The shop owner handed over the box.

And that’s that. Zimler drives off to do whatever it is he’s gonna do. The chapter links up with John Gallagher’s own travels, and I’ll tackle that in a write-up later today or tomorrow.

EoA: A Sense of Loss

Edge of Apocalypse: pages 228-231 (Chapter Thirty-Nine)

The title of this has to do with both the Cal/Joshua son/father interaction as well as the fact that Joshua Jordan gets a rather unpleasant bit of news.

Back in his high-rise office in New York, Joshua Jordan was letting his call go through to his son on his speakerphone while he continued to scan a weapons design memo from his engineering team.

You know, I wonder what Josh’s company does besides make improbable missile deflection systems. It clearly makes offensive as well as defensive equipment. I looked ahead and, as is typical of Josh’s egotism, his company’s name is Jordan Technologies. Incidentally, the initial pages noted that the RTS-RGS had been in the works for ten years prior to its deployment earlier in the book, so to support that kind of ongoing R&D his company must have been selling other stuff to keep the $$ coming in.

Food for thought, anyway.

Cal, of course, is in class, thus his non-answer:

The phone kept ringing. Joshua put the paper down. He’s not going to pick up. So, he knows it’s me calling, and he’s not picking up. Of course, he could still be in class. Take it easy, Joshua. Give the kid a break.

(italics in the original text)

Given the use of meaningful names in this book series, the part where Josh thinks back on his good buddy is almost superfluous:

Joshua thought back to the call he had just received from Rocky Bridger, a man whose fortitude was usually chiseled out of granite. But when Joshua had picked up his telephone call, his voice sounded different.

The details of the call itself are that Rocky has just found out his son-in-law’s dead. They apparently knew each other well, because Rocky’s pretty upset over it.

“Roger, my son-in-law…murdered…Joshua…my God, he’s gone.”

When Rocky collected himself, he shared the slight information he had. The police were playing cloak-and-danger with this. But the horrible bottom line was that Roger French was murdered in his office in downtown Philadelphia. The local police were being extremely tight-lipped about the details, though they’d mentioned that the FBI had some interest in the case. But his son-in-law was gone, the victim of a brutal crime, and now Rocky was with his daughter, who was in shock and was inconsolable.

Josh tries to help Rocky, but he finds he just doesn’t seem to know what to say. That feels pretty realistic. I’ve been in online communities long enough that there have been people who’ve died, or whose family members have died, and I always find that whatever I type feels so inadequate compared to the magnitude of what has happened. I mean, what do you say? “I’m sorry” sounds quite trite and useless, but sometimes it’s all one can come up with.

So inasmuch as Josh is acting fairly human in this chapter, Parshall is to be credited with verisimilitude.

He had immediately called Abby. He’d always been impressed with her sense of compassion, but this time her willingness to drop everything to go to Philadelphia to help the family was particularly heartwarming.

Now I need to snark: Abby’s famous for butting in where she’s not supposed to, as we’ve seen before; taking upon herself decisions that should be made by other people seems to be a problem for her. One wonders if she might accidentally offend the Bridgers in doing so.

However, Josh is improving in the family relations area, it seems. This next paragraph showing Josh’s thoughts reminds me, again, quite forcefully of two father-son dynamics in Star Trek: The Next Generation, where Commander Riker has been estranged from his own father, having left home at fifteen, and not seeing his father again until Kyle Riker offers Will the command of his own. They end up working out their differences over a martial arts game, and Kyle is finally able to admt certain things to his son.

Another father/son reconciliation dynamic is not so successful. Ambassador Spock, having once been alienated from his father, Sarek, in the TOS era of Star Trek, has, by the time of TNG, again become alienated over the matter of how to deal with the Cardassian Empire. Spock, working undercover on Romulus, is not aware that Sarek is dying. Unfortunately, Spock never gets the chance to have one final talk with his father, and during that episode, Picard says, “fathers and sons…”, which, in the novelization, has Riker being acutely aware of his own rocky relationship with Kyle and getting a chance to reconcile his differences.

So Josh, in the aftermath of his talk with Rocky, ruminates on this:

Then something struck Joshua like a meteor. Rocky just lost his son-in-law. To a senseless murder. Your life changes in a heartbeat. You can lose them…so quickly. When was the last time I told Cal that I loved him? Debbie and I don’t have that issue. She’s so up-front with everything. But Cal and I…things have always been uptight. Strained. And the clock keeps ticking. And nothing gets resolved. What if something happened to me? And I didn’t get a chance to smooth things out with Cal beforehand?

(italics in the original)

This really resonates with me because of the impact of those two TNG episodes I watched; the creators of those episodes went to some lengths to make them believable and realistic. I also read several non-canon TOS books that touched on Spock’s relationship with his father, so that may also be why it sticks out in my mind in particular.

The above section of the chapter really kind of suggested the title, because Josh thinking about losing his son permanently is what motivates his phone call. He finally gets hold of Cal, and after the preliminaries and telling Cal Rocky’s son-in-law is dead, Josh takes the opportunity to try and reach out to his son.

“Just tell you…”

There was a pause.

“I love you.”

Joshua wanted to elaborate somehow, but ended it there instead.

Taken off guard, Cal could only mumble, “Thanks, Dad.”

“Sometime we need to talk, you and I.”

“Okay.”

“Man-to-man.”

“All right.”

Cal was thinking to himself, What is this all about? But asking that was too risky.

“I mean,” Joshua added, “about what happened in New York. The day the missiles came. With you still being in the city…”

A quick note: unlike most of the sections of this book, Parshall has shifted to an omniscient POV, because we see Josh and Cal’s emotions and thoughts in this section. The shift of perspectives is probably worth noting, because of the way Cal usually gets such short shrift. It also allows us to compare what Cal is thinking to what Josh is thinking, and it’s already clear that Cal is a bit cynical and a bit suspicious of this sudden change in his father, who has been distant and probably harsh with his son in the past.

Cal asking what “this” is all about being “too risky” sounds like he’s probably asked his dad about things like this in the past and been shut down completely.

Cal was thinking, You mean so you can drill me about how I didn’t tell you the truth about staying behind in Manhattan with my girlfriend, Karen Hester, who you don’t approve of? You mean we need to talk about that? I already admitted all of that to Mom. Can’t you just let it go?

(italics in the original)

And it’s clear that Cal thinks Josh is not really telling the truth about just wanting to talk for the sake of reconciliation. Considering he’s probably been badgered before by Josh and after getting love-bombed by Abigail, I don’t blame him for wanting to stay away from clearly toxic parents.

The conversation is basically finished by this point and Cal rings off.

Some students who had just been in his government class when he took on Jeff Hitchney passed him by and called out his name and gave him the thumbs-up sign.

Cal smiled weakly and acknowledged them.

But inside, he was in turmoil.

The chapter didn’t make it clear initially but it sounds like Cal was having to talk to Josh while in the hallway at university, which sounds like a pretty uncomfortable place to have really personal conversations over the phone. That could certainly explain Cal’s reticence and quick retreat to emotionally more comfortable mental spaces, which apparently include the emotional realm of distant father, faraway son.

I can’t say I blame Cal here; at that age I didn’t want to be near my family overmuch and would have preferred to stay at university year-round had that been practical.

I don’t want to spoil the sequel too much, but I’ve managed to get my mitts on it and I will say in light of reading it, the father-son alienation problem that we see here in Edge of Apocalypse is something that we should pay attention to, both in its own right as a major part of what makes Cal and Josh who they are, but also because of what it says about the authors. They often say, “write what you know/are interested in”, and this seems to be true here. LaHaye is interested in Christian theology, and in how the Bible might point the way to describing future events rather than those of several thousand years ago. He’s also apparently very familar with familial alienation issues. I’m less familiar with Parshall, but given that the back of the book says he works with National Religious Broadcasters, he’s clearly familiar with the radio, which probably explains why Teretsky the radio guy was involved at all.

In Left Behind, the only stable father and offspring relationship is that of Rayford and Chloe. We barely see or hear of Buck’s family; I think they get a page of telephone time or so. It’s telling that in LaHaye-sponsored books, the father-son relationships seem particularly fraught with tension while the father-daughter ones do not.

Kind of makes you realize that in the hands of better authors, the knowledge LaHaye provides could have made for some excellent books. However the Christian faith that Abigail has is superfluous to the tale of a shadowy battle between two separate groups of conspirators fighting over control of the ultimate defensive weapon. It’s almost like there’s two separate stories being told. The whole question of religious faith isn’t needed to explain or understand the struggle over the RTS-RGS. Conversely, the existence of the RTS-RGS, while it may help justify the interpretation of Israel being unharmed by Russian missiles (I assume this plot point will occur at some stage of the series, as LaHaye has relied on miraculous non-explosion of missiles before), isn’t needed to explore the differing religious faiths of the characters involved or their family dynamics.

So that’s that for the Calmeister and his dad. Next chapter we’ll see both Atta Zimler and John Gallagher.

EoA: Cal Jordan In His Natural Habitat

Edge of Apocalypse: pages 225-228 (Chapter Thirty-Nine)

And so we meet back with our rather unusual young man of the Jordan family. Say hello to Cal, people!

*Distant chorus of hallos*

*Cal hesitantly waves back*

Excellent! 🙂

So our good buddy’s in the lecture hall at good ol’ Liberty U and he’s just gotten called on his distracton by a professor:

“Mr. Jordan, perhaps you could answer that question?”

Cal Jordan had been busy sketching a picture on his notepad. He looked up with embarrassment to find the entire class staring at him.

The question turns out to have been a pretty loaded question, since it’s about the powers of Congressional committees:

At the front of the class the professor frowned and tried again. “The question, Mr. Jordan, from one of your fellow classmates, was, Why should Congress have the power to force a private citizen to testify in a congressional hearing?”

For a moment, Cal’s brain froze.

The professor studied Cal and then expanded his question. “We are studying the powers of the Congress. Mr. Hitchney asked a salient question about the subpoena power of the Congress.”

Ok, hold up a sec. Why’s the prof picking Cal to answer this question when by rights Doctor whoever ought to be answering it? You know, this is another one of those situations where LaHaye and Parshall are artificially structuring the story to make points to their audience. The characters should drive the plot, not be shoved in where the plot is deemed convenient.

This isn’t a smal tutorial type session either – it’s in a big lecture hall where this sort of inter-student discussion isn’t really practical anyway. Skipping ahead, we see that the prof is trying to link into current events:

“Mr. Jordan,” the professor said, pressing in gently, “I thought you might have some thoughts on the subject considering the fact that your father, Joshua Jordan, is in the news on that exact issue.”

Mmkay, fair enough. Still kinda making me squint a bit. Also, who’s this Hitchney guy?

Cal turned around and looked ten rows back until he located the face of Jeff Hitchney, another student in the class. Hitchney, a tall blond sophomore had a twisted half-smile on his face. Cal now realized that the student had planted the question on purpose to embarrass him. Hitchney was the star pitcher on the college baseball team and was the leader of the school debate team. But there was one more thing. He had a keen interest in Cal’s girlfriend, Karen Hester. And Hitchney seemed intent on harassing Cal. After all, how could Karen have preferred Cal over him?

Even with this, it still feels a bit contrived. Also, it feels a bit like Parshall is trying for a frat-boy jock vs the intellectual set-up, but it doesn’t quite seem to get pulled off right. Nonetheless, it’s interesting that LaHaye and Parshall seem to be conceding that for at least certain values of intellectual, it’s permissible to want to study and know more about the world instead of rotely restudying the Bible for the nth time. Given the somewhat anti-intellectual strain that surfaces occasionally among the Christian political right, it’s worth noting that a potentially RTC intellectual type is at least somewhat positively portrayed, even if only because he has the last name Jordan.

But anyway, here’s one possible source of Cal’s insecurities: This Jeff fellow sounds like he’s a lot more like a chip off the old block than Cal himself is, and while he probably knows in his gut that Karen likes him for him, it doesn’t change his wondering about other men.

Following the professor’s question, moar insecurities, this time with respect to dear old dad:

Cal cringed. There it is again. Colonel Joshua Jordan. The man who single-handedly rescued New York City from the perils of incoming nuclear missiles. Wherever I go, I can’t escape my father.

(italics in the original)

It’s kind of interesting that Parshall has Cal thinking about his dad with his name and rank. It’s almost as though Cal sees his father as this distant, larger than life figure who overshadows him every step of the way. If LaHaye and Parshall intend this to be a statement about how we ought to regard God, I’ll pass.

So Cal notes that the power of Congress to subpoena witnesses is presumed to be for the good of the country generally. Hitchney gets a dig in about what Josh said (which is in direct opposition to the stated public interest), and Cal partly concedes the point while switching to a new angle of attack:

“Mr. Hitchney is correct that I am admitting the power of Congress to subpoena witnesses. But that’s not what my father’s case is about. What that case is about is the fact that Congress can’t force someone to give away trade secrets and business intelligence. Which is what they are trying to do. Plus…there’s something else involved too…”

Considering that the whole thing was sponsored under the aegis of the US military, Parshall putting those words in Cal’s mouth tells us that whatever he heard from LaHaye about military affairs, it’s not even worth a hill of beans for accuracy. Also, I note that no modern university I know of bothers maintaining the old traditions of an honorific before a student’s or even a TA’s name these days. Maybe Liberty U is special, but I’d need a confirm on that.

Cal continues:

Cal paused. He now was in the interesting dilemma of having to defend his father’s case. He wasn’t hot on that idea. Plus the things that his mom and his sister, Deborah, had shared with him about his father’s legal situation were strictly interfamily matters. Very private. But Cal had another overriding thought. On the other hand, there’s no way I’m letting Hitchney off the hook.

“Okay. Here’s the deal,” Cal replied. “My father invented this laser weapon…the RTS. Return-to-Sender thing. He never gave the government full ownership of the design. It was still in, like, an experimental phase. Then the North Koreans launched missiles at us. The government used my dad’s weapon to stop the missiles–“

We can see that part of Cal’s sudden earnestness is the ol’ mano a mano thing with Jeff Hitchney. But any reasonable son would defend his father, I would think, and Cal’s certainly stepping up to the job. The chapter segues into a debate that’s already been discussed on this blog, which is the question of the true ownership of the RTS-RGS, as well as to what extent we-the-people making up the government constitutes allowing a private citizen under military contract to stand on that ground when denying access to the technical documentation for the RTS-RGS.

In the book, we’re expected to take Josh Jordan’s (and by proxy, Cal’s) position that he’s entitled to withhold the documents and fail to appear before the committee.

The prof has a little chat with Cal after the dust clears:

Then the professor turned to Cal again. “Just wondering Mr. Jordan, what’s your major?”

“Art.”

“Well, if you ever get tired of art, you may want to think about pre-law. You raised some good points today. And you might give some thought to joining the debate team too.”

Considering that the whole thing was contrived to reiterate the points that Josh Jordan already made in an earlier chapter, just tranposing it to Cal vs the jerk who wants his girlfriend, I’m not sure the prof ought to be congratulating anyone yet.

GUYS GUYS GUYS GUYS

GUESS WHAT?!

CAL HAS AN ALLFONE

Oh my god. He’s been given the Seal of Cool by LaHaye and Parshall, how about that, eh?!

As the professor continued his lecture, Cal felt his Allfone vibrate. He had set the vibrate mode on Morse code. Home was coded to vibrate dots and dashes for the word family. But calls from his father’s office were set to vibrate out the code for SOS–the international distress signal. That was his own private joke.

This time it was the SOS. He wasn’t going to take it. At least not right now, when the eyes of half the class were still glued on him.

So I wonder, did Josh decide to spring for the Allfone after hearing Cal’s other phone got busted? Or did he just want to make sure his son hears the news when he and his Roundtable decide to bust in on the news networks? Must keep up appearances – can’t get Cal think he’s being cut out of too much.

(Sorry; I get remarkably cynical, it seems, about the interaction between Cal and his dad and the motivations behind Josh doing anything for Cal when the book has made it clear that Cal’s not considered part of the family in the same way as Deb is. And speaking of which, why is it Parshall never shows us Cal talking to his sis? The book there has Cal thinking about Deborah telling him things about the legal wrangling over the RTS-RGS, but we don’t see it at all in the book. Nice telling and no showing, Parshall buddy ol pal.)

Anyway, this ends the chapter from Cal’s side of things. The other half follows Josh Jordan up to when he calls the Calmeister and checks in to see how he’s doing. Catch you in the next writeup, folks. 🙂

New Theme is New!

Hey everyone,

I finally got off my butt and changed the theme. I’ve swapped over to “Quintus”, which has nice, readable text and is still kinda wide enough to not make me think my 23″ monitor is wasting space when it shouldn’t. 🙂

I also fixed the nesting level of comments to 10 from 3, so comment threads should work a little bit better now. Let me know if any of you out there have any issues with the new format.

Cheers!

EoA: The One Who Would Be Caesar

Edge of Apocalypse: pages 219-224 (Chapter Thirty-Eight)

We catch up with the Vice-President as she meets other people at an international gathering of leaders. I tried to come up with a good theme title for this blog entry, because in some senses, the US President is the closest thing to an “elected king/queen” that Americans have. One simple trait of this is that portraits of the President typically go up in offices where in Canada, the portrait would be of the Queen of England.

Another example of this is the way US presidents have waxed and waned over the years about the limits of the “Unitary Executive” – i.e. an Executive Branch which is not just coequal with the Legislative and the Judicial, but takes on some of the nature of the legislative in broadly interpreting how laws are to be enforced and being able to influence the impact of laws by being able to hire and fire who shall enforce them. In effect, a Unitary-Executive President would take on some of the nature of a sovereign.

Since Jessica Tulrude’s activities take on some of the flavor of a “palace coup”, and because she’s meeting with a person named Caesar Demas, the title rather suggested itself.

Vice President Jessica Tulrude’s feet were killing her. She wished she hadn’t worn heels, particularly for the tour down the ancient Roman stone streets of Pompeii. She pretended to listen intently to the tour guide and worked equally hard to keep her smile in place for the small contingent of international photo press.

Tulrude was part of a small entourage that included several officials from the European Union and the deputy assistant to the president of the EU. Tulrude had come to Italy for a joint conference between the EU and the United States on matters of common interest, including global finance.

We go on to find out she’s managed to cut out SecState Danburg from this shindig, which means she gets her picture in the news and raises her profile for her eventual run at the Presidency. Skullduggery is, as we know, her middle name. However, a side purpose of this trip of hers is to meet the aforementioned Mr. Demas, who says,

“I have been meaning to connect with you anyway. Tell you how sad I was that I couldn’t work with the White House as an unofficial envoy to negotiate an arrangement for sharing the RTS weapons technology with other nations…”

Jessica also expresses regret. They quickly switch to discussing her “political future” when PHONE PORN.

Before Tulrude could respond, she spotted her chief of staff, Lana Orvilla, and a secret service agent walking at a fast clip toward her.

Orvilla handed her an encrypted satellite Allfone.

“Sorry, Madam Vice President,” she said, “but we have an urgent call from the Department of Justice. Attorney General Hamburg needs to speak to you.”

Holy geez, it’s not just an Allfone; it’s a super-duper gee-whiz encrypted satellite communicable Allfone! Parshall must have listened to Jenkins one time too many, because the detailed descriptions of the fancy techno-gadgetry in particular and more generally, the material possessions that people have are similar.

They’re also very illuminating in terms of the dichotomy between the faith Tim LaHaye professes and the words in the Bible he holds up as its truth. Recall that in Matthew 19:21, Jesus Christ is said to have told his followers: ‘[21] Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”‘

Now while that may not be literally possible for all of us, the basic point of that is that the acquisition of material trappings to the exclusion of doing good things in the name of God is not the way to do things – not, if one believes that chapter and verse, the way to serve God by helping people on Earth. I was reminded of Fred Clark’s entry in which a person who commented discussed how a girl loudly lectured another girl on the bus in a very hectoring and insulting way, believing that this would induce the lectur-ee to rise up and follow Jesus Christ.

Such is the thinking induced by the notion that “faith/salvation by grace” is the only way to find Christ, and not “faith/salvation by works”.

Anyone with a heart and a conscience would lend a hand to someone who needs help instead of pontificating that the one who needs help must pass a specific test of faith, and I think even the “by grace” people would never stoop to such a thing. Yet they do the metaphorical equivalent when, instead of being concerned about the state of society’s lack of willingness to help the poor, or the powerless, they become more concerned with showing that wealth and riches constitute the rightness of religious faith – and thus is born the likes of Jerry Falwell, Oral Roberts, and other personalities who have become very wealthy through their ability to translate good speaking skills and facility with a Bible into television appearances and the subsequent response to pleas for money.

To tie this back to the chapter at hand, it’s interesting that both sides of the conflict (which we must remind ourselves is largely artificially created for authorial reasons and would not arise organically) have access to considerable luxuries not normally available to the average person. Now, one expects that the President and Vice-President would have access to such things, but consider Josh Jordan and the amazing extent to which he cloisters himself off from the world around him when he chooses.

So, what does the Attorney-General want? (and why isn’t he talking to the President?)

“Madam Vice President,” Attorney General Cory Hamburg started out. “Sorry to break into your travels, but we have an important security issue that we need to verify. Both the FBI and our own terrorism people here at the Department of Justice need to double-check on something.”

(…)

“Well, Zimler has been high on our terror list for a number of years. But Homeland Security has asked us to stand down temporarily on any domestic investigations concerning Zimler. When we questioned them about it, they said we should talk to your office.”

Turns out he needs to get a confirm on Zimler. Jessica’s been told that there’s a diplomat by the same name, and there’s been real-world issues of Homeland Security being overly zealous about their no-fly and watch lists.

But…

“(…) There was some unnamed diplomat who thinks he may be at risk, you know, to be mistaken for Atta Zimler. This diplomat is supposedly coming to the United States, and Homeland Security is concerned about international embarrassment if he is wrongly taken into custody. Truthfully, I’m a little uneasy about this one. We have no name for the diplomat. Frankly don’t even know whether he exists…”

You’d think that’d raise a dozen red flags right there, but authorial fiat to the rescue! The Veep continues to be authorially obtuse about this.

“They also told us that Zimler was taken into custody in Europe…maybe Paris. If Zimler is in custody, okay, fine, no problem…but we can’t get verification of that. Nothing through the normal channels…zero information from the Paris police…nothing from INTERPOL–“

Tulrude’s reply was curt. “What do you want from me, General Hamburg? Spell it out.”

“While you are there in Italy, if you could talk to the EU folks, have their contacts in France put a rush on this intelligence issue. Confirm that Zimler has been caught. We need this information ASAP. Obviously, in the interim we will pull back on any investigation here in the U.S. regarding persons that might be mistaken for this Atta Zimler–“

One thing that I find very interesting is the use of “General” for the Atty-Gen. In the 1970s, G. Gordon Liddy was fond of calling the then-Attorney General Mitchell (and later Kleindienst) “General” and used the hard Germanic G on that word. John Ashcroft has also sometimes been dubbed “General Ashcroft”.

I don’t know to what extent Democratic administrations use that shorthand, but it’s telling, to me, that my exposure to the term has been through Republican usage. This is a pretty nice example, in my view, of how LaHaye and Parshall are creating this bizarro universe version of our world, and using Republican tropes and terminology while ascribing such to the Democrats because they don’t know any better. You can also see the mythology of the “Dems are soft on terrorism” motif being played out here.

We find out, sure as shootin’, that Demas is behind this fudging of the origins of Atta Zimler’s presence in the United States.

“You’ll never guess, Caesar, who that phone call was from.”

Before Demas could respond, Tulrude plunged ahead. “It was the attorney general,” she said. “Calling about this Atta Zimler matter. Now I’ve gone out on a limb for you. We’re delaying any domestic investigation into Zimler for the time being. Just like you asked. So you can tell your diplomatic friend…whoever he is…that he doesn’t have to be worried about being harassed inside the U.S. by mistake. But I need you to ask your contacts inside the Paris intelligence office to verify with the DOJ that they’ve actually got this Zimler in custody, as you told me they did. I mean, really, Caesar, I am taking a serious risk here for you. Just think of the damage to me if you’re wrong, and this Zimler actually ends up inside America somehow…”

Demas makes all the right noises and reassures the Veep that things are copacetic.

That said, I’ve gotta stop here and remark on how freakin’ flimsy this all really is. Wouldn’t the Veep want to cover all her bases and keep the investigation going on the side just in case Demas was trying to backstab her? She’s willing to effectively oust President Corland from the ticket and get her name on it in his place, and that involves some serious maneuvering he’s not aware of. Why would she assume everyone else around her is any less capable of undercutting her?

(We can now deduce why Zadernack was trying to call off Gallagher, though. The Atty-Gen’s office must have passed the word on down.)

I’ve remarked before on how certain fan fiction weaknesses get reproduced in printed fiction, and this is one such example. By purposely contorting the story a certain way, an author can make characters act according to an overall pattern he or she would like them to, even if it means sacrificing some verisimilitude in the process. It’s not so different, in principle, from trying to write Ron Weasley becoming a Death Eater with the entire weight of canon leaning against that (his friendship with Harry, his comfort with Hermione, his family’s beliefs – all these would militate against such a thing happening).

Demas, however, has ten million really good reasons to keep the Veep from looking too closely at what other dealings he might have going on:

“My foundation has deposited ten million euros in an offshore account for your election campaign. It will then be dispersed through a variety of American organizations and charities into your campaign. Very clean. We will deposit another twenty million–assuming you can pass the primaries in good shape.”

Jessica Tulrude’s not worried about the primaries. Notice that this trope of foreign donations is a callback to when Republicans tried trashing Clinton over accepting donations from (SHOCK) people sleeping in the Lincoln Bedroom! And some of them might have even been Chinese.

The way in which this book keeps invoking themes involving Republican mythology over Democratic venality, corruption and incompetence is in a way, a marvel. It’s all the traits known to be common to Republicans projected onto Democrats, as though LaHaye and Parshall truly believed that what passes for acceptable behavior in their preferred political party must also be so for the opposing one.

Parshall gets in some last-minute toilet humor in this part:

“Caesar, what kind of building was this? I mean, in Roman times…”

He laughed.

“It was a brothel.”

Tulrude broke out into a loud cackle.

Both of them enjoyed the unspoken humor. Picking that kind of a place to discuss Jessica Tulrude’s intentions to run for president.

Even though LaHaye and Parshall must have been laughing up their sleeves over that one, I’ve gotta say it’s kind of stupidly typical for men like that to think comparing a woman to a whore (Demas is, after all, effectively buying her services for when she becomes President) is actually funny and not an indictment of their inappropriate juxtaposition.

Misogyny is a common theme in LaHaye-sponsored books, and the way the Vice-President has been portrayed here is really no exception. It’s like the bizarro mirror image of John McCain and Sarah Palin, come to think of it, and Tulrude’s beach-babe name and attractiveness seems to be a call-out to the way Sarah Palin’s attractiveness got mention in the media, while her political instincts for being able to leap for the jugular are also translated over to the Veep in this book.

Sarah Palin was also derided for being Bush-like in her lack of apparent depth of understanding about the world around her, and this seems to be mirrored in Tulrude’s apparent lack of concern over the fact that Demas was fairly vague about this alleged name-clone of Zimler and the fact that her domestic people couldn’t find out a damn thing about this alleged name-clone either.

So, in a nutshell, politically powerful, instinctively good at politics, but just not that bright. How many times have women been described this way when they achieved something, but made a pretty elementary mistake that a man might have made?

And since Democrats are supposed to all be milquetoasty feminists, Tulrude’s portayal is intended as a dog-whistle to the audience who believe that the Dems want “the wrong kind of woman” to be in political power, and is intended to remind male readers of the “ball-busting so-and-so” epithet frequently hurled at women in authority.

LaHaye and Parshall had better shape up in the second book or this is gonna be like Left Behind Lite with the way women get such short shrift.

So that ends this chapter, and next chapter we meet back with Cal Jordan! X-D

EoA: Proselytizing with Golf (Part Two)

Edge of Apocalypse: pages 214-218 (Chapter Thirty-Seven)

Continuing on from where we left off – just to quickly recap, we’re sitting down in the golf club’s restaurant (golfers usually call it the “Nineteenth Hole” as it’s often a pub as well which serves alcoholic drinks) with Joshua Jordan and Paul Campbell.

Josh has just said that he’s observed that all the hard work in the world isn’t “enough” for God. So, according to Campbell, what is? Josh, at this point, is in the place of their straw-person proselytiz-ee who just needs the right words, according to LaHaye and Parshall.

“As skilled and disciplined and accomplished as you–or anyone, for that matter–might be…regardless of that, it’s not enough to please God.”

“Sounds like He’s hard to please,” Joshua shot back with a chuckle.

The pastor replied simply, “Exactly. God is hard to please. Impossible in fact.”

What I find interesting is that Josh uses the capitalized “He” even though he’s technically a nonbeliever.

Also, I don’t think LaHaye and Parshall meant for this interpretation, but any time a human being says of another human, “[Person] is just hard to please” I always end up thinking that it really means that [Person] is in some kind of authority over someone else and likes to abuse the terms of that authority. A human being saying that of God – well, I’d be inclined to say politely that their religion is not for me and go about my day.

Campbell begins going on about how pointless it all is to try and jump in the hamster wheel without the right equipment (in this case, being armed with the Sinner’s Prayer):

“The Bible says every one of us has sinned and fallen short of the glory that we were originally designed for. We all have an inherent sin flaw, and we act on that. That blocks our ability to connect with God.”

“So what’s your solution…to not sin? Act self-righteous? Be pious? Go to church?”

“Nope.”

This doctrinal interpretation of human flaws and the relationship one has to have with God and Jesus as a consequence is very reminiscent of the material I used to devour in my WWCOG Days – the concept of sin as “falling short of the mark”, Jesus Christ’s crucifixion as substitution for the “wages of sin being death”, and humanity being permitted “for six thousand years” to “go their own way”. The real kicker is that the doctrinal justification for obeying human governments was that for all their flaws, they were still granted quasi legitimate authority by God’s command for lack of anything better until Jesus Christ, in his own time, would return to this Earth – after, of course, the no-Rapture-whatsoever End Times.

Now Joshua was getting impatient. If there was a problem, then he liked to figure out the solution. Campbell was proposing a tragic problem for the human race, and no solution.

“Then what?” Joshua asked. His voice was loud enough to draw the attention of a group of women eating lunch at a nearby table who turned and looked.

Campbell replied, “Accept the one solution that God’s given us. That’s the only remedy that will work. The only thing that will enable us to have any kind of relationship with Him. To receive forgiveness for sin. Take us out of the enemy camp and put us into friendship with the Creator of the Universe. That’s it. Nothing else will do.”

Tailoring the message to the recipient is a pretty standard technique of lowering “sales resistance” if you’re trying to get someone to sign on to something, so I have to admit that Campbell using that military analogy was a smart thing to do. He also continues the military adaptation of the message he wants to get across when Josh says he doesn’t quite like what he’s hearing.

Joshua was looking for loopholes. “So no multiple options available? Look, if I’m way up in the stratosphere flying at Mach one and I encounter problems with my aircraft, I’m not going to limit myself to one single solution. I’ll try multiple strategies to get control of that airplane.”

“Let’s use a communications model. You’re up in that aircraft. You want to contact the control tower. The radio has to be set on the right frequency. If the tower has only one frequency available, it doesn’t make much sense to say you don’t like that frequency and you’d rather have multiple options…”

Planes don’t normally fly in the upper stratosphere*, but certain specialized aircraft have been designed to do so. As an aside, this makes me wonder what special stuff he did for Rocky Bridger as the golden-boy protege of said General.

“So, what’s the single frequency for God?”

“The Bible makes it crystal clear. (…) The perfect Son of God, offered as a perfect payment for the price of my sin–and yours.”

And there you have it, folks. Same doctrinal interpretation, just a different sect.

Campbell furthers the analogy after Josh brings up the standard “Who could do this? What man or woman could pay the wages of sin for all the people born and dead on this planet?” It’s a stock rhetorical question I recognize from other literature I’ve seen. The thing is, it’s always used as the lead-up to the supposedly mind-blowing conclusion…

“Because an ordinary man could never die for his own sins, let alone billions of others. But then, that’s the point of those Bible prophecies I was talking about at church. God has given us the guidance from His Word, like landing lights on an airport runway. Pointing the way directly to Jesus as the one and only Savior. God made into man. Fully human, yet fully Divine. Incomprehensible? Yes. But when Jesus was crucified, it was literally the blood of God being shed, which is the only thing that can cleanse the sins of thirteen billion people. Obviously, Josh, God thinks human beings are worth saving. It’s that simple. And that profound. The only thing left is how we respond to that.”

Which kinda falls flat on its face. Anyone raised in even a mildly Christian houshold, or who even learns basic Christian mythology about Easter, learns that Jesus Christ rose from the dead and ascended into heaven. This, even without the breathless bumpf of Campbell’s, would be a big “this person was supernatural” bell-ringer. So it’s just the technical details being filled in at this point: the exact reason for death and resurrection is to “die for one’s sins” and to then return as a noncorporeal entity from where he originally came.

The real fun’s about to come, though, folks, because Josh seizes the opportunity to ride his own hobby-horse (as the End Times etc appear to be for Campbell at this stage):

“We both realize that this may be the last and best chance we have to stop America from being sucked into a global commune. A place where liberty gets destroyed by redefinition. Our borders start to evaporate. Where we have to ask permission of the international community before we take action to defend ourselves. Where the vision of men like Patrick Henry and George Washington gets erased from the memories of our grandchildren. According to what you said last night, if that happens, it could be the beginning of the end. One long, ugly global nightmare. Well, I’m not just going to sit back and watch it happen.”

Of course not, Joshy. You’re only meeting with your Roundtable for steak and potatoes and a chance to rub your fancy house in the noses of all those other people. As opposed to, y’know, creating the appearance, if not the reality, of a secret cabal moving into place to oppose the legally constituted government of your nation in ways that might be considered underhanded, if not actually seditious.

Governments, however they are formed, derive their legitimacy in some way or another from the willingness of the people to obey them. Even the Soviet government, for example, possessed a legitimacy because enough people in that country were willing, if grudgingly so, to follow its edicts and directives. Western European nations, as well as many North and South American nations, have for at least a hundred years (Mexico as a federal republic was constituted as such in the 1800s, for example) been explicitly constituted on the basis of the right of the people in those nations to choose their own leaders.

So it is especially crucial in the US context to consider that attempts to change the government by methods other than peaceful ones governed by the Constitution and the laws promulgated under that Constitution, go against the basic principle that the people shall have the right to choose who shall lead them.

It’s pretty interesting how political conservatives in the US love to drape themselves in the flag and talk a good game about government and personal accountability, and then turn around and act in ways that prove they don’t think anyone but rich people are actually trustworthy – otherwise why such punitive drugs laws that disproportionately affect black people? Why such intrusive spying on Arabic citizens? The list goes on of who they don’t trust to be in the United States of America.

If they had their way I bet they’d seriously consider suspending elections because they don’t really trust “the people” when it comes right down to it. The only reason this hasn’t happened yet is that even George W. Bush wasn’t stupid enough to think he’d survive the shitstorm which would follow a second Reichstag Fire.

Pastor Campbell, however, doesn’t take Josh’s bait – yet:

“Nations are made up of people. That includes you. So, you may want to consider looking to your own salvation first, Josh. You may be surprised what God has in store for you once you sign onto His team.”

Nothing like the present, eh, Campbell? At least you didn’t invoke the freakin’ hypothetical bus this time.

Josh replies that he hasn’t got the energy or the desire to think about this when he’s got his RTS-RGS post-mortem, his Congressional inquiry thing, and the publicity that just exploded in the press surrounding what he did in the inquiry. Full plate, for sure.

Campbell notes that it’s God who’s got the controls, not Josh. In the process he gets to help be LaHaye’s hobby horse rider about why the United States gets zero mention in Biblical prophecy:

Campbell nodded and said. “You mentioned Patrick Henry. Wasn’t he the one who said that God directs the destinies of nations?”

“Sure. But then he rose up, shook his fist at Great Britain, and fought for freedom. I can’t wait for divine intervention, Pastor. I need to act.”

“Just one thought. Something I didn’t get a chance to share last night.”

“What’s that?”

“God’s the keeper of the timetable. He’s the only one who knows the exact timing of the end. I’ve made the Scriptures my lifelong study. You want to know where the United States is mentioned?”

Josh, of course, is curious, and Campbell notes that it isn’t directly mentioned at all. Any sensible person would likely conclude that perhaps the prophetic passages discussed in the Bible were never meant to apply thousands of years into the future and are of little use in interpreting what might be in store for the Earth in the 21st century. However, LaHaye Campbell insists that the USA has gotta be in there.

[Campbell said,] “(…) Why no clear, specific mention of America? Maybe He simply doesn’t want us to know the fate of our nation in advance. So we can rise to the challenge. Seek His face while there’s still time.”

Ok, LaHaye is officially seriously reaching, real hard. He really really wants the USA to fit in somewhere, even if only because it would probably justify his appeals to American exceptionalism that are all over this book.

The chapter ends with some weird staring, and Josh shaking hands and saying, “Great game, by the way. You gave me a run for my money. Let’s do it again sometime.”

Arrogant asshat.

We just got done having to witness the greatness of Josh Jordan and now he’s acting like he’s doing Campbell a favor praising Campbell’s golf game. I wonder if LaHaye plays golf with underlings because they’ll purposely throw the game so he always wins.

The recurring theme of the major character being an overweening arrogant arse of unbelievable proportions seems to be a common one in LaHaye-sponsored books, and Jerry Jenkins’s own Soon series seems to not be immune, either. My suspicion is that Jenkins’s tried and true formula of the major author avatar being in conscious imitation of Tim LaHaye has found its way into Jenkins’s own books.

As for Parshall, it seems that Parshall took at least some of his cues from Left Behind, and so this is the result.

So, with that, we end our mutual meeting of the egos and move on to another very egotistical and ambitious person: Jessica Tulrude. See you all next chapter and we’ll follow her around for a while.


* Firedrake has noted that planes do fly in the lower stratosphere routinely, but not so much the upper. My bad.