Friday, January 3, 2014

The Quest for Skye: Chapter 23

Recap: I... am not sure anymore. One friend commented that Rothdiener must have realized there was NO plot in the first half of the book, so he put it ALLLL in the second half. As I understand it right now, communist liberals are trying to collapse Greece's economy so they can collapse the entire world's economy, and Skye somehow holds the key to stopping all of this. Morgan and Tammy aren't sure they want to take over the clinic, but they are intrigued by The Locked Door next to the ER and the fact that they were shoved out of the ER during a mysterious medical emergency. So... um... conspiracy theories everywhere and no actual answers.
The Hamiltons walked around the island the rest of the afternoon.
Because they haven't had enough tours yet of the island/clinic/houses.

The Hamiltons discuss whether they want to move to the island and still come to no conclusion. The main concern here is that Greece is too tumultuous a place to live (although since apparently they may be collapsing the entire world economy if they leave, I think I'd take that chance, particularly since they would be living on an island nobody can actually get to).
“Let’s go talk to Markus.” Tammy’s radiant eyes twinkled with mischief.
Markus is the lawyer who was found sneaking onto the island earlier. "Eyes twinkling with mischief" is not exactly what I would expect the reaction to be toward him. I have a horrible feeling they're just going to go childishly taunt him.

In Markus' (very nice and accommodating) cell, it's clear he's trashed the room a bit. The guards say it's because he didn't like what was on TV, and he and Morgan giggle at the lawyer for apparently not realizing you can turn the TV off.

One of my major complaints with my first J. L. Rothdiener book, The Quest for Forgiveness, was how little sympathy or characterization he was willing to give to his antagonists. Every single non-Christian in that book was vindictive, smug, condescending (though often not nearly as condescending as his Christian characters, but it was supposed to be bad when the non-Christians did it), and, often, veered off into buffoonery. It looks like this is going to be the same situation. Rather than creating an actual character with actual motivations, we are just going to giggle at the silly tantrums of someone who exists for the sole purpose of Being a Stupid Bad Guy and making our protagonists look smart in the process.

Though this plan does work a little less well when we've spent 150 pages watching our protagonists also (accidentally) be smug, condescending buffoons. There's nothing he can do at this point to make the Hamiltons look smart.

Even this bizarre sequence, when they enter the cell to find Markus sitting on the floor...
“Why not sit on a chair or the sofa?” Morgan asked. 
“Are you kidding? That would give Leontiou one up on me. I can’t have that.”
...just seems reminiscent to me of Morgan and Tammy refusing to drink any coffee until the lawyers told them whether or not Leontiou was dead, or the fit they threw about staying in the nice hotel. The people in this book all get weirdly resentful of people they oppose offering them basic comforts. When our "heroes" do it, it's them standing firm on principle, but when our villains do it, then it's apparently silly.

Markus tells them he knows who they are, but not why they're here, and that he hates everything Leontiou represents.
“Let me ask you a question. Do you believe what you’ve been told? If so, why all the secrets?”
What? What secrets? Is he asking the Hamiltons why the Hamiltons are keeping secrets? Is he asking them why Lance the Tennis Player is keeping secrets? What secrets is he even talking about? So far, the only secrets are:

1) that Dr. L. L. is dead, and that's been pretty clearly explained why they can't tell anyone - it'll somehow destroy the world,
2) something about Skye being the key, but the Hamiltons have been told to ask Skye about that and they just haven't, so it's not really their fault if they don't know the answer, and
3) there's a Locked Door, which REALLY seems like something not to worry about right now with the fate of the world in their hands.

However, when the Hamiltons make it clear they have no idea what he's talking about, Markus reveals a bit more. He reveals he hacked the Leontiou computer a while back to put a virus on it that was going to erase everyone's records (oh, no, HE was the one who digitally shortened that girl's life!) and says he found that they were doing experiments on "innocent children." As the children staying here on the island are sick, not "guilty," I think he MIGHT mean he was experimenting on healthy children, but I don't really know. You'd think a reporter would be more careful with his words.
“Let me tell you about people like Layland Leontiou.” Morgan pushed his finger hard on the journalist’s chest. “Yes, they’re rich, but almost every one of them started out at the bottom. They had an idea, a dream, and they worked hard to see it through, making it work. Men like Edison, Ford, Walton, Gates, and yes, Layland Leontiou. Yes, they were rich and powerful, but they were also giving. They created millions of jobs, and gave billions to charities. What have people like you done?”
Uh. All right, these are two different points here. One is that almost every one of "them" (rich people? Nice rich people? Nice rich scientists?) started off poor, which is a stat that I'm pretty sure he is just pulling out of his rear, and the other is that rich and powerful people are better than "people like you" because they give poor people more money than "people like you." It all makes me very uncomfortable, as it seems to be implying that richness = goodness, that richness is always deserved, and that anyone who tears them down is just jealous.

I don't respond well to that.

He goes on:
“You protest in the streets, riot, and stop other hard working citizens from earning money to feed their families. Why? Because your kind wants what people like Leontiou have. But you want it at someone else’s expense. You don’t want to work for it! People like you don’t have the smarts, the expertise, or the ambition to produce anything except anarchy, and a socialistic society built on destroying capitalism.”
Now, given that Markus is apparently working to destroy the entire world economy for the cause of one-world-government communism, Morgan has a point that he's not exactly a good guy, but this is the same icky poor-blaming politics that I really dislike in some of the extreme right crowd. It just all gets... mean.

And here's the deal. Lazy people don't typically protest in the street and riot and swim to forbidden islands and plot to bring down THE ENTIRE WORLD ECONOMY because they're tired of doing actual work. All that is WAY more work than getting an actual job. In the real world, someone like Markus would be doing this because he has ideals. Because he cares about the underdogs and thinks communism is the best way to get there. Because he hates greed and thinks his bizarre plot is a way to fix that. But in this book, he doesn't get any actual motivation other than just being evil.

After like 2 minutes of talking with him, Morgan is making huge, ugly assumptions about Markus' reasons for holding the stance he takes, assumptions like "poor people are lazy, unambitious, and OH MY GOSH THEY'RE COMING FOR OUR MONEY DON'T LET THEM TAKE IT."

Lance the Tennis Player shows up and tells Morgan to leave Markus alone:
“It’s impossible to defeat an ignorant man by arguing with him.”
"I have learned this all too well from you this week."

As soon as Lance leaves, Tammy shows off her detective skills:
“I didn’t want to say this in front of Lance, but I think Klitou is totally responsible for destroying the files on Leontiou’s computer.” 
“What?” His expression showed his confusion. “You’ve lost me. Destroyed what files in whose computer?”  
“Morgan, everything is beginning to add up. I’ve been listening to Lance, Markus, and Dr. Rozak. And from what I can gather, Leontiou’s computer was destroyed by a hacker. I think all the files on Batten were lost, including all the lab records. Everything! I believe that Markus... well, his sweet wife, is the guilty party.”  
“Whoa, Girl!” Morgan said. “You’ve been watching too many James Bond movies.”

So, once again, we find that Morgan DOESN'T LISTEN AT ALL to other people.

Shall we review what Markus said?
“I managed to get into their computer a while back . . . I’m not the computer man! My wife is. She dropped a virus. I sure hope the good doctor lost all his records.”

And Morgan's like, "NUH-UH NO WAY."

How is this a big revelation? He just told you about it! Although he did say immediately afterwards that he'd deny the whole thing.

Next, Tammy is going to reveal that she suspects Doctor Leontiou is dead and Morgan will be like, "Whatever, you read too many spy novels!"

They head back to hang out with Skye, where she is sobbing because of the person who died in the ER, who says was her best friend in the whole world. I think it's pretty telling that she is inconsolable over this person but has apparently barely shed a tear over her parents. (In a better book, these tears would probably be for all the people she's lost.)
Morgan and Tammy wondered if every child’s death devastated her this much.
Especially when her parents' death sure didn't.

Morgan chats with Maya for a little bit about what it was like working for the Leontious:
She had the highest respect for both of them. Of course, she loved Skye.
And Morgan was like, "What? You do? You like Skye? You work for the Leontious? When did this happen?" Seriously, being told "she loved Skye" at this point, after she's threatened Morgan into taking care of Skye, seems like a bit of an understatement.

Morgan goes back to check on Skye, who begs him to stay and take care of the girls at the clinic. Morgan gets a sudden epiphany that the mysterious voice he heard saying, "Take care of them," was probably God! Telling him to take care of the girls at the clinic!

Finally he drifts off to sleep after this:
His mind kept replaying the events of the day. Everything always came back to the locked door at the clinic. Exactly what is behind that door?
Guys, the locked door is the least of your concerns. You have incarcerated a crazy communist determined to bring down the world and you with it, and you have to decide whether not you want to adopt a little girl and move to Greece to work on a clinic there or else everything in the world will collapse. I'm pretty sure you can finagle a key to the locked door once you agree to take over the clinic.


(Chapter 24.)


  1. I see Rothdiener's grasp of socioeconomics is as nuanced and holistic as his views on children, faith, medicine, and technology.

    *le sigh*

    1. He does seem to be a pleasant, well-rounded, well-informed guy, huh?