The second chapter opens up with a change in point-of-view. Instead of focusing on Lora and Mark, it now follows a man called Abul Sabah. Now, I don’t know Arabic, but according to my research, this is not a legitimate name. Abul is a contraction of Abu al, of which abu means “father” and al is the definite article. In other words, “Abul Sabah” means “father of the Sabah”. Now, you may think this is some kind of title, but the book makes this clear that this is his real name that he was given at birth, and, not only that, but that “Abul” is his first name and “Sabah” is his last name. Clearly, Rummel did not understand that different cultures follow different rules in naming their children. Unfortunately, this is not the first foreign name that will be so obviously fake, and therefore anyone who knows the languages mentioned would shake their head at the author’s ignorance.

As it turns out, this Sabah character is located in Beijing, which Rummel continues to call “Peking”. Even if the Pinyin system was never developed in the New Universe, one would think that the Chinese would eventually come up with a similar system to render their language in the Roman alphabet. Even if it was very different from our universe’s Romanization system, the capital of China is not pronounced with a K sound, so why would it still be spelled like that?

Anyway, the header says that it’s a day after the nuclear attacks, but since China is on the other side of the International Dateline, it’s actually the same “day”. At least Rummel remembered that.

This is what Abul Sabah is thinking right now:

Abul Sabah glared at his son Turghun in sad anger. He could no longer hide his hatred.
I wish he were dead. (page 26)

Oh my gosh, what could Turghun have done to anger his father to such an extent? Well, he’s standing right next to the commander of all of China’s military, one Mirzat Zunun, and the chief imam, Ch’en Hsun. Except for that last, everyone’s name sounds vaguely Turkic, and that and the fact that this imam is Chinese are the first clues that China has been conquered by a foreign nation.

Sabah is terrified at those before him, because he knows that he is in trouble. Even his son has betrayed him. Since the readers do not know exactly who Sabah is at this point, they have no idea what is going on, because Rummel is taking his time in explaining the situation. Instead, he spends a paragraph describing the supercomputers that are also in the room, before getting to the fact that they are how China launched all of its nuclear missiles.

All of their bombs went off except the one headed for Tokyo, in some perverse situational irony. That is in fact why all the higher-ups in China are meeting, in order to make sure that their second attempt does not fail. This is nothing more than an excuse to gather everyone there, because the second bomb goes off without a hitch.

Even though Abul Sabah is the theocratic dictator of China, and therefore the Big Bad of the story, even he is horrified by what his people have just done. Not only have they killed billions and likely plunged the planet into a nuclear winter, but they did so against his orders, and he realizes that this is not only a declaration of war against the entire world, but also a coup d’état against him, led by his own son, with the approval of everyone else in his government.

He then gives an internal monologue about how his son is going to demand that every other country in the world submit to annexation, and is more concerned about the fact that everybody will think that he did it than the fact that billions of lives were lost. Well, he is the villain, albeit unusually sympathetic for one in Rummel’s work. Of course, if he really had wanted to prevent this, he would have removed all of the fanatics from power, and he did not. So this is still his fault.

That’s the thing. Rummel wants us to feel sorry for Sabah, because his movement spun out of control and his son became much more fanatical than he, but we will later learn of his backstory, and considering some of the atrocities that Sabah committed, he is in no position to take the moral high ground against his son.

You’re almost certainly wondering why they did this. Well, Turghun explains that their goal is to forcibly convert everybody to their own sect of Islam, and they want to do this by nuking every major city back to the Stone Age. There’s a Strawman argument, and then there’s this. In the real world, nobody would be that crazy, because in the real world, the US has nuclear weapons, and would surely use them in the case of an attack. But Rummel wants the New Universe to be swiftly conquered by the bad guys, so he cannot allow a scenario of mutually assured destruction, and therefore has America foolishly engage in total disarmament in the naïve belief that it has no enemies even though a very powerful country believes in the very antithesis of democracy and human rights, actively proselytizes these beliefs at the point of a sword, and has every reason to lie about having nuclear weapons. Did Rummel think that Good Is Dumb, or something?

Of course, the real reason for this foolishness is because the book was written when American enthusiasm for the war in Iraq was starting to give way to anti-war sentiments, and Rummel was not on the protestors’ side. Never mind that Iraq, even though it was a dictatorship in the Middle East, was not an Islamist dictatorship in the Middle East, and did not have anywhere close to the resources to pose an actual threat, so it is not a good comparison. You can’t convince people to your way of thinking by such gross hyperbole, but Rummel did not understand that.

Abul glanced at the two security officers in the back of the booth. Both had their eyes on him; they always did, no matter where he went. Sometimes he felt like pissing on their legs, and excusing himself as an old man. (page 28)

That’s just disgusting, Rummel. What’s worse is that this isn’t the last time he mentions it.

There is some backstory about how all of the people in Sabah’s original government have died and that none of his current government would care if Turghun were to kill him and take his place. Now Sabah is despairing, and makes what is known as a “non-apology apology”; that is to say, he says that he is sorry about how things turned out, but phrases it in such a way as to be clear that he does not actually believe that he was in the wrong or take responsibility for his actions. I know that Rummel wanted the readers to feel a little sorry for him despite him being the villain, but it isn’t working.

But then, not only does he inflict that on us, but we are then exposed to something I hoped would have been gone for good in the first book. That’s right, we’ve got ourselves a Very Special Flashback Sequence.

This sums up what I think of that.

We flash back to the year 1914, at which time, I should point out, John and Joy had recently intervened in China. Apparently the now-democratic China allowed its far provinces, such as Xinjiang, to become independent, even though that did not happen after the overthrow of the Emperor in real life. Because most of the population of Xinjiang is Uyghur, the new country called itself “Uighuristan”. Yeah, that’s not the right spelling, but since when has Rummel cared? Funny how John never mentioned the existence of a Uighuristan in his diary, huh? This is a flashback to Abul Sabah’s birth, meaning that he is eighty by the time of the nuclear attack.

His family, and in fact his entire region, is dirt poor. His mother gave birth to him completely alone and had to cut the umbilical cord herself. We also learn that his father is named Aisha, even though that’s a girls’ name. Come on, Rummel. Most people know that, since it’s a stereotypical ghetto name, if nothing else. Once Aisha sees his son, he explicitly names him Abul. Yep, the kid got saddled with the name of “father of the”. No wonder he grew up to be evil. It also proves beyond a doubt that Rummel did not do any research on foreign names at all.

The real purpose of this flashback is to establish that, even by the standards of a poor area of Central Asia, Abul Sabah is devoutly religious. He attends school at a madrassa and everything. Now, I may be wrong, but I don’t think that there was such thing as free education in early twentieth century Central Asia, even if the “education” was nothing more than religious indoctrination.

The first thirteen years of Abul Sabah’s life are quickly glossed over, just to establish that at that age, he starts to suffer symptoms of epilepsy. Now, there was a theory in nineteenth-century Europe that Muhammad was epileptic. It is no longer believed by many historians, but that is what is being paralleled here. This is significant.

Now, Abul knew at the time that nothing had truly gone on, but he decides to play a prank on his father, and tell him that he received a visit from the angel Gabriel and that he had been chosen as a new prophet. Yes, he just compared himself to Muhammad. Now, in reality, if a Muslim boy told his father this, his father would probably scold him for “making fun of the Prophet” or something like that. His father would certainly not drop to his knees and believe every word that his son just said, especially when he knows that his son is something of a practical joker. But that is exactly what Aisha does. He falls for it hook, line, and sinker.

So, to make a long story short, Aisha sincerely believes that his son is now a prophet, and tells his entirely family to obey Abul. Now, all this time Abul is convinced that his father doesn’t believe it and is trying to teach him a lesson, but, as we soon learn, Abul is the only intelligent person in a family of hillbillies, because his father takes it at face value. Yeah, I know that they are uneducated and devoutly religious, but a devout Muslim would believe that there are no more prophets after Muhammad and that anyone who claims to be so is a liar. The treatment of Baha’is and Ahmadiyyas in Muslim theocracies is absolutely terrible, because they are considered to be heretics.

But Abul does not realize that the joke has gone too far. Instead of admitting that he was fooling around, he continues to tell his little lie. He assumes that this is just harmless fun, even though his uncle is somehow a wealthy businessman who contributes to their mosque, even though it was established that his family was poor. Consistency is not Rummel’s strong suit.

In any case, Abul’s uncle tells the mullah in charge of the mosque about the revelation, and the mullah investigates. Now the kid is terrified that the mullah will think he is a blasphemer, but surprisingly, the mullah is actually rational about this and assumes it was just a hallucination brought about by the heat, and he lets Abul go. But this is the last time that anybody will act like a reasonable person in the flashback. This should have been the end of it, but then Rummel would be unable to have his Villain Suetopia take over the world.

Despite the religious authority of their town saying that it was just a hallucination brought about by heat exhaustion, Abul’s father and uncle still try to convert people to their new cult. They don’t bother listening to their religious authority, so you would think that he would do something about that. But no, he just lets them go about it for a year, though they get few converts in that time. Unfortunately, a year later, Abul is at the market with his mother, when he has another epileptic fit, in front of a bunch of people, who go on about how he has “talked with God” and some such.

The narration isn’t clear as to whether the onlookers truly believe it was a revelation or if they are just taunting him, but Abul’s pride is wounded, so instead of brushing it off, he starts to recite some religious text but with himself in the place of Muhammad. Somehow, nobody recognizes his plagiarism, as he gets the crowd to believe that he is actually a prophet. One thing leads to another, and Abul decides to just run with it, claiming that he is a prophet even though he knows that he isn’t one. So Rummel cannot claim that Abul was just a practical joker who let it get out of hand. He was perfectly able to stop it at the marketplace, but chose not to, just for attention, and then he begins to Believe His Own Lies. He is not a sympathetic Anti-Villain, despite Rummel trying to make him seem like one.

Soon, his teaching spreads to most of his hometown, despite the best efforts of the religious scholars to stop it. And here is why I think that is unrealistic: surely Abul is not the first Muslim to suffer an epileptic fit? So how come, in the space of about 1400 years, no such epileptic preached that he was a new prophet and got a following large enough to have a shot at taking over the government? Rummel just cops out here.

Well, the mullahs aren’t going to take that lying down, and conspire to denounce Sabah as a fraud and kill him. However, he has already converted the chief of police, who warns him of their plan, and arranges to have the conspirators killed instead. Then, Sabah’s followers put the town on lockdown and force everybody to follow him, and kill those who refuse.

At this point, Sabah begins to have second thoughts, but is terrified by his subordinates, who are not averse to killing him and taking over his movement if he denounces them. So he does nothing to stop them from getting more and more fanatical, though by this point, the 1930s, the situation has spiraled completely out of control.

By this point, the government of Uighuristan has gotten involved. This is open rebellion, and they cannot allow it. So what do they do? Just wait in their capital while Sabah’s forces march to them. Somehow Sabah’s army wins every confrontation without a setback and takes over the government with ease. Why? Because they are Villain Sues, that’s why! By this point, Sabah is basically a puppet to his general, Musa, who was able to win the war through sheer brutality and Stuishness.

After Sabah’s followers have taken over the government, they are absolutely brutal to their defeated enemies. Some of his opponents escape to China and reveal what just happened to the world, but the governments of the world do nothing but give Sabah a slap on the wrist. You would think that this would be grounds for a war with Uighuristan now, since rebels have overthrown the government. But nobody gets involved. Yeah, Sabah’s people may have been able to take over their own government, but they live in a small and weak country. They would have no chance against a coalition of the strongest countries in the world, who by now are all democracies and would have reason to oppose them.

Now, just in case you think that Sabah’s neighbor, China, wants to do anything about the refugees, you are sadly mistaken:

Abul had no thought of it at the time, but China would be his next conquest. (page 42)

And with that not-subtle-at-all-foreshadowing, the chapter ends. I abridged what happened heavily, because most of it was padding.

Tagged as:


  1. The Smith of Lie on 15 May 2014, 15:35 said:

    So… You have and Arabic viallain with Sabah as a surname and you don’t name him Hassan? Laaaame.

    Also, this chapter reveals that Tor’s Groupies and Suesome Twosome, despite authorial mandate are idiots (like we need further proof…). It bothered me when I was reading sporks of previous book (I did not comment on it, because I discovered them after the question posed on morality of sporking sequel) – why did they go into the past with an a priori plan? Sure, first few steps can be planned, certainly. But then JJ went and mucked about killing an innocent painter instead of dismantling extremist theocracy, while it was still rising.

    Yes, I know that this is due to unplanned nature of sequel. Still, it only means it is ill concieved sequel and does not excuse the gaping idiocy it retroactively induced in characters.

  2. Brendan Rizzo on 15 May 2014, 16:12 said:

    To be fair, the theocracy was not formed until 1934. There was a bit of a time skip which, combined with my excising all the fluff, may not have been obvious. That said, this is still before John kills Joy, so the only explanation is that Rummel wasn’t planning to write the second book while the first was being written.

  3. The Smith of Lie on 15 May 2014, 16:41 said:

    I may have gotten the wrong impression, but it seemed to me, that JJ duo was active through 40ties and died somewhere in 50ies. Which would give them ample time to get interested in rise of theocratic government in their “utopia”.

    Also, even if the sequel is not planned, it should be written to make sense in the context. And while lack of sequel hooks laid in advance makes such writing harder, it does not preclude it.

  4. Tim on 15 May 2014, 20:21 said:

    Never mind that Iraq, even though it was a dictatorship in the Middle East, was not an Islamist dictatorship in the Middle East, and did not have anywhere close to the resources to pose an actual threat, so it is not a good comparison.

    I have a feeling, given the big bad is basically Mohammed 2.0, that Rummel is arguing Islam as a whole is a threat, not any specific country.

  5. lilyWhite on 15 May 2014, 21:59 said:

    I cannot read Sabah’s name without being reminded of the tales of En Sabah Nur. (Plus it’s about as sensible when it comes to Islam as Making of a Prophet is anyway.)

    It is an interesting idea, though: one little lie about being a prophet ends up with Sabah becoming little more than a figurehead pawn for fanatical madmen who he knows will turn against him in a heartbeat if they feel threatened by him. It’s a shame that Rummel’s means of doing this requires just about every character involved to be absolutely stupid.

  6. Potatoman on 15 May 2014, 23:50 said:

    his father is named Aisha

    Are you fucking kidding me.

    I have a feeling, given the big bad is basically Mohammed 2.0, that Rummel is arguing Islam as a whole is a threat, not any specific country.

    This is depressing :/

    but a devout Muslim would believe that there are no more prophets after Muhammad and that anyone who claims to be so is a liar.

    Very true. Also, by Abul is Rummel trying and failing to write Abdul? Because Abdul means ‘servant of’, and the name he has now doesn’t make much sense.

    basically a puppet to his general, Musa

    He brings great shame to my name.

  7. LoneWolf on 16 May 2014, 02:35 said:

    This chapter was hilarious.

  8. mel on 6 July 2014, 11:17 said:

    Quick thing: Abul can be a given name. There are multiple famous people with the name, such as Abul A’la Maududi, Abul Khair, and Abul Kalam Azad. However, it is usually used among Indian/Bangladeshi/Pakistani Muslims. I’m not sure where this Abul is supposed to be from. Iran?

  9. Lone Wolf on 6 July 2014, 15:09 said:

    This Abul is supposed to be from East Turkestan/Xinjiang.