Author’s Note: I’m reposting this review of Robert Kroese’s book Mercury Falls, which I read last year and which just has been released in a new Amazon edition at the end of October. The only things I changed were the prices, which are about the same as they were previously.
Title: Mercury Falls
Author: Robert Kroese
Publication Year: 2009
How I discovered
It’s a wee bit complicated, but the short version is that I know Robert Kroese through a now defunct site called Humor-Blogs where my now defunct blog Unfinished Rambler was listed. Rob, also known as “Diesel” to most people who know him, has his own humor blog, Mattress Police. Using material from that blog, he published his first book, Antisocial Commentary: From the Secret Files of the Mattress Police in 2007. Based on the overwhelming (positive or negative? I make no value judgments here) response he received there, he actually thought that he was qualified to write a novel, and, lo and behold, two years later, he has shown the world he can write a novel.
But the question is this: Is the new edition put out by Amazon Encore worth the $7.19 on Amazon Kindle and $10.17 in paperback on Amazon? Damned if I know, since (note to Federal Trade Commission: disclosure notice) I got a free copy when it first was released last year as a once financial supporter of Humor-Blogs…however, you may be wondering for yourself, and by the end of this review, I may give you an answer to that very question whether it’s worth actually purchasing and worth me keeping on my shelf for future re-reading. As is my nature, though, I may just ramble on and on and on and not get to an answer at all. Stick around and see, though. It still might be a fun ride.
The world is ending. Again.
Years of covering the antics of End Times cults for a religious news magazine have left Christine Temeri not only jaded but seriously questioning her career choice.
That is until she meets Mercury, an anti-establishment angel who’s frittering his time away whipping up batches of Rice Krispy Treats and perfecting this ping-pong backhand instead of doing his job: helping to orchestrate Armageddon. With the end near and angels and demons debating the finer political points of the Apocalypse, Christine and Mercury accidentally foil an attempt to assassinate one Karl Grissom, a thirty-seven-year-old film school dropout about to make his big break as the Antichrist.
Now to save the world, she must negotiate the byzantine bureaucracies of Heaven and Hell and convince the apathetic Mercury to take a stand, all the while putting up with the obnoxious mouth-breathing Antichrist.
– from the back of the book
The novel begins twenty miles outside of Elko, Nevada on a plateau with Temeri covering the story of the Reverend Jonas Bitters, First Prophet of the Church of the Bridegroom, and a small group of his followers who believe that the Second Coming of Christ will occur April 29 shortly before dawn. Not surprisingly, Christ doesn’t return, with the blame falling on Ten Virgins who aren’t…well, all they seem to be. For Christine, it is just another story of a religious crackpot who thinks he knows the future but doesn’t, the same kind of story she’s done for years.
And now her publisher, Harry, wants her to interview the next crackpot, Galileo Mercury until she says that she can’t take much more of covering the “Apocalypse circuit.” Then Harry gives her the ultimate interview, with General David Isaakson of the Israeli Army, also known as “the Architect of the Apocalypse” in the middle of a conflict between Israel and Syria (and as Harry says: “Maybe the Iranians too.”). Even though ostensibly it’s about the Apocalypse, it also is the chance to get her name known on the international front. So she goes…
…and ends up coming back to Mercury in a roundabout way — and then to Grissom, the Antichrist selected in a contest by an author promoting the last book of her series about a boy named Charlie Nix, which seems more than vaguely reminiscent of another famous series by another famous author. But could he be the real Antichrist? And what does a metallic attache case that Isaakson gave to her to take to Mercury have to do with anything?
I’m not telling you. You’ll have to read it. However, I can tell you that it is a fun ride with Christine along the way as she crosses paths with fallen angels and archangels alike and travels through portals to the basements of Heaven and the attics of Hells trying to answer those very questions. How much fun? Let me give you a few samples, starting with a footnote (yes, there are footnotes) about the Antichrist:
The identity of the Antichrist is, of course, less important than the fact that there is an Antichrist. No one cares much what the Antichrist says or does, but they feel better knowing he’s around. In this way, he is much like the Pope or the United Nations.
It is probably not entirely coincidental that both the Pope and the United Nations have often been accused of being the Antichrist. Other individuals and organizations have also made the short list, of course. Nero was an early favorite, and dictators like Napoleon and Hitler were strong contenders. Even the affable U.S. President Ronald Wilson Reagan — who had the distinction of having six letters in each of his three names– was named a potential Antichrist. Later, the name of vaunted Israeli General David Isaakson also tended to crop up among people who discussed such things.
Yet, on some level, most people seemed to sense that someone like Hitler was too obvious a choice. Once you make it clear that your intention is global conquest, the mystery is gone and people start to look for someone with less pedestrian aims. Start talking about a Brotherhood of Man or a New World Order, though, and ears perk up.
People also seem to intuitively understand that Antichrist is really more of a figurehead position. They expect the Antichrist to make ominous pronouncements that can be disassembled and slotted into a prefabricated eschatological framework, not impose martial law or orchestrate mass killings. It is safe to say, however, that nobody expected the Antichrist to look quite like Karl Grissom.
There were thirty-eight Charlie’s Grills on I-5 in between Yreka, California and Los Angeles, spaced so that on a road trip from one end of the state to the other one could eat breakfast, lunch and dinner– not to mention brunch, linner and several other meals to be named later– from a completely standarized menu of entrees that ranged in quality from passable to mediocre.
This proliferation of family restaurants was not, despite the protestations of anti-sprawl advocates and concerned cardiologists, part of any kind of diabolical plan. This isn’t to say that there was no plan, or that there weren’t demonic entities involved in its inception, but the actual marketing strategy and franchise agreements were more intrinsically Satanic than was the norm for the hospitality industry. Charlie’s Grill was only evil to the extent that it concealed the unremarkable character of its food with a facade constructed of faux brick walls and artificially weathered signs promoting no-longer-existent brands of soda and/or motor oil with slogans like “The smoothest yet!” That is to say, it was about as evil as Applebee’s.
Charlie’s Grill was, pure and simple, a money-making operation for Lucifer, who had long ago come to terms with the fact that while spreading depravity and ruination was his true calling, it didn’t always pay the bills. Lucifer was a true believer in the adage that no one ever went broke overestimating the numbers of time that Americans can pull over for cheeseburgers. It wasn’t an exciting or particularly sinister way of making money, but it did make possible all sorts of other costly but worthwhile diabolical schemes, so Lucifer expanded the operation at every opportunity.
And finally this:
The Apocalypse Accord is a long and mind-numbingly detailed document, hashed out by seraphic lawyers over the course of several thousand years to cover every conceivable aspect of the Apocalypse. Regarding the Antichrist it reads, in part:
The Antichrist is to be the official representative of Lucifer on earth. The Antichrist must be a human being of Semitic descent (at least one sixteenth on the father’s side), and is to be selected by Lucifer (or his designated representatives) a minimum of forty days prior to the commencement of Phase One of the Apocalypse. Once selected, the Antichrist’s name must be submitted to the Senate, the Antichrist comes under legal protection of the Senate’s Committee on Persons of Apocalyptic Interest, and may not be physically harmed or coerced in any way by any parties to this agreement (See “When Are Agents of Heaven Permitted to Attempt to Kill the Antichrist?” in Appendix L). The Senate then has seven days to ratify or veto the selection. If the candidate is vetoed, the Senate must also provide a written rationale for their veto (For a detailed list of Antichrist qualifications, see Appendix F: “So You Think You’ve Got a Candidate for the Position of Antichrist?”). If the Senate does not veto or ratify the candidate’s selection within seven days, the candidate’s selection is assumed to be ratified by default. Once a candidate is ratified, the Side of Heaven has forty days to publicly denounce the candidate as the Antichrist and an agent of Lucifer. Failure to adequately denounce the candidate within forty days of his or her ratification will cause the Hosts of Heaven to be held in Breach of this Accord, and to be ascribed penalties as detailed in Appendix H (“Denunciation: Why It Matters.”). Once the candidate is denounced, he or shall be considered to be Antichrist and will be accorded various Powers and Principalities (see “Legal and Tax Ramifications of Being Classified as the Antichrist” in Appendix P).
So final answer to the question: Is it worth buying on Amazon in either form? And is it worth it for me to keep on my shelf for future re-reading? Yes. After all that rambling, most of it as you might note not done by myself but Mr. Kroese, not only might it be a fun ride, but also it is a fun ride.
My final rating: a 4.5 out of 5 with the 1/2 point for my getting a free copy and also because it’s not 25 years old and therefore, really can’t be a classic — yet.
My rating system:
5- Classic, must read
4- Worth owning a copy
3- Worth picking up at library
2- Worth skimming at the bookstore
1- Worth being a doorstop
Addendum: I would like to add that I would have posted this earlier, but for the most part, I eschew anything related to Amazon. However, since this morning I did purchase a case for my new iPod Shuffle from Amazon and I did download for free the Amazon Kindle for PC when I was given a copy of Ron Cooper’s Hume’s Fork last month, I can’t claim the high moral ground completely here. However, I still encourage you as much as possible to buy from your local independent booksellers, because they need the money more than the corporate behemoth Amazon does. For better or worse, I guess, this is part of the MF’ing Blog Tour. Cheers, Rob.