Hi and welcome back! This being Monday, we turn our attention to Frank Peretti’s 1986 blockbuster This Present Darkness. In this installment, we finally witness the great battle between the forces of Good and Evil. And as the book wraps up, we get a look at the battle tactics of these spiritual warriors conducting their spiritual warfare. Today, Lord Snow Presides over a grand finale that somehow falls flat.
(Please click here to find the master list of previous This Present Darkness discussions. Also, any page numbers cited come from the 2003 paperback edition of the book. Quotes come from the book or other noted sources, unless I let you know otherwise.)
Synopsis: Moving Toward Finale.
Chapter 38: Alf Brummel (now more-or-less defected from the Cabal) releases Hank Busche and Marshall Hogan from his jail. As the two men join the TRUE CHRISTIANS™ praying outside the jail, Bernice Krueger arrives with Susan Jacobson and Kevin Weed. When Bernice hugs Marshall, Hank makes a snarky comment addressing her as “Mrs. Hogan,” because of course he assumes any woman hugging a man must be his wife. The town grows tense and restless. Meanwhile, Sandy Hogan heads for the college with her new pals in the Cabal. She thinks she’s going to join some illustrious group of truth-seekers.
Chapter 39: Once Sandy joins them, the Cabal hides out in a conference room to meditate. Officially, their purpose is to strengthen the demons helping with the takeover of the local college. Hogan, now aware of Sandy’s great danger, enters the meeting-place’s building to find her. Alexander Kaseph, now fully possessed by the Strongman, arrives at the meeting with the college regents. The TRUE CHRISTIANS™ arrive on-campus to pray. Meanwhile, Sandy meets her “spirit guide” Madeline. Brummel, now at the Cabal’s meeting, knows they plan to kill her.
Chapter 40: Marshall, Susan, Hank, and Kevin barge in on the regents’ meeting. Hank recognizes the Strongman in Kaseph’s body. In response, the Strongman starts shouting at Hank, who only rebukes him with the usual magic formulae. Meanwhile, Madeline reveals her true appearance to Sandy, who is horrified — but trapped. Tal blows his trumpet, telling the angels hiding all over Ashton that it’s time to rumble.
Of note: Lucius, the former demon prince of Ashton, has been keeping a lot of things from his bosses Rafar and the Strongman. He actively prevents his sub-demons from reporting things to their overlords.
Synopsis: More Finale Buildup.
Chapter 40 still: The angels burst forth from hiding. In the Cabal meeting, Juleen Langstrat — now controlled completely by Rafar — tries to maintain her control. The demons around Sandy chain her up — mentally, I mean. As far as I can tell, she’s just sitting in a chair in a conference room. Her father desperately tries to find her. In the regents’ meeting, Susan confronts Kaseph with her knowledge of his criminal pursuits. Somehow, this plot has gone from a simple land-grab takeover to actual conspiracy to commit many murders. Kevin Weed suggests that he and Kaseph step outside to settle their issues.
Amazingly, Alf Brummel steps up in the Cabal’s meditation meeting. He tries to talk Sandy down from the hysteria she’s worked herself into. When his girlfriend Langstrat points out that Marshall is “defeated” and “imprisoned,” Brummel finally tells her the truth: that he released Marshall and Hank earlier that day. However, Madeline shackles Sandy very thoroughly, telling her that she is free now. Rafar, still driving Langstrat, fights Lucius, who now drives Brummel. As Brummel shoots Langstrat, Lucius’ blade rips through Rafar.
Chapter 41: Rafar, having now lost his human host, tells Madeline to kill Sandy in retaliation. Madeline hands Sandy a knife (in the real world, it’s Shawn Ormsby who hands it to her). Sandy, still thoroughly entranced, accepts it. The angel Guilo shows up to slice through her chains and kill Madeline. Marshall shows up right then to scoop Sandy up and away.
An angel referred to only as “the General” shows up to the regents’ meeting to face off against Kaseph/Strongman. Captain Tal and Rafar face off as well.
The cops show up to the meeting. At first, they’re quite confused because it looks like Kaseph is losing his mind. Hank stops them from shooting him and exorcises Kaseph — who collapses.
Synopsis: The Finale At Last!
Chapter 42: As he fights Rafar, Tal asks his god to tell the Remnant what Rafar’s name is, so they can properly exorcise him. Edith Duster receives the name through divine intervention, and she and her fellow Christians use it immediately. Their magic spells hurt Rafar significantly, allowing Tal to win the fight.
There’s a hilarious bit at the end too. Frank Peretti must have liked “Scooby Doo” as a kid (p. 372):
The dripping, foaming jaws trembled open, and the words gargled through the tar and the froth. “But . . . for . . . your . . . praying saints! But for your saints . . . !”
The big beast swayed forward. He let out one last hissing sigh, and rumbled to the floor in a cloud of red.
And it was quiet.
If it weren’t for you pesky kids and that darned dog…!
The feds Bernice requested earlier arrive. She introduces them to Susan. Marshall and Sandy reconcile, and his wife Kate shows up as well.
The General offers to let Tal blow the victory trumpet. However, Tal’s too wiped out, so he lets Guilo do it.
When all’s said and done, Bernice remains the last holdout to TRUE CHRISTIANITY™. But even she now aches to know this god’s ways. She prays, and the angels point her to Hank Busche.
As the book closes, Hank and the TRUE CHRISTIANS™ induct Bernice into their ranks. And here we end (p. 376):
With a burst of brilliant wings and three trails of sparkling fire, the [three angelic] warriors shot into the sky, heading southward, becoming smaller and smaller until finally they were gone, leaving the now peaceful town of Ashton in very capable hands.
As Above, So Below.
What I found interesting about this finale is the envisioning of the angelic and human conflicts. To be sure, we’ve seen this imagery before now. But Frank Peretti takes it way further than I think other authors did before him. The stuff that happens to the humans is echoed, mirrored, and spurred by what’s happening in the imaginary world.
When Sandy’s “spirit guide” Madeline hands her a knife, Shawn Ormsby puts a real one in her hands. As the Strongman screams invectives at the angels, it’s Kaseph saying the words (which really freaks out the regents). Lucius fights Rafar as Brummel fights Langstrat.
The Satanic Panic definitely got a lot of Christians thinking along these same lines. That’s part of the fun of being a big-time SPIRITUAL WARRIOR, donchaknow? The fundagelicals protesting women’s rights and praying for Donald Trump all think of themselves as wearing big suits of platemail armor (in shiny silver or gold, guaranteed) and holding swords-and-boards in serried ranks as they face off against literal demons embodied in those who oppose their overreach.
The more these control-hungry Christians feel their dominance slipping away, the more grandiose their fantasies seem to get.
As my husband likes to say, In their dreams they are free indeed.
LOOKING FORWARD: I’ve got a few retrospective posts in mind to wrap up this extended Lord Snow Presides series. That’s it for the book itself, though. I’m very glad you’ve joined me for this long-form review. Thank you so much, and I hope you like the wrap-ups!
NEXT UP: Ohhh, the plot thickens with Jerry Falwell Jr. We take a quick detour to check out the latest — and mesh this story with our upcoming examination of the Argument from Morality that Atheist Overreach makes. See you tomorrow!
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Lord Snow Presides is our off-topic weekly chat series. Lord Snow presides over a suggested topic for the day, but feel free to chime in with anything on your mind. We especially welcome pet pictures! The series was named for Lord Snow, my sweet white cat. In life, he actually knew quite a bit.