Literature / Instrument of God
In the Matter of: Instrument of God
was an long unpublished comedy book by Paul Robinson, and is the sequel to The Gatekeeper
. It's a story about an Afterlife, operated in a computer system like The Matrix
, only everyone knows they're dead and they are aware they are inside of a computer system.
The book stars Supervisor 246, lead supervisor of the Welcoming Department. Supporting characters include David, Supervisor 246's boss; George, the Chairman of the Afterlife who is effectively God; Joan, the police watch commander and one of 246's girlfriends; Diane, one of the members of the Board of Directors of the Afterlife; Arlene, a TV reporter who brings 246 onto a TV show where a fight breaks out; Marilyn, who becomes (heavily disliked) Administrator of the Welcoming Department after 246's friend Tom decides to go back to earth; and Andrea, the only woman (and only person) who ever beat 246 in a contest, and does so four times.
Through the story, Supervisor 246 ends up being reincarnated out of the afterlife into another universe, crosses into a third, back into his own, dies, is re-reincarnated along with a friend, is killed by the friend who then blows up a hotel room to commit suicide, is visited by another friend who temporarily dies, plus waits for the death of his best friend who was a man but decided to go back to earth and be born as a woman so that when he died he could have regular sex with his friend Supervisor 246, who isn't into gay sex.
The book can be read for free as a PDF on the author's website here.
Tropes used by the book include:
- All of Them: David gets a call telling him some supervisors have quit in protest over Administrator Marilyn's treatment of Supervisor 246. "How many? All of them? ... Oh shit, that's bad." All 4,306 of them, which means the courts grind to a halt and they can't handle disputes. Actually, it's only 4,305, which is worse than all of them quitting. One supervisor didn't quit, that way Marilyn can't simply replace everyone.
- Alphabet News Network: 246: Did you hear about that incident a few months ago at the Picketing Zone near the Main Entrance? Akers: Yeah, the riot, I saw it on ANN, the Afterlife News Network.
- Altum Videtur - "I was, am, and always will be, primus inter pares, your friend."
- Amusement Park of Doom: "If you go through this door, you will die."
- And This Is for...:
- Another man picks up a chocolate cream pie, hurls it at the picture, and says, "Tom, this is for you, you son-of-a-bitch." Gobs of chocolate goo fall off the picture and onto the floor. A woman picks up two wormy apples, throws them at the picture, and says, "This is for not telling us you decided to live yourself, asshole!" The worms crawl around and start eating pieces of the other apples. When they run out of apple pieces, they begin to cannibalize each other. The last remaining worm eats its own tail and vanishes.
- "So I haul off, kick him in the kneecap to distract him, then when he's screaming in pain, I bust him one with a fist to the nuts, saying 'This is for Luann!' Then I kicked him in the face."
- Bad-Guy Bar: "It was the typical bar like you'd find on earth, with big guys looking like bikers."
- Bait-and-Switch Tyrant: Marilyn, the deputy Administrator and later Administrator of the Welcoming Department is initially a vile boss. But it's okay, she's only like that because she was molested as a child! Once she gets some Intimate Psychotherapy, she's much more reasonable. Somehow. See also Sugar-and-Ice Personality below.
- Bar Brawl: "Two guys in the back were beating the crap out of each other, and nobody was noticing."
- Berserk Button: If a person who is dead in the Afterlife decides to go back to earth to be born again, that's being "recycled." If they decide to be reborn in the opposite sex, that's called "getting a Real Sex Change." Do not be stupid and ask Supervisor 246 when someone will be back from getting a real sex change. He will know you're so cluelessly ignorant he might punch your lights out.
- Bury Your Gays / Hide Your Lesbians: Averted. When Supervisor 246, who is lead (heterosexual) male supervisor, becomes Department Administrator, he calls in the lead gay supervisor and the lead lesbian supervisor and asks both of them to handle his old position temporarily until he can get a replacement. The implication is both of them have essentially the same status as he did when he was a supervisor.
- By "No", I Mean "Yes": From The Sign By the Right of the Road: There is no law except the Law of the Jungle in the Frontier, anyone may do anything to anyone out there. Rule #1 doesn’t apply there, there are no rules. Well, there is one rule. The Rule of Promise.
- Carry the One: Doreen is pointing out to David that Supervisor 246 didn't make him pay 246 five favors for the service he performed, but five gross favors:
Doreen: A lot of people would probably have done this for free just to play at it. Maybe someone might have thought it was worth a favor, especially if you didn’t know how. But he had you give him five gross favors. Five times a gross, 144. Five times 4 is twenty... carry the two... Seven hundred and twenty favors.
- Colon Cancer: The full title is "In the Matter Of: Instrument Of God", but the preceding book it is a sequel to is called The Gatekeeper.
- Curb-Stomp Battle: Andrea is in the prisoner law library and runs into Barney the rapist. She taunts him into agreeing to fight her, whereupon she proceeds to beat the tar out of him.
- Deadpan Snarker:
Marilyn: There you are! Do you know how much of an embarrassment you are today?
246: Not yet, but I have this very strong suspicion you are about to tell me.
- Dead to Begin With:
Are you trying
to tell me that I'm fucking dead
No I'm not. I'm telling
you that you're fucking dead.
- Death Takes a Holiday: "If the queue backups get too much, people on earth stop dying. Someone is bound to notice."
- Did You Just Have Sex?: 246 tells about his first time, and how after they finish and he's sitting in the living room feeling her up afterwards, her boyfriend knocks on the front door. So 246 decides to leave. As he tries to walk out, the boyfriend asks this, in the form "Did you just fuck her?".
- Doorstopper - 167 chapters, over 700 pages.
- Easy Sex Change:
- The woman who causes the female orgasm meter to explode was born a man, but was transgendered. When he becomes a woman after he dies, she is now a very happy (and very boy crazy) woman who has no sex hangups.
- Barney the rapist is ordered to have his sex changed into a woman as a result of his conviction, and basically happens as soon as the judge issues the order to Central Computer.
- Maria comes back after dying, and is literally a heterosexual bisexual, being able to choose to change from female (where she has sex with men only) to male (where he has sex with women only) at will.
- Explosive Instrumentation: The female orgasm meter.
- "Facing the Bullets" One-Liner - "Whomever you are, kill me right now before I fucking sue you."
- Finishing Each Other's Sentences - A woman has sex with a guy, and mentions over the phone how "he looked so happy, like, well, you know..." and 246 and Joan do know, since they're dead in an afterlife, they both simultaneously finish the punch line, "like he'd died and gone to heaven!"
- 555: When asked what his Social Security Number was when he was alive, 246 intentionally gives out the number 078-05-1120 (to see if the other person recognizes it), the number that was retired by Social Security after Woolworth's used it as an example in their wallets.
- Free-Love Future
- Good People Have Good Sex
- The Grim Reaper - "Calm down, Grim, you didn't do anything wrong."
- Hand Signals:
- When a female and the male welcomer she was with have an issue settled and would otherwise go back to his room to have sex, 246 waves his hands at them, saying "Go on, go back to having fun, scoot!"
- When some people in the Frontier are playing tug-of-war using the arms of a man to try to capture him, so he can be sold as a sex slave, 246 sees them, blows a whistle, and taps his finger in the air. They drop him and run off to loot goods from a burst trailer.
- When Wilson meets 246, he bows on his knees and prays before him, mistaking him for God. 246 holds up his hand, saying "Stop. Don't pray to me. If you need to send me a message, use e-mail."
- Hold Your Hippogriffs - Since people can't die in the Afterlife, you can't say "As serious as a heart attack." However, if someone does something really bad, they are sentenced by the court to be "involuntarily recycled," i.e. returned to earth forcibly to start over as a baby, the equivalent of Capital Punishment. So, when someone really means it, they say, "As serious as involuntary recycling."
- Hypocrite - "Somehow, 246, you seem hypocritical." "It took you this long to figure that out? You're not as bright as I thought you were."
- I'd Tell You, but Then I'd Have to Kill You: The author breaks the fourth wall to tell a story about his relationship with the intelligence community in an indirect way, then actually uses this phrase to explain why he can't be more direct.
- I'm Melting!: 246, in the Bad Guy Bar, wearing a wizard's cloak, says this (and starts shrinking) after someone throws a pitcher of beer on him.
- Incredibly Lame Pun — 246 says "no pun intended" pretty much every time he uses the word "come" in a sentence. If you're a ten-year-old boy, this will be funny the first few times. By the end of the book, though...
- Inside a Computer System
- Institutional Apparel: Barney the rapist is paraded around in public in a standard prison jumpsuit. Lime green with the words "Prisoner of the Welcoming Department" on his back in orange.
- Ironic Echo: Arlene to 246: Sir, you didn't answer my question. Later, 246 to Arlene: To quote something you said to me, "Ma'am, you didn't answer my question."
- Level Ate: There's a place where 246 punches in a wall, and it's made of vanilla wafer; later, it mentions there are swimming pools filled with soda, with jello, and with alcoholic beverages.
- The Lifestream
- Loads and Loads of Characters: The list of speaking roles at the start of the book shows more than 150 people, by name, that have at least one line of dialog.
- Master Computer
- Uh, not quite. Page 542 (PDF page 582) makes it clear, the system consists of billions of interconnected sub processors, something equivalent to a beowulf cluster of several billion PCs. So while people refer to the system as if it were a single large machine, it's actually a gigantic cluster of lots of computers networked together.
- The Multiverse
- Name's the Same: A rapist is caught by the police. When asked his name, he replies, "Cesar Chavez. Not the same guy who helped migrant workers."
- Never Trust a Trailer: The blurb blatantly lies about several aspects of the world - for instance, the rapist is most definitely not a victim of a horrible crime.
- No Name Given - We don't learn 246's real name.
- One Steve Limit: Averted, as there is George, the Chairman of the Afterlife, and George, a rollercoaster maintenance technician.
- Pedestrian Crushes Car - In this case, it's a semi truck that tries to run down 246's boss David. But he's in a wizard's cloak, which gives him invulnerability...
- Portal Cut - The red square 246 will stand within to return to the real world in his universe.
- Professionals Do It on Desks: To piss off Mias, 246 suggests if Mias was interested he could do this to him.
- The Punishment Is the Crime: 246 institutes a policy in which rapists who are caught in the Frontier will be punished by tricking them into either having sex with or raping a woman, at which point, he can't stop having sex with her, including that he starts having unbearable levels of orgasm.
- Readings Are Off the Scale - The female orgasm meter, again
- Refugee from TV Land - "More about the star of the TV show Instrument of God, Supervisor 246."
- Rousing Speech - "This is how a man, lives. This is how a man, dies."
- Rule of Pool
- Schizo Tech: One of the universes 246 visits hasn't really developed liquid fuels like gasoline or diesel (but has advanced battery technology), so a woman who met 246 was driving to a conference in a horse-drawn carriage rented at the train station from Hertz Rent-a-Wagon, catches a coal fired ramjet-powered steam locomotive reaching speeds above 200 MPH, catches an electric trolley, then rides a bicycle home, where, before she has sex with 246, has each of them bite on a disposable blood testing device (which looks like a home pregnancy test kit) that shows they're both clean of six of the seven common venereal diseases (they both have Herpes Simplex I, i.e. cold sores).
- Schmuck Bait - "But he had you give him five gross favors. Five times a gross, 144."
- Shaming the Mob - "I'm going to stop this mob with a piece of paper."
- Shout-Out - "Have you ever seen 'Star Trek'? We have transporters here, just like they do."
- Spell My Name with a "The": the people in 246's world are in different "countries" based on the language they can think in, the English Section, the Spanish Section, the French Section, etc. The means to travel between them is a road named "The." The full name of the travel path is "The Road."
- Spy Speak: When the Chairman is going to give Joan an order to do something over the phone, he has to authenticate that he is talking to Joan, and that she can authenticate that it is actually him:
Central Computer, Telephone Watch Commander.”
“Office of the Watch Commander, this is a recorded line.”
“Knit 2 Pearl 4”
“One moment please.”
“This is Joan 20319.”
“Hi Joan, this is the Chairman.”
“Mike, how are you doing?”
“Authenticated. Get real broad, my name is George."
“So what can I do you for, Dr. Green?”
- Sugar-and-Ice Personality: Administrator Marilyn, first is cold, then after she gets pushed into accepting Intimate Psychotherapy, she for some reason becomes much more pleasant; see Bait-and-Switch Tyrant, above.
- Teleporters and Transporters: In the Afterlife they have public kiosks where you can select a destination, and if you can afford the bribe to get the privilege, you can obtain the ability to teleport directly, similar to being able to buy a car in our world.
- That's Gotta Hurt - David watches in horrid fascination as the [roller coaster] train reaches the top, the last car detaches as the rest of the train roars on towards the drop while the single car veers off to the right, continues on about 10 meters before coming to the end of the track and flying off into space. The occupant screams out in terror as the car falls.
George looks at 246. "I'll bet that's gotta hurt."
- There Are No Rules - From The Sign by the Right of the Road: "There is no law except the Law of the Jungle in the Frontier, anyone may do anything to anyone out there. Rule #1 doesn't apply there, there are no rules."
- Title Drop - Each chapter is titled from a line of dialog in that chapter.
- Usually [...] with lots of ellipses [...] Quote Mine style [...] which make the chapter [...] titles look [...] as though they ought [...] to be read [...] by William Shatner.
- Translation Convention - "What are guys like me, who don't speak or read English, supposed to do?"
- Two Guys and a Girl
- Unstoppable Rage - "I will come down on all of you worse than Keyser Söze..."
- Vagina Dentata - Averted, maybe. 246 tells a rapist (truthfully) that these women don't have dentatas, they cannot hurt them. What 246 doesn't say is if the man rapes one of these women, he can't get out of her, can't stop having sex, and will be subjected to unbearable levels of orgasm.
- Wall Slump - After Leroy is shot, his body falls backward and slumps to the floor.
- Wish Fulfillment
- White Void Room: A magistrate tells two lawyers how they have a "stasis field" that suspends people in another area where ten minutes passes in their world no matter how long the person is in the field. In this case it's used to send Barney the rapist to the prison law library, but in cases of misconduct or bad behavior ("sending them to Coventry") it can be turned into a completely white room. The magistrate even uses a Shout-Out to the White Room from The Matrix. It's used for solitary confinement for disciplinary cases, generally one minute, but it's considered so bad a punishment that the maximum time the courts will allow them to use it is one hour.
- You're Insane! - Mias 808's response to the bet that 246 suggests in Chapter 22 (details on the bet in question are best read on the PDF):
“You’re out of your mind! That’s nothing but... but... but legal... legalized entrapment! You are a fucking lunatic, you son of a bitch!”
- Your Universe or Mine? - 246 has sex in more than one universe other than the one he came from.
: You know why Paul had to name his book "Instrument of God"? Waldorf
: Because getting people to finish it would require Divine Intervention! Both