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Literature / Children of the Last Days

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A series of religious novels by Michael D. O'Brien. Termed the Catholic version of Left Behind, these stories discuss the lives of an interconnected group of people in Canada and Europe, over the span of a hundred years.

The series currently consists of six novels:

  1. Sophia House (2005)
  2. Father Elijah: An Apocalypse (1996)
  3. Elijah in Jerusalem (2015)
  4. Strangers and Sojourners (1997)
  5. Plague Journal (1999)
  6. Eclipse of the Sun (1998)
  7. A Cry of Stone (2003)

Sophia House, Father Elijah, and Elijah in Jerusalem are about the life of David Schafer, later Father Elijah, during the Holocaust in the first book, and during the End Times in the second and third, with the first focusing on Pawel Tarnowski, who saves David from the Holocaust.

Strangers and Sojourners, Plague Journal, and Eclipse of the Sun are about the lives of four generations of the Delaney family in British Columbia. Strangers and Sojourners discusses the lives of Anne Ashton and Stephen Delaney, how they meet, and their marriage, as well as the life of their son Ashley and the early life of his son Nathaniel. Plague Journal discusses how Nathaniel and two of his children, Zoe and Tyler, are caught up in, and attempt to escape, the Government Conspiracy. Eclipse of the Sun discusses the life of Arrow, Nathaniel's youngest son, and the people who interact with him as he flees the Government Conspiracy.


A Cry of Stone is about the life of Rose Wabos, a First Nations Canadian artist who interacts with Fr. Andrei.

Provides Examples Of:

  • Adult Fear:
    • The government turning into a police state and trying to take away your kids, framing you for molesting them.
    • Sending your kids off to school where they are raped by a Sadist Teacher.
    • Being reduced to poverty through a series of Diabolus ex Machina events, and contracting a terminal disease.
    • Your child being forced to wander the countryside alone, because you have been killed.
    • Your spouse turning into a different person, leading to an unhappy marriage, which ends when she takes the kids and leaves in the middle of the night.
  • Aerith and Bob: Nathaniel and Maya's children are Tyler, Zoe, and Arrow.
  • After the End: In the prologue and epilogue of Eclipse of the Sun
  • The Antichrist: In Father Elijah.
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  • Anyone Can Die: Including the protagonists of Strangers and Sojourners, Plague Journal, A Cry of Stone, and Sophia House, as well as Father Andrei, Maurice, Alice, and Anna.
  • Apocalypse How: An unspecified level 1 cataclysm that depopulates the globe.
  • Artistic License – History: In Eclipse of the Sun, the truck driver who gives Fr. Andrei a ride comments that the Poles were just as bad as the Germans when it came to the Holocaust. Not according to most serious academic discussions of the matter.
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: Mocked in Eclipse of the Sun.
  • Author Avatar: Just read some of O'Brien's non-fiction, which is partially autobiographical, and compare it to excerpts of Plague Journal.
  • Author Filibuster: Plenty of these in Plague Journal. The eponymous journal contains rather lengthy and Anvilicious excerpts of writing by the Author Avatar. Some of these articles have appeared in Real Life magazines, under the author's byline.
  • Author Tract: Some of the novels can come across like this. Most especially Plague Journal.
  • Badass Preacher: Fr. Andrei. He survived The Holocaust and stands up to interrogation by the Government Conspiracy, sacrificing his own life to prevent Arrow from being raped into insanity.
  • Bad Boss: In Eclipse of the Sun, Maurice and his superiors think nothing of liquidating employees who have outlived their usefulness.
  • Batman Gambit: Maurice pulls one of these on Fr. Andrei. It fails.
  • Big Bad: The unnamed Antichrist
  • Black Comedy: Nathaniel's prank call, in which he pretends to be severely depressed and uses his son's starter pistol to fake suicide.
  • Black-and-White Morality: Played straight and lampshaded.
  • Black Helicopter: The Government Conspiracy uses these, particularly in Elcipse of the Sun.
  • Boarding School of Horrors: Where Binemin goes. A teacher there, Mr. McKenna, is a sadistic pedophile.
  • Bothering by the Book: How the Vatican protects Fr. Elijah after he has been framed for Anna's murder.
  • Brainwashed:
    • What the teacher attempted to do to Jack Tobac's mother. Also, what Fr. Andrei and Fr. Potempko fear will happen to Arrow.
    • This is what the cult did to Colin in the back-story of Eclipse of the Sun.
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: Fr. Elijah's description of Eichmann.
  • Character Filibuster: Strangers and Sojourners and Plague Journal contain these. Some of them double as Author Filibuster.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: Jan Tarnowski, who builds a clock to herald the end of the world.
  • Crapsaccharine World: The goal of the global conspiracy.
  • Creepy Uncle: Or Creepy Great-Uncle. Pawel's Great-Uncle Nicholas molests him when he is six years old.
  • Comic-Book Time: Although Father Elijah is set around the turn of the millennium, despite picking up where Father Elijah left off, Elijah in Jerusalem takes place twenty years later.
  • Completely Missing the Point.
    • Maya's reaction to Arrow's prophetic dream. The commune is destroyed, and he is saved by a man from the convent (whom he met in the woods in real life, previously). Maya blames the man from the convent for causing the nightmare.
    • This is how Nathaniel characterizes his readers' reactions to his satiric essay "Curtains for Claus".
  • Cool Old Guy: Fr. Andrei and Jan Tarnowski. Implied to be Thaddeus Tobac as well.
  • Cult:
    • Colin was lured into one of these when he was young.
    • The drug commune is also one of these.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Colin, Stephen, Jan, and Pawel all have these.
  • Department of Child Disservices:
    • Played horrifically straight. In Plague Journal, they are involved in falsely accusing Nathaniel of molesting his kids to take them away. Interestingly, the interrogation of Zoe, who is suspected of having been molested, violates the Real Life guidelines regarding interviewing possible sex abuse victims, including not repeating questions and not reacting to what the child is telling you. (Not understanding the significance of the questions, Zoe inadvertently falsely implicates her father as a child molester because her interrogators keep repeating questions and become angry when she doesn't give the desired answers.)
    • In A Cry of Stone, prompted by Fr. Andrei, they remove Binemin from the Boarding School of Horrors, but hand him over to devil worshipers, eschewing other alternatives.
  • Depraved Homosexual: Averted with Pawel Tarnowski. Played straight with Count Smokrev, until his Heel–Faith Turn.
  • Deus Angst Machina: Rose's life. Her mother abandoned her when she was young to be raised in poverty by her grandmother. She has a curved spine, giving her a hunchbacked appearance. Her childhood friend is separated from her, and her grandmother dies. Although she spends some time with nuns, she is denied a vocation. Ultimately, she succumbs to a terminal illness, dying in her early thirties.
  • Deus ex Machina: Implied to be the ultimate resolution of the conflict.
  • Diabolus ex Machina:
    • Arrow becomes dangerously ill, and needs to be hospitalized. Beth takes him, pretending he is her son, Noah. Just as he is being released, and it looks like the ruse has worked, a doctor comes out of nowhere, and reveals that Arrow is not Noah Potter.
    • In Sophia House, Pawel and David are in the eponymous store (which doubles as Pawel's home) after hours, when, out of nowhere, Count Smokrev walks in to discover them.
  • Direct Line to the Author: Plague Journal is supposed to be an actual journal of a fugitive, found in the attic of one of the arresting officers.
  • Disappeared Dad: Rose's father. Also, Nathaniel, in Eclipse of the Sun. But then, the government "disappeared" him.
  • Double Standard: In-universe. The state and the media are portrayed as employing these against anyone who disagrees with them, particularly traditional Christians.
  • The Dragon: Maurice, before his Heel–Face Turn.
  • Dreaming of Things to Come:
    • Arrow's dream of the attack on the commune, before it happens.
    • Tyler's dream, in Plague Journal, of the epilogue of Eclipse of the Sun.
    • Fr. Elijah and Fr. Ron seem to have these, though we don't see them come true in-story.
  • Easy Evangelism: Averted, particularly with Anne and Colin.
  • The End of the World as We Know It: What Fr. Elijah seeks to prevent, by converting the Antichrist. He fails.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep":
    • The Antichrist is simply known as the Antichrist or the President of the Europarliament.
    • The Archbishop of Vancouver is also known simply by his title.
    • So are the Pope and the Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. However, it is strongly implied that they are John Paul II and Cardinal Ratzinger, respectively.
  • Evil Genius: The Nazis, along with the Antichrist's inner circle.
  • Faux Affably Evil: The Antichrist, Maurice, and many of the more liberal characters.
  • Flashback: Eclipse of the Sun and Sophia House.
  • Foregone Conclusion:
    • Father Elijah reveals the ending of Sophia House, nine years before the latter was published.
    • Also, Eclipse of the Sun was released before Plague Journal. If you read the books in order of release, you know that Nathaniel is captured.
  • Foreshadowing: Arrow dreams of the destruction of his village before it happens.
  • Framing Device: Eclipse of the Sun and Sophia House are told in flashback form, and Plague Journal is supposed to be an actual journal.
  • Freudian Excuse: Mr. McKenna at Binemin's boarding school.
  • Freud Was Right: Mocked and defied in A Cry of Stone. Rose's critics have a tendency to wrongly interpret sexual meanings into her paintings.
  • From a Certain Point of View: Used very liberally by Alice and Beth to protect Arrow in Eclipse of the Sun.
  • Godwin's Law: Somewhat. The main characters, especially Nathaniel, Fr. Andrei, and Fr. Potempko, do compare the villains to Hitler (and Stalin), but this is justified in that (a) the villains are planning to kill off a quarter of the total human population, and (b) their leader is literally The Antichrist, who, by definition, has to be worse than Hitler.note  Where this trope comes into play is when Hugo compares Rose's critics to Nazis in A Cry of Stone.
  • Good Is Not Nice: Lampshaded by Nathaniel in Plague Journal.
  • Good Shepherd: The Archbishop of Vancouver, Fr. Ron, Fr. Andrei, the Pope.
  • Government Conspiracy: The framing of Nathaniel Delaney and Fr. Elijah.
  • Guile Hero: Fr. Andrei. Just look at how he handles his interrogators in Eclipse of the Sun.
  • Harmful to Minors:
    • What Arrow goes through. He is raised in a drug commune where his mother Really Gets Around and the medicine man is a pedophile. He escapes, and witnesses, the destruction of his home at the hands of the Government Conspiracy. He has to go on the run with Fr. Andrei, and escapes when the priest is captured. After hiding out with Alice, he is captured and sent to a concentration camp, where Maurice threatens to have him raped into insanity.
    • The abuse suffered by Binemin, both before he is rescued, and at the Boarding School of Horrors.
    • Also, the molestation of six-year-old Pawel.
  • Have You Told Anyone Else?: Twice in Eclipse of the Sun:
    • The first time, when Andrei is calling emergency services to report the massacre at the convent, the police ask him this question, giving the reader a subtle hint that all is not what it seems with the government.
    • In the flashback, Maurice asks Nathaniel this, to see how many other people he has to eliminate.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Maurice, the official of the Government Conspiracy who kills Nathaniel and Fr Andrei, but has a conversion experience when he is trying to trick Arrow into revealing his benefactor, and lets Arrow go free.
  • Heel–Faith Turn: What Fr. Elijah tries to do to the Antichrist. He fails. He is successful with Count Smokrev.
  • Heel Realization: This seems to begin for Maurice in Plague Journal.
  • Heroic BSoD:
    • Arrow has one of these when he finds out his parents have been murdered.
    • Euphrasia has one of these when she finds out that the love letters she was receiving were actually a cruel prank.
    • Fr. Elijah comes close to having one of these when the Pope tells him the Apocalypse is near.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Fr. Andrei and Pawel Tarnowski. Also, Maurice and Alice.
  • Hitler Ate Sugar: According to Fr. Elijah, Eichmann liked Mozart and roses.
  • Hollywood Atheist:
    • Somewhat subverted. Fr. Andrei thinks Maurice is an atheist, but he is actually a member of the Religion of Evil.
    • Ashley plays this trope straight, however.
    • Averted with Anne and Colin, who later convert to Catholicism.
    • Averted entirely with Anna, in Father Elijah.
  • Hollywood History: In discussing the crusaders who tried to expose the global conspiracy, Peter — and by extension, the author — undermines his position by including Louis McFadden, who, according to The Other Wiki, was a rabid anti-Semite whose statements appeared in German Nazi and American Fascist publications, and whose conspiracy theories were inextricably linked to his anti-Semitism.
  • Human Sacrifice: The shaman at the drug commune does this.
  • Idiot Ball: Maya remains in the drug commune with Arrow despite the fact that the medicine man has admitted to performing human sacrifices, and has made some thinly veiled threats against her.
  • The Infiltration: What Anna tries to do to the Antichrist's inner circle in Father Elijah.
  • Innocent Inaccurate:
    • Arrow's view of life at the drug commune.
    • His perception of the attack counts as well: his belief that the black helicopters are giant beetles persists throughout Eclipse of the Sun.
  • Jumping Off the Slippery Slope: What a lot of the more liberal characters, including Cardinal Vettore, Sister Connie, and Ashley do.
  • Kick the Dog:
    • When Maurice coerces Fr. Andrei into looking at pornography — by threatening to drag a real woman in and rape her if he refuses.
    • Also, when Maurice gives Fr. Andrei the Sadistic Choice of publicly denouncing his religion or watching three depraved men rape Arrow into insanity.
    • In Count Smokrev's back-story, as a child, his playmate rejected a sexual advance. In response, Smokrev killed the boy's pet rabbit, right in front of him.
  • Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: The Pope and the Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. No names are given; however, it is implied that they are John Paul II and Cardinal Ratzinger, respectively.
  • La Résistance: The Underground in Sophia House.
  • Ludd Was Right: The series is partly a diatribe at how modernity and progress leads to the Antichrist. The trope is also crossed with some heavy Nostalgia Filter and Author Filibuster. However Fr. Ron, one of the characters the author intends us to sympathize with points out that he is not opposed to modern technology per se, such as the polio vaccine, but we have to watch how it affects us as a society. O'Brien seems more interested in modern media and culture than modern technology.
  • Mama Bear: Implied with Beth Potter, given her reaction to Alice's dump story.
  • Meaningful Rename:
    • Zig-zagged in Eclipse of the Sun. When Fr. Andrei baptizes Arrow, he gives the boy the new name Aaron. Upon discovering the destruction of his childhood home, the drug commune, the boy resumes the name Arrow. However, in the end, when he reaches the sanctuary, he is once again called Aaron.
    • Also, David Schafer, who takes an unspecified alias when he becomes famous and powerful, and, later, becomes Fr. Elijah.
  • Missing Mom: Maya to Zoe and Tyler (and Arrow in Eclipse of the Sun). Youngmary to Rose.
  • Mistaken for Cheating: Anne and the local Protestant minister in Strangers and Sojourners.
  • The Mole: Cardinal Vettore, who is ostensibly loyal to the Church but is, in fact, a supporter of the Antichrist.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Dragonstongue, the name the medicine man took when he performed the Human Sacrifice.
  • New Media Are Evil:
    • Interestingly enough, in 1998 O'Brien focused on television, when even then the Internet (from a conservative Catholic point of view) was proving to be more problematic in providing impressionable minds with access to offensive material.
    • It turned out that he eventually did include the Internet on his moral hit 2004. Needless to say, his response was very predictable.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!:
    • To cover up their planned intrigue, Fr. Elijah and Anna write fake love letters to each other. When Anna is killed, these love letters are used as a motive in framing Fr. Elijah.
    • In Plague Journal, as a prank, Nathaniel leaves a deranged message on Doc's answering machine, firing a starter pistol to make it seem like he killed himself. It Makes Sense in Context However, Nathaniel's phone is being tapped, and the Government Conspiracy uses this prank (which they pretend to take seriously) as evidence that he really is crazy.
  • "No" Means "Yes": Invoked by David in Sophia House in references to a zaddik (wise man) — if you deny that you are one, that is proof that you actually are.
  • Nostalgia Ain't Like It Used to Be: Zigzagged. Considering the author's conservative views, one would expect him to portray The '50s, and anytime before, as some sort of golden age. Instead, he criticizes, among other things, the racism and ethnic bigotry, the internment camps for the Japanese, the materialism and lack of concern for the environment, the rumor-mongering and gossip, the lack of awareness of child abuse prevalent in previous times; he maintains that the problems our society faces now are really Older Than They Think, and lurked beneath the surface in days gone by. Still, he seems to hearken back to an age far before the 20th Century and modernity in general, in the "glory days" of "Roman Christendom".
  • Omniglot: The Antichrist.
  • One World Order: The goal of the Antichrist and his followers.
  • Pædo Hunt: Played both ways. In Plague Journal, the Government Conspiracy falsely accuses Nathaniel of molesting his own kids, and in Eclipse of the Sun, Fr. Andrei and Fr. Ron are briefly accused of being pedophiles (because they are priests). However, there are real pedophiles, to wit, Great-Uncle Nicholas in Sophia House, Mr. McKenna in A Cry of Stone, and the medicine man (and the three depraved men) in Eclipse of the Sun.
  • Parental Abandonment: What Rose's mother did to her. Also, what Maya did to Zoe and Tyler.
  • Parental Betrayal: Ashley does this to Nathaniel.
  • Parental Incest: What Nathaniel is falsely accused of in Plague Journal.
  • Parental Substitute: Alice, to Arrow and Nick.
  • Peace & Love, Incorporated:
    • The global conspiracy seeks to present this as the public image of their front groups/governments, particularly UNITAS.
    • In a reverse prank call, Nathaniel answers his phone pretending to be an answering machine for one of these.
  • Pedophile Priest:
    • It turns out Pawel's Great-Uncle Nicholas was one of these in his back-story.
    • In Eclipse of the Sun, references to these are made, and Fr. Andrei and Fr. Ron have to deal with accusations of this.
  • Precocious Crush: Zoë for Anthony, in Plague Journal.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: The Nazi professor in Sophia House.
  • Raised by Grandparents: Rose is raised by Oldmary after her mother abandons her.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: Invoked in the foreword of Strangers and Sojourners.
  • Redemption Equals Death:
    • Maurice, who worked for the Government Conspiracy, killed Nathaniel and Fr. Andrei, and threatened to have Arrow raped into insanity, has a conversion experience and releases Arrow, only to be tracked down and killed by the conspiracy he betrayed.
    • Count Smokrev, who began his career of cruelty by killing the pet rabbit of a playmate who rebuffed a sexual advance, and went on to turn David and Pawel in to the Nazis, repents on his deathbed and is forgiven by David, now Fr. Elijah.
  • Really Gets Around: Maya, who sleeps with a number of the men in the drug commune where she lives.
  • Released to Elsewhere: What happens to most of the victims of the global conspiracy.
  • Sadist Teacher: Mr. McKenna, at Binemin's school.
  • Sadistic Choice:
    • Maurice offers Fr. Andrei a choice between denouncing the Catholic Church or watching three depraved men rape Arrow into insanity. This prompts Fr. Andrei's Thanatos Gambit.
    • When Count Smokrev discovers that Pawel is harboring the Jewish teenager David, he gives Pawel a choice: turn David over to Smokrev to be raped, or Smokrev will turn them both in to the Nazis.
  • Sadly Mythtaken: In-universe. The medicine man in the drug commune uses an eclectic mishmash of various Native American traditions that had nothing to do with one another. Maya calls him on this.
  • Saintly Church: Played mostly straight with the Catholic Church (and some other denominations, but with a few significant exceptions.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Nathaniel uses this in his writing. Teachers and readers lampshade and call him on this in Strangers and Sojourners and Plague Journal, respectively.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Son of a Whore: McKenna, the pedophile in A Cry of Stone was the son of a woman who Really Gets Around, and developed misogynistic and sadistic attitudes as a result of having been exposed to her lifestyle.
  • State Sec: The Canadian Office of Internal Security in Eclipse of the Sun.
  • Strawman Political:
    • Judging from what O'Brien pits his characters against, it's pretty clear his stance on many issues. Then again, there's a reason why some people call this a Catholic Left Behind.
    • Ironically, political strawmen appear in-universe in Eclipse of the Sun, in which the mainstream media interviews eloquent liberals, and conservatives who can barely string a sentence together, but who make points that are obviously inflammatory.
    • In the story itself, just about anyone who's not a deeply devout and very conservative (mainly Catholic) Christian is viewed with disdain.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: The ending of Elijah in Jerusalem has shades of this. Elijah and Enoch are mistaken for terrorists, captured by the Mossad and tortured to death without even being able to warn the Israeli prime minister about the Antichrist. Worse, it turns out they are not even the prophesied messengers of God that the novel had been building them up to be.
  • Take Over the World: The Antichrist wants to do this.
  • Take That!:
    • Against liberal Catholicism (or any form that doesn't follow his brand, really), the New Age Movement, the media, and modern society in general.
      • Cardinal Vettore in particular, who is in league with the Antichrist in Father Elijah, is suggested to be an Expy of Cardinal Martini, then the Cardinal-Archbishop of Milan who was known for his liberal views.
    • If it hasn't already been stated, he also seems to have gripes against just about any form of liberalism.
  • Taking the Kids: Played partially straight. Maya leaves Nathaniel, taking baby Arrow. She doesn't take the older kids because she knows they would put up too much of a fight.
  • Thanatos Gambit: Faced with Maurice’s Sadistic Choice, Father Andrei pretends to agree to make the denunciation. During the speech, however, he makes provocative comments designed to incite Maurice to kill him. It works.
  • Those Wacky Nazis: Prevalent in Sophia House.
  • Title Drop: Plague Journal, Sophia House.
  • 20 Minutes into the Future: Eclipse of the Son and Father Elijah were supposed to have taken place at the turn of the millennium.
  • Utopia Justifies the Means: The global conspiracy's rationalization for concentration camps, liquidation of undesirables, endorsement of genocide and employing people to rape children into insanity.
  • United Europe: Apparently the Antichrist's headquarters. This is in part, an Author Tract.
  • Villain Ball:
    • Perhaps the reason the Government Conspiracy is so determined to stamp out an increasingly marginalized group of people?
    • In addition if, as Maurice implies, the drug commune and the Government Conspiracy are both on the same side, why does the Government Conspiracy wipe them out?
  • Villain with Good Publicity: The Antichrist, especially since the media is on his side.
  • We Can Rule Together:
    • Maurice offers Nathaniel a position with the government in Strangers and Sojourners. Later, in Eclipse of the Son. Maurice states that, had Nathaniel accepted, he would have shared in the global conspiracy's power instead of being liquidated by Maurice.
    • The Antichrist makes a straight version of this offer to Fr. Elijah. He refuses, of course.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: We never find out how Ashley's brothers turn out. Averted for most of the other characters of the series, as O'Brien is usually good at tying up loose ends.
  • Who Names Their Kid "Dude"?: Twice, Arrow's name is commented upon.
  • Wish Fulfillment: The reforms of the Archdiocese of Vancouver, which begin with Fr. Ron's church.
  • Writers Cannot Do Math:
    • Played straight. Maurice was listed as an octogenarian in Eclipse of the Sun, which takes place at the turn of the millennium. However, he was a teenager, or pre-teen in the 1920s.
    • In Eclipse of the Sun, a news broadcast characterized Nathaniel Delaney as being a liberal during the 1960s and 1970s, implying that he was an adult at the time. However, he was born in 1952, making him a teenager during the 1960s.
    • In Strangers and Sojourners, look at some of the dates and Anne's age at the time. They don't add up.
  • You Can't Fight Fate: No matter how powerful the Antichrist's forces are, they are destined to lose in the end. Fr. Elijah tries, and fails, to convince the Antichrist of this. Fr. Andrei is somewhat more successful with Maurice.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: What Maurice intends to do to the child rapists in his employ once the global conspiracy no longer needs them.
  • You Keep Using That Word: In Plague Journal, Nathaniel has a vision of a singular cherubim. Only in the works of Madeleine L'Engle is "cherubim" the singular.
  • Zeerust:
    • Father Elijah, Plague Journal and Eclipse of the Sun were set at the turn of the millennium, believed to be when the end of the world would take place. Twenty years later, we're still here.
    • O'Brien's complete disregard of the Internet, even in 1998, is puzzling.


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