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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Left Behind: Chapter 23, Part 1

Welcome back one and all to our regular feature on Left Behind, the book that sucks like a black hole and yet still lacks gravity. Last time... well, last time we enjoyed an intermission. The time before that Buck talked with Chloe on a plane, introduced a massive theological problem, and Chloe converted. What happens this week? Buck whines like he's Rayford all of a sudden and Rayford and Chloe find a way to "give back". And just to warn you: this episode is amazingly dull because what the authors describe is almost incomprehensibly boring. I gave it my best shot but, seriously, I only have so much to work with.

As always we have a comment of the week. This week, amidst heavy competition, that "honor" goes to Jay for treating us to a learning experience:

Let's use this as a teachable moment for aspiring fiction writers:

*It's very difficult to write characters who are smarter than their authors. Don't introduce a character named Steven Hawking and let him talk physics unless you actually understand what Steven Hawking has to say about physics.

*A lot of these problems were caused by introducing these characters as a Stanford student and "the greatest investigative reporter of all time". If the characters had been introduced as a hack writer and a state college student majoring in Jell-O shots, then their constant screwups would be believable.

*Looking ahead: If you can't write a convincing Stanford undergrad, don't introduce God as a character.


Indeed, someone should consider sharing this advice with Jerry Jenkins, co-author of Left Behind and powerhouse behind the Christian Writers Guild. A guild that can teach you too to write like the authors of Left Behind. Then again, a traumatic brain injury might do the trick as well, and be cheaper besides. Nice work, Jay, and keep at it folks! Not too many chances left.

And with that, let's begin! As always, page/line numbers are in bold, quotes from the book are in block quotes, my commentary is in regular print, and you can navigate the whole series with the provided tag.


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Dramatis Personae

In an order determined by a complex algorithm...

Rayford Steele: Airline captain. Husband of Irene Steele. Possible former gay porn star. Ditherer. No longer attracted to Hattie. Bad father. Cries a lot. Lying hypocrite. Christian.

Irene Steele: Wife of Rayford Steele. Born-again Christian. Not perfect, just forgiven. Reader of marriage books. Cleans obsessively. Likes egg in her coffee. Bakes really silly cookies. Likes butter churns.

Cameron "Buck" Williams: Reporter. Known for "bucking tradition and authority." Terrible Excellent writer. Spiritually attuned. Electronics wiz. Fast typist. Clumsy on slides. Travels a lot. Graduated from Princeton. Human alarm clock. Expert in Romanian politics. Fast runner. Hot for Chloe.

Hattie Durham: Flight attendant. Toucher. Hottie. Hysterical female type. Girl power devotee. Unhealthily thin. Twenty-seven years old. Blonde. Claims no moral or religious code.

Chris Smith: Airline co-pilot. Worked with Rayford Steele. Father of two. Husband. Killed himself.

Chloe Steele: Daughter of Rayford Steele. Student at Stanford. Religiously unaffiliated. Kinda stupid. Possibly hot for Buck. Christian.

Chaim Rosenzweig: Israeli chemist. Kinda freaky. Friend of Buck's.

Steve Plank: Buck's boss at Global Weekly. Not the sharpest tool in the shed. Press secretary for Nicolae Carpathia.

Nicolae Carpathia: Businessman. Romanian Senator. Romanian President. Secretary-General of the United Nations. Antichrist. Favors arms reductions. An inch or two over six feet tall. Broad shouldered. Thick chested. Trim. Athletic. Tanned. Blonde. Blue eyes. Thick eyebrows. Roman nose and jaw. Carries self with a sense of humility and purpose. Wears understated jewelry. Excellent memory.

Raymie Steele: Son of Rayford Steele. Taken in the rapture.

Dirk Burton: English guy Buck knows. Graduated from Princeton. Kinda gullible. Killed himself Murdered. Left handed.

Joshua Todd-Cothran: English finance guy. May have the nickname "duck lips."

Jonathon Stonagal: American ultra-rich dude. Involved in international monetary cabal. Has ties to duck lips.

Marge Potter: Steve Planck's secretary. Matronly.

Lucinda Washington: Fiftyish black woman. Raptured.

Ken Ritz: Pilot. Profiteering on the rapture. Actually quite polite. Fired for being too careful. Believes in aliens.

Juan Ortiz: Global Weekly international events editor.

Jimmy Borland: Global Weekly religion editor.

Barbara Donahue: Global Weekly financial editor.

Nigel Leonard: Employee of the London exchange.

Alan Tompkins: Investigator at Scotland Yard. Friend of Buck. Kind of a chickenshit. Blown up by an evil conspiracy car bomb.

Bruce Barnes: Visitation Pastor at New Hope Village Church. Likes to be mysterious.

Vernon Billings: Pastor at New Hope Village Church. Likes video tape. Raptured.

Mwangati Ngumo: Secretary-General of the United Nations. President of Botswana. Botswanan national.

Eric Miller: Reporter. Rival of Buck's. Able to climb stairs really fast, but not as fast a runner as Buck. Kinda a douche. Died Murdered by falling being pushed off of the Staten Island ferry. A strong swimmer.

Gerald Fitzhugh: President of the United States. Talks like a moron.

Stanton Bailey: Publisher of the Global Weekly.

Carolyn Miller: Wife of Eric Miller.

Alex Phonecompany: Friend of Buck's. Works at the phone company.

----------


Chapter 23: In which Buck is invited to a meeting, Bruce, Rayford and Chloe form a group of spiritual green berets (that's not a joke, it's in the text), and Buck inches closer to converting.


Page 411- Line Quotient:

No quote, but we open with Buck, who has apparently been hanging out in the Chicago office of the Global Weekly for most of the afternoon. This is after he set up an appointment with Bruce Barnes of New Hope Village Church to get an extra helping of uninspired preaching. Yippee.


Page 411- Line 4-6:
News of his [Buck] becoming their boss had swept the place, and he was greeted with coolness by Lucinda Washington's former assistant, a young woman in sensible shoes. [emphasis added]


Oh, for crying out loud. Are the authors actually invoking the whole, "she's wearing sensible shoes, she must be a lesbian" meme? This makes me wonder if either of them have ever actually met a lesbian before. And leaving all that aside, when the only descriptor we get of a character is their footwear... yeah, crappy novel. Anyway, Buck more or less replies with "Step off, bitch" and continues interviewing key people at twenty minute intervals. He also asks each of them for their theory on the disappearances, which is the laziest excuse for researching a story I've ever heard.


Page 412- Line 9-20:
Near the end of the day, Buck was told that CNN was live at the U.N. with big news. He invited the staff into the office and they watched together. "In the most dramatic and far-reaching overhaul of an international organization anyone can remember," came the report, "Romanian president Nicolae Carpathia was catapulted into reluctant leadership of the United Nations by a nearly unanimous vote. Carpathia, who insisted on sweeping changes in direction and jurisdiction of the United Nations, in what appeared an effort to gracefully decline the position, became secretary-general here just moments ago."


Ah, yes, so that would be the U.N. voting to give itself the power to organize a standing army, relocate its headquarters to the middle east, and create ten new kings of the world. Because it totally has the ability to do that.* I think the authors must have failed every post World War II history and political science course they ever took if, indeed, either ever took any. Regardless, it turns out that Carpathia works fast.


Page 413- Line 16-22:
"Within a year the United Nations headquarters will move to New Babylon. The makeup of the Security Council with change to ten permanent members within the month, and a press conference is expected Monday morning in which Carpathia will introduce several of his personal choices for delegates to that body." [the CNN reporter continued]


Right, we're going to totally reorganize the U.N., turn it into a world government, give it a standing army, and move it to the other side of the planet, in less than a year. Oh, yeah, that's totally doable. And as long as we're at it, we'll crack nuclear fusion and build a rocket to Mars. Honestly, I think even the authors are kinda struck by just how absurd this timeline of theirs is. Not that they would ever admit as much, mind you, but I'm free to speculate.


Page 414- Line 1-3:
'The U.N. will not need its military might if no one else has any, and I look forward to the day when even the U.N. disarms.' [the CNN reported quoted Carpathia]


Right. Sure. That makes total sense. Either Carpathia is a moron or the authors think we are. I mean, seriously, would anyone ever go along with this plan? Whatever, Carpathia goes on to babble about how awesome it would be if we had one world government and one world religion, in the process making a rather lovely, if doomed, pronouncement.


Page 414- Line 26-27:
"The day of hatred is past. Lovers of humankind are uniting." [Carpathia said]


Apparently those "lovers of humankind" don't include god, since he's about to start the loving process of killing the hell out of us for seven years. Kind of the authors to keep things straight for us like that, I guess. Anyway, since he already knew this shit was coming down the pile, Buck amuses himself by listening to what the hard-bitten Chicago bureau reporters have to say about things.


Page 415-Line 21-28:
Another added, "This has to be the first time I've smiled since the disappearances. We're supposed to be objective and cynical, but how can you not like this? It'll take years to effect all this stuff, but someday, somewhere down the line, we're going to see world peace. No more weapons, no more wars, no more border disputes or bigotry based on language or religion. Whew! Who'd have believed it would all come to this?"


Hey, thanks for that, nameless extra! Okay, just for a moment, forget that what the authors are describing is ludicrous. Forget that they have no concept of politics, history, or diplomacy and imagine for just a moment that what they describe were actually possible. Hell, more than that, imagine it were happening and as a species we were destroying most weapons, forming a single planetary government, and generally pulling together. Picture that for a moment. Got it? Okay, great, now consider this: to the authors, that would be a bad thing, and they want us to feel that way, too. Jesus Christ is sometimes referred to as the "Prince of Peace," and, as such, it's a smidge ironic that our hyper-"Christian" authors are so adamantly opposed to attempts to make peace on Earth. Peace is, apparently, for heaven and our earthly life is for kicking ass and preaching. It just makes me very, very sad. Anyway, at this point Steve Plank calls and we have about a page and a half worth of pointless conversation, leading eventually to this...


Page 417- Line 18-26:
"But he [Carpathia] wants to see that stewardess friend of yours again."

"Steve, no one calls them stews anymore. They're flight attendants."

"Whatever. Bring her with you if you can."

"Why doesn't he ask her himself? What am I now, a pimp?"

"C'mon, Buck. It's not like that. Lonely guy in a position like this? He can't be out hustling up dates. You introduced them, remember? He trusts you."


So, in other words, yes, Buck, you're a pimp. But hey, given that the authors have made it abundantly clear that the only things Hattie is good for are screwing and converting, I suppose we should have seen this as inevitable. That said, given that Carpathia is the antichrist, you'd think he could rustle up some better tail than the random flight attendant he was introduced to by sheer accident, but it's not my novel. Actually, I'm really glad it's not my novel because, if this were my novel, it would mean I was a really, really shitty author.**


Page 417- Line 30:
"Don't let me down, buddy." [Steve said]


Oh, Steve. I think we both know Buck isn't capable of doing anything except letting people down, most of all the readers. Anyway, at this point we rejoin Rayford who is engaging in some really amusing hyperbole.


Page 418- Line 1-2:
Rayford Steele was as happy as he had been since his own decision to receive Christ.


Well, considering that since "receiving Christ" his hobbies have including sobbing into pillows and being stricken with existential grief, that's not saying a whole hell of a lot. In any case, the scene rapidly shifts to a three-way conversation between Rayford, Bruce, and Chloe at the infamous New Hope Village Church. Why are we at church all of a sudden? Who knows? The authors sure don't.


Page 418- Line 5-7:
"One thing we need to do," he [Rayford] said, "is get you [Chloe] your own Bible. You're going to wear that one [Irene's] out."


Oh, man. She's going to metamorphose into the ideal "Christian" woman in a handful of pages. You know- doing what she's told, eschewing all learning... that sort of thing. Something to look forward to, I guess. Fortunately, Bruce Barnes is there to edumacate her.


Page 418- Line 21-26:
"Most Christians will be martyred or die from war, famine, plagues, or earthquakes," he [Bruce] said.

Chloe smiled. "This isn't funny," she said, "but maybe I should have thought of that before I signed on. You're going to have trouble convincing people to join the cause with that in your sign-up brochure."


And yet, as Bruce proceeds to point out, the same is true of non-Christians as well since god is preparing to indiscriminately kill the hell out of the entire human race. So, hey, Christian or non-Christian doesn't matter one whit! Oh, I suppose Christians have the edge in that if they genuflect with sufficient enthusiasm he won't continue to kill the fuck out of them once they're dead, but still.


Page 419- Line 3-5:
"The only difference is, we [Christians] have one more way to die than they [non-Christians] do." [Bruce chortled gleefully]

"As martyrs." [Chloe replied]


Oh, that's not the only difference, Bruce! Y'all will also be praising god as he exterminates you ("Thank you, Jesus, may I have another!") and won't have nearly so much fun along the way. Then again, nobody in this book has much fun anyway, so maybe that's not much of a loss. Anyway, Rayford chooses this moment to reflect on how his life has changed of late.


Page 419- Line 10-14:
Now here he [Rayford] was, talking secretly in the office of a local church with his daughter and a young pastor, trying to determine how they would survive seven years of tribulation following the Rapture of the church. [emphasis added]


What the hell? How is anyone "talking secretly"? Is the church being surveilled? Did they have to sneak in through the sewer or something? Because if you drive up, park in a parking space, and enter through the front door, you're not having a secret meeting. Buck's "secret agent" schtick is evidently rubbing off on Rayford and is even lamer in this iteration. Anyway, Bruce says that Chloe is welcome to join the core group that Rayford is in and then decides to take things one step further.


Page 419- Line 20-21:
"But I've [Bruce] also been thinking about a smaller group within the core."


Fucking awesome. A core within the core. The double secret core! This is absolutely like two little boys arguing over whether their treehouse will have a "no girls" policy or an "absolutely no girls" policy. That it's been written by two grown men about several grown men is just pathetic.


Page 419- Line 25-27:
"I've [Bruce] been praying about sort of an inner circle of people who want to do more than just survive."


Well sure! Rayford and Buck, for example, both seem to want to bang Hattie each other Chloe! Does that count?


Page 419- Line 28-30:
"What are you getting at?" Rayford asked. "Going on the offensive?"

"Something like that." [Bruce replied]


I hate to ask, but... in this context, just exactly what would "going on the offensive" mean? Because according to the authors, the events of the next seven years are unavoidable, so going on the offensive just sounds like a way to increase the likelihood of dying a comparatively exotic type of death.


Page 420- Line 6-11:
Rayford was intrigued but not sure. Chloe was more eager. "A cause," she said. "Something not just to die for but to live for."

"Yes!"

"A group, a team, a force," Chloe said.

"You've got it. A force."


No, no, she doesn't. That "o" was a typo and should be an "a". He doesn't mean a force, he means a farce. But, hey, Woo-hoo! A force! Let's go bomb something! Yeah!


Page 420- Line 12-14:
Chloe's eyes were bright with interest. Rayford loved her youth and her eagerness to commit to a cause that to her was only hours old.


Rayford loves it, whereas I find it terrifying. And that's not "interest" that's lighting her eyes, Rayford. It's fanaticism. And that just never helps, you know? As long as you agree with the crazy, it's okay, is that it?


Page 420- Line 17-18:
"So your little group inside the group, a sort of Green Berets, would be your Tribulation Force." [Chloe said]


Right, a spiritual Green Berets who will presumably engage in "spiritual warfare." We've talked about spiritual warfare before, and my opinion of it is not favorable. Mostly that's because it's a bit unfair to actual soldiers who have put their lives on the line in actual combat, but I digress. Let's just all sit back for a moment and marvel at the authors who are encouraging people to form a religiously-based paramilitary organization. Nope, nothing to object to there! Anyway, Bruce warns Chloe that in the future being part of his little club could get her killed horribly, but she says she doesn't mind because, hell, 99% of all humanity is going to die horribly over the next seven years, so why worry about the details? Needless to say, Rayford is proud.


And with that, we've reached the end of the episode. Come back next time when we do NOT have an actual episode (as I anticipate not having the time to write it between now and then) but we WILL have a very important discussion about the future of Total Drek in light of the impending, and eagerly anticipated, end of the Left Behind debacle. Seriously, folks, I'm gonna ask for your input, so make sure you drop by.


* Amusing aside: if a deliberative body is able to vote to give itsely jurisdiction over a new area, doesn't that pretty much mean it always had that jurisdiction in the first place?

** Oh, I'm that too, but at least I'm not claiming otherwise.

Labels:

2 Comments:

Blogger Mister Troll said...

I almost missed this feature!

What struck me most about this episode was that the authors used the word "effect" correctly. I don't know what that struck me, but it did.

Also, good news, no additional named characters!

Future of Total Drek? Are you kidding me? It's taken you, what, the better part of a year to get this far? And there's, what, a dozen or so books in the series? Plus at least one movie? You've got material for decades to come!

Thursday, June 24, 2010 9:19:00 AM  
Blogger scripto said...

"...a young woman in sensible shoes."
Whereas Hottie is a young woman in nonsensical shoes. Not gay.

""So your little group inside the group, a sort of Green Berets, would be your Tribulation Force."
Tribulation Force - coming this fall every Saturday morning on TBN.
Tribulation Force - awaaaay!

Sunday, June 27, 2010 6:42:00 AM  

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