Total Drek

Or, the thoughts of several frustrated intellectuals on Sociology, Gaming, Science, Politics, Science Fiction, Religion, and whatever the hell else strikes their fancy. There is absolutely no reason why you should read this blog. None. Seriously. Go hit your back button. It's up in the upper left-hand corner of your browser... it says "Back." Don't say we didn't warn you.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Left Behind: Chapter 1, Part 2

Welcome back, folks, to another exciting installment of Left Behind. Today, we're going to pick up where we left off following Buck's revelation that the Great Wall of China is long. I tell ya, you just can't sneak anything past that boy.

As an added feature to go along with this series, I've decided that each time I do an episode, I'll pick one of the comments to the previous episode as my favorite comment. Just a little something to encourage you to keep me amused throughout this ordeal. Favorite comments are disproportionately likely to be those that make me laugh but may also be insightful commentary. Basically, the criteria are entirely dependent on my whimsy. Our inaugural best comment comes from scripto who remarks:

"Rayford Steele? Why'd they give the hero a gay porn name? Something tells me he's not going to be touching the woman he's thinking about."

Indeed, an excellent question! And I admit, now that I've heard it, I have started picturing Rayford with a huge seventies-style mustache. Who will have the best comment to today's post? Maybe you! Get those creative juices flowing, or Rayford will get a completely different kind of juice flowing in their stead.

As always, page and line numbers are in bold, quotes from the text are in block quotes, and my commentary is in regular print. And you can navigate around the series with the helpful "Left Behind" tag at the bottom of each and every post.

Let's continue, shall we?


Dramatis Personae

In no particular order, because I'm capricious and evil...

Rayford Steele: Airline captain. Husband of Irene Steele. Possible former gay porn star. Ditherer.

Irene Steele: Wife of Rayford Steele. Born-again Christian. Not perfect, just forgiven.

Cameron "Buck" Williams: Reporter. Known for "bucking tradition and authority." Terrible Excellent writer.

Hattie Durham: Flight attendant. Toucher. Hottie.


Chapter One, Part Two

Page 10- Line 12-13:
When Israeli radar picked up the Russian planes, they were nearly overhead.

Two points here. First, this has the unavoidable implication that the Israelis have shit air defense. I'm not exactly the biggest fan of Israel, but I think anyone with half a brain would have to admit that they generally have their air defense screwed down tight. Secondly, however, what's sad about all this is while there's effectively zero chance that the Russians could get a gigantic fleet of jet aircraft overhead without warning, SLBMs would totally do the trick since Israel is right along the coast. From launch to detonation would be maybe five minutes. One or two typhoons would be more than adequate I suspect. So, ironically, the authors look like morons because they can't be bothered to do the minimal amount of research necessary to identify a weapons system with the performance needed to concoct their absurd scene. Bravo.

Page 12- Line 7-9:
The roar and the cacophony continued, the explosions so horrifying that veteran military leaders buried their faces and screamed in terror.

Yes, the authors have very little respect for the IDF indeed. Likewise, they have little respect for good writing. Might that passage not work better as a "cacophonous roar" rather than "roar and cacophony"? I mean, if you're going to use the big word (i.e. cacophony) you may as well use it elegantly.

Page 12-13- Line: 12:30-13:1-22:

No quote this time because it's too long. Basically, however, Buck left his bunker since he figured he'd be dead either way and saw a giant shimmering curtain of flame hanging over Israel, which engulfed and destroyed the Russian warheads and aircraft. Then a shitload of golfball sized hail came down for no apparent reason since, last time I checked, the only people on the ground were presumably folks god liked. So, you know, the hail seems a bit uncalled for. It's sort of like a cop saving you from a mugger only to come over afterwards and slap you around a bit. In any case, what with the curtain of fire and unnecessary hail, Israel is totally saved. The thing is, as ridiculous as all this is, I found myself feeling really angry by the end. See, we're meant to see this as some kind of miracle but, really, it just shows us what kind of an ass the god of Left Behind actually is. He doesn't help with the Romans, or the Turks, or the Holocaust, or the Six-Day War, or the Yom Kippur War, or the Intifada. And don't tell me that without god the Israelis wouldn't have won all those wars in the twentieth century- they won because they trained hard, went for broke, and got very, very lucky. My point is that through all of the bullshit the Jewish people have gone through,* god has never administered the smackdown. Then, when the Russians come sailing in we get a curtain of fire, a bunch of pointless hail and, hey, praise the lord! So, evidently, if you're Jewish god will intervene to save your home from nuclear (but not conventional) annihilation if it's in the right part of the world (i.e. the 'Holy Land') but you're on your own if the gestapo wants to gas your whole damned family to death. I do not find this magnificent, or awe-inspiring. I find it craven and evil.

Page 14- Line 10-15:
Daylight revealed the carnage and exposed Russia's secret alliance with Middle Eastern nations, primarily Ethiopia and Libya. Among the ruins, the Israelis found combustible material that would serve as fuel and preserve their natural resources for more than six years.

Okay, several points. First, I find it weird that Russia's primary allies were Ethiopia and Libya, neither of which would be particularly helpful if a nation like, say, Russia wanted to attack a nation like, oh, Israel. It'd be like sending planes from the U.S. to attack Denmark by way of New Zealand. Second, aren't there Ethiopian Jews? Why yes, I think there are! Moreover, Ethiopia and Israel are allies! This is some serious what-the-fuckery. Third, the Israelis found fuel in the wreckage of Russian warplanes? Like, actual usable fuel, enough to power the whole goddamn country for over six years? Were these nuclear powered MiGs? No, of course not, because you don't burn uranium on a campfire and the authors are quite specific that it is combustible fuel. So, apparently, Russia attacked with airborne fuel tankers that were all destroyed by the giant curtain of fire which somehow didn't burn their highly combustible fuel? And we're supposed to take this shit seriously? I need a drink.

Page 14- Line 23-25:
Editors and readers had their own explanations for the phenomenon, but Buck admitted, if only to himself, that he became a believer in God that day.

Aside from the obvious silliness of this line, please remember it for a few chapters from now. It will become relevant that Buck, upon witnessing something he believed to be divine intervention, started to believe in god.

Page 15- Line 5-10:
Christian friends wanted Buck to take the next step and believe in Christ, now that he was so clearly spiritually attuned. He wasn't prepared to go that far, but he was certainly a different person and a different journalist from then on. To him, nothing was beyond belief.

I love how the implicit argument is that when you're not Christian you're not "spiritually attuned" but when you are Christian you ARE "spiritually attuned". Sounds like the same horseshit "psychics" use to explain why they can't work under controlled conditions- skeptics are harshing their vibes. And unfortunately, the authors are not alone in their perspective on that. Additionally, does anyone really want an investigative journalist who regards nothing as beyond belief? I mean, he definitely became a different journalist. Specifically, he became a shitty one.

Page 15- Line 11:

No quote kids, we're just back with Rayford Steele and his throbbing male urges. Try to restrain the nausea... In any case, Hussie Hattie finds him and explains that a bunch of people are just missing from the plane. He doesn't believe her and she marshals a series of compelling arguments...

Page 16- Line 25-26:
"Ray! Their shoes, their socks, their clothes, everything was left behind. These people are gone!"

This teaches us an important lesson: in the event of the rapture, free stuff for everybody!

Page 17- Line Whatever:

The search continues for the missing people though we know in advance they won't be found. Honestly, the authors try to wring some tension out of this but we all know what has happened since we're, you know, reading this book. It's like reading a locked-room mystery where the solution is given on the dust jacket. In any case, at the bottom of this page I originally scrawled a note which reads, "Now that I think about it, shouldn't there be a lot of born-once babies 'Left Behind'?" Indeed, this is a reasonable question since infants are clearly unable to say the right incantations and "accept Christ". As it turns out, there is an answer to this later in the book, and it can be politely described as "hella creepy".

Page 18- Line 1-6:
This was no joke, no trick, no dream. Something was terribly wrong, and there was no place to run. There would be enough confusion and terror without his [Rayford] losing control. Nothing had prepared him for this, and he would be the one everybody would look to. But for what? What was he supposed to do?

Get used to this degree of indecisiveness and whining. It's pretty much definitive of this book's "heroes." Also, get used to this degree of implausible writing. If anything, it's only downhill from here. In any case, passengers are realizing seat mates are missing and freaking out. Rayford takes time out of his busy schedule of not doing anything to tell Hattie to calm the hell down.

Page 18- Line 19-21:
She [Hattie] nodded but she didn't look OK at all. As he [Rayford] edged past her to hurry back to the cockpit, he heard her scream. So much for calming the passengers,... [emphasis original]

Well, she is just a weak woman, after all. Snarkiness aside, get used to the simple fact that few if any of the female characters in this book are ever treated with any respect. Often, this is at the hands of male characters and so can be chalked up to the authors' opinion that non-saved men are rude assholes. Fair enough, but other times it just appears that the authors think that women are supposed to just get out of the way and let men get on about working. I'll point out later events and y'all can make up your own minds.**

Page 19- Line 8-11:
He'd [Rayford] rather have faced an engine fire or even an uncontrolled dive. A crash into the ocean had to be better than this. How would he keep people calm in such a nightmare?

Well, for starters you probably shouldn't tell them that their pilot would rather the plane be diving out of control into the ocean with an engine on fire. That tends to make passengers... you know... anxious.

Page 19- Line 28-30:
The terrifying truth was that he knew all too well. Irene had been right. He, and most of his passengers, had been left behind.

My exact comment at this point in the margins reads: "Melodrama fail!" Leaving that aside, do commit this moment to memory. Rayford is convinced, by the end of the first chapter, that people have disappeared because of the rapture. This will be important later. Sort of.

And with that, dear readers, we come to the end of Chapter One. Please join us next time when we venture boldly into Chapter Two where even less happens because we're still on a goddamn jetliner. Seriously, folks, for the first few chapters Left Behind is the exciting story of flying in a holding pattern.

I, for one, can't wait.

* I should note here that one of my best friends is Palestinian-American so, seriously, I'm not taking a position on the rightness of Israel as a whole. I think it fair, however, to observe that Jews have taken more than their fair share of crap over the centuries.

** Note that I am not accusing evangelicals, or even the authors, of sexism. Mostly I accuse them of bad writing and poor characterization, which is a pretty grievous sin in its own right.



Blogger Mister Troll said...

Rayford is convinced, by the end of the first chapter, that people have disappeared because of the rapture. This will be important later. Sort of.

Errr... so... the most moronic "plot" "development" I could think of: this fellow is convinced that everyone disappeared because of the Rapture, but stays a committed atheist?

Thursday, July 30, 2009 6:57:00 PM  
Blogger Drek said...

Close, but wrong character. Give it time...

Thursday, July 30, 2009 7:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dude, you totally should have seen the movie, rather than try to get through the book.

I mean the movie is awful, but as I recall, it was at least faster paced than the book.


Thursday, July 30, 2009 7:29:00 PM  
Blogger scripto said...

"He'd [Rayford] rather have faced an engine fire or even an uncontrolled dive. A crash into the ocean had to be better than this. How would he keep people calm in such a nightmare?"

C'mon. You made this part up.

Two questions: If Rayford's wife has been raptured does that mean he is no longer technically married and free to get it on with Hottie? And, if Rayford and Hottie were to hook up, would that make Buck sad?

Wednesday, August 05, 2009 11:49:00 AM  
Blogger Drek said...

Scripto, if I'd made that up, I promise you it would have been better written. I may be an internet clown dancing for your amusement, but I have my standards.

As for your two questions: I don't want to "spoil" the book for you but that implies it would be possible to enjoy it in the first place.

Regarding question one, I had the same thought, actually. I have ascertained that Rayford does remarry later in the series and that wife up and dies on him sometime thereafter. Apparently Jesus shares Rayford's taste in women because he keeps stealin 'em for himself. I can't say whether or not the theological issues are discussed, but given that the book series spans only seven years, you'd think he could have waited. That is gonna be one awkward reunion in the afterlife, you know?

Regarding question two, I think it depends on which point in the book series you were to posit for the marriage. Hattie's "development" as a character even over the course of the first book is such that Buck's reaction to a hypothetical Rayford/Hattie union would vary by chapter. I will say that Buck's romantic future is utterly appalling, but would prefer to leave it at that for the moment.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009 12:15:00 PM  

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