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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Left Behind: Chapter 16, Part 1

Welcome back one and all to our regular feature on Left Behind, the book that just never seems to end no matter how many of these episodes I write. Last time we heard some of the anti-christ's plan and watched Rayford alienate someone. What happens this week? Well, the anti-christ tries to corrupt Buck and Ray gets all emo. Have your anti-nausea meds ready.

As always we have a comment of the week. This week that "honor" goes to anonymous spambot for his/her/its hilariously irrelevant commentary:

What a great resource!

Yeah. It's a "resource." Sure. Oh, Spambot! You so crazy!

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.


Dramatis Personae

In an order determined by... yeah, let's face it, by when I encountered them in the text, more or less.

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.

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.

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.

Nicolae Carpathia: Businessman. Romanian Senator. Romanian President. 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. Botswanan national.


Chapter 16: In which Buck learns Carpathia is dirty, is offered a pact with the devil, and Ray gets all weepy over Chloe being a heathen.

Page 283- Line 1:
"I wouldn't do this for just anybody," Steve Plank said...

I don't know what I could say that could possibly add anything more to that.

Page 283- Line 2-11:
...after he and Buck thanked Marge and headed to separate cabs. "I don't know how long I can hold them off and convince them that I'm you pretending to be someone else, so don't be far behind."

"Don't worry." [Buck replied]

Steve took the first cab, Buck's George Oreskovich press credentials on his chest. He was to go directly to the Plaza Hotel, where he would ask for his appointment with Carpathia.

Yeah, so, this is the genius plan they came up with to get Buck past the cops. They put Buck's fake press ID on Steve and assume that the cops are simultaneously crafty enough to have figured out the alias, but dumb enough to have not distributed a bloody photograph. Honestly, these guys couldn't get past a high school hall monitor. Clearly, not even the authors can believe this would actually work.

Page 284- Line 2-7:
He [Buck] arrived at the hotel in the midst of flashing police lights, a paddy wagon, and several unmarked cars. As he threaded his way through onlookers, the police hustled Steve, hands cuffed behind his back, out the door and down the steps.

"I'm telling you," Steve said. "The name's Oreskovitch."

Right. Yeah. Then again... apparently they do think the cops would fall for that. Anyway, Buck makes his way in and goes to a phone so he can call Chaim Rosenzweig and get his interview with Carpathia. But at this moment, hijinks ensue as fellow reporter Eric Miller turns to confront him!

Page 284- Line 19-25:
"Williams, what's going on? The cops just shuttled your boss out of here, claiming he was you!"

"Do me a favor," Buck said. "Sit on this for at least half an hour. You owe me that."

"I owe you nothing, Williams," Miller said. "But you look scared enough. Give me your word you'll tell me first what's going on."

Wow, who talks like that? 'I owe you nothing, Williams'? Are the authors even serious? Alas, yes, they are. Miller essentially listens in as Buck arranges to see Carpathia. Then Buck hangs up and things get tense.

Page 285- Line 18-24:
He [Buck] jogged to the elevator, but Eric stepped on with him. A couple tried to join them. "I'm sorry, folks," Buck said. "This car is malfunctioning." The couple left but Miller stayed. Buck didn't want him to see what floor he was going to, so he waited till the doors shut, then turned the car off. He grabbed Miller's shirt at the neck and pressed him against the wall.

Buck, NO! What about Steve! What would Steve say! Have you no heart?!

Page 285- Line 25-29:
"Listen, Eric, I told you I'd call you first with what's shakin' here, but if you try to horn in on this or follow me, I'm gonna leave you dry."

Miller shook loose and straightened his clothes. "All right, Williams! Geez! Lighten up!"

This dialogue reminds me of that episode of Star Trek where they discover the planet of the mobsters, you know? The one where Kirk and Spock have to try to talk about their cut, and rubbing other guys out, and such like? Ah, good times. Regardless, Buck manages to kick Eric off of the elevator and breathes a sigh of relief as he rises up to the VIP floor.

Page 286- Line 18-28:
When Buck emerged at the VIP floor, he was astounded to see that Miller had somehow beat him there and was hurriedly introducing himself to a uniformed guard as Steve Plank. "Mr. Rosenzweig is waiting for you, sir," the guard said.

"Wait a minute!" Buck shouted, showing Steve's press credentials. "I'm Plank. Run this impostor off."

The guard put a hand on each man. "You'll both have to wait here while I call the house detective."

Buck said, "Just call Rosenzweig and have him come out here."

That sneaky Eric Miller! He somehow managed to find a stairwell and run upstairs faster than an elevator car could traverse the same distance! He must run like Steve f-ing Austin, you know?

Page 286-287- Line 286: 29-30, 287:1-3:
The guard shrugged and punched in the room number on a portable phone. Miller leaned in, saw the number, and sprinted toward the room. Buck took off after him, the unarmed guard yelling and still trying to reach someone on the phone.

And this just went from implausbile to flat out stupid. Miller just ran up stairs faster than an elevator could traverse the same distance, how the hell is Buck going to catch him? And what's Buck going to do if he does? Tackle him or something?

Page 287- Line 4-10:
Buck, younger and in better shape, overtook Miller and tackled him in the hallway, causing doors up and down the corridor to open. "Take your brawl somehwere else," a woman shouted.

Buck yanked Miller to his feet and put him in a headlock. "You are a clown, Eric. You really think Rosenzweig would let a stranger into his room?"

Okay, I stand corrected. Buck is, apparently, the tackling type, and in reasonably good shape despite all the air travel he's so good at. Anyway, Carpathia happens to appear with a quartet of bodyguards and invites Buck into his room for the interview, after telling Miller that he (Miller) could call the next day and Carpathia would answer a few questions for him.

Page 288- Line 9-13:
"Come on in, Buck," Carpathia said, motioning him to follow. Buck was silent. "That is what they call you, is it not?"

"Yes, sir," Buck said, certain that not even Rosenzweig knew that.

Oooooh! Ominous! He knows the nickname that you don't particularly try to avoid letting people know about! Seriously, he's the anti-christ! Can't the authors manage a little more foreboding than this? Alas, they cannot or, at least, will not, and we switch back to Rayford for a few moments of prime grade fail.

Page 288- Line 14-19:
Rayford felt terrible about Hattie Durham. Things couldn't have gone worse. Why hadn't he just let her work his flight? She'd have been none the wiser and he could have eased into his real reason for inviting her to dinner Thursday night. Now, he had spoiled everything.

Ah, the sweet smell of deceit! Indeed, Rayford, you really should have just lied to her long enough to push your new crazy faith on her. The only thing that could make this worse is if you were to realize that you never really gave a shit about Hattie in the first place.

Page 288- Line 20-22:
How would he get to Chloe now? His real motive, even for talking with Hattie, was to communicate to Chloe.

And, there we go. Stay classy, Rayford. Regardless, he whines for the rest of the page and then decides to call Bruce Barnes and whine to him. Bruce has some sage counsel indeed.

Page 289- Line 3-6:
"You're trying too hard, Rayford," the younger man said. "I should think telling other people about our faith would be easier than ever now, but I've run into the same kind of resistance."

Okay, folks, here's a tip: if you want to convert one of us heathen types, try developing an argument or two that have some sort of internal consistency and logic. Because this "testimony" and "witnessing" crap? Yeah- doesn't work so much, you know? Anyway, given the sheer density of whining, even the authors get nauseated and decide to jump back to Buck. When we rejoin Buck he's in Rosenzweig's "suite of rooms" and trying to get a word in edgewise versus the hyper chatty Nicolae "the anti-christ" Carpathia.

Page 290- Line 7-13:
"It is amazing, is it not, that all those different international meetings right here in New York over the next few weeks are all interested in worldwide cooperation in which I [Carpathia] am interested?"

"It is," Buck said. "And I've been assigned to cover them."

"Then we will be getting to know each other better."

What are the odds! It must be the will of god! Wait, shit, he's the anti-christ, so it must be the will of Satan! But the apocalypse was foretold by and, indeed, planned by god, so it's still the will of god! But that means god is responsible for the anti-christ! Shit. I'm confused. Carpathia prattles on a bit but is interrupted by a call from the President of the United States. No, really.

Page 291-292- Line 291: 9-30, 292: 1-9:
"Mr. Carpathia, this is Fitz. Gerald Fitzhugh." [the President said]

"Mr. President, I am honored to hear from you."

"Well, hey, it's good to have you here!"

"I appreciated your note of congratulations on my presidency, sir, and your immediate recognition of my administration."

"Boy, that was a heckuva thing, how you took over there. I wasn't sure what had happened at first, but I don't suppose you were either."

"That is exactly right. I am still getting used to it."

"Well, take it from a guy who's been in the saddle for six years. You don't ever get used to it. You just develop calluses in the right places, if you know what I mean."

"Yes, sir."

"Listen, the reason I called is this. I know you're gonna be here a little longer than you expected, so I want you to spend a night or two here with me and Wilma. Can you do that?"

"In Washington?"

"Right here at the White House."

"That would be such a privilege."

"We'll have somebody talk to your people about the right time, but it's got to be soon, 'cause Congress is in session, and I know they'll want to hear from you."

Carpathia shook his head and Buck thought he seemed overcome emotionally. "I would be more than honored, sir."

"Speaking of something that was a heckuva thing, your speech today and your interview tonight- well, that was something. Look forward to meetin' ya."

"The feeling is mutual, sir."

Okay, first things first: I'm excited to see that Left Behind's grand tradition of shitty names continues. "Gerald Fitzhugh"? I mean... damn. Second, okay, let's be honest for a moment: does this president just kinda... remind you of anyone? And that's really all I've got- basically a page worth of conversation and all we received was a smidge of characterization for the off-stage leader of the free world, and a marginal amount of additional "Hey! The anti-christ is totally getting a lot of attention!" dead horse beating. And that pretty much sums up the entire Left Behind experience: it doesn't matter how much you read, because it never goes anywhere.

But that's a story for another day. Come back next time when Buck finishes his meeting with Carpathia and we get to slog through some more of Rayford's horrible, horrible failure.




Blogger scripto said...

So we were beat out by a spambot? That hurts. Apparently Paris Hilton has better security than the Anti-Christ.

""I'm telling you," Steve said. "The name's Oreskovitch."

"Spell it."

"Uh, ok... O...uh, r... i..."

""Do me a favor," Buck said. "Sit on this for at least half an hour. You owe me that."

These jokes write themselves. That is if your maturity level, like mine, plateaued in the seventh grade.

Thursday, March 11, 2010 11:27:00 AM  
Blogger Ken Houghton said...

Well, Gerald Fitzhugh and Hugh Fitzgerald, so at least the two males authors have decided that any hint that it was just subtext is thrown to the wind, along with all hints of sanity.

But there ain't no sanity clause in Left Behind, either. And I'm starting to worry about your wife.

Saturday, March 13, 2010 1:44:00 PM  

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