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, April 01, 2010

Left Behind: Chapter 17, Part 2

Welcome back one and all to our regular feature on Left Behind, the book that sucks like a black hole, but without all the gravity. Last time Buck thought for a while about how Carpathia saved his ass, and Rayford helped us to a lecture about the end of days. What happens this week? Well, we finish the lecture, and we have some pointless shit with Buck. You know it's gonna suck when a lecture is the best part of the chapter.

As always we have a comment of the week. This week that "honor" goes to scripto who, aside from providing the only comment, was actually quite amusing:

"In sports news, Major League Baseball teams in spring training face the daunting task of replacing the dozens of players lost in the cosmic disapperances..."

Well, at least we'll still have basketball.

Indeed, for some reason it really doesn't seem like basketball would contribute as many people to the rapture, does it? Dirty propaganda, I'm sure. Thanks scripto, and keep it up! More madness to come. Yeah. There's a shocker...

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 Lot.

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.

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.

Eric Miller: Reporter. Rival of Buck's. Able to climb stairs really fast, but not as fast a runner as Buck. Kinda a douche.

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


Page 312- Line Bacon:

No quote, but we pick back up with a helpful but unnamed voice asking Bruce what the Fifth Seal Judgment is. And if you didn't want to find out, boy did you pick the wrong episode to read!

Page 312- Line 1-7:
"Well," Bruce said, "you're going to recognize this one because we've talked about it before. Remember my telling you about the 144,000 Jewish witnesses who try to evangelize the world for Christ? Many of their converts, perhaps millions, will be martyred by the world leader and the harlot, which is the name for the one world religion that denies Christ."

You have to love that whole "harlot" thing: it manages to bash women and make no sense all at the same time! Awesome! I'm also not sure what to do with the whole "perhaps millions" bit. That's one hell of a bloody world leader/world religion you have there.

Page 312- Line 8-10:
Rayford was furiously taking notes. He wondered what he would have thought about such crazy talk just three weeks earlier. How could he have missed this?

Well, best guess here, but probably because it sounds utterly f-ing crazy. Also, I wonder what the notes say? "Second Seal: God kills the fuck out of us. Third Seal: God kills the fuck out of us. Fourth Seal: God kills the fuck out of us. Praise Jesus!" It's not as good as the whole "Duck Lips" note, but it's in the same vein.

Page 312- Line 10-13:
God had tried to warn his people by putting his Word in written form centuries before. For all Rayford's education and intelligence, he felt he had been a fool.

Remember, folks, thinking and education are totally uncool! Just believe blindly and everything will be fine! Trust us!

Page 312- Line 17-21:
"The sixth Seal Judgment," Bruce continued, "is God pouring out his wrath against the killing of his saints. This will come in the form of a worldwide earthquake so devastating that no instruments would be able to measure it."

Okay, so that's pretty f-ing bad. Any geologists in the house? I ask because I don't know a whole lot about seismographs but it seems to me that any earthquake so strong as to be unmeasurable with our instrumentation would probably cleave the planet in two. On a related note: okay, so God is ticked that people have been killing his saints so he visits the entire planet with a massive earthquake. Isn't that a psychotic level of overkill? I mean, it's like hitting your neighbors with a cruise missile because they stole your newspaper. Okay, sorry, that's unfair. It's more like hitting them with a cruise missile and then nuking every city in which they have family or friends. My mistake.

Page 312- Line 21-22:
"It will be so bad that people will cry out for rocks to fall on them and put them out of their misery."

Given that we're seventeen chapters into Left Behind, I feel that I can speak for all of us by saying: I know exactly how they feel.

Page 312- Line 23:
Several in the room began to weep.

And apparently the characters agree with me. Anyway, Bruce has reached the end of the first six judgments which is, apparently, his planned stopping point for this recitation of horror. He then decides to give everyone a pep talk about the two witnesses that god is allegedly sending. They will, supposedly, be clothed in sack cloth, will preach for two hundred and sixty days, and will have the power to work miracles. And believe you me that their powers are very... um... special.

Page 313- Line 6:
"Anyone who tries to harm them will be devoured." [Bruce said]

By what? By bears? By rabid beavers? By robots? By dinosaurs? By robots riding rabid dinosaurs? Damnit, man, Rayford is taking NOTES here!!!!

Page 313- Line 7:
"No rain will fall during the time that they prophesy."

Wait, seriously? Over the whole damn Earth no rain will fall for 260 days? That's 7/10ths of a year, people! Man, if I didn't know better, I'd say that's the sort of prophecy that would be made by tribes that had little or no conception of the size of the world beyond, say, one sea and the surrounding territory. But that's clearly not the case here!

Page 313- Line 8-9:
"They will be able to turn water to blood and to strike the earth with plagues whenever they want."

Worst. Superpowers. Ever.

Page 313- Line 10-11:
"Satan will kill them at the end of three and a half years..."

Well it kinda sounds like he's doing us a favor since these guys are just changing water to blood and sending plagues and shit. One wonders, though, what the hell they were doing between the end of the 260 days of preashing and the end of the 3 1/2 years when Satan kills them. Just kicking back Jerusalem-style, or what? Anyway, the people rejoice since the witnesses were such assholes but after 3 1/2 days god raises them from the dead and they ascend to heaven.

Page 314- Line 17-20:
"God will send another great earthquake, a tenth of the city will fall, and seven thousand people will die. The rest will be terrified and give glory to God."

So, basically, god is a thug running a protection racket at this point? It's amazing to me how little effort the authors are expending to clothe this in some veneer of legitimacy or justice. Regardless, the assembled morons make the obvious connection to "Eli and Moishe" (Page 301-303) and Bruce confirms that it has not rained in Jerusalem since they appeared. Fine, great, but has it rained anywhere else? Because that prediction sounds pretty damned vague on the geographical limits of that "no rain" bit, you know?

Page 314- Line 4-7:
"I [Bruce] believe these witnesses will see hundreds of thousands of converts, the 144,000 who will preach Christ to the world"

Maybe I'm stupid, but I wouldn't call 144,000 "hundreds of thousands." I'd go for "tens of thousands" or "over 100,000" but "hundreds of thousands" implies, you know, multiple hundreds. Whatever. Following the math fail the narrative jumps back to Buck. He calls Hattie Durham who immediately asks to see him as well as Carpathia. Buck promises to see what he can do and Hattie lets slip that she's meeting Rayford at the Pan-Con Club at one o'clock. So, make a note of that shit. And then, believe it or not, on the next page (i.e. page 315) we jump back to Rayford.

Page 315- Line 8-11:
It was late Tuesday night when Chloe changed her mind and agreed to go to New York with her father. "I can see you're not ready to be out without me," she said, embracing him and smiling. "It's nice to be needed."

Folks, if she had been wearing that nightgown from the last scene she was in, I would not have finished reading the book. Believe it. In any case, Rayford explains to her that he's meeting Hattie at one at the Pan-Con Club, thereby boring the hell out of us with the same boring information. And after a mere 14 lines, we jump back to Buck. Seriously, that's three jumps in less than two pages. Anyway, Buck has apparently been summoned to the office of Stanton Bailey, the publisher of the Global Weekly. Because what we really needed was yet another minor character. Thanks a lot, authors. Buck stops in to see Steve Plank before going into Bailey's office, only to discover that Plank is already in with Bailey. Moreover, Marge is visibly upset and seems to have been crying. Or she has hay fever. It's hard to tell from the description and, frankly, I barely care. Regardless, Buck has a very Rayford-like moment of self-doubt as he goes to see Bailey. Bailey interrogates him about the whole Scotland Yard thing, but gives up without really pressing Buck for a full explanation. This is unsurprising since in Left Behind the entire news media is borderline stoopid, but I digress. Anyway, at this point we finally get to the point of this scene.

Page 318- Line 5-10:
"Steve here tells me this will be news to you, so let me just drop it on you. He is resigning immediately to accept the position of international press secretary to Nicolae Carpathia. He's received an offer we can't come close to, and while I don't think it's wise or a good fit, he does, and it's his life. What do you think about that?" [Bailey asked]

I don't know what Buck thinks, but I really don't give a shit. Hell, if this means we're in for fewer insipid conversations between Buck and Steve, I'm all for it. Buck, however, is rather disappointed about the whole thing. Steve asks Buck if Carpathia offered it to him (Buck) first, which paves the way for one of the most absurdly heavy-handed bits of the whole book. And that's saying something.

Page 318-319- Line 318: 29-30, 319: 1-5:
"Well, he [Carpathia] didn't. Matter of fact, I [Buck] recommended Miller from Seaboard."

Plank recoiled and shot a glance at Bailey. "Really?"

"Yeah, why not? He's more the type."

"Buck," Steve said, "Eric Miller's body washed up on Staten Island last night. He fell off the ferry and drowned." [emphasis original]

My margin note here reads, "Ooooh, sinister! But, seriously, WTF?" and I think that sums it up. Is that supposed to be threatening? Tragic? I honestly don't know. Sinister, probably, but that's because everything that happens in Left Behind occurs because god is either fond of you or pissed at you, which is a helluva way to see the world. I think my reaction also stemmed from the fact that by this point so many goddamned characters had been introduced that I honestly couldn't remember who the hell Eric Miller was, and lacked the willpower to go back and figure it out. Unlike you ingrates, I did not have a handy dramatis personae. Shit, can you honestly blame me? This episode started on page 312 and the dramatis personae, as of this episode, contains 26 names. Assuming I didn't miss any named characters- and I know for a fact that I did- that means the authors have introduced a named character roughly every 12 pages. I am just tired of it. Anyway, Bailey offers Buck Steve's old job, and the three of them hem and haw for a while about the salary, about whether Buck is too young for it, and frankly about whether or not Buck is too much of a weenie to handle it. I won't reproduce it because, frankly, it's just boring as all hell. We do, however, run into an interesting side note.

Page 319- Line 23-25:
"They'd complain if we brought in the pope himself." [Bailey groused]

"I thought he was missing." [Buck responded, forgetting for a moment what hyperbole is]

And that's interesting because it's somewhat up in the air what the authors mean and this is the first- and only- reference I spotted to Catholics in the entire book. Are they suggesting that the pope was raptured or that something more sinister has happened to him? Does this mean that the authors have decided to break with other evangelicals and play nice with the Catholics? Really, I can't tell given how scant this information actually is. And what's pathetic is it took over 300 pages to get even this much of a hint. It's not like Catholicism is important, though. They only comprise 1.15 billion people, making them the largest Christian denomination on the planet. Clearly, not worth a mention prior to page 319. Anyway, Buck agrees to think about it and Bailey asks Steve whether anyone else knows he's leaving and could, therefore, blow the secret.

Page 320- Line 11-20:
"Only Marge." [Plank answered]

"We can trust her. She'll never tell a soul. I had a three-year affair with her and never worried about anybody finding out."

Steve and Buck flinched.

"Well," Bailey said, "you never knew, did you?"

"No," they said in unison.

"See how tight-lipped she is?" He waited a beat. "I'm kidding, boys. I'm kidding!"

He was still laughing as they left the office.

Ha! Wow, the authors are just not amusing at all. You'd think that they'd have to be funny by now even if just by accident but, nope, this book is just devoid of anything amusing whatsoever. It is little more than a poorly-written sermon lacquered with the appearance of a novel. And part of me just wishes they'd give up and drop the pretense.

But, for now, I'll settle for giving up myself, because this brings us to the end of chapter 17. What's coming up in the next chapter? Well, excruciating boredom for one thing. For another, though, we get to see a little violence- almost- and Rayford has some more emotional experiences that remind him what a worthless fuckup he is. So, either come back next time, or just reread chapter 16- either way, basically the same experience.

See you soon!



Blogger Ken Houghton said...

"For all Rayford's education and intelligence, he felt he had been a fool."

Rayford is educated and intelligent?

He may be a skilled pilot (though flights are back to normal and he's not being asked to work). But every decision he has made in his life and this book indicates he's not intelligent.

He had a loveless marriage, a wife who rejected reason and intelligence long ago, a daughter he treats like sh*t (The Rapture comes and he makes her travel solo from CA to PA??) and who acts much more like a young adolescent than a college student, and no close friends or acquaintances.

Ted Kaczynski had a better social network than this guy. You would think an intelligent, educated guy would have friends with similar intelligent interests. But unless they were all Raptured--clearly not the author's intent, and something that would really make Rayford the runt of the litter--we haven't seen him do or say anything to anyone that would indicate his intelligence and/or education.

Friday, April 02, 2010 2:06:00 PM  

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