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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Left Behind: Chapter 19, Part 2

Welcome back one and all to our regular feature on Left Behind, the book that makes bazooka joe cartoons look like top quality literature. Last time Rayford realized that he needs to be even more of an asshole to people than usual and Buck had a weird conversation with his boss. What happens this week? Eh. More conversation between Buck and his boss.

As always we have a comment of the week. This week that "honor" goes to Ken Houghton for, among other things, putting this book in perspective:

"We have a good few chapters to go."

That's the worst news I've seen this month--including a death in the family and the project that was supposed to employ me into 2012 suddenly being de-budgeted.

Yikes! I'm sorry to hear all your bad news, Ken, and even sorrier to be adding to it. Still, at least you have the comfort of knowing that I'm in at least as much Left Behind induced agony as anyone. Hang in there, and keep at it everyone! We're definitely getting through this shitburger.

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 a monkey riding a dog like a horse...

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. 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.


Page 352- Line Veruca Salt:

No quote, but as we rejoin our "hero," Cameron 'Buck' Williams, he's in a meeting with Stanton Bailey and Steve Plank. Steve was about to tell them Carpathia's second wacky condition for becoming the Secretary-General of the U.N.

Page 352- Line 8-19:
"He [Carpathia] wants to move the U.N." [Steve said]

"Move it?" [Bailey asked]

Steve nodded.


"It sounds stupid."

"Everything sounds stupid these days," Bailey said.

"He wants to move it to Babylon."

"You're not serious."

"He is."

"I hear they've been renovating that city for years. Millions of dollars invested in making it, what, New Babylon?" [emphasis original]

This whole passage still makes me giggle a bit. It isn't enough that the whole idea is completely insane, it isn't enough that it would never fly, and it isn't enough that the authors clearly realize that, but damn if they don't try their hardest to make it sound plausible anyway. Wow, authors, sometimes, you really amuse me. Now, if only you could amuse me on purpose, then we might actually have a novel. Then Steve adds that Carpathia is meeting with the heads of all those international groups that we've been hearing about off and on for chapters.

Page 353- Line 1-6:
"He's [Carpathia] asking for resolutions supporting some of the things he wants to do. The seven-year peace treaty with Israel, in exchange for his ability to broker the desert-fertilizer formula. The move to New Babylon. The establishment of one religion for the world, probably headquartered in Italy." [Steve said]

Wait, what? If I had been drinking when I read that, there would have been one of those comical liquid-spraying-from-man scenes. Did he say that Carpathia wants to legislate a single world religion? WTF? Does he think that the Baptists and the Hindus are just going to wake up one day and say, "Well, hell! The votes are in. We're all Scientologists now. Praise Xenu!" or whatever? Do even the authors think this makes a damned bit of sense? Yikes.

Page 353- Line 8-10:
"They're [the Jews] an exception. He's [Carpathia] going to help them rebuild their temple during the years of the peace treaty. He believes they deserve special treatment." [Steve added]

Ah, well, I guess the authors don't expect everyone to just go along with it. Still, it's going to be a bit hard to transition everyone to a "One World Religion" when one group gets to stay separate and, along the way, demolishes the Dome of the Rock. But by then all Muslims will have joined the new "One World Religion," so no problem at all. Right. Sure. Totally plausible. Anyway, Buck asks Bailey whether he's at all shaky about Carpathia and, of course, neither he nor Steve are, though Bailey's way of explaining why Ngumo will need to leave the U.N. is nothing if not amusing.

Page 353- Line 25-27:
"If what happened in Israel happens in Botswana, Ngumo needs to stay close to home and manage the prosperity." [Bailey answered]

I hate to point this out, but everyone can't get wealthy by producing large quantities of the same commodities. So, each nation that adopts the Israeli miracle fertilizer will essentially hurt the financial benefits of said fertilizer for all those using it. Economics fail. Anyway, they brush the Eric Miller death aside and Marge buzzes in to mention that Hattie can't wait for Buck any longer and Buck promises to catch up with her. He then explains that he's going to interview Rayford to hear what his theory is on the disappearances. Bailey asks whether or not Buck has any idea what happened and Buck admits that he doesn't, but then fills in something kinda funny.

Page 355- Line 2-3:
"What I'm finding, though, is that the people who have a theory believe in it totally."

Which is, of course, the exact reason why the fervency of belief cannot serve as an indicator of the accuracy of that belief. Wacky religious groups, please take note of this basic point. It really doesn't matter how much you believe in your god, because the dude down the street who believes in a different god believes just as much. You cannot expect anyone to take commitment as evidence of anything except that you are committed. They proceed to talk about how Lucinda Washington is gone and her son believes it was because of the rapture. Bailey then asks why, then, the son got left behind.

Page 355- Line 25-26:
"I'm not sure what the deal is on that," Buck said. "Some Christians are better than others or something."

C'mon, folks, say it with me: not better, just forgiven. And the fact that the phrase came to mind so rapidly makes me want to bleach my brain. As usual, to paraphrase George Orwell, all Christians are equal, but some are more equal than others. Anyway, Buck follows up by reminding everyone that he wants to interview Rayford since Hattie says that he has an idea what happened. And then Bailey blows my mind.

Page 356- Line 1-3:
"An airline captain," Bailey repeated. "That would be interesting. Unless his idea is the same as the other scientific types."

What? Wait a minute- why the hell would an airline captain's idea about the disappearances be at all interesting? No offense to airline pilots- really- but they're basically highly trained, very practiced, and ideally totally reliable, bus drivers of the sky. They are not "scientific types" just because they operate complex machines. Hell, if that's the way it works, using an Xbox should make you a computer scientist. Gah. Buck leaves the meeting, leaves a message for Hattie, and goes to get a cab. Along the way he starts to wonder uncertainly about Carpathia and whether he can trust him.

Page 356-357- Line 356: -27-30; 357: 1-2:
He [Buck] had never in his life wanted to believe more in a person [than he did in Nicolae Carpathia]. In the days since the disappearances, he'd hardly had a second to think for himself. The loss of his sister-in-law and niece and nephew tugged at his heart almost constantly, and something made him wonder if there wasn't something to this Rapture thing. [emphasis added]

So constantly, in fact, that this is the first we've heard of it in 356 pages. Seriously, Buck? I mean, Rayford has enough page space to bore the hell out of us with his bitching and moaning about every little thing, and you can't mention this "constant" pain before this? Hell. And then the real shitstorm crashes over us.

Page 357- Line 5-13:
But he knew better than that, didn't he? He was Ivy League educated. He had left the church when he left the claustrophobic family situation that threatened to drive him crazy as a young man. He had never considered himself religious, despite a prayer for help and deliverance once in a while. He had built his life around achievement, excitement and- he couldn't deny it- attention. He loved the status that came with having his byline, his writing, his thinking in a national magazine.

Anything sound familiar about the above? If you answered that it sounds like Rayford's unique brand of fail from Buck's perspective, you're absolutely right.

Page 357- Line 13-14:
And yet there was a certain loneliness in his existence...

Indeed. All of us non-evangelicals are ever so lonely. Bah. Then again, maybe this is a prelude to Buck going into a men's room to "check his inventory"? Fortunately, the above annoying sentence ends in a pretty amusing fashion.

Page 357- Line 14-18:
...especially now that Steve was moving on. Buck had dated and had considered escalating a couple of serious relationships, but he had always been considered too mobile for a woman who wanted stability.

I love the quick transition from thinking about Steve to thinking about dating. I dunno if Buck is in the closet, but I'm starting to wonder about one or more of the authors. Then Buck starts thinking about the supernatural because, you know, that always helps.

Page 357- Line 25-27:
The incident at the Wailing Wall was another unexplainable bit of the supernatural.

And that right there is the reason why explanations that invoke the supernatural are, ultimately, failures: how do we know what happened is unexplainable? Certainly it is currently unexplained, but that isn't quite the same thing. That we do not understand how something happened right now, doesn't mean that we won't figure it out, and blaming it on the supernatural is just a fancy way of saying, "We don't know, and we don't care." I'm a heathen, but frankly I have a hard time believing in a god who lionizes willful ignorance. Anyway, Buck gets into a cab and uses his laptop and cellphone to look at some of Eric Miller's recent articles, in the process revealing that Stonagal is behind the construction of the New Babylon. And to wrap things up he [Buck] muses about how the true test of Carpathia will be how he deals with a sack of shit like Stonagal.

And that, believe it or not, wraps up the chapter. This episode may seem short, and that's fair, but in my defense the writing is so lackluster and the "revelations" so very non-revolutionary that there just wasn't all that much to talk about. Ah, well. Come back next time when Rayford proselytizes Hattie and... yeah. Yeah, I won't even hint at what the other thing is- you wouldn't believe me anyway.

Until then.



Blogger scripto said...

"He had left the church when he left the claustrophobic family situation that threatened to drive him crazy as a young man..."
Bucky and Rayford were locked in a closet growing up. Explains their social skills.

" Buck had dated and had considered escalating a couple of serious relationships, but he had always been considered too mobile for a woman who wanted stability."
Too mobile? The tragedy of premature ejaculation.

Thursday, April 29, 2010 12:34:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

"All of us non-evangelicals are ever so lonely. Bah."


Sunday, May 02, 2010 5:58:00 AM  

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