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 22, 2010

Left Behind: Chapter 24, Part 1

Welcome back one and all to our regular feature on Left Behind, the book that puts the "litter" in "literature". Last time Buck had an agonizingly horrid conversation with Bruce, and Chloe got all weepy. What happens this week? More Bullshit with Buck and... well... that's pretty much it.

As always we have a comment of the week. This week that "honor" goes to scripto for managing to crack on the most recent episode while simultaneously agitating for still more Left Behind:

Yeah, What Mr. Troll said. Who's been with you through thick and thin, even posting with a 104 degree fever?(did it show?) Who else would submit such timeless gems as:

"He had a sense of destiny tinged with fear."
Marinated in the bilious sauce of his tortured soul.


"We don't know how much pondering time we have."
Because it's pandering time.

Who? Nobody, that's who. I don't come here just because it's the only place on the net where I haven't been banned. I should get like 12 votes. Maybe 13.

Anxiously awaiting your reply,

Your friend scripto

(Although if the rest of the series is like this I think we get the picture - something by Beck, Palin or even Ayn Rand might be fun. As long as it was equally retarded in its own special way)

Indeed, that was a fairly convincing argument, although I thought my oblique response was fairly effective as well. But more on that later. Congratulations, scripto, and keep at it folks! Only a few episodes to go.

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 Kirk Cameron...

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 24: In which Steve warns Buck very circuitously, Chloe joins the church, Buck converts, and the antichrist starts a meeting.

Page 431- Line 1-3:
Buck spent Saturday holed up in the otherwise empty Chicago bureau office, getting a head start on his article on the theory behind the disappearances.

Yes, a "head start" on the article that he was assigned in chapter 3 (Page 55 to the end of the chapter). Way to set an example, there. Regardless, he's soon interrupted by a call from Steve Plank, who is wondering if Buck is going to set Hattie up with the antichrist. And along the way Steve explains that Buck and Carpathia are now on a first name basis.

Page 431- Line 14-16:
"So now it's Nick, is it? Well, he and I [Buck] are not close enough for that familiarity, and I don't provide female companionship even to my friends."

Oh, yes, such a hero! Refusing to pimp out a woman he hardly knows. Hell, how low an opinion of us do the authors have if they think this will impress us with Buck's virtue? Anyway, after dicking around a bit more, Buck finally gets to the sort of hard-hitting journalism that made him a star.

Page 432- Line 18-19:
"Have you [Steve] run into any schools of thought that link him [Carpathia] to end-times events in the Bible?"

Which is exactly the sort of question that, in the real world, would get you labeled as an f-ing nutter. Fortunately, Steve Plank, the hot new Press Secretary for Carpathia, has a smooth response.

Page 432- Line 20-25:
Steve Plank did not respond.


"I'm here."

"Well, have you? Anybody that thinks he might fill the bill for one of the villains of the book of Revelation?"

Steve said nothing.

Holy shit. Is nobody good at their job in this book? Well, I suppose Rayford hasn't actually crashed yet, so he's at least tolerable, but Steve and Buck both suck so hard that it boggles the mind (Cue the slash fan fiction after that remark). This goes on for another half-page before Steve finally provides a semi-substantive response.

Page 433- Line 11-17:
"Buck, I have a two-word answer for you. Are you ready?"

"I'm ready."

"Staten Island."

"Are you tellin' me that-?"

"Don't say the name, Buck! You never know who's listening."

And this is where we're told that good old Eric Miller was murdered- which would be a lot more shocking if his widow hadn't basically told us that already (Chapter 18- Page 337-339). But, hell, telling us the same thing over and over and over again saves the authors work because they can fill up the same number of pages with less "plot". Yay? Whatever. Steve warns Buck to be careful what he says, which is Buck's excuse to play spy.

Page 434- Line 3-10:
"What I [Buck] want to know is this: If you think I should stay off the ferry, is it because of the guy behind the wheel, or because of the guy who supplies the fuel?"

"The latter," Steve said without hesitation.

Buck circled Stonagal. "Then you don't think the guy behind the wheel is even aware of what the fuel distributor does in his behalf."


Ah, yes, the old, "Disguise what I'm talking about with transparent metaphors," trick. This will surely keep absolutely nobody safe at all. But wait! There's more!

Page 434- Line 18-23:
"Can you [Steve] tell me who you really work for?"

"I work for who it appears to you I work for."

What in the world did that mean? Carpathia or Stonagal? How could he get Steve to say on a phone from within the Plaza that might be bugged?

"You work for the Romanian businessman?"

This is a total facepalm moment here. His super secret solution is to ask using a brief, entirely blunt descriptor? It's like avoiding using the name "Obama" by saying, "The current President of the United States." Oh, fuck, whoever could he mean? And yes, amazingly, after Steve answers "of course," Buck still isn't sure.

Page 434- Line 25-29:
Buck nearly kicked himself. That could be either Carpathia or Stonagal. "You do?" he said, hoping for more.

"My boss moves mountains, doesn't he?" Steve said.

"He sure does," Buck said, circling Carpathia this time.

You know what? I am honestly surprised that Buck didn't try to buy an f-ing vowel here. I mean, what was going to be next? "So, Steve, does that mean you work for Micholae Darpathia?" Seriously, if Buck gets any dumber he's going to circle all the way around to brilliant. And on a related note, how the hell can Steve's earlier response be viewed as pointing to anything other than Carpathia, since Stonagal is an American businessman? Ah, well. Whatever.

Page 435- Line 3-12:
"And you're [Steve] telling me straight up that the other issue I raised is dangerous but also hogwash."

"Total roll in the muck."

"And I shouldn't even broach the subject with him, in spite of the fact that I'm a writer who covers all the bases and asks the tough questions?"

"If I thought you would consider mentioning it, I could not encourage the interview or the story."

"Boy, it didn't take long for you to become a company man."

An incompetent company man, granted, but whatever. And what the hell does Buck mean about the "tough questions"? How is that a tough question? To paraphrase Ghostbusters, "If someone asks you if you're the antichrist, the answer is NO!" Would anyone have to think about that for even a moment? Just... wow. Thankfully, the authors choose this moment to jump back over to Rayford and Bruce, who are truly pondering questions for the ages.

Page 435- Line 15-20:
"I can't discuss the private matters [from his conversation with Buck]," Bruce said, "but only one thing stands in the way of my being convinced that this Carpathia guy is the Antichrist. I can't make it compute geographically. Almost every end-times writer I respect believes the Antichrist will come out of Western Europe, or maybe Greece or Italy or Turkey."

Notice here that we're not referring to the bible as a source, but rather to end-times writers and, for that matter, only the subset that Bruce respects. Wow. That's some goddamn authority right there. And, as an aside, all of a sudden we're concerned with logical coherence? Whatever happened to the constant derogatory references to running things through a grid of logic? Fortunately, Buck gave Bruce his number, so Rayford and Bruce can call him for help.

Page 436- Line 7-18:
"I [Bruce] guess I thought he [Carpathia] was from a mountainous region, you know, because of his name."

"His name?" Buck repeated, doodling it on his legal pad.

"You know, being named after the Carpathian Mountains and all. Or does that name mean something else over there?"

Buck sat up straight and it hit him! Steve had been trying to tell him he worked for Stonagal and not Carpathia. And of course all the new U.N. delegates would feel beholden to Stonagal because he had introduced them to Carpathia. Maybe Stonagal was the Antichrist! Where had his lineage begun?

I fucking give up. This damn book doesn't make any sense at all. Stonagal is apparently a Romanian businessman, not American, and... just... hell. Moving on, note the sudden obsession with ancestry. Very Old Testament, no?

Page 436- Line 19-22:
"Well," Buck said, trying to concentrate, "maybe he was named after the mountains, but he was born in Cluj and his ancestry, way back, is Roman. That accounts for the blonde hair and blue eyes."

Well, shit. If that's your standard for fulfilling prophecy, you can safely assume that no prophecy will ever be shown to be false. I mean, damn. And what's this shit about being "named after the mountains"? It's his surname for crying out loud! We pretty much inherit those even when they're monstrously inaccurate. I mean, how many "Millers" do you know who make flour? Eh. Anyway, Bruce and Rayford ask Buck if he's coming to church, Buck says he doesn't know, the call ends, and we jump back to Buck. Buck proceeds to call Hattie to try and warn her off of Carpathia. She's already been called and he tells her to turn down a date with the "most powerful man in the world." His reason, and what comes next, is awesome.

Page 437- Line 20-23:
"Because you [Hattie] don't strike me [Buck] as that kind of girl."

"First, I'm not a girl. I'm almost as old as you are, and I don't need a parent or a legal guardian."

"I'm talking as a friend."

No, Buck. No you're not. You have never been a friend to Hattie. She's just some hot flight attendant you wanted to bang and, when it became evident that wasn't going to happen, a nobody to brush aside. Second, don't you love how they paint her as a tramp using the language of feminism? She's not a "girl," after all, and only feminists object to being labeled with belittling names. Honestly, this book does not have a great deal of respect for women unless they're properly submissive Christian women. And even then the "respect" part is debatable. After a bit more arguing Hattie hangs up on him and Buck leans back in his chair to ponder.

Page 438- Line 10-16:
My [Buck's] boss moves mountains, Steve had said. Carpathia is a mountain. Stonagal is the mover and shaker behind him. Steve thinks he's really wired in deep. He's not only press secretary to the man Hattie Durham correctly called the most powerful man on earth, but Steve is also actually in league with the man behind the man. [emphasis original]

"The man behind the man"? Honest to god, even in his thoughts Buck is a lousy writer. If this is how investigative reporters actually operate, I honestly don't know how any scandals get uncovered. For that matter, if this is how investigative reporters operate, I don't know how they manage to get their pants on in the morning.

Page 438- Line 17-20:
Buck wondered what Rayford or Chloe would do it they knew Hattie had been invited to New York to be Carpathia's companion for a few days. In the end, he decided it was none of his, or their, business.

Wow! That's pretty much a mature decision. Don't worry, though- it won't last for long, since if there's one overriding moral in this book, it's that people you disagree with cannot be left to live their lives in peace.

But that can await a future episode, because we're about through with the first half of the chapter. Come back next time when Chloe gets a love note from Buck, and god loosens Buck's bowels. For Jesus.

Before we close, however, I want to give you the final decision about the future of Left Behind. After taking your votes into account, considering the pros and cons, noticing scripto's sort-of change of heart, and generally talking things over with my wife, I've decided that the next thing we tackle in Drek's book club will NOT be Left Behind 2. Sorry, folks, but I just can't handle it right now. I think it probable that after an intervening book I'll feel up to the next volume in this hellish series, but right now I need some distance. So, where does that leave us? Well, Jonas offered to acquire a copy of "The Overton Window," which gives all indications of being suitably bad/funny but I'm open to other submissions. You should send me your candidate book in one of two ways: e-mail or physical post. If you have an electronic copy, simply e-mail it to me at my usual address. If it's a physical copy, however, the lovely Tina Fetner has agreed to relay materials to me. She can be reached at:

Tina Fetner
Sociology Department
McMaster University
1280 Main St West
Hamilton, ON L8S 4M4

Be sure to indicate somewhere, preferably inside the package, that the contents are to be forwarded to Drek. Assuming people send her/me something, we'll get started sometime after the ASA conference or after a break from book clubbing for me following the end of Left Behind, whichever comes latest. And if nobody sends me anything... well... then we're probably looking at a reboot of Turner Tuesdays, which is unlikely to be as amusing to anyone. I apologize if you're disappointed by this but, hey, sometimes you just gotta make the hard choices.

See y'all next time!



Blogger Ken Houghton said...

Nomination for next book that both makes sense and might be sane:

Terry Bisson, The Left Left Behind.

Thursday, July 22, 2010 9:13:00 AM  
Blogger Mister Troll said...

What, we don't even get to debate Ms. Drek?

Well, anyway I'm not surprised by your decision. It's probably for the best.

Thursday, July 22, 2010 6:09:00 PM  
Blogger scripto said...

""So now it's Nick, is it? Well, he and I [Buck] are not close enough for that familiarity, and I don't provide female companionship even to my friends."

I can't even provide female companionship for myself. They won't talk to me and keep asking to change seats on the airline. I think they're playing hard to get.

Friday, July 23, 2010 9:46:00 AM  
Anonymous Jonas Wisser said...

Check your email and tell Tina to keep an eye out for a gift-wrapped package from Amazon.

Friday, July 23, 2010 10:42:00 AM  

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