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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Left Behind: Chapter 25, Part 2

Welcome back one and all to our regular feature on Left Behind, the book that will make you doubt the virtues of literacy. Yesterday we all enjoyed a surprise Left Behind bonus post that enlightened us about firearms and the anti-christ. Last time, however, Buck watched as the antichrist killed two people because he (the antichrist) felt like it. What happens this week? A silly plot twist, and then the horrid wrap-up of this even more horrid book.

As always we have a comment of the week. This week that "honor" goes to scripto for telling it like it is:

Only Lahaye could make a double murder committed by the antichrist himself as compelling as a trip to the grocery store. Not only did he telegraph what was going to happen before hand, he lead us step by step through the whole leaden process. Never mind Stonagal, shoot me in the head so I can be more like the typical Left Behind reader and enjoy this more.

Indeed, they're following the classic anti-advice from writing coaches everywhere: tell, don't show! One can only imagine the sheer number of English teachers at bible "colleges" that have been driven to madness by these two nitwits. Thanks, scripto, and everyone break out your A-material, because there's only one comment of the week 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 that frankly hasn't changed in months...

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. Christian.

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. Murderer.

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." Killed by Nicolae Carpathia.

Jonathon Stonagal: American ultra-rich dude. Involved in international monetary cabal. Has ties to duck lips. Killed by Nicolae Carpathia.

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.

Scott M. Otterness: Random U.N. guard. Carries a .38 police special loaded with hollow-point rounds. Kinda feeble minded.


Page 459- Line Triumph:

No quote, but we reopen with Carpathia continuing to calmly explain to his inner circle that they did not just witness him kill two men with a really ridiculous trick shot. No, instead, he convinces them that they watched an old financier kill two men- including himself- with a really ridiculous trick shot.

Page 459- Line 16-18:
"Thank you, gentlemen. While Ms. Durham phones security, I will be polling you for your version of what happened here."

Oh, right, I've heard about this: according to scripture, after the antichrist does something evil, there's always a pop-quiz. This, however, resolves the question of why security isn't here already: apparently a door-shaking kaboom isn't a good enough reason to come running, they also need a call from Hattie. This also suggests that Carpathia's mojo isn't perfect, and he knows that, but never mind wondering about its limits as they certainly don't get explored in this book. I also wouldn't waste any time wondering why he has Hattie summon security before he makes sure everyone is properly brainwashed. Anyway, Carpathia goes around the table and each man pretty much parrots back the line Carpathia fed them, with suitable embellishments of course. Buck, meanwhile, is wigging out trying to figure out what to do.

Page 460- Line 9-13:
He [Buck] prayed desperately as Carpathia moved from man to man, making certain they had all seen what he wanted them to see and that they were sincerely convinced of it.

Silence, God seemed to impress upon Buck's heart. Not a word! [emphasis original]

And, believe it or not, this is perhaps the most subtle example of foreshadowing in the book. Remember way back (Page 97- Line 12-15) when Irene explained that being totally truthful is compatible with lying by omission? She said, "Telling the whole truth doesn't always mean telling everything you know." Okay! So, what Buck is going to do is tell Carpathia something that sounds like a confirmation but, in fact, never quite goes all the way! That's what the voices in Buck's head must be telling him, not a word about what he really saw. Get ready for some slick word-play, folks, from one of the most talented writers of his generation!

Page 460- Line 16-23:
When Carpathia got to him Buck's cheeks were wet and he could not speak. He shook his head and held up a hand. "Awful, was it not, Cameron? The suicide that took Mr. Todd-Cothran with it?"

Buck could not speak and wouldn't have if he could. "You cared for and respected them both, Cameron, because you were unaware that they tried to have you killed in London." And Carpathia moved on to the guard.

Right. Or the authors are going to forget that Buck has a way with words, even if they don't, and have him remain silent like a jackass. I f-ing hate these authors. At this point the security rushes in. Great timing, morons.

Page 461- Line 4-8:
A plainsclothesman asked questions. Buck headed him off. "You have enough eyewitnesses here. Let me leave you my card and you can call if you need me, hm?" The cop traded cards with him and Buck was permitted to leave.

Wait, what? A cop rushes into a scene where two important, powerful men are dead, things are confused, tempers are running high, and he just immediately allows the only guy who seems in a hurry to leave... leave. I dunno, folks, does that seem odd to anyone else? Seriously, in this book even the bit characters suck at their jobs.

Page 461- Line 9-17:
Buck grabbed his bag and sprinted for a cab, rushing back to the office. He shut and locked his office door and began furiously banging out every detail of the story. He had produced several pages when he received a call from Stanton Bailey. The old man could hardly catch his breath between his demanding questions, not allowing Buck to answer.

"Where have you been? Why weren't you at the press conference?" [Stanton asked]

Wait... "...between his demanding questions"? Are the authors trying to say that Bailey's questions were difficult (i.e. demanding) or did they, and the copy editor, just completely and utterly fail to notice that he should have been demanding answers? Hell, the way it's written, it feels like Buck should be answering, "What's the circumference of the Earth? Who shot Abraham Lincoln? What was Marilyn Monroe's cup size?" and so forth. And what's this confusion about Buck's whereabouts? Well, just hang onto your own confusion because all is about to be revealed obscured. Buck calls Steve Plank to find out if he (Buck) still has an exclusive with Carpathia, and shit gets weird.

Page 462- Line 16-30:
"Well, if you [Buck] were here, then you probably know what happened before the press conference."

"Steve! I saw it with my own eyes."

"You're not following me, Buck. I'm saying if you were here for the press conference, you heard about the Stonagal suicide in the preliminary meeting, the one you were supposed to come to."

Buck didn't know what to say. "You saw me there, Steve."

"I didn't even see you at the press conference."

"I wasn't at the press conference, Steve, but I was in the room when Stonagal and Todd-Cothran died."

"I don't have time for this, Buck. It's not funny. You were supposed to be there, you weren't there. I resent it, Carpathia is offended, and no, no exclusive." [emphasis original]

And exactly what brand of whatthefuckery is this, pray tell? Carpathia has... what? Erased everyone's memory that Buck was present? Does that make sense? Only if Carpathia wanted to discredit Buck, but that implies he knew his mojo hadn't worked. In which case, why does Buck still have a pulse at this point? Regardless, Bailey calls back and indicates that he's checked with numerous people, checked the list of press credentials, and is convinced Buck was not in the room. He then says he's on his way and threatens to fire Buck if he's not there to be yelled at when Bailey arrives. Buck digs out the card the cop gave him and calls the number. The phone rings through to a precinct, but the police there deny any knowledge of the officer Buck met, one Detective Seargeant Billy Cenni. Really, authors? Really? Another f-ing named character in the last half of the last chapter? Honestly, what the hell is wrong with you people? Anyway, Buck realizes he's screwed and settles down to await Bailey's arrival and his (Buck's) inevitable, if bewilderingly stupid, ass-stomping. And then we're back with Rayford, Chloe, and Bruce Barnes, who are following events via the television news.

Page 465- Line 22-25:
"Maybe Buck took my advice and didn't go," Bruce said. "I sure hope so."

"That doesn't sound like him," Chloe said.

"No, it doesn't," Rayford said.

Oh? That doesn't sound like him? Why? Because he's always bucking tradition and authority? Bah. Whatever. And then we jump back to Buck.

Page 466- Line 6-8:
By the time Stanton Bailey stormed into Buck's office an hour later, Buck realized he was up against a force with which he could not compete.

Well, that's not saying a whole lot.

Page 466- Line 13-17:
If Buck had needed any proof that God was now in his life, he had it. Had he not received Christ before entering that room, he was convinced he would be just another of Carpathia's puppets.

So, again, to recap: if you don't believe in god, your claims cannot be trusted because you're an unwitting tool of the devil. I can almost hear the authors taunting, "Ha! Take that dispassionate science!" Anyway, Bailey gives Buck hell and decides to break him down to random reporter in the Chicago bureau, a demotion that Buck would probably hate more if it didn't position him strategically for his final assault on Chloe's... um... virtue.

Page 467- Line 20-25:
Buck couldn't wait to talk to his new friends in Illinois, but he didn't want to call from his office, or his apartment, and he didn't know for sure whether his cellular phone was safe. He packed his stuff and took a cab to the airport, asking the cabbie to stop at a pay phone a mile outside the terminal.

Buck, I hate to tell you this, but if the newly elected emperor of the world, who has mind control powers, has decided you're a threat, you're going to have to try a LOT harder than that. Try moving to someplace out of the way- like Mars for example- and then go from there.

Page 467-468- Line 467: 26-30, 468: 1-8:
Not getting an answer at the Steeles', he dialed the church. Bruce answered and told him Chloe and Rayford were there. "Put them on speakerphone," he said. "I'm taking the three o'clock American flight to O'Hare. But let me tell you this: Carpathia is your man, no question. He fills the bill to the last detail. I felt your prayers in the meeting. God protected me. I'm moving to Chicago, and I want to be a member of, what did you call it, Bruce?"

"The Tribulation Force?"

"That's it!"

"Does this mean-?" Chloe began.

"You know exactly what it means," Buck said.

I wouldn't count on that Buck, given that since her conversion all signs of intelligence have fled young Chloe. Anyway, they ask for details but he plays coy and says that he'll only tell them once he arrives. Personally, I think he's just fishing for a ride from the airport since his demotion presumably includes a reduction in the old expense account.

Page 468- Line 14-16:
When his plane finally touched down, Buck hurried up the jet way and through the gate where he was joyously greeted by Chloe, Bruce, and Rayford Steele.

Shit, it worked! Score! That's one cab fare he won't have to pay! Tribulation Farce Force HO!

Page 468- Line 16-18:
They all embraced him, even the staid captain. As they huddled in a corner, Bruce prayed, thanking God for their new brother and for protecting him.

I'm guessing this is setting a precedent for the rest of the series: we will not be able to do anything- go to the bathroom, brush our teeth, decide what kind of pizza to order- without consulting god and/or thanking him for making us do the right thing. And note that god is credited with bringing Buck into the fold even though the existence of free will is what hypothetically makes hell fair. Some books are a paradox inside a riddle wrapped in an enigma. This book is a disaster, inside a clusterfuck, wrapped in a shit burger.

Page 468- Line 19-21:
They moved through the terminal toward the parking garage, striding four abreast, arms around each other's shoulders, knit with a common purpose.

"We're off to see the wizard Jehovah, the wonderful wizard Jehovah of Oz Judea! Because, because, because, because, becaaaaaaauuuuusssssseeee... because of the wonderful terrible things he does!" Maybe when they get there, he'll give Rayford a heart, Bruce a brain, Buck some courage, and send Chloe to some much, much better book. Like a harlequin romance, for example.

Page 468- Line 25-28:
The task of the Tribulation Force was clear and their goal nothing less than to stand and fight the enemies of God during the seven most chaotic years the planet would ever see.

Wow, that sounds exciting! I can't wait! Shit, what am I saying? Of course I can! And what's with this, "fight the enemies of god" stuff? You know what? God's a big, powerful dude. He can fight his own damn battles. Asking us to do it for him is like strapping a knife to a toddler's hand and sending her into a street fight.

And that, believe it or not, is the end of chapter 25. Hell, that's the end of the book. We have, really and truly, finally reached the end. Honestly I... I don't know quite how to feel. Glad? Yes, glad I think. Also, rather numb. This disaster of a novel has been my weekly companion and tormentor for over a year now and today, at last, we're done.


Come back next week when I tell you about the back matter (including the "about the authors" blurbs) and wrap the whole series up. Indeed, we will reflect on the past year- where we've been and what we've learned, both about theology and about the art of writing. But what we will not do is read any more about Buck, Rayford and company's further "adventures," because we are f-ing DONE with this book! I am now going to go quietly weep in relief. Feel free to celebrate in your own unique way.

See you next week.



Blogger scripto said...

I'm moving to Chicago, and I want to be a member of, what did you call it, Bruce?"

"The Tribulation Force?"

"That's it!"

"Does this mean-?" Chloe began.

"You know exactly what it means," Buck said."
"Wear something sexy because I'm going to tribulate the ever livin' shit out of you."

A-fucking-men. Let me know next week if God wins.

Thursday, August 12, 2010 10:16:00 AM  

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