Saturday, December 13, 2014

And I Run So Far Away

Like I said last week, this week is going to mostly be action scenes. So yeah, consider this an apology in advance for a weak snark, because as said before, since nothing ever happens in these series...let's just say if you ever need to induce a coma for any reason, just read the action scenes in this series and you'll be out like a light. Again, even if you've been good and not cheated by checking out this series' Wikipedia page, there's still no suspense to these scenes. That disclaimer out of the way, onto business.

Judd receives a phone call from the half of South Carolina believers (the ones that escaped). Apparently, Chang has told them that the GC have called in the big guns for tonight's raid and there's a group of RTCs north of Charleston waiting to transport them.

After he hangs up, Brooke is like "So the new members are definitely coming?"

Judd's like "Yeah, they'll be coming from the south so we need to set up some lookouts." He gives Brooke and Lee some radios and breaks away to call Obligatory Love Interest, I mean, Vicki. The conversation is rather short and dull: basically all he says is that he plans on going north, following Chloe's map of safe houses.

We check in with Vicki. There's really not a lot going on with her. She talks about how since the GC has forbidden the YTF's website, it's become even more popular. Without a single trace of irony, Ellanjay cite the Banned Book Effect even though it's usually RTCs who devote the most energy to trying to ban books. But maybe this is like how Fred has said that RTCs don't object to a one-world government or a one-world religion, so long as the right people with the right beliefs are in charge.

In addition to answering questions on the website, Vicki spends a lot of time hanging out with Cheryl. For those of you who've forgotten, Cheryl's the one who's knocked up. Apparently Cheryl is starting to have second thoughts about handing over her baby to be raised by Tom and Josey. I'm sympathetic to her because as I recall, Vicki effectively volunteered to hand Cheryl's baby over to Tom and Josey with very little input from Cheryl even though she's the one who's pregnant. But I have a feeling that consent and choice are concepts Ellanjay know very little about.

We do get some evidence that abortion exists in this spinoff. Cheryl admits that if she hadn't become an RTC, she probably would have had an abortion, but now she sees that all lives are precious. Yeah...once again, gotta point out that according to the rules of Ellanjay's universe, Cheryl could have had an abortion, then asked Zod for forgiveness, and remained free and clear in Zod's eyes. By their own admission, they believe that no sin is so bad that it separates you from God forever. Yeah, I know, except the Mark (and I've voiced my numerous problems with that plot device), but still. In fact in one of the prequels to the adult books, one of the raptured RTCs meets the baby she aborted and said baby has totally forgiven her. So yeah, given that they're in the freaking end of days and the unborn are covered by that whole Age of Innocence thing and will go straight to Heaven if they die, why aren't they aborting babies right and left?

Anyway, Vicki tries to reassure Cheryl that God will show her the right thing to do and the section peters out after that.

The chapter ends with Judd and Lionel doing a bunch of secret-agenty stuff out in the woods. I'm sorry but it is so freakin' dull so let's hit fast-forward. They use their radios to mislead Brooke and Lee as Tom, Luke, Judd, and Lionel slip away. Next chapter, please.

The next chapter...it's mostly a lot of running.* Brooke and Lee eventually catch on and come after them. But the Brave RTCs get the drop on them. They bind them with duct tape, smash the shoe phone, and question them, asking how many GC are coming. Brooke and Lee refuse to answer so our kind compassionate RTCs demonstrate God's unconditional love by threatening to drop them into a pit full of snakes. Lessons learned from the LB-verse: Torture is A-Okay when committed by Brave RTCs.

They duct-tape Brooke and Lee's mouths and take off running, hearing the sounds of explosions in the background as they do.

I'll sum up Vicki's section: all that happens is that she worries about Judd until she receives a phone call from him telling her that he and Lionel made it out okay.

Next section...as Judd and Lionel travel north, Judd is shocked, shocked to find out that Carl had left behind explosives to destroy the hideout in the event of a raid. Even though in destroying the hideout and any information within, they may have saved the lives of other RTCs. Judd's like "the GC will label us terrorists" even though the GC already labels them terrorists simply for practicing their beliefs, so yeah, I doubt the explosives will change their views one way or the other. Luke is like "Hello, we're in a war and casualties kind of come with the territory." Judd's like "But why stoop to their level?" and Luke points out if they had just taken care of Brooke and Lee, they'd still have the hideout. Judd finally throws up his arms and is like "Right. Kill all the GC we can" and if you think Judd isn't be an irritating ass right now, just wait: it's going to get worse.

Luke announces that he and Tom are going out on a mission. Lionel responds with this headslapper of a statement:

Lionel shook his head. “If you’re going to do something violent, we can’t support you. We’ll pray for you and ask God to protect you, but we don’t see this as the answer.”

Yeah, as said before, back when Judd tried to stop Taylor "Too Awesome for this Series" Graham from trying to take out the GC, the YTF's sudden belief in the sanctity of life is really puzzling. Yeah, I myself identify as a pacifist but that's because I live in the real world in which every problem has shades of grey to it, but the thing is, Judd and Lionel don't. They exist in the LB-verse where there's a clear delineation between the forces of good and the forces of evil but they know for certain, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that they're on the side of right. So yeah, I question why they're having qualms about killing GC especially since this series ends with THE GC BEING PUNTED INTO THE FIRES OF HELL WHERE THEY'LL SUFFER UNIMAGINABLE PAIN FOR ALL ETERNITY!

Luke's response is "Remember we saved your sorry asses" and he and Tom spend the next three nights torching the houses of Bounty Hunters. Granted in true Ellanjay fashion, this potentially exciting bit of guerilla warfare isn't actually shown onscreen; we hear about it from Judd and Lionel's disapproving perspective as they watch it on the news. After a week of these night missions, Luke and Tom disappear. If you guess that Judd and Lionel show little if any concern as to what happened to them, you win a No-Prize. Feel free to dedicate it to whoever you want.

The chapter ends with Judd bravely watching the news as Commander Kruno Fulcire (have fun playing the "Guess the Ethnicity" game, folks) makes an announcement: basically he says that everyone in the Southern part of the US has 48 hours to get the Mark. After 48 hours, the Marked can shoot and kill the unmarked on sight, turn in the body for processing, and collect a nice reward from the GC. Yeah, I suppose my fellow blog-readers can point out all the loopholes in this plan, but given how rarely the so-called bad guys actually do something bad...I'm going to let it slide. Besides, it's more fun to make fun of Judd's gormless reaction. Naturally, he's shocked, shocked that an organization headed by the Father of All Lies, the Prince of Darkness, Beelzebub, and Mephistopheles would do something evil.


Thought once again about throwing on a third chapter, but I think I've done enough. Have fun taking apart Ellanjay's many, many failings.

*Sorry for the link, but I've gotta do something to keep myself awake here.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

A Rare Show of Intelligence

Sorry to be late with the post. Let's just say yesterday was a bad day and leave it at that.

So Judd and the others are all watching the strangers roaming around their hideout and their response is to bite their nails and be like "Oh what ever shall we do!" As many have said before Worst Resistance Group Ever! It's fairly obvious what you should do in this situation: get the drop on them and take them captive. My five-year-old child advisor could figure that out.

Meanwhile, Chang is being questioned. Like every interrogation in this series, basically all that happens is the director asks him very nicely who the mole is as opposed to keeping quiet and doing a private investigation by an outside team, monitoring everyone at all times, and of course, making sure both their emails and phone lines have more taps than a military funeral. Like I said before, a shorter list would be of villains who were less effective than Nicky.

Anyway, Judd and the others finally corner the strangers and there's a long passage of them questioning them. I'm going to fast-forward through it because my almighty psychic powers that I've developed as a result of my familiarity with this series tells me that it's going to come to nothing like everything else. If you want to know the strangers' names, they're named Lee and Brooke. They've traveled all the way from Savannah, they're starving and they don't have the Mark.

The YTF, in a rare show of intelligence, do not automatically accept this story at face value and ask a few more questions. If you're wondering, Lee and Brooke's dad was an RTC, so naturally he was bamfed into Heaven at the beginning of the series. After losing her ex-husband (their mother and father had been divorced sometime before the Rapture), their mom started drinking, which is perhaps the only sensible response to any of the events in this series. Their mother was later killed in the Wrath of the Lamb quake.

The YTF look up everything Brooke and Lee told them and it all seems to check out. So then they ask, so why didn't you get the Mark? Brooke and Lee say they didn't get it because they felt like if they accepted it, they'd be turning their backs on their father, but they didn't accept RTCianity because they felt they'd be turning their backs on their mother. So yeah, right now, they're coming across as much more sympathetic characters than any of the Tribbles because you're only allowed to have shades of grey when you're one of the unconverted masses.

After hearing their story, they decide the sensible thing to do is send Lionel in to try to convert them. Lionel tells an abbreviated version of his conversion story then does the usual "good works won't save you" bit. Afterwards, Lionel talks about how it's a good thing they didn't take the Mark. Lee's like "Why?" And here's the provided explanation:

Lionel explained that taking the mark and worshiping Carpathia meant you had chosen once and for all against God. When that decision was made, there was no changing your mind.

Unless you're Joel who TOOK THE FUCKING MARK SO HE AND HIS BROTHER WOULDN'T FUCKING STARVE TO DEATH! NO I'M NOT GOING TO SHUT UP ABOUT JOEL EVEN IF THE BOOKS NEVER MENTION HIM AGAIN! WE MUST REMEMBER JOEL NO MATTER HOW MANY TIMES THE BOOK GIVES THE USUAL "HE MADE HIS CHOICE, NOW LET HIM BURN!" SPIEL.

:deep breath:

Now that that's out of my system (for now at least), let's continue.

Lionel walks them through The Prayer and Lee and Brooke get all tearful and shit, but after they The Prayer, Lionel notices they don't have the Super Special Awesome Zod-mark on their foreheads. :Cue Dramatic Prairie Dog: Okay to be honest, that's a fairly decent twist. Lionel's like, "Let me go tell everyone the good news," and runs out of the room and tells the others.

The next chapter, the YTF discusses the situation regarding Lee and Brooke. Judd suggests that maybe they're just confused and mixed up, which is actually a decent theory given that in the LB-verse if you don't utter The Prayer with the precise amount of sincerity and passion, it doesn't work. But Lionel thinks that they did understand and that their behavior afterwards was a calculated act. He also bets that they have some kind of transmitter on them.

Luke says they should just kill them now. While the idea of RTCs exterminating the brutes is a horrible one, given the kind of framework this story operates in, as a pseudo-Tom Clancy-esque thriller where the truth must be protected at all costs kind of story, it makes a little sense. Besides it'd add much needing shading to the YTF's characters if they were forced to directly kill someone instead of sitting back and letting Zod do so in one of his many disasters. Like I said before, one of the many problems with this series is that it has an identity crisis. It wants to be a story about brave RTCs witnessing and getting out the truth to as many people as they can, yet at the same time it wants to be a thriller where the truth is sacred and important and can only be seen be the right kind of people.

Judd vetoes the "Kill them" idea and they debate some more. Lionel's like "I've got an idea" and tells the others to follow his lead. I'm going to assume that right now Lionel's holding the YTF's single brain cell because his idea is actually pretty cool. He decides to pretend that Brooke and Lee are members of the flock and that he isn't totally onto their charade.

While Lionel is distracting them, the other members of the YTF go and consult Chang asking if he knows of any GC agents that don't have the Mark. Chang's like "I don't know."

Lionel still hasn't given up on possibly reaching Brooke and Lee and takes them outside and leads them through a Bible study. The first few verses of John are quoted and Brooke and Lee do a pretty good job of acting baffled. Though then again, the trinity is one of those bits of doctrine no one has ever managed to successfully explain, so I don't think it takes much talent to act confused by it.

Judd contacts Vicki in order to get contact info for Chloe. Vicki is like "GTFO, Judd," after he describes their situation, but she puts him in touch with Chloe, who provides a list of safe houses so he and Lionel can work their way north.

The YTF continue to distract Brooke and Lee throughout the day. At the end of the day, the YTF pretend to go to bed, but then go and monitor Brooke and Lee via cameras. Turns out Brooke and Lee really do have the Mark, but they cover it up. Brooke pulls a phone out of her shoe and does the standard "Bwaah! They totally bought our story!" shtick we've come to expect from villains in this series. Brooke asks the GC to hold off on the raid, because the YTF had told her that more believers were on the way and hangs up.

Lionel is dejected and says this:

“And it makes sense that they couldn’t understand what I was saying about God,” Lionel said. “They couldn’t even pretend to believe.”

Ah, yes, the continuing nonsensical paradox seen in RTC lit where non-believers are both simultaneously ignorant of Christian theology (for example, going "Who's He?" at the mention of Jesus) yet simultaneously they also happen to know that there is a God but since they hate God and love Satan (because that's the stance of all non-believers)...yeah, need I say more?

The rest of the YTF continue to distract Brooke and Lee, by gathering stuff and talking about how the group of believers that was supposed to meet them (that doesn't exist) broke down and needs their help, sending out some of the South Carolina believers to go help them. The ones who aren't NPCs stay behind to distract them Judd tells his conversion story in a last ditch effort to try to save Brooke and Lee, wondering if it has some effect even on those with the Mark.

And that's where I'll leave you this week. Yeah, I suppose I could throw on a third chapter to pad out this snark, but it's mostly an action scene and I need to be at full strength to handle those, so this is it for this week. Have fun.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

It's a Tangent!

For those of you who actually enjoy a good profanity storm, I hate to break it to you, but this week we're focusing the continuing non-adventures of the YTF rather than Mr. Stein and Sam. Frankly I'm a little glad for the break: all this constant rage-inducing, sanity-melting passages can't be good for my blood pressure. If you're wondering, I skimmed the rest of the book and Sam doesn't turn up again until chapter 25 and right now we're on chapter 9. I used the Search this Book feature and found no more instances of Aron's name appearing in the text, which means one of a few things. One, as Ellanjay typed Aron's arrival into Petra, they assumed that they had wrapped up his arc, even though as I recall, Aron never actually uttered The Prayer even though Ellanjay have made it clear that it saying said prayer is a requirement to get into Heaven. This might be the case given their slap-dash approach to the craft; it makes sense that they'd forget about a character. But what I think is more likely is that Ellanjay's doing that cute trick they like to do, where they shuffle a character off-stage for a long period of time, causing the reader to assume that they dropped dead as a result of Freakish Supernatural Occurrence #283749582734, only to bring back said character and have them finally say The Prayer, lose what few distinguishing characteristics they had, and become an indistinguishable generic RTC like everyone else. I'll bet on the second option and I'll bet that once Aron says The Prayer, he'll lose concern for his brother, Joel, who took The Mark to save him from starvation. Anyone want to play Devil's Advocate and provide a counter-theory regarding Aron is welcome.

For those of you who have completely forgotten about what Judd and Lionel have been up to, I'll give you a quick run-up. After being in Israel or New Babylon or Ellanjay Knows What Else for several books, Judd and Lionel are finally on the same continent as their close friend/obligatory love interest Vicki, after getting a flight out of Petra. But said flight took them to South Carolina and now Judd and Lionel have to hide out with South Carolina believers from eeevil GC bounty hunters, thus not only delaying Judd's inevitable marriage to Vicki, but also giving Ellanjay an excuse to further pad out the series.

The beginning of the chapter is mostly summarizing, which is usually bad given that most people subscribe to the "Show, Don't Tell" school of entertainment, but like I said before, in these books, where the showing is so jaw-droppingly awful, the "tell" parts are easier to endure.

After a few paragraphs of summary, Judd decides to talk to Tom and Luke, allowing me to dust off the "Ho Yay" tag. Ah, Christian Fiction...always the best creators of Ho Yay around. [tangent] I spent several minutes trying to track down an old example of Christian short fiction from the now-defunct Focus on the Family spinoff, Brio magazine, but I couldn't find it. I just remember my head exploding from all the femmeslash overtones because seriously, platonic female friends do not talk to each other like that. Instead you'll have to settle for a parody someone did on Fanfiction.net Enjoy! [/tangent]

For those of you who don't believe me, when I say Ho Yay, here's a sampling.

One afternoon Judd was talking to Luke and Tom about their lives before the disappearances. Luke said he had always dreamed of being a shrimper and having his own boat.
“Is that how you got those muscles?” Judd said.
Luke smiled. “I guess. I’ve always felt like I’ve been cut out for physical stuff, you know, hard work. I like using my hands, where old Tom here—” he patted his brother’s back—“uses his brain, what little he has.”

Maybe it's the fact that I'm a pervert who got her start writing fanfiction and therefore sees potential for Yaoi everywhere, but please tell me I'm not the only one wondering when the bow-chicka-wow-wow music is going to start?

After more Ho Yay-rich banter, they get down to the all-important job of exposition. Luke is worried about the expanding bounty hunter network and wants to :gasp: :choke: do something about it, violating the sacred tribbles' ethos of doing nothing. Tom's like "What are you going to do when you find them? Kill them?" and Ellanjay neatly side-step the potential grey areas that having their heroes kill people would bring by having Luke weasel out of it by saying, “No, that wouldn’t be right. But we can sure slow them down, don’t you think?” which makes me raise an eyebrow because what exactly can they do besides kill them at this point in the series?

Meanwhile, Vicki and the rest of the American branch of the YTF are bravely watching TV and talking about the false prophets and all the eeevil they do. Why just look at the horrible things they've done:

“Exactly,” Mark said. “They’re counterfeiting Christ’s miracles just like they have to fake everything else, like the mark on the forehead.”
The blood-to-water miracles seemed most popular. One woman had changed water to blood, then changed it to wine. There had been reattached limbs, healing of skin diseases, three blind people given back their sight, and twenty-three lame people made to walk.

The bulk of this chapter is essentially Vicki watching the news. I'm going to fast-forward through it because, yeah, can't really snark it. Basically one of the false prophets very eeevilly fulfills a grieving father's request by bringing back his sixteen-year-old daughter from the dead instead of leaving her to burn in Hell WHICH IS WHAT WOULD HAVE HAPPENED IF THE FALSE PROPHET HADN'T INTERVENED! AND THE RTCS WONDER WHY EVERYONE CHOOSES TO FOLLOW NICKY! [/ragedump]

Oh and if you desire a flatter forehead, I'll provide another passage which lends itself perfectly to headdesking.

Janie broke the silence. “I don’t understand. I thought only God could raise the dead.”
“The power of evil is real now more than ever,” Marshall said. “Tsion has talked about this many times. Satan is being allowed to deceive, kill, and destroy like never before. I don’t understand it either, except to say that Satan can only do the things God allows.”

Yeah, Satan is being real destructive what with his prophets committing such eeeevils as making poisoned water drinkable, resurrecting the dead, and healing the sick, which we all know is totally what Jesus wouldn't do.

Next chapter, Judd helps Luke put together what they call BHDs or Bounty Hunter Defense kits, when Judd, of all people, decides to make some observations about the South Carolina Believers' Organization.

“Everybody follows Luke and Tom,” Judd said. “There’s no give-and-take.”
“Somebody has to be in charge,” Carl Meninger said. “If we voted on everything, we’d never have tried to help you.”
Judd nodded. “I think there have to be leaders, no question. But if others just follow, they start feeling left out.”
A teenage girl named Shawnda raised a hand. “We came up with our own ideas at the last hideout, and that’s when we let somebody in who ratted us out to the GC.”
“I can understand being cautious,” Judd said. “The goal isn’t to make sure everybody has a vote so we rule by majority, but you might be missing out on gifts people have by not including them.”

And right now, I'm going, really, Judd? Because not only did all this talk about problems with the South Carolina believers come way the hell out of nowhere, but since when have you demonstrated your stellar qualities as a leader and organizer? Vicki's the one doing all the heavy-lifting of getting the YTF together and organized while you've been running around on another continent with Lionel. It's almost as though leaders are defined in the LB-verse, not by what they say and do, but by whether people automatically defer to them regardless of how their decisions turn out. That and whether they possess the almighty penis, which automatically disqualifies Vicki regardless of any virtues she might have.

The talk is interrupted by Tom reporting movement in the swamp. I'm going to use my mighty psychic powers and predict that nothing will come of this, just like every past instance in this series.

The next section, we check in with Chinese Stereotype, I mean, Chang Wong. Chang Wong is grieving for the death of his father, even though he admits that since his father's a believer, he'll get the Super Special Awesome Upgraded Body and he'll see him at the Glorious Appearing.

In the meantime, Chang, realizing that since Judd and Lionel are major characters and therefore matter more than him, spends his time trying to find a way to get them to Illinois. But he's not having any luck. There's a brief interlude as he watches Nicky go by and wonders if Nicky can read his thoughts. Chang tests this by thinking about how Nicky is evil incarnate, but because he's protected by God, Chang's safe. :shakes head: They keep insisting that their religion isn't spell-casting and yet...

Chang is told to report to Director Akbar's office and because I'm a kind person who tries to accommodate her readers' needs, I'll post a link to that one meme everyone's thinking of: It's a trap. [geekish tangent] Which is a shame because from what I heard Admiral Ackbar's backstory in the Expanded Universe is pretty cool. His species organized and effectively kicked the Empire off of their planet and later formed the core of the Rebellion, from what I heard. Yet he'll always be associated with those few words. [/geekish tangent]

Anyway the rest of the chapter is really boring, so let's wrap this sucker up: Judd spots some people creeping around and wonders what to do. And Akbar asks Chang some questions about his co-workers because he suspects there's a mole in the GC operations.

Sorry for all the tangents in this snark, but hey, they were probably a lot more interesting than anything in the books, so yeah.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Let the Profanity Storm Continue!

Okay, I promise I'll try to cut down on the swearing. I won't make any guarantees because like I said, sometimes this series gets to you in such a way that the only thing that seems fit to describe it is the F-bomb. But I don't want to overuse the F-bomb to the point where it loses all power. This is a blog after all, not a David Mamet film.

This week's selection begins with Judd, who used to be a mini-Rayford but now is essentially an empty expanse where a character should be. Like I said before, can you name any of Judd's personality traits? Anything he loves besides God and Vicki?

Now what is Judd doing? He's working on the website and sending emails to his obligatory love interest aka Vicki.

But Judd also knew the Global Community was monitoring anything coming from suspected Judah-ites. Tsion Ben-Judah’s Web site was a popular destination for GC officials who wanted to see the latest on the “enemy camp.” Anything posted on the kids’ Web site had to be checked and rechecked to make sure it didn’t give out vital information.

Yeah...anyone with computer know-how wanna tell Ellanjay that even if you leave out any place-specific details in your posts, the government can still easily track your website? I am totally not computer-literate (my problem-solving involves mostly turning it on and off) but even I know that.

Judd gets an email from Naomi telling him about how Sam and Mr. Stein have gone to Tel Aviv. Basically it says she's worried and wants Judd to pray for them. So at least they didn't have Judd instantly know that Sam and Mr. Stein were in Tel Aviv. Maybe that proves that Ellanjay don't believe that RTCs have hive minds like the Borg.

Judd browses the web some more and we see more proof as to why Nicky's better than God. I thought about quoting the entire passage but it'd be a bigass quote so I'll just sum it up. Basically one of the False Prophets puts on a show, taking the water, which as you recall was turned to blood by our loving God and rendered undrinkable, and he makes it clear and drinkable again. So as said before: Is it any wonder everyone chooses to follow Satan? Satan is using his supernatural powers to do good and save people from dying, whereas God poisons and kills everyone. But then again, I'm one of those weirdos who thinks that Matthew 7:15-20 was probably more along the lines of "Beware of David Koresh and people like him," rather than "Beware of magical super people who use their powers to save people rather than letting them die like God intended."

We do finally cut in on Sam and Mr. Stein in Israel. If you're wondering, rather than taking one look at them and shipping them off to the guillotine, which would be the sensible thing to do, the GC has decided to imprison them because that totally worked in the past and there's certainly no chance that Sam and Mr. Stein will take the opportunity to grandstand and convert their fellow prisoners.

Turns out since Mr. Stein and Sam identified themselves as Jews (sheesh...you'd think they'd take this opportunity to proudly proclaim the gospel of RTCianity), they're going to be shipped off to camps where they'll be starved and tortured, as opposed to being guillotined like all the other RTCs. Sad part is I'm so used to the Incredible Stupidity that is the characteristic of all characters written by Jerry Jenkins that most of my objections are related to the whole transfer thing. Why can't they be tortured and starved at the holding center where they're currently at? Why must you make everything so needlessly complicated, Nicky?

Sam counts about seventeen men on the cell block with them. Some have the Mark, but most are Jews and I'm assuming Sam can tell at a glance that they're Jews because they all have forelocks and kippahs and they are all eating bagels and shouting "Oy Vey," at various intervals. Because that's what Jews do.

Anyway, Mr. Stein leads them in The Prayer, but only three of the seventeen have the God-Mark. I'm going to guess that as for the rest, Mr. Stein just zinged them and made them Unitarians.

But anyway, Sam drifts off to sleep.

Next chapter, Sam wakes up at 4 a.m. to see this guy standing in the door of his cell:

Sam resisted the urge to scream, but his eyes widened and his heart raced furiously. Sam was sure he had never seen this stranger. He wore sandals, a long, flowing robe, had a short beard and piercing eyes. He had no mark, either of the true believer or of Carpathia.

And that man was Charles Manson. And now you know the rest of the story.

Sam asks the guy if he's taking them for the transport. The man shakes his head. Sam, continuing to be dumber than most plant life, is like "Then why are you here?" The man responds:

“I come in the name of the Lord our God. He is strong and mighty to save. Though the evil one is set on the destruction of the people of God, he will not touch you. There are many praying for you and your friends.”

Sam, in response, is like I'm not worthy! and points out that others have died and why should he be saved? But the angel apparently wants Sam to keep writing his blog because there are few things more important than some blog written by a teenager? Hey, Angel Dude? Why didn't you bother to save Chloe given that she runs the magical Co-Op on which all the RTCs depend on for, y'know, survival? But then again, Ellanjay probably put Chloe in charge of the Co-op because they think running a co-op during the freakin' apocalypse is light work and therefore can be easily handled by a weak, womanly female.

I'm trying to figure out if this little part, where an angel is dispatched to rescue a blog-writer, is more egomaniacal than M. Night Shyamalan casting himself as a writer destined to save humanity. Seriously how is it that he keeps getting his crappy films made? He made one good movie and each subsequent one has been worse than the one that proceeded it. He's basically the Wile E. Coyote of directors. [/Shyamalan rant]

Where was I? Anyway, Angel Dude leads Sam out of his cells, lets out Mr. Stein, Aron, and the unnamed converts, leaving the others on the block to suffer and die at the hands of the GC. Even though Sam and Mr. Stein and the unnamed converts have said The Prayer so no matter what happens, they're going to Heaven. Shouldn't Angel Dude focus his efforts on the unsaved prisoners? Y'know for people who go on and on about how they have no fear of death because of Jesus, they sure have a huge fear of death.

During this little story, they reference Acts 12:6-8. For those too lazy to click on the link, what happens is that an angel sets Peter free after he's imprisoned. Thing is I have to object to it being referenced in this series. Peter wasn't just a posturing Alpha Male who sat around and waited for Jesus while smirking about how he's got it all figured out; Peter actually did stuff and was eventually martyred for it.

But anyway, they get outside the prison and Sabir is waiting for them in a minivan. Apparently Sabir also received a visit from Angel Dude.

Sabir explained that he had been awakened from a dead sleep and told to come to the GC station. “I got in my little car and a man stood before me, shaking his head. He pointed to this vehicle, and I found the keys in the ignition. If I had brought the small one, we never would have been able to fit all of you in.”

Again, it's amazing the fact that RTCs credit God with helping them with all sorts of small stuff like finding them a parking space, yet when it comes to big stuff, like y'know feeding the hungry and sheltering the homeless, they respond with that non-biblical proverb: God Helps Those Who Help Themselves.

Anyway, Sabir's plan is to take them to the airport after which they'll be flown back to the safety of Petra. So what purpose did this little plot cul-de-sac in Tel Aviv serve? And don't say "It allowed Ellanjay to pad out the books further and make even more money even though they're probably richer than Croesus at this point."

Anyway on the ride to the airport, this conversation happens and I'm quoting it for a reason that should be apparent.

As they drove near where the miracle fair had taken place, Aron touched the window and looked out sadly. “What about Joel? Is there no hope?”
“Your brother made a foolish decision,” Mr. Stein said. “He closed himself to the truth and took the mark of Carp—”

And here's where my brain, well, the only way to describe its reaction is with the record-scratch sound effect. And I tried to cut back on the profanity, but I'm afraid I have no choice.

FUUCK YOU, ELLANJAY, BECAUSE THAT'S NOT WHAT JOEL DID! HE TOOK THE FUCKING MARK SO HE AND HIS BROTHER WOULDN'T FUCKING STARVE TO DEATH BECAUSE APPARENTLY FEEDING THE HUNGRY AND SHELTERING THE HOMELESS ISN'T WHAT CHRISTIANS DO IN THIS SERIES! EVEN THOUGH IT'S BASICALLY WHAT JESUS WOULD DO! INSTEAD, CHRISTIANS DO THE ALL-IMPORTANT JOB OF SITTING ON THEIR ASSES AND WAITING FOR GOD ONLY OCCASIONALLY BOTHERING TO PULL JUVENILE PRANKS ON A GUY WHOSE SUPPOSED TO BE WORSE THAN HITLER, STALIN, AND POL POT![/ragedump]

Okay, now that I've gotten that out of my system, let's continue. Aron, proving that he's still a dirty Jew what with his compassion for his heathen brother and not a good RTC, says essentially, "But I was just as closed off to the truth and Joel only took the Mark so I wouldn't starve to death."

And I'm going to quote Mr. Stein's response in its entirety. Because it needs to be seen.

Mr. Stein turned. “We spoke with your brother before you came in. He seemed upset we had even come. He countered our message at every point.”

Yeah, how dare that filthy Jew not immediately accept your recycled talking points cribbed from about a thousand other RTCs. The very nerve of him, digging deep into his own traditions and experience and trying to engage you in honest inquiry as opposed to just going "Shit! Baptize me now!" like a character in a Jack Chick tract.

Aron, still refusing to do the Christian thing and say "He made his choice: now let him burn" says that Joel was angry at himself and knew what they'd say about God.

Sam says essentially that "I know you love your brother but he turned us into the authorities and we can't go back for him."

Aron buries his head in his hands and says his heart breaks for him. Sam decides to comfort him by telling him this:

“My father also made a foolish choice and died before I could speak with him again. I’m so sorry.”

"And now my father is burning in Hell where he'll be tortured over and over again and experience suffering on a level that can't be imagined because Our God is a loving god."

:grinds teeth: The only thing worse than the LB-verse is Lisa aka that one Jack Chick tract that is so messed up that not even Jack Chick will keep it in print. I suppose I should provide trigger warnings for that link, but there aren't enough trigger warnings in the world for that link! In fact, I'm starting to wonder if maybe Hell is that Chick Tract for all eternity. No fire and brimstone, just that one tract with the most fucked-up moral in history.

Anyway, they get aboard the plane (flown by Mac, of course) and arrive in Petra. The love-bombing commences as they're all greeted warmly. And Chaim, still calling himself Micah, gives a prayer.

Micah prayed for Jews who were being arrested around the world. “You know, Lord, that these people are being mistreated and killed simply because they have Jewish ancestors. The Global Community considers them traitors, and they are being paraded across international television, humiliated every day. We ask that you would surround these with your love and mercy, and show them the truth that you want them to turn from their sin and accept Jesus Christ as their Savior.”

Given that their sins consist of being MOTHERFUCKING JEWS! I don't understand why Ellanjay are shocked, shocked when you accuse them of being anti-Semites even though their most fervent desire is that the Jews stop being Jews aka the branch of theology that launched the Inquisition, pogroms, and to top it all off, the Holocaust.

Mr. Stein then steps up, gives the standard altar call, and asks that Aron's parents, Rabbi Ben-Eliezar and Mrs. Ben-Eliezar come forward. They do and love-bomb hug Aron.

The chapter ends with this:

“Their other son was unfortunately caught up in the desire to follow Nicolae Carpathia, but we can rejoice that this one has believed and has returned.”
A great roar rose from the crowd as they yelled their praises to God. When the noise died down, Mr. Stein looked at the struggling group near Sam. “What about you? Will you receive the gift of God now?”

I'll mention while Aron's been all weepy, he hasn't yet said The Prayer; thus his saved status is still up in the air. But you know what will happen: eventually he'll see the light, abandon the faith of his fathers, and never give a thought to Joel as he slowly
burns in Hell for taking the Mark to save his brother's life.

Everything about this series is reprehensible, so reprehensible that I'm in danger of overusing the F-bomb to the point where it loses its power. Anyone know any foreign swears I can throw in to spice things up?

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Saturday Morning Bullshit or Why This Series is The Tingler

Warning: this week's snark contains a lot of links and a major profanity storm. I hope everyone has the sense to not open them if they're at work.

This week's chapter begins with everyone's favorite part of a novel--exposition and travel logistics--as Sam and Mr. Stein explain to Mac what we already know: how they're going to Tel Aviv to witness to some Rabbi's kids. It's really boring and unsnarkable except for this one line:

Mr. Stein asked Mac why he hadn’t stayed in Petra, and Mac smiled. “I’d get too fat eating all that manna. Plus, I’m having more fun than a coon in a cornfield flying all over the place with Albie.”

Based on that line of dialogue, I'm forced to picture Mac as Wild Bill from G.I. Joe. Yes, I'm a fan of that crappy eighties cartoon invented for the sole purpose of selling toys to eight-year-olds. Stop judging me! Though Cobra Commander would be more threatening than Nicky and this is a villain who got a gigantic laser and the best use he could find for it was carving his face on the moon. Not to mention the time he tried to conquer the world with mind control bubble gum. Plus Cobra Commander is voiced by Chris Latta whose high-pitched raspy voice made him at least entertaining even when his schemes didn't make any sense. RIP, Chris Latta. [/fangirling]

After landing in Tel Aviv, Sam and Mr. Stein meet up with Sabir, who is still driving a taxi cab because the plot needs him to even though it doesn't make any sense. Sam and Mr. Stein cleverly (and I'm putting cleverly in italics because the plan is really stupid) hide the fact they don't have Nicky's Mark by wearing hats and long-sleeved shirts.

They reach the place but don't find Aron or Joel, just a walky-talky. They hear someone say, "Pick it up and move to the right," and being the geniuses that they are, they do. :headdesk: Y'know with that kind of logic, Nicky could probably wipe out the Christians by leaving out envelopes coated with arsenic and a sign that says, "Lick me." It'd work given that the tribbles' minds operate on about the same level as the Super Friends.. Y'know when I set out to do this week's post, I didn't know I was going to make so many references to Saturday Morning Cartoons. Good times...

Anyway, they follow the directions from the walky-talky and eventually run into Joel Ben-Eliezar. Thankfully, Mr. Stein summarizes the story regarding his parents: that they used to be inscrutable and Jewish, but now they've abandoned the faith of their fathers and their cultural identities, and become good RTCs.

So naturally what follows is one of those scenes where they try to convert the stubborn Jewishy Jew. And we learn that apparently Ellanjay believe that being Jewish is synonymous with being an Atheist. Because that somehow totally makes sense. Don't believe me? Let's go through this conversation bit by bit.

“It is true. It is why we have come all this way at such personal risk. We want to tell you the truth about God.”
Joel rolled his eyes. “I have no need to believe in God. There is a scientific explanation for all the questions we have.”

:headdesk: Yeah, there's totally a scientific, non-supernatural explanation for why the Russia-Ethiopia-Libya nuclear payload was swatted out of the skies. Also, people get bamfed out of their clothing all the time. I could go on and on this point, but I think I've made myself clear. I know Ellanjay view the Jewish people as being cute but wrong, but I didn't know that they apparently believed them to be suffering from mental retardation as well.

“Even with everything that’s happened?” Sam said. “The disappearances, the earthquake, the—”
“People believe in God because they’ve been told to. They have an emotional attachment to their faith because it helps them get through. It helps them deal with their pain. I rely on myself and hard work. If a crisis comes, like an earthquake or another natural disaster, I try harder.”

So in addition to being a Jewish Atheist suffering from some form of intellectual disability, Joel also has the nerve to believe that you shouldn't sit on your ass while things get worse until TurboJesus comes and fixes everything otherwise known as that eeevil heresy called "Salvation by Works." After all, it's not like the brother of Jesus said something about faith without works being dead. :eyeroll:

They say something along the lines of "What about comfort?" Joel's response is “The only comfort we have in life is to know we have done something worthwhile. We’ve tried to think independently and struggled to improve the world.” So yeah, right now, I like Joel and hope he manages to escape like Taylor did. As far as I'm concerned, Taylor and Hasina faked their deaths and are off having adventures and being awesome in their own series while the tribbles sit on their asses and wait for God. That's my head canon and I'm not changing it.

Mr. Stein's like "What happens when you die?" Joel says, "Nothing. You get one chance and that's it." Mr. Stein tries to follow up with "With all that's happening in the world, doesn't it make sense to place your faith in God?" Joel's response is “I have faith in myself that I can improve the world. Outside of that, I have no use for faith.”

Not a bad response, I got to say. It would have been nice if Joel had responded by raising an eyebrow and saying, "Wait a minute, you're saying God is causing all these disasters yet you want me to place my faith in him even though he's the source of all evil right now?" But Ellanjay have shut themselves in a nice criticism-proof bubble for years now, so this may be the closest to a skeptical viewpoint we'll get.

Joel's brother Aron finally shows up. Aron tells us that Joel has taken the Mark, but he hasn't bowed down to Nicky's image. Joel has regretted taking the Mark, but given the kind of God worshipped in these books...gonna go out on a limb and say that matters diddly.

The chapter ends with them hearing a commotion. They look and see two guys trying to kill each other with swords in the center of the street. Comparisons to Roman gladiators are made. One of them chops off the other's arm. As he stands around bleeding, a long-haired man (dressed normally for once) comes and heals his arm.

The crowd hushed. The hero worship for the winner turned to silence as the man placed the severed arm back in place, grasped it with both hands at the point of the injury, and said, “I have been given power by the potentate. Therefore, under the authority of the risen lord, Nicolae Carpathia, I pronounce this wound healed.”
The injured man lifted his once-severed arm and raised a bloody fist above his head. “It’s back! He healed my arm!”

Yeah, this is a case of what TV Tropes calls Villain Has A Point. Y'see God loves us, which is why he's using his supernatural powers to kill us all. Satan, aka the Father of All Lies, aka the guy whose supposed to be the villain of this piece, is using his supernatural powers to help people. I don't believe I need to say anymore.

Next chapter...turns out the long-haired guy is one of the false prophets, whose name is Orcus. I have no idea if he appears in the adult books and I don't really care to know anyway. As Orcus is standing around saying, "Praise Nicky!" Mr. Stein gives the usual spiel to Joel and Aron about how Satan can mimic God's power but he's a false god who's evil and if you worship him, you're screwed."

In the midst of all this, we get this passage, which in light of other passages, raises my blood pressure. Once we get further along, you'll understand why.

Joel rubbed his forehead so hard that the bandage came off. Sam saw the mark of Carpathia beside scratches and blotched skin. “I’ve tried to get this off with sandpaper, even tried to cut the skin. But maybe Orcus is right. If he can do these things by the power of Nicolae …”

In response to this, Mr. Stein turns to Aron and says, "We need to talk now." So he pulls Aron aside and does the standard "Jesus is the messiah" spiel. And here's the part where my blood pressure goes up and I get all ranty...bear with me.

Aron focused on Mr. Stein’s words and nodded, asking questions and listening carefully. “If what you’re saying is true, my brother has no hope.”
“You are right. Once a person voluntarily takes the mark, their eternity is sealed.”

If you're not experiencing a white hot flash of fury right now, it's official: you have no pulse. Because it's been established that Joel didn't want the Mark. He only took it because he and Aron were both hungry and there's no way to buy or sell anything without the Mark. Also, the previous quoted passage has made it clear that Joel has regretted taking the Mark ever since.

I had the idea to post a really funny Simpsons clip to serve as a little bit of laughter before the profanity storm ensued, but I can't find the clip I'm looking for anywhere on YouTube, so you're going to just have to endure the Epic Profanity Storm without it. Sorry. If anybody's easily offended by profanity, just scroll past the all-caps part. Now that I've given my disclaimer...

:deep breath:

FUCK YOU ELLANJAY!!! FUCK YOU AND THE SHITTY INTERPRETATION OF SCRIPTURE YOU RODE IN ON! BECAUSE YOU'VE JUST FUCKING SAID THAT THIS GUY, JOEL, WHOSE ONLY CRIMES WAS TAKING THE MARK SO HE AND HIS BROTHER WOULDN'T FUCKING STARVE TO DEATH AND BEING JUST A LITTLE SKEPTICAL, IS GOING TO BURN IN FUCKING HELL FOR ALL ETERNITY BECAUSE OF IT! YOU FAIL! YOU FAIL SO HARD YOU DON'T EVEN DESERVE THE CRAPPY HOME VERSION! IN FACT, RIGHT NOW, I'M ENVISIONING TAKING THE CRAPPY HOME VERSION AND DOING ACTS WITH IT THAT ARE ILLEGAL IN ALL FIFTY STATES AND MOST OF CANADA, I HATE YOU SO MUCH! FUUUCK YOU!

:deep breath:

Okay, now that I've gotten that out of my system, I'm going to quote Romans 8:38-39. Ellanjay have to know this verse; they quote from Romans later on in this chapter. So in short, WTF, Ellanjay?!

Romans 8:38-39New International Version (NIV)

38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[a] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Okay, back to the story...In fairness, Aron does display some skepticism by saying "Even if he took it in order to help me?" in response to Mr. Stein saying because Joel took the Mark he's screwed for all eternity. Mr. Stein, doesn't bother to answer this legitimate question, instead, stepping around it by saying this:

Mr. Stein knelt before Aron. “Don’t let your brother’s choice affect your destiny. You will not be called to account for his decision. Accept the gift God is offering now.”

But the inevitable conversion scene is delayed as Joel shouts from another room, "Hey look outside!"

Outside, Orcus is preaching simultaneously saying that Nicky is a man of peace, while also saying, "We need to kill all who oppose them!" I could point out all that's wrong with this, but like I said before, right now, I'm siding with the villain of this series because the hero not only crossed the Moral Event Horizon years ago, but also took a steaming dump on it. To quote the late great Roger Ebert, you can't have heroes and villains when the wrong side is making the best sense.

Yeah, sorry for all the links in this post, but it livens up a dull rant and it's about the only thing helping me keep my sanity in the face of the overwhelming madness. I'm starting to think this is what the Nazis saw when they opened the Ark of the Covenant.

Orcus finds an unnamed woman who identifies herself as Jewish and pulls her from her hiding place. Orcus is all "Take the Mark!" but she refuses saying that she can't show allegiance to Nicky because he kills her people. Orcus kills the woman using two swords and there is much rejoicing had by the crowd.

I think Ellanjay realized that Joel was attracting too much sympathy because after this, they have him turn to his brother and say, "See this is why you need to get the Mark!" Like all their attempted Author's Saving Throws, this fails.

Mr. Stein, realizing that a potential sale is slipping away, pulls out a Bible and quotes a long passage from Romans, proving that Ellanjay are familiar with that book. The passage they quote is Romans 5:6-11, if you're curious.

Aron is like "So God becomes our friend simply because we ask him?" Mr. Stein's response is simply "Yes." Mr. Stein goes on to talk about how all our good deeds are rubbish because we're all horrible sinful people who deserve to burn in hell and the only way out of it is to say The Prayer and ask God to forgive your sins." Remember kids, Jesus lived a blameless life and was murdered because you're full of sin and evil aka the Gospel According to Ellanjay.

We also get this passage further illustrating Ellanjay's ignorance of Jewish culture, because remember they love the idea of Jews but not the reality of it, much in the way, New Agers love Native American culture while remaining ignorant of what Native American culture is or of the issues facing Native Americans.

Aron sat and stared ahead. Sam had gone through this same process as Judd and Lionel tried to convince him of the truth. For some the decision was immediate. For others, especially those who were Jewish, it was a more difficult process. There were hurdles they had to overcome that others didn’t. Aron had no doubt been raised to believe Christianity was different from Judaism, and for a Jew to embrace Jesus meant that you turned your back on your faith. Sam knew that wasn’t true, but would Aron see it?

To paraphrase aunursa, to a Jew, Jesus is irrelevant. They don't hate Jesus or spend their time denying that he's the messiah anymore than they do Joseph Smith, Mohammad, or Buddha, because as far as they're concerned, Jesus has nothing to do with their faith.

Mr. Stein is all "Jesus died for your sins! Reach out to him now!" and Aron starts to close his eyes, but just as he does, Joel opens the window and gives away their position to the GC, because Ellanjay were afraid that we might still have sympathy for an eevil sin-riddled sinner like Joel. Mr. Stein's like "Don't put this off" but Aron says, "I'll say The Prayer as soon as we're safe."

Two GC goons haul off Sam and Mr. Stein, taking Aron away in a different vehicle. Mr. Stein says this long prayer, praying to the writers God to spare them and make Aron a RTC. They arrive at a GC center and Ellanjay end the chapter with this:

Sam’s heart pounded in his chest. He couldn’t take his eyes away from the guillotine. When the Peacekeeper returned and roughly pulled him from the car, Sam knew he had only minutes and perhaps seconds to live.

Because I'm beyond pissed off right now, I'm going to spoil the suspense for everyone: NOTHING HAPPENS! According to Wikipedia, both Mr. Stein and Sam make it to the part where TurboJesus slaughters everyone. So like I said before: YOU FAIL FOREVER, ELLANJAY!

:deep breath: Sorry about all the profanity, rage, and links in this week's snark, but this week's selection really got to me. Think of this series as being like the Vincent Price movie, The Tingler. The only way to keep it from sinking its evil into you is to scream and rage against it. Rage, rage against the idiocy and the cruelty of it all!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Techno-Porn as written by the Technology-Iliterate

Ellanjay, with their finger on the pulse of today's youth, decide to begin with exciting!remodeling!action! Yeah, I'm bored to tears soon. I know I said in a previous snark that one of my favorite post-apocalyptic tropes was when the heroes got together and started rebuilding the destroyed structures of society, but I'm more into stuff like how they wire it for electricity or get the plumbing going. This, with Vicki and Shelly painting the walls and choosing curtains...yeah, lethally boring. I prefer things that are lethally funny myself.

Vicki is still worried and is only able to stop thinking of Judd when she plunges into her remodeling project, which is one of her few character traits that actually feels human. Few things worse than sitting around worrying; it's a natural human impulse to want to do something even as inconsequential as choosing curtains.

She then writes in her journal which makes me go o_O. Since when does Vicki keep a journal? I can't remember if it's been mentioned before and I'm too lazy to look up. But anyway, here's her entry:

I can’t think about Judd dying. The thought is too horrible. I keep hearing that man’s voice who answered the phone and it makes me sick. From the time Bruce Barnes started teaching the Bible, I’ve known that things would get worse. But it always seemed like something far off, an evil in New Babylon. Now the evil has spread so much that we’ll have to worry about normal citizens, not just the GC. But a life without Judd …

I suppose points for constructing a fairly realistic teenage girl's voice here. But I still have to raise eyebrows. Ellanjay and their characters keep going on and on about how the second half of the tribulation is going to be so much more horrible than the first half, but I have to go really? Given that all the water's turned to blood, killing all the creatures that live in the water and probably all animal life on this planet, God (aka the guy doing all this) is really going to have to hustle if he wants to impress me.

Vicki's section ends with her and Judd finally having a phone conversation which I won't recap because it's fairly dull: Judd recaps what he and Lionel went through in South Carolina but tells her that they're okay now and talks about how he hopes to see her soon.

After the conversation, we cut to Judd's POV. He and Lionel are staying at a plantation house on an island on a river. I don't know if this place actually exists in the real world--Ellanjay don't provide enough details about the place for me to check--plus I already have way too much useless information taking up valuable neuron space so yeah, don't really want to know.

So the South Carolina believers hold a meeting and we get this weird little detail:

The youngest members were a little younger than Judd. Luke and Tom had found them on an island not far from Beaufort. Their ancestors were African slaves, and though they were glad to be safe, the kids felt strange living on a plantation.

This is the extent their discomfort is mentioned and for that I'm grateful, because the few times Ellanjay try to address racism...yeah, still remember the first book where Lionel was introduced and it talked about how some of his relatives accused him of losing his blackness...please don't make me say any more about just how awful that passage truly was.

Nothing really of note comes of this meeting. They just talk about whether to try to get Judd and Lionel to Wisconsin or go on the offensive against the bounty hunters. My eyes lit up at the "go on the offensive" line but quickly my hopes dimmed as I was reminded that nothing ever happens in these series. For pete's sake, the Power Rangers are more pro-active than the Tribbles. At least when there's a world-destroying evil on the loose, they actually try to stop it.

The chapter ends with Vicki showing Becky and Colin their new home. Woo...

Next one, well for those of you who like techno-porn, we start with descriptions of technology. Unfortunately, since Ellanjay have demonstrated a complete inability to predict any kind of advance in technology (like the rise of cell phones and internet porn), their attempts at tech-porn come across more as unintentionally hilarious.

JUDD and Lionel met with Carl and found he had some of the latest gadgets and phones from the Co-op. “Sometimes they deliver supplies, food, and clothes, and other times they have stuff like this.” Carl held up a tiny phone about three inches square.
“How do you punch in the numbers on something that small?” Lionel said.
“You don’t. It’s all voice activated. And look at this.” Carl removed a soft plastic piece from the back of the phone and placed it in his ear. “You talk and listen through this without using your hands. You can look at the display to see who’s calling, but you never have to hold anything. Some are so small you can actually fix the transmitters to one of your teeth.”

This series was written from 1997-2004, so we can chalk up "smartphones" as yet another invention Ellanjay didn't see coming. I'll let someone more versed in technology than I take a stab at taking apart Ellanjay's latest attempt to sound futuristic and tell me if their invention sounds at all practical or if it sounds riddled with flaws.

The SuperPhones also come with earpieces so they can communicate with anyone so long as they have their earpieces in. And apparently this network is worldwide, so props to Ellanjay for predicting a trend that might actually happen: worldwide cell coverage. Always said that the day they get rid of the out-of-area problem with cell phones is the day the Horror genre is pretty much dead. My quibble is this: how exactly are they keeping the GC from tapping and listening in on their worldwide network? Because with current cell phones, law enforcement can easily track you by the pings received from your phones from nearby cell towers. But I am thinking way too much into this, mostly because the story is giving me nothing else to think about. Sorry...

The section ends with Judd calling Vicki again and talking to her. Nothing they talk about is of any real importance, but Vicki finally tells him about that prophecy she received from Anak: about how the one she loves won't return to her whole. She's come to believe it refers to the original members of the YTF and not auxiliary and is worried. Judd reassures her and hangs up. He then turns to Lionel and asks him to be his best man when he and Vicki get married.

Next section, we're in Petra with Sam. He's working on the latest installment of the Petra Diaries. The section begins with a brief summary mentioning that Token Jew's been busy explaining various parables. There's also a mention that tomorrow Token Jew will talk about the Sermon on the Mount. I'm kind of (in a masochistic way) curious as to what Token Jew will say about it. The Sermon on the Mount is probably the greatest passage in the New Testament, one that lends itself to thousands of sermons and never fails to elicit a sense of "Am I really being the best follower of Christ I can be?"

Most of the citizens of Petra have come to embrace Anti-anti-Christianity, but there are a few holdouts. Here's Sam's compassionate writings about them:

As Tsion or Micah begin to speak, these defiant ones and those who are not sure about Jesus often fall to the ground as if in pain. They struggle and cry out, tear their clothing, and throw dirt in the air. If you have ever read the story of Jacob when he struggled with the angel of God, this looks exactly like that. They are fighting the very God who has died to save them and calls to them even now.
The Bible talks about this kind of spiritual warfare. I have never seen it so dramatic as here in Petra. The people can’t walk away from the teaching. It is right in front of them every day, and they cannot escape the voices of truth speaking so clearly.
If you are reading this and you feel this same wrestling in your soul, do not resist God. He loves you and wants to come into your life and forgive you, change you, and make you a new person. Allow him to do that today and end this fight with the God who loved you enough to die for you.

Since I know most of you aren't Biblical scholars, I will quote the passage, Genesis 32:22-32, where Jacob wrestles with God.

That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”

But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

The man asked him, “What is your name?”

“Jacob,” he answered.

Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel,because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”

Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.”

But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there.

So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”

31 The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip. Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the tendon attached to the socket of the hip, because the socket of Jacob’s hip was touched near the tendon.

I imagine the reason Ellanjay is citing this passage is another attempt to prove that they're not anti-Semites by choosing a passage of great significance to the Jewish people. But I can't help but feel that Ellanjay miss the point. Jacob wasn't ever punished for wrestling with God; he was blessed. I take that to mean that it's okay to wrestle with God, to question the decisions and motives of said being, not to blindly obey. But you know how Ellanjay feel about questioners.

After writing his missive, Sam walks around and finally decides to confess his feelings to Naomi Tiberius For those of you who didn't cheat and browse the wiki, she shoots him down, saying that she sees him only as a friend and nothing more. Heartbroken, Sam decides to check his email.

Turns out he got an email from Aron Ben-Eliezar, son of Rabbi Ben-Eliezar. For those of you who've forgotten about Rabbi Ben-Eliezar, the Rabbi, like all good Jews, has abandoned the faith of his fathers and become a good RTC. Aron asks to see Sam in Tel Aviv. His message goes like this:

Sam,
I finally received your note. Thank you for writing. I’m glad to know my parents are safe, but I don’t believe they are followers of Ben-Judah. I know they aren’t foolish enough to buy what Carpathia says, but they wouldn’t turn their backs on our faith.
Joel and I would like to talk with you, but not by email or phone. And please, don’t tell my parents about contacting me. If you can come late tomorrow night, we will wait for you.

Shalom,
Aron

In the interest of giving credit where credit is due, Mr. Stein says that something doesn't feel right about this email. He doesn't think they're loyal to the GC, instead saying they're lost lambs in need of a shepherd. Sam still wants to go to Israel and talk to them and I roll my eyes. How is it that they seldom consider that all these helpful emails might be a goddanged trap by the GC? But even if it were, no worries: like I said before, preschoolers armed with their safety scissors are more of a threat than the GC. But looks like we'll get another travel montage soon as Sam and Mr. Stein decide to leave the safety of Petra and go to Tel Aviv.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Meh

This week, we're beginning a new book: Hunted. It covers books 35-37 for those of you who wanna follow along. The end is in sight, people!

As you recall, last week, Judd and Lionel finally made it to the states, but horrors of horrors! They were captured by bounty hunters in South Carolina.

Most of the first chapter of this book is taken up with the bounty hunters arguing with one another. I suppose all these arguing scenes are supposed to reveal character and further build tension as to what's going to happen to Judd and Lionel, but given that I've read the Wikipedia page on this series...yeah...Even if I hadn't read the Wikipedia page, I still wouldn't feel any tension because we're up to book 35 AND NONE OF THE MAIN CHARACTERS HAVE COME TO ANY LASTING HARM! With, of course, the exception of Ryan, but Ryan was the kids series' Butt Monkey so I don't know if he counts. Bottom line when it comes to these books: once you've figured out each character and the role they're supposed to play in the plot, then you can pretty much predict everything that will happen to them from here on out.

We get a brief interlude from Vicki. She's all concerned and upset unlike the rest at the Wisconsin hideout who are kind of "Meh" about it. I suppose it'd make sense they'd be kind of "Meh" about the whole thing. Given the massive deaths over the past few years, there's gotta be some massive cases of PTSD going on, but on the other hand, none of the characters act like they're suffering from anything worse than a stubbed toe, so yeah...Also, I guess it'd make sense that, unlike Vicki, they're not immediately going "OMG! We've gotta rescue them!" given that they know whatever happens to Judd and Lionel, they'll immediately get bamfed into heaven. They've said The Prayer; they've purchased their one-way tickets.

Somehow Lionel got a hold of a pocket knife. He tries using it to cut the plastic ties holding him and Judd but fails. I'll give the bounty hunters credit for not being completely rock-stupid like pretty much all the characters in this series, in that they didn't choose something that Our Brave Heroes could easily cut through.

The chapter ends with Judd thinking about Vicki and praying, wondering naturally how this fits into God's big plan. We do get another mention of Bruce "Useless" Barnes. Apparently, Bruce was fond of saying, “Pray as if everything depends on God, but work as if everything depends on you.” This saying made me raise an eyebrow and I consulted Google to find out who originally said it, but I couldn't get a definitive answer. Just know that this saying, like the RTC's favorite saying "God helps those who help themselves," isn't actually in the Bible. BTW, if you know the original author of the RTC's favorite saying without googling, congratulations, you win a No-Prize. You may dedicate it to anyone you like. I just find it funny how RTCs credit God for helping them with little stuff like finding a parking space, yet when they meet someone in real trouble (like say, poverty), they whip out that saying.

Next chapter, Judd is all "I don't wanna die!" He tries to reach for Lionel's knife, but fails. Lionel, however, is calm, saying that God is running the show and he's taken care of us thus far, so he'll take care of us to the end. Yeah...I don't really need to point out the myriad ways God has shown his love for his people again, do I? Though this whole series makes a lot more sense if you substitute "the authors" every time they say "God."

Lionel admits that before they left Petra, he had a dream about a sharp blade dripping with his blood. Judd's like, "Why didn't you tell me?" Lionel's response makes me smile. He says, essentially, that before he had a dream that he was riding in the pouch of a kangaroo over an ocean, so there was no reason to tell him the dream about the blade.

The truck they're riding in comes to a stop. Weapon fire breaks out and we cut to Vicki.

Vicki is in tears, blaming herself because she was the one who told Judd to take that flight to South Carolina. Shelly tries to comfort her, saying they've just got to trust God, and we get the first indication of some kind of PTSD in this story.

“Trust God?!” Vicki screamed. “We trusted God for Bruce, and look what happened to him. We trusted God for Ryan, and he still got trapped during the earthquake. We trusted God for Natalie and Zeke’s dad and Chaya. There’s a long list we’ve trusted to God, and they’re all dead.” Shelly looked at the floor, and Vicki shoved her face back into the pillow. “He and Lionel are going to die and it’s because of me.”

And another mention of Ryan! I suppose this passage isn't too bad--a workmanlike demonstration of PTSD--but I do have to point out how apparently only the proud owner of a set of ovaries gets PTSD. Apparently manly RTCs aren't at all affected their comrades dying in droves.

Shelly's like "It's all part of God's plan and he's in control." But Vicki continues to behave like a human and isn't comforted by Shelly's platitudes.

“It’s too hard! I don’t want to be part of his plan anymore. I don’t want to hide or worry about how we’re going to eat or if the GC is going to come rushing in on us any moment. Why does God expect so much?”

Applaud this brief moment where a teenager under a mountain of stress, actually behaves like a teenager. I assure you, it won't last long. It is a little weaksauce because you know the writers would never go so far as to have one of their protagonists renounce God or say anything close to this awesome speech by Mister Smith from the sadly short-lived TV series, Jeremiah.

“I can’t do this anymore. You hear me? I can’t do it anymore! I didn’t ask to be the chosen. I don’t want to be the chosen, I’m tired of being the chosen. So choose somebody else for a change! You got nothing to say? I know you can hear me. Pick now to go quiet? Well damn you. Damn you for doing this to me. And damn me for not blowing my brains out. That’d really mess your plans up, wouldn’t it? I don’t want to know what I know! I shouldn’t have to know the things I know, not if I can’t do anything about it!”

BTW, if you haven't seen the series "Jeremiah," the whole thing's available for free on Hulu. Go, watch, and see how it succeeds in every way unlike Ellanjay who fail in every way.

Shelly utters a few more platitudes, hugs Vicki, and says she'll stay with Vicki until they hear more about Lionel and Judd.

The Judd section begins with a sentence that makes me say, "What?!"

Judd flinched when shotgun pellets slammed against the truck bed and left dents in the metal.

I said "What?!" because I thought they used laser weapons in the LB-verse, but maybe Nicky only lets his followers use them and RTCs must make do with ordinary guns. Or maybe this is like the Power Rangers SPD-verse and lasers come out in pellet form? Yeah, I realize no one but me will get that reference but hey, it made me smile.

I'll sum up this boring action scene. Turns out Tom (who had escaped earlier) and Luke have come to rescue them. They shoot Albert (aka One Arm) provoking this brief inner monologue from Judd.

Albert lay on the ground, holding his stomach and panting. Judd felt a strange mix of anger and pity toward the man. A few months ago Judd would have prayed for him and tried to convince him of the truth about God. Now that Albert had the mark of Carpathia, Judd knew his fate was sealed. He felt sorry the man had no chance for heaven, but he was mad at him for trying to harm believers.

Me, I'm kind of confused by this whole thing, mostly because Ellanjay, who can't bear for their characters to have any shades of grey, but did they kill the guy or not? Given that he was a threat to them, I suppose it'd be justified if he did die, but the way they act later, cuffing him up...I'm reading and rereading trying to figure out whether they actually shot them with actual bullets or if they used lasers (which would totally contradict the first sentence of the Judd section) or what in Glob's name is going on here? To soothe my anguished soul, I'm going to post a clip from The Ember Island Players.

Anyway, to sum things up, Tom and Luke free Judd and Lionel and make it to the South Carolina hideout.

Judd sat with his back to the shack, his head in his hands. He had been prepared to die, to give his life, and God had used Luke to spare it again. He patted his pockets, forgetting Max had taken his cell phone.

Again, common motif in RTCianity: God gets credit for all the good (even though, Luke was the one who did all the heavy-lifting) and none of the bad. When a firefighter rushes into a burning building and saves a dozen children, God was acting through him. If a serial killer rushes into a building and kills a dozen children, then there's blather about free will and how God's totally not responsible for this.

The chapter ends with this line:

Lionel smiled at Judd. “Who did you want to call?”

And if you can read this without shouting, "Ghostbusters!" than you're a stronger person than I am. But seriously, I think I'll end my snark there for this week. Thought about throwing on a third chapter given how skimpy this snark was, but decided against it.