Sunday, October 26, 2014

Danger Stared me in the Face and I Ran Away

Lionel is thrilled to discover that not only is the pilot named Lionel like him, he's also Black as well. His last name is Whalum and he asks to be called Mr. Whalum to avoid confusion.

So Mr. Whalum is flying them out of Petra and taking Lionel and Judd to South Carolina. While in the air, he decides to tell us his conversion story. :whimpers: Really, Ellanjay? Again with that over-used plot device. Especially since all the conversion stories can be summed up as "I was a good person, but I didn't have Jesus in my heart, so when God slaughtered my family in the Rapture, I immediately decided it was time to start kissing God's ass." That is seriously how it always goes.

So they land in South Carolina. Lionel complains that his throat feels all scratchy and he and Judd walk around complaining about the fishy smell. They wander around looking for their contacts in South Carolina, Tom and Luke, whom I've almost completely forgotten about because I only have so much room in my memory and like I've said, no one has any distinguishing traits. As they walk, they talk about Petra and about Vicki. Judd's like "I'm not sure she'll even want me back," not an unreasonable assumption to make given how he's behaved towards her in the past.

Lionel cleared his throat and unzipped his backpack, looking for a water bottle. He found it and took a long drink. “You don’t think I’ve noticed? Not your looks.” Lionel tapped Judd’s chest. “In there. Something’s been going on. You’re treating people differently. I mean, you’re not perfect, but you’ve improved.”

:raises eyebrow: Yeah, just look how much Judd has changed. Before he was a posturing Alpha Male, a mini-Rayford really, now...we'll he's a complete nonentity who just goes from point A to point B without developing any distinguishing traits whatsoever. I seriously know nothing about Judd. Name one thing he likes besides God. Okay so he likes Vicki. Why? And don't say because he's contractually obligated to by the series' authors. What exactly does he like about Vicki? Judd might as well be played by a wooden stump or a rock with a face painted on it.

They see some guys that at first cause them to think, "hmm...they might be Tom and Luke, but as they get closer, they realize they aren't. I'm sure the guys will eventually be given names but for now, I'm going to call them the same thing the book calls them: Scarface and One Arm, because one guy has a scar on his face and the other has one arm. Scarface and One Arm both have the Mark, but those of you hoping that something, anything would happen to Judd and Lionel...hello, and welcome to the blog, is all I have to say.

The chapter ends with Lionel coughing and revealing their position to the two guys.

Next chapter begins with Judd and Lionel running like hell from Scarface and One Arm. For those of you confused, Scarface and One Arm are bounty hunters who make their living turning the unmarked over to the GC. Forgive me, but this whole chapter is one long action scene with brief interludes with Vicki. It's really impossible to snark. In an attempt to liven things up a little, I will provide some apropos music

I had planned on skipping the Vicki sections because all that happens is that she prays for Judd and Lionel, but it does mention this head-scratcher of a statement:

Cheryl Tifanne had gained weight with her pregnancy, and the girl sought Vicki out. She told Vicki that Marshall Jameson was a trained paramedic and would help deliver her child. Becky estimated that Cheryl was about six months away from giving birth.

The hell?! I say this because I peeked ahead (thank you, Wikipedia) and apparently Cheryl gives birth in the next set of books, even though this one says she's six months away from giving birth meaning that she's only three months pregnant. Either there's another time skip or Cheryl's baby is ridiculously premature or maybe gestation takes less time in the LB-verse or maybe Ellanjay are just hacks who can't be bothered to keep track of pertinent details because they have the Checklist to follow.

But back to Judd and Lionel. They run and run until they find the Bounty Hunters' truck. In the back of the truck is another believer all bound and gagged. Ellanjay don't immediately tell us who the hell this guy is, in a futile effort to build suspense, but I'll spoil it for you: it's Tom. His brother Luke got away and apparently this BoHu program that the GC is funding refers to Bounty Hunters. Also, rather than giving them actual guns that shoot actual bullets, the GC has chosen to give their Bounty Hunters, guns that shoot lasers and can be set on either stun or kill. They free Tom and continue running but the chapter ends with Judd hearing the sound of dogs on their trail.

The next chapter...more exciting!running!action...here's another song in an attempt to keep you from lapsing into a coma Be grateful: I briefly considered linking to A Flock of Seagulls.

Well, Scarface and One Arm actually manage to shoot Judd, Lionel, and Tom. As they're lying stunned on the ground, the Bounty Hunters banter as another one of their buddies, Dog Man shows up.

Another man Lionel hadn’t seen before ran up, panting and sweating. He patted the dogs and inspected the prisoners. “I get a piece of this action?” Dog Man said.
“I stopped them before the dogs ever got here,” Scarface said.
“Now hold on. I chased them toward you just like you asked. If I’d have known you wouldn’t give me a cut—”
“Stop your bellyachin’. I’ll give you half of one of them.”
The man looked at the ground, then squinted at Scarface. “That’s less than 20 percent! You know, this is going to seriously hurt our relationship—”
“Stop.”
“I mean it. I got dogs to feed. You cut me out like this and next time you call I might not show up.”

This is pretty much the only amusing part of this entire chapter and gives me once again, an excuse to use the "Ho Yay" tag.

The three are thrown into the back of the truck which is piled with a bunch of dead bodies. Now in a well-written novel, this would be a great scene of horror but the detail is mentioned in passing and Lionel's is pretty much "Meh" about it.

Tom then offers to take the bounty hunters to the rest of the Believers in the area if they let Judd and Lionel go. Before you get too worked up about this, Tom later reveals to Judd and Lionel that he's lying and doing this on purpose to buy more time for Luke to come and save them.

And I know I've already covered three chapters, but nothing's happened and there's only one chapter left in the book, so let's finish this sucker off. The sooner we get to the end of this series, the better.

Now they're at the Bounty Hunters' pad. One Arm rouses Judd and makes him eat. I have to say, Judd's being awfully whiny given that he's been kidnapped. Also since it's mentioned later on in the chapter that the GC pays a good bounty for the Unmarked, regardless whether they're brought in dead or alive, WHY ARE THE BOUNTY HUNTERS BEING SO DAMN NICE TO THEM?!

Judd, in a rare show of intelligence, tries to establish a bond with his captor. He manages to get One Arm to give him his name, which I'm not going to bother to learn because once the inevitable escape happens, we'll never see or hear from these guys again. One Arm reveals that he lost his arm to an alligator, not to one of Zod's myriad disasters which was what I thought. Judd asks One Arm if it bothers him killing people or taking people to be killed by the GC, to which One Arm just laughs and says the LB-verse equivalent of "Hell no!"

After they all have eaten, Judd, Lionel and Tom get together and pray that the writers God spares them.

The book ends with the Bounty Hunters taunting them and saying they have an appointment with the blade. But Ellanjay can't fool me. I've read over thirty of these books and I know, nothing will happen no matter how hard Ellanjay try to convince me that the characters are totally in danger and stuff will really happen this time! You can only fool someone so many times!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Ellanjay's Writing is the Bane of Creative Writing Teachers Everywhere

The first chapter begins with a real clunker of a sentence, so bad I have decided to quote it in its entirety for everyone's amusement.

EACH day Judd awoke with a new sense of God’s provision and a fresh yearning for home.

Do I need to explain why this sentence would make any English major worth their salt want to drink a fifth of vodka just to make the hurting stop?

But as you know from years of reading my blog, it always gets worse.

Judd was glad for a few days of safety without having to worry about a GC attack. He struck up a friendship with the computer whiz, Naomi, and met more of Sam’s friends. Judd and Lionel helped people build tents and shelters, and in their spare time they climbed the heights of Petra and explored the ancient ruins with Sam.

Uh, Ellanjay, you wanna know what would be helpful? IF YOU SHOWED US ALL THIS INSTEAD OF TELLING US! I mean, if they had bothered to put forth any sort of effort, there's some good material here. You can show Judd meeting Naomi and establishing a friendship with her. One of my favorite tropes of post-apocalyptic lit is when the brave heroes try to rebuild a destroyed civilization. Since Petra hasn't been inhabited for centuries, it would be really interesting to see our heroes try to make the place livable by building homes and other necessities. All of this would be more interesting than the chapter we actually get, because what I suggested would develop the characters and give a chance to show off their skills, but that would require the writers to do research and include some world-building so we can't have that.

Instead, we get this paragraph and the rest of the chapter, I'll go ahead and spoil it for you: it's pretty much just Judd and co. watching the GC documentary about Nicky's resurrection. Why they feel the need to watch the news all the time when they know exactly what's going to happen...I don't know.

Judd emails Chang. Apparently Mr. Wong is dead. Naturally he became a believer before dying so Chang is spared having to live with the fact that the man who raised him is roasting in hell in the hands of an Angry God. Also, Chang's been doing some hacking and is worried about a new GC program called BoHu, but he can't figure out just what BoHu is. I suppose I could look it up on the wiki but I'm lazy. Besides, eventually it'll be laid out in excruciating detail for us.

But anyway, onto the documentary.

There's really not a lot to snark: it's standard propaganda puff piece with everyone talking about how Nicky is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I've ever known in my life. I must say of all the faults Nicky has (chief among them, how badly he sucks at being a supervillain), I have to say this part makes sense. It'd make sense that a dictator like him would have his own Joseph Goebbels to promote his image.

Of course, Judd is all sickened and horrified by it. I still wonder why the hell he's watching it given that he knows all the prophecies and knows that Nicky's the anti-Christ, plus what kind of information would a propaganda piece have for him anyway? I suppose Ellanjay put it in here so they can show how horrible Nicky is, but like I've said so many times, given how much worse the hero of this series is, aka God, it fails.

The part Judd finds most horrible is when a three-year-old girl comes on screen and sings a song. It's basically "Jesus Loves Me" with Nicky's name put in it. I'm posting the lyrics so we can once again laugh at how badly Ellanjay and co. fail at scansion. Here's a hint: songs work better when you know about it.

“Nicolae loves me, this I see.
He came back from the dead for me.
Little ones praise him in song.
They are weak, but he is strong.
Yes, Nicolae loves me.
Yes, Nicolae loves me.
Yes, Nicolae loves me; he came back from the dead.”

The part with the little girl becomes even more horrifying when you take in account that she's three, meaning that given the time that's passed in the LB-verse, she was conceived in the immediate aftermath of the Great Slaughter Rapture. That part I don't have too much problem with; it's possible her parents, in the heat of an incredibly stressful moment, forgot the condoms, but given the kind of disasters this girl has witnessed in her short time on Earth...Again, the fact that Zod didn't make everyone sterile during the Great Tribulation only further proves that Zod's an even bigger dick than Superman.

When you take into account all the disasters Zod has inflicted, it's no wonder that the little girl and everyone else sides with Nicky. Nicky, for all his uselessness, has managed to maintain an infrastructure in spite of all these back-to-back Acts of Zod, thus managing to save more lives. But then again, the same kind of Zod mindset seems to govern US foreign policy. Whenever we discover a large portion of the world under the rule of some tin-pot dictator we don't like, we bomb the hell out of them, because that's what makes people like you, dropping a cruise missile on their family.

Okay, done with politics for now, back to the story.

After the documentary ends, Chaim (I will never call him Micah. I may have few principles but I stand by them) starts preaching. He starts with the basic "Nicky is Satan" speech but apparently Ellanjay did take a few minutes to try to think of some objections people might have to their brand of religion. Granted they're pretty half-hearted (like all critiques) but I take whatever I can get.

“How do you explain Nicolae’s resurrection?” someone yelled from the front. “How could he do that if he were not God?”
“Jesus said, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die like everyone else, will live again. They are given eternal life for believing in me and will never perish.’ ”

Here's another idea for an LB-verse Drinking Game*: take a sip every time someone doesn't answer a reasonable question. Because that's what Chaim just did: rather than cite anything that might answer the question, he follows the GT lead and just starts spitting out bits of scripture at random.

Another anonymous heckler is like "But how do we know?" Chaim doesn't even bother to provide an answer; we just get more summarizing about how Judd watches him try to convince people.

Judd heard someone behind him say, “I’m not choosing. I believe Nicolae is a murderer, but I can’t believe in Jesus either.”
“Do not think that you can remain neutral about this issue,” Micah continued. “Jesus himself said, ‘Anyone who isn’t helping me opposes me, and anyone who isn’t working with me is actually working against me.’ If you choose against Christ, you are choosing for Nicolae.”

If anyone ever doubts that Ellanjay believe in the Gospel According to George W. Bush, just point them to this little quote. Also, anytime someone doubts Ellanjay's virulent anti-Semitism, point them here because they clearly say anyone (and that probably includes Jewish people) who doesn't follow Jesus, worships Satan.

Oh and I did look up Chaim's Jesus quote just to see what the gospels actually say. Surprise, surprise, if you google it, you discover that Jesus's verse was actually more nuanced than Ellanjay's paraphrase makes it out to be. I, for one, found this selection from Luke 9:49-56 interesting.

John answered and said, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name; and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow along with us.” 50But Jesus said to him, “Do not hinder him; for he who is not against you is for you.”

When the days were approaching for His ascension, He was determined to go to Jerusalem; and He sent messengers on ahead of Him, and they went and entered a village of the Samaritans to make arrangements for Him. But they did not receive Him, because He was traveling toward Jerusalem. When His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” But He turned and rebuked them, [and said, “You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.”] And they went on to another village.

Judd's section finally ends and we cut to Vicki. It's a short, very boring passage where she talks with Charlie. Apparently he's copied out I Corinthians 13 aka the Love Chapter and wants to read it at Judd and Vicki's eventual wedding. Once again, I wonder about Charlie. They keep using the word "slow" to describe him which really cheeses me off. Give me some specifics, Ellanjay! Does he suffer from some kind of birth defect like Downs Syndrome or a minor form a brain damage or something? But I think Ellanjay don't give me specifics because that would require research and also because the reader might start asking questions about why a loving and benevolent God chose to let someone with such a mental defect suffer through the horrors of the Tribulation.

Anyway, back to Judd.

For the first time in many chapters/books, guess who's onscreen! Rayford Steele, aka the biggest douche in the LB-verse (ignoring Zod, of course) Naturally because kissing Buck's and Rayford's asses is one of the ten commandments of RTC-ianity, Judd is starstruck.

Judd had been thrilled to speak with Tsion Ben-Judah, but he was equally excited a few days later when he found Rayford Steele, a pilot and one of the original Tribulation Force members. They met outside the computer building, and Rayford invited Judd back to his small place. Captain Steele’s house, if it could be called that, was a tiny but well-built building that was big enough for a bed and his computer equipment.

Have to admit, when I started snarking this series, I thought we'd see A LOT more of Rayford and Buck. In fact, I thought the YTF's whole purpose would be to stand around while Rayford and Buck did stuff and constantly gush about how awesome Rayford and Buck are. Have to admit, there was a degree of that, especially in the single digit books, but high on my list of reasons why the Kids version is less excruciating than the adults (again, can't say it's good), is that Buck and Rayford rarely appear onscreen and are rarely mentioned at all. That makes my job both a lot easier (because I hate Rayford and Buck with the intensity of a thousand fiery suns) and a lot harder because you can make such good hay out of snarking Ellanjay's MarySuedom and the disgusting sexual politics of both their self-inserts.

Anyway, this section actually humanizes Rayford a little. Relax, it's still not good--workmanlike is more like it--but hearing Rayford talk about how he misses his grandson and almost wishes he hadn't married Amanda (because she wouldn't have been on that doomed flight if she hadn't met him) made me feel more than just deep-rooted loathing for his character and everything he stands for. That's an accomplishment for Ellanjay.

The chapter ends with Chang telling Judd that they've finally made arrangements for someone to fly him back to the states, specifically to South Carolina. Frankly, I wish they would just speed it up and get Judd and Vicki back together so we can get the forced romance over with, but at least, they'll be on the same continent again.

Well, I'm in a hurry--got things to do, people to see--so this week, it's just a one-chapter snark. But I think I've given you enough fodder for some good discussions.

*Once again I have to caution my readers: don't try a LB-verse drinking game. I don't want to be responsible for any cases of alcohol poisoning.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

What the Deep-Fried Hell?!

If you like reading about travel logistics and wrong-headed preaching, then this week's post is for you! Sorry it's late: yesterday was a busy day for me.

Those of you know I do have a tendency to repeat myself. I apologize for that but there's really only so many ways you can say Ellanjay Know Nothing About Humans or Their God is a Cruel Bastard. Like I said, maybe because I'm not experiencing the suffering first hand, but I find myself in awe of our dear Fred's ability to take only a few pages from the adult series and say so much more than just "This is awful." Fred, if by some chance you're reading this blog, me and all the other snarkers out there salute you. Here's a song for you.

Judd is sitting and waiting for the plane that will take him and Lionel to Petra. Once they get to Petra, they'll be flown back to the states. Ellanjay do try to set the stage, but given their hatred of painting in anything but broad strokes...yeah.

JUDD sat in the tiny car near a runway on the outskirts of Saarbr├╝cken and listened to Jacques explain the history of the region. The area had switched hands so many times in the past century that it was hard to keep up with all the changes. But one thing was certain: The Global Community now controlled Saarbr├╝cken.

Here I raise an eyebrow. Hasn't the Global Community controlled every place on earth except Petra for nearly four years now? Try to keep track of your worldbuilding, Ellanjay.

So Judd, Lionel, and Westin sit around and wait for five hours. After five hours with no plane in sight, Judd finally calls Chang to ask what's up. Chang's ever helpful response is to shrug his shoulders and say that the plane should have been there five hours ago.

We do get a mention of that paragon of awesomeness aka Taylor Graham. That's the sole reason I'm quoting this section. For those who haven't yet been exposed to the awesomeness that is Taylor Graham, I'll give you a quick primer. Taylor Graham was Conrad's brother and while he didn't kiss the Tribbles' ass and kneel before Zod, he still rebelled against the GC. Unlike the so-called rebels in this series, Taylor actually did stuff rather than just pull stupid pranks and look disdainful. He remains the only character who recognized the gap between the GC's words and actions: everyone else just assumed being a pistol-packing pacifist made perfect sense. He died, along with his partner in awesome, in a suitably cool fashion, thumbing his nose both at the GC and Zod. If you want to know more, click the tag "Taylor is Awesome."

Judd thought of Taylor Graham, a pilot who had taken a lot of chances to help the kids. It was a plan Taylor would have loved, but Judd felt queasy as he explained it to the others.

I find myself wondering why the writers felt a need to mention Taylor again. Is this just their annoying habit of dredging up forgotten characters or is there some deeper zen meaning? Ah, heck, y'all are probably tired of me going on and on about Taylor so let's move on.

A plane finally lands. But horrors of horrors, both the plane and the pilot have the GC logo. However will our brave heroes escape?!

Well for those of you who were finally hoping something exciting would happen...gotta break it to you. Nothing happens. Turns out the pilot's an RTC named Jerry Kingston and the Mark's a fake. I have no idea if Jerry Kingston appears in the adult books and I'm too lazy to look it up for myself, but Ellanjay do bother to give us a description.

The man was just under six feet tall, had sandy blond hair, and a day’s growth of beard. On his forehead was a -6, the mark of the United North American States. He put his palm to the mark, rubbed it hard, then grasped the edges with his fingers and peeled it from his skin. “Friend of mine made this for me. Lets me move around the GC without drawing suspicion.” He put out his hand. “Jerry Kingston. Are you Westin?”

Again, they make a point in mentioning his height even though the only way someone would know someone's exact height just by looking at them would be if this was staged in front of one of those height things at the gas station. But it's vitally important for the audience to know that while Jerry's a manly RTC, he's not as manly as Our Buck or St. Rayford, both of whom are taller than six feet.

So now that they're in the air, Jerry decides to tell us his story. :whimpers: I'll sum it up. Jerry was in the Air Force, doing a tour overseas (they never say where overseas) with his RTC buddy, Brad. While they were flying, the Rapture happened, Brad was bamfed out of his flight suit and plane. Jerry later joined the GC, but had his qualms about some of the stuff they were having him do.

“Then I started noticing things about the GC. Orders that came down that didn’t seem like what a peace-loving group would do. When I challenged them, I was told the orders came from the highest level.”

Have to admit when I first read this line, I got a little excited thinking maybe we finally, finally have another character who recognizes the gap between Nicky's alleged pacifistic beliefs and his actions. But how quickly, how very quickly that hope was squelched. Oh, Taylor Graham, no one can replace you and I should really stop grasping at any hope that someone could.

“What did they ask you to do?” Judd said.
“Just drop a little nuclear warhead on London,” Jerry said with a scowl. “Can you believe I did that?”
“I remember that,” Lionel said. “Thousands were killed.”

:grinds teeth: So Jerry's killed thousands of people by his own admission but the RTCs just welcome him with open arms, not even bothering to suggest he be tried as a war criminal, even though, yeah, I'm fairly certain the Hague would consider nuking London to be a war crime and Nuremburg proved you can't use, "I was just following orders," as an excuse. To be fair, I'm not sure the RTCs have the means to hold war crimes tribunals but they have all these planes and just about every other kind of tech at Petra, so don't try to tell me they're just a plucky group of rag-clad rebels.

Before, you mention Paul, keep in mind we're talking about completely different scales. Nuking a major metropolitan city is on a completely different scale from his alleged persecution of the church back when he was called Saul. I'm sure there are some London RTCs who will admit they're glad Jerry's an RTC, they probably still want to see justice done.

More and more, I think of the conundrum aunursa likes to propose to RTCs: if Hitler or one of the SS made a sincere confession of faith before they died, would they go to Heaven while Anne Frank and the rest of their victims burned in Hell?

Sorry to make so much hay over a few lines, but it cheesed me off.

Jerry admits that after nuking London he couldn't live himself, so he flew out into the ocean, planning to dive-bomb and kill himself. But he has an epiphany and pulls out of the nosedive just in time. He googles "eternity" and apparently Token Jew's website was the first thing that came up. In the interest of curiosity, I'm going to do the same. Well, I have to say I'm disappointed. Most of what came up was just definitions. I was hoping it'd be porn so I could make a cheap "Internet is for Porn" joke and provide some links to the few, the proud, the blog-readers. Sorry.

Anyway, after reading Token Jew's site, Jerry converted, left the GC, and became a member of the Co-Op.

Second chapter, they finally, at long last, arrive in Petra.

Lionel walks around eating the manna and quail that magically falls from Heaven. Ignoring the fact that bamfing some manna from Heaven into the hands of an undecided would really help them make a decision, I've gotta say, "Zod, could you bother to send down some lime trees or something? Ever hear of Scurvy? It's not a fun way to go."

We then get to the wrong-headed preaching part of this week's section, when Lionel finally decides to ask some questions of Token Jew. His question is essentially this: after all these miracles, how come people still don't believe.

Yeah, about these miracles...let's consult Wikipedia for the definition of a miracle.

A miracle is an event not explicable by natural or scientific laws. Such an event may be attributed to a supernatural being (God or gods), a miracle worker, a saint or a religious leader. Theologians say that, with divine providence, gods regularly work through created nature yet are free to work without, above, or against it as well.

The word "miracle" is often used to characterise any beneficial event that is statistically unlikely but not contrary to the laws of nature, such as surviving a natural disaster, or simply a "wonderful" occurrence, regardless of likelihood, such as a birth. Other miracles might be: survival of an illness diagnosed as terminal, escaping a life-threatening situation or 'beating the odds'. Some coincidences may be seen as miracles

I suppose if we use that definition then Zod has been doing miracles, but it's the nature of these miracles we need to talk about. If terrorists rendered your water undrinkable, killing millions, would your kneejerk response be to embrace their beliefs because clearly their cause is right and just? Didn't think so. RTCs are basically as many have put it, Cthulhu cultists except that Lovecraft, who by all accounts was a racist asshole, at least he knew you couldn't claim that the Old Ones did what they did out of love.

So Lione's like "Why can't God just make them believe?" Here's Token Jew's response.

“Our God is sovereign, which means he is involved in all of the events of this world. He knew you would ask this question. He knew Judd would not accept his parents’ faith and be left behind. He knew my family would be killed.”

Again, by their own admission, Ellanjay admit that God is responsible for all the evil in this 'verse. Maybe you think I'm being extreme but if you say God is involved in all the events in this world, you can't credit him with the good without crediting him with the bad.

Lionel then asks the obvious question: "Why didn't he stop that?" And of course, Token Jew gives a weaksauce answer.

“Our ways are not his ways. I do not understand why he let my family be killed, but I know that he is in control. And though we would like to make everyone believe the truth about him, he has chosen to give each person the freedom to choose or reject him.”

Yeah, about that...I've got to dredge up a question I ask a lot about RTCs. Since they came up with that weaselly Age of Accountability shtick, I'm going to assume that those under twelve, along with miscarriages and stillbirths, are safe. But what about the profoundly retarded unable to choose or reject or uncontacted peoples like the people of North Sentinel Island? I've heard regarding uncontacted people that RTCs will allow them in, saying that God forgives them for never having heard of Christ, but in that case, why do they send out missionaries to try to convert people? Remember, if they've heard of Christ and rejected him, they go to Hell when they die, whereas if they'd never been witnessed to by the missionaries, they'd get into Heaven.

Lionel scrunched up his face and looked around the room. “I’m not trying to be difficult. I really don’t understand how God can want people to come to him and not make it happen.”

“If God forced people to become believers, they would have no choice. They would be acting like robots. Instead, God demonstrated his love by dying for them, in their place on the cross, and allows each person to accept or reject God’s sacrifice.”

Every hear of a Hobson's Choice, Ellanjay? You've made it clear that those who choose to reject wind up in Hell, so no one really has a choice here.

The conversation, thankfully draws to an end after this, with Chaim and Token Jew basically saying, keep trying to rack up converts, which would be nice advice if Lionel ever actually followed it. But he doesn't.

The chapter ends with Vicki's viewpoint. They've made it to the new hideout and settled in. Tanya's upset because her father's dead, but I have a feeling this won't lead to her reading the other parts of the Bible and asking Vicki some very pointed questions.

Most of the section is taken up with Marshall giving his testimony. Not another testimony in less than two chapters. Make the bad men stop with that overused plot device! A hint to aspiring writers out there: having sections where a character drones on about their life and choices is boring as hell. There's a reason everyone skips the Chapter Two of a Babysitters' Club novel.

Because this snark is getting hella long, I'll try to wrap it up. Marshall owned a Christian Radio station and knew a lot of preachers and a lot of Bible verses but didn't have Jesus in his heart. When the Rapture happened, he was left behind. He got religion and has been an RTC since.

Sorry that this post is hella long and ranty. All I can say is buttons were pushed.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Goes Nowhere, Does Nothing

Okay, so Cyrus and his band are storming the Vicki's hideout. Once again, if it feels like I'm doing a lot of summarizing and fast-forwarding, it's because I am. Like I've said before the YTF keep doing a lot of hand-wringing about how wrong Cyrus is about the End of the World prophecies but with the exception of their belief in reincarnation, I fail to see much difference. Far as I can tell, Cyrus's group is basically the Tribbles scrubbed with a dirty sponge.

But enough stalling...onward with the story.

Cyrus wants his kids and his followers back. Tanya and Ty are like, "You have to hear the truth," but Cyrus, like all unbelievers in Ellanjayland, is like, "La-la-la can't hear you."

It turns out Cyrus has a lot of dynamite stockpiled and threatens to blow up Vicki's hole-in-the-ground. But before we can get any real tension, any feeling that the YTF are in some kind of danger, we get divine intervention.

I'll sum it up: some guy calling himself Anak appears. If you're wondering Ellanjay do bother to give us some description of the guy. Anak is dressed in flowing robes and sandals. He delivers some very pretentious dialogue to both Vicki's group and Cyrus's. Like all prophets in these books, he sounds like a poorly-programmed computer, able only to speak in Bible-esque phrases. I will give Anak credit, though: he's much less irritating than the GT.

His message for Vicki's group is that they've done well, but it's time they left this hideout. His message for Cyrus is, "Repent! And how dare you believe in salvation through works!" Some of Cyrus's followers fall down in prayer but Cyrus is like, "Screw this!" and goes back to his hideout.

Anak tells Vicki that she'll see her friends again before the Glorious Appearing but that the one she loves will witness much pain and not return whole. I'm assuming this "one she loves" refers to Judd. Given what he's already witnessed, he should be suffering from a massive amount of PTSD, even worse than a character in a George RR Martin novel. No one is left unscathed in an End-of-Days scenario.

Anak disappears and the YTF are like "What do we do now?" Colin, in a rare show of sense, says "We GTFO." To which I say: well duh. When you receive incontrovertible proof of the divine, which happens regularly in the LB-verse, you act on it. So they start getting ready.

The second chapter begins with an interlude with Judd. He talks on the phone with Chang. Chang tells Judd that the Tribbles made it out of Chicago in time. The Tribbles are now scattered everywhere and apparently the GC are making plans regarding the United States. I admit, I'd normally ignore this kind of talk, but I thought I'd give you the dirt just in case there is some kind of payoff later in the book. It's a futile hope but I've got to cling to it.

The YTF are loading up vehicles with as much stuff from the hole-in-the-ground as they can. They're about to load up and go, but Mark is concerned about the computers, saying that if Anak was trying to warn them about a GC raid, then they can't just leave them behind because they contain invaluable information that the GC could use against Believers. But they can't just take the computers with them because apparently the tribbles use an ENIAC as opposed to a modern laptop which they can just fold up and take with them. Mark decides their only course of action is to blow up the hideout using the dynamite that Cyrus conveniently left behind. But Colin's like, "we'll do this together." So he and Mark lit the dynamite and run like hell.

But they don't run fast enough because Vicki and the others find Colin and Mark lying stunned in a ditch. They gather up Colin and Mark and leave, but as they do, they see GC vans coming. I'm going to guess this, like everything else in the story, will GNDN (Go Nowhere, Do Nothing).

In the midst of this, there's a brief interlude with Sam. I'll sum it up: he has a crush on Naomi Tiberias, but since I peaked at Wikipedia, I'll go ahead and spoil it for you: give up on your Sam/Naomi ship.

The chapter ends with Lionel bravely watching the news. Apparently the GC found the wrecked hideout. Lionel wonders where Vicki and the others are now.

Ah heck, I'll throw in a third chapter for you.

Vicki and the others are fleeing. They listen to the news on the radio. The GC have searched their hideout and arrested Cyrus and his remaining followers. In a rare show of compassion, Tanya is worried about her father, saying that if they don't accept God, there's no hope.

Meanwhile, Sam is flirting with Naomi, but the bulk of the Petra section is taken up with a sermon from Token Jew. :prepares to grind teeth: For those of you who want to follow along, he's preaching on Isaiah, chapter 43. Great, I get to see one of my favorite prophets dragged into this.

Naturally, Token Jew skips over what prophets like Isaiah spent most of their time on: social justice. After all, what relevance would those verses about taking care of the less fortunate have in the End Times? Honestly...

He goes on and on about how much God loves us, which might have relevance if He didn't spend most of this time killing His people horribly.

“Do not think that when trials and hardship come to your life that God has abandoned you. When you experience these deep waters and the heat of the fire, remember that these are for your good. The deep water is not designed to drown, but to cleanse. The fire will not consume—it is meant to refine.”

If anyone doubts that the Left Behind gospel can be summed up as "He beats me but it's okay and I'm real sorry, Mister Lord, for making you so angry in the first place," point them towards this little section. Because that's essentially what Ellanjay are saying.

After Token Jew finishes his sermon, another token Jew, Chaim (still calling himself Micah) speaks. Chaim's speech is basically preach and preach to the unsaved without ceasing and it would be nice if any of the characters actually followed that, instead of just standing around and smirking about how they got it all figured out. Chaim ends his speech with a word to the young people. I'm assuming that Ellanjay put this in for the young readers of this series (this is Children's fiction after all).

“In fact, in the Scriptures we read these words from the apostle Paul. ‘Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you teach, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.’ So no matter what age you are, no matter how long you have believed in the true God of Israel, let us come before him now with those we know who still are outside the fold, and let us pray.”

Like I've said many times, it'd be nice if the characters actually practiced what they preached. Since when have we seen any of the Tribbles trying to witness by being a living example of God's love? They do a lot of talking, but they seem content to hide in their hole-in-the-ground while everyone else dies horribly of hunger and thirst.

What do you call it when the writers say something about their characters then have all their actions contradict what they've told us? Really shitty writing, that's what! Okay to be fair, you can have hypocrites as characters--in the real world, most people are hypocrites about something--but the thing about that is it only works when the writers are aware that their characters' actions and words aren't lining up. Ellanjay lack that awareness.

The chapter ends with Vicki and the others at the new hideout. Marshall, a character I've completely forgotten about, says that the news showed a shot of their people being told to take the Mark or die. Some did, but a few didn't and were killed. And that's where I'll leave you for this week.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Love and Marriage Go Together Like a Horse-Drawn Carriage

Again, normally telling or summarizing when you should be showing would be a bad thing, but it's more bearable in this series, because it's less stuff for me to suffer through. It is kind of impossible to snark, so I'll just summarize: Vicki leads the seven former militia members in The Prayer. And yes, it is the same exact prayer. The thing works like the Bloody Mary chant: as long as you don't say it, you're not an RTC. When you do, you instantly become one and enter into the hive mind that all RTCs share.

Lionel talks to Foreign McForeign about how Judd feels obligated to stay. Foreign McForeign acknowledges that maybe he's struggling with his own issues related to his son's death. He decides he doesn't want Judd staying out of guilt and promises to go talk to him.

Vicki's section begins, again, with a lot of summarizing. I'll sum it up for you: the new believers are oohing and aahing as Vicki and the others walk them through the prophecies. I would give my right boob to see a character, in response to the walkthrough, go, "Hey wait a minute, you go to this verse in I Thessalonians while ignoring all the other verses in the chapter then jump to Daniel than back to another...how is this a straightforward reading of the Bible?" But something tells me that will never happen so I guess I can give up on my dreams of being an Amazon.

Vicki launched into lessons correcting Cyrus’s teaching about the end of the world. The people were glad they could read the passages themselves rather than being told what to believe.

That sound you hear is me headdesking. Thing is, the militia heretics may have left Cyrus's teachings behind, but they've only traded one cruel interpretation of God for another. Like I've said before, Ellanjay keep insisting that Cyrus's militia is totally wrong but frankly, with the exception of their Hindu beliefs, they're basically RTCianity scrubbed with a dirty sponge.

But in the midst of all this, Vicki receives a phone call from Judd. Again, more attempts to pair them together even though they haven't been on the same continent for several books and only recently have they given more than a passing thought to each other. But fear not, fellow readers, we don't have to suffer through pages of characters confessing their love for one another: that would actually develop character in a more subtle approach than their usual sledgehammer approach. Instead we get, everybody say it together, Exposition!

I'll take you through this as quickly as I can. Judd asks that they pray for Chang. I wonder if Vicki knows anything about Chang. Again, I'm forced to conclude that RTCs share a hive mind like the Borg. Chang's worried about his parents because the GC are rounding up all the Jews and Unmarked.

Vicki talks about how she's been thinking about leaving the hideout she's currently in and going to the other Wisconsin hideout. Judd says she's should come to France. Vicki's like "I promised Cheryl I'd be there when she had her baby," which makes me raise an eyebrow. Just how much time has passed in the LB-verse? Because it seems not too long ago she was only three months along. But I'm not going to waste too many brain cells on this question. Let's move on.

Maybe the writers anticipated my critique about how this conversation is entirely exposition and very little character development, because it ends with Judd professing his love for Vicki. Vicki hangs up and calls the other Wisconsin hideout, which is in Avery, and asks if she could come stay with them. But as they talk, Vicki hears a rumbling sound and the windows shake. She looks out to see a mushroom cloud and turns on the television to hear that Chicago has been nuked. Me, I'm like, hello, they've already nuked Chicago in one of the single digit books and it didn't affect anything so why is everyone so shocked?

The chapter ends with Vicki receiving a phone call from Chloe.

The bulk of the next chapter is taken up with the conversation between Vicki and Chloe. I swear Ellanjay must get a hard-on whenever they hear a phone ring. And now I've filled your heads with that imagery, let's move on.

Chloe basically says that the tribbles made it out of Chicago safe and sound, which isn't surprising: RTCs aren't allowed to die by nukes or radiation poisoning, only in manly martyrdom scenes that give them a chance to grandstand before getting killed. Steve Plank is dead, but given that he's an adult character who never appeared or was mentioned before this point, I ask why did the writers put that in? The readers have no reason to care. I know, aunursa, he matters more in the adult books, but I'm a firm believer in the fact that a good series stands on its own. If you have to read a whole bunch of supplementary material in order to understand what's going on (like say the sixteen book adult series) then your series sucks. Of course, the fact that both series (16 adult books, 40 kids) are so damn long speaks either to Ellanjay's incompetence as writers or their avarice or both.

Chloe talks about how angels blinded the GC so they couldn't see them take off. Again, for all their boasting, RTCs are sure terrified of death even though by their own philosophy they have no reason to be. If the GC shot their planes out of the sky, they'd all go to heaven and get the Super Special Awesome Upgraded bodies, right? The angels should be out there witnessing and performing miracles for the undecided.

They talk some more about Our Buck's brother, a passage I'm going to ignore since I've forgotten much of the stuff with his brother. I'll sum it up: Buck's brother is dead.

Then Vicki asks a surprising question, saying, "Is it wrong to start a family during the tribulation?" I say this is a surprising question, because it's the first instance of any RTC considering that the End of Days may not be an ideal time to raise a child. I've said it before and I'll probably say it again, why didn't Zod just make everyone sterile during this seven-year window? The only thing I can conclude is because he likes killing children in horrific ways but heaven forbid you suggest any of the characters get an abortion. Zod can kill any number of sentient beings he likes but humans are forbidden from aborting the unborn, even though by their own theology, don't the RTCs believe that no sin is a deal-breaker so long as you confess and ask for forgiveness? Therefore, theoretically the characters could have abortions, confess, and remain free and clear in Zod's eyes, right?

Sorry to go so long on the same point, but stuff needed to be said. Anyway, here's Chloe's response.

Chloe laughed. “I suppose there were people who thought the times were too tough for romance. And some said it was foolish to bring up a child at this time. Tsion quoted a famous author who said, ‘A baby is God’s way of saying he wants the world to go on.’ I’ll admit I wasn’t ready for marriage at the time of the disappearances, but believing in Christ changed me. It made me more mature.”

First of all, that Tsion quote might apply if YOU WEREN'T LIVING IN THE FREAKING END OF DAYS! THE WORLD ISN'T GOING TO GO ON! IT HAS LESS THAN THREE YEARS LEFT TO LIVE!

Secondly, yeah, I've seen selections from the adult books, I know about the "more mature" Chloe. She goes from being a Stanford grad who somehow made her way across more than half the US during the Rapture, when the roads were filled with wrecked cars and planes, to being a whiny brat who throws flowers in trash and sulks and snipes at her love interest rather than confront him when she thinks he's cheating on her.

Vicki's like, "So you don't have any regrets?" Chloe's response:

“About marriage? None. Things are hard at times. Buck and I butt heads, and it would be easier to make decisions on my own instead of being accountable to another person, but I can’t imagine life without him. We’re a team. Why do you ask?”

When exactly have she and Buck butted heads post-marriage? From what I can tell, following marriage, she becomes a proper submissive Stepford wife, just like Mrs. LaHaye, who believes so strongly that women shouldn't have careers and should be devoted solely to their husbands that she moved a thousand miles away from her husband. Then again, if I was married to Tim LaHaye, I'd do the same.

Vicki brings up Judd and is like, "What if this distracts me from serving God?" Chloe says, "If God's calling you to be together, it could make you both even more effective." Vicki then asks about all those verses about staying single, but Chloe quotes Proverbs and says that marriage is set up by God and if he means for it to happen with you and Judd, it will."

We then end this long conversation about marriage and get into more exposition. Vicki tells her that Judd's stuck in France. Chloe tells her that she might be able to get a flight out to him, but said flight will take him to Petra then to the US via South Carolina.

Judd has apparently decided that he'll go back to the US with Westin and Lionel. That is all that happens in his section.

The chapter and this snark ends with Vicki and her crew noticing armed figures approaching their hideout. I'm going to assume this is Cyrus and his band of merry men. If you don't mind spoilers, I've already peeked ahead: Cyrus dies unsaved so we're spared yet another conversion scene. Wanna bet that once he's dead, his children, Ty and Tanya, don't give a single passing thought to the fact that he's in Hell? Just like any compassionate RTC...

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Poor Evangelical Tools

So Cyrus and his loyal rednecks are storming the hole-in-the-ground where Vicki and her friends are hiding out. Whatever will they do?!

Vicki's genius plan is to go to Cyrus's hideout and witness to the others there, while Cyrus and his band of mooks have their attention focused on Vicki's hideout. I know there are probably tons of holes in this scheme but given how rare we ever see any kind of strategic thinking in these books...I'm going to let it slide. Besides given that, to paraphrase a commentator, modern militia movements are heavy on the Red Dawn and light on the Che Guevera, it's possible this strategy would work.

While this is going on, Judd decides to talk to Lionel about whether he should stay in France or go back to America. Lionel is not pleased at the possibility of Judd staying and because I like to add more slash to the LB-verse, I'm going to assume it's because he wants to know Judd in the biblical sense and doesn't like the idea of competing with Foreign McForeign for the privilege.

Judd is like "Perryn's death really affected me and I feel like I owe his dad" and I'm like really? You saw Perryn for all of five minutes before he was murdered. You two never exchanged a word of conversation with each other. All you know about him is what other people have told you. So what the Hell, Judd?

Judd gets all emo and wonders just what they accomplished in Israel. I'm wondering the same thing, but then again these are the Heroes who Don't Do Anything. He talks about how they rescued Z-Van from the rubble of the earthquake, but that led to Z-Van taking the Mark and becoming one of the Legion of the Damned. I am like o_O at this statement. Is Judd saying the Christian thing to do would have been to let Z-Van die slowly from being crushed by rubble? But Lionel's like, "If we hadn't rescued Z-Van, Westin wouldn't have become a believer."

Judd then asks, "So why did God send us here?" Lionel says "For our protection," though given that all these disasters are affecting the entire Earth, I don't see how they're safer in France than they are anywhere else. Lionel stands by his decision to GTFO back to the states as soon as possible. Judd asks about bringing the French believers and Lionel, in a rare show of intelligence, is like "Which is easier, smuggling three people back to the states or a crowd?"

The section at long last ends with Judd wondering what he's going to do. Now, we cut back to Vicki.

What we have is an action sequence. I'm going to fast-forward through most of it, because like I said before, action scenes in these books are dull as hell because nothing ever happens. I know RTCs blanche at the thought of anyone's kids reading Harry Potter, but at least JK Rowling knows there has to be a chance of lasting physical and/or psychological harm coming to her characters. That's why her action scenes work whereas Ellanjay's can DIAF.

Vicki and the others are trying to get into Cyrus's hideout, when Tanya hears her father over the radio, causing her to pause. The others work at trying to break the prisoners out of the underground base while Tanya talks with her father over the radio.

I'll admit I don't like Cyrus as much as I used to, ever since he went into melt-down mode. But given how utterly unlikeable the protagonists are and how unlikeable their beliefs are, the reader is forced to side with anyone who doesn't immediately kowtow to the Tribbles simply because that's their only option. Granted what will happen to Cyrus is either he'll convert and lose what little shading his character has or he'll be punted into hell, after which Tanya won't give a lick about him, even though he's her father.

Tanya, following the RTC standard of aiming for emotional wounds, decides to talk about her slaughtered raptured mother. Cyrus mentions that her mother had some crazy beliefs and wanted to share them with her children, but he refused to let her tell them, and she being a good RTC wife obeyed him, writing them down in a letter. Tanya's like "A letter?" and Cyrus wins a few character points by giving a fairly accurate summation of RTC beliefs.

“Yeah. Doesn’t make much sense. Just a string of verses and some gibberish she copied from the radio. I do think God will accept her, even if she wasn’t thinking clearly.”

I like that last line. When a gun-toting redneck shows more compassion than your protagonists, something is wrong.

The chapter ends with Tanya going, "I have to find that letter."

The second chapter...more action scenes for me to fast-forward through.

Tanya and Vicki and the others are trying to get into to Cyrus's hideout and bust out the seven people he's imprisoned for being rebellious. Frankly I think it's rather kind of Cyrus to imprison rebels rather than doing what most militias would probably do which is shoot them. Again, they're a paranoid group of Christian/Hindu Survivalists; they probably believe mercy is one of those effete European possibly homosexual ideals.

I'll sum it up. Cyrus is storming Vicki's hideout but Vicki makes it out of his hideout with not only the seven rebels but the all important letter.

Once Vicki and the group of new recruits are safely back at their hole-in-the-ground, we get Exciting!TV!Watching!Action. What's on the news, you ask? Well, it's a discussion with a director, Lars Rahlmost (giving us the chance to play "Guess the Ethnicity!"), discussing his documentary on Nicky's resurrection.

The documentary also has a clip where an RTC preaches about how Nicky's the anti-Christ before being hauled off and killed on camera. I'm assuming Lars Rahlmost is supposed to be the GC's Michael Moore so I gotta wonder why was this footage included? If Satan's trying to recruit as many people as he can for the battle against God, he probably wouldn't want his propagandist sharing the sacred truth for the entire world to hear.

The chapter ends with Tanya reading her mother's letter and crying. If you're wondering, the letter's the standard altar-call kind of witness we get in every book, even though you'd think if her mother really wanted to influence her children, she'd cite Zod saving Israel from being nuked miracle or even just make a list saying, "Here's what's going to happen." Like I've said before, while these books are supposed to help young believers evangelize, they do a piss-poor job of it because the deck is stacked; unlike the readers, the characters of these books have seen incontrovertible proof of the existence of God. The readers will probably go their entire lives without seeing God swat aside nukes, so this fails as a tool of evangelism.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Dredging up Forgotten Characters

So Judd is a little shaken by Foreign McForeign's offer. So shaken that he makes a very contradictory statement that makes me go "What?!" in confusion.

Judd had known this man less than twenty-four hours, but he already felt like the father Judd no longer had.

Again, they've barely had any screen time together yet Judd is already thinking about how Foreign McForeign is like his father. I suppose it could work, if it was established that Judd was seriously traumatized by all the disasters he'd been through and therefore would latch onto any older male as a father figure, but Judd doesn't act the least bit traumatized. The End of Days seem about as dramatic as banging your elbow on the table.

Of course, part of me wonders if Foreign McForeign just wants a replacement for his dead son. Judd, word of advice: if he starts dressing you in his son's clothes and calling you by his name, run. Forget honor, forget dignity, time for some good old-fashioned GTFO.

At least that's what would happen if trauma actually affected people in these books. But apparently, Foreign McForeign desires neither a replacement son or Judd's nubile flesh.

“With your contacts in the States and around the world, you could be an asset to our group,” Jacques said.

I can't be the only one going, "Uh, what contacts?" But then I remember: even though they haven't been seen or mentioned for many pages, Judd is tangentially connected to Our Buck and St. Rayford. Everyone, good or bad in these books, recognizes the awesomeness of Ellanjay's self-inserts.

Foreign McForeign asks him to pray, saying that Lionel mentioned there was someone special waiting for Judd. Oh boy, more ham-fisted attempts to pair up Judd and Vicki even though they haven't been on the same continent for several books now. I think Nada had more screen time and more flirting with Judd, but since she's dead, that ship's sunk.

Judd shows a picture of Vicki and we can add another mention of Ryan to our counter. Once again, I ask myself why didn't I start a count after his death just so I can prove how little Ryan, aka the kids' series Butt Monkey, matters to his friends. But I'm too lazy to scroll through God-only-knows how many posts/books.

But Judd admits that the last time they were together, he was a real jerk towards Vicki. But then again, all the male characters in the kids' version seem to volley between either being a total jerk or being a non-entity with few if any discernible personality traits.

Foreign McForeign says that if she's said she's willing to forgive you, she must have feelings for you. Judd asks whether Foreign McForeign and his wife fought. Foreign McForeign says they did at first but the process of getting together knocks a lot of the rough edges away.

I suppose there are some disgusting sexual politics to take apart here, but compared with the adult books (for example, St. Rayford's treatment of Hattie), these are mild infractions. Plus, like I've said before, I like these rare moments where they try to develop character and not shove another disaster or sermon onstage.

Vicki has decided to leave and take Tanya with her. Mark is on board with it, but the rest aren't. Finally, Vicki decides she'll meet up with Chloe.

Vicki thought of several people she would like to talk with. Judd. Ryan. Bruce. Two of them were dead, and Judd was halfway around the world. A face flashed in her mind, and she turned to Becky. “Chloe Williams. She really seemed interested in me when we talked a long time ago.”

First of all, yet another mention of Ryan! Secondly, as I recall, but am too lazy to scroll through old posts to do so, wasn't the last time Chloe and Vicki were onstage some time in the single-digit books? I recall Chloe talking about how being separated from Our Buck made her love him more; as I recall, it was before they were married, so yeah. Word of advice, Ellanajay, stop doing the cute little trick where you dredge up characters the reader's long forgotten about because there's only so much space in your memory and no one has any discernible traits to make it worth remembering them. In fact, since Chloe runs the Magical Co-op that everyone must shop at, because of The Mark, we should have had more mention of her sooner. But I'm guessing that they think running a Co-op during the End of Days is light work compared with the work of manly men like Rayford and Buck who do, what exactly?

We get a brief interlude with Chang. Nicky's planning to nuke Chicago. That might be shocking if he hadn't already nuked nine cities in one of the single-digit books. Not to mention that said nuking of nine cities didn't affect anything, so neither will nuking one work.

Sam types up something for his blog, "The Petra Diaries." Needless to say, it's not going to upset Porn as the most studied thing on the Internet. But here's a small sampling.

Ben-Judah stood and spoke to us. Following is what he said in my own words. Dr. Ben-Judah asked us to think about the five most important events of history. See if you agree with him. The first event was God’s creation of the world. Second came the worldwide flood of Noah’s day. Third, the birth of Jesus Christ.

Uh, there's nothing in there about the Babylonian Captivity. It's a pretty important event in Jewish history; much of the Old Testament deals with the ramifications of it. I suppose you can argue it's not really world history given that it mostly involves the Jewish people and not the whole world, but given how The Old Testament shaped the New and how the Bible in general, whether you like it or not, has shaped world history, I still think leaving it out is a grievous error.

If you're wondering, the other two events of history are The Rapture and the Glorious Appearing three years later when TurboJesus returns, this time packing heat.

He talks about how after TurboJesus triumphs over every foe, they'll be peace on Earth, and more babble about how all this horrific suffering is our loving father trying to get your attention, even though He's proven he can witness to his people without killing them. There's really not much more to go into with Sam's message, just more talk about the 144,000 non-virginal evangelists. It ends with an altar call.

The chapter ends with Vicki observing the Mountain Militia approaching Colin's underground hideout. And I've decided to end my snark on one chapter for this week. I didn't know it would get so long when I sat down to write it, honest! Sorry about the post title: couldn't think of a decent one for this week.