Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Misadventures of Vicki Byrne

Much as I like to tease Fred about the rate he's going through the books, I do envy him a little. He has the ability to take a couple of pages and make good hay out of them; I don't.

The truth is there really isn't much to make from Left Behind: the Kids. While the kids series is occasionally jaw-droppingly awful, most of the time it's really dull.

Take the first two chapters of Left Behind: the Kids #5. No seriously, take them. :rimshot:

What goes down in these chapters is Judd wakes up and finds Vicki gone. Vicki has apparently decided to hitch-hike to Michigan to witness to her disappeared brother's friend. Why? I don't know. This came completely out of nowhere and feels completely wrong given the events. Shouldn't the roads still be clogged with wrecked cars? The book doesn't say how much time has passed since the events took place, but if we follow the adult books chronology, it shouldn't have been more than a few weeks. Wow...

Well fear not, readers. Vicki is neither hacked up by a serial killer nor does she escape to a better novel, unfortunately. Instead she is picked up by a trucker with the handle name Deacon, and he makes arrangements for her to return to Mount Prospect.

Anyway we find out that the middle school and high school have been renamed Global Community Middle School and Nicholae Carpathia High School respectively. Got to hand it to Nicky Alps: he works fast.

Anyway Bruce Barnes calls and there is finally discussion about the kids living alone, which I can say, it's about time someone had that discussion. I understand social services would be too swamped to help them, but surely Bruce would know of someone in his congregation who could take them in.

Sorry to do three chapters at once, but I lack Fred's snarking skill.

Anyway, Vicki reflects.

She wanted to apologize, but the words would not come. Bruce had taught the kids about having to deal with their old selves, their sin natures. Now she was discovering what he meant. Vicki had endured Lionel's and Ryan's bickering, passing off as childishness and blaming it on their ages. But she and Judd should have known better. How could they let their old natures take over after all God, and Bruce, had done for them?

Well given that Zod has slaughtered their families, maybe they shouldn't show so much fealty towards him.

Also, it's high time someone addressed the way Lionel treats Ryan. Even though they are both saved, Lionel still acts like an ass towards Ryan, apparently because Ryan didn't grow up in the church and therefore isn't as readily knowledgeable about the gnosis as Lionel.

But still you have to weep a little when you read it, because once again, they are being brow-beated for being kids which is why I want to tell readers of these novels to sin your hearts out. According to Ellanjay you're damned no matter what so you might as well have some fun before you end up going to hell in a handbasket.

Anyway Bruce plays his role of Alpha Male Preacher

"I feel a tremendous responsibility for you all," he said. "I know you don't want me to. You want to be independent and not answer to anyone. We're all that way. But it's nothing but pride and selfishness. The Bible says that as your pastor, I am also your shepherd. That doesn't make me your parent, but if you want to be in the church and in this little group, your responsibility is to respect my authority over you."

That probably means they are not to do their own reading and research into the Bible even though the Protestant tradition is built on self-inquiry into the Bible, but if the kids start perusing that silly scholarship stuff, why who knows what could happen? :gasp: :pearlclutch:

Anyway there's more discussion about Carpathia and his one-world everything, but that's about it. Four books in and still nothing happens. :whimpers: This is going to be a long snarking.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Our Heroes

Well we're on the last two chapters of the first four books of Left Behind: the Kids. Fear not, I already have the collection with the next four books at the ready. I'll be able to continue to provide the highest quality snark for you.

Anyway, Vicki still doesn't believe that Nicholae Carpathia is the anti-Christ because she's a woman with girl parts. Okay, so Ellanjay doesn't say that; instead they say its because he's so smooth and charming, clearly an informed attribute because we never see him demonstrate any of those qualities. BTW, why was Vicki calling Judd on the telephone when they live in the same house? I guess chalk it up to Ellanjay's hard-on for telephones again. Oh and there's some debate about names and titles with Bruce and they settle on Kids Tribulation Force which is supposed to be better than Junior Tribulation Force how? Anyway, that's the sum of that chapter, so on with the next one.

So apparently Bruce has everyone tell their story and rather than talk about the family members they lost, these self-centered idiots only want to talk about themselves and where they were on their faith journey.

I suppose we should be grateful Ellanjay opts to summarize so we don't have to hear every dot and tittle of Judd's story again. But we do get this:

And yet Judd loved to get to the grace part. He never grew tired of telling the wonderful news that he had been given a second chance. God's grace extended to him despite his rebillion and failure the first time around. He realized he ahd been more than fortunate. He could easily have been killed in an accident during the Rapture, as so many others had.

And all those people killed in an accident during the rapture are now in Hell, being slowly roasted alive thanks to the disaster that God caused. Such a ringing endorsement of his mercy and grace. :eyeroll:

Then Beth Murray, the lawyer Bruce hired to help Talia, decides to tell her story. Atheist and agnostic readers in the audience, have your blood pressure medicine at the ready, because there is so much wrong to deal with.

Her story was a new one to Judd. She said she had been an atheist, "but in actuality, describing myself as an agnostic would have been more precise. I worshippped at the altar of education, achievement, and materialism."

[long scream]

Sorry about that had to do a little primal therapy before I could tackle this passage.

You must remember that all other beliefs, except for Christianity, are disingenuous in Ellanjay land. Atheist, Agnostics, or Muslims and Hindus or any other practitioners of any other belief systems, do not genuinely have different ideas about God or the nature of the universe: their religion is about sticking their fingers in their ears and going "La-la can't hear you..." This is because Ellanjay is incapable of grasping the simple fact that someone can be passionately and sincerely wrong.

Next we meet Buck Williams the ruggedly handsome thirtyish reporter. And before y'all get onto me about referring to him as ruggedly handsome and thirtyish, I only did because that's how the book refers to him. Even in the Kids series, everyone bows to the greatness that is Buck and Rayford.

Anyway Bruce begins talking about vial judgements and bowls of wrath in his ongoing effort to shoot what little suspense the book had in the back. Major case of what editors would call MEGO (My Eyes Glaze Over) but it's clear this book was never touched by editors. My personal opinion is that all this stuff about the suffering and chaos of the Tribulation probably wouldn't shock someone living in say, the Congo, or Afghanistan where chaos and suffering is pretty much their daily life. About the only thing that would change for them is that there's no children so the rebel groups will be even more at war with each other. Other than that, it'd be pretty much the same.

Anyway, Buck introduces himself:

"First," Mr. Williams said, "I go by Buck. Calling me Mr. Williams makes me feel too old, and calling me Cameron makes me think you're making fun of me the way kids did in grade school years ago."

Now this is an interesting bit of past information we get from Buck: apparently he was made fun of in school. Now let's have a little fun and speculate on what he was made fun of for. My guess is for being a loser-virgin-cowardly-reporter-who-never-actually-does-any-reporting.

Anyway Buck lists all the checkmarks of the anti-Christ: seven-year-peace treaty, one world religion, peace and love, and he enjoys buttered scones with tea. Oh, wait, sorry about the last part. I must have gotten bored.

Anyway, Bruce tells about the meeting between him and Nicholae and all of Nicholae's hangers-on that we witnessed in the adult books. It goes pretty much the same way as the adult books with all the same problems. Like why didn't Buck try to stop Carpathia from shooting these men. Again with the others, you can say they were under his mind-whammy but Buck wasn't. The only answer I can come up with was because Buck was more concerned with saving his own skin than with the lives of others. Our Hero, boys and girls.

Anyway, now that Buck's done with his story and they all have concrete proof of who the anti-Christ is, and they've agreed to keep it secret so as to let the rest of their congregation suffer horribly under an oppressive dictator, they pray and that's the end of the book.

I'll see you all next week when we start with Left Behind: the Kids #5.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

An Insult to Martyrs

Well you'll be happy to know we're nearing the end of my edition of the book. My edition is basically the first four books shoved together so after next week, we'll have done the first four books of Left Behind: the Kids. Woo-hoo! Only thirty-six more to go. Let's take a few moments to give some kind words to Fred, who's condemned to a Wandering Jew-like existence given how long it's taken him to get through two books of a thirteen book series. I'm kidding, Fred, I love you. I wouldn't even be doing this snark if it weren't for you providing me with the inspiration.

Anyway, Josey has decided to kneel before Zod and Vicki is not sure what to do. That's because in Ellanjay's world, Christianity isn't a beggar telling another beggar where they found bread, but a case of possessing the correct gnosis or secret knowledge. Josey will be lost forever unless she demonstrates proper knowledge of all End Times philosophy.

Anyway, here's Josey's prayer. Read it and weep: Josey is about to have her conscience surgically removed.

"God," Josey whispered, her voice thick with emotion, "you know I've been looking for you for years, and I'm glad to hear you've been looking for me too. I know I'm supposed to start by telling you that I know I'm a sinner and that I need you. Part of me always wanted to do good and be known as a nice person, but I knew myself then and I know myself now. I've never been able to be the kind of person I know you would want me to be. Thank you for dying for my sins and for forgiving me. Forgive me for not being ready when you came for your people. If you will accept me, and I believe you will, I offer you the rest of my life."

I have to admit, Josey's prayer did get an emotional response from me that wasn't disgust at the writer, which is rare when it comes to Jenkins' prose. Josey, who, as I said before, was seeking something bigger than herself, has accepted a small-minded tyrant who will hold every sin, no matter how small, as a mark against her. Not to mention, you have to remember that both Ellanjay and their god have little value for women, especially those who demonstrate any kind of questioning nature, such as Josey with her interest in New Age Philosophy. I expect it won't be long before Josey becomes an obedient Stepford wife who spends her time silently praying for her black sheep of a husband.

Speaking of Tom Fogarty, he and Judd are at the hospital now getting word on a fellow cop and the news is not good. In fact, the news is delivered by the most insensitive nurse on the planet. It's clear Ellanjay have grown up in a plastic bubble and have never heard anyone actually speak. Basically what the nurse says, sounds like something off of an autopsy report written by someone with a hard-on for ammunition porn. Don't believe me? Here's a sample
"You sounded like you wanted the truth, young man. I'm giving it to you. This patient took--" she began reading--" 'a high-speed, hollow-point, nine-millimeter shell to the cheek-bone from less than six feet away, fired from a Beretta service revolver.'"

Do I need to explain why this dialogue is awful? Every single bit of it is clumsy and awkward and reaks of what Turkey City Lexicon would call "I've suffered for my art and now it's your turn."

Anyway, the cop that they were visiting dies and not surprisingly, Tom has some very pointed questions for Judd. This isn't surprising at all--it's a very human response to a tragedy--but Ellanjay have no answers except "The Devil Made them Do it" or in other words, the worst thing you can possibly say to someone who's suffering, "It's God's will."

Judd tries to frame it as a lesson which Tom doesn't take well at all. In fact his response is every human's response to that kind of framing and reading it makes you cheer for Tom and hope desperately that he escapes being converted, because, as you recall, in Ellanjay land, conversion doesn't make you a more humane, caring individual; it makes you even more of a self-centered jackass than before.

"Explain that one to me," he said, "if you know the mind of God so well."
"I never claimed that, Mr. Fogarty, but it's sure a lesson, isn't it?"
"Yeah? What's the moral of this story?"
"Don't wait. If you're curious about God, don't put off finding out about him."
"So a great young cop dies to warn me to find God? I don't think so."

Again, right now, Tom is being Huck. He is resisting the idea that other humans were created to serve as moral lessons for him to learn; he is saying that if others go to hell, than he will go to hell.

Again, I really like Tom. He has more a knowledge of human suffering than Judd "I'm too sexy for my parents" Thompson and Bruce "Bible College" Barnes. He even apologizes for taking out his anger on Judd and asks that Judd not lose his faith because of him.

Next chapter, it's Sunday again which means the Static Quartet and the Tribulation Farce are all gathered along with the nameless extras. But Bruce has already told the Static Quartet and Tribulation Farce that he thinks Nicholae Carpathia is the anti-Christ, but has decided to keep this from his congregation and let them suffer under a brutal dictator because they are not worthy of the gnosis or secret knowledge. Read this next passage. If your blood pressure doesn't rise, then you're officially a corpse.

When Judd heard Bruce's message that Sunday, he realized the point of all the secrecy. Bruce outlined from Scripture what he believed were the characteristics of the antichrist, and anybody with a brain could see he was talking about Carpathia. But Bruce was careful not to use his name or the name of the organization he ran. Judd decided that Bruce had big plans and that he wanted to survive in order to carry them out. He wanted to expand his ministry, to branch out and teach small groups in homes all over America and maybe the rest of the world. If he said from the pulpit exactly who he thought was the antichrist--and if he were right--his life would be worthless.

Our hero, everyone, more concerned with expanding his church than possibly witnessing and through said witnessing, preventing the suffering of millions.

Not only is Ellanjay the anti-Huck, they're also the anti-Shadrach, anti-Meshach, and anti-Abednego. For those whose knowledge of the Bible is rusty, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, were three Jews who refused to bow down and worship an idol of Nebuchadnezzar and for their troubles, were thrown into a furnace. Yet God spared them and through them, they were able to convert thousands to the Lord. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego's example has served to inspire countless people of faith the world over but I think an even better example can be found in Stephen, the first martyr of the Christian faith. Stephen believed so strongly in his faith and was so willing to die for said faith that he preached before the Sanhedrin itself and for his efforts, was stoned. Yet as he was stoned he prayed to the Lord to forgive the Sanhedrin.

Sorry to be so long-winded but Bruce Barnes is a coward, more concerned with filling pews, than with true witness for God. He is the anti-Stephen.

Anyway, Bruce pulls out the TV and they and the rest of the congregation watch a videotape of Carpathia. Once again, Bruce keeps pussy-footing around the issue, going, essentially, "Now I'm not saying Carpathia is the antichrist, but if I was..."

"I am on a crusade to see the peoples of the world come together. I do not seek a position of power or authority. I simply ask to be heard. I hope my message comes through in the article as well."

Now I'm assuming though Ellanjay want to use this series to convert the young unconverted, these books, like the adult books, will end up primarily in the hands of children in RTC households. Therefore, these books are primarily reinforcing the catcechism they're already learning and chief among these is "He's bringing peace and love. Don't let him get away."

Again, Ellanjay have a faulty understanding of human nature. Right now, the world is reeling from the loss of their children. They are right in assuming that this would be the perfect time for some dictator to take over, but they make the wrong assumptions about this dictator. This dictator would come to power with promises to find and bring back the children and initially the world, which is frightened and not thinking clearly, will agree to whatever they want. The dictator would probably pick some ethnic group to pick on, maybe the muslims because that's in right now, or maybe they'd go for that old-fashioned standby: the Jews. In fact, picking on the Jews would make sense; after all, they had been spared by the nuke attack. It wouldn't be that hard to start scape-goating them and accusing them of a new blood libel involving all the children in the world.

Or the dictator in question might choose to avoid human scapegoats and blame the aliens. Use the old "there's an outside threat but if you trust in me, I'll keep you safe" bit. Either way, my message is, in short, Carpathia makes no sense. People wouldn't want to hold hands and sing kumbayah after such a tragedy; they demand action and answers.

Carpathia responded, "I would say that is the perfect way to attack a pacifist, one who is committed to disarmament not only in Romania and the rest of Europe but also globally."
"In other words," Bruce interjected quickly. "he doesn't believe in war and weaponry."

And you know who else didn't believe in war and weaponry? Hitler...oh wait...Again, no one points out that Carpathia is hardly a pacifist because Ellanjay thinks that all pacifists are wolves in sheep's clothing. The trouble is that Ellanjay overlooks the wolves in wolves' clothing that are responsible for most conflicts, not the sheep. As Fred puts it, Ellanjay must be terrified whenever they're in Amish country.

The rest of the chapter is more the same with nonsense about the ten rulers and mention of the Trip-and-Die guys. Since again, I just wrote another War and Peace of posts, I'll sign out now and let my readers, the few, the proud, begin a discussion.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Why Josey and Tom Fogarty are better Christians than the Protagonists of this series.

Warning! Long Post ahead! If you don't like long posts on the nature of God and why Ellanjay's doesn't measure up, go play with a piece of tinfoil or something. Sorry for writing the War and Peace of snarks, but there were things that needed to be said.

Thing is I really like Josey Fogarty and to a certain extent, her husband Tom. Josey is so far demonstrating a more Christian attitude than the so-called RTCs in this book and her husband, Tom, while he's a terrible cop for reasons I've already discussed, again he's a better human being than the rest of the RTCs. That's why I am dreading the inevitable moment Ellanjay is setting them up for, when they get saved. Why? Because in Ellanjay's world getting saved means you give up your conscience. I cite as an example Exhibit A: Ryan Daley who stopped caring about his parents' fate when he said The Prayer.

It shouldn't be this way; becoming a follower of Christ should make you a more caring human being, not less, but once you become an RTC, you stop seeing human beings as human beings and start seeing them as people for whom you can sell product to.

Josey is desperately seeking something greater than herself. Even she admits that the New Age stuff she'd been following doesn't bring her any comfort nor does it explain what had happened to all the children.

Vicki asks why she didn't go to church and Josey gives this response.

"I believed what everyone was saying. People said the church was full of hypocrites, that institutionalized religion caused more problems than it solved, that God was in all of us and that we could find him for ourselves. It just seemed to me that the closer I got to finding the god within me, the farther I felt from a real God, if there was one. Then someone invited me to a Bible study. THat wasn't scary. It didn't sound like church. It was just a place to read about the Bible and talk about it."

It's not hard to read this passage and feel your heart ache for Josey. Josey is seeking something bigger than herself but unfortunately the god Ellanjay's self-inserts are going to sell her is a small-minded petty tyrant who hates all the people Ellanjay hates.

Not to mention, Josey makes good points in this passage. It's hard to defend organized religion when just by looking down the pew, you know that for all his high-minded promises to God, Mr. Johnson won't stop drinking, and while Mrs. Ellison will spend good money on herself, she won't give a dime to help the poor, and that for all its virtues, the family of God comes across as the most hypocritical, petty, small-minded family of all. It's not tough to find reasons to quit associating with fellow Christians, but as the old saying goes "The Church is a waystation for sinners, not a country club for saints." The hypocrites and all the other bad people only prove how desperately we need God. To quote G.K. Chesterton, "Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried."

Judging by the last part of the quoted passage, it appears Josey did meet a true Christian. This soul, who remains anonymous thanks to Ellanjay, appears to understand the true meaning of Christian hospitality. True Christian hospitality entails extending a welcome but leaving it up to the other person to accept, not trying to cajole or threaten them into heaven. This anonymous soul, who is on my favourite character list and who deserves a name, also isn't threatened by intellectual inquiry into the Bible. Ellanjay and his ilk are desperately frightened by this. They think if one finds out that Isaiah is likely the work of three different authors or that the Psalms weren't written by David that the whole edifice of Christianity will collapse. This anonymous soul on the other hand knows that authorship doesn't matter, that these works have endured because they speak to the truth of human experience on earth and that as long as they do this, they will outlast whatever scholarship can be dug up on them. Did I mention I really like the soul who invited Josey Fogarty to a Bible study?

But her husband Tom is worried about her, which is understandable. He is worried that she is making a decision out of fear and that she'll agree to any promises if it means she'll see her children again. This is a justifiable fear because that's what Ellanjay sell: fear-based Christianity otherwise known as "Do what I say or the children get it."

Again, Tom maybe a terrible cop, but he is a better human being than the rest of the Junior Tribulation Force. With his worries about his wife, he shows that he cares about another human being beyond their potential sales value, and he demonstrates more interest in the missing children than Trib Force Junior does.

"I don't know what to think, Ryan. One of my partners, Eddie Edwards, I think he's really intrigued by all this. He thinks he has it figured out because so many people who talked about the Rapture were among those who disappeared. But there were a lot of people missing who never talked about it. What about them?"

Ellanjay keeps forgetting that the majority of the missing are children who aren't likely to know of the Scoville-Darby works unless they grew up in RTC households and considering that when compared with the world's population at large, there will be a lot more "Pagan" or "Satanic" children disappeared than Christian, it's safe to assume that most of the missing never talked about it. Not to mention all the raptured fetuses and babies who couldn't talk about it.

Meanwhile, Bruce and Lionel have a discussion about Talia and wonder whether her conversion was genuine or not, and I roll my eyes all the way into the back of my head as they continue to insist that conversions shouldn't be motivated by fear when in Ellanjay's universe, that's the only thing that motivates conversion: fear. The only difference between God and Satan in these books is that one is bloodier and more violent and therefore wins.

Anyway, two of Fogarty's colleagues were shot and Judd decides to go with Tom to visit them at the hospital. While on the way, Judd tries to chalk another on his fuselage.

Anyway, so Tom demonstrates again that even though he is unsaved, he has better knowledge of God than Judd.

"Fair enough," Fogarty said. "I'll tell you exactly why. I was raised in a church where I was taught that God was love, but also that if you died with one sin on your soul, you went to Hell. I couldn't make that compute. I quit the church as soon as I was old enough to make my own decisions. I still carried around in my head the belief that there was a God, but that he was a God of love. Not an angry judge, not a crabby parent. Not someone who would create a person and burn him up later."

And the world cheers for Fogarty to resist the legalistic, small-minded RTCs. Fogarty may not know all the ins and outs of God, no one can, but he already believes that God is bigger than he is; that is an accomplishment that Ellanjay can't brag about. As Fred has said before, Ellanjay is the anti-Huck, more concerned with one's own salvation than with the real sufferings of other people. Right now, Fogarty is playing the role of Huck, saying that if God is going to send his fellow man to hell, he'll go to hell too. Too bad, my conversion sense is tingling and I have a feeling he and Josey will become robotic RTCs, blissfully unconcerned with other people's suffering.

Judd wanted to argue. Bruce had taught the kids that hell was a judgment for sin and that had to do with justice. But God didn't want anyone to die and go to hell. He had given the world so many chances to be saved that there was no reason anybody had to go to hell.

Oh really? Well what about tribes deep in the Amazon jungle who haven't heard of Christ? What about all the Indians in the New World before the white man came over? What about the profoundly retarded who lack the means to make such a decision? I'd like to hear Judd's opinion on these people.

But Tom is not easily convinced of this God of love stuff Judd is selling and why should he be? He's been a cop for a long time and anyone who knows anything about cops knows that they see the very worst of humanity. As he puts it:

"I quit thinking of God as someone who made sense. In fact, I don't know if I believe there is a God at all anymore. How could there be a God, in charge of everything, who would allow the things I've seen? People bludgeoned and mutilated, usually by someone they love and trust. I've seen parents murder their own children, children murder their own parents. I've seen people go through things that no one should ever have to endure. Where is the God in that?"

Tom Fogarty has some real questions that deserve answers, not more verses parroted by Judd, and the answer to his questions, I'm afraid, is I don't know. No human can fully understand the workings of another person's heart, but I cling to the Martin Luther King Jr. quote that goes "The arc of the universe is long but it bends towards justice." I cling to the belief that though evil is oft so strong, it will in the end be defeated, not by bloody violence, but by love.

Judd doesn't have any answers which isn't surprising. Nothing in his rich-boy upbringing prepares him to answer for the kinds of things Fogarty has encountered. His response is essentially murder makes God sad but God has temporarily given control of the world to Satan so for now things are only going to get worse. I'll let you all point out all the things wrong with that in the comments. This review is getting long enough as is.

"I'm glad for you that you have something you believe in," Fogarty said. "If it works for you, fine. If it works for Josey, I'll be thrilled. Nobody that wonderful should have to go through what she's going through. It's been a long time since I've seen her come to life the way she did around you kids today. She rarely smiles anymore, but the way you saw her today, that's the way she used to be all the time. But parents aren't supposed to outlive their kids. It's too much to ask of a mother to have her children disappear. And it's happened all over the world. And you want to tell me the loving God of the universe did this on purpose? For what?"

Never have I cheered so loudly for a fictional character. Again Tom is demonstrating more of a knowledge of the character of God than Ellanjay could ever hope to obtain. With his line about "parents not supposed to outlive their kids" he shows he knows what Ellanjay refuse to admit: that Zod slaughtered all the kids. Again, gone is gone. It doesn't matter if they were wisked away like Ellijah or killed in a car accident; the feeling remains the same.

Judd gives the most bone-headed response to this.

"To convince you once and for all," Judd said.
"Convince me of what?"
"That he's real. THat he was willing to give up his Son and that he will give you chance after chance to believe that he is who he says he is. He said he would rapture his church, and he did. He's oging to come back again in seven years or so, and that will be the last chance of all for anyone who will still be alive."

Of course, the response everyone is thinking of right now is what about Ryan's parents? He didn't give them chance after chance; he killed them before they could even have a chance.

Judd then tries to sell his bill of goods with the bonus fact that God is going to kill three-fourths of the world's remaining population and Tom gives the response we're all thinking:

"This is your loving God doing this? Wiping out three-fourths of the world after already taking away all the believers? I don't get it."

And with that, I'll leave you until next week. I bet you can see why I like the Fogartys, Tom and Josey, so much: they're among the only humans we've encountered thus far. Once again, I extend the offer that if any of y'all once to write fanfiction for this series, go ahead. Email it to me and I'll post it on this blog. I am particularly keen on fics about Ryan's parents, especially if you have the common courtesy to give them names, and more stuff about the Fogartys.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Second Chances

Sorry to post so late--I'm sure all two of my readers were biting their nails in anticipation. I'm kidding; I love you all, the few, the proud, the devoted.

Anyway this book is a cocktease just like the adult books. It promises wrong-headed preaching yet when it comes time to deliver, it wusses out. This is what we get instead of preaching.

Judd told Sergeant Fogarty and the two detectives his whole story, from being raised in the church, to rebelling, to running away, to the Rapture, to getting home, connecting with Bruce Barnes, meeting the other kids, praying to receive Christ, and moving in together.

On one hand, I'm a little grateful Ellanjay has put down their usual sledgehammer style of preaching; on the other hand, I'm tempted to pull out a sledgehammer of my own and pound into their heads the basic commandment of all writers: Show, don't tell.

Anyway, Bruce and Lionel go to visit Talia in jail and we get more discussion about whether or not the Rapture is it or not. Bruce obviously leans towards second chances which would be noble if it weren't for the fact it raises even more questions, such as what about people like Ryan's parents who never got the opportunity to take advantage of their second chance? But I have a feeling, Ryan's parents, now that they are condemned, will never be heard from or mentioned again in this forty-book series.

Anyway, later we meet Josey, Sergeant Fogarty's wife, who is currently on my favourite characters' list along with the cabbie. Why? Because Josey is acting like someone who's had her whole world shaken upside down and is on a quest for answers, as opposed to our close-minded protagonists who swallow whatever Bruce tells them. She is described as being into new age stuff--channeling, crystals, etc.--but the book makes it clear that she is at a lost to describe what has happened, which is how a person should be when faced with something of this magnitude: lost, frightened, and curious. She is someone who deserves to be in a much better book.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A Four-for-One Adventure Pack

Sorry to do so many chapters at once, but nothing really happens in these books. :whimpers:

The misadventures of the Hardly Boys and Nancy Clueless continues in the next four chapters as the quartet works with Det. Tom Fogarty to set up a sting to ensnare LeRoy. Again, never have I so longed for Bruce Barnes and his incredibly wrong-headed theology.

Also, Fogarty has to be the worst cop ever, if he needs a bunch of kids to help him set up a sting. I haven't seen police work this shoddy since Sergeant Johnson relied on a group of thirteen-year-old girls to catch criminals for him. Not to mention, again why is busy playing cop with a bunch of teenagers when ever kid in the state has disappeared?

So anyway, Judd is spying on LeRoy who is, stupidly enough, hanging around Lionel's house. I'm not sure who's dumber, Judd for playing secret agent man on some guy who's shown he's not afraid to kill anyone who gets in his way, or LeRoy for continuing to hang around the house that belongs to the nephew of the guy he killed. I might put up a poll on this: Who's dumber? Fogarty or Judd or LeRoy

Ryan briefly reflects on his parents and apparently being converted results in your conscience being sucked out of its socket because he has no problem with the fact that his parents are in Hell.

He put out of his mind the fact that his parents had not been Christians and that unless something very strange and very quick had happened before they died, it was likely they weren't in heaven now.

[long passage of me screaming obscenities about the sheer wrong of this passage.]

Basically what happens next is LeRoy and his partners in crime are arrested and the cops and the kids hang out and talk about the disappearances and one of them seems to make the connection that only RTCs disapppeared.
But anyway, Fogarty asks this question which sets us up for some wrong-headed theology next chapter.

"You brought this up, kid. What's your take on the vanishings? What do you make of it?"

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A Three-for-One Adventure

Our bad gangster novel continues in the next two chapters where much yet nothing happens really. It is a tale told by idiots, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. It's hard to snark because it lacks the grotesquely bad theology and feels completely out of place in the book much like Buck's spy adventure in England.

Basically Judd, Vicki,and Ryan are waiting for Lionel and Ryan is the only one who justifiably afraid for which the others lambast him. Poor Ryan, forever playing the role of Butt Monkey. He and Hattie Durham really need to start a support group. Call it "Characters against Ellanjay Abuse."

It turns out the apartment complex where Andre lives is on fire so there's an action sequence where Judd and Lionel decide to go in and get Andre out. It actually makes a little sense for this Big Damn Heroes moment to happen because the fire department and every other department would be too busy dealing with the disappearance of every child on earth, but the problem I have with it is that they don't even bother to ask about the other people in the building; they only care about Uncle Andre. Everyone else is untermenschen to borrow Fred's word.

Lionel has a conversation with his dying uncle and it's not actually too bad. It's a little melodramatic but sometimes melodramatic is perfect for the situation at hand.

"No! No!" Lionel screamed. "God, don't let him die! Andre!"
Judd covered with his hand the deep wound in Andre's neck as the man tried to talk. "This is what hell will be like," he rasped. "I deserve it, Lionel."
"No! We all deserve it, Andre! But you don't have to go! Don't go!"
"It's too late."
"It wasn't too late for the thief on the cross! Please, Andre!"

Again, this conversation is dripping with melodrama, but it's not too bad though as always are sympathies are with Andre rather than Lionel.

But when Lionel and Judd get out of the building, Judd's car is gone and with it, Ryan and Vicki.

Ryan and Vicki, it turns out, didn't escape to a better story but high-tailed at as soon as they saw LeRoy, aka the guy Andre was in trouble with, coming.

But Lionel is not in a good mood and who could blame him after what he's witnessed. But Vicki, desperately looking for asshole points, tries to comfort him in the worst possible way.

"Because we love you," she said. "That's why. We need you in this family. I feel awful for you and sorry for your uncle, but from what you tell me, he knew the truth and had every chance to accept Christ."

See this is why you don't convert to RTC religion: because there's nothing at all about the love of Christ in this conversation. In fact, RTC religion as many have said, is akin to spell-casting. Without saying the magic words, God's hands are tied and you're going to hell, but if you do say the magical words, you can run circumvent God.

Judd offers these words of comfort.

"You didn't mess up, Lionel. I hate to say it, but Andre messed up. There was nothing more you could do. You explained. You pleaded with him. Plus, he knew all this from the beginning. He was raised the same way you were."

All the on-screen damned apparently had heard of Christ somewhere along the way, but Ellanjay neglects to deal with the off-screen damned. What about some lost tribe in the South American jungle who have never seen a white man, let alone heard of Christ? What about them, Ellanjay?

But anyway, that's it for this week. Hopefully soon we'll be back to wrong-headed preaching and I'll have more to talk about.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Meeting up with Uncle Andre

Glad to see we are in agreement that Ryan's the butt monkey of the series. I like it when people agree with me.

Anyway, these next two chapters are a jarring shift in tone. Basically Lionel goes out in search of his uncle and what follows is a gangster-novel that tries to convince is it's in the hood when really it's written by a middle-aged white guy. Jerry Jenkins ain't no Mario Puzo, that's for sure. These chapters feel like they belong in another novel, not one where all the children have disappeared, save for those too tall for the rapture line.

So anyway like I said, Lionel goes to meet up with his uncle's fiancee and they have a few conversations.

Lionel tried to talk to her, mostly to simply change the subject. "So, Talia," he said, "where were you when the disappearances happened?"
"What?" She said, as if demanding to know what in the world he was talking about. "Where was I?"
"Yeah. Simple question. Everybody remebers where they were. I was slepping in my basement with Andre. Where were you?"

This conversation isn't too bad except that Talia should be able to instantly answer where she was when all the world's children disappeared. In fact this parody of a gangster film shouldn't be happening; both Lionel and Talia should be hold up in their houses, hoping and praying that the rioters leave them alone as they count their slowly dwindling supplies of canned food.

Talia starts crying and Lionel, being the compassionate guy that he is, takes this opportunity to chalk up another on his fuselage.

"It's not too late, Talia," Lionel said. "I'm a believer now, and so are three of my friends and lots of other people--"
"No! No! It's too late. When Jesus took the Christians away, the Holy Ghost left and nobody can be saved anymore!"

I take Ellanjay is using this opportunity to attack a popular end times belief. Fred can probably dissect it better than I but for a while, the belief was the Rapture was it. No more chances, no more nothing. Those left behind were damned and there was nothing they could do about it.

Okay, so we finally meet Uncle Andre and I kind of like him even though the book says I shouldn't. Why? Because Uncle Andre is acting like a man who has lost everything that ever mattered unlike his smarmy asshole of a nephew. Here's his description:

Andre was barefoot and wore a pair of old, shiny suit pants and a sleeveless T-shirt with food stains down the front. He appeared not to have bathed for days. His hair was matted, his facial hair patchy. His breath smelled of alcohol, and his dark eyes were bloodshot.

This is how people respond to a crisis of the magnitude spoken of in the book: they fall to pieces.

Of course Lionel is too busy looking down on his uncle for drinking and smoking to offer him any comfort and we get some evidence that Lionel's mother, Lucinda, was like Irene Steele: a preachy harridan that was generally no fun to be around.

There had never been cigarettes or booze in Lionel's house. When guests asked his mother if she minded if they smoked, she always said kindly, "Of course not. I have an air-conditioned facility for you just beyond that door." It was the door to the driveway.

Apparently a RTC woman doesn't just say "I'd prefer it if you don't smoke in my house." An RTC woman goes the passive-aggressive route. Between this and Irene Steele's fanatical insistence upon Raymie not knowing his father drank, no wonder Beverly LaHaye responded by moving a thousand miles away from her husband; any less would tarnish her purity.

Anyway not much happens in the second chapter except a continuing parody of a gangster novel. Strangely enough, I find myself wishing for more preaching. At least it would give me something to talk about since it's so wrong-headed.


I think I'm starting to develop Stockholm Syndrome thanks to these books.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Everybody Expects the Ellanjay Inquisition

You'd think now that Ryan's capitulated and accepted that his parents deserve to be in Hell for all eternity because God can't apply the brakes that the other characters would lay off of him. You're thinking wrong, pardner. Ryan is the series' butt monkey further illustrated by the fact that despite Bruce's one in four predictions, he's the only one who actually dies.

But anyway this chapter starts with Bruce calling Judd and saying he's concerned about Ryan. Why?

"Well I have no doubt his decision was real," Bruce said. "I just want to make sure it wasn't something down totally out of fear. He was afraid something might happen to him, that Lionel's uncle's friends or enemies might catch him and kill him."

Whoa, whoa, whoa, let's back up here. Basically the purpose of these novels is to show what happens to those Left Behind, right? To scare kids with the horrors of the Tribulation, right? So in other words, you're using fear in order to chalk up more saveds on your fuselage yet now you're saying that the decision to receive Christ is one that shouldn't be motivated by fear?

Never has the verse, Physician heal thyself, seemed more appropriate.

So Judd decides to rack up more Asshole points by badgering Ryan. Vicki, aka Stepford Wife-In-Training, helps.

"So Ryan," Judd tried, "how does it feel to be part of the family?"

Need I remind you that Ryan's newfound acceptance of this family hinges on him accepting that his old one is suffering for all eternity. Again, this whole having to reject all members of your past family in order to fit in with the new family seems more like something out of Jim Jones's handbook than that of Jesus Christ.

But Ryan has clearly sipped the flavor-aid and responds this way.

"Great," Ryan said. "I still miss my parents, and I know I always will. And I'm still hoping that they somehow became Christians before they died. But I'm glad I'm going to heaven."


Wow...I know Ellanjay means for us to cheer that Ryan's now on the right path, but all I can think of is that quote from Invasion of the Bodysnatchers that Firedrake posted in response to another post. There really is no feeling, no conscience behind those words.

But the fact that Ryan has forsaken his parents to an eternity of suffering without end isn't enough to please the grand inquistor aka Judd. Judd asks, "Isn't it great to have our sins forgiven?" But Ryan demonstrates he still has a little of that pesky self-will and responds:

"I guess," Ryan said. "I wasn't that much of a sinner, though."

Of course, none of them were really that much of a sinner. Judd's sins consisted of not honouring his mother and father, lying to them, committing credit card fraud, and sipping champagne. Vicki's sins were not honouring her mother and father, though frankly if I had them for parents I wouldn't honour them either, doing drugs, and dressing like a skank. Those are the big sinners among the group. The further we get down the line, the harder it is to see what their sins were. Lionel, apparently, thought too much. Ryan's sin was not instantly biting the hook which Raymie presented to him. These are the kinds of sins commmitted by kids all the time. While Bruce Barnes, in Fred's words, was scarcely a quarter-assed sinner, these kids aren't even that. They're ordinary kids who are being treated like they're one step away from the anti-Christ.

"Oh really?" Judd said. "You were the almost-perfect kid, huh?"
"No. But the only time I did bad stuff was when I was mad or something. I was never bad on purpose."
Now Vicki got into the discussion. "Never lied, never cheated,never stole, were never jealous of anybody or wanted revenge? Never gossiped?

Once again, they're trying to unload their product by making kids feel guilty simply for being kids. At least in the adult books, they had the characters commit actual sins even if they confessed to the wrong ones.

That's why I almost want to tell the kids who read this series to sin your hearts out. According to Ellanjay, you're damned if you do, damned if you don't, so you might as well have a little fun before you end up going to hell in a handbasket.

"I'm just saying," Judd said, "no matter how good or bad we are, no matter how much our good outweighs our bad, the whole point is that we fall short. We all need to be forgiven. That's what it means to be saved."
"So I'm not saved because I wasn't really a sinner? I mean, I guess I was a sinner the way everybody's a sinner, but because I didn't see myself that way?"

That last bit of dialogue is the reason editors exist. I've read it several times and I still barely understand what it says. But this still reeks of Judd the Grand Inquisitor/salesman trying to convince Ryan the Butt Monkey that he's really a sinner so he can unload another product on him.

"How do you see yourself now?" Judd asked.
"From what?"
"But not from your sins?"

In a perfect world, Ryan would go, "Look I've accepted my parents are in hell because the almighty creator of the universe can't apply the brakes. What more do you want from me, Torquemadas?"

But anyway, following the inquisition, the kids go to church. It's pretty much a repeat of what was in the adult books with all the problems that go with it. Their kids are gone and all they can talk about is where they were on their personal faith journey?! These are the most self-centered Christians ever. Oh and Bruce warns against using the hypothetical bus scenario all the while using it. No one ever said these books weren't dripping with irony.

Anyway, the next part is another newscast where the kids watch Nicky Semien give his speech to the U.N. I'm fairly certain at this point Ellanjay just copied and pasted from the adult books only pausing to change a few details in his hurry to get this puppy on the shelves. Anyway the chapter ends with the characters all positive that Nicky isn't the anti-Christ, thus allowing the readers to feel smug because they're smarter than the characters.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Ryan Kneals Before Zod

I'll be covering two chapters this time around.

Anyway first chapter begins with Ryan riding away on his bike and thinking.

Yeah,they treated him like a baby and used names for him that made him feel even smaller and younger. But he had been acting like a baby.

I think it's clear Ryan has a touch of Stockholm Syndrome. Every part of this reads as an abused spouse saying, "He beats me but it's okay." Keep riding, Ryan. You owe these people nothing.

Anyway, I think Ellanjay realizes how much sympathy Ryan and his parents are attracting so they attempt an Authors Saving Throw by having Ryan reminisce about his Aunt Evelyn and we see this following conversation between him and his parents.

"Your dad says your uncle Walter's wife has always been some kind of a religious nut, Ryan," his mother had said. "But she means well. She's been good for Walter."
"Good for him?" Mr. Daley had chimed in. "Took all the fun out of him if you ask me. Got him the old-time religion and he became a Holy Joe."
"He was still fun, Dad," Ryan had said. "He was always being funny."
"He kept telling us we need Jesus," Mr. Daley said. "But frankly I don't feel the need for anything."

See, see, Ellanjay appear to be saying, they scoffed at Zod and now they're burning for all eternity. Of course, most of us are thinking,"So what? They're being tortured for all eternity over an off-the-cuff remark."

Basically Aunt Evelyn is a Jack Chick type character, the one evangelist thrown in so when the characters laugh at him or her and go to Hell, the writer can point to him or her and say, "See they had a chance." Because again, despite being told over and over again not to make rash decisions, the word of Zod is supposed to be so amazing that instant you hear it, you convert on the spot.

He wondered how many chances his parents had had. His dad always had some comment when he saw a preacher on television. He thought they were all crooks, but he never kept the TV channel on any church program long enough to hear what they had to say.

Again, we don't know the story of Ryan's parents. We don't know if a priest touched Mr. Daley or if he just did some studying on his own and found faith in God to be incompatible with what he knew to be right.

Once again, I have to ask, someone write fanfiction for Ryan's parents.

The rest of the chapter is a long action scene in which Ryan goes to Lionel's house to check on the hoods crashing there. Lionel should really give Ryan a damn medal for his work: he risked his life on his behalf after the way Lionel treated him. Anyway what happens is they spot them and Ryan has to peddle for his life and at some point, Ryan says some variation on The Prayer.

Next chapter, we cut to the others who are sitting around wondering where Ryan is. Also, Judd and Vicki talk.

"So do I, Vicki, but I made an ultimatum and I have to stick to it."
"No you don't. We're not about ultimatums. We're about mercy and grace, like Bruce always says."

Mercy and grace is what Christianity is supposed to be about but too bad the characters never listen to themselves and actually practice what they preach.

Also Lionel continually proves himself to be the most assholish character.

"I could be wrong," Lionel said, "but I think he's too chicken to get himself into trouble. That kid wouldn't go with me into his own house in broad daylight."
"He knows you think that too," Vicki said. "Maybe he went and did something foolish to try to prove himself to you."
"I doubt it," Lionel said. "I told you he just blew me off when I tried to apologize."

As would any sane person because you weren't apologizing because you were genuinely sorry, you were apologizing because you were afraid you were hurting your sales quota. Anyone could see that.

Anyway, Bruce, Judd, Vicki, and Lionel start getting into a discussion about the anti-christ. Vicki suggests that it might be President Fitzhugh which provokes this response from Bruce.

"I'd be very surprised if it was President Fitzhugh," Bruce said. "This week I want you to be reading the passages I have outlined on this sheet. It tells some of the characteristics of the anti-christ and one of them is that he has some sort of blood ties with the Roman Empire."

If blood ties with the Roman Empire are key, than a good chunk of the population is the anti-Christ given how far and wide the Empire spread. Also, I think I should translate what Bruce said, just to be sure you got the message: Silly weak female, everyone knows America is the greatest nation on earth, and all our actions are infalliably right. Even the corrupt dictators we prop up around the world are morally infalliable just because of their attachment to America. Now get back in the kitchen and bake us some brownies, sweetheart.

Anyway, Bruce serves to kill any suspense by pointing out the whole one in four will die which probably doesn't mean much to people living in places like Sudan or the Congo where one in four dying is pretty much a reality there.

Anyway, Ryan shows up and tells them his story and asks this question.

"I got to thinking when I was on Raymie's street, what happens if LeRoy catches me? Or what happens if I don't see some car and I shoot in front of it? I could die. Then where would I be? I made my decision and said my prayer while I was on that bike. Is that OK? I mean, I didn't even have the breath to say it out loud. Does it still count?"

The response is that it does count and the love-bombing ensues just as I predicted.

And that's it for this week. I'd like to remind all of you that if you want, you can still submit fanfiction to me and I'll post it up for everyone to read.

Monday, October 18, 2010


Quick Post to say I've decided to add a poll. Please vote, I'm genuinely curious as to who y'all think is the biggest asshole in Left Behind: the Kids. Note, I left out Zod because it would be no contest if I left him in.

For those of you who are easily offended by my use of the word "asshole", I believe in using the shortest and most concise word in descriptions of persons and "asshole" the shortest one I can think of.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Cavalcade of Assholery

First of all, before we dive into the cavalcade, I must make an announcement. I can't say for certain but judging by how this chapter begins with a rundown of the events of all the previous chapters, I think we're in the second book. Woo-hoo [pauses to dance around maypole and whoop it up] Only thirty-nine books left to go. This is going to take awhile but given how long it's taken Fred to go through Trib Force, not that it hasn't been worth waiting, I should be grateful. At least, I'm not, like him, condemned to a wandering Jew like existence until the last book is snarked. I might be able to accomplish this within my lifetime. Anyway, onto the cavalcade.

They believed not only in God, but also in Christ. And they weren't just churchgoers. These were people who had believed that the way to God, the way to heaven was through Christ. In other words, they did not agree with so many people who believed that if you just tried to live right and be good and treat other people fairly, you could earn your way to heaven and to favor with God.

Remember in Ellanjay's universe, you cannot passionately and sincerely believe in another faith, because all other faiths are disingenuous. They do not have their own ideas about faith or the nature of God; their faith consists of sticking their heads in the sand and going, "La-La-La! Can't hear you!" As a result in Ellanjay's mind, these faiths can't possibly be doing good deads, healing the sick and taking care of the poor, with out an ulterior motive.

But Ryan Daley was still a holdout. He was scared. He was sad. He was angry. And while he'd been hanging out with Lionel since they had met, Lionel made him feel like a wimp. Well, he didn't just feel like one. He was one. Lionel seemed brave. He confronted his uncle's enemies, he had been to the morgue to try to identify his uncle's body, and he had gone into Ryan's house after a burglary. Ryan couldn't force himself to do any of that stuff, and it made him feel terrible.

Which he shouldn't because he's a twelve-year-old boy, not Superman. Poor Ryan has enough guilt and shame on his shoulders and he's only going to get more heaped on him, instead of the comfort he desperately needs.

And here it comes, boys and girls, the cavalcade as promise. Step right up, come one, come all. See how not to live as a follower of Christ!

Judd had called the kids together one evening after they had all recieved their Bibles from Bruce. "I'm not trying to be the boss or anything," he began, "but I am the oldest and this is my house, and so there are going to be some rules. To stay in this house, we all have to agree to watch out for each other. Let each other know where you are all the time so we don't worry about you. Don't do anything stupid like getting in trouble, breaking the law, staying out all night, that kind of stuff. ANd I think we all ought to be reading what Bruce tells us to read every day and also going to whatever meetings he invites us to, besides church of course. I mean, we're going to church every Sunday to keep up with what's going on."

First of all, since three of them are children of RTCs, shouldn't they already have Bibles with all the passages necessary to the Rapture theory highlighted? What kind of shiftless RTC parent lets their kids pass the "You must be this short to be raptured" Line without a Bible?

Also, shouldn't Judd be more worried about guarding the house from the looters and checking his stockpile of canned food to see how long it will last since it should be too dangerous to go to the grocery store? At least that's how it would play out in a competently written book.

Once again, I keep thinking about how Ebony from the Tribe would handle this. For those of you who don't know, The Tribe was a kiwi drama that ran until 2003. It was about a world where a virus had wiped out all the adults, leaving behind only the children. Ebony was the series's Magnificent Bastard who played all the Tribes against each other and would have effectively ruled the city where it not for outside forces beyond her control.

Now, I'll admit The Tribe wasn't a perfect series: it was more of a teen soap opera, when it should have been closer in tone to Cormac McCarthy's The Road but it did a damn better job of showing kids trying to function without adults than Ellanjay. Some of the kids tried to work towards a healthy future, some were just in for themselves, and others went plain crazy.

But anyway, if Ebony was in this book, she would play all the kids against each other and would make mincemeat out of Judd. Heck, as said before, she would make mincemeat out of Nicky Semien and she's only fourteen at the beginning of the series.

Sorry for that digression, on with the cavalcade.

Vicki and Lionel nodded. "Of course," Vicki said. "Sounds fair."

And of course it sounds fair to them; they're in the majority.

Naturally, Ryan protests.

"Not to me," Ryan said. "I'm not into this stuff, and you all know it."
"Guess you're going to have to live somewhere else then," Lionel said.


Wow...So much for Christian Hospitality...Nice to know you're going to send a twelve-year-old boy out, alone, into a world full of rioters and looters, all because he won't kowtow to your god.

"That's not for you to say, Lionel!" Ryan said. "This isn't your house! Judd's not going to make me read the Bible and go to church meetings just to stay here. Are you, Judd?"
"Matter of fact, I am," Judd said.
"I can hardly believe I'm saying this," Judd said, "because just last week it made me so mad when my parents said the same thing. But here goes. As long as you live under my roof, you follow my rules."
Ryan's face was red, and it appeared he might bold out of there like he often did when he heard something he didn't like.

And the world cheers for him to bolt. Leave this unchristian house and go take shelter at one of the other churches in Mount Prospect, one of the other churches that are offering shelter and hospitality without strings attached.

"I'm not going to force you to become a Christian," Judd said. "Nobody can do that. Even Vicki and I needed to decide that in our own time on our own terms. But I'm taking you in, man. You're staying here because I asked you to. The least you could do is to join in with what the rest of us are doing. It's all for one and one for all. We're going to look out for you and protect you and taske care of you, even if you don't believe like we do, and we're going to expect you to do the same for us. I can't even make you read the Bible, but we're going to go to church and to Bruce's special little meetings, and we're going together. You can plug your ears or sleep through them, but you're going."

They keep saying they're not going to force him to become a Christian, but they neglect to mention that they'll take advantage of his fear and sorrow over losing his parents and guilt-trip him until he does, and they'll hold hospitality over his head like a carrot, until he does. I wouldn't be surprised if they started Love-bombing him instant he becomes an RTC. Right now, their behaviour seems more in line with cults than with the love of Jesus.

"And if I don't?"
"Then you can find someplace else to stay."
"He'll never do that," Lionel said. "He's too much of a scaredy-cat."

It bears in mind to remember that Lionel, Judd, and Vicki are being upheld as models for young Christians everywhere. So why do they act more like the bullies who caused me to spend middle-school to high-school, borderline suicidal/homicidal?

Once again, if any of you want to write fanfiction for Left Behind: the Kids, my inbox is open and ready to receive, especially if you write a happier end for Ryan, because right now, he's the series's butt monkey.

Ryan tells Lionel to Shut up and in my mind, he turns into Superman and melts Lionel into a pile of goo. But Vicki has something to say.

"Lay off him, Lionel," Vicki said. "You're not going to win him over that way."

Yeah, don't lay off of him, because you're being the anti-christ (opposite of Christ) towards him or because even though he refuses to kneal before Zod, he's still deserving of basic human dignity, lay off him because you're hurting your sales quota.

"Well," Judd said, "what's the deal. You in or out?"
"I have to decide right now?"
"We have a meeting with Bruce tonight and church tomorrow morning. You go with us tonight and you promise to go with us tomorrow, or you move out this afternoon."
"The man's drawing a line in the sand for you," Lionel said.
"Lionel!" Vicki scolded.
"I'm just saying', the line has been drawn. You crossing the line, Ryan? Or are you with us?"

I'm just sayin' youse better be with us. It's a dangerous world out there. Bad things happen to your body, your eternal soul, etc. We can offer youse protection, my man. [/bad attempt at a gangster voice]

Ryan responds by going to his room and packing his belongings, and once again, the world cheers and Meta-Ryan's fandom grows.

"We need to pray for him," Vicki said. "It's hard enough for us, but imagine what it's like for him. We know where our parents are. If he believes like we do that our parents were raptured and his weren't, he has to accept that his parents are in hell. Think about that. He's going to fight this a long time, because even if he wants to become a believer, that means he's accepting that his parents are lost forever."

Yes, let's think about that Vicki, the justice in the fact that Ryan's parents are burning in Hell because not only did they not say The Prayer, they never had a chance because God can't apply the brakes. These were ordinary people, who loved their son and worked hard to provide for him. We don't know anything about Ryan's parents. All we know was that his dad was a sales manager for a plumbing supplies company and as a result, traveled a lot, and that his mother was on her way to O'Hare to check on her husband when she was killed in an explosion. There's not enough information to say for sure, but their sins were probably limited to the paltry ones committed by people everyday such as taking a glance at Playboy or flipping off someone who just cut them off on the freeway. As I said in another post, only Adolf Q. Stalin-Pot would deem such offenses worthy of eternal punishment.

Again, somebody write some fiction about Ryan and his parents. There's just not enough about them out there.

Anyway the chapter ends with Lionel trying to talk to Ryan. It's notable because of this exchange.

"Are you finished?" Ryan asked, his hand on the door.
"No, I--"
"Yes, you are," Ryan said. And he pushed the door shut in Lionel's face.

I had considered doing two chapters in this snark but since I just wrote the War and Peace of snarks, I think I'll hold back on you. Sorry if I got too personal; the assholish behaviour of the characters really got under my skin.

Anyway, I think that last quote should give you a little hope and make you feel a little good inside, which is nice because next week, I'll have to extinguish that faint, faint hope.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Hobson's Choice

Okay, this chapter begins with them all telling Bruce what they've been doing. In other words, talking about stuff we witnessed in the books. Ugh, everytime I ever have doubts about making it as a novelist, I should look to these books: if hacks like Ellanjay can become best-sellers, it can't be that hard.

But Bruce is not happy when he hears Vicki's story.

When Vicki told of finding the burned out shell of her trailer, Bruce looked startled. He did not appear to be pleased to hear that she seemed to be planning to stay with Judd for a while. Judd felt he had to explain.
"We're not going together or even interested in anything like that," he said. "And we would stay on different floors. We're more like brother and sister, like you said."

There is so much to unpack here it isn't even funny. But apparently RTC hang-ups about sex will endure even in the rapture.

Frankly, I don't know why Vicki and Judd don't just get married now. I mean it's not like they need to save for education or anything; they've got seven years tops. Have a quickie wedding so they can appease the RTCs, then get to shagging. It's not like you have all the time in the world anymore.

I had considered doing two chapters again in my snark, but the next one is so full of assholish behaviour that I've decided it deserves to be enshrined in its own post. It's like they decided that day was "Be a Dick towards Ryan Day."

We get the beginnings of said day here.

"Fair enough," Bruce said. "No one's going to pressure you. You can be a part of this group as long as you want, regardless of what you decide to do. When you're ready, you make this decision on your own."

Of course, Bruce fails to mention that if Ryan doesn't kneal before Zod, Zod will decide for him and send him to Hell.

Anyone want to explain to RTCs the concept of a Hobson's Choice?

Finally, Ryan spoke. "And what if my decision is to say no?"
Bruce said, "Nobody can make the decision for you. You have to live with the consequences."
"Or die with them," Lionel said.
Now Ryan was mad. Judd thought he might bolt again. "He's been talking to me that way all day," Ryan said. "What kind of Christian is that?"

Very good question. I don't remember Jesus saying, "And when thou goest to make disciples of all nations, be sure to use emotional blackmail in my name."

"I've only been kidding. Kids our age crack on people all the time. Can't you take it?"

Ah, it's the old "I was joking, why are you so sensitive?" defense for assholish behaviour. That one never gets old.

"This has to be a fragile time for him," Bruce said.
"It's that way for all of us," Lionel said. "But that doesn't mean we have to be so touchy."

Just because your parents are likely burning in hell for all eternity is no reason to get all bent out of shape over it.

Basically the rest of the chapter is Lionel goes to the morgue to ID is uncle's corpse only to find that it's not his uncle. DUN-DUN-DUN! This maybe the only genuine surprise in the book only because it wasn't telegraphed in advance.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Kneal Before Zod

:beats head against desk: Seriously why did I commit to this series. Nothing happens; they just talk a lot.

I've been reading up on this kiwi drama called The Tribe. I didn't like it because Bray's a massive Gary Stu but it was leaps and bounds ahead of this. Heck, Ebony would have made mincemeat out of Nicky Alps and she's only fourteen.

Anyway, I've decided to cover two chapters because nothing happens.

Judd found himself shy and embarrassed about having a girl in his house when he was alone. He had dated before, of course, but his parents had put such restrictions on him that he had pretty much given up on asking girls out. He saw them at school and after school, but he didn't have on special girl.

So even the big man on campus is nice and virginal. This of course parallels the adult books in which we were expected to believe that Buck Williams, aka GIRAT, acted like a virginal RTC even before he became an RTC.

A few days ago, he wouldn't have cared if he never went to school again. Now he wondered, if Bruce Barnes was right about the Rapture signaling the end of the world in about seven years, whether school was worth anything.

And you've got to wonder if school would even be open at all in circumstances like this, with every child on earth missing. Governments should have collapsed, making public education a non-issue.

Maybe it would be all right for school to start up again, once this traffic and fire and death mess had been cleaned up.

Once again, this is the expression on my face after reading this line: O_o Ellanjay make the rapture sound like a particularly wild Mardi Gras parade, that all the kids have to do is wait for the street sweepers to clean everything up.

Remember this was the scene just a couple days ago:

Does this look like the aftermath of a wild Mardi Gras parade to you?

Of course, he could have chosen to ignore God, to thumb his nose at the Creator and continue living for himself. But he had been a rebel, not an ignoramus.

He also could have chosen option three: mount a war against God. But Ellanjay are the gods of this universe so that option doesn't even enter into the calculation.

Anyway what happens in the rest of the chapter is that Judd watches CNN, Ryan gets Lionel's bike but is injured in the process and his home is broken into, Ryan decides to go to the Steeles and I'm bored to death. Next Chapter, please.

Basically all four kids wind up at the church with Bruce Barnes again. And Lionel has this conversation with Bruce about Ryan.

"I've been working on him," Lionel said. "And I know how important you say it is for him not to put this off."
"It is."
"But it's not like he's putting it off. It's more like he really doesn't understand or doesn't want to. Sometimes I think he understands fine but just doesn't believe in God."

I don't think it's a matter of believing or not believing in God that's the problem here. Ryan, unlike most people, has received proof of God's existence. The problem here is the nature of that God who sends people to Hell because he can't be arsed to apply the brakes.

"Ryan's going to be the toughest," Bruce said. "This is newer to him, and his parents are dead."

So are your wife and children, yet you don't seem to display an ounce of sorrow over them. John List demonstrates more remorse than you.

Not to mention, not only are Ryan's parents dead but they're roasting on a spit in Hell for the minor offense of having not said The Prayer when they never had a chance because God can't apply the brakes! :deep breath:

But don't fret, readers. I'm sure Ryan will be made to kneal before Zod, I mean, God, eventually.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Judd Thompson as Norman Bates

So Vicki arrives at Judd's home and we get a little hint that at least she's not a virginal white as snow RTC like Chloe, with this little passage:

When was the last time she had been alone with a teenage boy without winding up drinking, smoking, doing dope, or worse?

That last part, the "or worse?" leaves us perverts plenty of room for speculation,oh yes it does, but it doesn't tell us much. In a world where young adult literature is addressing serious topics such sex and drugs, Ellanjay is a throwback to the fifties where these things still went on but no one talked about it.

Anyway, they talk and talk, carrying on long conversations in that Brenda Starr dialogue fashion, and Vicki mentions needing new clothes and Judd offers to let her borrow his mother's clothes and all I can here in my head is that orchestra sting from Psycho. If a recently orphaned boy starts trying to get you to wear his mother's clothes, that's a sign you should run. But I suppose this could mark the first step in Vicki's Stepfordization.

I had been picturing Judd as Rhett Van Der Graaf from King of the Hill (aka the guy Luanne dated in the episode she revirginized), but now I've got to picture him as Norman Bates.

Judd was talking about his mother as if she were dead. It seemed to Vicki his voice was about to break.
"I can see why you were proud of her," Vicki said. "If she has a lot of clothes like this, I'd be honoured to wear them. Remember Judd, she's not dead. If everything we believe is true, and we both know it is, she's in heaven."

Which means she's dead! She's passed on! She's ceased to be! She's expired and gone to meet her maker! She's a stiff! Bereft of Life, she rests. She's shuffled off this mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleeding choir invisible! This is an ex-RTC!

Sorry about the Monty Python ripoff but really meeting your maker means the same thing regardless of whether or not there's a body involved.

Anyway back to everyone's favourite static duel, Lionel and Ryan. Well, basically not much is happening except that Lionel picks on Ryan for not helping him, even though a twelve-year-old wouldn't be much help against the guys in the first place, and goads Ryan into going back to Lionel's house and getting his bike. :beats head against desk: No more transportation logistics. Mommy make the bad men stop!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Lionel: Multiple Contender for the Darwin Award

So Lionel heads home to confront the looters at his house. In the real world, this would qualify him for a Darwin Award because crazed looters plus unarmed thirteen-year-old boy...I don't think you need to do the math, here.

But it turns out that his Uncle Andre owes powerful people money and said people have decided to crash at Lionel's house as part of the payment. Lionel naturally decides the best thing to do at a time like this is smart off at these people. The only reason he doesn't end up dead because of it is because of divine writ of Ellanjay's protection.

What follows is Jenkins's painful attempts at tough-sounding dialogue, most of it done in the style of what Turkey City Lexicon calls Brenda Starr dialogue. We get no indications of what any of the thugs look like; they might as well be talking cardboard cutouts for all we know. But we do get this bit of brilliance, after Lionel threatens to call the police.

"You think the police have time to worry about you right now? We could kill you and bury you and leave a pile of your clothes on a chair, and they'd believe you were one of those people who disappeared. Trust me boy, you're better off with a place to stay. We'll even let you eat, maybe teach you the business."

Unlike the adult books, at least we get some indication that the police are hamstrung and too busy to investigate every single disappearance, so basically, if you ever wanted to permanently settle a grudge with someone, the aftermath of the rapture is the time to do it. Kill someone, stack their clothes, and hide their body. The police will be too busy to bother checking into every disappearance because they're preoccupied with the suspicious disappearances of every child on earth. So I have to give Ellanjay kudos for remembering this for the children's book, but boo them for forgetting it in the adult books. Remember how they went for the old faked suicide canard with Dirk Burton?

After that conversation, Lionel finally shows some sense and hightails it out of there. Meanwhile, Vicki is standing in front of the burned remains of her house and we get a good bit of writing here. Well, maybe good is too strong of a word. Adequete would work better.

But now, as she stood in the cool of the morning, staring at the slowly rising smoke and smelling the acrid fumes, she was overcome with a longing for that little trailer house. She remembered how it looked, how it smelled, how it creaked when she walked through it. She had even learned where to step to keep from making noise when she tried to sneak in after curfew.

I have to give Ellanjay kudos here, especially for the last line. It would have been nice to go further, maybe talk about the little tacky knicknacks her mom collected or her sister's Barbies, or her favourite strapless bra, now forever lost, but I'll take what I can get. I think I'm developing Stockholm's Syndrome thanks to this book.

So Judd offers to take her in and in the conversation, all I can think about is that guy Luanne Platter on King of the Hill dated in the episode she revirginized, who was so desperately horny that she agreed to marry him just so they could have sex. You can't honestly expect me to believe that Judd is being nice to her out of the kindness of his heart. Especially with dialogue like this:

"I'm what God will use to take care of you. You're a Christian now, and he's going to watch over you and make sure you're taken care of. He's going to use me to do that."
"So you're God's guy now, his right hand man?"
"You could say that."
"So, where are we going?"
"To my house."
"Just let me do this, Vicki. I really think God wants me to, and I'll feel like I'm letting him down if I don't."

That's not all he'll be letting down if he doesn't :eyebrow waggle: But seriously, read that dialogue and tell me it doesn't reek of a teenage boy desperate to get laid.

There's a short section about Ryan but not much happens on his end. He sees Lionel running away and decides to run away too. I'm serious, that's all that happens.

And I'll leave you till next week.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

They're Not Dead, Really

Another boring chapter I'm afraid. This one's only moderately boring compared to the last two, much in the way a kick in the gut is moderately painful compared to a kick in the teeth. I'm starting to think this is payback for giving Ellanjay kudos.

Lionel tried to pray. When he had been a phony, a kid in a Christian family who pretended to be like everyone else in the clan, it never surprised him that God seemed distant. He couldn't remember when God had seemed close. He knew that was because he had never become a true Christian, and that was also why he had been left behind.

Once again, we get the delineation between phonies and RTCs. Yet a few questions remain: if his mother Lucinda and the rest of his family were such good Christians, how come none of them could figure it out? What does it mean to be good when apparently anyone can fake it? Also, if being a RTC means saying The Prayer and accepting Scofield-Darby's interpretation of the Bible, does that mean the millions of Christians before Scofield and Darby are in Hell?

But his grief over the loss of his parents--though they were in heaven and not dead--and his horror over what had happened to his Uncle Andre, plus the sheer exhaustion of trying to figure out what to do next, had caught up with him.

Once again, the delineation between dead and raptured though there really isn't much of a difference. Usually when we say someone's with God, it means the same thing regardless of the circumstances. Gone is gone.

It was no wonder Ryan seemed angry,even angry with God. If all of what had happened was true, the way Bruce Barnes explained it--and Lionel knew it was--Ryan had to be drowning in confusion. What must he think of a God who would allow his parents to die and leave him behind while Christians disappeared into heaven?

This is the only flicker of rebellious thought we see from Lionel. Watching it is like watching a crushed insect struggle to regain its footing.

He knew it was hopeless to pray about something that had already happened, but he couldn't help pleading with God to assure him that maybe, just maybe, Andre had come to Christ before he was murdered or committted suicide. He even prayed the same thing for Ryan's parents.

Because if none of the people mentioned said The Prayer, they are roasting in Hell. I tried to find out more information about Ryan's parents at wikipedia but all the website would say is that they were "confirmed unbelievers" as if that perfectly justifies torturing them for all eternity.

But Lionel spots looters at his home and tries to get Ryan to help him, but Ryan refuses and I can't blame him. I mean, the kid's twelve; he's not Superman. What does Lionel expect him to be able to do against a bunch of looters? Just for the fun of it, I'm going to assume that these looters are a bunch of Jimmy Bats's goons.

Back to Judd and Vicki, they're heading back from the airport to Vicki's trailer park when they run into a little trouble.

One of the black leather-clad men stepped in front of Judd's car and slammed both palms on the hood. "Where do you think you're goin', boy!"

For a brief moment, I cheer because I start to think maybe we're going to have a cool Mad Max kind of apocalypse but that is quickly squelched.

Anyway, it turns out Vicki's trailer has burned to the ground and Judd demonstrates what a caring compassionate human being he is with this line:

At least, Judd thought, she knows the truth now.

And I'll leave y'all to point out the number of things wrong with that line.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

It's so Boring

It's so boring

I don't know if any of y'all are Nostalgia Critic fans but I had to post a link to his Boring Song because this book is so damn boring. It has less action than a nursing home. I'm dead serious here; never have I so longed for the screwed up sexual politics of the grown-up books: at least it would give me something to talk about, but I'll try to do what I can.

Anyway, Lionel apparently is the only one concerned about Ryan so he goes after him and we do get this brief acknowledgement regarding the fate of Ryan's parents.

"How do you know how I feel?" Ryan blurted. "Your family's in heaven. For all I know, my parents aren't just dead, they're in hell."

Which is where they'll be for all eternity, suffering without end because God can't apply the brakes. I know I say that a lot but some things need to be repeated again and again lest we forget.

I keep thinking about how my favourite heroes would handle this. Batman and Superman would respond by calling up the league and the various other god-like beings they have on their rolodex, and together they would mount a massive war against the heavens. In fact, that's about the only sane course of action for anyone in response to such events. And again, I am still accepting fanfiction if anyone wants to write it.

Basically what happens in this chapter is Ryan and Lionel set up a tent in Ryan's backyard because Ryan can't bear to sleep inside his own house, the police tell Lionel that his uncle is dead, and I'm bored to death with the whole thing. Let's see if the next chapter's any better.

[reads ahead]

9 pages of Judd and Vicki trying to move Judd's car out of the parking garage?! 9 pages devoted to Ellanjay's hard-on for transportation! 9 perfectly innocent pieces of paper that could have been used for so much better purposes such as wrapping marijuana cigarettes or writing hare-brained manifestos or something!


That's it. For now, I give up. Maybe next week I'll have renewed my strength enough to give these books the snarking they deserve, but right now, it's just so boring.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

My Favourite Character

For those of you who were clammering in anticpation of more travel logistics, this is the chapter for you. Basically all that happens in this chapter is Judd and Vicki go back to O'Hare to get Judd's car. Oh and they say The Prayer and become Christians, but really that's it. Only someone as monumentally untalented as Ellanjay could make the apocalypse seem so boring.

But we are introduced to someone who's currently my favourite character: the cab driver. He's a walking cliche, the rough, tough cabbie, but right now he seems to be the only one, besides Ryan, who is affected by this disaster.

As the cabbie drives Judd and Vicki to the airport, we get this reflection from Vicki.

Now she realized, of course, that for at least the last two years--since her parents had become believers--she herself had been the problem. She had somehow realized that her life would not be her own if she became a Christian like her parents. They had told her and told her that she didn't need to clean up her life before she came to Christ. "Jesus accepts you just the way you are," her mother had told her. "He'll start showing you what needs to be changed and will hlep you change."

Okay, I'll give Ellanjay some credit here: that last statement is accurate. As we Christians are so prone to say, "The Church is a way station for sinners, not a country club for saints." Jesus didn't make the prostitutes promise to stop being prostitutes or the tax collectors to stop collecting taxes before he accepted them; he accepted them, warts and all. So as much as it pains me to admit it, I've got to give Ellanjay props.

Okay, I'll admit I have peeked at the wikipedia page for Left Behind: the Kids and apparently Vicki and Judd do hook up. But I was pleasantly surprised to find out that they don't hook up until the last year of the tribulation. I guess the thought of two ripe teenagers hooking up in the aftermath at so young an age, didn't sit well with Ellanjay, so at least we don't have to suffer through their attempts at romantic dialogue. :shudders in memory of Buck and Chloe:

Anyway, it's little details like these that make me like the cab driver so much. We ought to find it in our hearts to give him a name like we did for Jimmy Bats.

The cabby had fallen silent long ago. He kept taking huge swigs from a mug of coffee and opened his window so the cool night air filled the car. Vicki shivered and wished he would shut it, but didn't say anything. The way he looked, he'd probably been driving for twenty-four hours. She was not about to discourage anything that would keep him awake.

I suppose it is unrealistic that cab drivers would be working at all in the aftermath of the disaster--wouldn't it be more likely that their bosses would call them back to headquarters so they could get an accurate head-count on who's missing and who isn't--but still I like the cab driver because he is concerned with something besides himself. He reminds me a little of the lamp-lighter from The Little Prince.

Vicki then says The Prayer which once again, I have to give Ellanjay some props for: it feels a bit more natural and less wooden than The Prayer in the adult book. Kudos to Ellanjay for that much.

Anyway to wrap things up, they get to the airport and Vicki finds out that Judd too, has said The Prayer. So now they are both RTCs.

:shudders: I feel so unclean giving Ellanjay kudos. I hope this doesn't become a habit. :shudders again:

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Birth of Meta-Ryan

Unfortunately, this is primarily a Judd chapter. Those who have read my Judd posts will know that I don't much care for Judd, mostly because he is badly written. Again, he feels like the quiet Jesus Freak's attempt to guess what it is like to be the big man on campus.

After watching the video, Judd is reflecting on his own sins. One of the main problems with this series is that while the adult books at least had their characters admit to some serious sins, though not the right ones, Left Behind: The Kids is not only shoved into the Christian Lit section but the Kids section as well. Therefore, the sins the kids admit to are paltry ones. About the worst thing Judd did was commit credit card fraud and try to fly to England and :gasp: sip champagne and ignore his parents. Hardly stuff that warrants being tortured for seven years over.

But even Judd admits he's not completely on board with God right now and we see a flicker of true rebellious thought:

Whatever happened to the idea that God loved everybody and didn't want anybody to die and go to Hell? What kind of a God would leave a sixteen-year-old kid without his family?

Unfortunately Ellanjay quickly clamp down and squelch any rebelliousness from their protag.

Judd knew he wasn't thinking straight. In fact, he had to admit he was being ridiculous. But just then he didn't like God very much. He was mad at God because there was no one else to be mad at.

So Bruce Barnes asks the kids to share their stories. Ryan goes first.

"I don't know what I think about all this stuff you've been saying, Mr. Barnes. If it's true, I don't think either of my parents went to heaven. For sure my mom didn't because she was killed on the road sometime this morning. My dad was listed with the passengers that went down in a plane crash. I don't think he would have been one of those who disappeared. I mean, he was great and I loved him, but he never said anything about being a Christian or even going to church."

And for that crime, his parents are suffering forever and ever without end. I know I keep repeating that a lot but since the book never touches on that subject, someone has to. I mean, we're not talking about Adolf Q. Stalin-Pot or someone like that, but ordinary people who sins were probably limited to flipping the bird at someone who cut them off or taking an occasional glance at Playboy. Only someone like Adolf Q. Stalin-Pot would wish an eternity of suffering upon someone like that.

If you're wondering, Lionel has immediately accepted the truth which causes this outburst from Ryan.

Ryan leaped from his seat and ran out, shouting through his sobs. "It's not fair! It's not fair! This is crazy! Why would God do this?"

And the world cheers and roots for Ryan, who is currently, though only twelve, being the voice of sanity in an insane world. Not to mention, he's the only one acting like he's really lost someone.

I know we normally do Metas for female characters because they are so abused by Ellanjay but I think we need a Meta-Ryan.

Judd, Bruce, Vicki, and Lionel watched him go. "Aren't you going to try to stop him?" Judd asked Bruce.
Bruce shook his head. "He'll be back. Where else does he have to go?"

Bruce, I hate to break it to you, but you're not the Pope of Mount Prospect. There are probably dozens of other churches around sheltering those left behind and offering real comfort as opposed to your taunting, "Well aren't you sorry now" kind of comfort.

Now I want someone to write a fanfic where Ryan runs away only to stumble into Lord Asriel, from His Dark Materials. Someone write a fic where they mount a plan to rescue the kidnapped and kill God. I hated Lord Asriel in Philip Pullman's books because he was a self-righteous dick but right now, compared with the God of this book, he should be nominated for sainthood.

Vicki meanwhile, is sitting on the truth, but she still hasn't said the prayer. Neither has Judd. Despite earlier saying that they shouldn't make hasty decisions, Bruce is putting the pressure on them. You have to wonder, was this book edited by monkeys or was it even edited at all?

And that's it for this week. Inspired by Pius Thickenesse's blog on Edge of Apocalypse (sorry if I misspelled your moniker), I thought I'd issue forth a challenge. If any of my faithful readers, the few, the proud, want to write fanfiction for Left Behind: the kids, email me and I will post it on my blog. If you want to borrow my Lord Asriel idea, go for it. Heck, I'll even let you get away without having to explain how he wound up in Mount Prospect.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Meet Barnes, Bruce Barnes

Warning! This will be a long post. Those who object to that might be more at home playing with a piece of tinfoil than reading onwards.

The chapter starts with Judd finally getting home and seeing his family is gone. He had already suspected it was the rapture; now, he's getting confirmation in his family being gone.

So he and all the other protags head over to New Hope Village Church. And they face no trouble whatsoever. No roving gangs, no wrecked cars blocking the way, no nothing. Remember this was the scene just a chapter or two ago.

Yet they face no trouble getting to church and when they do, Bruce doesn't greet them with a shotgun he's keeping by his side in case he needs to defend his church.

Bruce is described as a "man in his thirties with curly hair and wire-rimmed glasses." I suppose this is a step up from saying he's a young Robert Redford, but I have a question related to continuity. I want to know if this is how he's described in the adult books. I'd be surprised if it was consistent given Jenkins's style of writing.

Bruce shows admirable restraint, if you want to call it that in his conversation with Ryan.

"Did you lose some family?" the man said.
Ryan nodded. "They died," he managed.
"No, they are in heaven with Jesus."
"They didn't get taken," Ryan insisted. "My dad died in a plane crash and my mom in a car accident."

Bruce manages to resist telling Ryan the truth according to this series: that because God can't apply the brakes, his parents are doomed to burn in hell forever and ever without end. Maybe he resists because he knows that would be bad for his sales pitch, but this fact is never visited upon by anyone in the series. If they did, there would be questions raised, and Ellanjay, who are the Gods of this universe, wouldn't like those questions.

Now here's Bruce's story.

"I lost my wife and my young children. They disappeared from their beds, and I knew immediately that I had been living a lie. I had been to Bible college and was a pastor, but I always thought that I could get by, living for myself and never making the decision to receive Christ."

Nice to know, Bruce couldn't even be bothered to give the names of the people he lost. I mean, they're just his wife and children. Surely he couldn't care that much.

But then again, maybe he doesn't. He does seem to be more preoccupied with his own salvation then with the fact they're gone. It makes me long for Clarence Gilyard's portrayal of Bruce in the movie. It wasn't a perfect performance but at least he was expressing honest grief about what happened.

But Bruce has some good news. They can say the prayer and when Jesus slaughters them during the next seven years, they get to be in heaven too!

"That won't take away your sorrow, your grief, or your loneliness. I can't even imagine a day when I won't cry over what I've lost. But now I don't apologize for telling everybody who comes in here how they can receive Christ. It's really quite simple. God made it easy."

And for the price of three payments of $19.95 plus your eternal soul, you too can be saved! Bruce's pitch so far makes me think of infomercials but then again, he too, is stressed with the importance of moving product.

Anyway, here comes Bruce's pitch.

"First," he said, "we have to see ourselves as God sees us. THe BIble says all have sinned, that ther is none righteous, no, not one. It also says we can't save ourselves. Lots of people thought they could earn their way to God or to heaven by doing good things, but that's the biggest misunderstanding ever. The Bible says it's not by works we have done, but by his mercy that God saves us. We are saved by grace through Christ, not of ourselves, so we can't brag about our goodness."

The Bible also speaks of Jesus saying this in Mark 10:17-22

As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. "Good teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
"Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: 'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.'"

"Teacher," he declared, "all these I have kept since I was a boy."

Jesus looked at him and loved him. "One thing you lack," he said. "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."

At this the man's face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.

Not to mention Matthew 25:31-46 defines the righteous as those who feed the hungry, clothe the naked, take in strangers, and visit prisoners. I suppose that works can count as meaningless if done solely in thought of getting rewarded with eternal life, but what if these works were done simply out of human compassion as Jesus intended?

Bruce then gives the standard spiel about Jesus dying for your sins and warns against making a hasty decision, which makes me laugh, because according to the laws of Ellanjay's universe, the word of Jesus is supposed to be so amazing that you decide instantly.

So they watch the video and we are spared Vernon Billings's preaching, thank God for small favours, and we are left with this question: "Will you receive Christ?"