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.