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?"

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Not Funny at All

Before we begin, I have to say that this will be my last Wednesday post for awhile. College starts next week and I should probably devote more time to my studies. I will continue Sunday posts, however.

Anyway, Ryan's chapter starts slow and dull like everyone else. Part of the reason is the way Jenkins writes this book. So far we got Judd waking up and realizing it's the rapture, then it's Vicki's turn, then Lionel, and now Ryan. It's practically the same story told over and over again.

Ryan's chapter is better written than most of the book. Basically he wakes up and finds a note and a message from his mother saying that she's gone to O'Hare to check on his father's flight. So he turns on the news to find out what's going on. There's a fairly decent description of all the chaos going on. Apparently, it's not beyond the imagination of a hack to portray this. My only objection is this: if the disappearances happened around 11 at night, which was when Ryan heard the sirens, shouldn't the chaos, the looting and etc., long have touched Ryan's neighbourhood?

As he watches the news, a list of all the people aboard the crashed planes at O'Hare comes through and Ryan sees his father's name on the list. Then he gets a call from the police about his mother.

"Son, I hate to tell you this over the phone, but your mother didn't make it. The county morgues are full, so one is being set up at Maine East High School in Park Ridge, not far from the hospital. You'll want to get someone to come over here in a day or two for identification, but don't try to come right away.

So in one fell swoop, Ryan has become an orphan all because God can bamf people out of their clothes but he can't apply the brakes. See this is what bugs me most about these rapture stories. Supposedly this is supposed to be God trying to get the non-believers' attention, right? Granted there are all kinds of problems with that, but if that's so, then why doesn't he apply the brakes? There are now people roasting on a spit in Hell all because of that. They never had a chance.

He wonders briefly if this has to do with what Raymie told him. Except Raymie's spiel about God, never mentioned the Rapture so nice work, Editors. But he comes to this conclusion:

Ryan had no idea, but he was going to try one thing. Ryamie's church was less than a mile away. Ryan wasn't in a hurry. He just wanted to walk and think and cry. If anyone was left at that church, Ryan might be able to find some help.

And that help at the church is going to tell him that his parents, for the crime of being non-believers, are currently in hell, roasting on a spit. They're going to tell a twelve-year-old boy who has just lost his parents that they don't even get the comfort of the ressurrection. And I'm afraid there's nothing funny about that at all.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

A Horrible Horror Movie

Remember when I said that I would tackle Vicki's chapter on Sunday? Well I lied: I've decided to deal with both her and Lionel because both are kind of dull.

I chose the title for this post to be "Horrible Horror Movie" because that's what this book is: it's horrible and a horror movie, but it's terrible at being a horror movie.

There are some nice touches if you want to make a horror movie out of this: the simple, human details like finding their empty pajamas along with the rest of their stuff. But the trouble is even in a horror movie, there has to be some compassion for the characters and what they're going through. This book, told in its detached tone, has none. There's never a chance that this book will touch some primal nerve and make the reader go, "OMG! This could happen to me!" Instead, the book is more concerned with going "Haw-Haw! Be glad this isn't you!"

Anyway, so Vicki wakes up and finds her parents and sister missing. The book does a decent job of creating tension as she slowly tries to piece together what happened based on her observations and what she's heard on the news.

Of course, judging by the sample of news program we get, they have the worst newscaster ever.

"Here again," the newsman said, "is one of the strangest images we have received from this phenomenon no one can explain. This video was shot by the uncle of a soccer player at a missionary boarding school in Indonesia. Watch as the players race down the field. In slow motion now, watch as all but one player disappears. Their uniforms float to the ground as the ball bounds away and the sole remaining player stops and stares in horror. Watch as the cameraman keeps the video rolling and turns from side to side, showing he is one of the few adults remaining, the rest having disappeared right out of their clothes."

Every bit of this is wrong. The newsman wouldn't have to say what the readers can see right on the screen unless this was a radio broadcast and even then, the details come across as clunky. "This phenomenon no one can explain"? Doesn't the fact it is a phenomenon kind of make it clear that it can't be explained?

Vicki didn't know what to think. Part of her was glad her family was right. She wouldn't wish her own feelings on anyone, especially on people she loved. Loved. Yes, she realized, she loved them. Each of them. All of them. She only hoped they were in heaven. It wasn't like they were dead.

Fred has talked about this quite a bit, how the PMD Rapture theory amounts to a desperate desire to avoid Death, which awaits everybody, RTC or not, and makes a good point. Gone is gone, it doesn't matter if it's being whisked to heaven like Elijah or being sent there by a drunk driver. Gone is gone.

Even the book somewhat acknowledges this fact with the next line.

But they might as well have been. She had become an orphan overnight.

Meanwhile, Lionel, too, is just waking up and finding that his family is gone, except for Uncle Andre and, like Vicki, instantly comes to the conclusion that it was the rapture.

Okay, I admit I did cut Ellanjay some slack when I said it was possible that Judd would see empty clothes and instantly think rapture. I felt that having grown up around PMD nuts in a PMD-preaching church that he would be familiar with the complicated mythos surrounding the rapture and know how to recognize it. It was a leap but one I was willing to make.

I was even willing to accept that Vicki might come to the rapture conclusion, given that her parents, as Assholes for Christ, probably would have brought it up again and again. But Lionel? I need more proof that he would come to the rapture conclusion.

Ellanjay doesn't tell us much about Lionel's church. They give us enough details for us to know that it is a stereotypical black church where people shout and dance in the aisles. If Jenkins was a great writer, like James Baldwin, he would go into detail about this church, touching upon the clothes and the beliefs of the people seated in the pews as well as their hypocrises. But as said before, Jenkins prefers to paint with broad strokes and hope his audience picks up from there.

On Wednesday, I'll take on Ryan's chapter. Turns out Ruby was right: his is a tragic story.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Max Power

A few confession to make before we begin with this chapter. First of all, my copy of the book is a copy that has four books squeezed together. Therefore, there will be no clear delineation between books.

Second of all, honesty compells me to admit that I don't much care for Judd Thompkins, the protagonist of this chapter. It's not that he's a kinky self-involved control freak ala Rayford Steele or a self-deluded coward ala Buck Williams, it's that he's just very bland. Plus the porn style name makes me picture Jerry Jenkins sitting around going, "Judd Thompkins...He's the name, the name you'd love to touch..." I also picture him doing this with Buck's name and I picture LaHaye doing it with Rayford's.

Anyway, this chapter starts slow, taking a while to get to the meat of the story. Much could have been trimmed so we can get to the meat of the story faster but editors are for the weak according to Ellanjay. We do get this head-slammer of a line, though.

She had told him so many times he had memorized it,"Christianity is not a religion, it's a relationship with God through Christ."

Let's begin with a quick definition of religion according to I'll go with the first definition because it is the longest and most comprehensive in my opinion:

a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, esp. when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.

Now let's ask a few questions. Does Christianity have specific beliefs regarding the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe? Are they often attributed to superhuman agents? Do they have ritual observances and codes of conduct? Then I'm afraid Christianity is a religion same as Hinduism, Judaism, and whatever religion you can name.

Anyway, it starts to slowly dawn on people that people are missing and we get another cameo from Buck.

Buck crouched and studied the clothes Mr. Petereson had left in his seat. "Does your husband have epilepsy?"




I must confess that Buck acts more like a reporter here than in the main books that make up the series. He sees someone missing and starts asking about any medical conditions they might have. I'm not sure if this counts as a continuity error or not.

But Judd immediately knows the truth.

Judd was afraid too, but he wasn't puzzled. As the pilot came over the intercom, pleading for poeple to remain calm, the full realization of what had happened hit Judd. He didn't know how many people on the plane had any idea, but he sure did. Christ had come as he promised and raptured his church. Judd lowered his face into his hands and shuddered. It was the worst nightmare imaginable, and he was wide awake. He, and most of the passengers on that plane, had been left behind.

And we have title, folks.

I suppose we should count it unrealistic that Judd immediately went to "God did it" rather than shrink rays or aliens beaming peole away, but I'll cut Ellanjay some slack. Unlike Rayford and Buck, Judd had been raised in a PMD church and by parents who no doubt rammed PMD theology down his throat, so there's a chance that he might see people's clothes and automatically go to rapture.

Also, I think Ellanjay realized that the drunk executive was Fred's favourite character and changed it to punish Fred for liking a character that wasn't one of the main Mary Sues. In the original Left Behind book, the drunk executive was the only one who seemed to comprehend something was going on world-wide and expressed compassion; here, he's just an insensitive drunk. So say hello to a continuity error.

Also as another continuity error, Hattie has the gall to tell Buck to get back in his seat and he actually obeys this uppity woman, thus proving in Ellanjay's book how desperate he is in need of salvation.

Anyway so the plane is flown back to Chicago.

As the airport came into view, it as obvious no one was going anywhere soon. There were planes as far as the eye could see, some crashed, some burning, the others gridlocked in line. People trudged through the grass toward the terminals. Cranes and wreckers tried to clear a path through the front of the terminal so traffic could move, but that would take hours, if not days.

Forget about all the details of the wrecked planes, what about the people? The runway should be swarming with EMTs and fire trucks and police cars, trying to care for the wounded, clear away the dead, put out the burning wreckage, find the missing, and sort out the hurt from the merely traumitized. What about the smells that are present? Burning fuel, burning bodies, and blood all have very distinct odors and should be prominent. I know this was written before 9/11 so they probably couldn't imagine anything on that kind of scale, but it was 1998. The OKC bombing had happened and they had seen plane crashes on the news so they should have been able to come up with some approximation of what that would be like.

Judd raced outside and through the jammed cars, following lines of people to cabs and limousines. He sprinted to the front and stuffed a huge roll of bills into the driver's hand. Judd told him his address and the man pulled away.

Our hero. Lesser heroes would have expressed concern for their fellow human beings and offered in some way to help as a stretcher bearer or donate blood or do something. Judd however is an Ubermensch and the first thing he does is try to get away. I suppose this is a little more acceptable than Dr. Dives or Rayford or Buck because Judd's a kid, but it still shows a lack of fortitude.

Not to mention, since he knows this is happening world-wide, what makes him think that the driver would be able to pick his way along the burning wrecked cars on the freeway any better than he would?

It took two hours to pick their way through the results of crashes and fires. The limo driver said, "Some people disappeared with stuff cooking on the stove, and there was no one to turn it off. That's why you see so many houses burned or burning."

That detail about the burning houses is an admirable attempt on Ellanjay's part to add some realistic detail but they fail miserably. If Judd took off for London from Chicago in the middle of the night, than it must be the early morning hours when he gets back. Who would be cooking in the dead of night? I'm going to go with Fred's theory that it was some post-coital cigarettes. Also, maybe their unattended meth labs exploded. That's my theory anyway.

And I'll leave us here until Sunday when we deal with Vicki's chapter.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Ray Goes to Church

If you need something to do while waiting for my new posts on Left Behind, you can check out some of my posts on Right Behind. They're not bad, if I do say so myself. They have some embarrassing typos but on the whole, I like to think they're better written than Ellanjay.

Of course that may be just my ego talking. But still, go and check them out. I can't promise I'll update that series as frequently as this one but I would still appreciate the constructive criticism.

Now that I'm done review-whoring, back to our usual posting schedule.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

An Interlude Preceding the Storm

This will be a short post because it's a short chapter. I thought about combining two chapters but it turns out the next one is really long. So please accept a brief pause before we get to the actual story.

Anyway what we get is one last brief look at our protags in the last few hours before the Rapture.

Judd, as you recall, is on a plane piloted by Rayford Steele. And we get a brief appearance from Fred's favourite character. And of course, everyone's favourite GIRAT is there.

"I'm a writer," Buck said. "With Global Weekly."

Wow, Judd thought. A big shot. And not that old.

This is clearly set in Fantasyland. How many teenagers even care about journalists, much less know their names? But then again, we've already seen that a requirement of this world is that everyone bows to the greatness that is Rayford and Buck.

Now to Vicki.

Anyway apparently her parents' conversion has completely changed them from the drinking, carousing trailer trash stereotype to Assholes for Christ. I am, once again, in complete sympathy with Vicki.

When she went to church, she hated it. Sometimes her mother looked at her to see if she had listened to what the pastor had just said, and at other times her mother leaned over and whispered the pastor's last sentence. "Get out my face!" Vicki hissed at her.

And the audience is in complete sympathy with Vicki. I'm pretty sure when Jesus said,"Go and make disciples of all the nations," he didn't mean, "Be an asshole and be sure to violate their personal space."

Anyway, she keeps trying to push her father's buttons and what happens is this:

"I think the devil's got a hold of your soul and he won't let go!" her father exclaimed.

Sorry to use emoticons but there's no other way to convey it. This is my expression on my face: O_o

So Vicki can't just be bitter that it took you guys until now to clean up your act or that you're constantly in her face about everything, she has to be possessed by the devil?! There are no words.

But Vicki has a pretty good response.

"What?!" she said. "You really believe that, don't you? You think we're living in the dark ages and maybe I'm a witch, is that it?"

And the world cheers for Vicki and begs her to resist the authors' plan to turn her into a Stepford Wife.

Anyway, not much happening on Lionel's end, just more mentions of his Uncle Andre's whispering whiny laugh which makes it clear that his status as a great storyteller is an Informed Attribute.

Now to Ryan.

There's not much going on at Ryan's end either, just that his mother suggested he go to church with Raymie Steele, and he hears some sirens off in the distance.

Man, this was a pointless chapter. I should have just watched paint dry. At least I could have gotten high off the fumes.