Sunday, February 27, 2011

A Three-Piece Snark

Sorry about not posting for last week. I was in the hospital and unable to get to a computer and by the time I got out, I decided to just wait until Sunday like usual to do my posting.

Anyway, I'll start with some bad news: Shelly decides to kneel before Zod. This is wrenching news, I know; we were all hoping she'd escape like Tom Fogarty, but so much for that hope.

Anyway, the Global Community monitors are in full force and are searching everybody at school. Got to hand it to ol' Nicky Karakoram: he works fast. Somehow he's able to have two people in a school with hundreds of kids, search everybody.

Bruce still doesn't want the YTF doing another paper and we finally get some mention of Rayford and Chloe as Bruce asks them to pray for them because Rayford might get the job piloting his plane. Again, I've theorized that LaHaye wasn't breathing down Jenkins's neck as much judging by how we've so far, followed Buck more and Rayford's barely been mentioned. That's my theory and so far, there's not a lot to disprove it.

Back to Shelly though. Bruce goes to visit her and her mother is there, stinking of alcohol, therefore acting like someone who has lost someone, which earns her the scorn of the other characters. She's also suspicious of Bruce and the bill of goods he's trying to sell which makes me like her even more. She's worried, justifiably I might say, that Shelly has made a foolish decision under duress.

Meanwhile, the YTF are out collecting bibles and Ryan finds a dog, names it Phoenix, and I nearly collapse of boredom. Let's go to the next chapter.

In the next chapter, thrill as the YTF goes to plant its paper and narrowly misses getting caught. But all is not well as Vicki is pulled out of class by the Global Community monitors.

So next chapter, Vicki is being given the Eeevil Athiest Inquisition as they question her about the paper and it turns out the person who snitched on her was Shelly who was strong-armed into it by her mother. :cue dramatic prairie dog:

And I'm afraid that's it for this week. Not much happens in these three chapters and there's nothing quotable. I almost wanted to do a fourth chapter for you, but a lot goes down in that chapter, so much so that it deserves its own post.

Sorry to disappoint for this week.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

God the Holy Abortionist

Okay, so the boys find some way of sneaking their paper into the school paper as a means of distributing it. Yawn. Snore. Let's go to the real interesting story: Shelly.

Shelly's in the hospital and Vicki is visiting her. At first I have to commend Vicki for behaving like a friend, nay a human being, for visiting Shelly and actually expressing concern over her, but as it becomes clear, Vicki is only doing this because she sees her chance to chalk up another on her fuselage. That sound you hear is my faint feeling of hope, dying a slow death. Pray for it.

Shelly repeats the story that the other girl had told Vicki about babysitting for the Fischers and watching all the Fischers, disappear, including the babies she was holding in her arms. Again, my heart breaks for Shelly especially when at the end, she demonstrates that she, unlike Vicki, knows that the kids have been slaughtered by God and are never coming back.

"Why did God have to take those kids, Vicki? They didn't do anything wrong."

Vicki responds with "God took them to heaven," but that doesn't reassure Shelly and right now, I'm wishing this whole novel was about her. Her story is so much more compelling than any of the Elsie Dinsmores that make up the YTF, and she knows something Vicki refuses to admit: The Fischers are dead and they aren't coming back, and neither are the other children, God slaughtered. Gone is gone and it doesn't matter if they were wisked away to heaven like Elijah or killed in a car accident. It doesn't change the fact they're not coming back. Ever.

Vicki immediately begins her spiel about sin and about how Jesus paid the price for our sins, but Shelly refuses to bite. Right now, I'm cheering because maybe she'll escape this novel the way Tom Fogarty did, but I've read ahead to the end of the next chapter and from there, it looks increasingly less likely. Let us all weep for Shelly.

Well, the YTF minus Vicki gets called to the office about the papers. But before the eeevil administration can get any information about the paper out of our brave heroes, Vicki hits the fire alarm and they escape. For Now. But the forces of darkness are colluding against our heroes and who knows how long they'll escape expulsion. But John and Mark, the newest members of the YTF, mention something interesting. Their Bibles, which were compensated by an eeevil teacher, have turned up in their lockers with verses highlighted. So gang, a mystery's afoot.

Meanwhile, you know him, and if you're anything like me or Fred, you love to hate him: It's Bruce Barnes. Finally I can dust off my "Bruce Barnes is Useless" tag.

Basically Bruce found out about their little newspaper and Bruce is peeved. Why? I don't know. Maybe it's because the YTF are proving how absolutely useless he is; they're actually trying to do something to help people, while he knows who the antichrist is yet sits on this information and refuses to share it because he deems them unworthy of the knowledge and deserving of immense suffering. :deep breath: Did I mention I really hate Bruce Barnes? I know it's hard to miss, given how subtle I am, but I do.

Thankfully Judd tears Bruce a new one and never have I wanted so badly to cheer.

"You keep saying we don't know how much time we have left, that people need Jesus before it's too late. So we do something about it and you criticize us for taking risks!"
"Now, Judd--"
"I know you're our pastor, but you're not our father. I don't know what everybody else thinks, but I'm prepared to risk this and a lot more. If it means the difference between people going to heaven or hell, I don't care what happens to me."

This may be the closest thing we get to a Huck moment in these books. Enjoy it while it lasts.

But Bruce says there's another underground believer at Nicholae High who believes they are all in grave danger. But right now, the whole world is in grave danger due to an evil (note I said evil and not eeevil) dictator coming into power, so needless to say I'm not all that shakened by Bruce's words. Bruce doesn't tell us who this person is in an attempt to create some suspense.

Judd says what I was thinking that they're endanger of being expelled which isn't exactly what anyone would call grave danger. But Bruce continues.

"Expulsion would endanger the whole group and your setup," Bruce said. "But this is worse than expulsion. Because of the high profile of the school, Global Communtiy forces want to make this a test case. They're talking about assigning GC monitors to the school, people with authority to make arrests."

Okay, so we're getting some real possible danger here, but I still have some questions. First of all, since when is a school in some distant Chicago suburb far away from the seat of the evil empire (referring to New Babylon, not Russia) a "high profile" school? Also if Nicholae is so all-consuming powerful that he's able to have monitors in every school, even a one-room school in some distant part of Africa, then why doesn't he already have them set up? Of course, doing so would probably lead to New Babylon being flooded with worthless tips ("That kid shouted 'Jesus Christ!' when he dropped his books on his foot. He must be a secret Christian.!") and so many other problems that any reader can probably point out the numerous obstacles to Nicky Cardamon's evil plan.

But fear not, the YTF have a plan! They're going to stash Bibles in Judd's garage. I'm dead serious. That's their plan. To horde Bibles to give to people who want to read them. As opposed to doing something useful like providing shelter to people who lost their homes because of the disaster (though to be fair, they could just camp out in one of the RTCs' empty houses) or stockpiling food and water so they'll survive the plagues. I am dead serious here people. I am only quoting what's in the book.

Next, Vicki goes to visit Shelly who tells her, her secret. Basically, before God came and slaughtered all the children, born and unborn, Shelly's mom was pregnant. But Shelly wasn't thrilled about the prospect of another sibling and told her Dad which led to a massive fight. Vicki's like "Uh your dad would have found out eventually." And Shelly says, "Not if she got an abortion." Then she ends this story with this.

"To be honest, I was kinda excited to have a little brother or sister. I thought that maybe I could take care of it, that it would make things better. I thought Mom might get some help, might sober up. But that night, when the Fischers and their babies vanished, God took my mom's baby too. He punished me for what I did."

It's strange how RTCs are anti-abortion, when their God gleefully slaughters all the children, born and unborn, therefore unintentionally acting like the RTC stereotype of abortionists.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Weather Underground.

Well as you can probably guess, our heroes don't receive a very positive response. What ends up happening is that a few students get it and the rest get taken by teachers and said teachers threaten to expell anyone caught with copies, which will only guarantee that the kids go out of their way to get copies and read it, as Hermione Granger would put it. It's the old forbidden fruit argument which is why I must conclude that the teachers are secretly on the side of the YTF. If they didn't want anyone to read it, they would have said nothing and most of them would have wound up in the trash, along with the flowers. Why did I come to this conclusion? Because this chapter is really boring and I had to entertain myself somehow and conspiracy theories were the only way to go.

Okay, so second chapter, the YTF guys, including two new members, cousins named Mark and John and yes, that is intentional, dicuss what to do if questioned about the newspaper.

"What if Coach Handlesman confronts you and asks you point-blank if you had anything to do with the Underground. Would you lie?"

Finally some kind of moral query in this universe. It's not quite, "Would you lie to protect the Jews you're hiding from the Nazis?" level query but at least we're starting to probe into whether absolute morality works in an unstable world. Here's a hint for those not into philosophy: it doesn't. Morality can only be absolute under a stable society, i.e. one where there are checks and balances on government power and minority rights are guaranteed. Just ask Paul Rusesabagina if you don't believe me. For those of you who don't know who Paul Rusesabagina is, he ran a hotel during the Rwandan genocide and used his influence to wheel and deal and protect the Tutsis he was sheltering in his hotel. Over a thousand people owe him their lives because he :gasp: lied and double-dealed in order to keep them alive.

Sorry about that philosophical rant. Now here's Judd's response to the query.

"Either God is in this or he isn't," Judd said. "If he wants us to do this, we gotta do it. He'll protect us. He'll give us. He'll give us the answers when we need them. We have to believe that."
"He either protects us or takes us to heaven," Ryan said. "Either way, we can't lose."
"I'm not ready yet," Lionel said. "I mean, I want to be. I'd love to be a martyr, especially since I knew better and should have been ready for the rapture, but I'm scared. I'm sorry but I am."

Wait, backup a minute...So far the gravest threat I've heard them mention in the text is the possibility of expulsion which would be bad, but it's hardly Rwanda circa 1994. So far no one's mentioned any real life-threatening consequences for their actions; I haven't heard of anyone being shot or strung up and buried in a mass grave for their witness. So I can't help but conclude that our heroes are being more than just a little meleodramatic by indulging in martyrdom fantasies.

Fred already talked about the zeal RTCs have for martyrdom fantasies so I won't discuss them here. Instead I'll point you towards Fred's words on the topic: Martyr Envy

Where's Vicki you might ask? Well, while the boys are doing manly stuff like talking about martyrdom, Vicki is riding the bus after receiving a mysterious phone call in the previous chapter telling her to do so. Sorry I didn't tell you about it but it was so boring I didn't feel a need to inform you about it.

Anyway, it turns out the person who called her was Shelly, aka the only character who's acting like a human right now. Shelly collapses on the bus and it turns out she had swallowed a bottle of her mom's sleeping pills, which again is a perfectly human reaction. If something were to happen to my family, I know I would lose my shit in ways I can't imagine. Heck, I have a hard time keeping it together to get through exams, and losing my family would be like an exam times a million. So naturally my sympathy is with Shelly. I keep hoping she will escape like Tom Fogarty apparently did because we haven't heard from him in ages.

But we don't linger to long on Shelly, back to the guys who got super-duper special watches. I'm not kidding.

He pulled from his front pocket what looked like a pager. It had a screen about as thick as a pizza crust and was a little bigger than a watch.
"My dad was beta testing these," John said. "It works like a pager, but it's radio frequency controlled. You enter a message on the screen and send it to whoever you want who has a receiver. Instantly. No phone calls, no modem."

That sound you hear is me laughing. Again, as Fred puts it, Ellanjay failed to see the rise of cell phones even though this book was published in 1999 when cell phone use was starting to become common.

Anyway, the boys print off more copies of their paper and make plans to spread their paper around school and that's the end of that chapter.

BTW, if you're wondering about the post title, don't. I just couldn't think of anything so I though "The Weather Underground" would make a nice pun.