Tuesday, August 7, 2012

My Quest to Find a Compelling Character to Follow

Yeah, I know it's entirely too easy for me to get out of the habit of doing these snarks. It's not like the YTF are incredibly compelling characters and I've spent weeks biting my nails wondering what's going to happen to them: you can predict what's going to happen to each character on the basis of gender and their saved/unsaved status along with whatever rank they have in the great RTC hierarchy (because Jesus was all about hierarchy. Don't you read your Bible?). Once you know the answers to those all-important question, you can pretty much predict how their plots will play out, even if you haven't sneaked a peek at the series' wikipedia page. Judd is basically a mini-Rayford, Vicki is Judd-with-boobs, and Lionel is Black Judd. The only characters who had any kind of compelling story that would make you wanna spend pages reading about them were the Power Couple of Awesomeness and they're dead.

But anyway, now that I've gotten my excuses for not updating out of the way, let's get down to business.

So okay, last time Nada was yanked inside a house after she and Judd decided to check on Samuel after he came out to his dad for being gay an RTC. Much as it pains me to do this, especially when the character in question is as weaksauce and obnoxious as Judd, I must admit that Judd actually displays more courage than all the Tribbles combined; rather than just shrugging his shouldiers and leaving Nada behind to go back to Jamal's house and whine about how eeevil the heathens GC are, he actually searches around the house, trying to find a way in so he can rescue her. This is how low my expectations have gotten thanks to these books: whenever a character thinks of someone besides him/herself or does basic heroism, I actually feel like throwing a parade in their honor.

Judd's unable to find a way in, but he does witness a confrontation between Nada, Mr. Goldberg, and Samuel. I'll admit there's actually some decent writing in this scene as Mr. Goldberg makes threatens and accuses his son of treason, Nada  remains silent but unbowed, and Samuel tries desperately to convince his father that Token Jew was right about everything and Jesus is the messiah. This kind of scene usually doesn't demand much by way of writing skills--not too hard to make a comrade falling into enemy hands and a son trying desperately to convince his father of the truth and rescue his comrade, tense--but given how many times Ellanjay have demonstrated a complete inability to create suspense, it's actually kind of refreshing to have a scene with some tension in it. Granted, I'm still not too worried because Ellanjay have demonstrated that they are averse to having the Good Guys actually suffer, so in all likelihood, any suffering Nada and Samuel go through, will take place off-screen and won't be dwelled on too much, but on the other hand, given their status as supporting characters, there's a chance that Ellanjay might be less willing to hold back. If it had been Judd or Vicki in that scene, there'd be no question that Ellanjay would hold back, but Nada and Samuel, while I doubt whatever happens will be too horrific and I doubt we'll see anything onscreen, there's still a little leeway here regarding their fates.

Yeah, sorry about that...didn't mean for my speculation to take so long. But I thought it does demonstrate how you can predict every twist and turn based on what you know about the characters' status: it's like all the supporting characters know they're playing second fiddle to the "awesomeness" that is Judd.

Anyway, that scene ends on a cliff-hanger with Mr. Goldberg picking up the phone and calling HQ, which is a good place to end the scene, nice way to build tension. I'm going to guess that the Ghostwriter wrote most of the material for this scene, because Ellanjay hate tension and suspense and try to murder it before it's ever born.

Lionel is still at Jamal's home and is currently trying to keep Jamal from figuring out where his daughter and Judd have run off to. Frankly I'm surprised that he's managed to keep Jamal distracted so well: surely since Jamal's an RTC like all good people, shouldn't he be concerned about his virgin daughter running off with a nubile American teenager? I thought all RTCs had massive hangups about sex.

He and Lionel briefly discuss Carpathia's recent remarks, y'know the ones that came across as more realistic and inspiring than anything Ellanjay has put in his protagonists' mouths. Jamal says that Carpathia is like Pharaoh in the Old Testament in that he'll do anything to stop the plagues. Lesson learned from Ellanjay: wanting to stop a massive plague of darkness and cold that will kill millions of people, is evil and wrong. Like I said in my previous post, if their incredibly convoluted prophecy called for planes to hit the towers, they would have danced in the streets with the Palestinians.

Naturally, Lionel is unable to keep Jamal from finding out about Judd and Nada running off in search of Samuel and Jamal, not realizing that he is an adult in a Young Adult novel and by virtue of this genre, he's useless.  Still, I'm a bit shocked, given that Ellanjay strike me as the type to value obedience above all other virtues when it comes to children, that they actually have Lionel chew out Jamal for being mad at Nada and Judd for running off, saying that while they're young, God can still use them to carry out his work. Frankly, because I enjoy being contrary and because I enjoy any opportunity to take potshots at Judd, I'm with Jamal. Doesn't any of them find it a little risky going to the house of a GC member just to rescue one person? Especially since, according to RTC logic, if Samuel is martyred for his faith, not only will he be spared more suffering, but he'll get that sweet martyrdom that really scores points with the Almighty and he'll get an even better afterlife than everyone else, so shouldn't they just leave him be? Not to mention, if they're captured trying to rescue this one person, chances are the GC would happily torture them in order to get them to name names and safehouses, so you'll have succeeded in endangering a whole bunch of people solely for the sake of one teenager. I know it sounds coldhearted, but while I'd try to search for Samuel and pray that he's all right, dashing into the home of a GC officer probably won't help anybody.

Jamal does agree to take Lionel with him in search of his daughter because Lionel is the only one who knows the way, but says as they leave that he and Judd aren't welcome in his house anymore.

At the schoolhouse In America! Vicki and the others are freezing. Apparently it's cold enough that Melinda's , aka the unconverted heathen who's marginally less eeevil than the other unconverted heathen (Janie) because she shows some curiosity about RTC-ianity, lips are turning blue and at one point, Vicki stops her from falling asleep, saying that she might die if she does. I'm no expert on extreme temperatures and how they affect the human body (I do know that it's true that if you are suffering from Hypothermia, you better stay awake), but if already her lips are turning blue and she's getting sleepy, then how much longer do the YTF have before they die at the hand of an Angry God?* And why is Melinda the only one who seems to be suffering significantly from the cold? It can't be because of her unsaved status--barely any mention of Janie suffering--so why?

Naturally, all Melinda wants is to be warm again and Vicki, being the tactful person she is, asks her what it'd take to get her to take home a Super Special Awesome TurboJesus Today! But Melinda doesn't immediately take the bait, saying that she'd feel guilty for asking Jesus for help, just because she's in trouble. We could quibble by pointing out that she probably shouldn't be asking Jesus for help period, because he's caused all this suffering and will keep raining down shit on earth because his hands are tied by some cockamamie prophecy hammered together by charlatans and no amount of praying will change his mind, even though you'd think the book of Jonah proves that's within his capacity, but frankly, I'm more commending the book for creating a character that doesn't treat Christianity like The Secret! but with Jesus! Too many people forget that verse in Matthew 5:45 about how it rains on the just and the unjust alike, and as a result, end up saying horrible things to people who are suffering.  Word of advice: when dealing with a friend or relative or someone going through a hard time, just say, "I'm sorry," and offer to cook or clean or something, or even just be there. Nothing more, nothing less.

But the section ends with Vicki and Conrad moving Melinda closer to the fire so she won't freeze and Vicki praying to God on Melinda's behalf, so I guess Melinda remains an unrepetent heathen and should she die without muttering The Prayer, she'll be in Hell for all eternity, suffering from the opposite of Hypothermia. Because that's the kind of deity TurboJesus is.

Meanwhile, Judd yanks the phone out of the wall, thus preventing Mr. Goldberg from having them "disappear," though you'd think he could use his cell phone. If the infrastructure allowing internet access remains standing despite several Acts of Zod back-to-back, you'd think cell phones would still be available. Given that the publishing dates of this book span the years 2001-2002, Ellanjay can't say they weren't inventend at the time of writing; at that point in history, they were practically ubiquitous. Maybe smart phones weren't available, but nearly every other kind was.

Samuel tries to convert dear old Daddy, but like in every other kind of attempted conversion, Strawman Has a Point Daddy points out that Zod took his mother and has "disappeared" millions and killed millions more, to which Samuel can only give the same weaksauce argument that all the other characters give in response to this argument, which is "Zod's trying to get your attention."

Naturally, Daddy doesn't bite the hook and because I'm still desperately searching for a compelling character to follow since the Power Couple of Awesomeness remain dead, I'm forced to latch onto him as my hero. He does prove to be awesome in that even though Judd yanked out the all-important phone, apparently Mr. Goldberg had a button within his coat that once pressed, would summon GC thugs to his location. Props to both Mr. Goldberg, but also to Nicky Ahaggar for demonstrating an iota of basic villainy.

*If you're curious, dying as a result of the disasters brought about at Zod's hands as opposed to getting murdered by the GC, probably doesn't count as martyrdom as according to God's Own Prophet, Tim LaHaye. So the RTCs who died in the quake, or the meteor strike, or the hailstorm, or drank bad water after Wormwood hit, or froze to death out in the cold, while they'll still enter heaven, they probably won't get the Super Special Awesome perks that comes with martyrdom. Sorry Loretta, Chaya, and who knows else.


Firedrake said...

And when John Hinckley Jr tried to assassinate Reagan to get Jodie Foster's attention, they called him mad! Just shows how much they know.

It's illustrative of just how predictable these books are that it's so shocking when someone does something unexpected.

Apocalypse Review said...

Hey! Sorry for not keeping up. I've been kinda busy.

Slipping back into the groove - a couple quick notes:

1. Authorial immunity isn't useful or good when it's that blatant. You expect characters to survive, yes, but you don't expect it to be too obvious that a minor character in a similar situation would have been bumped off.

2. Judd and Vicki continue to be mixed people, it seems. On the one hand, a teenage boy running off with a girl is kind of what you'd expect in a world where many teens have lost their parents and haven't yet really found their grounding yet. On the other, Vicki almost seems... ruthless, by taking advantage of a person's situation to get them to agree to something she wants done.

These sorts of little flashes are why I have a power-couple headcanon for an AU. Which I should get back to someday. :P